June 06, 2018

Wayback: HP's 3000 Conference Sign-off

HP's June months have been populated by nationwide conferences for more than a decade. Ten years ago in June marked the last known appearance of Hewlett-Packard's 3000 experts at the HP Technology Forum show in Las Vegas. It was an era marked by the soaring expectations from CEO Mark Hurd and the soon-to-plummet economy crashing around the American lending and banking markets. HP was emptying its tech wallet at a show that would soon be called HP Discover instead of a Technology Forum.

HP had a meeting for 3000 customers at that 2008 show, the final expression of support for the owners who launched HP's enterprise business computing prowess. Jennie Hou was in the final year of managing the 3000 group at HP. The vendor had a history of awarding one community member — people like Alfredo Rego, or Stan Sieler — with a Contributor of the Year Award. The 2008 award was renamed a Certificate of Appreciation and given to the full 3000 community. Being thanked, as HP retired the customers, was a sign of HP's final sign-off.

Appreciation certificate
The 2008 edition was the last public event where HP presented news about the platform. It was the last year when the server owners could employ the services of HP's labs. HP's Alvina Nishimoto, who'd been leading the information parade for third party tools and migration success stories, gave an outstanding contributor award of sorts at an e3000 roadmap meeting. The award shown in the slide above had a commemorative tone about it, like a fond farewell to the days when something new was part of the HP message to 3000 attendees.

In that June, the new Right to Use licenses were proving more popular than HP first imagined. The licensing product placed on the price list for 2007 let customers upgrade their license level on used systems. Of course, it only applied to the 3000s designed before 2001. It says something when servers almost a decade old could be a popular upgrade item in datacenter.

Just two HP speakers addressed the 3000 at the conference — Nishimoto and Jim Hawkins, the latter of whom spoke for five minutes at the end of the OpenMPE update. The Tech Forum had become a great place to learn about technology that HP would never put into a 3000.

I asked Hou about HP's participation in the conference and what I should expect in the years to come. The vendor would only discuss migration by 2008, after completing the final PowerPatch and delivering some whitepapers to the community.

HP was saying so long, and thanks for the fish.

The e3000 community has always been and will continue to be an interesting place.  It truly is one of a kind. This year, at Alvina's talk, HP will thank every e3000 partner and customer. HP recognizes that the e3000 community wouldn't be what it is without so many people's ongoing involvement and contributions. This also includes all your dedication in bringing the e3000 news to the user community over the past decades.

Hou was gracious in acknowledging the role we'd played up to that point a decade ago. Neither one of us knew the Newswire would still be tracking the fate and future of MPE/iX, ten years later.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:49 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

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June 04, 2018

Being first is about serving customer needs

During the 1990s the 3000 managers at HP started an enterprise revolution. Instead of creating computing systems built upon marketing research and technical breakthroughs, the division devoted to MPE/iX started a movement it called Customer First. It meant that to develop something for a 3000 owner, management had to be listening to the customer first, instead deferring to the business development mavens at the vendor.

HP got in close enough touch with its customers that it sent employees from the factory, as it called its system development labs, out to customer sites to interview the customers. HP's Unix division took note and started to follow suit.

Customer First doesn't sound that revolutionary today, but it put the 3000 leadership in the spotlight at HP's enterprise operations. In the 1990s HP was more of a computing company than anything else. Printers were important but computing was still earning the highest profits and paying for everything else. HP understood that while proprietary computer environments differ, they've got one thing in common: the customers who know what they need better than the vendors themselves.

Stromasys is picking up the concept with every quarter it sells products to support legacy environments like MPE/iX and VMS. Sustaining legacy investments makes sense when the system delivers what's needed. Customers needs come first.

Sue_Skonetski"I do think that customers know what they want and need," said Stromasys' Sue Skonetski, "and no one else knows their mind as well. One of the things I am looking forward to at Stromasys is working with customers from so many different areas. Hopefully I will be able to help when questions come up, as well as post information as I see it."

Harry-sterling-realtorHarry Sterling, who was the general manager at the 3000 group in those revolutionary time, passed praise on to Skonetski. "Taking care of customers based on their needs, and not the sole ideals of engineers, is key—and from your remarks, I know you believe that." Key concepts can get a revival just as surely as a good Broadway play gets another production after enough time has passed.

Customer First got its first mission in 1991. After 3000 customers expressed their displeasure at HP's waning emphasis on IMAGE, CSY had to respond with improvements. Jim Sartain of the R&D lab was directly responsible for HP’s offering of an SQL interface for IMAGE, the first advance to signal the division's commitment to a Customer First strategy. Sartain worked with a revived IMAGE special-interest group to revitalize the database.

Gathering voices from differing platform bases was once important to HP. The vendor embraced the idea so much it published a Customer First Times, a PDF document that carried information about HP 3000s, along with HP 9000, OpenVMS and Itanium-based market products. It was the first assembly of the legacy ecosystem of HP.

In 2004 HP closed up Customer First Times. That was the first full year HP didn't sell a new HP 3000. The OpenVMS community was by then fully assimilated into HP's product plans, receiving the technology shift it needed to get the OS onto the Itanium computers.

Customer First was a mantra that the CSY division promoted to the rest of HP's server businesses. The legacy systems of VMS, MPE/iX, and even Sun are still in production mode at companies that know what they need. Assembling them to hear their voices is what Customer First is all about—as well as posting information about what they all need.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:56 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 30, 2018

HP is doing better without some customers

HP Q2 Revenues 2018
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise released an earnings report last week. The release covered the first full quarter since Antonio Neri took over as CEO, assuming command from retiring Meg Whitman. The numbers looked good to investors. The customers HPE's achieved are helping to lift the ship, even while some of you left the HP fold long ago.

It's easy to ignore HP now, if you're homesteading on 3000 iron either virtual or physical. The vendor wasn't able to deliver patches to support companies like Allegro at the start of this year, so the last remaining deliverable for MPE/iX has dropped off the product offerings. The patches were free, unlike enterprise patches for HP's Unix, NonStop, and VMS systems. Failing to deliver HP 3000 products long ago ceased to impact HP's quarterly revenues and earnings.

We care, however, about how Hewlett-Packard Enterprise fares — for the sake of the readers who still use HP's other enterprise gear. The IT managers who run multi-platform shops care about things like HP Next, or at least HPE hopes so. HP Next is "our company-wide initiative to re-architect HPE to deliver on our strategy and drive a new wave of shareholder value," Neri said when the numbers appeared in the evening of May 22. "It is all about simplification, execution and innovation."

Many things have changed about enterprise computing since HP last sold a 3000 in 2003. One big change is the dissapearance of hardware and operating system bedrock. In the 3000's heyday, things were defined by OS and iron. It's all too virtual to see those markers now. HP seems to be doing better without some of you because you didn't want to buy what's sold as enterprise computing. 

Better? Revenue of $7.5 billion in Q2, up 10 percent from the same quarter of 2017. Earnings were better, 34 cents a share in a market "beat," above the outlook range of 29-33 cents a share. The company calls its computing business Hybrid IT now, and the business was up 6 percent over the same quarter of 2017.

Not so many years ago, when HP wasn't doing this well, you could drill into its presentations for the quarters and find server sales. Not anymore. Now the news is about Cape Networks and buying Cape "to expand AI-powered networking capabilities with a sensor-based network assurance solution that improves network performance, reduces disruptions and significantly simplifies IT management for our customers." That out of a CEO's statement about new business, so it's supposed to be opaque.

Hearing things like "composable infrastructure offerings" might make a 300 homesteader roll their eyes, not to mention the experts who still support a 3000. My spell checker thinks composable isn't even a word, let alone a product attribute.

But like we said earlier, there's a reason to care about HPE's fate. The company's success props up the idea that a vendor that builds physical products and software continues to matter in 2018. Years ago, the concept of a datacenter that was fully virtual was like the paperless office. It seemed like science fiction, but companies still hungered for it.

HP's still in the futures business, trying to catch up with cloud offerings from Cloud Technology Partners. Neri said that HP did well with an acquisition of RedPixie. "RedPixie is a UK-based cloud consulting company, with deep Microsoft Azure expertise, which perfectly complements CTP’s strong AWS relationship." That's a relationship designed to move applications off classic servers like HP-UX or VMS and into Amazon Web Services cloud computing. Those particular moves are a lot like the effect a 3000 company gets from placing an MPE/iX virtual machine into a cloud provider.

Amazon's potential to host HP-UX apps provides some future for that platform that never did receive a port to Intel architectures. There are levels of abstraction there to probe for a homesteader who's still got an MPE/iX application to carry away from HP's machines. That might be far away from your position today. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is counting on your interest in the years to come, though. You might be able to help them do better once you leave the OS bedrock behind. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:13 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2018

Fine-Tune: Locking databases into lookups

Editor's Note: Monday is a holiday to commemorate Memorial Day, so we're celebrating here with time away from the keyboard. We'll be back with a new report May 30.

Lock files databaseWe’re migrating from our 3000 legacy applications to an ERP system hosted on another environment. Management has decreed the HP 3000 apps must still be available for lookups, but nobody should be able to enter new data or modify existing data. Should I do the simplest thing and change all of the databases so that the write class list is empty?

Doug Werth replies:

One way to do this is to write a program in the language of your choice that does a DBOPEN followed by a DBLOCK of each database (this will require MR capability). Then the program goes into an infinite loop calling the PAUSE intrinsic. Any program that tries to update the database will fail to achieve a lock, rendering the databases read-only. Programs that call conditional locks will come back immediately with a failed lock. Unconditional locks will hang.

This has been a very successful solution I have used on systems where a duplicate copy of the databases is kept for reporting and/or shadowing using IMAGE log files.

Steve Dirickson agrees with the poster of the question:

Since very few developers write their apps to check the subsystem write flag that you can set with DBUTIL, changing the classes is your best bet. Make sure you do so by changing the current M/W classes to R/R so the existing passwords will still work for DBOPEN, and only actual put/update/delete operations will fail.

The Big Picture: If protection is required for the database, that protection should reside in the database if at all possible. As mentioned, this is easy with IMAGE.

I am putting a new disk drive into my 3000 configuration, one that doesn't have an HP label on it. It's 500GB and a great value. What patches should I be sure to have installed on MPE/iX 7.5?

MPEMXT1
Large Disk: FSCHECK SYNCACCOUNTING fix for HFS files

MPEMXT3
Large Disk: limit maximum SCSI disk size to a half-terabyte

MPEMXT4
Large Disk: SSM changes for disk space allocation and accounting

MPEMXT7
Large Disk: Discfree changes to correct sector counts

MPEMXU3
Large Disk: REPORT "FORMAT=LONG" enhancement. MPEMXU3 includes patch MPEMXT2 which is another Large Disk/Files patch. MPEMXT2 provides changes to the ALTACCT, NEWACCT, ALTGROUP, NEWGROUP commands.

MPEMXU6
Large Disk: CATALOG.PUB.SYS changes for CIERR messages

MPEMXU7
Large Disk: CICAT and CICATERR.PUB.SYS changes

The critical one is MPEMXT3, which protects from other problems.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2018

Wayback Wed: Charon's coming out, at a pub

Tied House 2013Springtime in the Bay Area is a good time to gather in support of MPE/iX. Five years ago this week Stromasys hosted a social mixer at the Tied House pub, a Mountain View venue just 10 minutes away from next month's 3000 reunion at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. There's something about good beer in cold glasses that seems to go along with the veterans who still have 3000 know-how.

In that week of 2013, a meeting room also bubbled at the Computer History Museum, a place where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA. The market needed an emulator to carry on from the end-game of HP's MPE/iX hardware, a need that began as early as 2003. HP stopped building new servers that year. The clock started running on HP's hardware aging. By ten years later the wraps were completely off Charon HPA.

By the time the emulator sparked those pours at Tied House, an HP licensing mechanism was in place for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator. Then, as today, you needed to know how to ask HP for the required license.

Charon's HPA product manager uncorked the phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to Intel hardware,"an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most Software License Transfers happen between two companies. HP might've wondered, who sell themselves their own hardware?

HP's SLT mechanism began to license emulated 3000s in 2012. The development of an emulator, slowed by HP's balky cooperation, cut off an emulator-only MPE/iX license at the end of 2010. The License needed an emulator for sale before a customer could buy a new MPE/iX license.

In that May of five years ago, the process to earn an HP 3000-to-Charon license was not well known yet—which was one of the reasons Stromasys held its training and social event.

Perhaps HP's lawyers insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in that stillborn license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but a customer could never pay that money without a working emulator for a 3000 for sale on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses, because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. With no RTU, and no emulator license, 2009 was the moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron (and attached licenses) were on hand.

The never-sold Emulator License for MPE/iX was not the first time the vendor allowed an emulator maker to license new servers. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and spearheaded that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was ongoing support revenue to keep older systems running. In some places, they were still the best solution.

HP's ending for the 3000 was nothing as generous as the ending for VAX system licenses. HP intended to cut off all 3000 business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still would call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies.

At that Stromasys training event in the History Museum, the general manager Bill Driest said the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a 3000 customer would call emulation.

"We're here to help preserve the software investments that you've all made," he said. "We've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. For 14 years we've had this tagline that keeps coming back: preserving the investments we've all made across these hardware generations."

Even today, you contact HP's Software License Transfer department. You tell them you want to do an intra-company transfer. And instead of the $500 that HP said a new MPE/iX emulator license would cost, it's $400 -- the same fee HP collects on any MPE/iX system transfer. You just need to have a 3000 license to begin with.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:13 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 14, 2018

Pub salvation in UK not needed at The Duke

Yesterday CBS News aired a Sunday Morning story about the fate of pubs in the UK. Pubs grew up in the country from the 17th Century. In recent years, though, their numbers are in decline. You can't smoke in a pub anymore in the UK, and the real estate has gotten pricey for watering holes. The downward trend means about one pub in seven has closed over the last decade. While that still leaves 50,000 UK pubs operating, it's become a little tougher to find a pint and fish and chips in Britain.

The Duke signThat trend might inspire a visit to the site of this year's 3000 reunion, the Duke of Edinburgh pub in Cupertino. The restaurant and drinkery opened for business in 1983, when MPE had moved from version IV to V, RISC computing was still three years away from HP's product lineup, and Apple hadn't sold its first Macintosh. The link between those two companies passes through the Duke. When the pub was once busy with HP 3000 experts, some were destined to make their way from HP to Apple. Mae Grigsby, who's arranged the reunion's tour of the Apple Park Visitor Center, shared a connection between the vendors' past and future.

Grigsby, part of the Apple Executive Briefing Program, said that some bits of HP's past are still on the site that's right next to the Duke.

Apple Park has a great history starting with your group. Some of the material of the HP buildings is actually still at the Park. Those were times. I started at Apple in June, 1986. One of my colleagues here at the briefing program started, right out of college, to work at HP in 1983 — at which time HP was THE company in Silicon Valley. 18 years later she joined Apple. Memories abound.

Other memories from HP are likely to be in the air at the Duke, which is in no danger of closing. Two of the RSVPs which reunion organizers have in hand are from high-profile 3000 alumni. Harry Sterling, former general manager of the 3000 division, has said he plans to attend. Orly Larson, the technical and community celebrity whose 3000 years include a sheaf of 3000-themed songs he wrote, has also joined the guest book. By my reckoning off of local maps, The Duke is the closest watering hole to Apple's spaceship HQ, just as it was the closest stop for those 1983-era alumni like Orly and Harry who worked at the 3000's HQ.

If you're inclined to join the group on that Saturday, you can register your RSVP (to help them plan) in a simple JotForm signup, at no charge or obligation.

As the Duke is a pub, perhaps a song will fill the air that afternoon of June 23, said organizer Dave Wiseman.

"I’ve asked if he’ll write a song," Wiseman said when he had Orly's reply in hand. Larson's baritone was a part of many 3000 meetings in those days when HP nurtured and sold MPE V and then XL and then iX.

As the event stands today, the cost of attending is limited to your own tab at the bar -- and even that will be covered for a while. CAMUS, the Computer Aided Manufacturing Users Society, is sponsoring a round or three at the Duke. Attendees can tour the Computer History Museum, opening at 10 that Saturday, with admission at their own expense.

The tour of Apple's vantage point, arranged by Wiseman, is free and starts at 4:30. The Duke is so close to the Visitor Center that a 20-minute walk from the Duke's side of the former HP campus to the other side will get you there. Apple says the Visitor Center is as close as anybody gets to the spaceship campus, unless you're working with Apple.

The reunion alumni of the 3000, though, has got an earnest invitation for their own tour. Grigsby said, "Our visitor center team, upon hearing of your desire to see the place on whose ground you and your colleagues labored to build the HP 3000 minicomputer, would be delighted to host a guided visit for such a special group of people."

The tour takes about 30 minutes, and another 30 minutes for people to browse on their own, visit the observation deck, or view a large model of the spaceship campus more closely, or buy Apple paraphernalia that you can only buy at this store and nowhere else. HP once sold such paraphernalia, as recently as the HP Technology Forum of 2006.

Anticipating that many people will be interested in getting a closer look at this incredible campus, Apple has built the Apple Park Visitor Center. Via an iPad with AR (augmented reality) you can view how the offices and conference rooms are organized. The APVC also features a retail store, a cafe, and an observation desk on the second floor from where you can get a glimpse of the Apple Park ring.

The Apple Park building is only accessible to Apple badged employees. It is a truly collaborative space where employees come and go and meet anywhere unhindered, though some areas are more secured (special access) than others. Because of high security and confidentiality issues in such a working environment visiting guests are not permitted unless they have been invited for special business purposes.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 09, 2018

SSD devices continue to serve 3000s

SSD DriveThe LinkedIn Group for the HP 3000 Community carried news of solid state storage this week. Tracy Johnson reported that his XP12000 disk array has been replaced by a two-unit SSD array.

Four years ago, Johnson said he was moving in that XP12000 to replace an HP VA7100 disk array. There was a time when the VAs (Virtual Arrays) were the new technology adapting to the world of MPE/iX.

SSDs were once only a dream and a wish for 3000 users. In the late 1980s a RAM-based disc was on offer from Imperial Computing, a whopping 50 MB whose compatibility was never tested in the field by a 3000 customer. By the start of the 3000's Transition Era (the mid-2000s) developers and administrators were experimenting with solid state devices being offered for other platforms.

In 2015, Beechglen launched a service that employs SSD devices for storage. Johnson said this is the solution he's now employed to replace that XP12000. "It's slicker than snot on a doorknob," he said when the used XP model started to serve his 3000 back in 2014. He hasn't come up with slickness comparison for today's SSD solution yet.

