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Net.digest summarizes helpful technical discussions on the HP 3000 Internet newsgroup and 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 torrent of postings to 3000-L continued through June even as we transitioned from spring to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. As in past months, some of the material I prepared for Hidden Value and net.digest was left on the proverbial cutting room floor. But not necessarily forever, because I also just finished the Best Of compilation of everything in Hidden Value and net.digest since day one. It contains almost 250 published and unpublished tricks, tips and techniques for working with MPE/iX and the 3000. Look for it by HP World 2000.

Of course, it would not be 3000-L without the many off-topic (and sometimes “wildly off-topic”) postings to delight and amaze. Anyone who thinks people who work with computers are dull has never read 3000-L for even a week. Among other things, we were treated to the etymology of the phrase “lead with your chin,” a long rambling thread on taxing Internet commerce, a contest on which language can do a task in the least number of lines, and a fight about the shortest sentence in the English language. Oh, and let’s not forget the war of words about the Microsoft trial judgment. Furthermore, where else but on 3000-L can you find phrases like, “Massively parallel processing (MPP) also has particular relevance to the developing notions of ontogenetic (autopoetic) machine intelligence?”

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 HP3000-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@paccoast.com.

Network Printing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part I

Seemingly at least once a month, someone posts a question about trying to get this printer with that network interface card to work using HP’s MPE/iX network printing. It is time to set the record straight on what you can do, what you can’t do, and what you “may” be able to do, with some cooperation from HP.

MPE/iX network printing was introduced with some fanfare in Release 5.5 of MPE/iX.

First the good news, or at least what you can clearly do. If:

• You have an HP printer with an internal HP JetDirect network interface card, or

• You have an HP printer connected via a parallel interface (or serial/parallel converter) to an HP JetDirect EX or EX Plus box, or

• You have a non-HP, but PCL-based printer connected via an HP JetDirect interface;

then you will probably be able to successfully use MPE/iX’s network print spooler, OUTSPTJ. I say “probably” because there are some problems with some of the newer LaserJets and with the LPQ series of printers. The primary problem is with page-level recovery on the newer LaserJets, and the workaround is to turn off PJL within the npconfig file. HP is committed to fixing these problems though, so I will not comment further on them here. I currently have over 80 network printers, mostly HP LaserJets or compatibles (plus a handful of old HP 2932 dot-matrix printers), spooled off a 959/400 with very few problems. [This machine also, by the way, supports over 100 DTC printers and over 600 concurrent users!]

Now here’s the bad news. HP’s official position is that the above configurations are the only ones that will work with MPE/iX network printing. And certainly the only configurations supported. Furthermore, since there are third-party products that will allow you to use non-HP printers and network interfaces, HP is not planning, nor is it inclined to consider, adding any functionality to its network printing spooler.

In this case, reality is pretty close to the official position, but there are exceptions:

• Wirt Atmar reports that every PostScript-capable printer he has tested (and he has tested many), has worked as a network printer to the HP 3000.

• There is a still undocumented directive you can add to your npconfig file (snmp_enabled=false) that “may” allow you to use non-HP JetDirect network interface cards. This is important because you may want to use a non-HP but still PCL-based printer with an internal network interface that is not supplied by HP. Also, in my case, I wanted to be able to hook up printers that only have a serial interface (HP does not make a JetDirect with a serial interface). I have had success doing this with the Intel NetXport box and using the “snmp_enabled=false” and “TCP_port_number” directives. I will leave it to the conspiracy theorists to speculate as to why “snmp_enabled=false” is still undocumented and, for the most part, unacknowledged.

While HP has been able to set the defacto standard for laser printers (PCL), the situation with impact printers is much more confused. There are the Epson, Okidata, and IBM Proprinter personalities, for example, to name just a few of the non-PCL, but very prominent, impact printer command sets on the market. I know of no one who has been able to get a non-PCL based, non-Postscript printer to work with MPE/iX’s network print spooler. There is a good reason for this, because, according to Larry “the former MPE/iX Spoolers R Us”, Byler in a posting to 3000-L in May 1997:

“The spooler itself uses PCL sequences to manage its printers. That’s why we require PCL printers… I can assure you [that nothing you can do will] stop the spooler from sending PCL sequences such as <esc>E (reset), <esc>Z (turn off display functions) and <esc>%-12345X (not really PCL, but in PCL form and recognized, or ignored, by all PCL devices as the Universal Exit Language - UEL - command).”

