What's Up DOCumentation? 1995 #3


Jun 23, 1995

To: Users of Robelle Software
Re: News of the HP 3000 and HP-UX

What You Will Find in This News Memo:

Introducing Suprtool for HP-UX

Suprtool, the fast data handyman from Robelle Solutions Technology Inc., is now available on HP-UX. Suprtool/UX reads and writes fixed-length data files, selects records based on flexible criteria, and quickly sorts them using Robelle's "fastsort" technology. The Suprlink/UX program that accompanies Suprtool/UX provides high-speed data file linking based on a sort key.

While Suprtool/UX is similar to Suprtool for MPE, it provides necessary HP-UX features for handling fixed-length data files. Many HP-UX utilities are designed only for variable length text data; Suprtool/UX is designed for fixed-length text and for binary data.

How does Suprtool/UX work with HP-UX files?

HP-UX files are very different from MPE files. Here is a brief overview of how Suprtool/UX handles the differences.

Record Length

On MPE, Suprtool can find out the record length of a file. On HP-UX, a file consists of a string of bytes; for this reason, HP-UX has no concept of record length. Suprtool/UX has two solutions to this problem:

1. Let the user specify the record length with the Rec parameter of the Input command.

        >input uxfile, reclen 80

2. Use self-describing files.


MPE has no separators between records in a file. An HP-UX file may not have separators, or it may have a linefeed between lines. In order for Suprtool/UX to correctly read a data file, it must know whether the linefeeds are present. By default, Suprtool/UX assumes that there is a linefeed between each line, but you can override this default with the Nolf option of the Input command.

     >input uxfile, reclen 200, nolf

Self-Describing Files

HP-UX files are just a stream of bytes. The files do not contain any information that describes their fields. Suprtool/UX's self-describing files (SD files) allow you to describe and to remember the fields in a data file.

Where does Suprtool/UX store the field information?

On MPE, Suprtool stores the field information in file labels. But because HP-UX has no file labels, Suprtool/UX stores the field information in a separate file that has the same name as the original file, but with an ".sd" extension. For example, if the data file has the name /users/test/datafile, the SD file will have the name /users/test/datafile.sd.

How do I tell Suprtool/UX about data fields?

For files created on HP-UX, you use Suprtool/UX's Define and Extract commands to describe the data fields, then use the Output,Link command to create the self-describing file.

     >input   somefile
     >define  name, 1, 16, byte
     >define  age, 17,  2, int
     >extract name, age
     >output  newfile,link

For files created on MPE, we include an MPE program that takes a self-describing file and writes the field information to an MPE flat file. This file can then be transferred to HP-UX along with the data file, ready to be used by Suprtool/UX.


Suprtool/UX is now available in pre-release form. Contact Robelle Consulting Ltd., or your nearest distributor for details. You can also reach us on the Internet at http://www.robelle.com or via e-mail at solutions@robelle.com.

News Tidbits

HP to Replace Faulty CPU Chips.

Hewlett-Packard has discovered a CPU chip flaw in a small percentage of its HP 9000 and HP 3000 servers. Fewer than 20,000 computers are affected world-wide. The flaw can result in a "system machine check" message which shuts down the computer. HP is repairing the computers at no charge to their customers. Customers using certain HP 9000 workstations, or HP 3000 or HP 9000 servers shipped since October 1994, should contact the Response Center to receive special software to test their systems. Affected HP 9000 systems include 735/125, 755/125, 735/99, 755/99, 747i/100, and 745i/100 workstations, G/H/I model 50, 60, and 70 servers. The only HP 3000s affected are a small number of 987s.

Technical Tips

Store/Restore Bug.

A bug in the Store/Restore mechanism of MPE may cause problems to a limited set of users. If you Store files from an MPE/iX 5.0 system, and Restore those files onto an MPE/iX 4.0 system using the Account= option, you can access the files until you upgrade the 4.0 system to 5.0. When you upgrade, the restored files will no longer be accessible because of a damaged GUID entry in the file label. This information is ignored by MPE/iX 4.0, but is used by MPE/iX 5.0. A number of bugs/enhancements have been logged with HP. In the meantime, HP suggests two workarounds:

*  Store/Purge/Restore all the affected files with Account= after the
   conversion to 5.0.

* Do a :Listfile@.@,6 to a disc file, read the file, then do an :Altfile filename;group=accountname to change the GUID for each file.

Announcing the New Suprtool Version 3.7

Robelle continues to enhance Suprtool, the powerful utility for extracting data on HP 3000 computers. Use Suprtool to access selected records with amazing speed, then copy, sort, or edit your data. Use Suprtool to feed data into your report program to produce a report five times faster than the report program could on its own, or use Suprtool's simple reporting capability to save even more time. Every year, Robelle Solutions Technology Inc. releases a new version of Suprtool. This year's enhancements include increased selection and comparison capabilities, a new option to help update critical fields in detail datasets, and Help files that now come in Windows Winhelp format.

