Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education
VOICE Home Page:
February 2003

[Newsletter Index]
[Previous Page] [Next Page]
[Feature Index]

The best OS/2 ever - a personal view

An editorial view from Manfred Agne.

The recent announcements of IBM concerning the future of OS/2 have caused unrest in the community, and some users might feel that now is the time to look for alternatives. I feel differently, and I'd like to tell you why:

I started using OS/2 in 1992, shortly after version 2.0 came out. There were only a few native applications available, but the few DOS applications that I had worked pretty well under OS/2. However, the reason why I started using OS/2 was that it had a flat memory model, and that I - as a programmer - could simply allocate one, two, or more megabytes of memory in a single piece and work with it, without having to worry about the 64k segment limitations of DOS. I bought OS/2 and a bit later IBM CSet/2 (which included a second license for OS/2), and I was in business. I very much enjoyed the benefits of the new OS, starting with the possibility of multitasking, and then slowly extending to the more subtle features offered by the WPS.

Over the years, I went through OS/2 version 2.1, 2.11, Warp 3.0 (I skipped Warp Connect), then Warp 4 with its various updates, and finally eComStation. I upgraded the 486DX33 as far as it would go, then got a custom-built Pentium 266 system, and in 2002, I got myself an Athlon XP 1600+ machine, also specially built to suit my needs. I bought the commercial OS/2-software that I needed (StarOffice 3.x, Xact Versions 3.6 to 6.0, ImpOS/2 1.2 to 2.1, Unite CD-Maker, TrueSpectra Graphics Pro, IBM Visual Age C++, Sibyl, VisPro Rexx, BackAgain, Gammatech Utilities, Quicktime for OS/2, Object Desktop), registered many shareware programs, and installed an uncounted number of freeware applications. The hardware that I bought during these ten years was carefully selected for compatibility with OS/2, and despite the occasional installation problem, it worked (and still works) reliably. Connected to my main system, I currently have a DCF77 time receiver (acquired 1995), a flatbed scanner (1999), a slide scanner (2000), an external modem which also works as a standalone fax receiver and answering machine (1997), an ISDN telephone system with integrated ISDN modem and DSL option (2002), a cradle for my Palmtop computer (2002) and an up-to-date digital camera (2002). The same system features a TV tuner card (1998), soundcard, SCSI-adapter, add-on RS232 adapter card, and network card. Of course, I have a CD-RW drive and a DVD-ROM, and there's also a SCSI-MO drive.  All the hardware is fully supported by eComStation, and I have no doubt that it will continue to work with the next release of eCS.

OS/2 has given me a continuity that would have been impossible with any other operating system that I'm aware of. Warp 4 FP15 runs on the same old 486-PC that I bought ten years ago (upgraded to 32 MB, and provided with a network card and an additional 10GB harddisk), and this machine is still useful in our home LAN as a file and print server. eComStation would run on that machine too, except that I have only one license which I need for my main computer, and I have no use for the eye candy on a PC that runs without monitor most of the time. The Spea V7 Mirage display adapter that I bought for OS/2 2.1 still runs flawlessly under Warp 4 FP 15, as does the Pro Audio Spectrum 16 soundcard of the same vintage.

The old applications are still there, they keep working, and some of them are now even available for free. And new software is emerging every day. Hobbes incoming is never empty, and there's still interesting commercial and non-commercial software being written. VirtualPC offers a world of new possibilities,  Odin is getting better and better, new drivers are written and old drivers are updated. Most importantly, the new stuff is usually fully compatible with the existing solutions, at least if it is not designed to replace them completely. Thus, each single addition extends the possibilities of the system. Thanks to its compatibility, OS/2 just gets better and better. Hence my theory: The present eComStation installation is "The best OS/2 I ever had". Except for DVD-playback (WarpVision is not yet ready for prime time, but it's improving with each new version), my computer does everything I want it to do, and it does it under OS/2. And it keeps getting better! Even if all development of OS/2-compatible software stopped now, in this very instant, I would still be able to extend my system. There are thousands of OS/2-compatible programs out there that I never got around to even try out. If I need "new" hardware for my system, and the more recent stuff is not compatible with OS/2, I still have the option to go to one of the online auction sites and buy used products, choosing a proven good solution with reliable drivers and usually at very favorable prices.

Where's the limit?

Well, there are several limits that I can see: First of all, hardware may fail, and sooner or later, even used replacement hardware my be hard to get. Therefore, if a system falls apart, it might become more and more difficult to get it working again. However, VirtualPC may help here, as it allows the use of OS/2 as a guest on another OS, in a standardized virtual hardware environment that is (and therefore will always be) fully supported by OS/2.

