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March 2003

Net.digest summarizes helpful technical discussions on the comp.sys.hp.mpe Internet newsgroup and 3000-L mailing list. Advice here is offered on a best-effort, Good Samaritan basis. Test these concepts for yourself before applying them to your HP 3000s.

Edited by John Burke

The bad news is that 3000-L was almost hijacked by several threads on politics, specifically the coming war with Iraq. So much time spent and, I’ll wager, not a single mind changed. The good news is that even though it took a little digging to find, there was still a lot of technical content to report.

But before I get to that, in discussing the shuttle Columbia disaster, Wirt Atmar posted “NASA’s mission has always been its own best ambassador. Nonetheless, that said, NASA has also always had a very adept public relations group to promote its work as well, but the people in public relations have probably never had to work too hard. What NASA does is intrinsically exciting and potentially beneficial to all of humanity. But even more than that, there’s poetry and beauty inherent to space flight, and recently NASA put together a set of slides that I just recently received. If you’d like to look at them, I put them up at aics-research.com/nasaslides.ppt

“The slides are in PowerPoint format (1.2 MB). If you don’t have a free PowerPoint viewer, you can download one from office.microsoft.com/downloads/2000/Ppview97.aspx

As always, I would 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. If something from these columns helped you, let me know. If you’ve got an idea for something you think I missed, let me know. If you spot something on 3000-L and would like someone to elaborate on what was discussed, let me know. Are you seeing a pattern here? You can reach me at john@burke-consulting.com.

A lot of fight left in those old HP 3000s; all you need is a little ingenuity

This started out as a potential item for Hidden Value. “Does anyone know if the HP 2100 disk systems will work with older e3000s, like a 928LX? If so would I be right in assuming that it would require new SCSI cards to attach to the e3000?”

Christian Lheureux replied that the DS2100 does need the “newer” (have been around for about 3 years) SCSI LVD/SE boards. These boards are not available on older, 900-based machines, so you can’t technically hook a DS2100 on an old box.

Denys Beauchemin then chimed in with a mini-tutorial on things you can do with SCSI because “SCSI is SCSI” provided having your solution officially “supported” does not concern you: “Get an LVD-HVD converter box and connect the DS2100 to the 928LX. This will reduce the speed somewhat, but it will still be a lot faster than if you simply connected the DS2100 directly to the SE port on the 928LX, which you can do with the proper cable. (You can find all manners of converters at www.paralan.com), the LVD to HVD converter is the MH16 or MH17.) The benefit of this setup is that you can use the DS2100 with up to 4 high capacity disk drives in a 1U enclosure. This does not get you RAID anything, however.

“If you do not have an HVD SCSI connection (AKA FWD) on the 928LX, you could look at getting the Seagate ST336918N with is a 36GB SCSI disk drive that will happily connect to your 50-pin SCSI-2 (SE) connection without any converters. Seagate is making a 18GB and a 36GB drive for legacy systems. (ST318418N is the 18GB drive.) The prices are $239 and $309 for the 18GB and 36GB respectively at www.dirtcheapdrives.com.

“At this Web site, you could also get a rack mount SCSI enclosure (DS351-4MM) for $569 which will have up to four of the disk drives mentioned above (or any other 50-pin SCSI disk drives.) It will not be a 1U however; more like a 2U or even 3U, but it will have its own power supply and set of cooling fans. So, for about $1,800, you can build yourself a rack mount 50-pin SCSI-2 148GB disk array for your 928LX. By the way, the disks are 7200 RPM.”

A number of people (myself included) are using creative solutions like this to get the most out of our HP 3000s. For example, I have an internal SCSI drive installed in my 927 that I took out of an HP Netserver and a 9Gb SCSI drive in an external enclosure installed I got from www.compgeaks.com for less than $100. I’ll be doing an article on how you can extend the life of your HP 3000 with a little creativity and ingenuity. If you’ve got experience you’d like to share, contact me directly, or through the NewsWire.

In case you missed it, QCTerm finally reached version 1.0

Wirt Atmar made the announcement in February that “A new version of QCTerm (Version 1.00, February 8, 2003) is now available. With this version, we’ve finally decided to call QCTerm done, thus the 1.00 designation. QCTerm may be downloaded from aics-research.com/qcterm.

