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|By Thomas Klein © March 2002|
Take a moment to let me explain to you, what my love of "old stuff"
is all about. Let's take a look at the current state first: My car is brand-new,
but only because it's provided by the company I'm at and they don't like their IT
consultants driving around in their own old, polluting scrap vehicles. Everything
else of my (or rather our) belongings is made of more or less vintage and faithful
things we've been fond of for quite some time. Sometimes they appear to have their
own little quirks but at least even that's something you can rely on.
My HiFi's amplifier is made by Yamaha and was already several years old when
I bought it at a local pawn shop - and that happened more than 10 years ago. My
mobile phone is aged 4 years (which equals approx. ice age around here today) and
thinking of my favorite operating system, well... ;) The good thing about old stuff
is, that it's quite affordable and that one knows if and how it works. Sometimes
you even know someone in person who owns or owned the same thing and might give
you some good advice about it. Now, concerning hardware and software under OS/2
this means invaluable information you're either unable to come across elsewhere
or that you've been virtually running around in search for quite a lot of time.
Yep... hardware is kind of a hobby for me. I love to put PC's together and make
things work. Just recently I took a glance at a dusty box of pieces that I discovered
after moving... funny. Do you remember "VLB", the Vesa Local Bus? Well,
let me introduce you to my latest creation: An ugly old tower case that houses a
SCSI VLB caching controller from Tekram, a VLB graphics adapter (1 MB) and a VLB
network adapter (yeah, full size... kewl ;). Every piece of hardware that's plugged
into this system is completely supported by OS/2... and works just great. Well,
it's actually just a DX4 486 CPU running at 100 MHz with 16 megs of RAM, but that's
not the main thing. The main thing is, that it's just fun and great to see it work.
But old stuff has it's drawbacks too: An old CPU simply is not as fast as a new
one. Newer CPUs (mostly) require new mainboards as well, and this is where trouble
usually starts: Onboard sound chipsets (hello to all you fellow victims of VIA ;)
, no ISA slots anymore... well, at least USB supports seems to be improving compared
to some months ago.
Of course I once again made that old, nasty mistake to 1) buy a NEW model ;)
and 2) trusted in an unknown software to do all the rest as I expected. I should
have bought one of the models that were mentioned in the "supported devices"
list and then look for a used one on eBay. I guess it was due to the well-known
phrase "...and possibly compatible models", that I was mislead into temptation.
Well - bad luck. Anyway, being brief I just wanted to let you know that a simple
CF-/PCMCIA-Adapter (new) and a quite-as-new SCM SwapBox (ISA, at eBay) makes almost
every type of cable look like a Yugo compared to Corvettes. Just take the card off
the camera, slide it into the adapter and open the WPS' drive folder - period. That's
all and you're able to do whatever you want using all features of your preferred
user interface (read-only though). Oh, did I tell you that the serial connection
under windows takes ages to process? While taking a look for additional information
at SCM I discovered something completely new to me: There are PCMCIA-drives, which
really act like "drives" - they are connected to the SCSI bus, just like
a disk or CD drive. Cool. Now that's something I would like to try too... The good
thing about these CF adapters is, that you don't have to worry about whether your
camera is supported by ThirdEye, DCITU or any other piece of software - just make
sure it handles CF cards. There are adapters for SmartMedia cards too, but I can't
tell you anything about that (yet).
You see: Sometimes it's invaluable to listen to other users talking about their
hardware experiences... in case of brand-new devices this might not happen quite
timely, as it requires people to get out first, buy such a piece of hardware, install
it and run it for a little while before they're able to do any review on it. We
users of OS/2 might not be in that comfortable situation like users of other (so-called)
operating systems, who automatically receive tons of stuff along with a new device
but we have created very efficient methods for information retrieval... simply due
to the fact, that adding the keyword "OS/2" will extremely narrow down
the number of search results when using your favorite internet search engine ;)
Unfortunately, sometimes you won't get useable search results at all. There are
ways to improve your chances of finding drivers or information on the internet,
but I'll tell you about that in another story.
- the "good" way
The product in question is transferred (or sold) to another company. The new company then provides ongoing distribution, support or even manufacturing or developing of that product, as seen with PMFax (FaxWorks) by Keller Group and CDS Inc., manufacturer of BackAgain. Some other quite "good" example is Embellish which is now available for free, though not being developed or supported any longer.
- the "bad" way
The product simply does not exist anymore. No more development, support or even distribution like BlueCad for example. And folks! We're not talking about the victims of die-hard competitive markets or the near-monopolistic position of a specific company... we're talking about OS/2 after all! If a maker of CAD software says "quit" it'll mean: Game over. We can't just change over to some other product, because most of the time there won't even be another product.
On the other hand, let's think about the people who purchased Embellish back
in the time when it was a "vivid" product. They are now faced with the
fact that the software which they acquired is distributed for free to everyone.
Would you think this to be funny if it would have happened to you? After all it's
dead too, as there's no more support or development.
Stop that whining in public - what big deals can you expect to find at eBay in
matters of software? How about VisualAge C++ 3.0 for the ridiculous amount of approx.
30 bucks? And that trunkload of parcel was even shrinkwrap new. Talking about BlueCad...
get it for 10 US$! A complete CD of uncrippled software from the (no longer existing)
german magazine OS/2-Inside for approx. 5 US$, some books about REXX or VisualAge
for a fraction of their original prize... and of course.... yes: OS/2. Available
in any flavor (an color... blue, red... ;) as a simple client version as well as
the server counterparts. The warp server advanced that I'm running here is actually
of eBay origin too. For quite some time now I keep waiting for a WarpServer for
e-business to pop up - others are waiting for it too, I'm afraid ;) but I guess
this will happen once that IBM stops selling it themselves...
Oops. That reminds me to clarify... I'm in no way affiliated to eBay, neither
do I receive any benefits for repeated mentionings of their name here. I'm just
an eBay user (or is it called "member"?) like hundreds of thousands of
other people and you can replace their name with any other online auction provider.
Does someone remember Timur Tabi's eBay report that came along every Monday on
WarpCast? At that time I was not yet eBay user. What a shame - I guess that I could
have made some big deals back then. You don't have to subscribe to eBay to take
a look at what's currently being for sale in matters of OS/2. Just take a look at
search page - even if you're just looking for coffee mugs, pins, caps, bags,
or other collectibles on OS/2: There's quite a lot. So what is the bottom line of
it all? It's definitely worth to not always get yourself the hottest stuff. You'll
save a lot of time that you can spend "enjoying" a stable and operative
system instead of running after the latest and greatest whatsoever, that you have
to buy, install and configure. Because once you're done, you'll find it's successor
almost ready for tempting with even newer and hotter features...
Nah, folks. I would rather get myself a (at least) five-year old bottle of wine, put on that LP of Ella (well, okay - it might be my CD of Billie Holiday) and lean back to simply enjoy looking at my desktop... which is not "active" but simply great by the way...
Thomas Klein is an IT consultant at Systor GmbH & Co. KG and is currently involved in software quality control in a large-scale project at IBM. He's been using OS/2 since version 2.11
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