* The If command now allows the use of arithmetic expressions to give you more powerful selection criteria. As well, the If command now supports comparisons between fields of different types.

* The CIUPDATE option of the Update command gives you greater control in editing your data by allowing you to make changes to the critical fields in your detail datasets.

* For your convenience, Suprtool Help files now come in Microsoft Windows Winhelp format. The Help files, comprising the Suprtool, Dbedit, Suprlink, Speed Demon, and Calling Suprtool user manuals, can be installed on your PC.

For a complete description of Suprtool's new features, see the new Suprtool User Manual and the change notice that accompany all update tapes. If you already have Suprtool coverage, you will automatically receive an update tape. You can print out the latest user manual from your update tape, or view it as on-line help.

If you are not a Suprtool user already, why not ask us for a free demo, or for more information? Contact us at the address on the front of the newsletter, or call us toll-free at 1-800-561-8311.

Survey Results

In the fall of 1994, we sent a survey to all our customers world-wide to find out your thoughts on a number of key issues. The results were interesting. Of our direct customers in Canada and the U.S.A., 25% responded, and of our distributors' customers, 10% returned the survey to us. We are not sure why there was such a difference in the response rate, but we are grateful to everybody who took the time to return the survey. We value all your input, and we are already using your comments to guide the direction our products and services are taking.

We wanted to know what enhancements you thought we should work on, and asked you to vote by spending "Robelle dollars" on your favorite ones. Here are the results. They are shown in the dollars voted and in the number of votes for each enhancement.

Qedit Enhancements

Among customers in Canada and the U.S.A., the most popular requests for Qedit were

   $3,654   #126   Graphic MS-Windows interface
   $3,108   #148   Automatic renumber when lines exhausted
   $2,737   #119   Edit multiple files at once
   $2,709   #129   Multiple moves/copies/replicates in one operation
   $2,376   #108   Split screen in Visual mode
   $2,369   #103   Search a group of files for a string

We have already started working on some of these. The second most popular request, for automatic renumbering, is available in the latest Qedit pre-release. (Interestingly, it was the most popular request based on the number of times you requested it, rather than on the number of dollars you allocated it.) The multiple files editing enhancement is also ready for user testing. The searching a fileset, multiple moves and copies, and split screen enhancements should not be too difficult to develop; we simply have to see how many of these we can get done before we close the development cycle for version 4.4. The graphic MS-Windows interface, the most popular request, is the most difficult of all. We have been looking into what we need to make this work well, but so far we have nothing to report. The survey results for our distributors' customers were in roughly the same proportions and sequence as for customers in Canada and the U.S.A.

Suprtool Enhancements

In Canada and the U.S.A., the highest number of Suprtool dollars were spent on these requests:

   $3,024  #84    Direct support of Quiz subfiles
   $2,376  #108   Arithmetic expressions in Extract
   $2,366  #91    Report writer features
   $1,760  #80    Graphic MS-Windows interface
   $1,305  #29    Other

As with Qedit, we have started work on these requests. Arithmetic expressions in the Extract command are available in the current Suprtool pre-release. We have already started designing the report writer, as you will remember from our request for customer input a few months ago in the newsletter. Direct support of Quiz subfiles poses no difficult technical problem, but for long term supportability we need to work with Cognos, so that we can know about changes to the subfile format before you do. We are working on it. The graphic MS-Windows interface is likely to be a big job. We worked on the design a couple of years ago, but shelved the project when we ran out of energy to tackle the thornier user interface issues. In the meantime, someone else has come up with a first attempt at an MS-Windows interface for Suprtool. It is called Symtool and is available from Symple Systems. Symtool is a program that uses Windows selection features to create a Suprtool use-file which is then uploaded to the HP 3000 and executed. The author, Daniel Lawson, can be reached at (608) 276-7937.

The Suprtool votes from overseas were roughly the same as from Canada and the U.S.A., with one notable exception: we were not too surprised that our overseas customers voted "Support for ODBC", Open Data Base Connect capability, as their number one request (ODBC ranked number nine in Canada and the U.S.A.). The European market has traditionally led the way in multi-platform networking and open systems, and has been a strong trend indicator for the North American market. If the overseas customers are asking about ODBC now, the rest of the world will probably be wanting it soon. We are waiting for more feedback before determining a strategy.


The survey asked a number of questions to determine which programming languages you now use on MPE, and which you plan to use in the future. In Canada and the U.S.A., COBOL still reigns, with over 70% listing it as important now, and 58% in the future. PowerHouse continues to be quite strong, with 45% now and 41% in the future. Lagging far behind in third place is C, with 18% of respondents listing it as important now, and 33% in the future. C was the only language which registered some potential for future growth. Although the actual percentages were lower overseas, the relative proportions were roughly the same, with a higher proportion of respondents listing "Other" as their language of choice.


