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|By Niels Jensen © January 2005|
Warpstock Europe was again this year hosted by the Dutch OS/2 users group at the Stay Okay Hostel in Arnhem from Friday, November 26th through Sunday, November 28th. The location is about 1½ kilometer from the center of Arnhem, the city in Holland where more allied soldiers died in WWII during a futile attempt to established a bridgehead in Holland than were killed on the beaches of France on D-day. The hostel is located in a rich neighborhood on the hills north of the center of Arnhem, which is a major transportation hop in Holland.
Registration was a breeze - at least if you preregistered as I had via the Mensys website. You simply gave your name and were handed a badge with your name and country plus affiliation, if appropriate. With the badge was also included a paper receipt for those needing this, as well as a paper copy of the program and a location map so you could find the sessions you wanted to attend. I do believe that it is a good idea to have a professional organization such as Mensys to handle the registration and payment of fees.
My wife joined me on this trip to Arnhem for some sightseeing in Amsterdam and Arnhem. Therefore we elected to stay at the Best Western Hotel at the main railway station in the center of the city. Bypassing the link from the Warpstock Europe website to the hotel and going directly to the hotel home page, we discovered their Fall Package which included to 2 nights stay for 2 persons including breakfast both days and a four course dinner on the day of arrival as well as admission to the Open Air Museum for just € 199. This is just slightly more expensive than staying at the hostel if one consider extras and location. The downside was the daily transport to the Stay Okay Hostel, and that I had to cut down the participation to just the first two days of the event - leading to some difficult choices about which technical sessions to attend.
The organizers had divided the presentations into four categories ALL (Allgemeine, General), APP (Applications), INT (Internet) and LAN, plus a 40 minute workshop on Maul. I found this helpful in deciding to focus most of my attendance on the LAN sessions. Most of the time there were 3 parallel sessions. All sessions were limited to 40 minutes with a 20 minute break after each session. There were 9 scheduled general presentations, 3 about specific applications, 3 about Internet applications and web development, and 7 about LAN issues. Most presentations were given at least two times so by attending all three days one could attend all presentations at least once.
The first presentation I attended was Robert Henschel's "Serenity Virtual Station 2004 Introduction and Roadmap." Robert outlined where the SVISTA product is today and the feature releases planned for the next 9 months. The tentative plan calls for USB support sometime during the first half of next year as well as Folder Sharing between the host and the client. In a private talk Robert also outlined his approach to maintaining a number of clients with different applications for easy installation and switching between them, but that deserves a separate note after I have tested the scheme.
Another general presentation I attended was Roderick Klein's "Installing eComStation 1.2 Quick and Easy." Roderick, who works at Mensys. He outlined some of the new features included in the eComStation 1.2 installer by using the German national language version (NLV) finished just the day before. The new installer allows the user to add drivers before the install actually starts, e.g. if you have a Tekram SCSI drive or other hardware for which the driver is not on the CD, you can provide it to the installer using either a CD-ROM or a floppy drive, and that way you can install directly to a Tekram SCSI drive.
Another feature included in the new installer is the ability to edit the CONFIG.SYS file before the install starts.
Finally the installer provides a zipped file which allows the experts at Mensys to diagnose failed installations, and simultaneously improve the installer for future releases. In the German NLV the de-installer has also been changed as well as the selective installer. These now use the same interface which is used during the original eComStation install.
The opening presentation of the second day was Bart van Leeuwen's "Roadmap for eComStation" including how the build process has been improved since version 1.0 by switching to the CVS-based build system. This has among other things allowed the German NLV to be produced in less than 2 months. Currently eComStation 1.2 is available in the following NLVs: English, German, Russian and Dutch; NLVs in French, Italian and Spanish are in the works. Further NLVs will require a community translation effort, especially to provide NLVs of XWorkplace / eWorkplace.
