November 06, 2019

HP's tech lures Xerox offer to buy

HP printer tech
Photo by Dario Seretin on Unsplash

Plenty of writers and customers get confused about the HP of 2019. Back in 2014, the corporation split into two units, operations that align on devices and datacenters. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise now sells datacenter products and services. It's the arm that created HP 3000s in the 1970s. HP Inc., the part of the company that makes printing, imaging, and PC products, received an offer this week to be purchased by Xerox.

HP Inc. acquired 55 patents from Samsung for business printing not long ago. Now the corporation is being courted by a suitor whose printing legacy is wired deep into the DNA of Hewlett-Packard's spinoff. Patents for LaserJet tech, the engineering that in 1984 took HP into the realm of resellers farther removed from HP than any 3000 VAR, are part of what Xerox is bidding for.

The offer, which HP Inc. confirmed it has received, would sign up Xerox for more than $20 billion in debt, financed by Citigroup. The appetites of the HP which created the 3000 and then cut down the vendor's future in the MPE/iX market helped to spark that 2014 split. HP was striving for an overall Number One status as a technology supplier in the years just before it announced its takedown of its 3000 business.

Management at the vendor aligned on growing sectors of business. While the 3000 had enjoyed a nice revenue increase for several years leading up to Y2K, HP saw the unit as one whose growth had a limited future. "If it's not growing, it's going," one 3000 vendor said he'd heard in reports about HP's future.

This was in the era when PCs were soaring on the HP balance sheets and printer products were being sold in groceries. The corporation had just acquired Compaq and Compaq's Digital group, so while there was a future for OpenVMS and its growth, cutting back on enterprise products became essential in HP's strategy.

Xerox developed the first viable graphical interface technology in its Star systems. The Palo Alto Research Center's tour for a young Steve Jobs at Apple led to the mouse interface becoming an essential part of the Macintosh release. 

In a move that proves there's always value in technology that outlasts its creators, there's now a deal in the market to return some of HP business technology to a corporation that's been a part of business computing history since the 1980s. It can be hard to tell what's going to survive in computing and where it will land. HP Inc. recently announced it will be cutting 9,000 more jobs. Betting on good management is at least as important as betting on good technology. As 3000 owners know, technology like MPE/iX is able to outlive the interests of its creators.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:46 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

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October 31, 2019

Wayback Wed: Leaving a Wake on an exit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loree's Epicenter Grief

Read "Wayback Wed: Leaving a Wake on an exit" in full

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

October 24, 2019

Crave sounds of connection? Call in Nov. 7

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

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

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

CAMUS RUG 1999 Larry_Vicky_Steven_Holly

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

VickyFalk 1999 CAMUS MWmeet

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

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

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

October 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

By Alan Yeo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "HP's kids: Children who can't say yes, or no" in full

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

October 17, 2019

Alan Yeo, 1954-2019

Yeo at Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community meets and reunions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Yeo with dogsWith his beloved dogs at his Gloucester home

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

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

A reach for personal connections

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

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

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

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

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

Carly_cartoon_dalmations

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

October 14, 2019

How to make databases live past shutdown

Index card file drawer
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "How to make databases live past shutdown" in full

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

October 10, 2019

Who's to blame when the lights go out?

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

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

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

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

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

Blaming the tough regulations about state rate hikes for the disaster that is PG&E business is having it both ways: Government is crucial, and government is ridiculous. On and on it goes, until we are supposed to trust a government that lets PG&E do whatever it wants, so long as profits stay high. 
 
Because every corporation with ample profits has always taken care of its customers in every need. 
 
Some people on that mailing list sure have a short memory about such nonsense. We are all survivors of a meltdown of a business model where corporate profits were ensured — because revenue growth was the only thing that mattered — while legacy technology got scrapped. Millions of dollars of investments, the fate of hundreds of vendors, and thousands of careers were lost.
 
The mailing list name still has the numerals 3000 in it. You’d think people would remember what brought us into each others' lives, along with the lesson we learned the hard way together. Oversight is important. The problem which hit the Hewlett-Packard 3000 customers was a lack of oversight from top-level management and the board of directors. It's sometimes hard to know what to do while things are changing (the computer business) and ambitions are high (make HP bigger than anybody, so it will win every deal).
 
A good rule to follow, though, is like a physician. First, do no harm. The 3000 community got treated by HP like a limb that had gone gangrenous. Old history that'll never be changed, yes. Also, a lesson for managers on how to treat older bodies like an operating system and software that's not new but is still performing well.  
 
Complaining about oversight, when you'd rather have none at all, is what got HP into the state it's in today. Two corporations, neither growing, both unable to honor the promises of forever-computing that drove companies to buy its products. HP's cut itself loose from the future of OpenVMS, and the thousands of companies that rely on that legacy OS need to trust VMS Software Inc., new owners of the OS's future.
 
It's a better deal than the one HP gave its 3000 customers. Private money would've taken over MPE futures in 2002. HP wouldn't sell or license it, but again, that's just history. Now that the lights aren't going on for the 3000 at HP anymore — so many of HP's 3000 web pages are dead or buried alive — it evokes the powerless situation in California.

