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March 2000

View From the End (User)

By: Don Eitner (freiheit@tstonramp.com) The 13th Floor - http://www.tstonramp.com/~freiheit/

The black plague was common, but it sure wasn't popular.

If your neighbors all had it, that didn't mean you wanted to get it too.

I used these words recently to wrap up my impressions of the reader reaction to a ZDNet Sm@rt Reseller article (http://www.zdnet.com/sr/stories/news/0,4538,2434120,00.html) about a possible OS/2 Warp 4 client "refresh" release. The gist was that OS/2 users may not exist en masse but we all love the product. It's popular. On the other hand a large percentage of Windows users (even only counting those who actually understand something about computers) dislike Windows. It's got a much larger user base but that doesn't mean it's popular. Just like the black plague, it's common but people tend to hate it for many reasons.

But hey, IBM just never gets it, do they? Well for once maybe they have... maybe. I still have yet to get any official word from IBM on this supposed client refresh, but the reaction of OS/2 users worldwide is undeniable. People are chomping at the bit to get their hands on this "convenience release". There's not likely to be any new functionality in the refresh, it's just supposed to bring the past 3+ years of fixpacks and patches and feature updates into a single install, thereby cutting down the time for a complete OS/2 install to the latest fix level from some three or four hours to perhaps one hour, and with significantly fewer reboots between each and every install layer (ie. reboot after OS/2 install, reboot after fixpack install, reboot after networking update, reboot after Netscape install, etc, etc). An incredible time (and hair?) saver for those of us who appreciate quality software more than misleading large numbers.

In December I discussed in a somewhat humorous manner a supposed OS/2 client upgrade. No folks, this is not it. "Phoenix", the supposed codename for a new 64-bit OS/2 release for Intel's still undelivered Merced/Itanium processor would be an incredible thing to behold. However I would gladly take a full refresh of the Warp 4 client with all the latest fixes such as fixpack 12, device driver updates, Netscape Communicator 4.61, Java 1.1.8 and so forth all worked into a single install process.

One thing must be noted here. When OS/2 Warp 4 came to the market, the 486 processor was still in heavy use and PCs had 8 to 32 megabytes of RAM. Warp 4 ran well on such a system right out of the box. But today Celeron and K6-2 processors ranging from 300MHz to 500MHz and having between 32 and 128 megabytes of RAM are quite common. A fresh install of OS/2 Warp 4 however is still optimized for use on those old 486 systems.

A few sensible changes to the default settings of the new Warp 4 client refresh ought to include changing the MAXWAIT setting from a default of 3 to 1 since today's average PC is more than capable of handling the most strenuous OS/2 tasks quickly and without choking other processes. Default cache sizes for the HPFS file system should be set at the maximum two megabytes since most users will have plenty of RAM to spare today where they might not have 3 years ago. The CD-ROM file system should come out of the box ready to read the Joliet CD format (currently available with a parameter on the CDFS.IFS line in config.sys).

In the WorkPlace Shell, full window dragging ought to be enabled by default since almost any fairly modern graphics card will not have a problem repainting the display while seamlessly dragging windows around the desktop (as opposed to dragging just an outline of the window).

Perhaps the most annoying "feature" of Warp 4 is that if you intentionally delete one of the default system template objects (found in the Templates folder) they will be recreated on the next system boot. It is not possible (for normal users, anyway) to get rid of unwanted and unused templates. I would very much like to see this corrected in any new OS/2 client release.

These aren't new features, they're just sensible modifications to default settings to make a fresh install of OS/2 in the year 2000 more enjoyable without any user intervention. And of course the OS/2 installer ought to be clarified a bit. IBM needs to stop using the word "workstation" and say either "your PC" or "this computer" and they definitely need to get rid of that damned dancing elephant that nags you to register the system online using a long since outdated phone number or website URL (especially if they have no plans to do anything with the data they collect through this registration).

Yes I want new features for OS/2, but I also want a product I can install in one pass rather than six or seven. I love the Warp 4 client, I just loathe having to install it fresh on a new hard drive or even performing a maintenance reinstall on an existing drive. It takes far too long. So if IBM has any decency left, they will see fit to actually release this client refresh. Otherwise I cannot say how much longer I can support this product as it becomes more and more difficult to install. How can I possibly ask an OS/2 newbie to spend the better part of a day just to get base functionality up and running when Be Inc's BeOS can be installed in 10 minutes and works in many very similar ways, or when Linux becomes noticeably easier to install with each new release and has multiple releases per distribution per year?

Don is the Assistant Editor of the VOICE Newsletter. Besides his monthly End(User) column, and frequent articles, Don had been responsible for the VOICE Newsletter OS/2 News pages for the past two years. Proudly running OS/2 Warp since 1995, you can visit Don at his personal website http://www.tstonramp.com/~freiheit/

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