The roadmap emphasizes items such as virus-proofing, protocol transparency, application portability and localization. Security will probably be based on Security/2 and include multilevel user support on the client out of the box as well as central administration features. Protocol transparency means that if something is available somewhere on the net, it should be possible to access it from eComStation. This effort includes replacing some dated TCP applications, e.g. FTP PM, as well as adding OpenSSH and OpenLDAP on eComStation.
Application portability and support involve a packed installation scheme with multiple sources plus saving installation scenarios for easy re-deployment. The multiple sourcing idea, which is used e.g. by the Debian Linux distro, allows an installer to include files available on a server on the Internet.
Hardware issues being worked on include ACPI (which means I can hopefully use power management features on my T42p), installation on Athlon 64, FireWire (which is another T42p feature presently not supported under eComStation), support for serial ATA-drives (SATA-drives), which according to the expert on hard drive technology don't work under eCS at present.
The roadmap further calls for use of open standards including Posix, libXML / libXSLT, OpenLDAP and Linux PAM plug-ins. It was hinted that the latter could improve access to newer Windows Server 2003 systems.
Bootable JFS is in closed testing at the moment and will provide faster booting thanks to a larger cache [than is available with HPFS] in the next version of eCS.
Also looked at for the next version of eCS is some form of Net Drive support with the SAMBA client developed by Netlabs. Netlabs by the way now also have a beta of the SAMBA server for eComStation running. Finally the next eCS will have improved coexistence with other OSs including the option to re-size the pre-installed Windows partition on new machines to something reasonable before installing eCS. And the team is working to provide all this before the end of next year.
Jan van Wijk gave a 40 minute version of his presentation from Warpstock 2004 in Denver. DFSee, often called the Swiss Army Knife for disk drives, can be a friend when you know how to use it, e.g. to recover accidentally deleted files or partitions. And it can be a foe if you enter a command without knowing the consequences. I have experienced both events. Last year after accidentally deleting my complete documents directory on my Thinkpad 600 I recovered more than 85% of the files using DFSee and the OS/2 editor. Early this year somehow I could no longer boot eComStation on the same laptop; however, this time I was not careful enough with DFSee and I somehow erased the partition table.
DFSee is developed on eComStation using OpenWatcom for compiling all versions: DOS, OS/2, Windows and Linux. The user interface uses the wxWindows library. 99% of the code in DFSee is generic, i.e., OS independent. One of the features Jan demonstrated was the virtual file system which allows you to try out commands on a virtual copy of your file system before using them on your actual file system. I wish I had known that 10 months ago!
Jan's presentation and other presentations related to DFSee and file systems are available on the DFSee website. The current version of DFSee is version 6.16.
Other general presentations included: "Running X11 Applications on the OS/2 and eCS Desktop" by Sebastian Wittmeier; "An Introduction to PERL" by Dave Saville; "Unix on OS/2: Providing a UNIX-like environment for OS/2 and eCS" by Adrian Gschwend; and "Translating eCS into other Languages" by Jac. van Leeuwen and Jan van der Heide. I also missed out on "OS/2 in the Netherlands - a funny review guided by live music!" by Gerrit Schoenmaker.
Beside giving an ultra short Maul Publisher Workshop - it was scheduled to last only 40 minutes - the author of Maul, Peter Koller, gave a presentation about the next release of Maul. Based on feedback from users Peter Koller is working hard to provide a better user interface using things such as greying out of non-working buttons and context sensitive help assistants. Version 3 of Maul Publisher, the desktop publishing application for eComStation which allows you to create documents with text in a circle or text flowing around a circular picture, should be ready for Warpstock Europe 2005. Session attendees were provided with a CD with a 30 day trial of the current version in both English and German as well as a beta of version 3.0. The work, which goes into version 3.0, is aimed mainly on the occasional user who uses Maul infrequently and therefore doesn't become familiar with or remember the many shortcuts and features of the program.
Other application presentations that I did not have time to attend included "PmSheet Image Viewer" by Jasper de Keijzer and "The Clipview Application Suite" by Dave Saville.