“Although you would think that after all of this time, making this version 1.00 would be cause for great celebration, we actually liked having the version be less than one. It let everyone know that QCTerm was a use-at-your-risk type of product. However, we had one organization say that they could not use it until the version number was at least 1.00, thus that was part of the impetus of the change.

“The other reason for keeping the version number at 0.96 was that QCTerm was about 96 percent complete when measured against our original plans. We had originally intended on putting in a very easy-to-use, HP 3000- and Unix-compatible, GUI-architected FTP file transfer program into QCTerm as well, but since the death of the HP 3000, that final task seemed less pressing. Indeed, we’ve now abandoned that work, at least for the moment. What that meant was that of all of the tasks we originally drew on the blackboard for QCTerm four years ago, before we began work, they’ve all been accomplished and now seem to be robustly implemented.”

QCTerm is a free Telnet client originally designed for the HP 3000, but which also works fairly well with variants of Unix, including Linux.

NMMGR settings for FTP transmission robustness

James Reynolds posted “This past weekend I made a change in the NMCONFIG file on our test system to see if it would help some FTP transmission slowness issues we were having and it apparently did. It’s better now. Anyway, these are the two fields I changed:

Retransmission Interval Lower Bound (Secs) (set to 1 sec)

Initial Retransmission Interval (Secs) (set to 2 sec

“I have not seen any other issues arise for making this change, but I am curious if anyone might know of any issue that could come up by changing these settings.”

Steve Cooper replied “way back in 1995, on this list, Eero Laurila of HP CSY Networking lab posted the following recommendation: What I typically do on my systems (and would pretty much recommend for almost every system out there), is to configure NMMGR values as follows:

[1 ] Retransmission Interval Lower Bound (Secs)

[300] Maximum Time to Wait For Remote Response (Sec)

[2 ] Initial Retransmission Interval (Secs)

[6 ] Maximum Retransmissions per Packet

Said Steve, “we have been passing on that recommendation since then, and I have not heard of any problems. Still sounds like good advice to me.” And to me, also, since I’ve been configuring all my systems this way for years. Thanks to Steve for the reminder.

You may not need to read between the lines, but you had better read every line

Ken Sletten warns, “Those of you with older systems and matching peripherals may want to be on the alert for growing opportunities for little surprises on your HP hardware support contracts. Here’s our little surprise.

“We bought our 959-400 in 1995 with two C5264R external FWD SCSI-2 disc subsystems. It’s been running essentially 24 x 365 since then with no disc problems (knock on wood). The C5264Rs came with one 4Gb spindle installed. At the time of the original purchase we also bought four more 4Gb spindles for each C5264R, for a total of two 20Gb mirror banks. Hardware support life for our 959KS-400 SPU ends per contract printout on 2006-12-31. But, guess what, while the support life for the add-on spindles (C5266U) ends on 2004-09-30, I recently noticed that those C5264R’s with the one bundled same spindle are at EOSL 18 months earlier, on 2003-03-31.

“Anyway, after thinking about it for a week or so HP decided that all 10 spindles go off support in just two months! After all these years, what is by far the most likely system component to fail? (Rhetorical question.) We expect to be running our old but reliable 959-400 for at least another two years. Therefore my answer to the above situation was to call one of several third party support organizations. They were happy to support all of our 959-400 hardware, including all peripherals, for all of 2003 (and probably beyond); and, they were significantly cheaper than HP. What did that old TV ad say? Sorry, but we found somebody better. Our organization is no longer a customer of the HP hardware support organization after 20-plus years.”

Ken brings up a very important point: Review your support contracts carefully, because HP assumes you do. They DO NOT tell you proactively that some of your equipment is going off support sometime during your contract year, though why they do not is a complete mystery to me. They certainly could, they have all the information, and any decent sales organization should be knocking on your door six months prior to end of support for a piece of equipment to try to sell you a replacement.

Ah, but this is HP we are talking about. Just remember to read the fine print on each item detail in your support agreement to determine the end of support date. A hint that something has dropped off support is if your monthly charge drops. Let me give you another example of how you are on your own to ensure your equipment is supported. When I started a new job a few years ago I discovered the production system was not under support because the renewal notice was apparently misplaced and HP did not follow up on why a $40,000 support contract was not renewed. Get out those contracts now and give them a good reading.

John Burke is the editor of the NewsWire’s HiddenValue and net.digest columns and has more than 20 years’ experience managing HP 3000s.

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