February 27, 2019

Wayback: MPE joins the land of the Internet

Whole-Internet-Catalog
In a February of 23 years ago, HP brought MPE/iX into the Internet era. During that year, Sun was already running roughshod over the computer industry by selling servers built for use on the networks that were exploding around the World Wide Web. The 3000 community knew how to call the Internet the WWW, thanks to early guides like the Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog. Modeled after the Whole Earth catalog of the 1970s, the early O'Reilly & Associates book covered basic Internet utilities like telnet and FTP, rudimentary search tools like Gopher, plus a quick reference card to remember essentials like the commands for Archie, an FTP utility. The book boasted nine pages of Internet Service Provider listings.

Five years after those ISP listings were printed, they remained in the pages of the Catalog, unaltered. Putting books onto the Internet was still out in the future, some five years away. That's not the Amazon start date, because that distributor was selling only paper books until 2004.

The O'Reilly guide was recommended to 3000 managers by David Greer of Robelle. In the pages of that February's NewsWire, Greer shared the basics of being a 3000 manager who used the WWW to "get you online and finding information that helps you manage your HP 3000." The finding was taking place via Unix or PC systems, not HP 3000s. HP had a set of CD-ROMs it sold with the electronic versions of its documentation.

In that same issue, the 3000 market learned that HP would be releasing a Web server that would run under MPE/iX. Delivery of the OpenMarket Web Server was supposed to start in July. HP had to port the third party product, working with code from an OpenMarket product already released for HP-UX systems. HP was selling such a wonder at prices starting at $1,650. While the rest of the world was working with open source Apache for Web services, HP was tier-pricing a Web server. Hopes were high among Web experts, who said "even the smallest HP 3000 can be used to handle lots of Web requests, especially since the Open Market product is about five times more efficient than freeware alternatives."

A stutter step was the best that HP could do for the Open Market introduction. By summertime the server's porting was called off, making the 3000 look even further away from Internet-ready. In a couple of years HP was using a port of open source Apache to make a secure Web server for MPE/iX. HP would be so confident of the 3000's Internet suitability that it renamed the server the e3000. That e was for e-commerce, we were told.

In the same month as the Web server news, HP announced it was putting its MPE/iX patches online. Delivering OS patches for a computer whose roots were in the minicomputer era felt splashy, even if 14K modems were doing the work.

Read "Wayback: MPE joins the land of the Internet" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:12 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pivital Solutions: Your complete
HP 3000 resource

February 25, 2019

Itanium, we hardly knew ye, aside from HP

Titanic
Earlier this month, the computer community learned how late in life Itanium was living. The chip architecture was going to rule the world when HP and Intel first announced it in 1994 as a project called Tahoe. Intel ruled the world with x86 architecture then in the lion's share of PCs. Literally, as in the true definition of lion's share: all of it. 

It's taken 25 years, but Intel has called Time's Up for its design it co-created with HP. Intel told its customers that the final order date for Itanium 9700 series processors is January 20 of next year. The final Itanium processor shipments end on July 21, 2021.

Itanium was essential to the HP decision to stop manufacturing HP 3000s. Itanium was going to be the future of all enterprise computing, the company figured right after Y2K. There was not enough money in the R&D budget at HP to fund the redesign of MPE/iX for a new processor. VMS, sure, HP would do that for a market that was four times the size of MPE/iX.

By now HP has split in two and Itanium is nowhere but in the HP Enterprise servers, the ones running VMS and NonStop. HPE says it will support its Itanium-based Integrity servers until 2025. A superior article in the the EE Journal includes this summary.

Itanium’s developers sought a path to much faster processing. Unfortunately, the theory behind Itanium’s development was just plain wrong. While VLIW architectures do appear to work well for specialty processors running well-behaved code, particularly DSPs, they’re just not appropriate for general-purpose applications thrown willy-nilly at server processors.

And so, we remember the fallen.

It's taken awhile to understand the inertia that occupies the energy of the computer industry. HP seems to have a side of itself that learned such lessons more slowly than most enterprises. HP was late to Windows (who needed GUIs?) and got well behind the pack on the Internet (Sun crowed over HP's sluggish pace by the late 1990s.) After creating its own RISC chip in PA-RISC, HP figured that another chip developed along with the creator of the x86 was a slam dunk. 

