Computer Archaeology

Late last week, I finally got my hands on a new power supply for the IBM pSeries 7025-EF1 that we inherited last summer on the great German Van Trip.. Thankfully, that was the only physical fault on the machine, so soon it was happily booting through its POST check - you know, Power On Self Test. And like all of the IBM machines I've ever known, it displays four digit hex numbers for each of the components it was testing.. And soon it got to E335 (or something like that) and announced that it needed its firmware redone.

Bear in mind to get it this far, I had to find the right serial cable - yes a SERIAL cable - and some serial/RS232 Terminal Emulation software. Remember before the internet - you had to use the likes of Kermit (not the frog, the file transfer protocol) and suchlike ? Yes, I had to download Kermit to get a decent vt100 terminal emulation over serial. Dont worry if you dont know what on earth that is - it'll never be used again..

Firmware. Now could I blow new firmware onto a CD-ROM? After 30 minutes messing around (some four hours into this operation), I tried it - and no - the firmware really wanted to be upgraded from Floppy Disk. Oh. My. God. When was the last time I actually used a floppy disk? Seven years ago or so? And as for serial communications - nine or so years ago ?

After some muffled grunting and swearing from the 'store' area of the barn (Some 10 or so boxes filled with computer 'bits') I finally found THREE 3.44 inch, 1.44mb HD disks. Amazing. They had something on them - one of them was 'Lemmings'. So finally, after FINDING a computer that actually had a floppy disk drive, burnt the firmware. And applied it. Another hour or so.

Eventually, as the sun was going down, the AIX beast started booting off the AIX 5.3 CD-ROMS that I had to prepare.. And another four hours later, I had a working machine! Yeah! (And about 20 minutes after that, two working Domino 8.0.0 partitions happily burbling away). Success! (No, I couldnt get 8.0.1 as the business partner download site was down for the weekend. Again. Sigh)

So why do I do these archaeological adventures - the computer equivalent of an 'Indiana Jones' movie? Well, FirM uses C-API calls from LotusScript - and as we know from ls2CAPI and my various presentations (See my presentations page - link on the right), most platforms have slight differences in how we call our C-API functions. Which, of course, we have to test, using the relevant platform and version of Domino software. For instance, we have numerous Linux, Win2k3, XP, Mac boxes kicking around, and a handful of Solaris boxes, and now we have a monster AIX box.

All we need to complete the set is an OS/400 box.. So if anyone has an old OS/400 box going spare, capable of running Domino nd7.0.0, then we'd gladly take it off your hands. Note that this is not for testing an enormous load of users - its functional testing of code patterns. So our 9 year old Solaris workstation (500 euros four years ago!) running Solaris 9 or 10 is perfectly happy doing this sort of stuff.

As an IBM business partner, we do have access to the Virtual Loaner Program, where IBM give you a slice of one of their test servers for two weeks, with vpn access. But nothing beats proper regression testing on the appropriate hardware, does it ?

(We do have a customer who just migrated from z-Series to p-Series recently, and we're aware that there's a linux emulator for z-series.. So until someone huge with Domino on z-Series (and they do exist!) call, then I think we'll skip actually trying to get a z-series mainframe.. I mean, the cooling systems alone cost a fortune!)