Using PC Tools to Complement Samba/iX
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Using PC Tools to Complement Samba/iX

The engineer who ported Samba to the 3000 gives notes on PC tools that make Samba better with MPE/iX

Editor's note: HP announced at the HP World 97 conference that it will be including Samba/iX in its next major release of MPE/iX to give 3000 sites an easy way to network with Windows NT and Unix systems. Whisper Technology, Diamond Optimum and GUI/3000 products mentioned here have been reviewed in NewsWire TestDrives as noted below.

By Lars Appel

You probably know that Samba/iX allows the HP 3000 to act as a file server. It works in such a way that PC clients can map HFS directory trees (including MPE groups or even the root directory, depending on the smb.conf configuration) to network drive letters, then access the 3000 filespace with PC programs like Windows File Manager or Notepad or PFE (a powerful freeware editor for programmers).

The current version of Samba/iX works nicely with bytestream files, but does not allow the PC to handle MPE file types like REC=-80,,F,ASCII or REC=128,,F,BINARY properly. This is mainly because neither the PC nor Unix (remember, Samba/iX is a relatively quick port of Samba for Unix) know about such file structures or attributes like record-size (at the file system level).

Some people have expressed an interest in doing file management or file editing through Samba/iX links using the PC and Windows GUI. To test out some of the third party products available for this, I picked the following trial versions (Web locations for more information and free downloads of demos follow):

€ FTP/Edit Plus from Whisper Technology
€ Stargate from Diamond Optimum Systems
€ SpeedEdit/Win from Inclination Software
€ GUI/3000 from Pete Vickers

There are others -- most notably Facade from the Performance Software Group. The nice thing about these products is that they are more "MPE aware" than the current version of Samba. They have been written specifically for MPE (unlike the more generic Samba) and do not suffer from SMB protocol "limitations" because they simply do not use it. Notice that the tools that supply editing bring their own editor. This is different from the Samba approach that simply provides remote file access and leaves the choice of editor up to the PC user.

The above products have quite different scopes and feature sets (and also different prices), so I strongly encourage you to pick up a few trial versions and check out which one best meets your specific need.

What follows are my notes from my first encounters with each of them. These are personal opinions culled from my experiences and may vary quite a lot from your trial evaluation. (Ed. note: Whisper Technology products are reviewed in the October, 1997 iusse, while GUI/3000 was reviewed in our March, 1997 issue and Stargate was reviewed in July, 1996).

This is basically a PC FTP client with an Explorer-like GUI and a PC editor similar to Notepad that uses FTP for file-open and file-save (behind the scenes). Your 3000 has to have the FTP Monitor Job running. The PC user will then have access to all files that his user ID and password allow.

My version of the FTP Explorer worked well for getting and putting files. You can also select a file and launch the editor (with a menu, pop-up menu or even double click, if I recall correctly). It does know about MPE file attributes like rec-size or file limit and so does the editor.

Keep in mind that the FTP Explorer is an FTP client with a GUI that looks like Windows Explorer, not a full-fledged file manager. I was sometimes tempted to try dragging and dropping files or to try creating directories, groups or accounts (which does not work with an FTP client). Being an FTP client, it does allow you to select a 3000 file and stream it. This can be quite useful at times, like when starting a compile job after editing.

This is a multiplatform file manager and integrated text editor for programmers. It does not use FTP but implements its own socket-based client-server protocol. You install a piece of listener/server code on all the platforms that you intend to access. There is server code included for MPE/iX, Unix and NT.

StarGate's file manager looks similar to Windows 3.x File Manager. You can open (sub)windows on the different target machines and manage the files with a common user look and feel. Drag and drop files across platforms/machines if you like. View or change some of the file/group/account properties (in windows to MPE target systems).

The file manager allows a user to select a file and launch the text editor. When saving the file, the data is written back to the target machine. The save-file dialog is MPE aware (it understands rec-size or file-limit). My trial version of Stargate did not handle HFS directories, but this might have changed or might be considered today.

This is a PC version of the editor that is also available for MPE/iX or HP-UX terminal users (SpeedEdit/iX, SpeedEdit/UX) as well as Motif-based Unix users (SpeedEdit/X). As I understand, this editor has a long history.

You will notice the host heritage because of the (optional) command-interface (press F7 and enter editor commands), in addition to Window Menus and keyboard shortcuts. It seemed pretty powerful and feature-rich. I recommend the included tutorial document. SpeedEdit/Win is not just another Notepad look-alike in this regard. It's more related to screen editors like HPEDIT, QEdit or QUAD.

The file-open and file-save dialog can access local PC files as well as files located on other systems. The remote file access can be configured to either use FTP (behind the scenes) or Reflection file transfer (via DDE, I'd guess) or a special client-server protocol. The latter requires that you install a socket-based server program on the target machines. Versions for various target platforms are included (MPE/iX, Unix and Solaris).

Although I have not yet tested SpeedEdit/Win extensively, the tutorial mentioned that you can even configure the PC editor to launch compile or link statements, if you use the socket-based server on the target machine. I believe it is even possible to have the editor read the compiler output into another window and have a macro scan it for errors to view them one by one.

This product provides an MPE-aware GUI useful for various system management tasks. After installing a socket-based server program on one or more MPE systems, you can use it to examine or manage files, groups and accounts on these machines with a GUI similar to Windows File Manager. You can view or change properties of files, groups and accounts (access rights, capabilities and so forth) in dialog boxes.

You can also select files in the window and view the first 50 lines or so or the complete file in a PC window. This is not to be confused with PC editing of host files, though. At least the version I tried only focus on viewing MPE text files.

Another feature of GUI/3000 allows you to examine the disk space usage by account or by group (inside an account) in a multitude of graphical representations.

The trial version I downloaded did not handle HFS directories (only accounts, groups, files). GUI/3000 also allows you to examine a TurboIMAGE database to discover its structure info (datasets, attributes, items) and capacity versus entry counts. This is not to be confused with examining the contents of a database.

These four products are different in scope, feature set and intended audience. They all provide interesting HP 3000-specific PC interoperability based on client-server technologies. I consider them a complement to the Samba/iX file and print server for the 3000 and useful when connecting 3000s to PCs.

If you are using one of the above editors to handle MPE text files (i.e. record oriented), combining them with Samba/iX enables you to also deal with bytestream files in HFS directories. These editors allow you to open and save files to the "local" PC directories, which might also include a network drive mapped to a Samba share.

Lars Appel is a NewsWire subscriber who works at the HP Germany Response Center and led the 1997 porting effort of the freeware Samba resource sharing utility to MPE/iX.

Copyright 1997, The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.