There was a time for dictating the way forward in computing with a new architecture for chips. That time passed well before Y2K. HP hung on for more than a decade in full denial, even as it revved up the ProLiant enterprise servers using x86.

It's not easy to see a clean future in the years beyond 2025 for the companies which are invested in Integrity systems. But no one could see how the PA-RISC servers of the 3000 were going to be anything but a write-off for their users, either. The strength of the operating environment, as well as a long history of efficient computing, gave the 3000 a longer lease on life. Now's the time to see if the HP-UX and NonStop environments are going to make the jump to x86. We're also watching how well they leap and what the HP of the 2020's will say. 

Read "Itanium, we hardly knew ye, aside from HP" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:46 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2019

Cautions of a SM broadsword for every user

Broadsword
NewsWire Classic

By Bob Green

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

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

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

Background Info

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

<beginarticlequote>

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

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

Read "Cautions of a SM broadsword for every user" in full

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

February 20, 2019

Security advice for MPE appears flameproof

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Security advice for MPE appears flameproof" in full

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

February 18, 2019

Driving a Discontinued Model with Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Driving a Discontinued Model with Joy" in full

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

February 15, 2019

Scripting a Better UPS link to MPE/iX

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

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

February 13, 2019

Why a UPS FAIL let down a 3000's shield

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

By Alan Yeo
Second in a series

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

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

Where's a guru
when you want one?

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

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

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

Read "Why a UPS FAIL let down a 3000's shield" in full

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

February 11, 2019

Making a UPS Light Up a 3000

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

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

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

By Alan Yeo
First of a two parts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Making a UPS Light Up a 3000" in full

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

February 08, 2019

What can a 3000 do to talk to a modern UPS?

SmartUPS
Michel Adam asks, "How can I install and configure a reasonably modern UPS with a 3000? I'd like to use something like an APC SmartUPS or BackUPS, for example. What type of signaling connection would be the easiest, network or serial?"

Jim Maher says

First you need to find out what model 3000. Listed on the back will be the power rating. Some of the older ones use 220V. Then you can match that with a proper UPS.

Michel Adam explains in reply

This HP 3000 is an emulator, i.e. a 9x8 equivalent or A-Class. I guess a regular "emulated" RS-232, or actual ethernet port would be the most likely type of connection. In that sense, the actual voltage is of no consequence; I only need to understand the means of communicating from the UPS to the virtual 3000.

Tracy Johnson reports

While we have three "modern" APC units each with battery racks four high, they also serve the rest of the racks in our computer room. Our HP 3000 is just a bigger server in one of those racks. Each APC services only one of the three power outlets on that N-Class. Their purpose is not to keep the servers "up" for extended periods, but to cover for the few seconds lapse before our building generator kicks in in case of a complete power loss.

As far as the UPS talking to our HP 3000 serial port, we didn't bother. Our APC units are on the network so they have more important things to do, like send emails to some triage guy in Mumbai should they kick in.

Enhanced, or not?

In the history department, Hewlett-Packard had its labbie heart in the right place just weeks before the vendor canceled its 3000 plans. We reported the following in October of 2001

HP 3000s will say more to UPS units

HP's 3000 labs will be enhancing the platform to better communicate with Uninterrupted Power Supply systems in the coming months. HP's Jeff Vance reports that the system will gain the ability to know the remaining time on the UPS, so system managers can know that the UPS will last long enough to shut down my applications and databases and let the system crash. Vance said that HP has scheduled to begin its work on this improvement—voted Number 8 on the last System Improvement Ballot—in late fall.

Late fall of 2001 was not a great time to be managing future enhancements for the 3000 and MPE/iX. The shortfall of hardware improvements and availability has been bridged by Charon. Adjustments to MPE/iX for UPS communication have not been confirmed.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:53 PM in Hidden Value, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 06, 2019

Wayback: MPE's Computer Scientist Expires

Kick Butt Poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 04, 2019

Long-time MPE licensees leave dates in dust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 28, 2019

MPE vendors walk wooded path into futures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2019

The State of the 3000's Union, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 14, 2019

How far behind is MPE/iX, really? One look...

