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January 2003

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No surprise: Retail versions of OS/2 withdrawn from marketing.

An editorial view from Mark Dodel.

Happy New Year and welcome to 2003. Its been about 10+ years of reports of OS/2's death, yet it continues to survive. The latest brouhaha erupted last month when IBM released an announcement that really should not have been a surprise to those of us who have been using OS/2 for years. What was somewhat surprising was it was followed a day or so later by several articles announcing that "OS/2 Alive And Well" and "OS/2 still sold here". All citing an IBM spokesman as the source, these served as fodder for those who can't face the reality that IBM has been trying to get out of the PC operating system business for years. These dim bulbs still sing the praises of IBM and encourage people to buy expensive subscriptions to show support for IBM. All the while IBM has been doing all it can to discourage those of us who actually still use their products.

If you have been a VOICE newsletter reader for a while now, you may recall that we discussed this IBM OS/2 phaseout plan over a year ago from information we learned at Warpstock 2001. "Device Driver enhancement and defect support will continue through 2004. Fee based transition services and product enhancement services as well as warranty defect support and software stack support will be available through 2006."

We all knew it would happen eventually, but still it was a shock to see IBM announce the withdraw from marketing of all retail versions of OS/2 Warp 4 and Warp Server eBusiness. Included in that announcement is IBM's Software Choice subscription program. What this means is that you will no longer be able to purchase the listed items directly from IBM on or after March 12, 2003. Purchases can still be made from non-IBM sources as long as supplies last. At the end of the announcement, IBM stated that all the products would continue to be supported through December 31, 2004. All of this has been in IBM's plans from 1995 or so when Lou Gerstner told IBM to come up with a plan to deep six OS/2. Anyone that doubts this should browse through Gerstner's book "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?". So with this IBM is pulling out of what little there is of an OS/2 retail business.

This only effects the listed part numbers, so OEM and TCO (Total Content Ownership) versions of OS/2 like Serenity System's eComStation are not changed. The December 2004 support date doesn't effect these sources of OS/2 either, as they can contract for support beyond even the December 2006 date that IBM has set as the final support date.

So what does all this mean to the OS/2 user community. If you work for a large OS/2 user or you have Serenity System's eComStation not much. If you have IBM's Software Choice, then you have to start wondering what kind of support and updates you can expect between now and December 31, 2004.

On the withdraw announcement they list "Replacement Product Information: None". On IBM's Software Choice page they are now touting Passport Advantage as a possible alternative to SWC. They don't give much detail other then "As an alternative to purchasing a Software Choice subscription for OS/2 Warp v4, existing OS/2 Warp V4 license holders can purchase a 1 year software maintenance after license for OS/2 Warp V4 D5C4NLL-OS/2 WARP INSTALL SW MAINT AFT LIC 1 ANNIV and can then optionally purchase a 1 year software maintenance renewal E1C4MLL-OS/2 WARP INSTALL SW MAINT RNWL 1 ANNIV."

IBM has dropped the previous requirements for enrolling in Passport Advantage, but there are only four types of memberships - Commercial, Commercial Purchasing CEO (Complete Enterprise Option) product categories, Academic and Government. Its free to join now, so I went through the online entry form. At the end of collecting information about me (address, phone, fax, email) it gave me the message:

"Enrollment Request Confirmation.
Thank you for completing your online enrollment with IBM Passport Advantage. Your enrollment number is xxxxxxxx.
Once processed, you will receive your Passport Advantage Welcome Kit within 3-5 business days, which contains your
Passport Advantage customer number. You will also receive your username and password to access the  Passport
Advantage Customer Extranet.  To learn more about the program, visit our  Interactive Tutorial.
If you have any questions about your online enrollment, please contact your eCustomer Care representative via
Phone 1-800- 978-2246"

OK I'm game, I went through the tutorial on Passport Advantage. Well I tried. Didn't work with Mozilla 1.3a for OS/2. Looked at the technical requirements. "System requirements: * MS Windows 95/98/2000/NT". Hmmm, no OS/2 listed. "Necessary Web browsers: * Netscape Navigator 4.51 to 4.75 or Internet Explorer 5.01 to 5.5" with an additional note that "The course does not support Netscape 6.0.". Not terribly Warp friendly are they? On the off chance that the web designer was some numbnut that had never heard of IBM's own operating system, I fired up Nescape 4.61, but got the message "Unsupported Java version", but I think that's because I have Java 1.3.1 as my default Java. I rarely use Netscape 4.61 any more, but it should work since there is no mention of Java as a requirement on the technical specifications page.