The XP12000 is faster than the VA array, but Chad Lester at ThomasTech said the more modern XPs might be a better investment. Upgrading storage is one of the best ways to improve performance and lock down 3000 reliability. "The XP12000 is light years from the VA AutoRaid family," he says. "I would have recommended an XP24000 or 20000, though, due to some very pricy XP12000 parts that are globally out of stock."

The Beechglen offering is available as an ongoing data service ($325 a month for 6 TB mirrored) or a $4,900 outright purchase with a year of support included. The company leveraged an MPE/iX source code license to build the SAN.

Having the source code to MPE/iX allowed us to provide an interface to our in-house developed FiberChannel targets that run on HP DL360s. This allows up to 6TB of RAID 1 storage in 1U of rack space, and provides advanced functionality, like replication and high availability.

Mike Hornsby of Beechglen says there are IO performance improvements in this solution, starting at twice as fast up to 100X, depending on what's being replaced. The company recommends an upgrade to an A-Class or N-Class to take advantage of native Fiber Channel. The SCSI-to-Fiber devices tend to develop amnesia, he explained, and the resultant reconfiguring for MPE is a point of downtime. "Those were never built for MPE anyway," he said of SCSI-to-Fiber devices.

People without vision see putting SSDs in 3000s like giving a McLaren racing engine in an SUV. A more useful solution is out there, and working: using SSDs to support a virtualized 3000 running on an Intel-based PC. "You could house your 3000 in a Stromasys emulator running on a Linux box with VMware," said Gilles Schipper, "employing as many SATA SSD disks as you want on your host."

Allegro's Stan Sieler was testing SSDs of 2009 with the 3000, wired directly to the 3000's bus. "I'm thinking about SSD and SATA/SCSI adapters to speed up the 'obsolete- but still world's-best business computer, the HP 3000," Sieler said nine years ago. Some dreams just take awhile to become true.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:34 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 07, 2018

June's 3000 Reunion destination: Building D

DukeSnugThis week I made my reservations for a date that's become rare in our community. On June 23, the 3000's experts, vendors, and consultants are gathering for another 3000 Reunion. That's the name that Apple is using for the group, since the gathering will include a visit to the frontier of Apple's world HQ. The event also includes a morning's visit to the Computer History Museum, the site of the 2011 Reunion where more than 150 members gathered.
Apple Park Rooftop

The highest point of the day won't be the elevated observation deck at the Apple Park Visitor Center, overlooking the company's spaceship campus that replaced HP's legendary 3000 hub. The pinnacle seems to be the afternoon hours enjoyed in a cozy snug at the The Duke of Edinburgh pub. Lunch, beverages, and war stories will be on the bill of fare starting at 1. People who know and remember the 3000 will gather in a pub popular enough with the MPE crowd that it's still known as Building D by some community members.

The Duke is on Wolfe Road, just to the west of where the 3000 grew up. Space has been reserved for a group that's making its way beyond 20 attendees. If you join us, I will be delighted to see you and hear your stories there, as well as any update on your interests and work of today.

The close-up nature of the venue doesn't mean it's without an agenda. As of today there's informal talks about migration, Stromasys emulation, the HP Enterprise of today and homesteading in our current era. The group is eager to include a member who's running MPE/iX today, either in virtual mode using the Charon HPA software or native on HP's venerable and as-yet durable HP hardware.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 6.43.07 PMThe Duke was the site of a 2016 meeting of 3000 alums. In-person meetings for the 3000 community happen in bars and pubs by now. This event has been sparked by Dave Wiseman, who organized what he calls a SIG-BAR meeting in London in 2014. The vendor and semi-retired software maven has a history that includes a software project called Millware for 3000s as well as tales about a Series III he installed in 1978. Wiseman calls these events SIG-BAR because hotel bars during the Interex conference era always included informal wisdom, swapped after hours over a glass or bottle of something refreshing.

There's something about English pubs that can attract the 3000 crowd. Some of us who are flying in for the event are staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Cupertino. (At the moment, Saturday evening rooms are under $150, which is a value at Bay Area rates.) The Inn is close enough to the Duke that no matter how much happiness is served, it's a one-block walk back from pub. There will be an evening session at the Duke after the Apple tour, too.

The Duke sits within walking distance of a now-lost mecca of the 3000 world, the HP Cupertino campus. Building 48 has been replaced by the concrete, glass and steel of the new Apple world headquarters building. Apple's organized a tour of the Visitor Center for this year's 3000 attendees. The Centre's rooftop is as close as you'll get to the HQ spaceship without a contract with Apple, or a job at the world's Number 1 market cap company.

In 1976, HP fed Apple with engineering talent, a fellow named Steve Wozniak. Legend has it that Woz was working on HP's business computer designs at the time when he left to become VP of Apple R&D. In a way, that Apple HQ has always had innovation on its acres, even before there was a company first called Apple Computer.

The land of what's now called just Apple covers the path where a walk through an HP parking lot and across a cozy margin of poplars brought you to the Duke. "It's right across the street from where MPE lived," Stan Sieler of Allegro said at the 2016 meeting. On June 23, MPE's heart will be among the taps and the chips at The Duke.

In London in 2014, Robelle's Bob Green said this about the in-person meeting at that London pub:

We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine—especially the new emulator—- and discovered what each of us was doing. An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:41 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2018

How Details and Masters Get the Job Done

Masters and DetailsA Hidden Value question was posed about how manual and automatic masters work in TurboIMAGE. Roy Brown gave a fine tutorial on how these features do their jobs for MPE and the 3000 -- as well as how a detail dataset might have zero key fields.

Manual masters can contain data which you define, like Detail sets can, along with a single Key field. Automatic masters contain only the Key field. In both cases, there can be only one record for a given key value in a Master dataset.

A Detail dataset contains data fields plus zero, one, or many key fields. There can be as many records as you like for a given key value, and these form a chain accessible from the Master record key value. This chain may be sorted, or it may just be in chronological order of adding the records.

Brown explained that "where there are keys, referential integrity demands that there are no Detail record entries with a key field that is not found in either a Manual or Automatic master, both Key name and Key value. So a Detail data set with Key fields that are not present in a Master record would be a sign of a seriously corrupted database."

However, I doubt this is the case, and when you do a QUERY FORM command, you will see which fields in Detail datasets are Keys, which fields are used to establish Sort orders, and which fields are data pure and simple.

From the Key name, you can determine which Master set links the keys.

As I said above, it is possible to have a Detail dataset with no keys, but these usually contain only a very few records, since direct access to them without keys is cumbersome, and you would otherwise have to trawl right through one to find any given entry.

So a Detail dataset with thousands of unconnected entries would be very unlikely.

The FORM output will allow you to check how the Detail dataset that you think might have unconnected entries is actually linked in.

Brown's explanation flowed from the following question and answer in that Hidden Value article.

I want to generate a listing of data sets, data item names, and their relationships from my TurboIMAGE database (master, One detail data set has thousands of entries which do not appear to be connected to any master. I cannot remember the difference between manual and automatic masters.

Francois Desrochers replied to use Query's FORM command.

RUN QUERY.PUB.SYS
B=dbname
PASSWORD = >> password
MODE = >> 5
FORM

Manual masters: programs have to explicitly add entries before you can add related entries in detail sets. Programs have to explicitly delete entries when there are no related detail entries left. In other words, you have to do master dataset maintenance.

Automatic masters: entries are automatically created when a related detail set entry is created. Entries in the master are automatically removed when the last related detail entry is deleted. IMAGE takes care of the maintenance.

Consultant Ron Horner added, "The difference between a manual master and auto master is the following:

1. You have to add records to the manual master that contain the key data for any detail datasets that are linked to the master.

2. When working with automatic masters, you don't have to write data to them at all. IMAGE takes care of populating the master.

Krikor Gullekian also noted that "With QUERY you can check the databases as long as you know the password." [Ed. note: This password advice is true, except when you're the database owner. No password is required then, only a semicolon.]

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:40 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 02, 2018

May meant an IMAGE defense against Codd

During a May of 33 years ago, the award-winning database at the 3000's heart got a hearty defense. HP had customers in 1985 who wanted relational indexes for their 3000 data — and a speedy Omnidex utility for IMAGE was not going to sell those customers. It didn't have the HP brand on it. 

Alfredo RegoThose middle 1980s were days of debate about database structures. Adager's Alfredo Rego spoke at a 1985 Southern California Regional User Group conference about the advantages in performance that IMAGE enjoyed over SQL architectures. Rego took what were known as the Codd Rules (from computer scientist Ted Codd) and said that IMAGE could outwork them all. The SCRUG meetings were close to the apex of technical wisdom and debate for MPE in that era. The 3000 was still run by MPE V in that year, when the PA-RISC systems were still more than two years away.

In 1985, though, Oracle and its relational design was riding a wave of success in companies that had retooled from vendor-designed databases like IMAGE. At the time of the defense of IMAGE, the database was beginning to feel some age. The performance limits were more likely induced by the age of HP's CISC computer architecture. The Series 70 systems were still underpowered for large customers, the same companies who had become Oracle's relational database targets.

Ted CoddHP overhauled IMAGE enough to rename the product TurboIMAGE later in the year, a shift in design that put some utilities under the gun to use the full feature set of the database. Even into 1986, the debate continued over the merits of IMAGE versus relational databases as defined by Codd. "What are "relational databases" anyway?" asked VEsoft's Eugene Volokh. "Are they more powerful than IMAGE? Less powerful? Faster? Slower? Slogans abound, but facts are hard to come by."

Owing to its first place ranking in a 1976 database comparison in Datamation, IMAGE was a natural point of comparison to relational. "It's very, akin to a relational database from Codd," Rego said of IMAGE in an oral history interview at the Computer History Museum more than three decades later. "It has certain infrastructure to access the entries, or records, or rows if you will."

What Rego promoted in the face of Oracle's 1985 claims remained true for many years to come. Relational databases had more advanced search programming possibilities. But nothing was beating IMAGE for transaction performance during that year. Years later at the History Museum, the message remained clear.

IMAGE has two types of tables -- datasets if you will. One is called a detail table and the other one is called a master table ... Basically you have two ways to access those tables. One is through a doubly linked list, using detail datasets; and one is through hashing, using master datasets. It’s basically value addressing. It calculates, hashes and it says what should be here in position number whatever. And it allows for synonym collisions and distributes them very nicely. That’s called the master dataset structure, and from that master you can link to a chain of detail entries that can be anywhere and can be accessed very quickly. So IMAGE is very, very good for transaction processing.

Burt Grad, who interviewed Rego, understood what an opportunity HP was missing with IMAGE for decades. "If someone had implemented IMAGE on other platforms," he said, "it could have been a competitive product in the computing world."

As it was, the database ruled the 3000 world and its advantages turned away all competitors. Oracle took years to be convinced an MPE port of its database had any prospects, given the dominance of IMAGE on the OS. Later HP took up the mantle of SQL, the language that flowed from the query abilities in relational databases. 

HP released a relational database system of its own during the era, a product called Allbase/SQL. Within a few years HP turned IMAGE into IMAGE/SQL because they put an SQL shell in front of it. Allbase had no better luck than Oracle at catching on among MPE users.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:00 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 30, 2018

3000 fans explore a mystery of history

HP suitcase

A mysterious photo on a 3000 group website has started to spark guesses this week. Brett Forsyth has tacked a photo onto the LinkedIn Group that serves the HP 3000 Community. He's invited guesses on how a suitcase, or some sort of case, can be traced to Hewlett-Packard history.

Brett ForsythMost of the guesses so far concern the size of the case. Forsyth has been replying to the efforts, as if he's a game show host moving the contest along by eliminating wrong answers. If you're interested in playing, the group page provides a comment string. You can also supply guesses in our comments here, but for now we're just as much in the dark about the mystery as anyone but Forsyth. Just a few days ago he released another clue.

This game is one way a website can engage visitors. There's always been a lot of passive readership on the Web -- nearly all of it, in truth, compared to how many people visit a site. We run a comments string to the right of our webpages, but our visitor count is a large multiple of those connections, even here in 2018. Contests are old-school, but so are HP 3000 customers and experts. It's always surprising how a $25 Amazon card still motivates us as a giveaway.

Last week one of the organizers of the upcoming HP 3000 party in the Bay Area suggested a fine finale for the mystery. Dave Wiseman would like to see it solved in person at a June 23 meeting in Cupertino. The gathering is a reunion for some and a retirement party for others. Wiseman's invited Forsyth to bring the case along to the meeting on that Saturday afternoon. The meeting location is being worked out, but it won't be as much of a mystery as the case itself.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:36 AM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 27, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: DDS diagnosis and tips

Series 928-LXWe have a tape device that is not responding; that is, we put the tape in, but it is not coming online. I also see that a user is logged into the system using the LDEV assigned to the tape drive. SHOWDEV TAPE also does not list the device.

Gilles Schipper replies:

I’ve seen this before for DDS drives, Probably during your most recent reboot, there was a (possibly temporary) malfunction with your tape drive’s power supply such that its existence was not recognized during the boot up process. That would normally result in a “device unavailable” condition and the subsequent disabling of that logical device number.

I have noticed instances where that LDEV number is actually made available to the logon device number pool (for subsequent assignment for logon session device numbers). Long story short, the solution appears to be a power cycle, START NORECOVERY reboot.

After shutting down and powering off the CPU and all devices, run ODE to ensure all devices are recognized before START NORECOVERY. Failure to recognize the device at that point should lead to further investigation of the power supply, SCSI device number setting, or other hardware malfunction. If this situation happens frequently, I would first suspect a problem with the power supply of that device.

Get rid of that internal DDS tape drive

By John Burke

People complain of problems with internal DDS tape drives in systems located in remote areas with little onsite expertise, problems that lead to frequent drive replacements and downtime. It reminds me of the old vaudeville joke where the patient comes to the doctor with a complaint, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor replies, “Then don’t do that.”

HP 3000 gurus have cautioned for years that people should not use internal tape or disk drives in 9x7, 9x8 or 9x9 production systems. The most likely failure is a tape drive and the next most likely failure is a disk drive. Everything else in the system cabinet could easily run for a decade without needing service or replacing. [Editor's note: John's advice came in 2004, so a decade-plus is definitely bonus time.] When an internal tape or disk drive fails you are looking at serious downtime while the case is opened and the drive is replaced. A common urban legend says that the primary boot device (LDEV 1) and the secondary boot device (usually LDEV 7) must be internal. Not true.

Bite the bullet now. Remove, or at least disconnect (both power and data cables) all internal drives. At the least, replace the internal DDS drive with an external DDS3 or DDS4 drive. In the case of the DDS drive, you will not even need to make any configuration changes if you set the SCSI ID to 0 on the external drive.

Usually, the internal DDS drive is at SCSI ID 0 (for a 9x7, this is 52.0.0; for a 9x8, this is 56/52.0.0; and, for a 9x9, it is something like 10/4/20.0.0). If you do not want to open the case even to disconnect the drives, you can probably set the SCSI ID on the external DDS drive to 1 since this is usually not used. On 9x9s, SCSI ID 2 is used for the CD-ROM. Disk drive addresses will vary with the system, but even if you replace the internal disk drives with external JBOD, you are still ahead of the game. Remember, if you have to change SCSI IDs, you will have to change your SYSGEN configuration and your boot device paths.

Someone also asked whether if you changed the boot path you should immediately create a new SLT. Technically, the answer is “No” since the SLT contains no information about boot paths. However, if you have not created an SLT since the device was added (and why not?), then by all means create a new SLT. It should also be noted that DDS drives are notorious for not being able to read tapes created on other DDS drives.

So, if you do not think you have time to create a new SLT, at least use CHECKSLT to verify you can read your existing SLT on your new drive. If you cannot read your existing SLT, then make time to create a new SLT. Your standard procedures should include regularly creating and SLT and checking it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:26 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 25, 2018

What emulation might include one day

The provider of the only HP 3000 emulation solution, Stromasys, has announced a new product for its Digital VMS customer base. The Charon VAX platform got a launch of OpenVMS Operating System support on both the original VAX hardware and emulated platforms.

Software Support KeyboardThis new initiative complements the virtualized Charon VAX platform. Stromasys touts it as "a seamless service solution that guarantees the legacy hardware clients an outstanding ongoing service experience. The primary role of this additional support offering is to assist this passionate community of software professionals in keeping their mission-critical applications and systems running smoothly around the clock."

In a nutshell, this is the Stromasys entry into the VMS support arena. VMS has been cut loose from its futures by HP Enterprise, and an independent lab, VMS Software, Inc., is carrying on. A one-stop call for software as well as platform needs (think the HP CE and SE model, computers and software) evokes yet another take on the top-shelf vendor days of the 1990s and earlier years.

Support providers see themselves through many lenses. Some arrive with hardware to spruce up, adding the OS needs as required. Others open the door with specifics on MPE/iX that are hard to find anywhere else. They support what their customers use, and in some cases that's Stromasys Charon HPA for the 3000 site. Now there is another take, where the emulator becomes the linchpin because it represents the hardware. The VAX-VMS deal extends to companies that don't use an emulator yet.

There's no offer today of MPE/iX support from Stromasys like the VAX-VMS product announcement. But John Prot, CEO of Stromasys, says the company approached the VMS offering as a way to support a thriving software community. "We welcome all OpenVMS OS customers to the Stromasys family," he says, "and are excited to provide support to those customers still utilizing VAX physical or emulated hardware to run mission-critical applications."

Such support needs to come from a deep bench of expertise in the OS. "By providing ongoing support to classic systems, organizations can keep moving forward with their company’s key business initiatives," Prot says. The 3000 community has always enjoyed a lively give and take between its support providers, even to this very day. Legacy markets are supposed to lose their ecosystems. What sprouts up instead might look a lot like an old-growth organism.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:13 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 23, 2018

When A Better Future Comes from Bad News

ElvisMy first thought for this article was to ask, "Are you lonesome tonight?" Of course it's the lyric to the famous Elvis song. The tale of that tune suggests that being separated from something you love will help you back to it. It's easier to do if you can hear the crooning in the King's voice.

Newsletter with husbandOne belief about bad news is that it can only lead to a worse future. Cancer and disease would seem to prove this, but the world is full of survivors who have better lives because their adversity made them refocus. What happened in our market more than 16 years ago had immediate as well as eventual impact on many lives. At one point I heard a story from a 3000 pro who was driving two hours on a commute to keep working on MPE/iX. His family saw him on most weekends.