Over the next two years we expect the number of people using HP 3000 MPE/iX servers to go down by about 20% and Classic HP 3000s to go down by more than half. People plan to double their use of HP 9000 Series 800 servers, as well as to use more HP 9000 Series 700 workstations. Other platforms seem to be holding steady, from what we have seen.

Service and Support

You told us that you most valued the quality of product support, the reliability of products, and the compatibility of products with new operating system releases. You judged these aspects to be more important than new features. In Canada and the U.S.A., satisfaction levels were high, with over 75% of respondents somewhat or very satisfied with the quality of support (with 18% registering no opinion). 85% of survey respondents were satisfied with the quality of new software releases (12% had no opinion), and 83% were satisfied with OS compatibility (with 13% having no opinion). Our goal is to increase your level of satisfaction. Therefore, we have put in a toll-free telephone number to make us more accessible in Canada and the U.S.A., and we have support staff on duty twenty-four hours a day for emergencies. The toll-free number is 1-800-561-8311.

Overseas, respondents as a whole were less opinionated than their counterparts in Canada and the U.S.A., with a higher proportion of "Never Used" or "No Opinion" responses. We realize now that the questions were vague about whether respondents should indicate their level of satisfaction with Robelle in Canada, or with their local distributor. We will follow up with the distributors to ensure that the overall satisfaction level is as high for overseas users as it is for users in Canada and the USA.

The What's Up, DOCumentation? newsletter is still popular. Our Internet support services, such as e-mail, WWW, and FTP, have not got a lot of use yet, but the use is growing. Few of you seem to have access to the Internet, although we do have our share of regular "visitors" from all around the world. Because we expect demand to increase, we plan to install a higher speed access line in the next few months.


The survey has proved to be very useful in determining where to focus our development and support energies, and in providing a benchmark to use in future satisfaction surveys. We thank everyone who responded.

[Editor's note: A number of people asked for enhancements which already existed. Some people supplied their name with the survey, so we were able to contact them with the information. For those people who remained anonymous, we will publish the information in the "Robelle Products: Problems, Solutions, and Suggestions" section of this and upcoming newsletters. Press here for this issue's answer.]

About Robelle

Welcome Eunice Sheehan.

Eunice, who joined our administration staff at the beginning of June, is the newest addition to Robelle. Before working at Robelle, she operated a home-based sales business, and prepared payroll at Trinity Western University. Eunice is married, with two teenage daughters, and enjoys crafts and gardening when she has time. Welcome to Robelle, Eunice!

1995 Robelle Papers.

Every year Robelle takes an active part in user group meetings such as this year's Interex User Group Conference in Toronto. We prepare hours of instructional tutorials, send half the company so you can meet them in the sales booth, and write papers for presentation. But we realized that not everybody can go to this conference. Therefore, we are providing each customer with a copy of the Robelle Interex papers. Enclosed with this issue of What's Up, DOCumentation? you will find an "upside-down" booklet with the two papers that David Greer and Ken Robertson will present at the Toronto conference.

David Greer has been responsible for getting Robelle connected to the Internet. He has been the driving force behind registering us as robelle.com, setting up our World Wide Web (WWW) facilities, and steering everybody at Robelle onto the Infobahn. In his paper, Client/Server, the Internet, and WWW David shares what he has learned about these fascinating technologies.

Ken Robertson is our internal MIS Manager, responsible for much of the programming that helps us Robellians serve you better. Ken has discovered that he does not need to use standard programming languages to do all his programming. He has developed a number of tricks using the MPE/iX Command Interpreter as an alternative to programming languages. Ken shares these in his paper, Programming the Command Interpreter, enigmatically subtitled An Introduction, a Dog, and New Tricks.

Qedit and Suprtool Training Are Popular.

We have been doing a lot of product training over the past few months, at customer sites and here at our office. We are not sure why our one- and two-day classes have become so popular, but we are not complaining. We welcome the opportunity to create a new generation of Qedit and Suprtool gurus, and to learn more about how you use our products in the real world. To find out more about our training programs, contact Rosemary Van Poelgeest.

Calendar of Events

August 1995 * Interex '95 Conference and Expo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from Monday, August 14 through Friday, August 18. This is billed as the biggest HP-focused conference in the world, with hundreds of talks, seminars, and tutorials covering all aspects of HP computing. As always, Robelle will be present in full force, giving almost a dozen tutorials and papers. We will have the latest versions of our products on display, including the all-new Suprtool for HP-UX. For the first time we will be able to take your orders right at the conference. Watch for details of our conference specials in the mail. We also have a special contest planned with some great prizes. Register for Interex '95 today. Contact the organizers at 1-800-990-EXPO or (408) 747-0227, or fax them at (408) 747-0947. You can also e-mail them at conference@interex.org. Here's a tip: because of incomprehensible airline pricing policies, if you stay over Saturday night you can save a bundle on airfare. See next month's newsletter for complete details on Robelle events.

