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)

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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)

October 12, 2018

Friday Fine-Tune: Speeding up backups

Spinning-wheels
We have a DLT tape drive. Lately it wants to take 6-7 hours to do a backup instead of its usual two or less.  But not every night,  and not on the same night every week.  I have been putting in new tapes now, but it still occurs randomly. I have cleaned it. I can restore from the tapes no problem. It doesn’t appear to be fighting some nightly process for CPU cycles. Any ideas on what gives?

Giles Schipper replies

Something that may be causing extended backup time is excessive IO retries, as the result of deteriorating tapes or tape drive.

One way to know is to add the ;STATISTICS option to your STORE command. This will show you the number of IO retries as well as the actual IO rate and actual volume of data output.

Another possibilty is that your machine is experiencing other physical problems resulting in excessive logging activity and abnormal CPU interrupt activity — which is depleting your system resources resulting in extended backup times.

Check out the following files in the following Posix directories:

/var/stm/logs/os/*
/var/stm/logs/sys/*

If they are very large, you indeed may have a hardware problem — one that is not "breaking" your machine, but simply "bending" it.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:25 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2018

Wayback: Charon kicks off with freeware

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Wayback: Charon kicks off with freeware" in full

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

October 08, 2018

Leaving Something to Retire On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 05, 2018

Shifting Data Off the 3000, Easily

NewsWire Classic

By Roy Brown

Tool-beltWhether you are migrating data, or just wanting to present it in a more portable format, be aware of how you can manipulate it using those all-pervasive Microsoft tools. When your consulting role takes you across a wide range of HP 3000 sites, you rapidly learn that not everybody has all the add-on tools you might like to see – Qedit, MPEX, Adager, Suprtool, and so on. You can rely on what’s in FOS, but there are a bunch of things you are brought up short by, that are not so easy without the armory above.

So, when I needed to extract and massage data from a bare or nearly bare HP 3000, I pretty soon learned to rely on what I could bring to bear from my laptop, equipped with Reflection and the MS Office suite.

Actually, the product I really missed isn’t one I listed above – it’s MBF-UDALink, from MB Foster. Perhaps because I’ve never quite mastered its rather quirky interface, I find it’s often easier to rewrite a query than to modify one. But they are so quick to write that it really doesn’t matter – especially for multi-set, multi-key extracts.

And as it can make your data extract, put it in the format of your choice, and transfer it to your PC via your termulator, all in one go, it lets you skip a whole bunch of what I describe below; stuff you need to do only if all you have is FOS in this area.

Extraction

Mostly, when grabbing stuff on an ad-hoc basis, I like to list it out in Query, and watch it scroll by in Reflection, with logging to a PC file turned on. I know that I could file equate the output to QSLIST with DEV=DISC, make a file and copy it that way, if I wanted. But this way, I get to see problems as it runs. And if it runs okay, it’s already on the PC for me.

I use Query because it’s always there. I figure I don’t need to do a Query tutorial here – though you can email me at [email protected] if you’d like a copy of one – but suffice to say that you can usually walk the paths you need, and pick up the data you want. I generally set LINES=0 or NOPAGE, and I pay attention to numeric field formatting with Edit masks where needed, but I only output Detail lines. Dates I leave in CCYYMMDD format, just as they come. And I don’t need to do any math – I can save that until I’m in Office.

But I do hit the 80-character line limit, which is where the first neat WinWord trick kicks in. I use multiple lines, and I mark the end of each line except the last with a string like ### - something that I know won’t ever occur naturally in the data – ending at position 80.

Read "Shifting Data Off the 3000, Easily" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:17 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 01, 2018

Where have all the migrations gone?

Wilted rosesIs the bloom finally off the rose for migrations away from MPE/iX? I had lunch today with a support provider for third party maintenance who sees a lot of activity in the 3000 market. He said that as far as he can see — and of course nobody can see everywhere — the HP 3000 migration activity is pretty much done.