A Better FutureEventually the tech pros in our community find a way to keep contributing to their households and to the world through their work. Some go into restaurant management and others teach. In my household, the HP cutoff of the 3000 futures set us onto deeper and broader paths. The NewsWire continued at a much lower rate of revenue and Abby started a yoga teaching career that's won national notice. This week Women's Health ran a 90-second story to sum it all up and included a note about what drove the better future coming out of bad news. Our revenues didn't fall off as fast as they reported, but the rest of the tale is true.

Querycalc 3K migrationExperts like John Burke, our founding technical editor, might have preferred to keep their lives intact in that world where their skills weren't legacy assets. They didn't have a choice and kept working. He's a professor now. Others moved into new fields. Christian Lheureux "was doing MPE/3000 stuff for almost three decades, 1981-2010. Now I've not touched a 3000 since Jan. 2010. I no longer even work in IT. I've now started my own company in the travel industry, Passion USA." Some continue to work in MPE today, surviving in a legacy market. Some are bound to be lonesome with nobody to share their work with. That's what user groups were once for, and today what the Web can deliver. We got separated from our comforts in 2001, sent onto a road that was sometimes lonely in an epic way. A poster from the first years showed the challenges well.

Interaction over the Web, though, is harder than delivering news, skills, and analysis. Twitter might be a scourge, but for people who know how to use it well, it's as polished as any comments forum. There's a need for a way to connect as legacy computer managers. There was also a need for body-positive yoga when HP culled the 3000 out of its futures. Abby rose to that need and built HeavyWeight Yoga. Perhaps skidding into a lonely space can drive us to a better future. That future would be a life where we're better connected.

Migration is a hard path to be forced onto, and it also provides benefits once the tough climbing has ended. Migration takes us out of legacy skill sets but it does not affect core business logic, so the customer's systems and existing programming staff can quickly retake ownership of the converted code and continue maintaining it with very little retraining.

We began to take on stories and ad sponsors for migration as soon as HP "discontinued" its HP e3000. We also knew it would be many years, maybe several decades, before everyone was done. This year will mark the 17th anniversary of discontinuance. We both developed skills when that revenue drop loomed, much like people like Burke and others put their talents to new uses. I write and edit the NewsWire, and also edit and write books at the Writer's Workshop.

We've continued to provide a place to hear one another, the comments reflected in the sidebar to the right on this website. Not so many as before, of course. We're retraining ourselves to grow more than older, but to grow better, too. If there's a way to share that journey -- both the staying in homesteading, and the hard going of migration — I'm glad to take any extra step that can help.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 20, 2018

What Does HP's Disc Brand Mean?

By John Burke

HP emblemAfter reading Jim Hawkins’ reply to my SCSI is SCSI article, I was reminded about HP’s 4Gb disk drive fiasco. These branded drives had a nasty habit of failing after being powered off after they’d been running for a while. The problems were not limited to the HP 3000 versions, either.

At one point we got so frustrated we just replaced all 4Gb drives with the much more reliable 9Gb drives. I never blamed HP for these failures, or the failures of the 4Gb drives on my HP 3000 — even though all were purchased from HP, and had HP stamped all over them. The failures were the fault of the manufacturer, and no amount of certification testing would likely have shown the problem. But the failures made me wonder: What does HP certification and HP branding mean?

In Hawkins’ reply, he puts great emphasis on the statement that “In the SCSI peripheral market, Industry Standard is really defined as ‘works on a PC.’ Unfortunately, the requirements for single-user PCs are not always in alignment with those of multi-user servers.” Maybe inside HP the desktops look different, but I have never seen a company use SCSI peripherals as a standard for desktop Wintel systems.

At my last employer, we had approximately 1,200 desktops, and not a single one had a SCSI disk drive. SCSI disks are used primarily in the multi-user server market, not the desktop market. While Hawkins says some interesting things in the rest of his article, these two sentences tend to prejudice the reader against everything else he says.

Unfortunately, Hawkins’ best argument came out in private correspondence: “Putting newer disks inside a 9x7, 9x8 or 9x9 may overtax the power supply and/or ‘cook’ your CPU or memory.” However, most of us outside HP have been advising against using internal drives in production machines for many years because of the obvious maintenance headaches. It still amazes me how many people believe you have to have at least one internal drive in an HP 3000.

The debate seems like it highlights at least four things going on.

1. Does HP certification of a disk drive have value? And, if so, how much? The work that HP does to certify disk drives for the HP 3000 clearly has value. It is up to the customer to decide the worth and he will decide with his checkbook. This certification is an area where HP has historically done a poor job in communicating value to its customers. Hawkins’ information should have been made more public years ago.

2. Does the listing of a drive in IODFAULT.PUB.SYS imply its certification by HP? I think it is reasonable for a customer to look at IODFAULT, pick out a “supported” drive, and think he can buy it from whoever will give him the combination of price and service that meets his needs. For anything but the newer systems, you only need two generic drives listed in IODFAULT (one SE and one FWD). So what is a customer to make of the drives listed in IODFAULT.PUB.SYS?

3. Does HP branding imply HP-specific firmware? So why then do the HP drives almost always report the original manufacturer’s model number instead of HP’s? Again, this leads to the customer assuming he can buy a STxxxxxx and it is the same as the drive he buys from HP.

4. Are all HP-branded drives equal? I had an HP-branded drive that I pulled from a server that I got happily spinning in my 9x7 at one time. And, yes, of course the duty cycle in this 3000 was extremely light. But I am also relatively sure the HP part number (as opposed to drive, whose reported model number is in IODFAULT) was never sold as compatible with the HP 3000. It sounds like this HP-branded drive is just as risky as any non-HP branded drive.

It was never my intention in the original article to bash HP, or the fine people who continue to be associated with the 3000 division. Perhaps I should have reworded the title to read, “If you feel abandoned by your vendor, then take comfort in the fact that in most cases, SCSI is SCSI.” But that doesn’t exactly roll off the old tongue. Yet, in reality, this is what most of HP’s argument has been about: those few cases when “SCSI is SCSI” is not true. It should also be noted that my original article was aimed at those HP 3000 sites planning to homestead for some period of time.

After considering Hawkins’ response to my original article and numerous private messages, my position can now be stated like this: With the exception of the “hot” drive issue, any name-brand manufacturer SCSI drive you can electrically connect to your HP 3000 will likely work. If it survives your own testing (mount it as a separate user volume, and bang on it for awhile before moving it into production) then you should have little to worry about.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:18 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 18, 2018

Wayback Wed: one website to serve them all

HP suitcaseIn late April of 1999, first steps were being taken for the largest website ever devoted to the 3000 community. The site was not from the 3000 NewsWire, although we'd been publishing 40-plus stories a month for almost four years in paper, on the Web, and through Online Extra emails. The newest entry in 1999 was 3k World, a site launched by Client Systems, North America's largest HP 3000 distributor.

At the time the HP 3000 was in full renaissance. HP had remade the server as the HP e3000 to stress the computer's Internet readiness. The system was at its sales peak for the 1990s, capturing e-commerce business by drawing well-known clients like M&M Mars. Client Systems was reaching for a way to connect the thousands of 3000 owners as well as the market's vendors. A big website with community message boards and a repository of tech manuals and bulletins seemed to be a great draw.

3k World needed steady content, though, the kind that messages and tech papers from HP couldn't provide. Client Systems reached out to us. Sure we had content, contributed and written by experts and veterans of the MPE/iX world. We had news as well, plus some commentary and opinion. Client Systems licensed everything we produced for use on 3k World, while we retained the rights to use it on our own website.

For several years 3k World built its readership and its content, even though the membership was not posting a lot of discussion. Then HP pulled the plug on its 3000 business and Client Systems watched revenues decline. The NewsWire's content — articles, reviews, and tech papers — stopped appearing on 3k World when that site's budget sank.

3k World might have had a chance of connecting customers across many miles, but the content was all-English language, and so the French and Spanish users were taking a small leap to use the content. Within a few years the site became static and this blog was born in the summer of 2005.

Community is always the driver on these kinds of missions: attracting it, growing it, and making its discussions useful and worthy of a visit. LOLs and "you betcha" in comments do not engage readers. Prowl the comments sections of many tech websites and you'll find that experience. It takes a village to build a community, and that village needs to share what it knows and ask for what it needs.

The concept of a community is pretty well handled on LinkedIn, at least as far as the tools available. The Groups service (which is free to join and use) includes a comments and discussion board, a jobs board, a way to publish articles and more. The HP 3000 has a group for people with experience and contact with the server, the 669 members of the HP 3000 Community.

Easy to search browsing of content and archives are what's missing from the LinkedIn Group. I started it 10 years ago as it became obvious the MPE/iX lab was closing at Hewlett-Packard. It's a curated membership; requests to join pass through me and I approve anyone who's got bona-fide 3000 experience or a connection to the community. The recruiters may be in the shadows, but I try to keep the group focused on help. A jobs board is available. Jobs are a better LinkedIn product when you pay the $29 monthly for a Premium membership.

One feature that's not obvious about that Premium status: these members get full access to the training classes offered at Lynda.com. That's worth the extra all by itself; Lynda.com used to charge $25 monthly.

Just this week, a HP 3000 Community group member—who once resold and supported HP 3000s—posted a contest to identify how an object in a photo might be a part of HP's history. There's still time to comment and become re-engaged with the community. Join the group if you haven't yet, or log in and head to your Groups page on LinkedIn to play.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:54 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 16, 2018

How many 3000s are out there?

1954 CensusIt's a reasonable question, that one, whose answer gets pursued by homesteaders and migrators alike. How many of those computers are still running out there? That's the question asked by the vendors who aren't familiar with the 3000. From another voice, the query sounds like "How many of us are left, by now?"

We heard the question from a migration services company and thought we would ask around a bit. The range of estimates is wide, and unless you're reading from a client list, the calculation of how many systems is a guess based on whatever activity you've seen. Sales of used systems to companies would be one way of measuring such activity. Support contracts would offer another data point. Customers currently paying for support of apps might be a third.

From Steve Suraci at Pivital Solutions, the estimate is 500 active servers in production use, and at least that many more for some sort of historical purpose. In between those two systems might lie hot spares or Disaster Recovery servers. If a system is mission-critical enough to have a hot spare, it's probably going to be one of the last to be mothballed whenever MPE goes dark altogether.

Some of the mystery comes from the fact that 3000s are running all across the world. We've reached some North American community providers, but European and Mideast-Asia is beyond our reach. The numbers in this story reflect North American activity.

Starting with that low end of 1,000-plus systems, Steve Cooper of Allegro estimates 300 to 1,000 active servers. He adds that his number includes both real and emulated systems, acknowledging the role that the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator is playing. Another 3000 veteran at Allegro, Donna Hofmeister, estimates up to 2,000 active systems, "but that seems a bit optimistic to me," Cooper adds.

Another data point on this chart came in from a software vendor with widespread coverage. Database utility supplier Adager's CEO Rene Woc is willing to take the estimate to 1,000-3,000 servers. He refers to the active system count as servers "under commission."

As with many things, the answer depends a lot on the definition of what’s “an HP 3000”: a system in production, a system as DR, a system in storage for spare parts, systems used for hosting multiple organizations, emulator systems, systems for archival purposes, etc.

We also asked Woc about his guess at the size of the 3000 community. This would be the number of humans who know of and care for 3000s and MPE/iX servers. "The same comment about the definition applies to the 'size of the community,' he said, "namely, how many persons per site, how many persons still interested in participating in the HP3000-L and other mailing lists but who do not use HP 3000s any more? That’s a tougher question to answer."

We can report there are almost 600 subscribers to the HP3000-L mailing list. Those names can include active suppliers of support, customers still driving machines in production, retired 3000 fans, consultants who could hop in on a 3000 migration or renovation if needed, and more.

The definitive numbers for machine count and community census haven't ever been something to confirm. Ideal Computer says it's supporting 89 HP 3000s, including one outside of the US. That's also an encouraging number for anyone who's got an eye on the upper end of these estimates. The idea that one company could be supporting close to one-third of the world's active 3000s? That would only be true if there were about 300 HP 3000s running today.

You can mark us down for 3,000 of the 3000s. Change happens more slowly that we predict or expect. It's been more than 14 years since HP last built one of these physical servers. Well-built environments like MPE/iX and HP's iron have lifespans that exceed expectations. And as for the lifespan of MPE/iX, by using the Stromasys emulator, the populace of 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:56 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 04, 2018

Emulation leader hires ex-HP legacy expert

Sue_SkonetskiStromasys, makers of the HP 3000 virtualization and emulation product Charon-HPA/3000, announced the company has hired Susan Skonetski as its Director of Customer Development. Skonetski comes to the Charon product team from the VMS Software firm that's been taking over responsibility for that Digital OS from HP. She's also a former executive at HP, where she was the go-to person for the VMS customer community.

Birket Foster of MB Foster has compared Skonetski to a George Stachnik or perhaps a Jeff Vance: a company exec who's relies on an intimate knowledge of a customer base which uses legacy software and hardware. At HP she was manager of engineering programs for the OpenVMS software engineering group until 2009. She logged 25 years of advocacy service to VMS working first at Digital, then Compaq, and finally HP. She became a leader independent of HP and still strong in the VMS community after HP laid her off in 2009. That was the year HP was also halting the HP 3000 labs development. She became VP at third-party support vendor Nemonix.

In 2010 Skonetski revived a VMS boot camp that had languished during the year she left HP. The event was held in Nashua, NH because until 2008 an HP facility in that city was one of the places where VMS matured. At that boot camp attendees also heard from a 3000 marketing linchpin, Coleen Mueller, addressing technical issues and innovations along with OpenVMS partner companies. We chronicled the event in a story about how HP's unique enterprises stay alive.

Skonetski said that understanding a legacy community flows from years of organizing events and strategies aimed at a unique customer base.

Through my experience, I’ve seen up close the critical role that these legacy systems play in daily business cycles. Helping to ensure the availability of these applications is imperative, with service and support options decreasing for SPARC, Alpha, VAX, and the HP 3000. Stromasys’ innovations, along with their strong team of software designers, solutions executives, and account management professionals, made joining the organization a natural fit. I’m proud to help bring to market both cutting-edge solutions and the user communities of these systems.

The Stromasys release on the hiring explains that Skonetski will be working to further integrate the legacy-preserving products into customer communities such as the HP 3000's.

She will be focused on the market success of the product portfolio, developing and executing a communication strategy to engage with the Stromasys customers and potential clients. In addition, she will utilize her deep knowledge of the market to drive a well-rounded ecosystem for users of legacy hardware and software. Through the knowledge gained, Skonetski will be aiding the organization's product strategy into a new phase of integration.

The company added that relying on her extensive software training, Skonetski "provides a passion for applying technology automation to enhance business processes, reduce costs, and provide tools to allow companies to capitalize on investments they use every day."

Charon-HPA/3000 software creates fully-compatible virtualized HP 3000 systems, running on industry standard Intel x64 (Core i7 and Xeon) servers. The technology takes advantage of technological advantages since HP 3000 systems were built, translating PA-RISC instructions on-the-fly into optimized sequences of Intel CPU instructions. Charon servers for the 3000 run unmodified copies of MPE/iX 7.5 along with the existing applications and related software hosted on HP's 3000 hardware.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:32 AM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 02, 2018

Options for HP 3000 Transformation

By Bruce McRitchie
VerraDyne

GearsTime — it marches on. We can measure it, bend it and try to avoid it. But in the end the clock keeps ticking. This is true for owners of the venerable HP 3000. In its day one of the top minicomputers ever manufactured, it went head-on against IBM (mainframes, AS/400, and System 36), Wang and Digital - and won many of those battles. And many HP 3000s are still running and doing the job they were designed to do. They have been upgraded, repaired and tinkered with to keep them viable. But when is it time for them to retire?

There are options. Many vendors have been working diligently to provide a transformation path to move from the HP 3000 to a modern platform and language. By making such a move these organizational risks are reduced:

  • Hardware failure.
  • Personnel failure - aging programmers.
  • Software failure.

Migration issuesSo why aren't the remaining HP 3000 owners flocking to newer technology? Is it because they know the technology so well — and it works? Have they been through large ugly development projects and never want to go through the pain again?

Whatever the reasoning, the arguments for staying with HP 3000 must be wearing thin. There are options, and to a greater or lesser extent, they all do the transformation job. Today's technology will allow companies to move their whole HP 3000 environment to a new modern environment, with or without changing language and operating system elements. Of course, with the different paths there are trade-offs that must be considered. This article briefly explores some of the options available to transform your HP 3000.

Emulation

At first glance this can appear to be the cheapest and easiest solution. A company picks the supplier of the emulation software, installs it, then puts their code on top and voila—their system is running as it always did. 

But is it? You may now have an emulator interpreting instructions from your HP 3000 and the new operating system you'll use to run the emulator. Is that interpretation always correct?

And what about the MPE commands themselves? Are they being interpreted correctly? Are you getting the results you expect? Although there are no new changes coming for MPE, you may have to learn Linux or another new OS for an emulator.

And what about the cost of emulation? Of course, there is the initial cost. But what of the ongoing costs? You now have to pay for the emulator and the native OS that drives it.

Here are some of the deficiencies we have noted over the years:

• Being an emulation of the existing system, it still requires continued use of old skill-sets. Add that to the new skill-set required to be learned for the emulation layer. Some emulation designs will also require new skill-sets for the target open systems platform and COBOL. You can now have a highly complex skill-set requirement for the IT staff and potentially a new OS to contend with.

• Some emulators only support certain parts of the current system; they do not support all the components that are currently used.

• If the application has to sit on top of the emulation layer, then access to the native operating system is restricted.

• Interoperability with other applications or services on the platform can sometimes be severely restricted.

• Emulators mimic the data structures of the legacy system. This is great for running the current system as is, but does nothing to make the data accessible outside to other systems, inquiry or reporting tools.

• Running emulation renders the customer completely dependent upon the emulation vendor for ongoing support and upgrades, which in itself is a sizable risk factor.

In other words, emulation can bring its own new set of problems.

Redevelopment

The specter of re-development haunts most people (especially those who have been large development projects and cannot forget the late nights, long days, and missed vacations). Defining the business requirements, architecting the new solution, finding business analysts, programmers and project managers. Persevering through a long and drawn out process with hundreds of meetings, thousands of decisions — and finally— testing!

Hours and hours of trying to figure out if it can work well enough for the business needs. And then the bill comes. In some cases, millions of dollars, years of effort—and believe it or not, after all the years of improving —many development projects still fail.