Start-finish-banners
Ten years ago a system admin who used a 3000 explained why emulation seemed to be a bad idea. In the era of 2009 there was no software to emulate PA-RISC processing on an Intel system. The problem really didn't need repairing, said James Byrne of Harte & Lyne, because "The world has moved on considerably, since 2001, while MPE/iX has not."

At the time his firm was still using two 918LX systems, a primary and a hot spare at an off-site location. Many a 3000's life has been extended because one key application was working with no need to invest in it. There were other things to be said about the suitability of MPE/iX now, as well as 10 years ago. There are things to be said in reply, too, because in life and IT, few things are as straightforward as they seem.

One expert who's supported HP 3000s and MPE is Donna Hofmeister. In 2009 as well as now she supports companies at Allegro. Byrne's problems with MPE/iX in 2009 as well as today didn't seem quite as serious when she examined them. Caution is required while using an operating system that was last patched a decade ago. As in traffic signals, caution does not mean stop.

Even in the year 2009, when I pointed out that seven-plus years of no emulator didn't mean "no emulator, ever," Byrne kept to his course. "It does seem to me the prudent way to bet nonetheless," he wrote me. Whether you believe in an emulator's promise or not, MPE/iX is the deal-breaker here in 2019. It doesn't have as many fundamental shortcomings as it seemed a decade ago. I asked Donna about it, saying "Here we are in 2019, still caring about the 3000 and its OS. You could’ve won a good bet about that one."

Nobody is doubting that the world has moved on since the end of 2001, but "there are still plenty of companies running MPE." Hofmeister adds that "MPE is not as up-to-date as other OSes. There are ways, however, of dealing with that."

Read "How far behind is MPE/iX, really? One look..." in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:14 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 11, 2019

Fine-tune: how to reinstate config files

Reinstate logo
I’m replacing my old Model 10 with a Model 20 on MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET. This will of course require a re-INSTALL. What’s the best way to reinstate my network config files? Just restore NMCONFIG and NPCONFIG? Can I use my old CSLT to re-add all my old non-Nike drives and mod the product IDs in Sysgen, or do I have to add them manually after using the Factory SLT?


Gilles Schipper replies:

Do the following steps:
- using your CSLT to install onto LDEV 1
- modify your i/o to reflect new/changed config.
- reboot
- use volutil to add non-LDEV1 volumes appropriately
- restore directory or directories from backup
- preform system reload from full backup - using the keep, create, olddate, partdb,show=offline options in the restore command
- reboot again
No need for separate restores of specific files.

We had another hard drive fail this weekend. It was in an enclosure of old 2GB drives that we really did not need, so I just unplugged them and rebuilt my volumes without them. However, when I boot up I get error messages that path 10/4/0.20-26 can’t be mounted. How do I get rid of these messages?

Gilles Schipper replies:
You can safely ignore the messages, but if you want them not to reappear, simply remove those devices from your IO configuration via SYSGEN, keep the new configuration to config.sys and reboot with a start norecovery. When you’re back up again, you should create a new slt tape.

Paul Edwards adds:
Use SYSGEN with DOIONOW or IOCONFIG to delete them. No reboot is required.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:14 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2019

Wayback: 2009's emulator hopes, proven

PA-RISC-clock

In 2009 in this month we made a case for why the time was ripe for a product to emulate HP's aging hardware for MPE/iX. Time has only reinforced those talking points. It's worthwhile to review them while figuring what your plan is going forward. If you're among the managers in the double-digit futures club -- those planning for 10 years and more of MPE -- consider what was true then, and just as true now.

Early in the transition era the homesteading advocates in the community pumped up the ideal of an emulator, hardware that would make up for the 3000s which HP would be stripping out of its product lineup. The market learned that the final generation of 3000s was better connected and faster, but few in number. HP's late delivery of N-Class and A-Class systems hampered production. If you needed a faster 3000 than the top-end 900 Series, you hunted for N-Class servers that the customers were returning once they migrated.

• Staying with MPE/iX solutions means a customer needs to keep planning for more connectivity and speed. An emulator can leverage the latest Intel chip designs, rather than stay native on the familiar PA-RISC architectures of HP.

• There's nothing built upon PA-RISC that can network and integrate like an Intel-based server. The irony of that reality is not lost on the 3000 customer, who saw the Intel+MPE generation first promised, then denied to the community.