The three Internet related presentations were "Supporting OS/2 and eCS Software with netlabs.org" by Adrian Gschwend, "Development of PHP Web Applications" by Frank van den Heuvel and "All about XML and Mozilla Webbrowser" by Adrian Gschwend. I am sure I would have benefited as an eComStation user by attending several of these presentations, but at least I can look at the presentation files once they get uploaded to the Warpstock Europe website.
Frank van den Heuvel gave two presentation about TCP/IP: "TCP/IP for Dummies" and "TCP/IP for Gurus." I only attended the latter in which Frank outlined the general rules of networking, i.e., KISS, RTFM and check everything; basics of firewalls, network services, routing between subnets and virtual private networks (VPNs) in just 40 minutes.
You check what you can PING. If you can PING a local host and your own IP address, you know the TCP/IP stack is working. If you can PING the closest router, you know basic Internet connection is working. A tricky item is the DNS (Domain Name Service which translates an URL into an IP address). If you can PING it, it is most likely working.
Basic firewalls, such as the one provided with the newer TCP/IP stacks in eCS, provide packet filtering. In eCS this can be configured using Zampa. There are two basic strategies: deny all and allow some, or allow all and deny some. In general your firewall configuration should not contain more than 10-15 lines. A proxy server is an alternative to NAT; on eCS Squid provides this functionality. Further documentation on firewalls may be found on Hobbes in the file firewall_doc_v11.zip.
For services such as HTTP, HTTPS and FTP in general you are better off using standard ports, i.e. 80 for HTTP traffic, 443 for HTTPS traffic and 21 for FTP traffic, unless you have specific reasons to change something. An example would be running two different web servers, e.g. Apache and Web/2, on the same machine.
Netbios over TCP/IP has some special issues with respect to coordination of user names and passwords. Directory services are designed to avoid these. Netbios over TCP/IP uses ports 137, 138 and 139. Frank saw no reason for ever using basic Netbios since you can block Netbios over TCP/IP from/to the Internet with your firewall.
Routing between subnets can be complex. Frank showed how a routed network including home workplaces could be created which allowed easy support and administration from a central location. One feature for this, which I need to learn more about, is Routing Information Protocol (RIP), and then you can, as Frank explained, Rest In Peace.
For Peer to Peer VPN connections Frank recommended Injoy from FX Communication. This product is available for Windows, Linux and OS/2, and a FreeBSD version is planned. VNCViewer was mentioned for remote desktop access.
Zsolt Kadar's presentation "Installing and using Secure Shell under OS/2 and eCS" showed how OpenSSH, Security/2 and related utilities can be used to improve security of communication when using Telnet, FTP, or copying files over a network. One can download the needed software from the Internet and install the packages individually. However, Zsolt has provided a script which includes checking for prerequisites such as an installed EMX. The script makes the installation possible for the average OS/2 or eCS user.
During the presentation Zsolt connected from the laptop in the conference room to a VNCViewer running in an OpenSSH daemon in a Virtual PC on a Windows box in his home. Quite an impressive real-time demo! I am definitely looking forward to this package becoming an integral part of eComStation.
Christian Langanke, chairman of former Warpstock Europe 2000, has developed a small application which makes the life of the eCS or OS/2 user easier in wireless world. Christian's presentation, called "The New Wireless LAN Monitor Xcenter Widget," showed that this application is much more than a monitor, it is actually an application which allows you to create several wireless connection profiles (e.g. one for home, one for the user group meeting and one for the office) and automatically scan for a connection as you are booting your system. The latest version also features automatic reconnect on card insertion as well as a special hot spot profile for connecting to public un-encrypted access points. Another feature is switching between different wireless network cards without the reboot, which MTPS requires after changing almost anything. Of course the cards which you would potentially use, need to be configured on different LAN interfaces using MPTS. After this is done the Wireless LAN Monitor allows you to select the LAN interface, e.g. lan1 or lan5. Christian recommended using WEP encryption on your private network even though the 64-bit passwords may be broken in a couple of hours and the 128-bit ones in less than two days on modern powerful systems.