Read "Who's to blame when the lights go out?" in full

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

October 08, 2019

Debugging the diagnostics

Fire-ant
Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Debugging the diagnostics" in full

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

October 01, 2019

Shrink ray 3000 services: what you'd pay

Lens-shrink effect

Photo by Stephen Kraakmo on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2019

Making a place for retired 3000s

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2019

What was done to HP 3000s for good in 1990

Frozen-waterfallPhoto by Vincent Guth on Unsplash

One week when two of the 3000 community's greatest icons connected with me, it drew my attention back to the start of the 1990s. To say that decade was a very different time for the HP 3000 simplifies a much richer story. What's more, there are parts of that decade's accomplishments that continue to serve the community to this day, for those customers who rely on the frozen nature of MPE/iX.

The year 1990 was galvanizing for the 3000 community. I was reminded about the year when Adager's Alfredo Rego asked on the HP 3000 newsgroup, "What were you doing in 1990?" In a brief message, he noted that 1990 was the launch date for the world's first Internet browser, created by Tim Berners-Lee on a NeXT workstation. Rego pointed at a history page from 1990 about the start of the browser era. Then Rego noted

Enjoy it (typos and all).  Be sure to click on the links to the screen shots. Ah... Memories. Fortunately, the NeXT ideas have survived (and thrived).  Just as MPE ideas have (not). Sigh.

But 1990 was a high-water mark in HP 3000 advocacy, a habit which works today to survive those three decades. The HP 3000 users formed a community in way no other computer can claim, led by Wirt Atmar, founder of report solution provider AICS Research, creators of QueryCalc as well as QCReports and the free QCTerm.

Atmar knew better than most about advocacy, for in the fall of 1990 he helped spark a charge that changed HP's business practices about the 3000 — changes which you might argue lasted until the vendor stepped away for good. Especially for the MPE users who have changed little about their HP 3000 stable environment.

Read "What was done to HP 3000s for good in 1990" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:36 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 10, 2019

Relative performance online as 3000 history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 05, 2019

TBT: The Flying HP 3000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "TBT: The Flying HP 3000" in full

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

September 03, 2019

ERP Tips: Using work orders to backflush

Pipe-and-plumbingPhoto by Samuel Sianipar on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

Alice West of Aware Consulting says

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

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

Read "ERP Tips: Using work orders to backflush" in full

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

August 29, 2019

Hurricane season was a hit with a 3000 show

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It's late August and the hurricanes have begun to march toward Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the annual 3000 national conferences -- okay, we had to call them Interex, but those shows were about the 3000's heartbeat, volunteers and vendors -- took place during this month. Several tempted the weather gods, being scheduled in places like Orlando. Only one, though, found itself astride the path of a Category 4 hurricane.

The luck of Interex luck ran aground when Hurricane Andrew made its landfall during the week that HP planned to celebrate the 3000's 20th anniversary. The storm came ashore near New Orleans, where that 3000's birthday party was scheduled. I was reporting from Interex for the last time as editor of the HP Chronicle.

It was a week when the company's that getting a new CEO, Lew Platt, who was on the cusp of making his debut at a keynote in front of 3,500 customers at Interex '92. Platt was only the second man ever to be elected to the top job at HP. Up to that point, its founders both took turns as CEO. The next executive to hold the job after Hewlett and Packard was John Young, who didn't have an engineer's roots like his predecessors. Platt's arrival was touted as a return to HP's technical leadership. He was an HP insider who was a technologist, proud of his roots — and humble enough to have a habit of eating his meals in the HP cafeteria.

The outgoing Young had been scheduled to deliver a keynote to the Interex conference, but Hurricane Andrew changed those plans. The storm had just ravaged the Florida coastline with Cat 4 winds the day before Young was supposed to appear. His assignment was transferred to Platt, although the leadership of HP wasn't going to pass on to Platt until November.

The severity of Andrew set even the CEO-designate into flight from the show.

In the plaza in front of the Hilton Riverside Towers, Platt was trying to make his way to a running limo that would get him to the airport before all flights were grounded. But one customer after another wanted just a moment of his time on the way. After a handful of delays, his wife Joan insisted on his safety. "Lew, get in here," she shouted from the limo. One of the company's most grassroots leaders had to depart before his debut in in storm-lashed show week.

The second generation of the PA-RISC chipset for 3000s did remain at the show. The Series 987 servers were also making their debut that week. HP pushed the message that MPE/iX was an easy porting destination for applications on the move away from Unix, pointing out that General Mills had moved a third-party warehouse app from Unix to the 3000.

"It had been generally accepted that it was much easier just to buy a new platform for the application," HP's Warren Weston wrote in the HP Chronicle. "However, after further investigation, the decision at General Mills was made to port to MPE/iX." It might have been the last time the vendor promoted the 3000 over Unix in a public message.