• Emulator vendors need MPE/iX expertise to make a product of any use to the 3000 market. There's exactly one that's got it, and they've had it now for at least eight years. We've seen more hopes become realities since then.

Read "Wayback: 2009's emulator hopes, proven" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:41 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2019

Virtualization: only as good as its legacy lore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 04, 2019

Fine-tune: Validating interleaved backups

DLT cartridge

Experts on 3000 practices are advising customers to get away from using tape devices. You may have no other choice while tending to an achival system, though. An interleaved backup requires special handling.

Backup errors on STORE tapes can occur when you try to restore on the exact same drive the backup tape was made on. There's a tape restore issue to manage with interleaved DLT tapes. For example, a DLT7000 must be on a different device adapter if tapes are to be used at the same time when backing up in interleave option. Interleaving provides a higher disk data rate. It is accomplished by reading from several disk drives (files) simultaneously. The file data is blocked together and then stored to the specified devices. The effect is to accelerate the STORE process.

The workarounds are to not use tapes on same device adapter for interleave restores, or put the DLT7000 devices on different device adapters.

It's not recommended to validate any tape after writing a backup onto it. "You always want to validate on a different different tape drive,” says Allegro's Stan Sieler. For example, on Intuit’s HP 3000s, “they happily validated the tapes for months. Then the tape drive was replaced, and no backups would validate on the new drive—or on any other drive.”

Finally, verifying a backup with validation can be done automatically right after the backup overnight, if you put the tape drive back online with the ONLINE utility. You can download ONLINE from Allegro’s website. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 02, 2019

New year gives MPE a ride on a Raspberry

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

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

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

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

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

Read "New year gives MPE a ride on a Raspberry" in full

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

December 31, 2018

Date upgrade deadline: now in single digits

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2018

Fine Tune: Optimized Disaster Recovery

Disasters
By Gilles Schipper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Fine Tune: Optimized Disaster Recovery" in full

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

December 26, 2018

3000 security status: obscure and secure

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

Kubler built a list of the known conditions and advantages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "3000 security status: obscure and secure" in full

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

December 24, 2018

Gifts given, 11 years after a Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 21, 2018

Fine Tune: Rebooting a 3000 Remotely

Reboot
I want to provide an option for rebooting an HP 3000 remotely using LDEV 21. How do I do it?  Can I using a modem and landline or an IP address to get to LDEV 21?

Gary Stephens replies

Yes, you can use a modem on the remote support port set to auto answer. This will definitely work. It was more about controlling access to the console remotely. I recall one site that had a modem with a remote call-back to a known inbound number that was effective. Upon answer you were prompted for a U and P that had a dial-back associated with it. Ultimately it's all down to risk and your appetite for change.

Billy Brewer adds

You could hook up a cheap laptop connected to the console port (with a USB to serial converter). Then use TeamViewer or any shared desktop utility you prefer.

Tracy Johnson reports

An older PC with one NIC (you can remote into) and a serial port will also do. These days we just have a PC as the console via a terminal emulator (Minisoft, Reflection, or QCTerm). We use two NICs and just remote into the PC and open a window from there to do our remote reboots.

Mark Ranft notes

All the newer A- and N-Class systems have IP configurable remote console. I assume yours is an older system.

The PC options are excellent. If you have a DTC, you can set up back-to-back DTC switching. You configure a host (outbound) port on the DTC and you choose it by IP and TCP port ID.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 19, 2018

Even DTCs can spark memories for 3000s

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

December 17, 2018

What to say back to "Your system sucks."

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

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

When a different perspective can respect the investment in MPE/iX, and acknowlege how much less faster or easier an alternative is once you factor in the cost of change — then it might be time to talk futures and alternatives
 
People like the tools that they like. I don’t try to win the PC vs Mac debates anymore. It does annoy me to see a tech expert dismiss something. I have a friend who loves Android and slams iOS, who uses Linux and hoots at Windows. For him, the ability to flip a million software switches and manage his own filesystem is the smartest way to go. The 3000 marketplace started to see this when SAP crept in to try to replace MPE/iX. That's why Kenandy has been able to stand in at a few 3000 sites. Its switches are already set in positions that let work get done.
 