OK, so I went to a different machine to see if I would have better luck. On my laptop running eCS 1.03 with Netscape 4.61, the tutorial "Passport Advantage Fundamentals" loaded in a popup window. There are 5 selectable units. Unfortunately clicking on anything on the screen got me nowhere. OK I still have windowsXP installed on the laptop, so I booted to that. Mozilla 1.2a of course didn't work with the tutorial, and I don't have Netscape 4.6x for windoze. That leaves microsoft internet explorer. So I ran that and not only do the links work, but there is sound. Wow, to bad IBM doesn't support this on their own operating system. The tutorial only lists DB2, Lotus, Websphere and Tivoli and Software Maintenance. I suppose OS/2 falls under Software Maintenance as I saw no mention of it anywhere.

After going through screen after screen of marketing babble, I finally get to a definition of Passport Advatage. "Passport Advantage is the way to do worldwide volume licensing of IBM distributed software. It is designed to provide support for our customers and to give customers access to update their global software acquisitions.". Now that sounds like a program for me... NOT. I am just a single OS/2 (well now eCS) user.

Trying to find out what PA actually includes, I found that purchasing products through PA involves volume pricing. Every product's price is based on the type of account (commercial (small and medium business), commercial CEO (I assume this is for large corporations), government and academic) and the actual amounts product you buy. There are 10 different pricing levels (they call them bands) depending on your volume of purchases. According to the tutorial the band you enter is determined by your initial purchase. For me with only 4 or 5 licenses I'd be in the lowest (but highest price) level. The next band starts at 100.

The tutorial didn't answer any of my questions about how this will work for OS/2 users. What will the price for OS/2 support be? Will this include the problem reporting and support they frequently mention? So I looked elsewhere on the site for some information as to what Passport Advantage can do for the OS/2 user.

On Lotus' site there is a link to an IBM Software Support Handbook I couldn't figure this out, but there is a PDF version which I downloaded. OS/2 is actually found a few times in the PDF version, the one of which I downloaded is dated from November 2002. Assuming this is the product one can buy through Passport Advantage, there is a listing in a table for "OS/2, DOS, Windows" there saying that "Customer downloads from BBS and WWW, 1 Fixpak per product Semi-Annually". Under "If things don't go right" OS/2 is listed with a Hotline phone number (512-750-0641), which I didn't call (Its not a toll free call like many of the other contact numbers). Hey that's an Austin Texas area code isn't it? So I assume the person answering (if in fact there is a person) would at least know what OS/2 is.

Here at there is a table of what PA includes. This includes new licences, updates via download, media releases and "Access to IBM software technical support by anyone within customer's IT organization (not end users)". It does not specify if this support is free or if there is a charge.

So for now I will wait for my "Passport Advantage Welcome Kit" to see if that makes anything clearer. Is Passport Advantage a viable solution for the SOHO/small OS/2 user? I honestly can't say after spending a couple hours wandering about the Lotus web pages. Being forced to boot to windows to try to find out, is not making me feel warm and fuzzy though. The key will be if PA allows users to purchase non-withdrawn versions of OS/2 or at least ongoing support and at reasonable prices.

Either way those of us who want to have a non-Microsoft, non-Unix option, still have eComStation as a supported and still marketed choice. So I think there will still be a need for VOICE and this newsletter for the coming year and beyond. We remain dedicated to propogating information to help OS/2 and eComStation users to continue to enjoy their computing experience.


