What's Up DOCumentation? 1995 #1


February 28, 1995

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

What You Will Find in This News Memo:

Announcing Robelle's 1-800 Number!

We are pleased to announce that you can now call Robelle toll-free, at 1-800-561-8311. Your feedback is very important to us, and we want it to be easy for you to tell us how to improve our products and services. In the past, some of you have had a hard time calling us because your phone system can't call the 604 area code. This toll-free number solves the problem.

The 1-800 number is available from all points in the USA and Canada. In other countries you can still dial the regular (604) 582-1700 number, or contact your local Robelle distributor for sales and support.

This new toll-free phone number is the latest addition to the growing list of ways to contact us. Last fall we added a World Wide Web server (http://www.robelle.com), and we have been available by electronic mail for over a year (support@robelle.com). And of course, you can still contact us the old-fashioned way at the mailing address on the front of this newsletter.

We look forward to hearing from you!

News Tidbits

Interex Date Change.

The Interex '95 conference has been moved ahead by one day, from August 13-17 to August 14-18. Hopefully, this will give some of you an extra day to see the sites in Toronto!

DeskJet Recall.

HP is contacting all registered owners of DeskJet models 510, 520, 550C and 560C, manufactured between June 1993 and March 1994. Problems have been discovered in the Roller materials. A symptom of the problem is the message "Out of Paper" when there still is paper in the tray. A repair kit is available: contact HP directly at 1-800-656-2324. [Steve Hammond, AAMC]

New HP 3000s-9x9.

HP has announced a new series of HP 3000s based on the latest PA7200 processor technology. The Series 9x9KS mid-range HP 3000s nearly double the performance of the 9x7 (Nova) family. Features include support for Fast/Wide SCSI peripherals, standard on-chip floating-point coprocesser, and bundled-in CD-ROM for future software distribution. One issue of note is that no HP-IB support is available on the 9x9 servers. Unofficial reports are that these machines (in the words of Jim Carrey) "are smokin". The 9x9 line became available as of February 1st.

Review: Norton Administrator for Networks

by Paul Gobes

Who's got what on the LAN? Here at Robelle we have a Novell file server that we access from our fifteen PCs. Even such a small network takes a lot of effort to manage. This all became easier a few months ago after reading PC Magazine's survey of network management software. We decided to purchase "Norton Administrator for Networks" and have been very impressed with it.

The software is easy to install and the only noticeable effect on performance is an extra two to three seconds at PC bootup time. At that time it accumulates hardware and software information from the PC and stores it in its database.

This utility provides three main functions: Inventory, Metering and Maintenance. Inventory stores over 150 pieces of information about each PC. It provides lists of available disc space, memory, network cards, clock speed, O/S version and even application software. You can even generate pie and bar charts for management reports.

Metering controls access to software on either the local or the network drive, and can enforce licenses or simply monitor the number of users so that an appropriate amount of copies can be purchased. It can also "queue up" the next user, who then gets notified when the utility is available. Finally there is Maintenance which can distribute software and files to local drives, do automatic installs and updates, and monitor and make changes to key files like Autoexec.Bat, Config.Sys and Win.Ini. I haven't used these last functions yet but they look promising.

I was also impressed by the technical support: when I called, my questions were answered quickly. Bottom line: this software is well-designed, functional, easy to use and very cool.

Review: Windows NT

by David Greer

We recently started using a Windows NT 3.5 workstation to help us automate some of our new PC development tasks (all Robelle development is automated). We have been impressed with this new operating system from Microsoft. If you were like us, you are probably confused about the differences between Windows NT and Windows 3.1. Here is a partial list:

1. Windows NT is a true operating system, complete with multi-users, multi-tasking, POSIX, and many other operating system features found in UNIX and MPE.

2. Windows NT has built-in support for many network protocols, including TCP/IP.

3. Windows NT is a 32-bit operating system.

4. Windows 3.1 16-bit applications cannot crash all of Windows NT when they crash (which happens often in Windows 3.1, especially when doing product development).