Read "Hurricane season was a hit with a 3000 show" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:50 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 22, 2019

Super summary: How 2028 challenges MPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 20, 2019

More 2028 date help on its way for MPE/iX

January calendarPhoto by Kara Eads on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 15, 2019

How HP-UX has now helped MPE/iX users

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

August 12, 2019

Turning 35 in an HP career, with older smiles

HPCOct1984

It was 35 years ago this month that the HP 3000 entered my working life. It took several more months to say it had entered my heart and the rest of my life. I usually mark that heartfelt anniversary around December. During that 1984 winter month, I went to a Florida Regional Users Group as my first solo computer trade show. Meeting MPE pros face to face made my career a personal mission.

Stealing_Home_Front_Cover_Web_July 12_kirkusIn the steaming summer of 1984, however, I'd only begun to press the limits of my suburban newspaper experience. I'd been a sports editor, laying the groundwork for my baseball-and-boyhood memoir Stealing Home that was published this month. I'd interviewed Sonny Bono already, then wrote a feature I banged out on an IBM Selectric in an office in a room beside the presses, a story that was on a front page hours later. Small boys hawked that Williamson County Sun issue on the corners of the Georgetown square. I needed more for my familly than the romance of small town journalism, though.

Thirty-five years ago I answered a two-line job ad in the Austin American Statesman classifieds. The founders of the just-minted Chronicle needed an editor-reporter. With little more than my avid curiosity, a journalism degree with a computer science minor, and the need to find better health insurance for my 19-month old infant son, I took that $21,000 a year job. In 1984, there was an HP 3000 memory board that cost more than that. The Chronicle's founders were so uncertain of their relationship with HP they didn't even use the vendor's initials in the name of the publication.

It was a good year to bring newswriting skills to the 3000 market. HP launched its HP 3000 Series 37 Office Computer, a 112-pound gem you could run in a carpeted office, a couple of weeks after I moved into a wood-paneled office in Northwest Austin just down the street from Texas Instruments. The LaserJet rolled out that August, the HP 150 Touchscreen appeared in the spring, plus the Series 110 laptop. We called the Series 100s portable computers, not laptops, and I lusted after one. I had to content myself with a Kaypro II, a 32-pound portable that used CPM to drive programs it could only run if their floppy disks were inside that Kaypro.

I call these Grandpa IT stories, and I quip about the era of the steam-powered Internet. But I am a genuine grandpa now, so the stories are an even better fit than they were when I told them a decade ago. On that 25th anniversary of my HP 3000 reporting, I shared such stories.

HP sent its first CEO not named Hewlett or Packard to the Interex conference Anaheim in 1984, so long ago that the annual event wasn't even held in the summertime. CEO John Young had to tell customers there a now too-familiar story about the 3000's future. Crucial improvements were going to be delayed. Even worse was the multi-year program to boost the 3000's architecture from 16 to 32 bits was being canceled. Those dreams of Vision would be replaced with the Spectrum Project, but HP painted few technical details about the engineering that would launch HP Precision Architecture Reduced Instruction Set Computing (PA-RISC).

That's the same PA-RISC that Stromasys now emulates using Charon, sold more than three decades later. It can be tricky to predict how long something will be useful. MPE/iX has retained enough value to spark an emulation of that 1984 processor design. Not many people are daunted in the extreme about the coming 2028 date rollover for MPE/iX. Stromasys sells a solution for that. 

I arrived in the Chronicle offices with those echoes of Anaheim written into the nine back issues on the shelves.The 1984 show was the debut for Wilson Publications, the company that created the Chronicle. John and Mary Wilson told me their stories of struggling to get onto the show floor to exhibit at the conference. They'd pre-paid for the booth, but the user group didn't want to admit a competitor to the show. It was a modest affair of 1,600 programmers, vendors, and HP engineers. But it gathered a community with enough potential to spawn three publications already. By that year, Interact magazine and SuperGroup magazine competed with The Chronicle.

Coming from three years of suburban newspapering, I was used to competition. The Highlander was one of two papers on the same block of Burnet, Texas, a town of just 3,500. I started my role in HP competition by getting scooped. The 3000's biggest product rollout of the year was the Series 37, a server nicknamed the Mighty Mouse because it was HP's first minicomputer that could operate outside a specialized computer room. HP called it the HP Office Computer. I called out something else across my office when I learned about the new product, a phrase unsuitable for a family paper. Arriving without any contacts, I didn't know the Mighty Mouse existed when we sent my first Chronicle to the printers without any inkling of the 37. Interact arrived in our mail two weeks later to break the news and humble me.

Once I began to find my sources, HP news flowed faster. It was a time before Fake News. The 3000 was growing small enough to get into offices without raised flooring and computer room cooling. The hum of secrecy and hope of invention filled my first HP year. Getting people to talk meant earning their trust during a time of Non-Disclosure Agreements.

“The mid-80s were a time of transition, endless NDAs, and uncertainty in the HP 3000 world,” recalls Denys Beauchemin, a chairman of the former Interex board who already had seven years of 3000 experience by 1984. “You got in at a very good time.”

