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Net.digest summarizes helpful technical discussions on the HP 3000 Internet newsgroup and mailing list. Advice here is offered on a best-effort, Good Samaritan basis. Test these concepts for yourself before applying them to your HP 3000s.

The month of November brought a bounty of postings on the 3000-L mailing list/newsgroup: Well over 1,400 messages crossed between HP 3000 users. Finding the wheat among the chaff is no small feat for any reader, but we’ve come up a handful of helpful threads. Alas, we had to pass on summarizing the lengthy threads about what to call somebody who performs many different job functions in a 3000 shop (someone suggested “Guru”), tips on playing the HP 3000 classic game Adventure (see www.3kassociates.com if you want to download it), and the discussion about why programmers have “number minds” instead of “word minds.” Such are the perils and pleasures of directly subscribing to the mailing list: the community entertains itself with ample postings, marked “off-topic” but arriving right alongside more technical answers.

Avoiding user license upgrades

One customer asked what his options were to avoid bumping into a 20-user limit on a Series 927. Tom Hula offered a third-party software solution from Vesoft: “Currently we are using Security/3000 to bump off inactive users in order to spread the 20 sessions to as many people as possible. As far as I know, the only thing I can do at this point if it becomes a real problem is buy a bigger box, since the 927 won’t allow more than the 20.”

Cary Marshall added another solution: “Something else you may want to consider is restricting the amount of time the users are allowed to have their terminal sitting there and doing nothing. We were using [Vesoft’s] MPEX to log off sessions whose idle time exceeded 2 hours. Just recently, the grace time was reduced to 30 minutes and all of a sudden we had plenty of slots available for everyone.” Nobody mentioned it, but the program Bouncer from the Interex Contributed Software Library does the same thing. Bouncer won’t bring the rest of MPEX’s ample advantages to your 3000 management, however.

Understanding those darn MPE versions

Plenty of discussion went into decoding the puzzling software version ID information delivered by HPSWINFO. C.55.06 P3 means the PowerPatch 6 of MPE/iX 5.5 — and the P3 is a build number, meaningless to system administrators.

HP calls the codes V.UU.FF. After HP’s explanation of the codes was described as “easy to follow,” users begged to differ: “The convention is not easy to follow,” said Gary Dietz, an HP 3000 manager of more than two decades, “at least for us “mere mortals” out here in user-land. This has been a bone of contention for years and it continues to amaze me that HP is unwilling to put this information into plain English. It would seem to be such a simple thing to do, and it would make so many people happy.” We smell a ripe candidate for a Customer Funded Enhancement from HP.

MPE Forum chairman Tony Furnivall even proposed a design for making V.UU.FF read in English: “Why not dedicate a small portion of memory to answering just that question: a fixed, one-to-one relationship between a particular V.UU.FF and a text-string that says:

MPE/iX Release 5.5 , with Power Patch 6

and that could be kept as an HP<variablename>

Note that this example actually uses two strings, but neither is particularly long. They could be explicitly stated to be in no particular format, but containing only human readable strings. The contents of the memory would be set only by AUTOINST and/or AUTOPAT (or whatever devious techniques are used for updating the OS).”

Moving in with HP 9000s…

When Rick Clark admitted his company was adding an HP 9000 to its 3000 shop, he asked for advice on how to make the system co-exist easily. Pointers to information and compatibility followed. From 3000 advocate Wirt Atmar, we heard, “you will eventually want to start moving away from DTCs — and this may be a perfect time to begin.

“If your printers are network-capable (and virtually all HP office-grade laser printers are), then you really do want to start using the TCP/IP-based network printing capabilities that are present in MPE/iX 5.5. Once you’ve switched over to LAN connections (which is not as difficult as you might initially think), the same printers can be printed to simultaneously and transparently from the HP-UX box, the HP 3000s, as well as your PCs and Macs.”