Advocates of the more complex choices usually don’t understand how smart they are in relation to everybody else. I encountered this in our editorial business just a few days ago.

Read "What to say back to "Your system sucks."" in full

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

December 14, 2018

Routers and switches and hubs, oh my!

Lions-and-tigers-and-bears
Editor's Note: Initial HP 3000 hardware networking can be like a trip down a Yellow Brick Road. Here's a primer for the administrator who's wondering if that HP 3000 can link to a network

By Curtis Larsen

Auntie MAU! Auntie MAU! A Twisted Pair! A Twisted Pair!

Once upon a time networks were as flat as the Kansas prairie, and computers on them were a lot like early prairie farmsteads: few and far between, pretty much speaking to each other only when they had to. (“Business looks good again this year.” “Yep.”) Most systems still used dumb terminals, and when speaking to anything outside the LAN, system-to-system modem connections were the way to do it.

A tornado named the Internet suddenly appeared in this landscape. It uprooted established standards and practices, swept aside protocols and speed limitations, and took us into a Technicolor networking landscape very different than what was there before.

Toto, I get the feeling our packets aren’t in Kansas anymore

Smaller companies were tossed before the tornado to eventually land and quickly begin growing again in the new environment. Large companies like IBM, HP, Digital, and Microsoft, who were rooted and established in their own proprietary standards (it sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true) survived by generally ignoring the howling winds. Eventually, munchkin-like, they all came out to see what the general fuss was about, and found that a house-sized chunk of change (pun intended) had landed.

Networking, and the TCP/IP protocol had truly arrived in style, bringing strange new applications and markets. Serial connections and proprietary networking (“What do you mean we don’t need SNA to connect to the Wichita office anymore?”) gave way to a new kid on the block. And her little dog, too.

Follow the Yellow-Colored-Cable-and-Labeled-at-Both-Ends Road!

So then the HP 3000 managers found themselves sitting in a strange new networking land of strange new networking things. And for some of us, trying to understand the whole of it all — especially in relation to “legacy” system like the HP e3000 — was a little daunting. What are all these networking black boxes we plug the system into, and what do they all do? How can they make life better? (How can they make life worse?) If you’re not sure (or just plain curious) read on.

Read "Routers and switches and hubs, oh my!" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:02 PM in Hidden Value, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2018

Source code for MPE/iX: Security, by now

Blanket-Ad
Ten years ago this week the 3000 community was in a state of anticipation about MPE/iX. HP had an offer it was preparing that would give select vendors the right to use the operating system code. The vendors would have a reference-use-only license agreement for MPE/iX. No one knew whether the source would have any value, said Adager CEO Rene Woc.

Adager, the company whose 3000 products are so omnipresent they held a spot on the Hewlett-Packard corporate price list, believed there was potential for independent support and development vendors. What was far less certain was how far HP would let source go to solve problems for the 3000 community.

"Source code is important whenever these kinds of [vendors] have support from HP, which most of them do," he said in that month of 2008. But HP engineers can look at source, just as third parties will do, "and the answers won't come instantaneously. In the meantime, you have to get your business back on track, and I think that's what the customer is eventually interested in. It will be nice to have that additional [source code] resource — especially in the sense that it will not be lost to the community."

There was a chance that HP's source licensing terms would be too restrictive, "to the point where you say that you are better off not knowing, because then we're free to use all the methods we've worked with while we didn't have source." After getting a license to source, Woc added, "you might have to prove that you got your knowledge through a difference source than HP's source code. We will see."

That sort of proof has never been required. Not in a public display, at least. Source code, held by vendors such as Pivital Solutions and others, has been a useful component in workarounds and fixes. HP never gave the community the right to modify MPE/iX. This turned out to be a good thing, as it kept the 3000s stable and made support a manageable business for application vendors.

There was also the wisdom that the resource of HP's code would have to prove itself. At least it held a chance for rescue and repair.

The source code "is probably a security blanket," Woc said in 2008. "In that respect, it's good that it will be available, that they're starting to offer some things. We'll have to see what kind of conditions HP will offer in their license agreements." 

Having source access though a license did not automatically make license holders better providers of products and services, he added. "You cannot assume, even with good source code readers, that the solutions will pop up," he said. "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."

