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OpenVMS Hobbyist Program | Hobbyists and OpenVMS | How I Use OpenVMS
Author I am also curious

Posts: 2
Joined: 03.03.11
Posted on March 03 2011 16:13
I've been lurking here for some time, and I have used OpenVMS in the past. I am wondering what satisfaction people get out of it as a hobby. I know there are certain advantages and disadvantages of running it especially if you are an "enterprise" and have enterprise computing needs. I can see the historical interest, but how can you sustain that interest?

I don't mean to be polemical, or to start a flame war. I am just curious what it is that people find rewarding in this hobby. It can't be the internet experience or the level of support from HP, since the graphical browser is several versions and many critical vulnerabilities behind and it's not easy to get updates as I've been reading here. I can see how certain hardcore hackers who fell in love with MACRO would want to keep going with programming in it, given the amount of work it takes to appreciate it. Is this it? Or is it that DCL has become second nature, so that it's most comfortable to compute at home in this environment?

I'm aware that people like versioning file systems, robust drivers, fine-grained privileges, and high availability from clustering etc. But is this the makings of a satisfying hobby? And if so, what is the sustaining satisfaction? Please enlighten me!


Edited by aarto on March 03 2011 16:17
Author RE: I am also curious

User Avatar

Posts: 134
Location: Hopedale, MA USA
Joined: 15.12.05
Posted on March 04 2011 14:25
I consider the fine-grained privileges, and the relative security to be the most useful/attractive features of this OS. I use my hobbyist VMS system as a home file server, and I keep important family documents (mortgage documents, copies of family medical records, personal financial information, etc.) with a feeling of safety and security. As long as no one physically steals the system, our important documents remain secure.
Author RE: I am also curious

Posts: 2
Joined: 03.03.11
Posted on March 05 2011 05:46
Thanks for your response Brad, and I am very interested to hear how it can be used for personal use. Do you encrypt your private documents? Do you expose this computer to the internet? My guess would be "yes" for the first, and "no" for the second question. Just by way of reference, people in the Unix world have been using OpenSolaris (like James Gosling, founder of the Java language: http://james.gosling.usesthis.com/ ) these days for home file serving because it has a good implementation of ZFS which also versions/snapshots files (also available in FreeBSD), and prevents against bit rot. (http://www.sun.com/bigadmin/features/articles/zfs_part1.scalable.jsp) OpenSolaris also has pretty fine grained privileges for files. Is there something similar to a checksumming file system in OpenVMS now? I'm sure they'd want to match features with Sun.

I guess the broader question I had was directed to those people who use OpenVMS on their main rig, for all/most of their daily computing needs. I wanted to know more about how to appreciate the unique things OpenVMS has to offer.
Edited by aarto on March 05 2011 05:49
Author RE: I am also curious

Posts: 17
Location: Texas
Joined: 01.06.21
Posted on June 05 2021 13:42
I would say the best part of OpenVMS is it's administrator friendly environment to the point of giddieness compared to other OSes.

Yes users can submit the same or different batch jobs to a named generic queues that points to lists of batch queues running on other nodes and thus spread the load across many computers up to the point they fill up the batch limit or process slots.
No need to save an out of date list of computer names available to use either ssh to linux/unix and enter-pssession to windows computers to get them to do something.

Administrators also had the advantage of using sysman set environment/cluster to execute a command cluster wide right then on demand.
Back in the VAX/VMS 4.4 days before sysman was available, there was a tell command that you could tell a computer to go to something. I figured out how it worked and could tell more than one computer to go do something.
I would really like that capability with Linux/Solaris/Windows. I would have it "do it now" and not "I'll queue it up for later execution if the queue isn't hung".
I currently have an awk script that takes a list of Linux computers and writes a script that does: echo $node; ssh -tq -ConnectTimeOut=5 $node $cmd. However it requires pre-setup of ssh-keygen. Ok if your home is on common storage.

I also like mscp disk serving: from HSx storage array directly connected to two servers and each server had a sparse root zone equivalent for each of the 35 diskless workstations that booted over ethernet to be part of a Local Area Vax Cluster.
This way, the storage array disks, or server disk, or workstation disk all appear to be local with the only difference being you could query the disk to see which system is actually serving out the disk.
Also in this configuration, I can update the applications and/or OS and when the server and it's 35 workstations reboot, they point to the updated application or OS. I can then do that to the other half of the cluster later.
Each diskless workstation had it's own root directory for any local configuration or log files, but pointed to the server's vms$common OS directory tree. The local configurations could also get tuning parameters from a common area.

