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Weekend Update

By Scott Hirsh

Is there anyone out there who actually enjoys updating the operating system on any computer in their shop? Forget “five nines,” we all know that Windows, on a good day, is lucky to escape rebooting. So maybe a Windows update (or just a patch) holds the pathetic, inevitably disappointing promise of greater stability. And Unix, along with its derivatives and variants, qualifies you for the “patch of the week” club.

Good old MPE, of course, delivers the stability the other operating systems only promise. So I, for one, am more than reluctant to rock the boat of stability achieved by being among the last to update to the current version of MPE/iX. Think “your current OS will no longer be supported,” PowerPatch 37, months of following other people’s misery on 3000-L. My appeals have all been exhausted, my SE is reading my current OS its last rites. It’s time to update MPE.

When it comes to operating system updates, people seem to fall into two categories: those who have it down to a science, and those who don’t have a clue. There’s no in-between. Don’t ask me why, it’s just how it is. But rather than succumb to the annoying impulse for self-improvement, let those of us who are clueless revel in all the wonderful ways we hose ourselves on the way to support for that new device we can’t live without.

Top Ten Worst Reasons For Updating MPE/iX

10. To impress Jodie Foster.

9. All the other system managers are doing it

8. It’s a slow day, what the heck.

7. A programmer dared me.

6. I’ll do anything to speak to that engineer with the sexy voice at the Response Center.

5. I can’t live without that new !HPGUESSWHATIAM variable.

4. My manager says he read in an airline magazine if we don’t do it we’ll lose our “competitive edge.”

3. HP is now including utilities with the OS that we had to pay for in the past. Think of the money we’ll save!

2. The new OS should be 10 percent faster than the one we’re on now.

1. Hey, HP-UX is already on version 11. We have a lot of catching up to do!

How to Guarantee an Exciting OS Update

Don’t Plan. Planning is for wimps. We’re smart, we’re experienced, what’s the big deal? And because planning involves risk analysis, we won’t worry about things like contingencies. What can go wrong? And besides, I have a backup!

Don’t Do Any Research. Hey, this is MPE we’re talking about here. Applications written during the Eisenhower administration still run to this day. HP wouldn’t just up and break compatibility now, would they? And everyone knows OS updates are time consuming and boring. So what better time to read the Communicator then while I’m sitting around waiting for the update to ask for the next tape?

Don’t Keep Your Skills Current. Wow, these update instructions sure have changed since that 4.0 update I did seven years ago. Now, what page am I supposed to turn to next? And how do we shut down and start up the system these days? Look at that, 23 background jobs. I remember when we didn’t run 23 jobs in a day. Hmm, I wonder what this one does…

Don’t Test. This is the operating system we’re talking about here. How on earth can you test that? Sure, we have a development box, but we can’t disrupt the developers now, can we? And there’s no way we can justify getting a separate box just for testing something that only happens once every few years. No, we’ll just update what we have and if it doesn’t work out we’ll back it out.

Don’t Verify the Media. It’s readable, all right. Unfortunately, my subsys tape is only missing everything. And wasn’t the PowerPatch supposed to be two tapes, not one?

Don’t Tell Anyone. You know how that goes. If you tell people, they won’t let you do it. You looked at the Communicator and didn’t see anything major in there. Just slip it in over the weekend. The only thing anyone will notice is the performance improvement.

Pick a Day, Any Day. Sure, we can’t update during the week. Everybody knows that. But any old Sunday works for me. Oh, the Sunday I picked is the last day of the month and we have a boatload of processing to do on Monday, the first? No problem-o!

Don’t Check Inventory. Gee, nobody told me that we hardly keep any media in stock besides DLTs these days. Well this update is more important than those DDS cartridges that haven’t quite expired yet. Nobody will miss these tapes if they’re scratched a little early.

Don’t Prep the System. Whoa, where did all my disk space go? And stop me if I’m wrong, but I swear this HP-IB printer was working yesterday.

Don’t Keep A List of Phone Numbers Handy. The phone number for the Response Center is stuck to the side of the system. That’s all I need, right? System handle, system handle…excellent question. Wait, what do you mean I’m not an authorized caller? I have a down system, doesn’t that count for anything? Say, you wouldn’t have Adager’s number handy, would you?

Don’t Verify You Have the Capabilities. Excuse me, but who changed the MANAGER.SYS password? I need that password, and I need it now!

Unfortunately, I have either observed or been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. Some of us do learn over time to minimize risk, until eventually we eliminate the “excitement” of the old fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method. Boring? Yes. Effective? Yes. But what would Jodie Foster say?

Scott Hirsh, former chairman of the SIG-SYSMAN Special Interest Group, is a partner at Precision Systems Group, an authorized HP Channel Partner which consults on HP OpenView, Maestro, Sys*Admiral and other general HP 3000 and HP 9000 automation and administration practices.

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