These considerations are even more important today, when business needs are quickly changing and the underlying technology is changing to keep up. The whole platform on which the system is developed will change during the project.

Companies have spent years injecting their business intelligence into their software. Re-developing is a sure way to erode that valuable asset.

Migration

Migration offers a lower risk, lower-cost solution than re-development—so that you can end up with the functionality you need, in a language and operating system that is modern and supported by many resources.

Maybe you are running COBOL on your HP 3000 under MPE/iX but would like to be running VB on Windows. VerraDyne can do such a migration. And we can do it at a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame.

Simply put, migration is the process of moving the current applications onto a new open system platform so that they run in 'true native' mode on that new platform. However, after migration, the application and core business logic are still the mature proven systems that they were on the old legacy platform. The old proprietary legacy components are removed and are replaced by the modern components of the new open system platform.

These are the main points when considering automated conversion with no use of proprietary middleware:

• Migration removes the old legacy skill sets but it does not affect the core business logic, so the customer's systems and existing programming staff can quickly retake ownership of the converted code and continue maintaining it with very little retraining. The converted system can be deployed on the new open system with the same screens and processes that existed on the legacy platform, so user department retraining is virtually eliminated.

• Since the converted applications operate on the new open system identically as they did on the HP 3000, determining successful migration is black and white. The converted system either runs the same or it doesn't — if it doesn't, it is fixed until it does. There is no gray area, there is no 'maybe' — obtaining successful project completion is a clear and concise process.

• By minimizing manual intervention, automated conversion provides an extremely low risk, short timeframe solution. The majority of the project cycle is devoted to the most important task of testing.

• The converted system runs as a 'true native' application on the targeted open system, so there are no roadblocks to gaining the full benefits of the new open systems platform: GUI screens, Web functionality, databases and more

• Conversion provides all the benefits a company seeks without any trade-offs. It absolutely minimizes intrusion into the company's operations. The entire project is performed at very low risk.

• After conversion, the customer has full ownership of its code. There is no dependence on the migration vendor after conversion.

VerraDyne has spent 25 years developing converters that move language and OS code from one platform to another. We have done it with hundreds of systems. At the end of a project you have a system that looks, feels and behaves like the old system, but is able to take advantage of new technologies. This is our claim to fame and our intellectual property, and we are very good at it. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:16 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2018

From Small Boxes Came Great Longevity

HP 3000s have survived more than 40 years by now. The live-server count probably numbers in the thousands, a populace that includes many members of the Series 9x8 line. This month, 24 years ago, HP started to deliver that low-end set of servers that's still running today.

A Series 918 or 928 is commonplace among the sites still running 3000s in production or archival mode. In the spring of 1994 HP uncapped a low-end unlike any before it. An 8-user server, running at the lowest tier of MPE/iX license, was under $12,000 in a two-slot system before sales tax. The 928 could support up to 64 users for under $40,000.

918-997 HP 3000 performance 1999The low-end of the 3000 line has outlasted many 9x9s

Servers at the 968 and 978 slots of the debut product lineup supported up to 100 users and still sold for under $85,000. The prices were high compared to the Unix and Windows NT alternatives that Hewlett-Packard was pushing hard in 1994. This was the era when Windows NT hadn't yet become the Windows Server software, however. Unix was on the way to proving its mettle in stability compared to 3000s.

The introduction of the 9x8 Series came in a shadow year for my 3000 reporting. I'd left the HP Chronicle and hadn't yet started the NewsWire, which would debut in 1995. During 1994 I was a freelance writer and editor for HP, looking over my shoulder at this low-end rollout that might preserve the 3000 in the small business markets. The 918 was a key to the 3000's renaissance and a good reason to start a newsletter and website. It's also helped keep the server alive in production to this day.

Later on HP would roll out a Series 988 to fill out the 9x8 line, a server five times more powerful than the initial 918 model. But just four years after the initial push into a low-end line, HP stopped actively selling all 9x8s except the bottom two models.

HP eventually got its servers down to $7,000 per unit, but only for software and hardware developers. In 1997 the Series 918DX system shipped to existing developers of commercial MPE/iX software, as well as some converts to the MPE/iX fold. Developers had to join HP’s Solution Provider Program to get the lowest-cost list-priced box that would ever be called a 3000. One consultant called the 918DX a personal mainframe.

Even the lowest-end 9x8s were on the outside looking in while small businesses bought servers late in the decade. "The trouble is that the smallest 3000 is so expensive it prices itself out of that market," said a customer at the Interex Programmers Forum in 1999. "Is HP looking at getting the prices down so they can get the 3000 into small businesses?"

HP's Dave Wilde explained that the 3000 division's engineers still had to move to a set of next-generation boxes with PCI technology for IO. "That means a major rewrite to our IO subsystem," he said. Wilde was running the division's R&D labs at the time.

Over time there will be a lot of benefit [to the installed base] in that area. But the real benefit will be that it gets us in line with where the mainstream of HP is. That will allow us to scale much higher on the high end and reach much lower on the low end in terms of cost-competitive boxes.

Wilde also believed the new generation of PCI-based 3000s would be "an evolution toward what we’ll be able to do on the IA-64 boxes." Within a couple of years the 3000's future in IA-64 would be curtailed, and finally the servers themselves. The 918s and 928s were steady, if small, workhorses. Customers could get along with them, even though the systems were on the bottom-end of HP's horsepower charts.

Product marketing manager Vicky Symonds added that HP could "look at the pricing of our low end and see what we can do. Obviously we have some constraints there in terms of how low we could go."

Today the 918 and 928s have become servers that can be swapped in as a hardware replacement for under $1,000 per system. The customer base eventually got its wish for a cost-competitive, low-end system—about 15 years after HP was being told it was needed.

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:16 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 26, 2018

Upgrade your hardware to homestead longer

Hardware toolsKeeping storage devices fresh is a key step in maintaining a datacenter that uses HP's 3000 hardware. Newer 3000s give you more options. Our net.digest columnist John Burke shared advice that's still good today while planning the future for a 3000s that will remain online for some time to come. Maybe not until 2028, but for awhile.

If you can, replace your older machines with the A-Class or N-Class models. Yes, the A-Class and some N-Class systems suffer from CPU throttling. (That's HP’s term. Some outside HP prefer CPU crippling.) However, even with the CPU throttling, most users will see significant improvement simply by moving to the A-Class or N-Class.

Both the A-Class and N-Class systems use the PCI bus. PCI cards are available for the A- and N-Class for SE-SCSI, FW-SCSI and Ultra-3 SCSI (LVD). You can slap in many a drive manufactured today, made by any vendor. SCSI is SCSI. Furthermore, with MPE/iX 7.5, PCI fiber channel adaptors are also supported, further expanding your choices.

If you are going to homestead on the older systems, or expect to use the older systems for a number of years to come, you have several options for storage solutions. For your SE-SCSI adaptors, you can use the new technology-old interface 18Gb and 36Gb Seagate drives. For your FW-SCSI (HVD) adaptors, since no one makes HVD drives anymore, you have to use a conversion solution. [You could of course replace your FW-SCSI adaptors with SE-SCSI adaptors, but this would reduce capacity and throughput.]

One possibility is to use an LVD-HVD converter and hang a string of new LVD drives off each of your FW-SCSI adaptors. HP and other vendors have sold routers that allow you to connect from FW-SCSI adaptors to Fibre Channel resources such as SANs. It's one way to accomplish something essential: get rid of those dusty old HP 6000 enclosures, disasters just waiting to happen.

As for tape drives, move away from DDS and use DLT (4000/7000/8000) with DLT IV tapes. Whatever connectivity problems there are can be dealt with just like the disk drives. If you have an A-Class or N-Class machine, LTO or SuperDLT both use LVD connections. If you have a non-PCI machine, anything faster that a DLT 8000 is wasted anyway because of the architecture lineups with 3000 IO.

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

March 23, 2018

Moving, Yes — Volumes to Another 3000

Newswire Classic

By John Burke

Here is a shortened version of the revised checklist for moving user volumes physically from one system to another without a RESTORE

  • Get the new system up and running, even if it only has one disk drive

(if you've purchased additional new drives, do not configure them with VOLUTIL yet)

  • Analyze and document the configuration on the old system, making any necessary configuration changes on the new system and creating an SLT for the new system;
  • Backup and verify the system volume set and the user volumes separately (be sure to use the DIRECTORY option on all your STOREs);
  • VSCLOSE all the user volume sets on the old machine;
  • Move all the peripherals over to the new machine. On a START NORECOVERY, the user volumes should mount. The drives that were on the system volume set on the old system and any new drives added should now be configured in using VOLUTIL;
  • RESTORE the system volume set:

RESTORE *T;@[email protected]@;KEEP;OLDDATE;
SHOW=OFFLINE;FILES=n;DIRECTORY

  • RENAME the following three files if they exist to something else:

SYSSTART.PUB.SYS
NMCONFIG.PUB.SYS
COMMAND.PUB.SYS (udc configuration)

  • RESTORE the above three files from your tape with the DEV=1 option.

The OS requires that some files, for example SYSSTART, be on LDEV 1;

  • RUN NMMGR against NMCONFIG.PUB.SYS, then using NMMGR, change the path for the LANIC, if necessary, and make any other necessary NMMGR configuration changes.
  • Validate NETXPORT and DTS/LINK, which should automatically cross validate with SYSGEN.
  • START NORECOVERY

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:10 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2018

Tracking the Prints of 3000 Print Software

Tymlabs logoA reader of ours with a long memory has a 3000 connected to a printer. The printer is capable of printing a 8.5 x 12 sheet, so it's enterprise-grade. The 3000 is running software built by OPT, '90s-era middleware for formatting print jobs from MPE/iX.

To nobody's surprise, the PSP Plus product had problems operating in 2018. "I actually tried to use it in recent times to print to a strange brand of printers, Microplex," our reader said. "The software still ran, but formatting did not work right."

Bruce-Toback

"I was able to print to it with some success, but I could never get the software to do what I wanted it to do, which was to fill up a 12 x 8.5" page and make logical and physical page breaks coincide." The software was a stellar choice for its day, having been developed by the funny, wry and brilliant Bruce Toback (above). Bruce passed away during the month we started this blog, though, more than 12 years ago. His tribute was the subject of our very first blog entry.

Great software that once could manage many printers, but can't do everything, might be revived with a little support. It's a good bet that OPT support contract hasn't been renewed, but asking for help can't hurt if your expectations are reasonably low. The challenge is finding the wizard who still knows the OPT bits.

"We bought and it went from OPT to Tymlabs to Unison to Tivoli to...” These kinds of bit-hunts are the management task that is sometimes crucial to homesteading in 2018. Printing can be a keystone of an IT operation, so if the software that drives the paper won't talk to a printer, even a strange one, that failure can trigger a migration. It's like the stray thread at the bottom of the sweater that unravels the whole garment.

Maybe this product that started at OPT never made its way to Tivoli. My notes say ROC Software took on all of the Unison products. Right here in Austin—where we're breathing with relief after that bomber's been taken down—ROC still supports and sells software for companies using lots of servers. Even HP 3000s.

Tracking these footprints of this print middleware led through some history. Searches turned up a NewsWire article about Toback—many, in fact, where in Hidden Value he was teaching 3000 users on the 3000-L about one kind of software or another. Back in 1997 the discussion was about something rather new called Linux. Linux could be useful, he said, to hook up a PC to the relatively-new World Wide Web.

Searching for OPT—which was the name of Toback's company—turned up plenty of hits about another OPT/3000, the one HP sold to track 3000 performance under MPE. Before we knew it, there was an HP Configuration Guide for the Series III and Series 30 on our monitor. Circa 1979, the HP3000 Family had promise.
 
HP 3000 Series III"The expandable hardware configurations and upward software compatibility of all the models," said the guide, "allow you to choose the system that best fits your current needs, while protecting your investment for the future." HP and everyone else didn't imagine that almost 40 years later that 3000 family would still have living members.
 
HP's OPT was a dead end, since HP stopped supporting that product by 1997. As for the Series III, with its beefy 120MB disk drive (the size of a single daily newspaper edition's PDF file), it was a museum piece before Y2K arrived. One support company featured a Series III at an HP World trade show, setting it up in a booth for people to photograph themselves with. No selfies in that year—you needed somebody else to capture your moment with history.
 
ROC was in the NewsWire archives, though. A 1999 article showed us that the OPT software had become Formation after the product was sold to Tymlabs, another Austin company. ROC bought Formation along with the rest of the stable of products which Tymlabs had sold to Unison—and Unison sold that lineup including Maestro to Tivoli. There's some begat's of vendors we might have left out there. Nevertheless, things like PSP Plus were well-built and useful for more than two decades.
 
That's the lure of homesteading—its low-cost ownership—as well as the curse of staying on too long. Product expertise disappears. We've reached out to ROC to see if the offices on Northland Boulevard still contain some tribal knowledge of the artist formerly known as PSP Plus.
 
Our reader, devoted to the 3000 in more than just spirit, is hopeful about its future even while he relies on software and hardware from the past. "I was so encouraged a couple of days ago that I actually searched the Internet for HP3000 MPE system manager jobs," said Tim O'Neill.

"If I did not have to move too far, I would sure like to go back to MPE. To me, it is still an exciting world—and with Stromasys Charon hardware and massively parallel disk arrays and high-speed networking, it is an exciting NEW world!"

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 19, 2018

Why Support Would Suggest Exits from 3000

Way-OutThe work of a support provider for 3000 customers has had many roles over the last 40 years. These indies have been a source for better response time, more customer-focused services, a one-call resource, affordable alternatives and expertise HP no longer can offer. They've even been advisors to guide a 3000 owner to future investments.

That last category needs expertise to be useful, and sometimes it requires a dose of pragmatism, too. Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions gave us a thoughtful answer to the question of, "How do I get my 3000 ready for post-2028 use?" His advice shows how broad-minded a 3000-focused support company can be.

By Steve Suraci

While the solution to the 2028 problem is going to be fairly trivial, it really is the entry point to a much bigger question: What logical argument could any company make at this time to continue to run an HP 3000 MPE system beyond 2028?

I understand that some companies have regulatory requirements that require data to be available on the 3000 for years beyond its original creation date. Beyond this, what logical justification could an IT manager make to their management for perpetuating the platform in production beyond 2028? 

2028 is a long way out from HP’s end of support date [2010] and even further from the original 2001 announcement by HP of their intentions to no longer support it.  It would seem to me that there was a reasonable risk/reward proposition for extending the platform initially for some period of time.  I have to believe that the justification for that decision will expire as time goes on, if not already.

The homesteading base has not in general been willing to spend to keep the platform viable.  They take bigger and bigger risks and alienate themselves from the few support providers who remain capable of providing support in the event of an actual issue. The stability of the platform has lulled them into believing that this has been a good decision.  But what happens when it’s not?

Who at Beechglen or Allegro—or here for that matter—with any in-depth MPE knowledge will still be working in 2028? MPE guys were getting long in the tooth back in 2004!

The 2028 pitch should be to finally put these systems to pasture. We are pressing our customers to move off the platform, as should any MPE support provider. I challenge any MPE system administrator to come up with a viable argument for using the platform beyond 2028.

Is the risk really still worth the reward? The HP 3000 has been a workhorse that has served us well.  Alas, all good things must come to an end!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:05 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2018

Momentum moves towards Museum meeting

CHM displayDave Wiseman continues to pursue a 3000 user reunion for late June, and we've chosen to help invite the friends of the 3000. One of the most common sentiments from 3000 veterans sounds like what we heard from Tom Gerken of an Ohio-based healthcare firm.

"It was really sad seeing the HP 3000s go away," he said, talking about the departure of the system from Promedica. "I really liked MPE as an operating system. It was the BEST!"

The last HP 3000 event 2011 was called a Reunion. A 2018 event might be a Retirement, considering how many of the community's members are moving to semi-retirement.

Wiseman says that he's in retirement status as he defines it. "It's working not because you have to,"he said in a call last week, "but because you want to."

Most of us will be working in some capacity until we're too old to know better. That makes the remaining community members something like the HP 3000 itself—serving until it's worn down to bits. The event this summer will be a social gathering, a chance to see colleagues and friends in person perhaps for the first time in more than a decade.

The weekend of June 23-24 is the target for the 3000 Retirement party. We're inquiring about the Computer History Museum and a spot inside to gather, plus arrangements for refreshments and appetizers. There will be a nominal cover fee, because there's no band. Yet.

If you've got a customer list or a Facebook feed you'd like to spread the word on, get in touch with me. Spread the word. Email your friends.

No matter whether you have a contact list or not, save the date: one afternoon on the fourth weekend of June. Details to come. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:13 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 09, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101

Newswire Classic

By Scott Hirsh

Ledger-bookAs we board the train on our trip through HP 3000 System Management Hell, our first stop, Worst Practice #1, must be Unplanned Account Structure. By account structure I am referring to the organization of accounts, groups, files and users. I maintain that the worst of the worst practices is the failure to design an account structure, then put it into practice and stick with it. If instead you wing it, as most system managers seem to do, you ensure more work for yourself now and in the future. In other words, you are trapped in System Management Hell.

What’s the big deal about account structure? The account structure is the foundation of your system, from a management perspective. Account structure touches on a multitude of critical issues: security, capacity planning, performance, and disaster recovery, to name a few. On an HP 3000, with all of two levels to work with (account and group), planning is even more important than in a hierarchical structure where the additional levels allow one to get away with being sloppy (although strictly speaking, not planning your Unix account structure will ultimately catch up with you, too). In other words, since we have less to work with on MPE, making the most of what we have is compelling.

As system managers, when not dozing off in staff meetings, the vast majority of our time is spent on account structure-related activities: ensuring that files are safely stored in their proper locations, accessible only to authorized users; ensuring there is enough space to accommodate existing file growth as well as the addition of new files; and occasionally, even today, file placement or disk fragmentation can become a performance issue, so we must take note of that.

In the unlikely event of a problem, we must know where everything is and be able to find backup copies if necessary. Periodically we are asked (perhaps with no advance notice) to accommodate new accounts, groups, users and applications. We must respond quickly, but not recklessly, as this collection of files under our management is now ominously referred to as a “corporate asset.”

You wouldn’t build a house without a design and plans, you wouldn’t build an application without some kind of specifications, so why do we HP 3000 system managers ignore the need for some kind of consistent logic to the way we organize our systems?

A logical, adaptable, documented account structure is a huge time saver in many respects. As most of us now manage multiple systems, we have no time to waste chasing down lost files, working with convoluted file sets, struggling to keep access under control or reacting to full volume sets.