"The basic resources [of source] won't make things better by themselves," Woc said. "It's a matter of troubleshooting." 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:18 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 10, 2018

HP's 3000 boxes step closer to solid storage

SCSI2SD-V6-RevF-2T
Almost two years ago, an expert in HP's 3000 systems was working to use solid state disks (SSD) with the computer. John Zoltak was trying to link the server to microSD cards late in 2016. He checked in with us this week to report success on the project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "HP's 3000 boxes step closer to solid storage" in full

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

December 07, 2018

Memory and Disk Rules for Performance

Concentration
NewsWire Classic

By Jeff Kubler

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Memory and Disk Rules for Performance" in full

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

December 05, 2018

One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs

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

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

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

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

Read "One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs" in full

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

December 03, 2018

HP 3000 dream tracks close to virtualization

Railroad switches
An HP 9000 HP-UX virtualization product is in development. In that kind of design, a single Intel server with enough computing power (concurrent threads) could host both HP 3000 and HP 9000 virtualizations. HP had the same objective almost 20 years ago for its largest enterprise platforms.

Early in 1999 HP's Harry Sterling spoke at an all-day user meeting in the UK hosted by Riva Systems. Sterling, who'd retire before the end of that year, said a multi-OS server was within HP's vision for the 3000 and 9000 customers.

Sterling’s mentioned the possibility of running MPE, NT and Unix concurrently on the HP 3000 "sometime in the future." There was even the possibility of a “hot-swap” version of MPE alongside the production system. John Dunlop reported for us at the time.

The passing mention indicated that separate processors in one box would be able to run different operating systems. Sterling did suggest that a hot-swap version of MPE might be a valid use, so that there would be some redundancy with the live operating system.

This seemed to lead to the subject of more uptime. From these comments, it’s possible that HP is looking at allowing online changes to a hot-swap system and then just switching it over to achieve the so-called “magic weekend.” This is a system upgrade that occurs seamlessly and transparently to both the users and management.

That would be a dream not realized. Hot-swap didn't make it any further into the customer base than architect discussions. Sterling noted that in 1997 customers expressed concern about the future of the 3000. To counter that feeling and give the customers more confidence, he outlined in 1999 a five-year roadmap for the 3000.

Marketing was on board as well in that year that led to Y2K. It would take another 13 years before a multiple OS host for MPE/iX would emerge.

Read "HP 3000 dream tracks close to virtualization" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:28 PM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 28, 2018

HP show offers something to Discover

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 26, 2018

A One Year Return on Legacy Investments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "A One Year Return on Legacy Investments" in full

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

November 21, 2018

Power-on and battery tricks sustain 3000s

Dremel-tool-DS1287
Editor's note: We're taking Friday off for some holiday R&R during the Turkey Day weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Power-on and battery tricks sustain 3000s" in full

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

November 19, 2018

Suggested servings of Unix, ignored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 16, 2018

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

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

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

John Clogg reports

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

Jim Maher of Saratoga Computers adds

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

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

Tracy Johnson says

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

Jim English adds

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

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

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

Donna Hofmeister reports

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

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

November 14, 2018

It's always a red letter day today

You can use shorthand and say "November 2001." Or you can say the day that HP's 3000 music died. November 14 still marks the start of the post-HP era for MPE/iX as well as the 3000 hardware HP sold. It took another two years to stop selling the PA-RISC servers the company had just revamped with new models months before the exit-the-market announcement. PCI-based N-Class and A-Class, the market hardly knew ye before you were branded as legacy technology.

For a few years I stopped telling this story on the anniversary, but 12 years ago I cut a podcast about the history of this enterprise misstep. (Listen by clicking the graphic above) HP lost its faith in 2001 but the customers hadn't lost theirs and the system did not lose its life. Not after November 14 and even not today. Not a single server has been manufactured since late 2003, and even that lack of new iron hasn't killed MPE/iX. The Stromasys emulator Charon will keep the OS running in production even beyond the January 2028 date MPE/iX is supposed to stop keeping accurate dates. 