It was an era when attending a national Interex conference cost an attendee less than $100 a day. All eyes were aimed toward HP's updates, promised for 18 months after Anaheim. HP needed Spectrum desperately to keep pace with DEC, which was already selling a 32-bit minicomputer system. Within a couple of years, ads printed in silver ink told the 3000 owners "Digital Has It Now." In 1984, HP was four years away from 32-bit systems.

HP kept expanding the 3000's mission to help it get traction, selling what the industry was calling a general-purpose computer. Jim Sartain, who'd become IMAGE lab manager in the 1990s, started at HP in 1984 helping develop HP 3000 graphics products including EasyChart. “At the time, there was no easier way to create a chart that displayed business data represented as a bar, line, or pie chart,” Sartain recalled.

He described an era when most businesses needed an overhead projector for the transparencies they called foils, plastic with cardboard frames that were created with color plotters. “This was before there were any easy-to-use PC programs for this purpose,” he told me 10 years ago.

A lot has changed over these three-and-a-half decades since I began telling 3000 stories. Foils and plotters are gone, the Sun is printed miles away from its reporters' laptop-driven desks, and the paper that became the HP Chronicle is as vanished as Interact. I'm happy to still be on the scene, though, with that curiosity in my heart, plus a smile on these much older lips about this career.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:06 AM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2019

Dog days were always part of 3000 summers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 06, 2019

CAMUS gives the 3000 an Illinois play date

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

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

Duke Reunion 2018

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

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

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

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

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

July 29, 2019

Making the numbers work for emulation

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

July 25, 2019

Using VSTORE to verify backups

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The VSTORE command of MPE/iX has a role in system backup verification. It's good standard practice to include VSTORE in every backup job's command process. Using VSTORE is documented in the manuals for the original OS in which it was introduced: 5.0.

If possible, do your VSTOREs on a different (but compatible model) of tape drive than the one the tape was created on. Why? DDS tape drives slowly go out of alignment as they wear.

In other words, it's possible to write a backup tape, and have it successfully VSTORE on the same drive. But if you have to take that same tape to a different server with a new and in-alignment drive, you could have it not be readable!

If you'll only ever need to read tapes on the same drive as you wrote them, you're still not safe. What happens if you write a tape on a worn drive, have the drive fail at some later date -- and that replacement drive cannot read old backup tapes?

Using the 'two-drive' method to validate backup (and even SLT) tapes is a very prudent choice, if you have access to that array of hardware. It can also often help identify a drive that's going out of alignment -- before it's too late! 

Unfortunately, SLTs have to be written to tape (at least, for non-emulated HP 3000s). However, your drive will last years longer if you only write to it a few times a year.

You can find HP's VSTORE documentation page from that HP STORE command manual on the Web, (thanks to 3K Ranger for keeping all those those pages online).

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:01 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2019

Two very tough days for 3000 customers

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July 18-19 isn't a date that lives in infamy like November 14. The latter is the date HP announced it was leaving the 3000 customers to find their own futures. The former is a pair of days in 2005 when a 31-year-old user group died, followed by HP's announcement of a layoff of 10 percent of its workforce.

That's a one-two that rocked 3000 shops still trying to concoct a transition plan toward their next computer platform. First, the storied resource of 3000 know-how switches off the lights without warning, freezing up things like a Contributed Software Library. Then 15,000 HP staff including some one-of-a-kind experts in MPE, got their termination orders.

By this July week of 2005 HP had done good work for the 3000 customer, in the form of promises, intentions, and plans, much of it by people in what was called Virtual CSY.  The layoffs didn't help any of those intentions, or reinforce the business decisions that could still make a difference to a 3000 customer.

HP's layoffs happened so long ago the vendor made the announcement before the stock market opened. That would be a post-trading news item today.

Interex, on the other hand, made an announcement that sounded like it was written standing over a terminal before someone cut out the power to the office.

Dear members:

It is with great sadness, that after 31 years, we have found it financially necessary to close the doors at Interex. Unfortunately our publications, newsletters, services, and conference (HPWorld 2005) will be terminated immediately. We are grateful to the 100,000 members and volunteers of Interex for their contributions, advocacy, and support. We dearly wish that we could have continued supporting your needs but it was unavoidable.

Interex

Your community reacted with resignation and invention. There was no panic or an accelerated drumbeat of exiting the 3000. In fact, just a few months later HP announced it was extending its exit date— and adjustment in plans triggered by the fact that customers had no intention of being done with MPE/iX by 2006.

In San Francisco, where many an airline ticket was already booked with no chance of a refund, the 3000 team decided to hold a last supper for user group conferences.

Read "Two very tough days for 3000 customers" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:54 AM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2019

Wayback: Security boosts as enhancements

Booster-seat
They weren't called enhancements at the time, but 13 years ago this month some security patches to MPE represented internal improvements that no company except HP could deliver to 3000s. Not at that time, anyway. This was the era when the 3000 community knew it needed lab-level work, but its independent support providers had no access to source code.