Nobody has complete visuals on the full marketplace. It can be difficult to know much about migration projects in progress. So if 3000 migration is done, maybe what that really means is that all of the migrations have been started by now. For example, I wrote about a company last month whose 3000 expert says they’ve been migrating for awhile. The project is supposed to be over by the end of the year. Then this 3000 veteran of many years added, “but you know how that goes.”

Like lots of 3000 experts, that IT pro is retiring from his company. At year's end he'll be leaving behind a 3000 app that’s working. Whoever’s got the job of getting that replacement app online will have to finish it in 2019 without as much MPE expertise on staff. I'm guessing that even retired, the expert will be able to bill for some consulting. "You know how that goes" usually means there's some unresolved issues, like there are in every migration. You never know what you've done well in a migration until you get to the testing phase. Birket Foster used to say that testing was at least 30 percent of the workload in a migration.

Once a migration team's testing gets serious, knowing the MPE app and the 3000 technical infrastructure can show off its benefits. It might even be like the way COBOL skills got valuable in the years leading up to Y2K. Getting that kind of independent expertise into the contract-procurement market can be the big hurdle for 3000 veterans. Lots of great 3000 experience has worked inside a company. Being for-hire is a different gig.

Migrations can be pretty secret. Some datacenter managers don’t want to talk about having a genuine legacy app (what, you use MPE?) still serving in production. Other 3000 managers don’t have control of the migrations their company is doing. Therefore, little knowledge they might share with 3000 friends (or writers). That migration might be done by the supplier of the new app, or the Platform as a Service (PaSS, or what they like to call cloud) such as a Salesforce reseller.

Finally, there's the IT management that's going on at the C-level by now. The guardians of the datacenter are sometimes not connected to the 3000 at all. The CFO just wants an outside company to take that putty-colored HP server box out of the shop, because nobody knows enough about it anymore. That's the circumstance where outside migration services can help. You've got to find those CFOs, though. A list of former 3000 sites might help. Someone just offered us one—but it was from 1988. There are dead people on that list.

Just because it's hard to see 3000 migrations doesn't mean they're not there. You can say the same thing about spirits and faeries and even some religious powers. If you're hoping for migrations to appear, it doesn't hurt to believe. Get your shingle out there and explore. Verradyne is a collective of experts who've done 3000 migrations.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:18 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 28, 2018

The Migration Dilemma

3000-migration-penguins
This article first ran in the opening month of the 3000's migration era. For the companies still working through a migration, most of the issues remain in play. More to the point for the homesteading 3000 site: These are high-level reasons why a migration isn't on the horizon.

Newswire Classic

By Curtis Stordahl

Well, the other shoe has dropped. Hewlett-Packard has given their HP 3000 customer base just five years to migrate to another platform. This is a daunting task that is full of risk.

The biggest migration risk factor is probably that the complexity of the applications on the HP 3000 may have been severely underestimated. These applications can be over 20 years old, and some have had scores of programmers continuously evolving the original application without any supporting documentation. Consequently, it is possible that nobody knows just how big and complex these applications are. Many migration projects are also led by personnel with no experience on the HP 3000 platform, who have a perception of it being something like an old dBase application on an IBM PC.

Many organizations will be lured by the “flavor of the month” technology and want to completely redevelop their HP 3000 applications accordingly. This is also full of hidden risks.

A major redevelopment is going to essentially have three project teams. The first project team is going to be responsible for the development of the new application. This team faces multiple risks: of underestimating the complexity of the legacy application they are replacing; or of completing the development only to find it does not meet the minimum requirements and cannot be implemented without extensive rework.

At that point, the team could then find it impossible to obtain the resources needed to complete the project. The technology they choose may not meet expectations and so will not satisfy the minimum requirements. If you go outside your organization for new application development, the vendor you contract to do the work could go bust.

A second project team needs to migrate the data to the new platform. A radical change in design could make this difficult if not impossible.