I once had a conversation with a co-worker who was an avid outdoorsman. He was discussing rock climbing and I asked him about exciting rock climbing experiences. His reply: “In rock climbing, anything exciting is bad.” I would say the same thing about system management. By getting your account structure under control, you build a solid system management foundation that translates into much more pleasant work.

If this were a “best practices” column, we would discuss the best ways to clean up your system’s account structure. But this is worst practices, so let’s look at the no-nos.

No naming standards,
bad naming standards

Oscar Wilde once said, “Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative.” Do you think he was referring to HP 3000 system management? If so, not much has changed since Oscar’s day.

• In one account the jobs are located in group JCL. In another account, group JOBS. The developers keep “special” jobs in a group you never heard of in the critical application account. And just to make things more interesting, all your so-called “production” jobs are kept in an account called JCL, containing all kinds of groups, including “TEMP.”

By having consistency across accounts I control, I can easily find what I need when I need it. If jobs are always in the same group across accounts, I can LISTF @[email protected], etc. Backups/recoveries are easier, updates are easier, training new operators is easier. Sure, consistency is boring, but we must resist the lure of adrenaline.

• I’m going out on a limb here, but my guess is that your UDCs, the few you have left, are in a different place in every account. Why is that? And your system UDC (singular) is located in the SYS account, right? Because it’s the SYStem UDC, of course! Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have another, non-SYS account for globally accessible files. What’s the catch? The system UDC file needs to be in the system volume set, for obvious reasons (learned that one the hard way).

• An MPE file name consists of a whopping maximum of eight characters. That should make every character count, right? So why do jobs that live in a group called JCL or an account called JCL all start with the letter J? File that under the department of redundancy department.

• We manage the systems, so we make the rules, right? Wrong. If we want the rules followed, if we want the best rules possible, we must get input and buy-in from all the others who will be expected to honor our rules. Ignoring users when it’s time to develop naming standards and other system policies is a classic Worst Practice, and a good way to ensure continued chaos. And don’t forget that upper management will need to be involved when a little “gentle” persuasion is required.

Scott Hirsh is former chairman of the SIG-SYSMAN Special Interest Group.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:51 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2018

2028 patching begins to emerge

Beechglen Communicator CoverBeechglen Development has announced a new 2028 patching service. The services are aimed at customers using Beechglen for HP 3000 and MPE/iX support. According a PDF document hosted at the Beechglen website, the software modifications to MPE/iX are authorized through the terms of the HP source code license that was granted to seven firms in 2011.

Several 3000 consulting and support providers have an ability to serve the community with revisions to extend 3000 date-handling beyond January 1, 2028. Several of them were on a CAMUS user group call last November. Beechglen is the first company to employ the date repair services through a set of patches. One question is whether the patches can be applied to any system, or must be customized in a per-system process.

The software alterations seem to include changes to MPE/iX, not just to applications and surround code hosted at a 3000 site. Doug Werth, director of technical services at Beechglen, said in a message to the 3000-L mailing list, "While it isn’t quite “MPE Forever” it does extend the HP 3000 lifespan by another 10 years."

The strategy was outlined as part of a document called the Beechglen Communicator, formatted and written to look like the Communicator tech documents HP sent to MPE/iX support customers through 2007. 

The Year >2027 patches have been developed as enhancements under the Beechglen Development Inc. MPE/iX Source Code Agreement with Hewlett-Packard. As provided in this agreement, these patches can only be provided as enhancements to MPE/iX systems covered under a support agreement from Beechglen Development Inc.

The three pages of technical explanation about the patches is followed by a list of third party software companies who have products "certified on Beechglen-patched MPE systems that their software is Y2028 compatible." Adager and Robelle products are listed as certified in the Beechglen document.

Adager is one of seven companies which hold an HP source code license for MPE/iX. Pivital Solutions is another, along with support companies Terix and Allegro, and three other software firms. The companies have a restriction in their use of MPE/iX. As the Beechglen document states, the alterations have to be in service to existing customers. HP released the code to keep 3000s in service, to the extent that the license holders have the technical ability to employ the source.

In 2008, as MPE/iX source licenses were discussed by HP and parties like OpenMPE, Adager's CEO Rene Woc noted a license to source is just the first step in fixing 3000s.

Having access to source though a license doesn't automatically make a license-holder a better provider of products and services, he said.

You cannot assume, even with good readers of source code, that the solutions will pop up. A lot of the problems we see these days are due to interactions between products. So the benefit for the customer would be based more on the troubleshooting skills that an organization can provide.

"Each system applying these patches should be evaluated for customer and third party code that calls the CALENDAR intrinsic directly," the Beechglen document says in an Application Considerations section.

We've reached out to Beechglen to learn what testing these Year >2027 patches have passed through from outside users and sites. HP distributed MPE/iX patches after its software had passed a beta test from more than one testing customer running a 3000. HP testing worked inside the realm of its own support customers, too. No one could beta test an HP patch unless they were already an HP support customer.

OpenMPE hoped to be a test organization for patches in the era after HP closed its labs. The project didn't emerge beyond the discussion phase, in part because there were no dedicated tech resources to do the testing.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2018

An Opening for MPE's Closing Numbers

OpenMPEHeaderTen years ago this month OpenMPE was holding one of its last contested board elections. Spring meant new questions and sometimes new people asking them. The advocacy group launched in the wake of HP's 3000 pullout notice never had a staff beyond its directors. Once in awhile a 3000 expert like Martin Gorfinkel would be contracted for a project, but most of the time the six to nine volunteers from the 3000 community debated with HP on every request, desire and crazy dream from a customer base stunned into transition.

Directors operated on two-year terms, and those elected in 2008 were the last to serve theirs in the era when HP operated an MPE/iX lab. While the lights were still on at HP, there was some hope homesteaders might receive more help. OpenMPE was in charge of asking, but could report nothing without HP's okay.

OpenMPE never pulled from a deep base of volunteers. Most elections featured the likes of nine people running for seven seats, so a long list of losing candidates was never part of the results. The ballots came through from members of the group via emails. Here at the NewsWire I counted them and had them verified by a board committee. In the biggest of elections we saw 111 votes cast.

OpenMPE Links
OpenMPE's 2009 patch proposal

The 2008 election revolved around source code licensing for MPE/iX. The vendor would report the last of its end-game strategies by November, and the end of HP's 3000 lab activity was to follow soon after. Support with fixes to security problems and patches would be over at the end of 2008, and that made the election important as well. There was no promise yet of when the source code might be released, to who, or under what conditions. It looked like HP was going to shut down the MPE/iX lab with beta test patches still not moved to general release.

Getting candidate positions on the record was my role. I dreamed up the kinds of questions I wanted HP to answer for me. HP only promised that by 2010 customers would know whether source would be available and to who. A question to candidates was, "Is it acceptable for the vendor to wait until the start of 2010, as  it plans to do now?"

The question was more confrontational than the volunteers could ask. HP controlled the terms of the discussion as well as the content. Hewlett-Packard held conference calls with volunteers for the first five years of the group's existence, but the calls stopped in 2008. 

Fewer than 30 people ever served on an OpenMPE board. The list was impressive, but keeping good talent like consultant and columnist John Burke or Pivital Solutions' Steve Suraci was tough. Directors like that always wanted more out of HP than the vendor would provide: more transparency, more resources. Of the final three to volunteer, Keith Wadsworth was the only one ever to ask the board to consider if OpenMPE should continue to exist. His election in 2010 gave him the platform to demand an answer. During the next year the directors dwindled to three. 

The group was finally granted a license for MPE source, but it had little else as an asset. There was a $10,000 fee due to HP in 2010 for that license which the group couldn't pay. It also didn't have developers who'd polish it toward any productive use among 3000 customers. That source code was like metal stock without a drill press to shape it, or even an operator.

Staffing resource was always an issue. The group did its best work when it pointed out the holes HP had left behind in its migration strategy for customers. A license transfer process would've never surfaced without OpenMPE's efforts. As of this year, license transfers are the only remaining HP 3000 service a customer can get from HP Enterprise.

Springtime in the 3000's Transition Era replaced the summers of Interex advocacy. During the spring hard questions would be asked in public of people whose mission was getting answers and making promises. HP always gave a nod of thanks to OpenMPE but never portrayed the group as the keystone to the homesteading experience. After awhile the group began to hope HP would find a gracious way to contribute source code to the community.

A limited number of licensees was all the community would ever get. As he ran for his board seat in 2008, Tracy Johnson said that it was fruitless to tell HP a 2010 deadline for source news was unacceptable. Even while customers continued to drift away, HP held all the cards, he said.

It is apparent HP cares not one wit whether OpenMPE declares any decision "acceptable" or not, and making such declarations isn't going to gain any friends at HP.  We're more like a public TV station that needs a telethon every once in a while to keep us going.  But there's only one donor with the currency (MPE) to make it worthwhile, and that is HP. The one accomplishment that OpenMPE needs to put under its belt is to get HP to work with us, and not be at odds with each other.  Everything else hinges on this.

Third parties were supposed to negotiate their own separate contracts for support tool licensing. Testing the beta patches thoroughly using OpenMPE volunteers was proposed and Johnson signed off on it. The volunteer group couldn't line up testing resources, which didn't matter because HP didn't release the beta patches for tests beyond HP's support customers. Nobody even knew for sure if patches were something customers desired.

"Addressing the question of testing," Wadsworth said 10 years ago this spring, "although the OpenMPE board members and  members at large command considerable expertise, it does not seem apparent that OpenMPE as a whole has the ability, let alone the infrastructure, to  conduct such testing."

Higher-order proposals—like un-crippling the final generation of 3000 boxes—went unpursued, too. It seemed like HP was shutting down this product line. Why give customers the rights to full use of their servers at shutdown? "This type of change  would not only add new breath to the e3000, it would add new life to a platform that is being shut down," Wadsworth said in answering a candidate question. "So because of the unlikelihood of this happening I do not think it is a direction that OpenMPE should concentrate resources on at this time."

Source was released and licensed in the spring of 2010, and the group did the advocacy for the transfer of licenses, and to include an emulator clause in that license transfer. By the end of the effort, funding came from loans and contributions from the board members." The group's chairman Jack Connor, the next to last leader, said "the contributions showed their commitment to the OpenMPE concept."

That concept changed constantly over the almost nine years of the group's existence. It began with the desire to get HP to open up source code and technology about a server it was discontinuing. Then the mission was the creation of a 3000 emulator. MPE/iX licensing issues, as well as necessary but overlooked HP procedures for migration, because the longest-term mission.

HP's Dave Wilde, the penultimate HP 3000 business manager, said that OpenMPE was an important part of HP’s planning for a post-2008 ecosystem for the platform. Springtime elections offered hope that the ecosystem would flourish. 

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:19 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 26, 2018

Overview compares emulation strategies

MBFA Emulation OptionsMB Foster has put some of its Wednesday Webinars online for streaming. A link to a web page leads to a form for input of your name and email, and eventually a return message gives a link to the streams. The company has a lot of firsts to its name for transition training, and this might be the first delivery online of 3000-specific advice since HP's migration broadcasts of 15 years ago.

Much of the online content wraps around the MB Foster product line: UDACentral, UDASynch, and MBF-Scheduler all have webinars. One broadcast, though, promises to be one of the first overviews of emulation strategies. These are the 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.

"I don't think there's anybody else in the marketplace that's given an overview of the emulators," said MB Foster's Chris Whitehead. "It's been up to each individual company to decipher what they can and cannot use."

He's right, and the webinars from early this year and the middle of last year give a broad overview of what emulation might look like. It's an interesting term with many definitions, according to our overview. For some planners, this word means getting away from MPE/iX-based hardware, creating a shell on a Windows or Unix host where MPE/iX apps run. The infrastructure and surround code changes, along with databases and services like job streaming. A more current solution, from Stromasys, gives modern Intel hosts a Linux cradle, where a PA-RISC lookalike runs existing MPE/iX code, infrastructure and all. Nothing changes except the hardware in that emulation.

CEO Birket Foster said some of his customers have deployed the Charon emulator. A few on the call said the overview was helpful in understanding the options for emulation.

The link to the emulation show is available by following the MB Foster link to its email-collection page. One pass through what the company calls HP 3000 Emulation Options (free signup required) has about 45 minutes of review including slides. The Stromasys information shows up at the 34:00 mark of the show, which includes summaries of EZ-MPE, TI/Ordat, and Marxmeier's Eloquence database — the latter a TurboIMAGE lookalike.

The goal of most emulation is to keep changes to a minimum. Charon does the most complete job of limiting change.HP helped emulation become virtualization for 3000s. Emulation of HP's hardware on Intel came to our community after Stromasys re-engineered code for PA-RISC boot up. HP gave help directly to the company to complete the project after a long pause on HP's part.

Along the way toward explaining how Stromasys became a part of the MB Foster customer experience, there's a comment about the help OpenMPE provided in the effort. After OpenMPE's eight years of lobbying and negotiations, HP in 2010 ultimately made a source code license for MPE/iX available to the market. Seven companies licensed it. Stromasys (called SRI at the time) was not a licensee, though. The code was important to support providers, of course, companies like Pivital Solutions

Adager and Ordat -- the latter the European supplier of the IMAGE wrapper technology mentioned in the webinar, the former the market leader in IMAGE tools -- were among the software development companies, along with healthcare application vendor Neil Harvey & Associates. Pivital Solutions, Allegro Consultants, Beechglen Development and Terix got right to the source code in support of their HP 3000 customers.

The licenses delivered code that couldn't be used in the marketplace until January 1, 2011, the first day that HP no longer offered HP 3000 support services. HP described the read-only licenses as a means for "delivery of system-level technical support."

Whatever the benefits of source code might be for the market—workarounds are a big plus for tech problems on the 3000—emulation in it's least-changing definition doesn't have a link to MPE/iX source.

The link between MPE/iX and the Charon emulation lies in its unique ability to run any code built for the 3000 hardware on Intel systems. OpenMPE opened its quest in 2002 for post-HP 3000 use by hoping for an open source version of MPE. Open hardware arrived instead, using the Stromasys product, an emulation of the iron that HP stopped building in 2003.

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

February 23, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: Check on LDEV availability

Is there a way to have an HP 3000 jobstream check to see if a tape drive (LDEV) is available? I am not seeing a HP system variable that seems to list the status. I can see via a SHOWDEV that the device is available or not. I just need a jobstream to be able to do the same.

Roy Brown replies

We use a utility, apectrl.pub.orbit, that we found in our ORBIT account alongside Backup+. We use this, in a command file run as a jobstream, to check that tapes are mounted ready for our nightly backups, and, in the backup job itself, to eject them when complete.

Tom Hula says,

It's been awhile since I've messed with the 3000. I have a utility that I received from Terry Tipton many years ago that does that checking. It is called CHKTAPE. So if the tape drive is dev 7, I have CHKTAPE 7 in the jobstream and then check for the results in CHKTAPE_RESULT. We are looking for a value of 0, but here are all the results:

0 - Tape is unowned, online, at BOT and writeable
1 - Tape is unowned, online, at BOT and write protected
2 - An error occurred.  Probably an invalid device number
3 - Device is not a tape drive
4 - Device is owned by another process
5 - Device is owned by the system
6 - Tape is not online
7 - No tape in device

Terry has a reminder that the program must reside in a group with PM capability. I have been using it on all my backups since without any problems. Let me know if you are interested in getting a copy of this utility.

Alan Yeo adds,

We use the little ONLINE utility from Allegro to put a tape on-line, or back on-line; we use it to put automatically back on-line to do a verify after the store.

Donna Hofmeister replies

Here's a scripted solution to the question. MPE has the best scripting language of any OS. Thanks, Jeff (Vance)!

The following will return CI variables that can be easily used in a job:
parm tape=0,entry=main

if "!entry" = "main"
 if "!tape" = "0" or "!tape" = "?"
   echo ![basename(hpfile)] [tape_ldev_num]
   echo              req.
   echo ![basename(hpfile)] is designed to check the 
   echo !desired tape
   echo   device to see if a write-enabled tape is mounted and
   echo   available for use.
   echo
   echo The boolean variable _TAPE_READY will be returned.
   echo The string  variable _TAPE_LABEL will be returned, if available.
   return
 endif
 if numeric("!tape")
   setvar _ct_tape !tape
 else
   echo ERROR: The parameter "!tape" is not numeric
   return
 endif
 file sdtemp;rec=-80,,f,ascii;temp
 if finfo("*sdtemp","exists")
   purge sdtemp,temp
 endif
 errclear
 continue
 showdev !_ct_tape > *sdtemp
 if hpcierr <> 0
   echo !hpcierr   !hpcierrmsg
   escape !hpcierr
 endif
 setvar _ct_tape_ready false
 setvar _tape_ready false
 setvar _tape_label ''
 xeq !hpfile !_ct_tape,process < *sdtemp
 if _ct_tape_ready
   setvar _tape_ready true
 endif
 if _ct_tape_label > ''
   setvar _tape_label _ct_tape_label
 endif
 deletevar [email protected]
 purge sdtemp,temp
 reset sdtemp
elseif "!entry" = "process"
 setvar _ct_eof finfo(hpstdin,'eof')
 while setvar(_ct_eof,_ct_eof-1) >= 0
   input _ct_rec
   if numeric(word(_ct_rec))
     if pos("AVAIL    (W)",_ct_rec) > 0
       setvar _ct_tape_ready true
     endif
     setvar _ct_tape_label   repl(str(_ct_rec,43,14),' ','')
   endif
 endwhile
endif

In a job, it might look something like this:

!chktape 7
!if not _TAPE_READY
! tellop No Tape is mounted
! setjcw jcw=fatal
!endif

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:03 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2018

HP's Enterprise reports a rising Q1 tide

HPE Hybrid IT Q1 2017
Source: HPE reports. Click for details.

As her parting gift to incoming CEO Antonio Neri, HP Enterprise leader Meg Whitman left him with one of the best quarters HPE has posted in years. While the company that makes systems to replace the HP 3000 posted 34 cents a share in profits, its revenue from server sales rose by 11 percent, along with gains in storage revenues (up 24 percent) and datacenter networking gear (up 27 percent).

The increase in server sales has been a difficult number to deliver ever since HP stopped supporting the HP 3000. The gains came in the computer lines driven by Intel's chips, not HP's Itanium processors.

An analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy was quoted in the Bay Area's Mercury News as saying "If this is what HPE will look like under new CEO Antonio Neri, investors, customers, partners and employees will be pleased.”