Logical names: defining a short name for specific disks, multiple disks, specific directories, multiple directories. Just access it by the logical name and reads and writes go to the first location that matches the rest of the path.
It made it easy to go find a specific file regardless of which disk it was on if that disk was included as an entry in your logical translation. Even though all OS commands are in the SYSEXE directory, you can use DCL$PATH to give a list of all the places executables might live.
In the past you could give only execute permissions to directories and executables and everyone could run them, but no one look at the contents or copy it off somewhere where they can dig into it to see how it works.

Startup: Edit one configuration file that all nodes in the cluster execute when they boot up if you want.
Drivers: All the drivers for all the certified equipment lives in the SYSLDR directory and all those drivers are already present on every system. With that being said, you can boot practially any model VAX or Alpha off of a VAX or Alpha OS disk and it will work with all the devices found and drivers loaded.

Use of the cluster alias (the name of the system as a whole): Mail, even though initiated from a local computer, it says it being sent from a computer that doesn't exist. specific or many computers can be enabled to receive mail at this address.
Directory access: Using a cluster alias of another cluster to access files that live on that system. With cluster alias and logical names that exist there, you as an outsider would have no clue where it really is. (Although, if given delete permission, you can clobber it)

Really fun tool that pre-dates Instant Messaging: Phone: I say Phone joe and joe says Phone answer. I say "please logout, I need to reboot your computer". Joe says "#$%@#$. Ok."

DSSI Audio Show during POST: I had a VAX 7000 with a KFMSA 6 port DSSI controller connected to several SF72 disk shelves full of RF73s and RF74s in an SF400 cabinet. I had two other VAX 4000-600a,700a systems with KFDDB DSSI add on daughter cards to provide 4 DSSI busses each to two SF200 full cabinets.
It was an audio show when over 50 DSSI disks all powered up at the same time. I miss those days! I wanted a KFPSA for the AlphaServer 8400, but I didn't get one. The 8400 used to be a VAX 7000-600. It's guts were replaced.

InfoServer: An early 90s computer that served out disk blocks like a SAN over ethernet. It also did MOP downloads like a tftp server.
DECserver: boots off the network from an InfoServer or a VMS system. You can connect a bunch of dumb terminals and simple printers and set up services to connect to specific computers or a "clustered" service. If connected to a "clustered" service and the specific computer you're connected to goes down, it will attempt to log you in again to the remaining service.
Certain DECservers can serve out the server's console port if you wish so that you can get to it remotely. These days that would go on an isolated network where maybe 2 or 3 computers have an extra ethernet port connected to it.
Multiple computer interconnects: you can tell a system through syconfig whether to pass Cluster traffic over all interconnects (default) or stop the traffic over specific interconnects like your main user network traffic ports.

If you dig into how the OS operates, it appears (mostly) to be well thought out, efficent, and with certain obfuscations can make it look like good like psudocode if you like psudocode.
With newer OS versions and other folks writing different software, it will at some point be able to play in the current and future kiddie sandbox and be a viable alternative.

It's really a shame that Digital's later years lack of marketing (post Larry Bird VAX spokesman) and CEO Robert Palmer's "Product line death agenda for anything Olson" was implemented. It didn't help that Digital would never come down on their new computer prices thinking that the cheap little products will never supplant the larger more expensive products and it always happens.

Author RE: I am also curious

Posts: 17
Location: Texas
Joined: 01.06.21
Posted on June 05 2021 13:55
P.S. I was never an employee or Digital, DEC, Compaq, HP, HPE, or VMS Software Inc.
I have a VAXstation 4000-60, VAXstation 3100-38, VT525, DECserver 100, DECserver 200MC, DEMPR, DELNI and a Quantum 2000XT (writes gray and white tapes but not black)
I have a Win10 20H2 Laptop with freeAXP and Win10 20H2 desktop with freeAXP. The two Alpha's are clustered together but only when the two Windows are connected through the DELNI. The Netgear router,firewall,switch says that AA-00-04-01-xx-xx (lavc) is not a valid MAC address.
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August 04 2022
No more VAX hobbyist licenses. Community licenses for Alpha/IA64/X86_64 VMS Software Inc. Commercial VMS software licenses for VAX available from HPE.

July 20 2022
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July 01 2022
No more hobbyist license...sad

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September 17 2021
At one time, didn't this web site have a job board? I would love to use my legacy skills one last time in my career.

January 18 2021
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January 16 2021
Can someone please point me to hobbyist license pak? I'm looking for VAX/VMS 7.1, DECnet Phase IV, and UCX/TCPIP ... have the 7.1 media, need the license paks ... thanks!

October 16 2020
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September 05 2020
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September 05 2020
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September 01 2020
I need the license for OpenVMS7.3. Where can I find them?

August 29 2020
Eisner, which is currently being moved, got an SSH update and the keys were updated to more modern encryption standards.

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