A third project team needs to provide ongoing support to the legacy application. A major redevelopment could be years in the making, and you can’t stop the business from evolving during that time. This introduces additional risk into both the development and migration project teams because they must aim at a moving target.

There is an overall risk that a migration project could fail, leaving you with no additional funding or time to recover from the failure.

Read "The Migration Dilemma" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:20 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 26, 2018

Why and When to Leave Platform-Land

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Why and When to Leave Platform-Land" in full

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

September 24, 2018

Data migration integrity can be in the garage

RulesoftheGarage
In the world of book publishing, a customer with a legacy of using HP 3000s is pushing users through a migration. The Nielsen name has long been associated with TV ratings, but that former HP 3000 customer tracks so much more. This month the book sales service BookScan is getting a migration to a new system. The old system was called Nielsen and the new one is NPD's Decison Key. The transfer is expected to have its bumps. Some might have impact who's on this year's bestseller lists.

Publisher's Marketplace reports, "BookScan will complete its transition from the old Nielsen platform to the NPD system and at outset, the biggest adjustment for users may be getting accustomed to system updates on a different day of the week. "

As the story unfolds there's more changes expected. NPD Books president Jonathan Stolper is predicting high integrity. "We're going to get it right," he said in a Publisher's Marketplace article. The Marketplace resells Nielsen data to authors, publishers and booksellers—so the forecast would of course be bright. Many data migrations have had this forecast.

But the data on this Nielsen system, some of which goes back to the HP 3000 era there, has deep roots. From the Marketplace report:

We're talking about millions of titles, a system that goes back to 2004 in detail. There is a ton of data within this system. So it's only natural that there's probably going to be some – I don't want to call them hiccups, but some variances. Whenever you switch systems, there's some slight variance. People are going to have to realize that it's not an absolute match."

Then comes the upshot of the migration. Some books are going to "sell" better than others, depending on the data integrity for this year's sales.

Read "Data migration integrity can be in the garage" in full

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

September 21, 2018

Fine Tune: Storing in Parallel and to Tapes

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

Gavin Scott and Joe Taylor reply

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

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

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

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

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

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

STORE ENCOUNTERED MEDIA WRITE ERROR ON LDEV 7 (S/R 1454)

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

John Burke replies:

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

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

September 19, 2018

Wayback: HP's prop-up in a meltdown week

TradersTen years ago this week the HP shareholder community got a slender boost amid a storm of financial crisis around the world. While the US economy was in a meltdown, Hewlett-Packard -- still a single company -- made a fresh promise to buy back its stock for $8 billion. Companies of HP's size were being labelled Too Big to Fail. The snarl of the banking collapse would be a turning point for a Presidential election. A Wall Street Journal article on the buybacks called HP's move a display of strength. HP wanted to ensure its market capitalization wouldn't take a pounding.

HP was electing to pump a smaller buyback into its shares compared to a competitor's effort. Microsoft was announcing a $40 billion buyback in the same week. At the time, the two companies were trading at about the same share price. Hewlett-Packard was working through its final season with a 3000 lab, tying a bow on the final PowerPatch of the MPE era. One customer recently called that last 2008 release "MPE/iX 7.5.5."

The company was looking to get into a new operating system business in September of 2008, though. HP would be developing a server of its own built upon a core OS of Linux. HP closed down its Nashua, New Hampshire facility just a few months earlier. The offices where VMS was being revived were going dark. At least HP was still selling hardware and growing. We took note of the contrast between selling goods and shuffling financial paper.

Not all of the US economy is in tatters, despite what trouble is being trumpeted today. HP and Microsoft and Nike still run operations which supply product that the world still demands, product which can't be easily swapped in some shadowy back-door schemes like debt paper or mortgage hedges.

A decade later, much has changed and yet not enough to help HP's enterprise OS customers. VMS development has been sold off to a third party firm, OpenVMS Inc. That move into Linux has created a low-cost business server line for HP which doesn't even mention an OS. Meanwhile, Microsoft's stock is trading above $120 a share and HP's split-up parts sell for between $15 and $27 a share, covering the HP Enterprise and PC siblings.

