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January 2002

Number 70 (Update of Volume 7, Issue 3)

HP engineer joins OpenMPE Inc. board

Jeff Vance, the HP CSY engineer who helped HP explore the prospects of an Open Source version of MPE/iX in the weeks leading up to HP's 3000 support discontinuance announcement, has been named to the board of directors of OpenMPE, Inc. The organization also elected eight other directors Jan. 7-8 who were nominated in an open ballot over the Internet, but the HP position was a write-in contest.

Jon Backus, a newly elected board member of the organization devoted to keeping MPE/iX alive beyond HP's schedule for official support of the operating system, reported that Vance had to get HP to approve his involvement in OpenMPE, Inc. before he could accept the board seat:

"The HP employee who received the most write-in votes was Jeff Vance. Jeff was contacted to see if it was a possibility. He spoke with his management at HP to make sure it was acceptable. He said they were "supportive of him being on the board" and that he accepts the seat. While this should not be construed as a commitment of any type from HP for the OpenMPE movement or any other type of effort to extend the life of MPE, it is a display that HP is willing to explore the options."

Vance posted some comments on the prospects of getting Open Source processes to serve the needs of a mature operating system like MPE with an installed base smaller than other Open Source constituencies:

"One (of several issues) with Open Source MPE is that there are much fewer eyeballs to notice problems with submittals. And also fewer people to correct problems once spotted -- unlike Linux and other popular Open Source projects."

On the other hand, Vance can see how having MPE source available for companies to modify beyond HP's involvement has value for customers dedicated to staying with their MPE applications. "I see open source MPE as potentially the ultimate security blanket or insurance policy for the end customer and for the ISVs that depend on MPE," he said in a posting to the Internet. "By that I mean, if you have write access to the source then you have at least some chance of fixing bugs, adding features, etc. You have the potential of doing these things, but not a guarantee."

JDBC driver gets ROMAN8 capabilities

HP is still building patches for parts of MPE/iX, a service that someone will have to take over in the years to come. But for now the HP lab engineers are still polishing the parts of the operating system, including the JDBC driver that's included. Roman8 encoding is now supported for the JDBC driver with the patch commonly referred to as HP JDBC DRIVER A.01.15. In order to use Roman8 encoding, the Roman8 option needs to be passed through the URL. HP's notes on the patch explain

"For example: jdbc:allbase://server.roman.com/dbname?encoding=Roman8
If the encoding option is not passed then the default encoding is used.

Along with the driver classes, two Roman8 conversion classes are provided with this package: ByteToCharRoman8.class and CharToByteRoman8.class

For JDK 1.1.7, the conversion classes are to be added to the CLASSPATH. For JDK 1.2.2 and above, the conversion classes are to be added to the -Xbootclasspath."

New utility lets system consoles talk

Horner Consulting, a company that promises to support HP 3000s as long as customers are using them, has released software that lets your system console talk to the 3000's SYSLOG utility. President Ron Horner explains that "SYSLOG is a program that sends messages to wherever you need them. HP 3000 system console messages can only be displayed on the console, located near your HP 3000 system. Until now, there has never been a software solution to the age-old question. "How can I read my HP console messages without having to be at the system console?" LOGSENDR is your solution to that question. LOGSENDR reads your HP 3000's console log files and sends them to SYSLOG."

Horner suggests that Ecometry users can send console messages to a specific logon. "This way there is no need to allow someone access to what could be dangerous system commands." Other customers using programs such as Hillary Software's Nightwatch can send console messages to a server running Nightwatch. These kinds of programs can then process the messages and send alerts if needed.

Sites with multiple systems can use LOGSENDR to send console messages to a corporate IT center. "This way you can monitor your off-site systems in the same way as your on-site systems," Horner said. "For users who audit their systems, console messages can be sent to files for later examination." Horner said customers can have LOGSENDR "for the non-budgetbreaking price of $500 for an unlimited site license." More details are at the company's Web site, horner.horner.home.mindspring.com.

HP's credit looks bad, according to Fortune

Fortune Magazine — which unlike its rival Forbes didn't put CEO Carly Fiorina on its cover a year ago — published an article saying that HP's credit status has slipped to the junk heap. In the wake of the Enron meltdown that pummeled that Fortune 10 company into bankruptcy over its debt, Wall Street is looking for earlier signs that a company might be on the ropes. The Fortune article "Caught Off Balance" describes a company that had the earliest data on the Enron debt troubles, bond-rating service Egan-Jones. The service said that HP's ability to cover its debt has slipped from 19 to 6.6 over the last 15 months. At a ratio of 1, everything a company earns would have to go to paying its debt interest.

While the Fortune article didn't predict that HP will be turning into the next Enron, the radical change in debt at the company — HP once carried little long-term debt — is another example of changes at the supplier of HP 3000 hardware and software. Egan-Jones president Sean Egan is quoted in the article as saying of HP "Today it is hard to name any business where it's the undisputed leader -- even its printer business is being attacked." When customers consider what they might be losing in the departure of the supplier from their 3000 community, the strength of that supplier's finances must be taken into account. You can read Egan's quotes in the Fortune article in context at the magazine's Web site: <http://www.fortune.com/indexw.jhtml?channel=artcol.jhtml&doc_id=205973>

Things you might miss most on HP-UX

Subscriber and careful reader Stan Sieler sent us a note after our last Online Extra broadcast, commenting on the free C++ compiler for the HP 3000 we'd brought up in that issue. Sieler is a 3000 developer with plenty of time under his belt in the HP-UX environment, the one HP is recommending most strongly for 3000 customers who choose to migrate.