Windows NT is shipped with a primitive, but effective job scheduler. This one feature has allowed us to automate the production of all our user manuals in WinHelp format. We have not found any effective substitute for this feature in MS DOS or Windows 3.1.

Windows NT does require serious hardware. We would recommend a minimum of a 486/66 CPU, 24 MB of memory, and at least 0.5 GB of disc space. While most Windows 3.1 applications run fine on Windows NT, those that rely on internal Windows 3.1 features will fail (one example of this is WinFax).

Here's what Larry Boyd, R&D Manager for Bradmark had to say about Windows NT:

The reason I like Windows NT is because I don't have the memory restriction problems that I had with WFWG 3.11. Even though I have a 16MB Pentium, I couldn't open more than about 10 windows at a time on 3.11, and if I tried PowerPoint I couldn't run anything else if I wanted to print a slide presentation. With NT 3.5, I don't have these types of problems.
Windows NT is not for everyone. The hardware requirements are much more than for Windows 3.1, but Windows NT has much to offer as both a network server and as a development platform. The crash protection alone makes Windows NT highly desirable for Windows development. Background processes (e.g., printing) don't take over the machine and you don't get "hour-glass" waits when one application is loading or working (you can switch to other applications). Overall, we have been impressed with Windows NT.

About Robelle

Worldwide Customer Surveys.

We would like to thank our international customers who returned our customer survey. We have received surveys back from approximately 10 percent of our non-North American customers. We hope to receive more and urge you to please fill out your survey soon!


Robelle is introducing a new product, Suprtool/Plus, which consists of new versions of Suprtool, Suprlink, Speed Demon, and HowMessy. You can use the components of Suprtool/Plus to read "jumbo datasets".

The maximum size of an IMAGE/SQL dataset has been four Gigabytes. A new version of IMAGE/SQL now supports the potentially larger jumbo datasets. Data in a jumbo dataset can reside in one or more MPE files. You would use jumbo datasets when you want to store more than four Gigabytes of data in a single dataset.

Development Plans for 1995

by David Greer

We are still evaluating all of your survey responses. Thanks to your input, we have some good ideas about how to allocate our R&D effort in 1995.


The top enhancement request, to have Qedit automatically renumber lines, has been completed (just ask for the latest Qedit pre-release). A range of lines is automatically renumbered to make room when you exhaust the existing line numbers on a Screen mode cut-and-paste or a Line mode Move or Copy command. We have also added a stack of the most recently edited files, in anticipation of supporting multiple scratch files. This enhancement will allow you to edit multiple files at the same time (i.e., you will be able to cut-and-paste among several files without having to do intermediate Text and Keep commands).

We are also expending energy this year on research into possible new user interfaces for Qedit (e.g., MS Windows, VT-100 terminal support, etc.).


We are just finishing the top Suprtool enhancement request: extracting arithmetic expressions with data conversion. We expect this version of Suprtool to be available for pre-release in early March.

Suprtool Report Writer

We have started researching the possibility of having a Suprtool report writer. We would appreciate your help in designing this project. How much control of the page layout do you need? Do you want to support proportional fonts (e.g., on a LaserJet)? We are looking for example reports: please send us some of yours. Do you produce reports in multiple currencies? If so, we could use examples.

Suprtool for HP-UX

At the Interex meeting in Denver, interest in Suprtool for HP-UX was higher than ever. We are currently researching whether we can port Suprtool to HP-UX. If you are working with databases on HP-UX or planning conversion projects, we need your input. What Suprtool features are most important for HP-UX? What database system are you using? The more you can tell us, the more likely we can produce something really useful.

The Mysterious Case of "Free" Space Becoming "Used"

by Eugene and Vladimir Volokh, VESOFT

Once upon a time (July of 1988, to be exact) there was a question in INTERACT about a file with the record size of one sector, an EOF of 529, but the size in sectors 300. "Is this some super compression algorithm HP is using? Can I make all my files this small?" the user asked.

VESOFT answered the question: it appears that MPE might create "holey" files, i.e., files with some extents not allocated because records are not written there yet. There are some interesting "features" of such files...