Last week Microsoft announced an impressive AI acquisition, Lobe. For its part, HP Enterprise announced it was refinancing its debt "to fund the repayment of the $1.05 billion outstanding principal amount of its 2.85% notes due 2018, the repayment of the $250 million outstanding principal amount of its floating rate notes due 2018, and for general corporate purposes." A decade ago financial headwinds were in every corporate face. By this year the markets have sorted out the followers from the leaders. HP stepped away from OS software and has created a firm where sales of its Enterprise unit has gone flat. 

Stock buybacks offer a mixed bag of results. Sometimes the company doing the buyback simply doesn't have the strength and bright enough future to hope to reap some benefit—for the company. Shareholders love them, though. The customers are a secondary concern at times.

The $8 billion probably seemed like a good idea at the time, considering it was in the Leo Apotheker era and its misguided acquistions. (A deal for 3Par comes to mind, where a storage service vendor recently noted that it was Dell that drove up the 3Par acquistion price by pretending to bid for it.) The trouble with stock buybacks is just about nobody can stop them. Shareholders are always happy to have shares rise, either on the news of the buyback or the upswing over the next quarter.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:39 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 17, 2018

Planning to migrate has been the easy mile

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2018

Use Command Interpreter to program fast

NewsWire Classic

By Ken Robertson

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

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

Getting Data Into and Out of Files

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Use Command Interpreter to program fast" in full

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

September 12, 2018

Wayback: DX cuts new 3000 price to $7,077

Field-of-dreams
The Series 918DX was going to deliver the 3000's Field of Dreams

If only the HP 3000 were less costly. The price of the system and software was a sticking point for most of its life in the open systems era, that period when Unix and Windows NT battled MPE/iX. HP's own Unix servers were less costly to buy than the 3000s using the same chipset. Twenty-one years ago this season, the cost of a 3000 became a problem HP wanted to solve.

Cheaper 3000s would be a field of dreams. If a developer could build an app, the customers would come.

Now, Hewlett-Packard was not going to cut the cost of buying every HP 3000 in 1997. When developers of applications and utilities made their case about costs, the HP 3000 division at last created a program where creators would get a hardware break. The Series 918DX was going to help sell more 3000s. It would be the only model of 3000 HP ever sold new for under $10,000. A less costly workbench would attract more application vendors.

The list price of the DX was $7,077. Still more than a Unix workstation or a Windows PC of 1997. The thinking of the time came from a new team at the 3000 division, where marketing manager Roy Breslawski worked for new GM Harry Sterling. Removing a cost barrier for small, startup developers was going to open the doors for new applications.

HP simply adjusted its pricing for hardware and software on a current 3000 model to create the DX. The product was a Series 918/LX with 64 MB of memory, a 4GB disk, a DDS tape drive, a UPS, and a system console.

HP included all of its software in the bundle, such as compilers for C, COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, Pascal and even RPG. It was all pre-loaded on that 4GB drive: a Posix Developers Kit, ARPA Services, Workload Manager, Glance Plus, TurboStore, Allbase/SQL. No 3000 would be complete without IMAGE/SQL. The harvest was rich for the small development ventures.

The size of the bundled HP software created one of the drags on the DX. HP automatically billed for the support on every program. When developers started to evaluate the offer, the $7,000 hardware came with $14,000 worth of support commitments.

HP leasing wasn't an HP option for such an inexpensive server, however. Rental costs would amount to buying it more than once. The vendors who were sensitive to hardware pricing didn't have strong sales and marketing resources. They could build it, but who would come?

Read "Wayback: DX cuts new 3000 price to $7,077 " in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:17 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2018

Durable 3000s seek, sometimes find, homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Durable 3000s seek, sometimes find, homes" in full

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

September 07, 2018

Queue up those 3000 jobs with MPE tools

NewsWire Classic

By Shawn Gordon

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

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

Three commands accommodate the job queue feature:

NEWJOBQ qname [;limit=n]
PURGEJOBQ qname
LISTJOBQ

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

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

Read "Queue up those 3000 jobs with MPE tools" in full

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

September 05, 2018

Where's the lure to launch into the cloud?