A few days before this issue went public I finally received my IBM Passport Advantage Username and Password. This allowed me to logon to the "Customer Site" on the IBM Passport Advantage site.

No sign of OS/2, so I first tried "Lotus Offerings" and a search there on "OS/2" returned nothing. Not even Smart Suite for OS/2. Oh well next I tried "Popular Offering Catalog" and bingo. A search on "OS/2" turned up the following:

So for $248US you can buy a new OS/2 license, with a one year software maintenance. My understanding is this does not include any media, just a license and downloading of fixes. I found no listing for media, but I was told you can purchase it for about $20US. One year of just software maintenance is $165US.

I hate buying maintenance contracts, so most likely I will never buy again from IBM. For me eComStation makes the most sense since I get access to all the fixes and drivers with just my initial purchase. All-in-All, I'm thankful we have a choice.

VOICE Newsletter Update: The planned page for free small advertisements by freeware authors and OS/2 users is going to become part of the VOICE home page soon. Its delayed as our webmaster has just relocated and isn't as yet back up to full speed yet. If you are interested, please contact us at

We are always interested in your thoughts and views on subjects related to OS/2, and would like to see opinion/editorial pieces as well as hardware/software reviews and HowTo articles. If you can help by writing an article please contact me at

Our Newsletter team is in need of backup. A few people have joined after we published a call for help in one of the last issues, but we could do with some more. To be able to help you don't have to be a very good translator or HTML programmer. If you have profound knowledge of English or German spelling and grammar, you can also help with editing the articles. Some hints on translation activities are also available in the FAQ.

Warp Doctor: Have an idea for Warp Doctor? You can send your comments directly to the Warp Doctor web guy Jeremy at or better yet attend one of our Warp Doctor Team meetings, weekly on IRC.

Everyone's help is required to keep this project going. Please note the change in schedule again. The team meets every Sunday at 3PM EST (20:00 GMT) now on IRC in the warpdoctor channel on the WEBBnet IRC network. The alternate Sunday schedule was too confusing. For more information on attending online IRC meetings please see the VOICE Meeting Information page -

VOICE Online Update: This month the general member meetings are scheduled on January 6 and 20 at 8PM EST (01:00 GMT). Everyone interested in OS/2 or eComStation is invited to attend either or both of these sessions in VOICE on the Webbnet IRC network. For more information on attending online VOICE IRC meetings please see the VOICE Meeting Information page -

If you have an idea for a Speakup event, please submit it to, and we will try to schedule something. As always, please be sure to check out the updated VOICE Future events Calendar in this newsletter or on the VOICE website at for more details on future VOICE events.

This month Thomas Klein returns with part five of DrDialog, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love REXX. He continues with his overview of development of REXX programs with GUI using the free development environment DrDialog by IBM. This should be interesting for anybody, especially for those who have always wanted to write their own OS/2 applications, but were afraid of the high learning curve of PM programming.

Next, Eric Baerwaldt gives us a few of the potentially scary future of "Secure computing" with his editorial on »TCPA« and »Palladium« - another step towards immaturity or a step towards emancipation?. I had heard of TCPA and Palladium, but had no idea what they were. Yet another reason to not run the operating system of the masses.

Then Timothy Sipples gives us a review of a beautiful machine with support for OS/2, The Thinkpad T30.

Walter Metcalf is back with his fifth and final installment on backing up your system with CDS's BackAgain/2000 Server Edition version 3.0 - A Review, Part 5.

Finally we have the VOICE Newsletter OS/2 Tips page and the Letters, Addenda, Errata page. If you have any OS/2 or eCS tips you've uncovered, please send them to If you have any comments or suggestions about the newsletter or articles in it, please send them to

That's it for this month. Upcoming articles include an update by Alfredo Fernßndez Díaz of his July 2000 article on the current state of booting OS/2 from a CD, a review of a USB memory card reader by Mark Dodel and the next articles in the series on DrDialog.

Mark Dodel, Christian Hennecke and Jason R. Stefanovich
VOICE Newsletter editors

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