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August 2001

MPE/iX handbook good enough to become dog-eared

New title a must for end-of-summer reading list

Review by John Burke

mpe/ix system administration handbook
By Jon Diercks, 334 pp
Hewlett-Packard Professional Books
(a Prentice Hall Title)
ISBN 0-13-030540-5
Available at bamm.com, amazon.com,
bn.com, fatbrain.com, HP World 2001

The first HP e3000, nee HP 3000, rolled out of a Hewlett-Packard factory almost 30 years ago; yet no one has ever written a book on how to manage and administer the system. There have been books on performance, books on IMAGE and books that were collections of essays, often by different authors, on a variety of MPE topics, but without a central theme. There has never been a book aimed at the person responsible for managing one or more HP e3000s. Until now that is. The mpe/ix system administration handbook by Jon Diercks admirably fills this lamentable void.

Diercks has succeeded in creating a book equally useful for the MPE newbie or MPE gray-hair. The book is written in a breezy, tutorial style that makes it easily accessible to the new user. It is chock full of the kind of examples that make complex subjects easy to understand. It also contains numerous “tips” that cannot be found in any documentation but gained only by experience or from someone with experience. At the same time, its amazing 16-page index, 13-page table of contents and frequent links to HP documentation make it an excellent reference-of-first-choice for experienced System Administrators.

The 334 pages of text are divided into 20 chapters that take you from the basics of how to log on and how to control jobs and sessions all the way to how to choose among High Availability options. The section on High Availability even includes the recently introduced High Availability Fail Over (HAFO) and Cluster/iX. I would recommend that even experienced users give the book a good skim before putting it in a prominent place as a reference. Why? First, there are bound to be sections on topics that you have not worked with. And second, many convenience features of particular use to System Administrators have sneaked into MPE over the years, and you are likely to have missed a few. I know I did, and I have over 20 years’ experience with MPE.

Let’s look at one chapter in particular, Chapter 16, “Managing the File System.” The first section is “File System Security,” and should be required reading, even if you think you understand HFS security features and how they interact with traditional MPE file security. My experience would suggest that many long-time users of MPE are still confused about HFS security. The second section is about User Volumes, another area too little used and too poorly understood. For example, on page 260 Diercks shows how to force HFS files that are not under an MPE group to be stored on a user volume set. Finally, the third section deals with disk capacity management, something every System Administrator wrings his hands over.

The mpe/ix system administration handbook contains a nice forward by Winston Prather, General Manager of CSY, the division responsible for the HP e3000, though Winston gives an incorrect definition of MPE. I’ll forgive him, however, because he has been very supportive of the user community. (By the way, Diercks gives the correct definition, along with a little history of the MPE operating system, in his preface.) I’ll even forgive Hewlett-Packard Professional Books for categorizing the mpe/ix system administration handbook under Unix System Administration, because a book like Diercks’ is so long overdue.

My only real complaint is, I can’t put Diercks’ book in my pocket or easily carry it with me. It would be nice if future versions contained a CD with the text in PDF so it could be loaded on your laptop computer and, thus, always be with you. It is probably no accident that Diercks finished his book after going to work for ORBiT Software. Diercks’ book is the perfect companion to ORBiT’s MPE/iX Pocket Guide.

Bottom line? Give yourself and your career a gift that will keep on giving, Diercks’ mpe/ix system administration handbook. The book is available from major online retailers and will also be available at HP World 2001 in Chicago, where Diercks will sign copies. By HP World 2002, there should be a lot of dog-eared copies of the mpe/ix system administration handbook in circulation to match mine.

John Burke is chairman of SIG-MPE and a system manager with more than 20 years’ experience administering HP 3000s, e and otherwise.


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