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

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

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

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

Read "Where's the lure to launch into the cloud?" in full

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

September 03, 2018

The Labors of 3000 Love

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

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

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

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

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

August 31, 2018

SFTP and the points where transfers may fail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 29, 2018

Hear tips for MPE iron to protect and serve

Podcast: Ending the Reruns

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2018

Where to go when the app vendor is gone

Nature-2806211_1920
The cozy corner of your world that's the HP 3000 Community on LinkedIn has many reports about where users are working. One story that's slid onto our desk from that community illustrates the work a 3000 owner faces when a software vendor leaves them behind. For many sites with few resources, this is the situation that triggers a migration.

This is a story of what happens when the Hewlett-Packard hardware outlasts vendor applications. It's not that the app has stopped working, not at all. But the manager of the 3000 knows his employer has limited time to plan for a future while using software that can't be modified, because there's no source code — and not much documentation, even though the software's been customized.

3000s stay in service long enough to get to the point where the most durable piece of the solution is MPE/iX. Hardware can die off and be replaced by Charon from Stromasys. Expertise can be hired on contract for administration and operations. Development, though, is the hardest asset to maintain. When expertise dwindles for a third party piece of software — in this case, the IBS/3000 (Integrated Business System) financials package from DeCarlo, Paternite and Associates — a migration is usually in order.

The 3000 manager said he came on board at the company and learned about IBS being a key business component. "I Googled it to see if there was a user forum, vendor site, or any information. All I found was Irritable Bowel Syndrome."

Even if there was still vendor support available, it would be of limited use because there are so many in-house modifications and enhancements. The app has served us well, but is not sustainable for the long term.

He reports that the migration project will have to survive bad decisions, woefully inadequate management support, bad consultants, and a lack of expertise. "New leadership is in place with more realistic expectations. I hope we can hit a 2019 target." This manager of an A500 system is counting down to an end of 2018 retirement — and doing his best to ensure the system can outlast him.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:40 PM in Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 24, 2018

Kept Promises for Open Source on MPE/iX

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

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

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

Read "Kept Promises for Open Source on MPE/iX" in full

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

August 22, 2018

Wayback: 3000s boot mainframes out of HP

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

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

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

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

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

The paper is archived at the OpenMPE website.

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

PosterProject

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

August 20, 2018

Following Job Lines in Emulated 3000 Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Following Job Lines in Emulated 3000 Life" in full

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

August 17, 2018

Nike Arrays 101

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

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

By John Burke
Newswire Classic

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Nike Arrays 101" in full

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

August 15, 2018

3000 users linking up, 10 years later

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 13, 2018

Licensed MPE source solves OS mysteries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2018

HPCALENDAR joins 3000 intrinsics hits

Newswire Classic

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

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

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

By Shawn Gordon

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

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

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

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

Here’s the lineup of intrinsics:

1. HPDATECONVERT: converts dates from one supported format to another 
2. HPDATEFORMAT: converts a date into a display type (I usually use this instead of HPDATECONVERT)
3. HPDATEDIFF: returns the number of days between to given dates 
4. HPDATEOFFSET: returns a date that is plus or minus the number of days from the source date
5. HPDATEVALIDATE: verifies that the date conforms to a supported date format
6. A new 32-bit HPCALENDAR format (HPCALENDAR, HPFMTCALENDAR).

Read "HPCALENDAR joins 3000 intrinsics hits" in full

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

August 08, 2018

Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world

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

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

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

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

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

The update for the two-part article comes from a company that has a free Linux education website. Alex Nordeen, Editor of Guru99.com, hopes to get your web visits.