Why do other people and I care about this? HP is correct that there are several very good third-party packages — we even own one. However, they cannot match the convenience of HP’s integrated network printing spooler. Typically, the third-party packages require you define a pseudo printer which your applications print to, while a background process from the ISV sweeps spool files from the pseudo printer’s queue out to the actual printer. It all works fine, it just requires extra management. So, many of us have been campaigning for years to get HP to enhance its network print spooler. As Wirt Atmar remarked to me, “It is not a law of nature. It can be changed.” However, HP has adamantly refused all entreaties to enhance its network print spooler.

As an intellectual exercise, I set out to determine the minimum PCL awareness necessary for a printer to work with MPE/iX network printing. I found that in addition to the three PCL sequences mentioned above, the spooler also spits out <esc>&l0V at the start of each spool file. This was surprising, because in another posting from Larry Byler, he states:

“Unless one uses the (no longer documented but still existing) <esc>&l0V, the printer itself has nothing to do with deciding whether or not to eject a page. [This] escape sequence is the printer’s conditional top-of form command. It directs the printer to determine according to its own internal calculations whether or not a page needs ejecting.”

He then goes on to claim it is not used in the MPE/iX network print spooler. But, there you have it — it is there nevertheless.

These seemed to be the only escape sequences spit out in “normal” printing. Armed with this information, I set about to figure out what I could do with it.

Next month: A possible low-cost solution (it requires some assistance from HP) for “basic” network printing to non-PCL printers.

Darn, I thought I did everything right; a tale of almost woe and preventing it

A poster to 3000-L tells the following tale [I’m including it in full because it is also a good basic checklist for replacing some or all of the system volume set]:

I just replaced my system volume discs and am stumped by the following seeming anomaly.

Stripped to the bare minimum, we

• Used SYSGEN to change the system disc configurations.

• Did a KEEP to a new group (that was HP’s recommendation; I would have used the default group CONFIG because there is no way I’m going back to the old discs).

• Did a TA and responded to the tape.

• Used CHECKSLT to make sure the tape was bootable. It was.

• Then I got all users off, shut down the network, stopped user logging and backed up the entire system volume with the directory option. Did a VSTORE to make sure the tape is okay. It was.

• Shut down, powered down, replaced the drives, letting the HP engineer do his stuff to make sure the discs are there and readable.

• Put the SLT on line, booted from the alternate path, and did an INSTALL.

• On the completion of copying down the system files, it does an autoboot and you specify the primary path now and at ISL prompt, do a START NORECOVERY NOSYSSTART GROUP=<that group name from above>

This is where we discovered that cutting an SLT doesn’t store your non-default configuration group. We wound up with many bootup errors and a severely crippled system. Eventually, by restoring the new configuration group from the full backup, we were able to fix things. However, why doesn’t the HO/KE/TA stuff in SYSGEN save a non-default configuration group? And would it do any good if it did save it?

Lars Appel and Rocky Constantino both supplied the answer to what went wrong in the above approach:

Prior to creating the SLT, you have to change your “base” configuration group. If you made the changes, kept them in ‘non_default_group’, then entered the command ‘BA non_default_group’, then created the SLT, you would have captured the configuration that you wanted.

When is an INSTALL not an install but really an UPDATE?

You would think that people who work with computers would be precise in their language. You would think. You would be wrong.

Much has been written on 3000-L in the past about, for example, when an Express release is not an Express release. And when a full backup is not a full backup. And when a directory store does not get all the directories. And so on.

Now we have another one: When an INSTALL is not really an install, but an UPDATE! This thread was started when someone posted:

“HP will be coming out to upgrade me from MPE/iX 5.5 to 6.0. The interesting thing about it is they are insisting that the process requires an INSTALL instead of an UPDATE. Is an INSTALL really required?”

After much arguing about what this all really meant, it took Dennis Heidner and Lars Appel to straighten things out:

I don’t think they are doing a real “INSTALL” from the ISL prompt, but an UPDATE using a CSLT that they made with HPINSTAL, a tool whose name sounds like install, but actually allows updating a local or remote system with MPE/iX CD-ROM media.

After the UPDATE has restored the kernel and a few other files, then you use HPINSTAL one last time to finish the restoring of various subsystem files from the CSLT. The HPINSTAL procedure is not a “magic secret”. You can find details in the System Software Maintenance Manual (e.g. on docs.hp.com) in sections “Update with CD-ROM” as well as “Modify Remote System.”

This HPINSTAL process is NOT an INSTALL. It is an UPDATE.


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