Just bringing FTP capability up to speed was a little evidence the vendor would continue to work on MPE/iX. For the next few years, at least; HP had halted OpenMPE's dreams to staff up a source code lab by delaying end of support until 2008. The vendor announced a couple more years of its support to 3000 customers.

In doing that, though, HP made an assignment for itself with the support extension, the first of two given to the 3000 before the MPE lab went dark in 2010. That assignment was just like the one facing today's remaining HP 3000 customers: figure out how to extend the lifespan of MPE expertise in a company.

FTP subsequently worked better in 2006 than it had in the years leading up to it. It's not an arbitrary subject. FTP was the focus of a wide-ranging online chat in May. Did you know, for example, that FTP has a timeout command on MPE/iX?

The connection time-out value indicates how long to wait for a message from the remote FTP server before giving up. The allowable range is 0 to 3000. A value from 1 to 3000 indicates a time-out value in seconds. A value of 0 means no time-out (i.e., wait forever). If num-secs is not specified, the current time-out value will be displayed. Otherwise, this command sets the connection time-out to num-secs seconds.

When an FTP job gets stuck, using timeout can help.

MPE/iX engineers and systems managers were working more often in 2006 than they do today. When anybody who uses MPE/iX finds a 3000 expert still available, they need to get in line for available work time. It remains one good reason to have a support resource on contract. A company relying on a 3000 shouldn't be thinking a mailing list or a Slack channel represents a genuine support asset. Even if that FTP tip did arrive via the 3000-L.

The resource of good answers for crucial questions gets ever more rare. The 3000-L mailing list has rarely been so quiet. There are information points out there, but gathering them and starting a discussion is more challenging than ever. File Transfer Protocol is pretty antique technology for data exchange. It turns out to be one of the most current standards the 3000 supports.

Read "Wayback: Security boosts as enhancements" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:26 PM in Hidden Value, History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2019

Make that 3000 release a printer grip

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

Tracy Johnson says

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

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

Mark Ranft says

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

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

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

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

June 25, 2019

Compromises throw doubts about clouds

Thunder-cloud-3554670_1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 20, 2019

Picking up the enterprise Slack

Slack Invitation Screen
Old managers can benefit from new IT practices. Sometimes the improvements can be as straightforward as new connections. Connect, the user group that remained after Interex closed down 14 years ago, has opened a Slack channel for communication between owners and administrators of HP systems.

Although the 3000-L mailing list has been keeping its head above water over the last year, the responses as well as the questions are on the decline. Not to say that knowing how to let a 3000 release a printer, or finding a way to repair a frozen update, are not valuable lessons. Sometimes these threads don't deliver answers fast enough.

Here's where it's important to point out that the 3000 and MPE are systems of a great age and many accomplishments. One recent thread on the 3000-L took note that the company's 3000 couldn't be taken offline much, if at all. That's a server that needs personal, professional support attention.

If a 3000 is less mission-critical than that, quick communication with other managers in the community holds promise. Connect has opened up a Slack channel and it could become useful if 3000 folks arrived. Connect membership is free, focused on enterprise systems, and its Slack is built so anybody could make use of it. It's got a serious NonStop membership now. There are many channels on this Slack feed.

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 4.17.25 PM

This is a tool that is a full generation ahead of a mailing list or even blog posts with comments. If you're interested in getting a real-time chat tool working for your MPE support issues, Connect's Slack channel is available at connect-communityhq.slack.com

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 18, 2019

Good things age well, like blogs and experts

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 4.36.42 PM
On the day this blog started, I was just 48 years old. It was a June afternoon in 2005 and the HP 3000 had its future still well in play. The community was gathered in a more significant way during the third year since HP's exit announcement arrived.

Less than a month later the 31-year-old user group closed its doors suddenly. Millions of dollars were lost and a conference with a decades-long heritage was gone. We had big news about a big departure. Nothing but a blog would have told that story so well.

The experts had not departed from the 3000 community, not by any means 14 years ago. The 3000-L was still lively with content, even with enough traffic on the mailing list to accommodate political screeds and jokes. We were never going to be able to replicate that kind of wisdom. A blog, though, was a relatively new thing in a small IT community like MPE and the 3000. The old journalist in me loved the prospect of making a story show up in a matter of hours or minutes.

It can be argued that a community relying on a computer no longer being manufactured might not need a more immediate news resource. A blog seemed like just the thing at the time, to me, a way to encourage the community to stay in touch because something recent was usually worth reporting.

I just began to collect Social Security benefits this month, so it's been a while since that Publish button on Typepad was a new thrill for me. Typepad has kept its head up while many other choices for blog platforms rose around it. I've been through Joomla, WordPress, and now Squarespace for other projects. Typepad still has enough utility to get the word out to a community that's accustomed to reading on a laptop or a PC. We've kept up here with video and podcasts. The blog has done all of the information duty since the spring of 2014 when our printed editions wrapped up. 

