March 16, 2018

Fine-tune Friday: SCSI Unleashed

Seagate 73GB driveAlthough disk technology has made sweeping improvements since HP's 3000 hardware was last built, SCSI devices are still being sold. The disk drives on the 15-year-old servers are the most likely point of hardware failure. Putting in new components such as the Seagate 73-GB U320 SCSI 10K hard drive starts with understanding the nature of the 3000's SCSI.

As our technical editor John Burke wrote, using a standard tech protocol means third parties like Seagate have products ready for use in HP's 3000 iron.


Extend the life of your HP 3000 with non-HP peripherals

By John Burke

This article will address two issues and examine some options that should help you run your HP 3000 for years to come. The first issue: you need to use only HP-branded storage peripherals. The second issue: because you have an old (say 9x7, 9x8 or even 9x9) system, then you are stuck using both old technology and just plain old peripherals. Both are urban legends and both are demonstrably false.

There is nothing magical about HP-branded peripherals

Back in the dark ages when many of us got our first exposure to MPE and the HP 3000, when HP actually made disk drives, there was a reason for purchasing an HP disk drive: “sector atomicity.” 9x7s and earlier HP 3000s had a battery that maintained the state of memory for a limited time after loss of power. In my experience, this was usually between 30 minutes and an hour.

These systems, however, also depended on special firmware in HP-made HP-IB and SCSI drives (sector atomicity) to ensure data integrity during a power loss. If power was restored within the life of the internal battery, the system started right back up where it left off, issuing a “Recover from Powerfail” message with no loss of data. It made for a great demo.

Ah, but you say all your disk drives have an HP label on them? Don’t be fooled by labels. Someone else, usually Seagate, made them. HP may in some cases add firmware to the drives so they work with certain HP diagnostics, but other than that, they are plain old industry standard drives. Which means that if you are willing to forego HP diagnostics, you can purchase and use plain old industry standard disk drives and other peripherals with your HP 3000 system.

Read "Fine-tune Friday: SCSI Unleashed" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

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HP 3000 resource

March 14, 2018

Wayback Wed: When MPE/iX wasn't for sale

Ten years ago this week, HP made it clearer to 3000 owners that they didn't really own their systems. Not the life-breath of them, anyway. At the final meeting of the Greater Houston Regional Users Group, e3000 Business Manager Jennie Hou explained that the hundreds of millions of dollars paid for MPE/iX over 30 years did not equate to ownership of HP 3000 systems. HP was only licensing the software that is crucial to running the servers—not selling it.

The hardware was a physical asset owned by the buyers. The software, though—which breathed life into the PA-RISC servers—was always owned by HP. Without MPE/iX, those $300,000 top-end servers were as useless as a tire without air.

Most software is purchased as a license to use, unless it's an open sourced product like Linux. The reinforcement of this Right to Use came as the vendor was trying to control the future of the product it was cutting from its lineup. HP 3000s would soon be moving into the final phase of HP's support, a vintage service that didn't even include security updates.

Hou confirmed the clear intention that HP would cede nothing but "rights" to the community after HP exited its 3000 business."The publisher or copyright owner still owns the software," Hou said when license requirements beyond 2010 were discussed. "You didn't purchase MPE/iX. You purchased a right to use it."


The announcement made it clear than any source code license was going to be a license to use, not own. Support companies and software vendors would be paying $10,000 for that license in a few years' time. Ownership of HP 3000s is built around MPE/iX, by HP's reckoning, even in an Enterprise era. License transfers for MPE/iX are one of the only items or services HP offers.

HP's announcement during that March came on the heels of a new third party program to transform HP 3000 lockwords to passwords — the character strings that were needed to operate HP’s ss_update configuration program.

The new SSPWD takes an HP lockword — designed to limit use of ss_update to HP’s support personnel — and delivers the corresponding password to enable a support provider start and use ss_update.

Continuing to reserve the license for MPE/iX means that emulated 3000s still have a link to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, too. The vendor never implemented its plans to offer separate emulator-based MPE/iX licenses, either.


Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:54 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2018

Momentum moves towards Museum meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 09, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101

Newswire Classic

By Scott Hirsh

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

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

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

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

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

Read "Fine-Tune Friday: Account Management 101" in full

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

March 07, 2018

Wayback: When MPE would need no 3000s

3000 license plateIt's been a decade and a half since HP began to examine the needs of the homesteading base of 3000 owners. Fifteen years ago this month, the first HP proposal for licensing MPE/iX outside of the server's ownership was floated into the community. The document in March of 2003 said that a license could be created "Independent of the HP e3000 platform."

HP had renamed the 3000 as the e3000 to tout the server's Internet compatibility. The era around 2003 was full of possibility. Mike Paivinen was a project manager in R&D who spearheaded a lot of planning for 3000 homesteading. Emulators were on the horizon. Somebody would need licensed MPE if they were to use them. Paivinen authored the un-3000 MPE/iX proposal.

The major concern is that without some more details, companies interested in creating a PA-RISC platform emulator would be unable to fully evaluate their business case for moving forward with an emulator project. Below is HP’s current proposal for distributing the MPE/iX operating system independent of the HP e3000 hardware platform.

Onward the plan went, setting out terms that included running any emulator on HP-branded hardware, as well as operating MPE/iX on the emulator with no warranty. At the time the 3000 division was calling itself Virtual CSY, or vCSY.

vCSY intends to establish a new distribution plan for the MPE/iX operating system which will likely be effective by early 2004. The MPE/iX OS would be licensed independent of the HP e3000 hardware platform. The license terms would grant the licensee the right to use a single copy of MPE/iX on a single HP hardware platform subject to certain terms and conditions. Such terms and conditions would require MPE/iX to be run in an emulated environment, hosted on an HP platform, and would include a statement that MPE is provided “AS-IS” with no warranty.

For about $500 a license, HP would offer MPE/iX and some subsystem software like TurboStore "via an HP website. The customer should be able to purchase MPE/iX online, download it, or have it shipped on CD." There was a big catch that would end up kicking in. Item 16 of an HP FAQ was a question that set out a dare.

Read "Wayback: When MPE would need no 3000s" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 05, 2018

2028 patching begins to emerge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read "2028 patching begins to emerge" in full

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

March 02, 2018

Fine-Tune Friday: One 3000 and Two Factors

RSA SecurID fobPeople are sometimes surprised where HP 3000s continue to serve. Even in 2018, mission-critical systems are performing in some Fortune 500 companies. When the death knell sounds for their applications, the axe gets swung sometimes because of security. Two-Factor security authentication is a standard now, serving things like Google accounts, iCloud data, and corporate server access.

Eighteen years ago, one HP 3000 shop was doing two-factor. The work was being coded before smartphones existed. Two-factor was delivered using a security fob in most places. Andreas Schmidt worked for Computer Sciences Corporation, which served the needs of DuPont in Bad Homburg, Germany. CSC worked with RSA Security Dynamics to create an RSA Agent that connected a 3000 to an RSA Server.

Back in that day, authentication was done with fobs like the one above. Now it's a smart device sharing the key. Schmidt summarized the work done for what he calls "the chemical company" which CSC was serving.

Two-Factor Token Authentication is a state-of-the-art process to avoid static passwords. RSA Security Dynamics provides an MPE Agent for this purpose which worked perfectly for us with Security/3000, but also with basic MPE security. The technical approach is not simple, but manageable. The main problems may arise during the rollout because of human behavior in keeping known procedures and avoiding changes, especially for security. But to stay on HP 3000 into the future, the effort is worth it, especially for better security.

The project worked better when it relied on the Security/3000 software installed on the server hosting Order Fulfillment. Two-factor security was just gaining widespread traction when this 3000 utilized it. Schmidt acknowledged that the tech work was not simple, but was manageable. When a 3000 site is faced with the alternative of developing a replacement application away from MPE/iX, or selecting an app off the shelf like SAP, creating two-factor is within the limits of possibility. Plus, it may not be as expensive as scrapping an MPE application.

Schmidt's article covers an Agent Solution created by CSC. Even 18 years ago, remaining on the 3000 was an issue worth exploring. When many outside firms access a 3000, two factor can be key.

Read "Fine-Tune Friday: One 3000 and Two Factors" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:52 PM in Hidden Value, Migration | Permalink | Comments (1)