For the inquisitive MPE/iX user who cares about managing disc space (and who shouldn't?), we provide the following demonstration:

First, let's build a file (and, as always, call it X).

 :build X
 :listf X,2

 FILENAME  CODE  ----------LOGICAL RECORD---------  ----SPACE----
               SIZE  TYP        EOF      LIMIT R/B  SECTORS X MX
 X             128W  FB           0       1023   1        0  0  *

As we can see, the file is empty: EOF=0, SECTORS=0 (even though there is, somewhere, some space occupied by the file label), and X=0 (eXtents given to the file). MX=* means that the MPE/iX file system has not set the Maximum eXtents number.

Now, let's write some information to this file, not sequentially starting from the beginning, but directly (by record number). Perhaps your application works this way already. For the purpose of this exercise, we can use MPEX's handy file I/O functions:

 :main.pub.vesoft &
         'calc vefwritedir("X,old;acc=inout","LAST",1022)'
 :listf X,2

 FILENAME CODE -----------LOGICAL RECORD---------   ----SPACE----
               SIZE  TYP        EOF      LIMIT R/B  SECTORS X MX
 X             128W  FB        1023       1023   1      256  1  *

We've written only one (but the last) record to this file and see what has happened: the end of file is equal to the file limit (which does not mean that X is full!) and one extent of 256 sectors becomes part of the file.

And now, the most interesting fact: let's just read (not write) our file X by simply :PRINTing it (try also :FCOPY or :EDITOR).

 :print X>$null
 :listf X,2

 FILENAME CODE ----------LOGICAL RECORD-----------  ----SPACE----
               SIZE  TYP        EOF      LIMIT R/B  SECTORS X MX
 X             128W  FB        1023       1023   1     1024  4  *

Note the final number of sectors and number of extents: there are four extents allocated to the file and they take a whopping 1024 sectors. Just imagine how much space can be moved from "free" to "in use" if you have files like this on your HP 3000, with even more (or bigger) holes. Try this on an MPE V machine and you'll get a different result (the one you probably first expected).

Check your system using MPEX's Listf command:

%listf @.@.@(isfixed and recsize*eof/256>sectors),2

Technical Tips

Showjob and Job Limits.

Like many HP 3000 shops, we depend on the fact that only one job can run at any given time. Our nightly test suites depend on this being true. We have the following command file which re-organizes the output from Showjob, and prints warning messages when any Joblimit vs. Jobcount situation occurs.

This command file also tells us which HP 3000 we are on, as we often have multiple sessions into multiple machines over our LAN.

 if "!hpsysname" = "DEV" then
 purge sojfile,temp >$null
 showjob job= j;exec >sojfile
 setvar lastline finfo("sojfile","eof") - 4
 print sojfile;start=4;end=!lastline
 if !hpjoblimit lt !hpjobcount then
    echo esc&dA************ W A R N I N G **************
    echo esc&dBNumber of jobs executing exceeds JOBLIMIT
    echo esc&dA*****************************************
 elseif (!hpjobcount + 1) lt !hpjoblimit then
    echo esc&dA************ W A R N I N G **************
    echo esc&dBTwo jobs could run at the same time !   *
    echo esc&dA*****************************************
 elseif !hpjoblimit = !hpjobcount then
    echo esc&dH****** WARNING:  The JLIMIT queue is full.
 echo &
 esc&dJ  Sessions:  !hpsescount &
 esc&dBJobs EXEC:  !hpjobcount (limit !hpjoblimit) &
 esc&dB  WAIT:  !hpwaitjobs &
 esc&dJ  SCHED: !hpschedjobs esc&d &
 esc&dJ  SUSP: !hpsuspjobs

Please note that the escape sequences within the echo statements are used to make certain text stand out.

Qedit Release Announcements

New Qedit 4.3 for HP 3000

Robelle continues to enhance Qedit, the powerful full-screen editor for all HP 3000 computers. Qedit is a complete environment for programmers, interfacing with many software tools on the HP 3000. While remaining inside Qedit all day, you can compile your current file directly without Text or Keep, run programs, execute UDCs and command files, and suspend tools like MPEX and Quiz for instant access. In addition to its full-screen mode with cut-and-paste, Qedit also has a powerful command mode for editing files from batch jobs.