Blogs are a way to gather a curated collection of expert reports. I've been lucky to be able to report and write over this one over these many years. We've marked a few losses during that time, but most of the 3000 experts are still lively and familiar with what's unique about MPE and its platforms. Seven years after we launched the blog, Stromasys came up with a new platform for MPE/iX. Seven years since then, there are still things out there to be discovered. Cloud computing, blockchains for data — more of it than you might imagine lies on the horizon.

After 3,257 posts and 403 comments, there's a pulse in here about the never-ending life of MPE and its experts. Thanks for reading and passing along what you have learned.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 13, 2019

Was a 3000 ever a personal computer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 10, 2019

Being there now, right where we expect him

Birket-Chamber
Where Are They Now
?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 29, 2019

Wayback: HP's piggy ain't coming back, Dad

Elephants
More than 15 years ago, 3000 customers were searching for a undo. HP had recently announced the end of its road delivering and supporting the MPE/iX server. At one point after another, the customers raised hopes that this decision was a mistake HP would roll back. The reality of the finality took a while to seep in after it had stained the community.

I'm reminded of that plea for a redo after reading about email services and elephants. Ringling Bros. cut off the dates for its circus two years ago this month. Loud outcry about the lives of elephants unmanned the circus, in part because the gentle giants were so iconic to the big top experience. This month a documentary, produced by the circus, told the story of the final performance on Long Island.

A New York Times article about the last circus show for Ringling included a comment about a return to the ring. One middle aged fan said, "If it's gone for good... well, I don't want to know about that." Similar words were spoken about Hewlett-Packard's 3000 support, development, and hardware.

A tech story with a lot less heart just emerged about an undo, too. Mailchimp, which delivers plenty of email newsletters you've subscribed to and maybe forgotten, is scuttling its popular pricing in favor of a more monetarily rewarding scheme. Users of the service went into immediate outrage. It sounded a lot like what 3000 customers did in 2002, 2003, and so on, until it became plain there was no HP tomorrow for your server and its OS.

Like the 3000 folks I know well, I had to make changes to my book author outpost and my writer coaching-editing business. I was luckier than my 3000 readers. Something newer that did all I needed to stay in touch with customers was right before my eyes. In a bit of irony, I discovered my migration target through a newsletter about publishing tactics — an email delivered without Mailchimp.

The 3000 community was on the lookout for every instance where HP could relent and return MPE/iX to the vendor's futures. In one memorable wish, the change in CEO leaders for the company from Carly Fiorina to Mark Hurd led the rise in hope. Fiorina, after all, was leading HP when the company chose to cut off its 3000 prospects and customers. The HP-Compaq merger was a spark that lit the firey exit. Fiorina was said to have commanded about every HP product, "If it's not growing, it's going."

Foolish business sense for any company with customers who'd been loyal for nearly 30 years. Mistakes are often made in the computer industry. The howls of outcry become pleas and then fantasy before long. Well, it took eight years, and in some quarters a fever dream of a 3000 return has not died.

Piggy's gone
And the headline above? Another icon, The Simpsons, includes an episode where Homer's suckling BBQ pig is hurled away from his feast. Vegetarian Lisa, as intent as any HP top manager of 2001, engages her rage and pushes the grill on its wheels downhill, where it careens out onto the street, and then into the river and then sails out of a hole in the dam. It's a hilarious metaphor for customers' last-ditch hopes of getting HP to retain its legacy. Homer says while chasing after it, "It's just a little dirty. It's alright, it's alright."

As if a customer's pain and loss can ever be funny. Bart replies, "Piggy ain't coming back, Dad."

The elephants are resting in retirement in Florida. Mailchimp's subscribers are settling on the free and simple MailerLite. And those 3000 users — well, they're doing fine with the support of independent system experts, or the virtualized hardware of Charon in some places. More every month, it seems. The 3000's not gone. Piggy, that fattened beast of grow-or-else thinking at HP, isn't coming back to your market, dad.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2019

Third parties take over HP's OS support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 24, 2019

Get a job, won't you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2019

Charon's orbit around our blog's pages

Pluto and its moons
Illustration by Melanie Demmer

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

Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

The Stromasys software will soon include a Unix PA-RISC edition of the Charon emulator, too. It's designed to bring the same kind of longer future to companies running Unix on the classic RISC systems that HP released alongside HP's 3000 iron. Any additional connection to HP business servers, no matter what the OS, will be good for the future of Charon — and by extension, the lifespan of MPE/iX. That's PA-RISC being emulated there, regardless of 3000 or 9000 designations.

Charon carries Boeing in new 3000 orbit

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

Northeastern cooperative plugs in Charon

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

One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs

Stromasys made its case for how shutting down HP's 3000 hardware can reduce an IT budget. Using data from Gartner analysts and other sources, the company estimates that downtime can cost companies $1 million per year on average.

Newest Charon version brings fresh features

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

Archival presents prospects for Charon

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

3000 Cloud Doings: Are, Might, and Never

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

Overview compares emulation strategies

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

Making Plans for a 3000's Futures

There are always good reasons to move along to something newer, different, or improved. Emulating a 3000 in software seems to deliver a lot of those, as well as options for backup that are novel.

