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June 2005

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

3000 newsgroup traffic in May showed as much humor as savvy about MPE/iX technical issues. May’s readers could browse a list that would wax eloquent about the nuances of COBOL logic, and then deadpan that “by eliminating all taxes, we will stop global warming.” Posters also passed along the brain location that enables comprehension of sarcasm, the marvel of jellyfish eyes, and how MPE/iX network code works just like a miracle in that famous cartoon’s formula.

There was insight, too; Adager’s Alfredo Rego said a project to photograph his son’s prom led him to uncover a Canon camera he had not held in his hands for decades. “Had I been able to measure my heart’s reaction, I believe that it would have been similar to what I always feel when I work on classy software (such as TurboIMAGE under Hewlett-Packard’s very own MPE/iX).” Rego revived his Canon Canonet and replaced its dangerous mercury battery with the help of www.classic-cameras.com, “which reminded me of the many creative and hard-working individuals who keep TurboIMAGE and MPE going strongly.”

Individuals remained generous with their help in May, and the month’s 350 messages delivered a 72 percent signal to noise ratio, an improvement over April’s heavier traffic.

Moving VPlus

When Kim Borgman said he needed to output his VPlus forms in a format IBM servers could read, a free program appeared on the newsgroup. Gilles Schipper said he’d written a utility called VLIST he was glad to share. VLIST “produces a FORMLIST print file containing detailed specifications of a form file (fast or regular source version).” Contact Schipper, a third party HP support provider, at gilles@gsainc.com for your VLIST copy.

Geert Coelmont of Ordina-Denkart pointed out the company’s edWin product would handle the task by converting the VFORM file to XML. edWin even includes a graphical editor to maintain the XML forms. Coelmont used the <plug> warning in his posting, so readers could read it as a commercial piece of help.

An afternoon’s upgrade

Catherine Litten asked the group for gotcha advice before she upgraded from 7.0 to 7.5 MPE/iX, then reported back on the success of a process HP wishes more of its 3000 customers would do. “Once all the backups were done and we began the process from the point in the [upgrade] book that had exclusive access, this whole process took approximately 3.5 hours,” she said. An upgrade to MPEX was the only third party upgrade she needed. VEsoft recommended that Litten upgrade MPEX before she upgraded MPE/iX, which MPEX devotees might read as the correct priority. You should have your best tools upgraded before doing an upgrade.

Reading reel-to-reel

HP 3000s have an extraordinary lifespan, so it’s not that unusual to have their data stored on elderly media like reel-to-reel tapes. When Dan Barnes wanted to know how to read tapes, Mike Hornsby of Beechglen pointed out the steps to decipher what might be on a mystery tape. If it’s gone through AVR, you’ll know it’s not in a compressed mode your tape drive can’t read. Then, “To see what is on the tape we can dump some of it:

file t;dev=8;label=TMAR01,ANS

fcopy from=*t;to;char;hex

Looking at the data dump we might be able to:

1. Pick out certain fields, Names, Vendors, Parts, Credit numbers; 2. Look for repeating records that would give a valid record length; 3. Look for blocks of records that would give the blocking factor.”

Parts and jobs appear

When Tracy Johnson tried to hook up a “Jamaica” disk assembly to his HP 3000 Series 957, he “noticed that Purple ‘DF’ indicator on the front of the drives! Can’t make a Differential Fast-Wide drive work Single-Ended no matter what I do.” Denys Beauchemin reminded Johnson that a converter could attach those drives to his system, which prompted Johnson to comment indirectly on the price of 3000 parts. “It’s easier just to order a couple Fast-Wide Boards,” he said. Not only are such parts in ample, cheap supply, Beauchemin noted they give better performance than the converters.

A hopeful forecast

3000 newsgroup experts know the future of their systems, or at least the date MPE will stop working: 2027. But when a question popped up about MPE timestamps, Jeff Kell noted that MPE/iX is facing a potential 2027 loophole, if anyone remembers how to engineer for the system in 20 years or so. “MPE’s CALENDAR value, whose high-order 7-bits originally represented the last two digits of the year, were Y2K redefined to be more generally the current year minus 1900, and will overflow at the end of 2027,” he said. “Or if MPE is still around, will probably be redefined again with a pivot point to allow it to wrap on past 2027.”

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