The current version of the Wireless LAN Monitor is available from Christian Langanke's website at www.clanganke.de.
Onno Tabak's presentation "eCS and OS/2 Networking with Windows" provided a brief history of the development of network protocols and directory services. A key piece of information was that Windows Server 2003 by default only allows Windows 2000 and Windows XP clients to connect due to its default high security policy. Onno's presentations contained detailed information about the changes needed to a Windows Server 2003 installation for it play along with eCS, OS/2 and Linux clients, and this presentation will shortly be available from the Warpstock Europe website.
After this followed David von Enckewort's presentation "eCS and OS/2 Networking with Linux." David works on Mensys' eComStation team. He started with an overview of the differences between the security models used in eCS / OS/2 and Linux. The former are single user based and by default have no built-in local security. David also talked about differences in the protocols supported by the two platforms, and some license issues - apparently the NFS included in newer versions of eCS / OS/2 is only licensed for use by OS/2 Warp Connect. The presentations also covered a comparison of the printing system on the two platform including the current limitation of eCS / OS/2 print jobs to 64 MiB that is present with most implementations of LPD.
If you are active in discussion groups, then you properly receive a significant amount of SPAM. Some of this may be fought using the Bayesian filters in e-mail clients such as Polarbar Mailer and others. However, the spammers are getting more and more sophisticated in their approach to tricking the filters to categories their mails as good, e.g. by including lengthy citations from original literature. Jeroen Besse is the author of RBLcheck, and in his presentation "Filter Out Spam with RBLcheck" he showed how this application can be used with e-mail clients which allows user exit programs to run. RBLcheck performs the check of the IP addresses against several realtime blacklisting services on the Internet, and weighs the result based on your confidence in the different services. RBLcheck then adds "X-RBLCheck" headers to your incoming e-mail which you then can act on using normal mail filters. As mentioned RBLcheck requires your e-mail client to support user exit programs. During the presentation PMMail was used. Unfortunately, Mozilla and Thunderbird currently don't support user exit programs, but the author did mention the possibility of rewriting this nifty utility as a Mozilla and Thunderbird add-on. I am currently looking at using RBLcheck with my Polarbar Mailer. More about this at another time.
Any eComStation event apparently needs a raffle. At this year's Warpstock Europe the prizes included 4 Warpstock Europe posters which were created using the OS/2 version of GIMP - a product of Netlabs, 2 bootable mini-CDs with DFSee provided by Mensys, 2 licenses to the current version of Maul Publisher provided by Peter Koller, and an old HP 4c scanner which apparently works with the drivers provided with the eComStation 1.1 application pack. The raffle was conducted right after lunch on Saturday during the peak attendance time. I don't know the exact figures, but I guess that more than 100 people attended this year's Warpstock Europe.
This year was also the 10th anniversary of the Dutch OS/2 users group, and this was celebrated with a huge cake Saturday afternoon. Congratulations to the Dutch OS/2 users group on their anniversary and for providing another high-content edition of Warpstock Europe.
Unfortunately, none of Europe's OS/2 or eCS ISVs had found it worthwhile to participate in this edition of Warpstock Europe. I am thinking of FX Communication (Injoy Firewall) and Danware (Netop remote control) from Denmark, Norman (Norman Antivirus) and Opera Software (Opera web-browser) from Norway to mention just a few of the remaining European ISVs. Several presentations indicated that the small pool of developers in the community around OS/2 and eCS is one of the limiting factors for rapid progress and exploiting the current window of opportunity for increasing the user base. I do believe that the organizers of next year's event should look at attracting more ISVs to the event.
I also believe attendance from across Europe could be increased by slightly changing the program so registration starts at noon on the first day, and with presentations earlier in the day on the second and third days with a possible finish around lunch time on Sunday. This would allow attendees from outside the Benelux and Ruhr area to use Friday morning and Sunday afternoon for travel.
Nevertheless, I am very happy that I attended this year's Warpstock Europe which was quite different from the Warpstock 2001 I attended in Toronto 3 years ago.
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