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July 2004

net.digest tracks each month’s message traffic on the 3000-L mailing list and comp.sys.hp.mpe Internet newsgroup. Advice offered from the messages here comes without warranty; test before you implement.

Edited by John Burke

Off-topic political rants unfortunately returned big time in June, prompted in part by US Vice President Dick Chaney’s intemperate comments on the US Senate floor. In a lighter moment, Roy Brown posted,

Q: How many MPE users does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Four. One to change the bulb (two seconds, hot-swappable) and three to dissuade management from changing the whole bl**dy light fixture.

Fortunately, there was plenty of good technical comment, some of which we report here, to balance the off-topic muck.

I always like to hear from readers of net.digest and Hidden Value. Even negative comments are welcome. If you think I’m full of it or goofed, or a horse’s behind, let me know. You can reach me at john@burke-consulting.com.

What if they held a meeting and nobody came?

I was scheduled to speak at the 13th Annual INRUG Conference on June 7. During the afternoon of Friday, May 28 (my birthday and only 10 days before the conference was to start), I received an unwanted present; an e-mail informing me the conference was cancelled for lack of interest, i.e. for lack of paying registrants. So much for non-refundable airline tickets and my belief the number 13 is not unlucky.

This is just the latest incident showcasing how the once vibrant HP 3000 user community’s ability to meet is rapidly falling apart. The Solutions Symposiums, as well as this summer’s HP World, are suffering from sparse attendance by HP 3000 community members. Vendors and consultants often outnumber end-user sites. Ironically, we know there are still many HP 3000 shops that depend upon their systems, but they seem to have developed a bunker mentality, perhaps hoping they will wake up one day to find this is all a bad dream. I’ve got bad news for you: you are awake. It is not just a bad dream. It is painful reality.

This bunker mentality has had some unfortunate side effects. Even though HP is still providing patches and even enhancements, many are not getting out of beta into general release — because too few people are willing to try them. I’ve spoken about this with regard to network patches before.

It is time for HP to reconsider the beta process and the way patches become GR. If they were downloadable, like GR patches, that would help. As it is, you have to have an HP support contract to get a beta patch. It would also help if the number of beta users required for a patch to achieve GR status were reduced. HP is currently working on several enhancements from recent SIBs. If these never go GR, we are wasting everyone’s time.

Getting CI enhancements

Jeff Vance reported to the newsgroup, “Based on the tactical SIB 2004 results, vCSY has agreed to add to the CI three new functions: SPOOLINFO, DEVINFO, and VOLINFO. The ballot description for these three items explicitly states that the new functions are to be integrated into the CI in a manner similar to FINFO and JINFO. We are willing to do that; but integrated into the CI means a patch, and though the patch will certainly target 7.5 and probably (maybe?) 7.0, it probably will not target 6.5. The absence on 6.5 is to conserve R&D and MPE Support resources.

“Assuming most of the tactical SIB items are not back ported to 6.5, do you still wish to see these functions integrated into the CI, or would it be more useful to do it another way? We could, as a group, define the many CI variable names and types (string, int, bool) which apply to each function, and then vCSY could write a program to return the desired piece of information via the predefined variable. This approach does not require a patch and would work on 6.5 as well as the newer MPE releases. But this approach implies a process create each time the function is invoked, thus, could not be used in break mode, and it is less ‘natural’ to invoke.”

While most of HP’s 3000 support dollars are probably coming from 7.0 and 7.5 systems, many believe that MPE/iX 6.5 is running on the largest number of systems, possibly even a majority of all systems. vCSY is tacitly acknowledging both this and the difficulty of getting users to test beta patches by proposing the above implementation of the three “CI” functions. It must have been discouraging to Jeff that his question received only two responses, and one of the two was from me. The other response was a vote for integrating the functions into the CI, admittedly the most aesthetically pleasing approach. However, this means that few shops will ever actually get to use them.

Another enhancement from the SIB process that HP is working on is CI User Functions. In fact, this enhancement is close to being ready for alpha testing. It too is being developed for 7.5, with back ports to 7.0 probable, but those to 6.5 unlikely. My suggestion is to take the engineering time required to integrate the three specific “CI functions” into the CI and devote that to back porting CI User Functions to 6.5. Once that was done, the new CI user function interface could be used, with appropriate command file wrapper, to implement SPOOLINFO, DEVINFO and VOLINFO “in line.”

CI User Functions were originally proposed as a way to make the CI extensible, allowing anyone to create CI functions such as SPOOLINFO, DEVINFO and VOLINFO. The idea was let HP do what only HP can do and let the rest of us create utility functions. All three of these proposed CI functions can be implemented with relatively straightforward AIF programming. I am not too concerned about break mode. The process overhead is potentially worrisome, but so be it if this is the best we can do to get this combined functionality to the widest possible audience.

The patron saint of 3000-L

Both net.digest and Hidden Value get their material primarily from 3000-L. Many of us have come to take it for granted – it has always been there and always will be. An incident in June made it apparent again how lucky we all are that Jeff Kell has donated so much of his time and effort to making 3000-L what it is. Unfortunately, few people realize this since Jeff has never been one to toot his own horn.

The primary reason we see very little spam on 3000-L is that Jeff monitors everything not sent by a subscriber to the list. If you always post to 3000-L from your subscriber account, you are not aware this is going on. However, if you post from a non-subscriber account, it appears initially your post may have been rejected and the post does not appear until Jeff has had a chance to identify it as legitimate. Obviously, this can sometimes take days. This caught one of the true gurus of the HP 3000 community in June. He unsubscribed in a huff because he thought his posts were being moderated and that a particular post was rejected because of its off-topic content. Fortunately cool heads prevailed and he re-subscribed, understanding now the need to post from his subscriber account.

The whole incident had the effect of focusing some of us on the tremendous asset Jeff has been to the HP 3000 community, a community that during the last decade practically owes its very existence to 3000-L. Thanks, Jeff.

Sarbanes-Oxley, and the Investor Protection Act

Don’t touch that dial. No need to check the cover. You are still reading The 3000 NewsWire. Recent laws such as HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley have increased tremendously the need for IT managers to be able to track who changed what and when and who has access to specific information. Someone on the list asked, “As a requirement of Sarbanes-Oxley we are in need of a way to automatically log changes to IMAGE data sets, KSAM and MPE flat files with a user ID and timestamp.”

George Willis replied, “We have enabled Transaction Logging for our TurboIMAGE databases coupled with the reporting tool, DBAUDIT, from Bradmark. For your other files, consider enabling a System Level logging #105 and #160. The LISTLOG utility that comes with the system can extract these records and provide you with detail or summary level reporting.”

Art Bahrs provided more detail and a caution. “Transaction Logging will meet the requirements for Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA for tracking the ‘touching’ of data. However, you must also have a corporate policy relating to this tracking and either a SOP or a formal procedure for reviewing the logs. The SOP and/or procedure need to address what constitutes normal and abnormal activity with regards to reviewing the logs and what action to take when abnormal activity is noted. The fines for not being able to show who did what and who has access to what can be very, very eye opening. Of course, these comments only apply to the US and businesses linked into the US. An interesting side note for all those who are offshoring or considering offshoring Privacy or Personal HealthCare Information (PHI), there are bills in both the Senate and the House to restrict (read: make illegal) the sending of Privacy and/or PHI Offshore.“

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