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February 2004

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2004 - The year that OS/2 still gets better?

An editorial view from Christian Hennecke, Editor-in-Chief of the VOICE Newsletter.

As has already been discussed elsewhere, 2003 was quite a good year for OS/2. Particularly, the traditional weak spot of multimedia/graphics has seen improvements in the shape of WarpVision, Uniaud, Xine, Tame, and Innotek's Font Engine with anti-aliasing. In the office domain, the beta, Smartsuite 1.7.2, Papyrus Office X (now also in English!), and Maul have to be mentioned. Also Java continues to be available at current versions. Thanks to Innotek's still ongoing effort of porting the gcc compiler, OS/2 developers continue to be able to use up-to-date C and C++ code, and hence create OS/2 versions of cross-platform projects among other things. Mozilla is the first large example here. Scitech and the Open Watcom community provide us with Open Watcom, a solid compiler that is indispensable for driver development. Developers have invested much work into providing us with alternatives to missing commercial software. I will only cite Frank Wochatz's ePDF as an example, which, in connection with Ghostscript and a specially customized printer driver, provides a very flexible, but still convenient method of creating PDF files with bookmarks and at many resolutions for free.

What do signs bode for 2004? Nothing really ill anyway. Besides the early availability of a current, large office suite, there are other things that speak of fine weather. Yuri Dario has already made test builds of the database MySQL version 4 available. So far they have been subject to restrictions, but once Innotek has finished the corresponding part of their port of the gcc compiler, OS/2 users will know the promise of this popular database. German OS/2 users will surely be glad to hear that the DTP application Maul is going to be available in German soon, including spell-checking and hyphenation.

In the multimedia sector good things may be anticipated too. At last year's WarpWeekend, Rüdiger Ihle presented an alpha version of a driver/application combination for video recording, which is probably going to reach beta status in the near future. The Uniaud project's developer team continues to work on new versions of the audio driver with support for additional chip sets and features. Especially interesting are long-term projects like DTA (Digital Transport Agent), which aim to improve the architecture and performance of the OS/2 multimedia subsystem and of which other applications will be able to profit. The OS/2 port of the OpenSource multimedia player Xine is of the same kind. It integrates itself into MMPM/2 in a way that any software which uses the MMPM/2 interfaces will be able to play video and audio through it. MPEG1/2 is already working, as are unencrypted DVDs. Both projects are coming along at slow pace due to lack of time on the developer side, though.

The VOICE Newsletter itself is going to see changes, too. Last year we already announced the switch to (X)HTML/CSS. We hope to be able to reduce the effort of adapting the formatting of submitted articles. Besides, a more appealing look is easier to realize that way, and sight-impaired readers will be able to easily customize the layout to their requirements. In doing so we will see that users of older browser will find the content still readable. However, they probably won't be able to enjoy the new look.
A much more complex project is in the queue: a Spanish issue. Last year in December, Javier L. Orejarena E. from Colombia submitted the proposal to the editors. At the moment, a translation team is setup, and the foundations for work on an additional issue are laid. May the project be blessed with success and longevity for VOICE to live up to its name better and spread the news about OS/2 wider: the "I" is for "International".

So the prospects are relatively bright. But of course that does not mean that things could not get even better. There are still some things on the editors' wish list. Here is our Top 5:

  1. Less fighting and narrow-mindedness in the community, be it in Usenet or elsewhere. If we want OS/2 to have a future, we simply cannot afford that. One developer has already withdrawn his software due to bad behaviour by users, and others are near the boiling point. In some OS/2 forums, the noise is so loud sometimes that they are hardly usable any more. Sure, gripers can be found anywhere, and you cannot get rid of them. I am at a loss, however, with people of Serenity Systems and their partners getting into the act heavily too. They might comprehend this as an opportunity for advertising their product at no cost. Nobody will deny their right to counter false claims. If, however, usability of the medium by others is compromised considerably, or verbal abuse is not the exception, but becomes the rule, that does not exactly leave a mark of professionalism.

  2. More contributions from the side of the user. I cannot help the impression that those have decreased to the same degree as software development has increased. While OS/2 is in a somewhat better position than a few years ago, it could be a lot better still. The popular reason "lack capabilities as a developer" is not applicable. For those who are willing, there are enough opportunities available to contribute something useful off the beaten developer track. Software packages hunger for decent documentation, users who are not capable of understanding English hunger for translations of software and documentation, OS/2 events hunger for organizers, and OS/2 magazines hunger for articles. Let me just elaborate on one point: Many developers don't have the right touch for writing documentation, or they busy themselves with it only very reluctantly. A great opportunity to take some work of the developers' shoulders, help other users and thereby keep the project alive and kicking.

  3. More and better collaboration, both between developers and between those who refine and provide information. Otherwise valuable resources are wasted reinventing the wheel, and projects won't tap their full potential or die. The language barrier is an especially serious problem. Lack of flow of information has already lead to situations where solutions for a certain problem have been worked on in parallel in different parts of the world, or interesting projects were unknown in other parts of the world. Just think of the suprised faces when the work of Team MMOS2 Tokyo became known here. Until that time, many had thought that extending MMPM/2 with an audio codec was impossible to do. Linguistically gifted users could play an important broker role.

  4. Updated media for eComStation 1.1, including all fixes and corrections for known bugs in the installer. These should be available to registered users at minimal cost. There is already much maintenance work to do, after the installation of eComStation has been finished, and a large part requires the system to be re-booted. At WarpWeekend, Mensys announced their plans to provide a media refresh in early 2004.

  5. A demo CD of eComStation 1.1. This should be released soon, and not shortly before version 1.2 comes out. Quite a few users who experienced problems with version 1.0 wonder if version 1.1 keeps its promises and can be installed on their hardware. New customers don't want to buy a pig in a poke, and many still remember that OS/2 had the reputation of being hard to install.

Well, let us wait and see.

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 have an idea for an article, why not write one. It's one of the best ways, short of programming native OS/2 applications, that you can help the OS/2 Community. And anyone can do it. Few of our writers are professionals. They are just OS/2 users trying to help other OS/2 users. Please send me your ideas or better yet a draft of an article to Please note our guidelines for submissions to the VOICE Newsletter. There you will find suggestions for topics, hints on content, structure and formatting, as well as the legal stuff.

VOICE Online Update: This month the general member meetings are scheduled on Saturdays February 7 and 21 at 3PM EST (20:00 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 we start a new article series about using MySQL. Wolfgang Draxler shows that it doesn't always have to be PHP and that REXX gets along with this database quite fine. Read more in In close collaboration: MySQL and OS/2. Part one deals with installation and first setup of MySQL.

Availability of large office suites is important for any operating system. Ed Durrant investigated which alternatives OS/2 users can choose from. Learn more in Office suites for OS/2 and eComStation.

Those who try to setup a maintenance partition for their system today have to face a number of problems. First, the system has changed in a way that the tool BootOS2 often won't be able to work successfully any more. And second, many wish to have more features available when working with the maintenance partition, and there are possible scenarios where you won't even be able to access the maintenance partition. Doug Bisset has found a solution in the shape of BootAble.

There are different solutions for transferring data between computers. If it comes to very large amounts of data and short distances, employing external hard disks can be the way to go. This is also interesting for notebook users, who only at times have to have large disk space available or access large data archives. Gerrit Schoenmaker reports how Mounting USB 2.0 harddisk case in eComStation works.

In part two of his series Remote printing, Walter Metcalf deals with using simple print servers.

Finally, we have our OS/2 Tips and Letters, Addenda, Errata pages. 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.

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

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