Toronto Tips

by Neil Armstrong

Since I lived in Toronto for years before joining Robelle on the left coast, I know a little about the city where this year's Interex conference will be held. Here is this edition's tip for traveling to and enjoying Toronto: where to get a really good burger.

Every once in awhile I crave a really good hamburger, and I always think of the Lick's burger chain at various locations around Toronto. The unique aspect of this place is that when you place your order, the cooking staff generally sings a song based on what you have ordered.

Robelle Products: Problems, Solutions, and Suggestions

Suprtool Version 3.7

Reading PRN Files.

Suprtool can create files ready for loading into PC programs. These files are in the popular PRN comma-delimited format, with all numeric fields converted to ASCII format, and character data surrounded by quotes. The obvious question is, "If Suprtool can create this kind of file from my IMAGE database, can it read this file format to load data back into IMAGE?". The short answer is no. The longer answer is maybe, but you have to do some work to convert the data to a form that Suprtool can understand.

First, a bit of background. The obvious way to load data into an IMAGE dataset is to use Suprtool's Put command. But the data file you load must be in exactly the right format to match the IMAGE schema. That is, each field must be the correct length and data type, without commas, quotes, decimal points, variable length fields, etc. Suprtool will not interpret and transform the data to make it fit. However, you may be able to use a less obvious command to load the data: the Dbedit Add command.

Dbedit is like an editor for IMAGE datasets with the usual editor commands: Add, Delete, List, Modify, and Change. Dbedit was developed for people who use terminals, so of course all the data is entered in ASCII, and Dbedit converts the data to the correct format before adding the record to the dataset.

The trick, then, is to convert the PRN file to the proper series of responses for the questions that Dbedit's Add command will ask. Hans Hendriks of our technical support team has come up with a Qedit command file which transforms each record in a PRN file into multiple lines that split at the comma delimiter. Use this as the basis for preparing the data for Dbedit. The actual procedure is too long to print here. Contact us to get all the details.

Qedit Version 4.3

Easy Fix for Common Typos by Mike Shumko.

With simple :File commands, you can make Qedit tolerant of your most common typing errors in filenames. For example, I frequently mistype the name of my daily diary file as "dairy" instead of "diary". Qedit always responds with "NONEXISTENT PERMANENT FILE". All I need is one simple file command, which I have put into my Qeditmgr configuration file:

     :file dairy=diary

Now, no matter whether I type dairy or diary in my Open command, I get the proper file.

About COBOL Debugging.

A few anonymous surveys requested that we provide COBOL source code debugging capabilities. We are not likely to produce such a tool because there are already two products on the market that do this. One is XDB from Hewlett-Packard, and the other is the debugging tool from CCS.

Frequently Asked Questions

Unknown HPSUSAN.

When you upgrade your computer, the new computer usually has a different HPSUSAN (HP System Unique Serially Assigned Number; whew, what a mouthful!) from the old one. Your Robelle software has a list of authorized HPSUSANs, so when you move the Robelle software to the new computer, the software refuses to run. Just call our office to get the new CPU authorized. The process takes less than five minutes over the phone. There is no charge for replacing a CPU with a larger one, although there is a right-to-copy surcharge if you are adding another computer to the list.

Will My Software Run On MPE/iX 5.0?

This was answered in the last newsletter, but it remains one of the most frequently asked questions. We recommend the latest versions of our software, which are Qedit 4.3 and Suprtool 3.7. The previous version of Suprtool should work, although you cannot take advantage of the new MPE/iX 5.0 features until you upgrade to version 3.7. To use the latest features, including HFS with Qedit, you need a pre-release version. Call to get your copy. The full details of MPE/iX 5.0 compatibility are available in the FAQ file on our WWW server ,or we can fax the information to you.

Where's My Monthly What's Up, DOC?

Sorry, Virginia, the newsletter is not published monthly. In fact, it has no fixed publication schedule. We aim to get six or more issues out each year, but the rule is to print it when we have eight pages of news. Sometimes issues will be one month apart, and sometimes it can take three months to collect eight pages. If you would like more frequent issues, here's a suggestion: send us news! We are always looking for short articles to fill the various sections, such as "News Tidbits", "Technical Tips", and "Robelle Products Suggestions". We also welcome longer feature articles.

"Spelling mistakes? Can't be -- I have an error-correcting modem!"

Creation Date: Jul 06, 1995
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