Now in Qedit 4.3, you can edit large text files, using the new Jumbo workfile format. These files can have a virtually unlimited number of lines (up to 99 million), and be up to 1000 characters wide. This allows you to use Qedit's powerful capabilities to edit long spool files and data files easily.

Qedit 4.3 supports the many new features of MPE/iX 5.0. Edit files in the Hierarchical File System, such as files in nested directories, files with long filenames, and the new byte-stream files. As well, you can use the Chdir command while inside Qedit to access files in different groups and directories conveniently.

A complete description of all new features is in the change notice and revised user manual which accompany update tapes. All Qedit users who have service coverage receive an update tape automatically. Print extra copies of the manual from the tape or use the complete on-line help.

New Qedit 4.3 for HP-UX

We have enhanced Qedit for HP-UX, our powerful full-screen editor for HP-UX programmers. Qedit/UX is modeled on Robelle's popular Qedit editor for MPE, which for years has provided a complete development environment for programmers. Those familiar with the speed and flexibility of Qedit, will be at home immediately with its UNIX counterpart: Qedit/UX offers the same friendly look, as well as the same ease of editing.

Once inside Qedit, you can stay all day: run programs, execute shell commands (Qedit knows which shell you prefer), and shell scripts. In addition to its full-screen mode with cut-and-paste, Qedit has a powerful command mode for editing files interactively or in shell scripts. This year's release, Qedit 4.3 for HP-UX, offers even greater power and convenience, featuring the handling of large text files, and support for the cd command, Reflection functions and tab characters.

Now you can edit text files of virtually unlimited size in Qedit. The new workfile format allows files to be up to 99 million lines long and 1000 characters wide. As well, Qedit remembers the previous context (including current line and filename) when you Shut and then re-Open these files.

While inside Qedit, you can now switch between directories with the cd command. Qedit 4.3 also supports most Reflection features including wrapping words, saving and restoring function keys, and widening display memory. Qedit can even identify your Reflection model automatically.

Qedit users will also receive a new Bonus program, Compare/UX, that tells you the differences between two text files.

Robelle Products: Problems, Solutions, and Suggestions

Qedit Version 4.3

Re-inserting the Same Text.

One common editing function in Visual mode is to copy the same text to many different places. Users often mark the text they want to copy, add it at one place and then go back and mark the original block again. This is actually unnecessary because cut-and-paste operations save the lines they process in a temporary file "Hold0". To copy from the Hold0 file, use these special functions:

         A0   copy "after" this line from Hold0
         B0   copy "before" this line from Hold0
Hold0 is actually called /usr/tmp/qholdBAAa25295.0 on HP-UX, but you can still do /list hold0 and Qedit will find it; the "BAAa25295.0" is a random filename generated by UNIX to get around the fact that it has no temporary files.

Suprtool Version 3.6

Appending Record Count to Output File.

A simple to way to add the record count to the output file is to use the MPE/iX Echo command and the SuprtoolFullCount hpvariable. The only thing to remember is that the output file must have room for the extra line.

  !job mgr.test
  !run suprtool.pub.robelle
    base    store
    get     m-customer
    numrecs 105%             {build output bigger}
    set     squeeze off      {don't make limit = eof}
    output  cust
  !file cust,old
  !echo Total number of customers = !suprtoolfullcount>> *cust

Toronto Tips

by Neil Armstrong

Since I lived in Toronto for years before moving to Robelle on the west coast, I know a little about the city where this year's Interex will be held. Here is this edition's tip for traveling to and around Toronto:

Don't Arrive During Rush Hour. Like any big city, Toronto has its share of traffic problems especially during rush hour. Arriving at the airport during rush hour will add a significant amount of time to your travel from the airport to the downtown area. Rush hour is from 6:00-9:00 a.m. and 3:00-6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Creation Date: Feb 28, 1995