Third Party Watch
Shawn M. Gordon
President of S.M. Gordon & Associates

Well the biggest news for me this month is that I got word from Interex that Dave Merrit has indeed sent in a new picture of me to go with the column. The problem last time was to much hair and having a bad day, and I am afraid the problem this time is going to be my chubby little face. So now I am to have to go on a diet and work out and then get a new picture taken. How about we have a contest of what pose I should be in, but that might get some of you off on some un-healthy lines of thought. OK, scratch that last idea. Can you believe I am up to my first anniversary of being married already? SHEESH

Big news coming out of HP these days, I have heard of a couple of new systems at the top end. First there is the 995/800 which is an 8 way multi-processor that is even larger than the 992. From what I hear it is at least twice as fast as a 992/400 (seems like it should be faster for some reason, but who am I to complain at 2 second compiles). The other top end machine is the 890/1200 which is a top end 12 way multi-processor HP-UX machine. Now what I find a bit odd is that the 3000 and 9000 use the same hardware architecture, so why isn’t there a 995/1200? Maybe you need the 12 processors to make UNIX run as fast as MPE. I also expect to see something soon in the 700 line. HP hasn’t had any upgrades to there workstations in a while and it looks like IBM may just surpass them in performance with their RS 6000 soon if they don’t have something out in the near future. But HP has been very good at staying ahead of the competition these last years. There have been various other systems announced, but you have
already heard about them by now.

Apparently those companies that got involved in the HP PRO alliance have been pretty busy. I heard about a color portable being made by Hitachi that is based on the PA-RISC and is running HI-UX, a Hitachi version of UNIX.

I have a hot tip for those of you who would like to check out UNIX, but don’t want to kill yourself learning it. As some of you know I wrote paper last year on comparing MPE to UNIX and it was quite a chore getting all that data together, and I still use it as a reference, however I want to recommend the “UNIX for Dummy’s” book from the same people who brought you the whole “for Dummy’s” line of books. It is written in a very easy to understand manner, and covers many aspects of UNIX, it’s also pretty darned funny especially if you have spent a little bit of time with UNIX already.

Ok, I am going to do tech support everywhere a favor this month, I am going to explain why they ask the questions they ask. All the people that I know that do tech support have run into this situation and been frustrated by it to one degree or another. What happens is, the call comes in and the person asks how to do something, you ask them what it is they are trying to accomplish and they say ‘nevermind that, just tell me how to do this thing’. Later they come back and say it didn’t work. Well typically it worked fine, it just didn’t do what they expected, but they wouldn’t explain what it was they REALLY wanted to do. Here is a good example;

I call you and say “Hey, how do I record on my VCR?”, you say “Well what exactly do you want to do?”, I say “Nevermind that, just tell me how to record”, so you tell me to turn on the power, put in a tape and press the record button. Now I call you the next day and say “Hey that didn’t work”, you say “What do you mean”, I say “Well I wanted to tape Oprah and I got Montel”. Turns out I needed to know how to program in dates, times and channels, but I wouldn’t explain what the specifics where of what I really was trying to do, so I ended up disappointed. You didn’t give me a wrong or bad answer, it was the only answer given the question. So I would urge you to take full advantage of your Tech Support dollars and always explain what it is you REALLY need to do.

I was at the Orange LUG meeting yesterday and I had an interesting conversation with some of the people from Quest. They have a Client Server product that is a subset of Netbase. From what little I found out they have a shell on the PC that you can actually take your 3000 based COBOL code, bring it down and compile it under something like MicroFOCUS COBOL and it will work. They trap and handle all the 3000 specific calls. This absolutely blew my mind, that means I don’t have to learn all this weird stuff associated with all the other C/S stuff I have been messing with. I want to get over to their location soon and take a long look at this thing. It has been out for over a year (at a very reasonable cost) and I can’t believe I never heard about it. I will get back with what details I find out.

No fun stuff at the end of this month, but a happy Valentines to all of you, and don’t forget Presidents day.