New DL325 serves fresh emulation muscle

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

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

May 13, 2019

Linux distro not an issue for Charon installs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Linux distro not an issue for Charon installs" in full

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

May 05, 2019

Making Old Skills Do New Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Making Old Skills Do New Work" in full

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

April 22, 2019

A Handful of Users, and Steady Supply

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 17, 2019

Wayback: HP sues insurer for MPE defeats

Logo
Fifteen years ago this month, HP was working to prove MPE was a rich asset. The vendor had already shucked off its futures for selling the 3000, saying in 2001 the server would be kaput by 2006. The 2004 lawsuit was a last resort to get money for servers that HP did not sell.

Confused? The marketplace was in the know about HP's attempt to recover $31 million from an insurance policy it took out against losing sales to system counterfeiters. In 1999 HP began its campaign to arrest, or sue out of business, a stable of companies selling 3000s outside of HP's control. The '99 lawsuits were aimed at Hardware House and several other 3000 resellers. Those companies were charged with selling 3000s whose MPE licenses had been faked.

After more than two years of those legal attacks — HP concocted a High Tech Task Force out of a few California law enforcement agencies, raiding suspect companies — the 3000 division walked away from its 3000 sales beyond 2003. As far as HP was concerned, it was still entitled to money it lost from faked sales in the years leading up to 1999. It didn't matter to the vendor that it was ending its 3000 business and putting 3000 software vendors on the ropes. It wanted to be paid for those unlicensed servers sold by third parties. MPE was the prize HP was claiming, since the hardware itself was officially useless without an MPE license. 

Los Angeles legal firm Anderson, McPharlin & Conners went to the 3000 newsgroups in 2004 to beat the community’s bushes, working to discover prices for used HP 3000s sold between 1994 and 1998. Paralegal Laurie Moss said HP wanted to levy a claim for the full software price on every server sold to Hardware House.

During the legal firm’s discovery search, Moss said many 3000 community members who were contacted wanted to help. The Brunswick, Ohio-based reseller Norco, which eventually closed its doors three years later, was eager to tell the truth about the 900 Series systems genuine value.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people said, ‘I sure do wish I could help you in this,’ “ Moss said. The law firm’s attorney Lisa Coplin deposed John Adamson, former owner of Hardware House, in the case, as well as Deborah Balon, an HP resales employee who aided Hardware House. HP settled within a week of the legal firm's discovery depositions. The vendor settled for five percent of its original $10 million claim.

“We were afraid that some of the hardware brokers wouldn’t want to come up against HP,” Coplin said. “One of them, Norco, said, ‘We’ll give you everything we have.’ "

Read "Wayback: HP sues insurer for MPE defeats" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:44 AM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 15, 2019

Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World" in full

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

April 12, 2019

Fine-Tune: Creating Store to Disc from tape

NewsWire Classic

I still have some 3000 information on a tape. I’d like to create a Store to Disc file with it — how do I do that?

Jack Connor replies:

There are several solutions. The first and easiest is to simply restore the info to a system (RESTORE *T;/;SHOW;CREATE;ACCOUNT=WORKSTOR) where WORKSTOR is an account you create to pull the data in.

Then a simple FILE D=REGSFILE;DEV=DISC and STORE /WORKSTOR/;*D; with whatever else should create the disc store.

The second method is to use FCOPY. You'll have to research the STORE format, but I believe it's FILE TAPEIN;DEV=TAPE;REC=8192,,U,BINARY.

The third (also easy, but you need the software) is to use Allegro's tool TAPECOPY, which moves from tape store to disc store and back.

John Pitman adds:

Do you mean copy it off tape to a disk store file? I’m not sure if that can be done, as in my experience of tapes, there is a file mark between files, and EOT is signified by multiple file marks in a row... but anything may be possible. If you do a file equate and FCOPY as shown below, you should be able to look at the raw data, and it should show separate files, after a file list at the front.

FILE TX;DEV=TAPE;REC=32767
FCOPY
FROM=*TX;TO=;CHAR;FILES=ALL

Here is our current store command, and the message it provokes. MAXTAPEBUF speeds it up somewhat

STORE  !INSTOREX.NEW.STOCK2K;*DDS777;
FILES=100000;DIRECTORY;MAXTAPEBUF

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:52 PM in Hidden Value, Newswire Classics | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 10, 2019

Wayback Wed: Sizable drives for 3000s

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

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

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

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

Read "Wayback Wed: Sizable drives for 3000s" in full

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

April 08, 2019

Where to go for better 3000 census numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 03, 2019

Wayback: Oracle embraces Sun and Solaris

Hurd-Ellison
Current Oracle CEO Mark Hurd (left) at a conference with Oracle founder Larry Ellison (far right) in 2010

Ten years ago this month, Oracle announced it was purchasing Sun Microsystems. The move led by CEO Larry Ellison ended the independence of the one company that nudged the world, including HP 3000 customers, into the realm of dot-com and fully networked servers.