Red Letter Days were so coined because they appeared on church calendars in red. They marked the dates set aside for saints. In 1549 the first Book of Common Prayer included a calendar with holy days marked in red ink; for example, Annunciation (Lady Day), 25th March. These were high holy days and holidays. The HP 3000 came into HP's product line on a November in 1972. November is a Happening read the banners in the HP Data Systems Division. No day of that month was specified, but you might imagine it was November 14, 1972. That was a Tuesday, while the 2001 date fell on a Wednesday. A total of 1,508 weeks of HP interest.

Something important happened in that other November of 29 years later. Hewlett-Packard sent its customers into independent mode. Those who remained faithful have had a day to mark each year, logging the number of years they've created their own future. It's 17 and counting as of today.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:51 AM in History, News Outta HP, Podcasts | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2018

What are we doing talking 3000s in 2018?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "What are we doing talking 3000s in 2018?" in full

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

November 09, 2018

Fine-Tune: Test for disasters in any season

Test-siren
NewsWire Classic

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

This Is Not a Test

By Scott Hirsh

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

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

It Had Better Work

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

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

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

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

Read "Fine-Tune: Test for disasters in any season" in full

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

November 07, 2018

Wayback: A month to download 3000 Jazz

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

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

The software is still online 10 years later. Fresche Solutions, which began as Speedware, continues to host Jazz programs and papers at hpmigrations.com/HPe3000_resources. HP was clear in 2008 that customers had better grab what they needed before Jazz went unplugged. HP wasn't going to move the downloadable programs onto the IT Resource Center servers to doc.hp.com.

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

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

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

Read "Wayback: A month to download 3000 Jazz" in full

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

November 05, 2018

A Pro's World After 3000 Retirement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "A Pro's World After 3000 Retirement" in full

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

November 02, 2018

Fine-Tune: Ensure Logical Data Consistency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Fine-Tune: Ensure Logical Data Consistency" in full

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

October 31, 2018

Another If-Only Salvation, this time Linux

John Young Lulu
This man launched Red Hat out of a sewing closet, a firm that just sold for $34 billion. HP had a shot at buying Red Hat, too.

IBM announced it's buying Red Hat, paying an all-cash price of $34 billion to help make Big Blue relevant in cloud computing. While investors hated on the deal in the markets, others like Robert Cringley said it makes sense for Big Blue to own Red Hat. It's a color wheel that's spinning around IBM's enterprises. The ones that are the oldest might be those that stand to gain the most. It's the word "most" that reminds us how HP might have salvaged the future of MPE, if only with a deal to bring open source to enterprise customers.

One of my favorite readers, Tim O'Neill, sent along a message about RedHat + IBM. He said that this acquisition could have been done long ago—so long, in fact, that Hewlett-Packard could have executed it before the company stopped believing in MPE/iX. That would have been in the late 1990s, happening to a company that was deeply invested in two technologies just about played out today: Itanium and HP-UX. HP had faith enough in Itanium to stake its enterprise future for its biggest customers on the chips.

As for HP-UX, the OS that HP set out to devour 3000 opportunities, it remains to this day an environment that runs only on HP's architecture. HP used to snicker at Linux and open source options in those late 1990s. One presentation that sticks in my memory has an HP manager presenting a slide of a cartoon drawing of an open source support expert. He's a guy in a goatee slouching in a bean bag chair, mouthing "Dude" in a cartoon balloon.

HP meant to tell the audience that getting Linux support from HP was much more professional. Another message the cartoon sent was that Linux really was something dominated by open source nerds. Just about 20 years later the Revenge of the Nerds moment has arrived with a $34 billion payday. For some reference on that number, recall that HP gave up about $25 billion to purchase Compaq, a company with factories as well as labs.

HP used to have a slogan in the 1980s for advertising its PCs: What If? The IBM acquisition triggers the what-if thinking about Linux as in, "What if HP might have purchased the leading distro for Linux and used it to improve its proprietary environments' futures?" Would it have helped in any way to have a true open source platform, rather than just environments that were called "open systems?" The difference between an open source and an open system matters the most to developers and vendors, not to system makers. If Red Hat Linux might have helped MPE/iX look more open, at a source level, who knows how the 3000's prospects might have changed.

The melding and overlay of operating environments as different as Linux and MPE/iX had been tried before at HP, more than eight years before the company made its way away from the enterprise computing HP Way. In 1993 the project was HP MOST, one where I did some writing for Hewlett-Packard about a world where everybody could live together. Cats and dogs, Unix and MPE XL, all working together.