Second, printers. Once device driver development stops (whenever that may be), we are limited in our choice of printers. And printers need consumables, like ink cartridges etc. Inevitably, the day will come when the last print cartridge for any OS/2-supported printer has been produced, sold, and used, and after that date, we may be unable to print directly from OS/2. Nobody knows how far away this is, but since there are still new and supported printers available, this must be many years into the future. However, even after that day, we will probably still be able to print to a virtual postscript printer, send the output to another machine running another OS, and print it from there.

Third, communication protocols. In my opinion, any OS which does not have the capability to communicate with other systems is only of very limited use. With WinXP, Microsoft has once again proven that it is possible to break compatibility if one tries hard enough, and this is likely to happen again. However, we still have TCP/IP as a last resort, and that will be difficult to change. I'm not familiar with IP version 6, but it appears that this is designed for full downwards compatibility. I would guess that, even if  the whole net would switch to any other protocol which is incompatible with today's networking stacks, there would certainly be hardware routers available that would take care of the translation between the new and the old protocols.

Fourth, file formats. I think, this is the point where OS/2 is most vulnerable, and in fact, it seems to be the point where we lost the biggest part of our fellow users in the past. In a world where almost every new release of any text processor, spreadsheet, graphics application, or indeed any other major application seems to require a new file format, OS/2 has a hard time to keep up. Probably every computer user (including the Windows lemmings) has run into this problem at some point. You get a file from a friend or a customer, from the net, or from somewhere else, and none of your applications is able to do anything useful with it. There are solutions, of course, for some formats, and new converters emerge every now and then. However, there doesn't seem to be any type of "general" solution to this problem, at least not yet. Maybe we need a "file conversion server", a proxy type of thing that runs on a dedicated machine plugged between the net and the LAN, converting incoming and outgoing file formats. Of course, it should be easily upgradable to new formats, eg. via plugins. I could imagine that this might be just the thing many companies would be willing to pay big money for. Anyone wishing to start a business on it? Feel free to use my idea, I'd appreciate a free license for my personal use, if you get it to work ;-)

Although the file format problem may be difficult to overcome for incoming documents, it is usually a non-issue for outgoing documents. Almost all OS/2 programs can write at least one file format which is generally understood by other systems. Therefore, OS/2 continues to be useful as a production environment.

And whither then?

Having said all that, I see no reason why I should abandon using OS/2 in the near future. The system is already flexible enough to be useful in the next few years, even if all support ended now. However, the development continues. Serenity Systems is about to release the next version of eComStation, Scitech is continuously adding new features to its display drivers, and VirtualPC is a kind of insurance for the future. Last but not least, support from the user community is great, despite the continuous attempts of the FUD4 (from the Usenet comp.os.os2 groups) to split the community. I have stepped on this road almost ten years ago, and I will follow it as far as it goes. As Tolkien says:

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

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 February 3 and 17 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 Doug Bissett gives us an overview of setting up the firewall included in the OS/2 32 bit TCP/IP stack in Quick and Dirty Firewall. Everyone, even OS/2 users need to take precautions these days. If all you need is protection, then this might be the ticket.

This month we have to get by without a new DrDialog article, unfortunately.

OS/2 users who are considering to buy new hardware are well-advised to ensure that it is OS/2-compatible prior to purchasing it. Last month Timothy Sipples ave us a review of a beautiful machine with official support for OS/2, The Thinkpad T30. This is especially true for notebooks. Mark Dodel grabbed a bargain buy at Aldi and tells us, if the Medion Multimedia Entertainment Notebook Titanium M1 would be worth your while, too.

Security and the Internet is one of today's main topics. While OS/2 users are save from attacks by hackers, worms or trojan horses for the most part, because they generally try to exploit weaknesses of Microsoft operating systems, there is no reason for carelessness. Services which can be accessed by anyone also constitute an open door on OS/2. In Quick and dirty firewall, Doug Bissett describes how end-users can protect themselves from uninvited guest with the firewall that is built into OS/2's TCP/IP 4.1 and higher.

OS/2 machine are often connected to heterogeneous networks. In the last November issue, Mike W. Cocke wrote about Samba as a means for communication between OS/2 and Linux machines. This month Mike shows how the Network File System (NFS) can be used as an alternative in NFS, TCP/IP, OS/2, and Linux - cross-platform with a vengeance.

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. Next month look for an article on DVD and video viewing under OS/2 and eCS, as well as an article on LVM and multiboot system cloning by Peter Hinckley, as well as the next article in the series on DrDialog.. 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. Also Tim Sipples may do a followup to his Thinkpad T30 review, with a look at the T30's Cisco Aironet based wireless network card under OS/2.

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

[Feature Index]
[Previous Page] [Newsletter Index] [Next Page]
VOICE Home Page: