September 2000

Ploticus: an HP 3000 data display engine

Freeware solution can paint graphic pictures of MPE data

By Andreas Schmidt

This article will point you to newly ported freeware called Ploticus/iX. It is a tool to create graphics or print files out of any MPE data, mainly to be shown in a Web browser. Such tools command more importance in today’s HP e3000 world.

Ploticus is a free software package developed by Steve Grubb ( that creates graphical data displays for Web pages and intranets, paper reports, posters, slides, or interactive use. Ploticus is script-driven and can be invoked automatically from Web servers and other programs. It can work with flat ASCII or spreadsheet datasets which can include numerics and text as well as dates and times in a wide variety of notations. It also has a built-in capability of computing frequency distributions, cross-tabs, medians, quartiles and curve fitting.

When I was looking for a solution to generate performance graphics out of MeasureWare/UX (aka Scope) to be shown on our intranet I was advised by Lars Appel of HP Germany, to check out Ploticus. Lars wrote, “Just happened to notice in the recent Interex magazine (in the Internet Goodies of the hp-ux/usr section) for a utility that is called Ploticus. Seems to output GIF, PNG, Postscript, etc. Just in case you’d feel inclined to port it to MPE/iX.”

I found the Ploticus very useful on Unix, and finished a nice Unix intranet project based on Ploticus to display recent Unix system utilization. Then I began to port it to MPE.

Step by step, eliminating problem by problem, and with the friendly help of Steve and Mark Bixby of HP’s e3000 lab, Ploticus was compiled and is now able to run on MPE. I named it Ploticus/iX to distinguish the original Ploticus and the MPE port of it.

Ploticus keeps temporary files in /usr/tmp/, but on MPE there is only a /tmp/ directory by default. The source was changed accordingly. In a newer version of Ploticus, this directory can be configured.

My whole porting process required some days, but porting a newer version of Ploticus to Ploticus/iX required only one hour, based on the proper documentation of these changes.

What you can do with Ploticus/iX

First, see Steve Grubb’s home page, A lot of examples there demonstrate the ability of this freeware. Source can be downloaded here as well, and a lot more useful information.

To see some examples for the HP e3000 world, as well as download the software in a zipped 1.2 Mb tar archive, see my Web site at There you will also see a download link to get the NMPRGs, some examples, and a basic command file.

At present, I’ve used system and account manager’s information as examples, but it’s obvious that any data out of any HP e3000 file or database could become a data source for graphs generated by Ploticus/iX. Some examples which come to mind are:

• Graphical analysis of order entries per day (from your HP 3000 serving order systems);

• Financial analysis for sales purposes (from your HP 3000 which manages order and sales processing); or

• Material statistics (from your HP 3000 which runs MM3000 for warehouse processes).

There is only one condition for using Ploticus/iX: the data must reside on the HP 3000, and should become visualized for Intra- or Internet purposes on the HP 3000 itself. The graphics .gif format is the most common one (other than .jpg), but .png is the better packed one. Plug-ins are available for the main browsers. Ploticus offers both graphics formats.

I created LaserRX Global Graphs without FTPing to NT for MeasureWare analysis — and found that Ploticus/iX is able to create .gif or .png files on the HP3000 directly. The only requirement: an EXPORT is needed by EXTRACT.SCOPE.SYS. Using Samba/iX permits these created graphics files to be accessed directly the e3000 via Samba/iX. My Web site shows how I did this in detail, along with the needed command file, at

The process of running Ploticus is the same for all platforms:

1. Create a datafile from your application or system, one which meets the requirements for Ploticus.

2. Define the Ploticus layout script.

3. Run the Ploticus program pl or pltab to create the graph or print file. It’s such simple as it sounds, and the excellent handbook (available to read on Steve’s site, as well as for download) will answer all your questions, I’m sure.

Your feedback is welcome, especially any example from your HP e3000 you’re willing to share. Just mail to or

Andreas Schmidt is Computer Technology Specialist working for Computer Sciences Corp., Bad Homburg, Germany.


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