Read "Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world" in full

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

August 06, 2018

E-commerce keeps making sales on 3000s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 03, 2018

2028 calendar changes to hit MPE, not 3000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 01, 2018

Charon carries Boeing in new 3000 orbit

Pluto and its moons
Illustration by Melanie Demmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 30, 2018

Ways to make SFTP serve to a 3000 system

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

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

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

That leaves the proxy solution.

In this solution, a manager would set up a Linux SFTP server with two NICs. NIC 1 goes to the outside world. NIC 2 is a crossover to the HP 3000. From the HP 3000, SFTP to the Linux server via NIC 2.
 
In another scenario, you can FTP between the HP 3000 and a Linux virtual machine. One developer said that on the Linux VM "we have a small application that talks to the HP 3000 via FTP and forwards to and from other machines via SFTP or SSH." He added that the app on the Linux system is written in Java.
 
Migration often includes this kind of expertise. Charles Finley, a veteran of HP 3000 matters since the 1980s, recently raised his hand to offer notes on using an SSH tunnel. "It does not involve coding, the use of libraries and—although you can do it with Linux—does not necessarily involve Linux." He drew a link to an example employing a Windows host, adding that "we use Linux or Windows for this type of thing. Here's a description of how connect to an FTP/SFTP server which can be accessed via another server only, using PuTTY, "something we make use of a lot," Finley said.
 
There's also a simple way to use SFTP by employing Stromasys Charon. Other servers can SFTP to a Linux partition. Charon is hosted under Linux as it emulates the 3000 hardware. This hosted MPE server can then pick the files up internally.

Read "Ways to make SFTP serve to a 3000 system" in full

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

July 27, 2018

Worst Practices: Shouldn't Happen to a Dog

By Scott Hirsh

Chaplin-A-Dogs-LifeThere is a saying in Washington about Washington: “If you want a friend, get a dog.” Ha! We system managers should be so lucky. We can’t even be our own best friend.

It’s sad but true: we system managers won’t cut ourselves any slack. We repeatedly put ourselves in jeopardy, often making the same mistakes time after time. We even break all the rules we impose on others. Don’t believe me? See if you recognize any of these examples.

1. Hand crafted system management

Ah yes, the good old days. Peace, love and tear gas (I never inhaled). But here’s a news flash, sunshine: for system managers, the ’60s are dead. Predictable, repeatable tasks can and should be automated. If you can script it, you can schedule it. And if you can schedule it, you can automate it. So what are you waiting for? Do you like (take your pick): streaming jobs by hand; adjusting fences and priorities by hand; reading $STDLISTs; staring at the console waiting for that one important message? For this you went to college?

And yet, we (or our management) come up with lots of lame excuses for running a stone-age operation. Can’t afford the automation products, don’t trust automation, can’t trap every error, blah blah blah. Those excuses may fly when you’re small, but suddenly you have more systems, bigger systems and manual management turns your shop into burn-out central. Now there’s turnover costs, downtime costs, opportunity costs.

Oh, and by the way, it’s much more expensive to implement automated management in a large, busy environment than it is to grow automated management from a smaller environment. Perhaps some of us are just adrenaline junkies, or we fear not being needed. Get over it and automate already.

2. The disappearing act

A close personal friend of mine — okay, it was me — once made a change to Security/3000’s SECURCON file, then left for an all-day meeting about 40 miles away. Guess what? None of the application users could log on after my change. Way back then, my pager almost vibrated off my belt from that one. And it made for some interesting meetings when I got back.

I have seen lots of cases where a system manager made a configuration change, installed a patch, or fussed with SYSSTART or UDCs, then immediately went home. Big mistake. If you’re lucky, you live near your data center and can zip right back to repair the carnage that was discovered right away. If you’re not lucky, first you don’t discover your mistake until the worst possible moment — say, around the heaviest usage period the next day — and then you’re forced to take the system down to fix the problem. Ouch.