For more advice, HP 9000 mailing lists were noted at majordomo@dutchworks.nl, and majordomo@cv.ruu.nl. (You send an e Mail with “subscribe” in the message block to those addresses.) Gilles Schipper pointed to “an excellent introduction to HP-UX System Administration: HP-UX System and Administration Guide, by Jay Shah from McGraw-Hill.”

And Allen Cintron, a rep for Quest Software (949.718.2454) put in a plug for BridgeWare, co-developed by Quest Software and Taurus, which “will move changes from the IMAGE database and post them directly to Oracle on the 9000. It will even take care of the transformation, cleansing and manipulation of the data. This will give you automated, real-time updates from the 3000 to the 9000 with minimal additional overhead. No extract or FTP is necessary — BridgeWare moves the changes as they occur. ”

…Or keeping your distance

On the other hand, 3000 managers with 9000 experience continued to point out how much better off they would be without the quirks of the HP 9000 box in their sites. After someone noted that the vacation function of sendmail had a security bug in it, keeping HP-UX admins from getting downtime without worry, James Trudeau added: “Recently, we had a power outage on a Sunday. It was an odd circumstance but no one was here and no one was notified. UPS power eventually drained for everything, 3000, 9000, network servers, everything went belly up. When power was restored the 3000 just woke up with a ‘Ho hum, back to work’ sort of attitude. The 9000 woke up with a dead controller to the Nike array and there was some other hassle with the file system. I do not suggest taking a gun to work with you. Might be detrimental to the health of the 9000.”

There were contrary opinions, of course, but even those were laced with warnings. Jeff Kell, curator of the list and a 9000 user, said “With the PowerTrust UPS of the proper size, yes, the 9000 can take [a power outage]. Even further it can perform an orderly shutdown automatically as the UPS starts to drain its batteries. A 3000 will detect the UPS running out, but performs a rather inelegant System Abort.

“There are plenty of things to be ‘trembling with fear of the 9000’ about, but that isn’t one of them. I would however advise that you get Mirror/UX, Online Journalled File System, and mirror everything.”

Mark Landin chipped in a note about how well JFS can stand up to the 3000’s elegant Transaction Manager: “It shortens recovery times from hours to minutes. Some people thought that this meant that HP-UX now had a Transaction Manager-type capability that protects your data. This is incorrect. JFS only protects the directory and other metadata. It does not protect the contents of individual files. JFS makes sure you can find all your files. However, all your files may be junk now.”

Shutting down gracefully

Even though the HP 3000 has the least downtime of any business system, they do need to be shut down on occasion for scheduled maintenance. Doug Werth of Beechglen Development posted a pointer to his free command file that ensures a graceful shutdown — and perhaps more important, a trouble-free reboot afterward:

“I have recently designed a command file to be executed just before the =SHUTDOWN is issued. If anyone would like a copy you can get it from our web site at www.beechglen.com. Click on the downloads button and look for PRESHUT.TXT

The focus of this command file is primarily to make sure there are no hidden “gotchas” when you bring the system back up as well as to remind the you of a few things. Here are the steps it goes through:

• Shuts down our software if it is installed and running.

• Checks to make sure that the creator of SYSSTART is MANAGER.SYS

• Checks to see if there are any non-validated sections of NMCONFIG and validates them if accordingly.

• Shuts down the network.

• Makes a copy of the current booted configuration group in case CONFIG.SYS is screwed up and you need to recover. It is much faster to reboot from a different group than to find an SLT and perform an UPDATE CONFIG

• Reminds the user that they may want an SLT and backup and/or configuration listing if they are shutting down for the purpose of hardware maintenance. Optionally will provide the SLT and configuration list.”

Werth said the command file won’t abort sessions or jobs. “Those will be taken care of by the implicit =LOGOFF that occurs when you =SHUTDOWN. The goal of my script is to increase the likelihood of a successful reboot by addressing issues such as valid configuration files and the like. While creating and testing the script it became apparent that an automated method, just like SYSSTART, would be a nice feature.”

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