Sieler noted that his company, Allegro Consultants, provides support for the C++ compiler that's going to live on beyond HP's support of the 3000, the GNU C++. You can get more details on the support -- offered in a partnership of Allegro and DIS International's Mark Klein, who ported the C++ compiler to the 3000 years ago -- by browsing to www.gccsupport.com. Allegro also sells products for the HP-UX environment, so Sieler's comments on using HP 9000s aren't based on a lack of experience. He told us what he misses most about developing on and administering computers which aren't HP 3000s:

"The things I miss the most on HP-UX / Linux:

- Debug/iX

- MPE's "PID" (extended PIN ... every process is assigned a unique value, guaranteed not to be re-used during this bootup) ...it allows applications to keep track if they've seen a specific process before (or not). You can see kludges in HP-UX because they don't have this concept.

- (controlled) ability to run privileged code outside of the kernel. We don't use this all the time on MPE, but the lack of it means that certain classes of enhancements/products can't be done outside the HP-UX / Linux kernel."

There's even more to miss in HP-UX, according to another Allegro developer. Gavin Scott has become an advocate of Linux as opposed to HP-UX, and he offered these comments on the HP Unix shortcomings:

"It's a shock to have to go back to HP-UX from Linux these days because most of the tools one takes for granted on Linux just aren't there out-of-the-box on HP-UX and have to be acquired, possibly built, and installed as needed. Having a full Linux install is cool, because chances are if you read about some nifty tool somewhere, you'll find that you already have it fully installed and ready to go."

Linux: Where are the applications?

Linux is getting more scrutiny by the HP 3000 community after HP's Nov. 14 announcement, but a rich bed of available applications might not be this year's reason to migrate to the Open Source environment. The author of our December article on Linux distributions, Shawn Gordon, passed along this note on where IT managers might find applications for a shift into Linux. Gordon's company, thekompany.com, is building financial applications for the Linux market. He warned us that Linux today will feel a lot like the 3000 community:

"Now the problem with Linux is that it's like the 3000, utility-rich and application-poor. That is one of the things that I am trying to solve with my company. That was why I mentioned sourceforge.com and freshmeat.net as resources -- they have pretty much everything that is available under the sun. For almost anything you want, there is a project at some level of work." As one example, you might check out the article on available financial applications (it's dated from August) at freshmeat.net/articles/view/269.

New Powerhouse makes PDL from IMAGE

The latest version of Powerhouse for MPE/iX, 8.39, reintroduces a feature from the 4GL's past: the ability to make a Powerhouse dictionary from an IMAGE schema. Cognos' Bob Deskin reported on the Powerhouse mailing list:

"The latest version of PowerHouse on MPE/iX, 8.39 introduces ITOP, a utility that will generate a PDL source file from an IMAGE database. It's similar in operation to the old ITOQ that was available in pre-PDL days."

Years ago Powerhouse administrators were able to create a dictionary from an IMAGE root file, before Cognos switched to its PDL format. The company is also looking at supporting some newer features, too. A recent message on the mailing list asked if any customers would find it useful to have Powerhouse support PostgreSQL, the Open Source database that's been ported to the HP 3000.

A free FTP Client, cross-platform

Whisper Technology has released a free FTP client which supports multiple platforms including the HP 3000, so customers who are shifting resources to other environments can have a GUI client that's consistent across all their computers, however long they may be in service.

Graham Wooley of Whisper sent us this note:

"To help with your migration plans, Whisper Technology are pleased to announce that FTP Surfer is now FREE.

"FTP Surfer is a professional FTP client featuring an Internet Explorer style user interface including an address bar, history, and favorites menu. Features include multiple server connections, drag-and-drop, server file editing (using notepad), smart reconnect for unreliable connections, find-in-files, HTTP downloads, "execute FTP commands directly," and "Send To" menu support.

"FTP Surfer supports Unix, NT, VMS and HPe3000 platforms and is FREE (it incorporates a small banner ad for our Programmer Studio editor). FTP Surfer is a complimentary solution to SAMBA, and will help you manage files on your network.

You can download FTP Surfer from www.ftpsurfer.com."

CAMUS hosts manufacturing conference

HP 3000 sites using either MANMAN or eXegySys solutions, or their own home-grown applications for ERP, can attend this year's conference of CAMUS, the Computer Applications for Manufacturing User Society. The four-day conference is May 19-22 in Denver at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center www.techcenter.hyatt.com, where CAMUS has set aside rooms at $109 a night. Early bird registration ends Feb. 28 and is $850, or only $700 if you're a CAMUS member. This conference doesn't focus exclusively on HP 3000 technologies, which might be a blessing if you're charged with trying to move your HP 3000 ERP applications off to another platform. More information is available at the CAMUS Web site, www.camus.org.


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