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May 2005

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.

April brought an early round of foolish jokes across the 3000-L, but the Internet discussion did no kidding about a broad range of technical help. Even though there’s only about 600 or so members signed on to the mailing list (and who knows how many more posting through the mirrored newsgroup), the numbers deliver a much greater sum of knowledge about HP 3000 matters.

Some were arcane. During a month with about 450 messages that were on-topic, 28 had a subject line including SPL, the fundamental programming language of the MPE operating system. That’s four times as much SPL traffic as in the rest of 2005, and a great example of the archive of 3000 help available online. Programmers who run across SPL for the first time, like Peter Smithson in the UK, can ask about syntax for a 30-year-old language that may lie in the center of long-running 3000 apps.

On the other hand, some experts on the list see SPL knowledge as a declining asset. When Bruce Toback rattled off the SPL’s IO instructions for condition codes, he added, “And I wish that knowledge were still worth something.” But to someone who’s still tending to a 3000 with aging apps, it still is worth something, and quickly found on 3000-L.

Off-topic postings on the list for the month reflected a little humor, and then much more hubris over creation. A fake news story about Carly Fiorina taking over the iSeries business drew barbed responses, as well as a follow-on blurb joking that HP’s CEO had reinstated the 3000 as a product already. Other diversions included a captured Al Queda manual, and an article about the impact of foreign workers on US jobs — a post that quickly devolved into an evolution debate of more than 80 messages. Although the signal to noise ratio in April still ran about 65-35, the HP 3000 experts had a lot to say about non-tech topics. Some of it was even true.

As for tech subjects, there was plenty to learn reading the 300-plus relevant messages. The list also carried three genuine offers of 3000-related work, a notice something not as rare as the one used N-Class server offered for sale.

Rapid response on IMAGE

The database at the heart of the 3000’s success isn’t always intuitive, but you can get a primer posted on its nuances inside of a day. When Brian Donaldson asked about the differences between I and J data types in TurboIMAGE, the answers poured in; the briefest was they’re the same internally, but only differ if you use Query. And when Wirt Atmar explained the differences, and got corrected in a matter of hours, he added the rule that 3000 IMAGE users learn: these data types are lawless, at least inside the database.

“The IMAGE database itself doesn’t enforce these rules,” he said. “From IMAGE’s point of view, they’re only suggestions, like the speed limits in Montana. You can enter any physically legal value into a J data type if your application will allow it. J data types aren’t the only items like this in IMAGE. You can quite easily put lowercase text into an U data type if you wish and IMAGE won’t object. In MPE, such rules are left to applications such as Query to be enforced, if they are enforced.”

Feeling validated

A discussion about RESTORE problems led to some fundamental advice about procedures for 3000 backups. Backup errors on STORE tapes can occur when you try to restore on the exact same drive the backup tape was made on. Dan Clifford pointed out HP documentation of a tape restore issue with interleaved DLT tapes. “DLT7000 must be on different device adapter if tapes are to be used at the same time as in interleave option. (This provides a higher disk data rate. Interleaving is accomplished by reading from several disk drives (files) simultaneously. The file data is blocked together and then stored to the specified devices. The effect is to accelerate the STORE process.

The workarounds are to not use tapes on same device adapter for interleave restore or put the dlt7000 devices on different device adapters.

Finally, when one poster recommended to validate any tape after writing a backup onto it, Allegro’s Stan Sieler added a crucial caveat. “You always want to validate on a DIFFERENT different tape drive!” he said. On Intuit’s HP 3000s, “they happily validated the tapes for months. Then the tape drive was replaced, and no backups would validate on the new drive (or on any other drive).” Allegro got all of Intuit’s files back for them, he added.

Dave Powell added that verifying a backup with validation “can be done automatically right after the backup overnight if you put the tape drive back online with the cunningly-named ONLINE utility from Allegro.” You can download ONLINE for free from Allegro’s Web site: www.allegro.com/software/hp3000/allegro.html.

A conversion perl

When David Knispel asked how to convert a file from comma-delimited to column-delimited on his 3000, Robelle’s Suprtool, installed at his site, provided an easy $SPLIT solution. But for those who don’t have the fortune to access that powerful tool, a free solution is at hand by using perl on their 3000. Ken Hirsch noted that “If you have Perl installed you can do this:

perl -MText::ParseWords -lne ‘print pack “A10A5A10A20A8A6A8A6”,

quotewords(“,”, 0, $_)’

Perl is available for the 3000 at HP’s Jazz site: jazz.external.hp.com/src/hp_freeware/perl. And now you have something to do with it after you’re installed it.

Staying in touch

The 3000-L list remains a good way to get early notice of HP’s 3000 activities in our Transition Era. (Of course, we think the NewsWire is a good early information source, too.) During April, HP announced its SIB update news on the list, posted a pointer to patches that will fix ABORTCON and SHOWCONN, and reported on the new Jazz section that details beta-test-grade patches.

In April, as in every month, an automatic message pops up on the list to remind readers about the Frequently Asked Questions file for 3000s hosted at 3kassociates.com. That FAQ is a living document, growing like the list archives. You can get 3000-L traffic mailed to you at the list host site, raven.utc.edu/archives/hp3000-l.html, where you can also read that off-topic entertainment.

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