There have been numerous posts and tweets coming from the NonStop vendor community following RUG events worldwide: ETBC,...
Where to look when you need help with your NonStop system
There are many places you can look to for help when you encounter a problem with your NonStop system.
If your company has a support contract with HPE, you can open a case with the NonStop support center. Depending on the level of support your company pays for, you might be able to talk directly to one of the support specialists, or you might have to submit your request via email or a web form. This route is most appropriate when you believe you have encountered an error with HPE-supplied software or hardware, when something seems not to work as described in a manual, or when a manual’s description is confusing or seems incomplete. The support specialists are not there to provide application design assistance, performance tuning, or help debugging a program you have written, although at times, you might get a bit of help in those areas from a support specialist who is interested in the problem.
If you use some third-party software on your NonStop system, the supplier of that product usually has some support mechanism similar to HPE’s support center.
But where can you turn when your company does not have a support contract with HPE, or you need help outside of what the support center will do? I am sure I do not know all of the resources available, but I will mention a few I know of here. If there are other good resources I have not mentioned, please point them out, and maybe we can mention them in a follow-up article.
One resource you might have available is other people at your company who have experience with the NonStop system. The big advantage they have is that they probably are already familiar with your environment, so you will not have to spend a lot of time explaining things about your system, network, and applications before you get down to discussing the details of the problem. Also, if you are physically in the same location, they can notice things that are important, but you overlook when trying to explain a situation to someone far away.
Another resource that is good for at least some cases is HPE’s online manuals. They are relatively easy to access:
- Go to http://www.hpe.com/info/nonstop-docs
- Click the link for your type of NonStop system (NonStop L-series, NonStop J-series, etc.)
- In about the center of the top screenful of the next page, find the heading “Recent products”.
Just under that should be a link with the same name you clicked on the previous page. Click on it.
- The next page contains a search box. Type a partial manual title or some keywords and click the Search button.
- The next page will contain a list of manual titles with their last updated date.
You can view the manual in your browser by clicking on its title.
You can download the PDF file containing the manual by right-clicking on its title.
Looking at a manual certainly is helpful if you know that you need specific information about a particular command or procedure call. But sometimes you do not know enough about a problem to know what you should look up. You only know that something isn’t working and you need help to understand the problem. When you are in a situation like that, asking your question on social media is another way to try to get help.
There are a number of groups on LinkedIn that have names that seem like they might be a source of help in such cases. Groups such as “Tandem User Group”, “HP NonStop Programming”, “NonStop SQL Professionals”, and a few others. A few years ago, some of those groups were fairly active with posts about problems and many follow-up comments suggesting answers. However, they seem not as active of late. I actually was told to stop answering questions on one of the groups because the group owner thought that the LinkedIn groups were not for technical discussions or problem-solving. The size LinkedIn permits for a comment is often not long enough to contain a full answer to even a mildly complex problem. LinkedIn used to have a good means of notifying a member when a new topic was posted and when follow-up comments were posted, but that seems to have been removed or de-emphasized. I have a feeling LinkedIn is de-emphasizing the entire groups feature. They probably think they can’t make money off of it, so it isn’t worth their time and effort to support.
So, while you might be successful in getting an answer to a problem by posting a question on one of the NonStop-related LinkedIn groups, I believe the chances are a lot less than they used to be.
Two older ways of getting informal support are still around, but people seem to be forgetting about them. They are mailing lists and network news.
The only mailing list for asking for help with NonStop systems that I know of is the Tandem Computers group on Yahoo. The activity on this list has dropped off – the last post was nearly a year ago. I don’t know whether the recent upheavals at Yahoo are making people shy away from a Yahoo-related service, or people are just forgetting about or not liking to use a mailing list. I think a mailing list is easy and convenient to use. Once you sign up to the list, a normal email sent to the group’s address is sent to any member who asks to receive copies of such emails. To give an answer, you just reply to the copy of the email you received, and that sends your answer to everyone who is receiving copies of all the email. If you do not want to get email for each message, you can request to get just a single email daily that contains all the email from that day, or you can turn off email copies entirely and read the emails by going to the group’s web page in Yahoo.
The network news group comp.sys.tandem still exists and is a bit more active than the Tandem_Computers email list. You can post new topics, read topics, and post replies to topics using a web browser at groups.google.com, or by using a network news client program that communicates with a news server (like an email client program communicates with an email server). Many ISPs used to provide network news servers along with email servers, but as interest in network news has dropped over the years, many ISPs dropped their news servers. There are independent news servers around that you can use for a small monthly subscription fee. I use Giganews (www.giganews.com). Some email programs include a network news client, and there are freeware standalone network news clients as well. Configuring a news client takes only about as much effort as configuring an email client. Google groups can be configured to notify you via email of new posts, but the notification is not instant. I have not figured out its algorithm, but the notifications seem a little erratic.
None of these ways of getting informal support are what I would consider very good. None of them have what I would consider a large enough group of knowledgeable people participating to be sure that most questions will get a prompt and correct answer. Those people who do participate do what they can to answer questions, but nobody is an expert in everything and you do benefit when there are a lot of experts participating. Also, I think not many NonStop users are aware of these places to get informal support. Of the informal ways I have listed here, I believe comp.sys.tandem is currently the best choice to use if you have a question. If more people were participating in the Tandem_Computers mailing list, that probably would be a little better than comp.sys.tandem, because its notifications are much better.
Perhaps there is another, better way of getting informal support that I have not learned about. If you know of any other ways of getting informal support, please mention them so we can include them in a follow-up article.
In conclusion, HPE and third-party support services are very good for identifying, getting work-arounds for, and, eventually, getting corrections for, bugs in their products. However, they generally limit themselves to bugs in their products. When you need help outside that scope, informal support resources, such as LinkedIn groups, the Tandem_Computers mailing list, and the comp.sys.tandem news group, can be very helpful.
I have considered only free resources in this article. For some problems, it might be best to pay to get help from a consultant – either from HPE’s Professional Services or from outside HPE.