HP lost the march on Internet growth to Sun, and those setbacks led to the departure of HP CEO Lew Platt, the final leader of the full Hewlett-Packard who'd grown his career from HP upward. In the late 1990s, the 3000 division moved heaven and earth to integrate the Internet services for MPE/iX that HP-UX had. But not even the HP-UX technical leg up could outrun the Sun rocket launched by its CEO Scott McNealy in 1982.

The 2009 deal dialed down the competition to HP's Unix solution. IBM was near a deal to buy Sun in March of that year, but talks fell through. Oracle said its $7.4 billion acquisition brought it the most important piece of software Oracle ever purchased: Java. But the world's biggest database supplier said the Solaris operating system, key to Sun's server solution, was an important prize, too.

There are substantial long-term strategic customer advantages to Oracle owning two key Sun software assets: Java and Solaris. Java is one of the computer industry’s best-known brands and most widely deployed technologies, and it is the most important software Oracle has ever acquired.

Oracle's statement went on to place the Solaris-Oracle combination of OS and database as the best possible for a company choosing Oracle. The future seemed to hold special features for Unix customers who chose Sun's hardware.

The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database, Oracle’s largest business, and has been for a long time. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle can optimize the Oracle database for some of the unique, high-end features of Solaris.

Solaris is an asset that one 3000 ally counts upon today. Oracle has given Stromasys the ability to transfer Solaris licenses as a part of installations of Charon for SPARC. HP still requires a separate transaction if a customer will be preserving the official status of an MPE license while moving to Charon for the 3000.

Read "Wayback: Oracle embraces Sun and Solaris" in full

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

April 01, 2019

Bounty brings out bonus for 900 Series

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 9.42.40 PM
A new electric vehicle manufacturer is seeking early-model HP 3000 servers, hoping to locate systems that were built with a now-rare alloy crucial to the latest EV propulsion needs.

Voltene, which is building the first line of solar-powered food trucks, wants the HP 3000s manufactured prior to the year 2000. The systems were built with a set of gold-plated network interface cards and cages. When in service, this old hardware was a serious drain on power resources for customers who used servers like Series 900 systems.

But the very design of physics that needed all of that electricity makes those components a superior source of storage for the wattage the food trucks need to maintain cooking capabilities. Will Ubeserius, the CEO at Voltene, says the older the server, the more it's worth to the California-based competitor to Tesla.

"They don't make them like that anymore," Ubeserius said. "We'd like to get in front of our competition to get that classic iron's materials into our production lines. We're pretty sure that the value in those 900s is going to be a good match with our HotPlayte line."

A novel combination of solar arrays and grills converted from white gas kerosene, the HotPlayte trucks have been through hardware tests in Roseville, Calif. The testing field, a roundup corral with a dozen trucks, was built less than a mile from the last working HP 3000 manufacturing line in Roseville.

"We found a warehouse in the area with thousands of these servers, tucked away by what we're told was the HP FRD division when it took 3000s in for remarketing ploys," the CEO said. "It's a gold mine for what we need. But it's still a fraction of what we'd like to have."

The company is also researching the potential for the 7944 disk drives to contribute to the Voltene line. "Those drives moved on their own without wheels," said Stan Derddisc, chief engineer at the Roseville test site. "There's something in them that stores energy and releases it as kinetic propulsion. Those HP engineers were decades ahead of their time in making bytes move."

Companies with Series 900 servers are invited to send the systems FOB to the Voltene Energy Renewal Center at 8000 Foothills Blvd, Roseville, CA 95747. Freight On Board shipping ensures the systems will become property of Voltene once they leave the docks of the 3000 owners' companies. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:54 PM in Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 25, 2019

Making Directories Do Up To Date Duty

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

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

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

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

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

But it's still useful?

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

And you're still working in MPE?

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

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

March 22, 2019

Making LDAP Do Directory Duty

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

NewsWire Classic

By Curtis Larsen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Making LDAP Do Directory Duty" in full

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

March 20, 2019

Celebrating a Software Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 18, 2019

Curating a Collective of MPE Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 15, 2019

Samba, and making it dance on MPE/iX

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 5.11.14 PM
HP 3000 sites have the Samba file sharing system, a universal utility you find on nearly every computer.

Samba arrived because of two community coding kings: Lars Appel, who ported the Samba open source package to the 3000, and Mark Klein, who ported the bootstrap toolbox to make such ports possible. As John Burke said in the sunnier year of 1999:

Without Mark Klein’s initial porting of and continued attention to the Gnu C++ compiler and utilities on the HP 3000, there would be no Apache/iX, syslog/iX, sendmail/iX, bind/iX, etc. from Mark Bixby, and no Samba/iX from Lars Appel. And the HP 3000 would still be trying to hang on for dear life, rather than being a player in the new e-commerce arena.

So Samba is there on your HP 3000, so long as you've got an MPE version minted during the current century. Getting started with it might perplex a few managers, like one who asked how to get Samba up on its feet on his 3000. One superb addition is SWAT, the Samba administration tool. Yup, the 3000's got that, too.

Read "Samba, and making it dance on MPE/iX" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:02 PM in Hidden Value | Permalink | Comments (0)

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