The results came from the final quarter of Whitman's leadership, though. The company is raising its quarterly dividends to almost 12 cents a share, a 50 percent increase, to return money to shareholders. HPE will be buying back its stock throughout 2018 as well. The stock price rose to $18.35 on the report, which beat analysts' estimates of 22 cents a share in profits and $7.1 billion in revenue. HPE's Q1 2018 revenues were $7.7 billion.

Industry Standard Servers—the type of computer system that can drive the Stromasys Charon virtualized MPE/iX environment—came in for specific mention in HP's conference call with analysts. ISS contributed to the overall growth in servers, according to Neri. 

He also commented on the change in US tax laws benefiting HPE ("we have more flexibility in using our overseas cash") and then explained how his HPE Next is going to shift the culture of the corporation that was once ruled by the HP Way.

Neri, the first career-long HP employee to become CEO since Lew Platt in 1993, architected and initiated HPE Next. "It's all about simplification, innovation and execution," he said in a Q&A session with analysts. "I'm pleased with the first quarter performance where we executed well with no disruption. This is an opportunity for me as the new CEO to establish a new culture as we transform the company, and to really architect the company from the grounds up with a clean sheet approach. And this is going to change the culture of the company."

What I learned is the fact that you can push more, you can do more. And the organization is actually very excited about what we’re doing, because this is an opportunity to improve the way serve our customers. So it is very critical initiative for us and we are confident we’re going to deliver not only the improvements in our cost savings but also the way we work and employee productivity. And most importantly that should reflect in our business performance and our customer satisfaction.

Neri said HPE will also be re-investing at a higher level in employee 401k accounts, and assisting in more degreed education "so employees can fulfill their visions in our company as they progress in their careers."

Neri started at HP working in a call center for customer support during the 1990s. Whitman remains on HPE's board of directors after retiring from the corporation's CEO job.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:46 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2018

Relief at Finding One Another is Real

Missed-youIt can be difficult to round up a collective of HP 3000 and MPE users. Even the CAMUS user group society meeting of November was dominated by vendors, consultants and non-customers. I began long ago to classify consultants as customers. They're representing a company that needs expertise but can't put an expert on the payroll. During the call one consultant spoke up saying he was doing just that. A representative from Infor was asking how many of the meeting's attendees had MANMAN installed.

After awhile Terry Lanza, who'd organized the meeting conducted on a widespread conference call, asked "Is there an HP 3000 user group still going, or has that kind of folded?" Doug Werth of Beechglen replied, "The user group doesn't really exist much. It's just the HP3000 Listserv."

Even the 3000-L, where the L stands for Listserv, has many moments of absolute quiet. People are curious, reading what's been up there for more than 25 years. But it can be weeks between messages. The Quiet Day Count stands at seven right now, after an exchange about groups residing on multiple volumesets.

That's why it's encouraging to see people like Lanza and Dave Wiseman bring efforts to bear on finding one another. Wiseman, who's hosted some 3000 gatherings over the very-quiet last five years, still has his eye set on a 2018 3000 meeting. He's looking in specific at two dates for a meeting in June: Saturday the 16th or Friday the 22nd. That could be a meeting in Cupertino, or a gathering out on the California coast in Santa Cruz, he says. I'd be voting for that Friday (flights are cheaper on Thursdays) with time to enjoy California for a couple days afterward.

Get in touch with us via email, or better yet with Wiseman, to show a preference. ([email protected] or +44 777 555 7017)

The overwhelming emotion I see and hear during meetings like that CAMUS call or an in-person event is relief. "I thought I was the only one left out here running a 3000," someone said during the CAMUS call. You're not, and gatherings reinforce your good stewardship of an IT resource. They might also provide an update on what to do next. It could be virtualization or a migration. Real world experience flows easier in person. You can also learn what you might have missed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:18 PM in Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 16, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: Deleting Bad System Disks

As HP 3000s age their disks go bad, the fate of any component with moving parts. Even after replacing a faulty drive there are a few software steps to perform. Wyell Grunwald explains his problem after replacing a failed system bootup disk

Our disk was a MEMBER in MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. I am trying to delete the disk off the system.  Upon startup, the 3000 says LDEV 4 is not available.  When going into SYSGEN, then IO, then DDEV 4, it gives me a warning that it is part of the system volume set — and cannot be deleted. How do I get rid of this disk?

Gilles Schipper of support provider GSA said that INSTALL is something to watch while resetting 3000 system disks.

Sounds like your install did not leave you with only a single MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET disk. Could it be that you have more than one system volume after INSTALL because other, non-LDEV 1 volumes were added with the AVOL command of SYSGEN — instead of the more traditional way of adding system volumes via the VOLUTIL utility?

You can check as follows:

SYSGEN
IO
LVOL

If the resulting output shows more than one volume, that's the answer.

He offers a repair solution as well.

The solution would be as follows:

1. Reboot with:

START NORECOVERY SINGLE-DISC SINGLE-USER

2. With SYSGEN, perform a DVOL for all non-LDEV1 volumes

3. HOLD, then KEEP CONFIG.SYS

4. Create new SLT.

5. Perform INSTALL from newly-created SLT.

6. Add any non-LDEV1 system volumes with VOLUTIL. This will avoid such problems in future.

If you do see only one system volume with the LVOL command, the only thing I can think of is that VOLUTIL was used to add LDEV 4 to the MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET after the install.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:43 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2018

Wayback Wednesday: An Armload of Value

Snow with A-ClassOn a February afternoon in a Silicon Valley of 2001, the HP 3000 realized its highest order of invention. The PA-RISC processors had been powering the server for more than 13 years, and HP was working on the next generation of systems. Y2K was already one year into the rear view mirror and the lineup needed a refresh. HP responded by giving the customers a server they could carry under their arms.

The first A-Class model of what HP called the e3000 came into the meeting room of the Interex Solutions Symposium under Dave Snow's arm. The audience was developers, software company owners, and the most ardent of 3000 customers. The box was the realization of a low-cost dream about the 3000s. The installed base had been hoping for hardware that could keep the 3000 even with the Intel-based hardware powering the Windows business alternatives.

Snow was a little out of breath as he came to the front of the meeting room in the Sunnyvale hotel. He set the 3.5-inch-high server down and caught the eyes of people in the crowd, lusting for the computer. "No," he said, "this one is already spoken for in the labs." Like in the older days of Hewlett-Packard, the company created a tool its own engineers wanted to use. He said the computer was the result of a challenge from a customer the year before: "bring a 3000 into the Chicago HP World show you could carry under your arm. It's a portable computer, although it does weigh a bit."

A-ClassCPUsThe A-Class systems cost thousands less per year to support than the Series 9x8 and 9x7s they replaced. HP told resellers A-Class support would be $415-$621 a month for systems running up to 65 percent faster than the older models. But HP also horsepower-throttled the servers in a move to preserve value for the most costly servers already in the market. The HP-UX version of the A-Class was more than twice as fast.

Snow borrowed one of the few that were testing-ready from HP's MPE/iX labs on that day. In a movie of 5 minutes, Snow leads a tour of the advantages the new design offered over the 9x9 and 99x 3000s. HP pulled the covers and cabinet doors off to show internal hardware design.

HP introduced the speedier N-Class systems just a few months later, and so the market had its ultimate generation of Hewlett-Packard hardware for MPE/iX. The 2001 introduction of the A-Class—a computer that sells today for under $1,500 in some price lists—was part of the reason for the whiplash when HP called off its 3000 futures just 9 months after that February day. When the Chicago HP World closed in that summer, it was the last expo where HP's slides showed a future of more innovations.

These 14-year-old systems have been eclipsed by the Intel hardware, but running a virtualization system. The Stromasys Charon HPA is running MPE/iX production applications on servers even smaller than that A-Class. HP had the idea of making its computers smaller. It was up to the virtualization concept to make them both smaller and faster.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:16 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2018

MPE/iX keeps propelling relevant history

Professor KanzbergAt a recent meeting of HP 3000 managers running ERP shops, the present conditions and futures surfaced during a discussion. The MANMAN users, running an application on 3000s that hasn't seen an update in more than a decade—like their servers and OS—marveled at the constancy in their community.

Things change slower than expected. A monolithic application like ERP is the slowest of all to change. MPE/iX and its apps are proof: the history of technology is the most relevant history. History makes migration a requirement.

Ed Stein is a board member of the CAMUS user group. At the meeting he said the past three years have not removed many members. The 2028 CALENDAR replacement process caught his eye.

"I chuckled when I read a NewsWire article in 2015 and thought, 'Hey, how many of us are going to be around in 2028?' Well, most of us who were community members in 2015 are still members now," Stein said. "There's a future for those still running on MPE. If you don't like the hardware, then there's Doug Smith [from Stromasys] telling you how to get over that issue. MANMAN could be around in archival use 10 years from now—if not in actual production use."

Stein read that article about the CALENDAR intrinsic's shortcomings and decided he'd plan ahead, just to check off one more crucial challenge to the 3000's useful lifespan. 

"We want there to be a CALENDAR fix sooner than later," Stein said. "Because later, the talent might be retired or gone to fix this thing. We're looking at this as more of an insurance policy. If by chance we're still on this platform 10 years from now, we're going to be okay."

The platform's history is responsible for HP's continued standing in the business computer market, after all. Professor Melvin Kranzberg (above) wrote a set of laws to show how we relate to technology. MPE's relevance is more proven with every subsequent development.

Rule 5 among technology historian Kranzberg's rules: All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant. The laws read as a cheat sheet for explaining our era that includes Facebook, Google, the iPhone—and yes, cloud-based ERP replacements for MANMAN.

From an article in the Wall Street Journal published just after the MANMAN meeting:

The Cold War led to the buildup of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them anywhere on Earth. That led to the development of a war-proof communication system: the internet. Many related innovations subsequently seeped into every aspect of our lives.

But does that mean we owe the modern world to the existential contest between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R.? Or was that conflict itself driven by previous technological developments that allowed Hitler to threaten both nations?

Without prior historic events, how could ERP become a system built upon Salesforce and served up from cloud-based computing resources? No MANMAN or HP 3000 success drags back the entry date for the ERP replacements in the cloud.

The 3000 owners preparing for their migrations continue to prove the worth of their investments from the 1990s in MANMAN. 

"You're not alone here in the MANMAN arena," said Doug Werth of Beechglen at the meeting. "MANMAN is still a fairly small subset of companies that are still running HP 3000s. I'm really shocked to say here in this year that there are that many people running HP 3000s. But you're not alone here."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:56 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 09, 2018

Using a PURGEGROUP to clean volumes up

Empty file cabinetIs using PURGEGROUP a way to clean up where groups reside on multiple volume sets? I want to remove groups from Volumesets that aren't considered HOMEVS.

Tracy Johnson says

The syntax for a command on group PUB.CCC might read

PURGEGROUP PUB.CCC;ONVS=USER_SETSW

Denys Beauchemin says

The ALTGROUP, PURGEGROUP and NEWGROUP commands act on the specified volumeset after the ONVS keyword.

The HOMEVS keyword is used to specify in which volumeset the group is supposed to reside and where the files will be found in a LISTF or FOPEN.

If you have the same group.account existing on multiple volumesets and they have files in them, the entries on volumesets—other than what is in HOMEVS for that group—are invisible. If you want to get to them, you need to point the group's HOMEVS to that volumeset and then you can get to the files.

If there are no files in the group.account of other volumesets, it's not a big deal.

Keven Miller says

You could review the volume scripts available that were once on HP's Jazz server. 

Take care in using  the PURGEGROUP command. You can have files existing in the same group name, on separate volumes—which makes mounting that group a problem. So make sure the group on the volume is clean of files you might desire before the PURGEGROUP.

HP's documentation for the PURGEGROUP command has a similar warning.

In the two pages devoted to PURGEGROUP, the manual says,

Do not attempt to purge the PUB group of the SYS account. The public group of the system account, PUB.SYS, cannot be completely purged. If you specify this group in the group name parameter, all non-system and inactive files are purged, which seriously impairs the proper functioning of the entire system.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:09 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2018

Living with what's still working in MPE

Classic-carsSome functionality of MPE/iX will be outliving its accuracy. That's the situation with the CALENDAR intrinsic, which now has less than 10 years of correct capability remaining. Few 3000 support and development companies can reach inside MPE/iX source, and of those, nobody's going to fix the original intrinsic.

"There is no fix inside the CALENDAR routine," says Steve Cooper of Allegro. "There is no pivot point in the CALENDAR routine. It's returning a number from 0 to 127. It's up to the program to decide what to do with that. Or you live with it."

On the latest technical conference call, some companies with access to HP's MPE/iX source were on the line. "If you want to fix the banner when you log in, then you need the source code for MPE," said Doug Werth. "If you want to fix the program that's printing the wrong date on a report, then you need the source code to your program."

To be clear, even having MPE/iX source code won't give CALENDAR more years of accuracy. Werth said that fixing MPE/iX—something the source code companies like Pivital at least have enough license to attempt—isn't an open subject, either. "There's a lot in that HP licensing we're probably not allowed to talk about," he said, speaking of Beechglen.

Chevrolet ApacheLooking the other way and living with what's still working—that's genuinely possible for a 3000 that's not calculating time between transactions. "For this group of people," said CAMUS board member and 3000 manager Terry Simpkins, "if they're still using MANMAN transactionally, they're going to care. If you're in an archive mode where all you're doing is looking up things that happened in the past, not so much."

Many adjustments for declining functionality will come by revising application code. "You can intercept the call to CALENDAR, but the program will be expecting a 16-bit return value in the CALENDAR format," Cooper said. "There's nothing you can do with CALENDAR's value at that point."

The 3000 has been here before. The last time there was a lot of company, as 1999 turned into 2000 for computers from every vendor. CALENDAR won't kill MPE/iX—in that way, it's unlike what the community did for Y2K remediation. 

Allegro was one of the companies that gave 3000 managers date management tools to help get applications beyond Y2K. "I lost a lot of sleep between 1992 and January, 2000," he said. "I'm not losing sleep over this one."

"If you don't have source, and it bothers you, then there are solutions," he added. "The rest of it is cosmetic and you ought to be able to look past that. If you have your application source code, by all means it's simple."

Werth said, "I still have a customer with an application that is not even Y2K compliant. Every year they set their calendar back to the year where the day of the year lines up with the current day of the week. So Wednesday November 16 is still Wednesday, November 16. The year is just wrong."

"There may be some things you just have to live with. You run a report and it says it's 1909 instead of 2037. You live with that. Where it's critical, you figure out a fix for it. Where the applications are having problems, there's plenty of people who will be available to help fix it." 

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

February 02, 2018

Simplifying MPE/iX Patch Management

NewsWire Classic

By John Burke

Patching-machineEven though Patch/iX and Stage/iX were introduced with MPE/iX in 1996, these HP tools are poorly understood and generally under-used. Both are tremendous productivity tools when compared with previous techniques for applying patches to MPE/iX. Prior to the introduction of Patch/iX and Stage/iX, system managers did their patching with AUTOPAT, and you had to allow for at least a half-day of downtime. Plus, in relying on tape, you were relying on a notoriously flaky medium where all sorts of things could go wrong and create “the weekend in Hell.”

Patch/iX moves prep time out of downtime, cutting downtime in half because you create the CSLT (or staging area) during production time. Stage/iX reduces downtime to as little as 15-20 minutes by eliminating tape altogether and, furthermore, makes recovery from a bad patches as simple as a reboot.

This article is based upon the Patch Management sessions I have presented at Solutions Symposia. The complete set of 142 slides (over 100 screen shots) and 20 pages of handouts are downloadable in a file from www.burke-consulting.com. The complete presentation takes you step-by-step through the application of a PowerPatch using Patch/iX with a CSLT and the application of a downloaded reactive patch using Patch/iX and Stage/iX. Included is an example of using Stage/iX to recover from a bad patch.

Why should you care about Patch Management? Studies and surveys suggest that 50-80 percent of all HP 3000s will still be running by 2006-2009 – even HP now agrees. Keeping a system running smoothly includes knowing how to efficiently and successfully apply patches to the system. HP has committed to supplying bug fix patches to MPE/iX and its subsystems through 2006, including two PowerPatches per year. [Ed. note: The process continued through 2008.] There may also be new functionality added, either to support new devices or in response to the System Improvement Ballot (SIB).

Patch/iX is a tool for managing patches. It can be used to apply reactive patches, a PowerPatch, or an add-on SUBSYS tape with a PowerPatch. Patch/iX is actually a bundle including the PATCHIX program and a number of auxiliary files that are OS release dependent. Patch/iX allows you to:

• Qualify all patches in a set of patches;

• Install reactive patches at the same time as a PowerPatch;

• Selectively apply patches from a PowerPatch tape; and,

• Create the CSLT (or staging area for Stage/iX) while users are still on the system; i.e., when it is convenient for you without incurring downtime.

Stage/iX is an OS facility for applying and managing the application of patches. Stage/iX reduces system downtime for applying patches to the length of time required for a reboot and provides an easy and reliable method for backing out patches. Stage/iX includes an interface to Patch/iX that creates the “staging area” and two utilities:

• STAGEMAN, which allows you to manage all aspects of patch staging, including which version of the OS will be used for the next update; and,

• STAGEISL, an ISL utility available from the ISL prompt whenever the system is down. It contains a subset of STAGEMAN functionality that allows you to recover from most problems.

Steps in staging

The set of all operating system files, for example NL.PUB.SYS, etc., are considered the current Base OS. Stage/iX creates and manages staging areas, which are HFS directories that hold versions of files that are different from the Base. More than one staging area can exist at a time. Each staging area contains the difference, or delta, between the Base OS and a patched version of the OS.

When a staging area is activated on the next boot, the files in the staging area are moved into their natural locations while the Base versions of the files are saved in a Stage/iX archive HFS directory. To back out a patch, the reverse takes place and the system is restored to its original state.

Once you are satisfied with the new and patched OS, you can COMMIT the staging area to the Base, deleting the staging area directory and all archived Base files. Note that Stage/iX and Patch/iX allow new patches to be staged and applied in a cumulative fashion. In other words, if you create a new staging area while another staging area is active, the new staging area will contain all the changes between the Base and the active staging area plus all the new changes.

Whether or not you use Patch/iX and Stage/iX, the key to successful OS patching is preparation. Information is the key to preparation. The System Software Maintenance Manual (S2M2) for your particular release of MPE/iX is the bible for all patch management activities. It contains a checklist for each possible update and patch activity along with detailed sections corresponding to checklist items. A hardcopy version and a PDF version on CD usually ship with each major OS release.