3. A lack of planning on my part does constitute an emergency on your part

A variation on No. 1. We are the eternal optimists. No matter how invasive the procedure, everything will work out perfectly, right? How many PowerPatches must we install before we realize we must leave adequate time for testing the patched system and perhaps back that sucka out? No really, this time HP (or your favorite vendor) has learned from past mistakes and has a bullet-proof update. No need to leave a cushion for collateral damage. Right.

Every decent system administration book offers the same advice: Don’t do anything you can’t undo. Make a backup copy of whatever you’re changing. Keep track of the steps you followed. Be prepared to back out whatever you’re doing. Because that contingency time can inflate your update schedule by hours, it’s unlikely you can safely make a system change at any time other than weekends or holidays. 

4. I’ve got a secret

You make changes but don’t tell anyone about them. Let’s be charitable and say your changes worked as planned. Unfortunately, nobody knew you were going to make the change. I have seen a change as innocuous as modifying the system prompt have unintended consequences (Reflection scripts looked for the old prompt and now wouldn’t work). The term “system” implies interrelationships. Anything we do has a ripple effect. When we don’t tell others that we’re about to make a change — “they wouldn’t let me do it if I told them!” — we don’t do ourselves any favors. I would love to hear other war stories under this category (hint, hint).

Read "Worst Practices: Shouldn't Happen to a Dog" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:58 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 25, 2018

P9500 storage comes to N-Class 3000s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23, 2018

Users' HELLOs echo back on 3000-L

Hello Screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Users' HELLOs echo back on 3000-L" in full

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

July 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "July's IA-64 news, delivered by the Sandman" in full

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

July 16, 2018

3000 mailing list now quiet for a month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2018

Fine-Tune: Resetting your LDEV 21 Console

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

1. Is the port configured and available?

a) Check to be sure the system recognizes the port

:showdev 21

LDEV     AVAIL
     21     AVAIL

b) Is the SYSGEN configuration okay? 

:sysgen  sysgen>io
io> ld 21

LDEV:21  DEVNAME:  OUTDEV:21  MODE:  JAID
**ID: A1703-60003-CONSOLE-TERMINAL 
RSIZE:        40   DEVTYPE: TERM
**PATH: 56/56.1   MPETYPE: 16   MPESUBTYPE:  0
CLASS: TERM

c) Is the User Port configured in NMMGR?

:nmmgr
then ...

OPEN CONF, DTS, USER PORT

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

Read "Fine-Tune: Resetting your LDEV 21 Console" in full

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

July 11, 2018

Holding on to 3000 data: this might work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 09, 2018

Local advice guided bets for 3000 users

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 06, 2018

Using MPE/iX to send SFTP files

I have a script that uses FTP to send files to a site which we open by IP address. We've been asked to change to SFTP (port 22) and use the DNS name instead of an IP address, and I don't believe the 3000 supports that. Does it? If so, how?

Allegro's Donna Hofmeister replies:

I'm not sure you want to do SFTP on port 22. That's the SSH port. SFTP is meant to use port 115. Have a look at one of our white papers on how to do SFTP on MPE.

If you are going to use DNS, you must have your 3000 configured for that. It's easily done. 

However, if you've never done anything on your 3000 to make it act like a real computer (oh -- that's right, it is a real computer and fully capable of using DNS), this can turn into a can o'worms.

Read "Using MPE/iX to send SFTP files" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:15 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 02, 2018

Measuring the Miles to Homesteading's End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 27, 2018

Tiki hut tales run toward success, survival

Tiki-HutOn the night before this summer's HP 3000 reunion, a handful of grey experts shared stories over a bar in Orly Larson's tiki hut. The Hewlett-Packard veteran and IMAGE expert built the hut in his backyard just beyond the ping pong table and overlooking a swell swimming pool. The hut showed off a different era, just like the IT experience at the bar. 

There was a comforting feel at that bar. Every story seemed to prompt another, all interwoven with details about the life achieved after intense 3000 and IT work. Only a few of us still encountered 3000s in our everyday life. It was a thrill to be able to tell some of those stories again.