Read "Another If-Only Salvation, this time Linux" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:01 PM in History, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2018

3000 warehouse opens on distributor's shelf


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "3000 warehouse opens on distributor's shelf" in full

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

October 26, 2018

Command file tests 3000s for holidays

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

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

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

:xeq datetest
:if WhichVariableName = DontRememberWhatValue then

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

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

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

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

Read "Command file tests 3000s for holidays" in full

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

October 24, 2018

Wed Wayback: India rises, California rests

HP-3000-lab-Bangalore-1995

As we rolled out the NewsWire 23 years ago this month we tracked a new element in the HP engineering lineup. Resources  Sterlingwere being added from India. By the time a couple of Octobers rolled past in 1997 we published our first Q&A interview with Harry Sterling. He'd just assumed the leadership of the 3000 division at HP, bringing an R&D lab leader into the general manager's post for the first time. Sterling was the best GM the 3000 ever had because his habits flowed from customer contact. The labs developed a routine with customer councils and visits as a major part.

SartainThat Indian element was integrating in earnest by 1997. MPE/iX development was a serious part of HP's work in Bangalore, India. It was becoming common to see India engineers giving technical talks at user group meetings. IMAGE lab manager Jim Sartain, who worked for Sterling, was essential in adding Indian engineering to keep the 3000's lab headcount abreast of customer needs.

Bangalore is more than twelve hours ahead of the time zone in California, the state where the 3000 labs were working in 1997. We asked Sterling about how he was integrating the Indian workers with his Cupertino CSY labs.

So the actual head count in CSY's California labs doesn't matter?

No. Our solution teams are made of engineers in Bangalore and in Cupertino. It's a virtual team. It's not like Bangalore does this set of solutions and we do that set of solutions. We don't carve it up that way because we have mirror images of the different projects.

Why is the Bangalore connection working as well as it is?

We've created an environment where our engineers have been able to establish personal relationships with the engineers at Bangalore. For example, they've often been there. One time or another over the last 18 months most of the engineers from Bangalore, at least certainly all of the leads, have been to Cupertino for some period of time. We have pictures of their whole organization in our hallways so we know who they are. We know what they look like. We know, in many cases, we know about their families and it's like another HP employee just happens to be on the other side of the world.

They're real people to us, a part of the team. And that's what's made it work for us. We don't just treat them like we've subcontracted some of our work to a team in India. There are some HP organizations that treat them that way, but we've had a much greater success. They are so proud to be a part of CSY. They have a big sign that says CSY Bangalore.

Read "Wed Wayback: India rises, California rests" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:07 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2018

How Support of XP Can Be a 3000 Mainstay

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "How Support of XP Can Be a 3000 Mainstay" in full

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

October 19, 2018

Fine-Tune: Get the right time for a battery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Fine-Tune: Get the right time for a battery" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:01 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2018

Making Plans for a 3000's Futures

Ledger pages
We've turned the corner here at the Newswire to begin our 24th year. Thanks for all of your continued interest. We've always been interested about the future as well as the past which can teach us all. By this year, the 3000's experts are looking at working in their 60's and tending to servers and an OS which are more than a decade old. You have to make plans for the future to keep a legacy system working. Here's a few we've heard about.

At one HP 3000 site, the chief developer for its app turned 69 this year. There's an HP-branded server (a box with "3000" on the label) working at that manufacturing company. The plan for the future is to keep using HP's iron while the application gets migrated. 

That 3000 iron? If if goes south, there's always Stromasys Charon. The company's IT manager already evaluated it.

At RAC Consulting, Rich Corn says he's "still kicking here for a while longer with a handful of ESPUL customers still active. I spend most of my time supporting robotics programs in the local school district." Like a lot of the most seasoned HP 3000 gurus — Corn's software is at the heart of Minisoft's NetPrint products, as well as ESPUL — this charter advertiser of the Newswire is still working with the companies which are tied to MPE/iX for production boxes.

ESPUL is software that wouldn't have much use in an archival 3000, since the utility is a spoolfile and printing wizard. Those are production systems.

Read "Making Plans for a 3000's Futures " in full

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

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