A PowerPatch usually comes with some patch-specific documentation – make sure you have it available before you start.

Finally, before you ever sit down at the keyboard, create a Patch Book for the specific patch activity you will be attempting. You can do it with the hardcopy manual and a copy machine, but I prefer to use the PDF version, printing out the two-page checklist and each section that makes up the checklist to create my Patch Book.

How to apply patches

Before proceeding too far, check HPSWINFO.PUB.SYS to ensure the patch has not already been applied. [Note that Patch/iX will tell you if a patch, or even a superceding patch, has already been applied, but it only takes a moment to check HPSWINFO and it could save you some time.] Each patch has an eight character ID. For example, consider TIXMXC3B. The first three characters indicate the subsystem; in this case TIX stands for TurboIMAGE. The next four characters are internal to HP’s patch management mechanism. The final character is the version identifier; in this case “B” indicates the second version of this patch.

First off, identify the proper checklist, in this case Checklist B, and create your Patch Book. Next, review the information about the patches at the ITRC; in particular, look for any patch dependencies.

You need to make sure you have the latest version of Patch/iX installed on your target system. This is critical to your success. All sorts of bad things can happen if you use an old or incomplete version of the Patch/iX bundle. To check the version of Patch/iX, sign on as “MANAGER.SYS,INSTALL” and type in PATCHIX VERSION, The program will respond with something like: Patch/iX Version B.01.09

Once you have the current Patch/iX and your patches, you are ready to run Patch/iX and create your staging area. There are four steps in any run of Patch/iX:

• “Select Activities,” where you define what type of patching activity you want to perform. You have the choice of adding a PowerPatch, adding reactive patches from tape, adding reactive patches from download or adding SUBSYS products.

• “View Patches” (optional): You can actually view information about all the patches that have been applied previously to your system. Note that this can easily number in the hundreds for a system that is kept reasonably up to date.

• “Qualify Patches,” where Patch/iX does a lot of work to determine which patches of the set you supply it with can and/or should be applied.

• Create the stage, the tape, or both that will be used to actually change the OS.

This is all done while normal production continues and places a minimal load on your system. Once you have created your stage with Patch/iX, you run STAGEMAN to activate your staging area with the SET command. The next time you boot your system (and this can be done remotely from your home at 3 AM Sunday morning if you like), your changes will take effect. Total downtime is the time it takes to do a SHUTDOWN followed by a START NORECOVERY.

What if something goes wrong? If you have problems after successfully rebooting your system and you want to back out your patches, simply run STAGEMAN and use the SET command to make the Base the active stage, reboot your system and you are right back where you started. Suppose you cannot even boot the system successfully after setting the stage? Simply boot to the ISL prompt and use STAGEISL (see Fig. 3 below) to set the active stage to BASE, reboot and, again, you are back to where you started.

Figure 3: Using STAGEISL to recover from a SYSTEM ABORT due to a bad patch

Once you are satisfied with your changes after reasonable testing you can again run STAGEMAN and this time use the COMMIT command to make the active stage the Base and free up the disk space occupied by the old Base.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:41 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 31, 2018

What to do when there's no HP patch

PatchesPatches and workarounds will be a continuing part of the 3000 manager's life, even here in the second decade of the 3000's Afterlife. You can get patches if you want 'em. You may want a workaround instead.

A custom workaround is a more reliable repair for something that's not operating correctly inside MPE. The very last round of patches which HP built were not tested to HP's standard. By now there's no more HP work for new repairs.

Some independent support providers know the 3000 as well as anyone left at HP. Some of the biggest and best-connected vendors have a license for MPE/iX source code, because a patch isn't what most customers want. Such a thing has to be tested, and a lot of production 3000s are under lockdown today. Changes are not welcome.

Enter the indie patching potential for MPE/iX. Binary patches are much more of a possibility when source code is in the hands of a support company. There were seven licensees who got MPE/iX source back in 2010. Working with a support firm that's got source is one step closer to a custom patch.

The path to patching can be tricky for some owners. "MPE folks are very reluctant to patch," said Donna Hofmeister, former OpenMPE board member. "The HP-UX folks are often desperate to patch."

It’s been 10 years since OpenMPE wanted to administer patches, post-HP, and HP hasn't released this software into the wild yet. Back then patches were nearly in the wild, and definitely free; a 3000 owner could call the Response Center and get a PowerPatch tape or a link for a download at no cost—if they could find a Response Center rep who understood what a 3000 was. 

Hofmeister says she's confused about the current state of IT management. "It's probably a gray-beard/hair thing, but I've always worked in shops where keeping your mission critical servers under support was essential — both to upper management and to the auditors."

"More and more now, it's this 'it's running fine, leave it alone' management attitude. It more often than not winds up biting the company in the rear. I don't know how IT managers keep their jobs when it's their decisions that halt production for days, weeks, or months at a time."

HP decided to charge for patches in 2011 by forcing customers into full support agreements, and "in the long run, this is part of why HP-UX has stagnated, and is probably on life-support at this point," Hofmeister says.  "If they had, say, created a "subscription" support level that only provided patch access, I think their ecosystem would be healthier (albeit not robust)."

Those beta release patches have become the stuff of some legend. Several 3000 support resources said they don't have betas. One said he didn't even know of any. The general-released patches are on hand, though, and owners will share catalogs of them for some informal supply of the software. One system expert said "I was hoping to get them online someday—when I wouldn't get into trouble."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:12 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 29, 2018

Locating patches is now a personal search

PatchworkTen years ago the threads between MPE/iX patches and Hewlett-Packard were intact. The vendor stopped developing the fixes and additions to a 3000's abilities. But owners were assured that the software would be ready for download. A call to HP's Response Center would continue to connect customers and patches.

None of those facts are true by now. Some support providers say there's not enough HP left in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise support to even know what a 3000 does. The 3000 experts who still track such things concur. Donna Hofmeister, former OpenMPE director, said "No one can get MPE patches from HPE now. There's simply no organization left to handle such a request."

In 2008 one significant patch issue involved beta release software. HP was clinging to its established testing practice, one that limited beta tests to current HP support customers. OpenMPE wanted to close that gap and become a force for good to get 3000s patched.

CEO Rene Woc of Adager proposed that OpenMPE administer the beta testing of patches caught in HP's logjam. The HP support customers were not taking a bite of the new bytes. Meanwhile, OpenMPE had pan-community service in its essential charter. Hofmeister said OpenMPE could speak for the thousands of sites which couldn't access beta patches for tests.

If it weren’t for OpenMPE, all the companies coming individually to HP for support beyond end-of-life wouldn’t have a collective voice. It’s OpenMPE that’s uniting these voices.

Spin the world forward 10 years and HP has indeed stopped issuing all patches. The software is available from other sources, however. Devoted owners and consultants are breaking the rules by sharing their patches—but only because HP broke a promise. HP tried for awhile to clear out beta patches. This week we heard some went into general release "because they had at least one customer who installed them without ill effect."

Even after more than a decade, there's still a forum where a customer can ask about patches: the 3000 mailing list. The transactions happen in private. Responsible support companies cannot say they'll distribute HP software.

Ask around, Hofmeister said, to find out who has HP's patches. There's a more reliable way to get repairs, though.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:31 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2018

Still meeting after all of these years

Sig-BAR-ribbonA personable community was one of the big reasons the HP 3000 got its own publication. The HP Unix community was more reticent during the 1980s, holding just a few meetings. HP 3000 owners and managers were a social bunch. It led to the founding of the HP Chronicle, where I first met the devotees and experts about MPE/iX. There were SIG meets, RUG conferences, Birds of a Feather gatherings, and national Interex conference attendance that felt almost automatic for awhile. Gathering in person isn't automatic for anyone now that social networks rule our roost.

There's still some desire to meet and share what we know, in person, however. Dave Wiseman is inquiring about gathering users in California this summer.

Wiseman, the founder of HP 3000 vendor Millware and an MPE veteran since the system's most nascent days, floated the idea of a "3000 Revival" in Europe in 2014. Wiseman was the chairman of SIG BAR, the informal after-hours gossip and news sessions held in conference bars. Stories swapped during the 1990s went on until all hours. I'd drift off into a light doze in a lounge chair after hours at a conference, listening all day, and then get snapped awake by something I hadn't heard. It's possible that a 2018 meeting could deliver something we hadn't heard in a long time.

Wiseman-alligatorWiseman will be in the US this June. (The picture at right comes from the 1980s, when he hauled around a floaty alligator at an HP conference hosted in Nashville). But that gator pool toy design is still in use, along with HP 3000s.) He described what a revival can amount to. The last time, he called the event an HP3000 SIG BAR meeting.

Remember all those good old days standing around at trade shows talking to each other? Never being interrupted by potential customers? Then there were the evenings sitting in hotel bars….

Well as far as I am aware, I am still chairman of SIG-BAR. I've dusted off the old ribbon and it's time for another meeting (only without the pretense of having business to do and without the hassle of actually bringing a booth!)

If you know anyone who worked in the HP3000 vendor community or its user groups, please contact me: ([email protected] or +44 777 555 7017)

A heartfelt reunion came together in a London pub in 2014. It could happen again. Your community still wants to meet after all these years.

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

January 19, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: How to add disks and redesign HP 3000 volume sets

Disk-drive-platter-hp3000I am in serious need of some hardware and hardware setup redesign. Essentially, we have 30GB of disk all in the system volume set and want to add 20GB more and go to multiple volume sets. How do I do this?

This checklist can be used to add new disks and completely redesign the volume sets:

1. Perform two full system backups and verify each.
2. Create a new sysgen tape.
3. Check the new sysgen tape with CHECKSLT.
4. Copy @[email protected] to a separate tape and verify.
5. Verify all disk drives configured and working properly.
6. Create a BULDACCT job for each new volume set with just the accounts destined for that volume set.
7. Verify that a current full BULDACCT exists on tape.
8. Shut down the system.
9. Restart the system.
10. From the ISL prompt, INSTALL.
11. In VOLUTIL, scratch all drives except for ldev 1.
12. In VOLUTIL, do "NEWVOL volset:member# ldev# 100 100" for each volume in the system volume set (other than ldev 1).
13. In VOLUTIL, do "NEWSET volset member# ldev# 100 100" for the master volume for each new set.
14. In VOLUTIL, do "NEWVOL volset:member# ldev# 100 100" for each volume in each new
set.
15. Restore SYS account files with ;KEEP;SHOW;OLDDATE options.
16. Stream all BULDACCT jobs to create accounts structure.
17. Restore all files with ;KEEP;SHOW;OLDDATE options.
18. Spot-verify applications.
19. Once everything appears OK, run a BULDACCT.
20. Perform a full system backup.

In Step 15 watch out when you restore from a separate tape with @[email protected] You want to verify that tape. You'll like the feeling of knowing you can get at least the operating system back up without third-party backup software intervention. (In case you're still using a third-party tool for backups.) 

A few rules of thumb:

1. Don't mix unlike-size drives on a single volume set. This is mostly an operational consideration. Avoid having the small volumes in the set fill up first with plenty of space left on the larger volumes.

2. Put the more critical user accounts on faster, newer disk drives.

3. Set up the volume sets in a business-logical manner. In other words, put accounts in a volume set with other, related accounts, if possible.Try to clearly isolate the volume sets along boundaries.

4. If you're redesigning the disk environment and doing an INSTALL, be sure to have at least two verified backups.

5. Don't be afraid to have a volume set made up of drives configured on multiple controller paths. For example, you might have three single-ended IO controller cards (if it's an older 3000). On a few of your sets, you can have drives from each.

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

January 15, 2018

Emulation or iron meets Classic 3000 needs

A few weeks ago the 3000 community was polled for a legendary box. One of the most senior editions of Classic 3000s, a Series 42, came up on the Cypress Technology Wanted to Buy list. The 42 was the first 3000 to be adopted in widespread swaths of the business world. It's not easy to imagine what a serious computing manager would need from a Series 42, considering the server was introduced 35 years ago.

Series 42 setupThese Classic 3000s, the pre-RISC generation, sparked enough business to lead HP to create the Precision RISC architecture that was first realized with its Unix server. The HP 9000 hit the Hewlett-Packard customer base and 3000 owners more than a year before the 3000's RISC servers shipped. Without the success of the Classic 3000s, though, nobody could have bought such a replacement Unix server for MPE V. Applications drive platform decisions, and creating RISC had a sting embedded for the less-popular MPE. Unix apps and databases had more vendors.

That need for a Series 42 seems specific, as if there's a component inside that can fulfill a requirement. But if it's a need for an MPE V system, an emulator for the Classic 3000s continues to rise. Last week the volunteers who've created an MPE V simulator announced a new version. The seventh release of the HP 3000 Series III simulator is now available from the Computer History Simulation Project (SIMH) site.

The SIMH software will not replace a production HP 3000 that's still serving in the field, or even be able to step in for an archival 3000. That's a job for the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server. But the SIMH software includes a preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image. MPE V isn't a license-protected product like MPE/iX.

Some CIOs might wonder what any MPE system, running MPE V or MPE/iX, might provide to a datacenter in 2018. The answers are continuity and economy, elements that are especially evident in any emulated version of a 3000. Old iron is on the market at affordable prices. If a PA-RISC system can be sold for $1,200, though, it's interesting to consider what a 35-year-old server might fetch. Or who would even have one in working order to sell.

Software like Charon, and to a lesser extent SIMH, earns its consideration more easily than old iron. Virtualization is so embedded in IT plans that it's a bit of a ding to admit you don't virtualize somewhere.

The deep-in the-mists tech of the ATC terminals is a big part of the new SIMH. The new capability shows off the limitations that make it obvious why PA-RISC 3000s are still genuine data processing solutions. The SIMH terminal IO uploads via Telnet using a Reflection terminal emulator are now over 100 times faster than earlier releases of the MPE V software. As a reminder of the IT world's pace during the 1980s when MPE V was king, the new, faster upload time for a one-megabyte file has decreased from 69 minutes to 30 seconds.

That's still a 2-MB a minute pace. A Simulator's User Guide shows the way for ATC setup required for successful Reflection Transfers. That's from the era when locating a Reflection client program on a 3000 was essential for moving data in many applications. That was also the era when HP was manufacturing its own disc drives in Boise, Idaho. The burn-in testing for those drives up in that factory was powered by a massive row of Series 42s. My 1988 tour at Boise was the last time I saw a Series 42 in use.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:16 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2018

Searching and finding in MPE/iX with MPEX

Searching ManIt's a world where it's ever-harder to find files of value. This week a story aired on NPR about a hapless young man who mislaid a digital Bitcoin wallet. The currency that was worth pennies eight years ago when he bought it has soared into the $15,000 range. Alas, it's up to the Bitcoin owner to find their own money, since the blockchain currency has no means for recovery. Another owner in the UK a few years back, James Howells, lost millions on a hard drive he'd tossed out. A trip to the landfill to search for it didn't reward him, either.

Being able to locate what you need on your HP 3000 involves going beyond the limits of MPE/iX. Searches with the Vesoft utility deliver more results and faster than any native capabilities.

Terry Floyd of the Support Group suggested MPEX as a searching solution. "MPEX with wildcards and date parameters is what I use for search," he said, "for instance"  

%LISTF @[email protected]@(CREDATE>12/1/2017),3    

Or

%PRINT @[email protected];SEARCH="Look for this"

Seeing MPEX come up as a solution for search reminded us of a great column from the Transition Era for the 3000. Steve Hammond wrote "Inside Vesoft" for us during that time when 3000s not only continued to hold data for organizations, but production-grade data, too.

Gonna find her, gonna find her, Well-ll-ll, searching
Yeah I’m goin’ searching, Searching every which a-way, yeh yeh

— The Coasters, 1957

By Steve Hammond

I have to admit it — I’m a bit of a pack rat. It drives my wife crazy and I’ve gotten better, but I still hold onto some things for sentimental reasons. I still have the program from the first game I ever saw my beloved Baltimore Colts play. On my desk is the second foul ball I ever caught (the first is on display in the bookcase). I have a mint condition Issue 1 of the HP Communicator — dated June 15, 1975 (inherited when our e3000 system manager retired). It tells that all support of MPE-B terminated that month, and the Planning Committee chairman of the HP 3000 Users Group was a gentleman from Walnut Creek named Bill Gates (okay, not that Bill Gates).

My problem is even when I know I have something, I just can’t find it. I had an item the Baseball Hall of Fame was interested in; they had no ticket stub from the 1979 World Series, which I had — seventh game no less. But it took me over two years before I literally stumbled across it.

I wish I could add some sort of easy search capabilities to my massive collection of junk like we have in MPEX.

The most commonly used is the search option in the PRINT command. But there are a couple of other ways to search that I’ve used over the years for different reasons, and we’ll look at those too.

In the olden days, when passwords were embedded in job streams, when we changed passwords, we would have to find every job with the password in it. A long, tedious task that never found all of them. And yes, the ultimate answer was converting to STREAMX, but that’s a column for another month.

When MPEX added the PRINT;SEARCH command, life became much easier and we found many uses for it. As the versions of MPEX evolved, the command gained power. The simplest form is:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD;SEARCH=”FILE”

This will search for any line with the word “FILE” in it — exactly “FILE”, not “file” or “File” or “fILE”, you get the picture. Easily solved with:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=caseless “file”

or

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=cl “file”

Either of those will get you the word “file” in any form.

You can do boolean searches:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH= “FILE” and “TEMP”

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=”FILE” or “RUN”

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=”RUN” and NOT “PRODPGM”

The first returns any file that has a line or lines with both FILE and TEMP, the second looks for FILE or RUN and the third looks for files with any lines that contain RUN but do not have PRODPGM.

You can even delimit your searches — let’s say you have a tape drive that you call “DAT”. Well, doing the search

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=”DAT”

will find the reference to DAT as the tape drive you’re interested in, but as a bonus feature it will also find “DATA”, “DATABASE”, etc. By using the DELIMIT option:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=delim “DAT”

you will find only occurrences of “DAT” with non-alphanumeric characters before and after it. Taking this a step further, you can right and left delimit your search

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=ldelim “DB”

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=rdelim “DB”

The first will files with lines containing DBSTORE but not PRODDB, and the second vice versa. You can even add the caseless option to delimited option:

%PRINT @.JOBS.PROD; SEARCH=caseless rdelim “DB”

Caseless can be abbreviated “CL” and delim can be “D”.