This time through, the storytelling had the benefit of more context. The things that seemed crucial at the time, like a flaw in the system's microcode, turned out to have little impact on the fate of the HP hardware. Important at the time, but nothing to chase off a customer. In the final tally, the number of the customers turned out to be a significant factor in the 3000's fate.

People in the tiki hut had opinions about HP's demise as an MPE/iX solution supplier. One theme was to compare to other servers of the same age. Only IBM's Series i, formerly the AS/400, has had a continuous path from the 1980s onward supported by its creator. All others are gone to moved to third party care. Even VMS has a third party lab, carrying it into the future. Its great numbers were able to shoulder the 3000 out of HP's picture, but even the Digital platform because a dish outside of the vendor's tastes

The meeting went long into the night. That was a little surprise considering nobody at the bar was under 60. Many of us were going to regroup the next day. We still lingered, something like the MPE/iX customers who know they're someplace special.

Surviving the future takes many routes. One long-time consultant, Linda Roatch, moved into the Bay Area from her life in Minnesota serving the Minneapolis Pioneer Press. She's at the Mercury News in San Jose now. It's another newspaper — an industry allegedly on the run as much as on-premise servers like the 3000. But there she was, standing outside the tiki hut and looking forward at Linux, and back with warm regard at the colleagues and the stories shared at the bar.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:44 PM in Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 25, 2018

Meet shows veterans never too old to learn

2018 3000 Reunion

The number of people in the pub was not noteworthy. The weekend's HP 3000 Reunion added up to something more than a body count, though, a remarkable and lively turnout for a computer whose vendor declared it dead more than seven years ago.

IMG_3840The veterans of MPE and the 3000 showed a spark of curiosity during the afternoon-to-evening gathering at the Duke of Edinburgh pub and Apple Park in Cupertino. In the late afternoon they held iPads to see a virtual reality view at Apple's Visitor Center, peering at the insides of the Apple HQ building. Earlier, a support talk about the care and feeding of the 3000 sites with aging hardware prompted questions and opinions about homesteading. That strategy was the only one that remained for the men and women crowding a cozy pub room flocked with red and gold paper.

The gold matched the sponsorship banner from CAMUS International. The group sent $200 to cover bar and lunch expenses, showing that manufacturing interest still surrounds companies using a 3000. Terri Lanza, who arranged the banner and the contribution, wished she could attend. Like dozens more, she has to rely on her colleagues who made the trip.

IMG_3841
They came from as far away as England and Toronto, and some from five minutes' drive away. Orly Larson tooled over from his house on a quiet Cupertino street. Dave Wiseman came from England and Gilles Schipper crossed the continent from Toronto.

Tom McNeal, one of the engineers who helped create the memory manager in MPE/XL, attended to represent the Hewlett-Packard 3000 lab. He left HP after Y2K to join a Linux startup. While that was fun, he said, the energy didn't outlast the funding. He came to reconnect and even to see a lineup of hardware for MPE XL that prompted him to observe where multiprocessing came into the product line.

IMG_3832

Vicky Shoemaker, Dave Wiseman, Gilles Schipper, Stan Sieler and Harry Sterling giggle at a video of George Stachnik's 12 Days of Christmas parody. The video from an HP party hailed from the late 1980s, when the struggles of building an MPE for PA-RISC were finally overcome.

People learned at the meeting, more about one another and their 3000 afterlife than something to use in 2018. McNeal was joined by ex-HP stalwarts Harry Sterling, the final GM of the division, and Larson. They made up almost 20 percent of attendees. There was hearty laughter coming from them and the rest of the crowd while everyone watched a video from another 3000 notable. George Stachnik was singing a 12 Days of Christmas parody on a recording from the middle 1980s, when Sterling was running the 3000 labs.

When Stachnik's parody came to the five golden rings line, he'd changed it to Rich Sevcik giving him "every engineer." Sterling chuckled. "It was just about that many," he said.

Read "Meet shows veterans never too old to learn" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:50 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (1)

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