But there’s another way you can do searches, which I found very useful - searches that I used out of a LISTF, building an indirect file for later use. You can’t do that with PRINT, because PRINT well, prints the result, showing the occurrence of the string you are searching for. Let’s say we were changing the name of a database — DEVDB to PRODDB. All I really need to know is all the jobs that have the reference to “DEVDB” — I don’t need to see the context of the string, I just need to know the files. And I need to know the fully-qualified name of the file and I want it in a file named INDFILE1.

This is where the file attributes FCONTAINS FSEARCHSTRING and FSEARCHEXP come into play. The second and last are similar because you have to state that there are greater than 0 occurrences in the file (or any value for that matter), but otherwise they all work the same.

%LISTF @[email protected] (FCONTAINS(“DEVDB”)),6>*INDFILE1

or

%LISTF @[email protected](FSEARCHSTRING(“DEVDB”)>0),6>*INDFILE1

or

%LISTF @[email protected](FSEARCHEXP(“DEVDB”)>0),6>*INDFILE1

As I said, FCONTAINS looks for the existence of that string in a file and basically FSEARCHSTRING does the same thing. But with FSEARCHSTRING, you can do :

%LISTF @[email protected](FSEARCHSTRING(“DEVDB”)>2),...

which says you want to find a file that has any line with a minimum of three occurrences of “DEVDB”. Why would you want to do that? If you haven’t learned yet that you don’t ask that question, then we need to talk later.

The better question is why the “FSEARCHEXP” attribute? I’m glad you asked. This is the one of these attributes that lets you to a caseless search:

%LISTF @[email protected](FSEARCHEXP(“CL’DEVDB’”)>0),...

Note the additional set of quotes in there. FSEARCHEXP also lets you do boolean searches, but that’s just getting way too complicated!

The final question is why did I do it this way? If I was going to change a string, I would do an overnight job that found the files that needed to be changed. I would put the output of that process into an indirect file in the LISTF,6 output format (fully qualified file name). I would then use the indirect file as input for the job or process to change the string.

So now, you should go out and SEARCH THOSE FILES, FIND THOSE STRINGS, UPPER CASE BE DAMNED!

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:53 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 05, 2018

Friday Fine-tune: How to discover the creation date of a STORE tape

Newswire Classic

By John Burke

It is probably more and more likely that, as the years pass by, you will discover a STORE tape and wonder when it was created. Therefore it is a good idea to review how to do this. I started out writing “how to easily do this,” but realized there is nothing easy about it — since it is not well-documented and if you just want the creation date, you have to do a bit of a kludge to get it. Why not something better?

It turns out the ;LISTDIR option of RESTORE is the best you can do. But if you do not want a list of all the files on the tape, you need to feed the command the name of some dummy, non-existent file. ;LISTDIR will also display the command used to create the tape.

By the way, this only works with NMSTORE tapes. For example, when ;LISTDIR is used on a SYSDUMP tape that also stored files, you get something like this (note that even though you are using the RESTORE command, if it contains the ;LISTDIR option, nothing is actually restored):

:restore *t;dummy;listdir

>> TURBO-STORE/RESTORE VERSION C.65.19 B5151AA <<

RESTORE *t;dummy;LISTDIR
FRI, DEC 31, 2004, 3:22 PM
RESTORE SKIPPING SLT IN PROGRESS ON LDEV 7

MPE/iX MEDIA DIRECTORY
MEDIA NAME : STORE/RESTORE-HP/3000.MPEXL 
MEDIA VERSION : MPE/iX 08.50 FIXED ASCII
MEDIA NUMBER : 1

MEDIA CREATION DATE
WED, MAY 7, 2003, 7:06 AM

SYSGEN ^SLTZDUMP.INDIRECT;*SYSGTAPE;LDEV=7;
REELNUM=1;SLTDATE=52863;TIME=117839624

MEDIA CREATED WITH THE FOLLOWING OPTIONS
OPTION DIRECTORY
OPTION ONVS

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:43 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 03, 2018

How to make a date that lasts on MPE/iX

January 1 calendar pageNow that it's 2018, there's less than 10 years remaining before HP's intrinsic for date handling on MPE/iX loses its senses. CALENDAR's upcoming problems have fixes. There's a DIY method that in-house application developers can use to make dates in 2028 read correctly, too.

The key to this DIY repair is to intercept a formatting intrinsic for CALENDAR.

CALENDAR returns two numbers: a "year" from 0 to 127 and a "day of year" from 1 to 366.
 
FMTCALENDAR takes those two numbers and turns it into a string like Monday, January 1, 1900.  It takes the "year" and adds it to 1900 and displays that. "In a sense," explains Allegro's Steve Cooper, "that's where things 'go wrong'."
If one intercepts FMTCALENDAR and replaces it with their own routine, it can say if the "year" is 0 to 50, then add 2028 to it, otherwise, add 1900 as it always did.  That would push the problem out another 50 years.
This interception task might be above your organization's pay grade. If that's true, there are 3000-focused companies that can help with that work. These kinds of repairs to applications are the beginning of life-extension for MPE/iX systems. There might be more to adjust, so it's a good idea to get some help while the community still has options for support.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:48 AM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2017

Friday Fine-Tune: Moving DDS stores to disk

Moving-van-640Editor's note: In the last two weeks 3000 owners have been asking about DDS tape storage migration and how to find 38-year-old systems. Here in the last working day for the year 2017, it seems like we're running in a time machine. Here's some help on moving old data to new media.

We're taking Monday off to celebrate the new year. Not many people figured the 3000 would have users working in that 15th year since HP stopped making the server. We'll be back Wednesday with a new story. Seems like anything can happen.

I want to restore some files from a DDS tape to a store-to-disc file. It been a while I am not sure if this is something that can be done. I need some help with the syntax.

Alan Yeo says

I think you need to restore the files from the tape and then store them to disc, as the resulting disc file needs to build a header of the files it contains.

So after restore, the store to disc syntax is something like

!SETVAR BACKUP_FILE "nameoffileyouwantocreate"
!FILE BK=!BACKUP_FILE;DEV=DISC
!FILE SYSLIST=!BACKUP_FILE;DEV=LP
!STORE fileselectionstring;*BK;SHOW;PROGRESS=5

Keven Miller adds

There is also TAPECOPY that reads STORE tapes and creates an STD (Store to Disk) on disk -- provided the STORE is all on one tape. I have a copy of the program on my website. Look for TAPECOPY, it's a tar file.

At another location on my site you can see the Text file document, and a .wrq file for using with Reflection with Labels option, or the .std  file which is a store-to-disc.

I also have Tapecpyv, an SPL version usable on both MPE/iX and MPE/V. This SPL one is the latest.

The syntax


:FILE TAPEIN;dev=7
:TAPECPYV  "TD  MYSTD"

Reads the STORE tape on dev 7 into STD file MYSTD.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:22 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2017

2028 and beyond: This FAQ answers all

FaqAbout a month ago, HP 3000 managers, vendors and developers shared techniques on getting their MPE/iX systems a longer lease on life.That upcoming CALENDAR issue hits 3000s at midnight, Dec. 31 2027. The barrier of 2028 and beyond has been cleared. Now it's time to clear up some questions about the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding the lifespan of the 3000's OS.

Will my HP 3000 stop working on January 1, 2028?

The hardware itself may be worn out by then, but nothing in the operating system will keep PA-RISC systems — emulated or actual — from booting, running programs, or passing data and IO through networks and peripherals. MPE/iX will do everything it can do today, except report dates correctly to and from software and applications which rely on an older CALENDAR intrinsic.

Is this a problem with the hardware from HP? Will an emulated 3000 prevent this?

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

If I don't change anything on my 3000, will the operating system know what day it is on January 1, 2028?

SHOWTIME will report that it's the year 1900. SHOWCLOCK will report the correct year.

Will all file information remain correct?

All file creation and file modification timestamps will be accurate, and files which are created will have correct timestamps, too.

So what kinds of software will be reporting the wrong date starting in 2028?

Software which still relies on CALENDAR for its date-keeping may show incorrect dates. This software can be applications as well as utilities and reporting software. Changes to source code for the programs which use CALENDAR, replacing it with HPCALENDAR, take care of the issues. If software uses internal logic for data calculations, it will continue to work correctly in 2028, so long as it doesn't rely on CALENDAR. The problem actually occurs if FMTCALENDAR is called to format the date. Unless that call is trapped, FMTCALENDAR will always produce a date between 1900 and 2027.

What about the compilers for the OS?

COBOL 85 uses the newer HPCALENDAR intrinsic. The older COBOL 66 uses the older CALENDAR. 

What can I do if I don't have source code for my applications?

Vendors who continue to serve the MPE/iX market can change the call to CALENDAR into a call to HPCALENDAR. A support provider can assist a customer, with the cooperation of the source code holders, in using the newer HPCALENDAR. Alternatively, the call to FMTCALENDAR can be trapped at run time, and the replacement routine can re-map early 1900 years into years starting with 2028.

How about MPE/iX itself? Will that intrinsic ever be repaired? How do I get SHOWTIME running correctly?

Some portions of the OS will continue to rely on the old CALENDAR, which only has 16-bit range to use. Source code license holders—the eight companies licensed by HP to use MPE/iX source—may have an advantage in bringing some OS internals into line with site-specific patches. They are site-specific because HP doesn't permit a revised version of the OS to be recompiled and distributed. SHOWTIME is likely to remain incorrect, since it uses CALENDAR and FMTCALENDAR.

What about date-dependent work like job streaming?

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

My third-party software might keep track of the date to keep running. What can I do?

Source code revision will be the most direct solution in this case. Some support companies are considering a certification service for Year 2028 operations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:01 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 20, 2017

Replacement hardware archives key context

Wayback Wednesday

The replacement hardware arrived in a box that fit inside my mailbox. We bought a jumbo-sized mailbox in 1993, one big enough to let the industry trade journals lie flat on its floor. In those days our community relied on big tabloid publications to keep abreast of the future. Today the pages are digital and needing paper for news is fading fast.

MD RecorderThe Minidisc MZ-R50 showed up in great working order, a replacement for the recorder that logged my interviews in the rowdy and roiling days of the 3000's Transition Era. The Minidisc is late '90s tech that can arrive by way of US Mail. A Series 929 wouldn't fit in any cardboard box with padding. That server is 104 pounds of a 2-foot by 18-inch unit that's 22 inches high. UPS could pull it off a truck, though.

My 1997 MZ-R50 has the same age as a Series 997, and like the 3000 server, the hardware has unlocked access to archival information. You buy these things to replace failed hardware, or sometimes for parts. Only the battery had failed on the R50. That's a component likely to be dead on old 3000s, too.

I plucked a Minidisc at random to test my new unit and found an interview about how Interex decided to put distance between itself and Hewlett-Packard. I wrote about the change in the relationship in 2004, but just a fraction of the interview made it into the NewsWire.

The thing about archival data is it can grow more valuable over time. Context is something that evolves as history rolls on. In the late summer of 2004 it wasn't obvious that Interex was overplaying its hand, reaching for a risk to sell the value of a vendor-specific user group. HP told the group's board of directors that user group support was going to be very different in 2005. The reaction to the news sealed the fate of the group. It began with a survey, shifted to a staff recommendation, and ended up as a board decision.

The recorded 2004 interview now puts those views and choices in context. You'll care about this if you ever need a user group, wonder how your enterprise vendor will support customers' desires, or hope to understand how corporate resources influence partnerships.

The key interview quote that made its way into our "HP World stands at brink of changes" report was a line from then-board president Denys Beauchemin. “We’re not competing with HP,” Beauchemin said about HP World 2005. “HP’s going to be there next year. HP will scale back drastically.” The scaling back was a correct assessment. The competition turned out to change everything.

The demise of a 31-year-old user group might seem like an inevitability from a 2017 perspective. Connect is the user group serving anyone in the HP Enterprise market today. It's joined by the small CAMUS user society, the same one that discussed and uncovered the strategy to get beyond the year 2027 with MPE/iX. Membership in both groups is free. Back in 2004 those were $99 memberships, with thousands to count on.

The rescued recording from that chat with Beauchemin gave me context a-plenty to absorb.

What HP said is they have four user group events to go to next year. They're trying to cut back. They're trying to do an HP-produced show and invited user groups to attend.

HP aimed to replace its spending on user group-run HP shows with one event. Cutting back was always going to happen in the plan. Interex got notice a year before it collapsed that HP's spending was going to drop.

If we decide to do our own thing, then HP will be at HP World in San Francisco — but it would not be with the same presence they had in the past. No huge booth. They will scale back drastically. They would sponsor and endorse HP World. It's not like they're yanking the rug out from under us, not at all.

There was no rug-pulling. The deck of the Good Ship User Expo Floor was tilting hard, though. HP said it was going to do enough of a show to let user groups will share revenues from an HP Expo “to support and sustain those organizations," adding that "The user groups’ charters are not to drive revenue and profit, but to train end-users in a way that the groups can recover costs.”

The revenue and profit was the charter of any Interex show. An organization with teeth needs to be fed. Now Interex had a competitor: the vendor at its own heart. Customers and vendors had a choice to make about conferences.

They respect the independence of Interex. They really like the advocacy survey and all of the other stuff we do— which is very much in keeping with our screaming at HP, but in a nice way.

The screaming was customer communication that dated back to the 1980s. A management roundtable was a publicity and customer relations minefield starting in the 1990s. Interex considered itself an advocacy group first. The engine of its enterprises, though, was booth sales for its annual expo.

If we were to go with HP in their mega-event, the impact would be in terms of the independence of third party folks we could have at the show. 

The archival recording off my replacement hardware took note of the kinds of vendors who'd never make it onto an HP-run expo floor. Competitors in systems, in storage, in services. Interex needed those prospects to fill up a healthy show floor.

To his credit, Beauchemin and the board recognized HP was essential to the conference's survival. 

If HP were to say it wasn’t interested in going to San Francisco in 2005, then we would have an issue. They haven't said they'd do that. HP is trying to cut back on the number of events they go to — especially the ones that are not in their control.

The group used this decision process about control: First, survey members about moving closer to HP and giving up independence—and learning that 55 percent favored that move. Then the user group staff got a shot at developing a recommendation about staying independent or ceding control of the conference to HP. Finally, the board took a vote based on that recommendation. There was a short timeframe to decide.

HP World 2004 is fast approaching. We need a story to tell about HP World 2005.

It's easy to see, in the context of 2017, that a user group staff would recommend staying on a course to keep projects and jobs in group control. It's hard to see how a board would vote to oppose any recommendation of joining with HP. So there was an approval to stay at a distance from HP. Cutting across the desires of any organization's managers is tough. What turned out to be just as hard was finding enough revenue to keep the organization alive.

The exhibitors and community leaders who helped found the group already saw a show that focused elsewhere. The fate of HP World had more impact on the 3000 customers who are leaving the platform than those who staying to homestead.

“It’s all focused on migration,” said Terry Floyd of the ERP support company the Support Group. “I expect that a lot of the 3000 people at HP World will be looking for HP 9000 solutions. We’re sending someone to talk to partners on the Unix and Integrity side.”

Pursuing a bigger relationship with partners who competed with HP had a huge cost. It was a risk that the group couldn't afford by the next year. One of the most senior members of the 3000 community said the end was in sight for Interex.

“HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” Olav Kappert said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in between, maybe even Interex will disappear.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:40 PM in Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2017

Reaching for replacement systems is news

IMG_2873Replacing HP's 3000 hardware is a natural occurrence in a homesteader's life. Components and systems built in the middle 1990s wear out after 20 years of use, whether it's frequent or infrequent. I felt the same way when I checked out the stored recordings here in my offices. I've been at conferences and interviews with a recorder since 1996. I used Sony's Minidisc all the way through the middle 2000s. It was better at indexing than cassettes. Finding anything is the real magic trick once the talk or the interview is done.

A homesteader might feel the same way about their applications and data created for MPE/iX. My Minidisc recorder above that failed was built in 2001 and like an HP 3000 of that era, alas, it runs its recordings no more. I could walk away from the Minidiscs — a couple of dozen at 74 minutes each — and assure myself nothing of value would be there.

MZ-R50Homesteaders don't have that luxury because their applications are so much harder to replace. It's easier for them to replace their aged hardware. My replacement Minidisc unit that's on its way was built even earlier than the one that just failed on me. The new-to-me MZ R-50 scheduled to arrive Saturday was first sold in 1997. The one that eBay's delivering might be a little less aged than that. But it's safe to say my replacement system will be 18 years old. It's advertised as still-working. Lots of its brethren are being sold for parts only.

In 1997 Hewlett-Packard was rolling out the Series 997, a high-end server that delivered the best performance numbers MPE/iX could claim by that fall. The Series 997 sold for $327,930 for a single-processor server, including a 100-user license, 512Mb of memory, a console and a UPS. IMAGE/SQL was part of that package, but the real value there is the compatibility with the applications—the equivalent of those talks and interviews.

IMG_2874That 997 server costs as little as $1,200 for a 5-processor unit today. A homesteader will need to arrange an MPE/iX license to step into that replacement hardware. I don't need a license to run those old Minidiscs, but I don't get the same level of hardware discount, either. The $329 R-50 now sells for $71. It will, if it arrives in working shape, run these recorded bits of 3000 history above.

That's 80 percent off for the 1997 Minidisc, and almost 100 percent off for the Series 997-500. The mere availability of 1997 hardware for business or recording is a testament to good design and the willingness to spurn change.

The 997 was sold in the fall of 1997 as network-ready, something not to be taken for granted just three years after the Web emerged. ARPA Services was how HP described the industry-standard networking software. HP changed customers for each new IO slot for the card cage to increase capacity (the $950 part A1828AZ). A DDS-3 DAT tape Autoloader was $7,999.

Today's tape systems that still work for these classic beasts usually sell for under $200. The tape is a moving component, much like the Minidiscs are. Again, that they're sold at all is the miracle of us all staying connected. A simple search for "Series 997 replacement hardware" turns up parts for a Porsche. Adding "HP 3000" to the front of that search points to a web page from Cypress Technology.

In addition to being forced to pay a much greater part of my original Minidisc recorder price, I also don't have the emulation option which MPE/iX apps enjoy. There's no equivalent of the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server in the Minidisc world. The Minidisc recorder-players didn't do much calculation, although I could tag and name recordings and jockey through them using a crude thumbwheel input.

By the end of the week I'll see how well an 18-year-old business recorder has survived in the wild. It will do well to perform like an HP 3000 does after two decades. But the hardware vitality is not really news to us, is it? Oh, and the Minidisc media—that's still for sale (new) today.

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