Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

April 1998


Previous Page | Index | Next Page
VOICE Home Page:

Interview with an OS/2 Business User

Peter Flass is a systems programmer with the New York State Legislative Bill Drafting Commission.

VOICE> What kind of business are you involved in?

The Bill Drafting Commission is a joint commission of the Legislature charged with assisting in the drafting and printing of bills and legislative resolutions. We do a lot of text work - formatting and printing drafts of legislation, printing the Laws of New York State, etc. For research purposes we maintain a large text database of state laws. As an offshoot of this we offer a subscription service to the public for searching this database online. Recently we set up and maintain a gopher site of current bills and legislation available on the internet.

VOICE> Can you please describe your current use of OS/2 in your workplace? What > kind of hardware and software are you using for OS/2?

We have a small user base of OS/2 (three users). We use mostly generic hardware. Our staff assembles Pentium PC's. A "normal" system is a Pentium-133 with 16MB, 800MB Hard Drive, CD. All of our computers are networked (see below). We run Peer for printer and occasional file sharing. We have a mix of standard productivity software and development tools. We use Bookmanager/Read a lot for reading IBM documentation on CD's. I use Lotus Wordpro for general-purpose office wordprocessing. I use Colorworks for image editing. I also use IBMworks primarily for spreadsheet (I usually don't need the full functionality of 1-2-3.)

We use communications software extensively - PC3270 for mainframe access, tn3270 and Passport for IBMLink, telnet, PMX and NFS for access to the RS/6000. I use Netscape, of course, for web access. For development I use EMX, Rexx, and ALP. My colleague is developing a WWW interface to our mainframe system, so he uses Netscape, although most of the development is on the mainframe side.

I occasionally need to work with printer fonts, so I have programs like Fontmonger and IBM Type Transformer. Less extensively, I use utilities like Acrobat Reader, Ghostscript, and Groff. I use the OS/2 developer's toolkit. Note that of all this only FontMonger and the MS Exchange client are windoze programs; the rest is all native OS/2.

At home I run OS/2 on an HP 486 for communications with work and for home office tasks such as wordprocessing (Wordpro). I would not like to run two different systems at home and at work, and I also plan to do software development at home on OS/2.

VOICE> How did you decide to use OS/2? What features were considered important for this project(s)? What previous experience was there with OS/2 and other operating systems?

Prior to using OS/2 I was an occasional windoze user with primarily a DOS background for many years. I wasn't happy with the memory management in Win 3.1 - I usually had to shut down windoze in order to run a compile. I also was unhappy with the lack of multitasking in windoze - a situation which appears not to have been greatly improved by Win95. For a developer, the lack of memory protection in windoze was also a big factor. At that time I felt that the development tools were superior in OS/2 -- builtin Rexx and EMX, the various Rexx GUI builders, etc. I liked the idea that my mainframe Rexx knowledge was directly transferable to a PC environment. The deciding factor in my decision (I was the first adopter) was, believe it or not, IBM marketing (this was with the introduction of 2.0). IBM got me some free introductory education and an evaluation copy of OS/2. I liked what I saw - it seemed to solve all the problems I was having with windoze. At the time I also felt that IBM support was far superior to Microsoft in terms of free telephone support and availability of fixes.

VOICE> What other operating systems if any were under consideration or are used for your business? If you use OS/2 in conjunction with other OSes in any form of a network, how well does OS/2 work with these other systems?

At the time I started using OS/2 we were primarily Win 3.1 on the desktop. Unfortunately I haven't been able to convert any key decision-makers. OS/2 was and is a "guerrilla OS" used be some individuals in the systems area. We have to fit in, without too much friction, in an environment of Win95 desktops and NT servers. This means being able to share the networked printers, and to use Exchange e-mail. Fortunately I don't need to share a lot of MS-specific files back and forth (Word, Exchange, etc.) or I'd be in some trouble. With Warp 4 we appear to have worked out the network co-existence problems pretty well, though we suffered a lot before Warp Connect was finally introduced. There are some pluses and minuses to both the OS/2 and Win95 networking implementations, and I think OS/2 could stand to have a few rough edges worked out.

In TCP/IP, however, there is no comparison. OS/2 still blows the doors off windoze. I don't think there are good equivalents for PMX and the NFS client and server. Windoze doesn't have sendmail or LPR/LPD, or even traceroute! Since I'm the TCP/IP guy here, such as we have, this is very important to me. I also run Bind, mostly experimentally, and have just installed Apache. OS/2 has a lot of shareware debugging stuff like TCPDUMP which I find invaluable, and which I have done some programming on enhancements.

VOICE> Do you foresee continued/increasing use of OS/2 in this fashion?

I would hope to continue using OS/2 indefinitely. I have occasionally been pressured into switching to windoze, but have found it unthinkable given all the stuff I do with OS/2. Although I will continue to try to increase the usage of OS/2, I feel that without some changes in the environment this won't happen.

VOICE> Are there any changes that you would like to see to OS/2 that would facilitate your continued use or expanded use of OS/2?

I use OS/2 for it's capabilities, not for its popularity. For my purposes, it is important that it remain the best-connected PC OS. The TCP/IP capabilities are most important, but the ability to talk with big systems via tn3270 or co-ax is critical. I'd like to see better networking with win95 and NT, including an e-mail client that could access exchange on an NT server. This would be a great addition to the Notes mail client!

Primarily, I need continued support. OS/2 will never have the application base that windoze has, but if IBM and Lotus can continue to develop and improve their OS/2 products it would help. I think if IBM pushes OS/2 a little more we will continue to see applications in small numbers but with high quality from ISV's that we need to keep it a viable platform.

VOICE> How have IBM's statements that they are targeting the medium to large > business sector affected your work or your decision to continue using OS/2 for this/these task(s)?

When this decision was first announced I wasn't too upset - after all IBM is a business-oriented company and OS/2 was developed as a business OS. I felt that emphasizing business use and letting the SO/HO use follow from that was not a bad decision. Unfortunately, as it has worked out, "targeting the large business sector" has turned into "whoever we can sell it to without doing any marketing." Also -- originally that was either "large and medium-sized businesses" or "business of any size", depending on who said it, and that is not how it worked out in practice. I think that no matter who they're selling to, IBM needs to do marketing to be successful (don't get me started, look at several years of my postings to OS2-L if you're interested.) I think a marketing campaign aimed at large banks, insurance companies, etc. could give OS/2 a certain chic in all markets .. "if the big boys are using it...".

Certainly IBM's decision made me re-think my commitment to OS/2. I need to be sure that the applications I need will be there in the future, and as a software developer I need to be sure that the market will be there in the future. At the present time I'm happy with where I am, if not with where OS/2 is, and I don't want to contemplate making a radical change, especially to an inferior OS, but if changes aren't made I can foresee the day coming when I may have to change. I hope Mr. Seibt will make some improvements.

VOICE> If IBM licensed another company to sell the OS/2 client to home/SOHO users, would it affect your usage of OS/2 (would you use more OS/2 clients for your work, less)?

It's hard to say. I don't think the selling is as important as the development. It might be nice to get a SO/HO version of OS/2 packaged with some applications, but I think the fact that the applications are available is more important than the packaging. I'd like to see some marketing, but if IBM can't do it with it's deep pockets, what can a small company do?

VOICE> Do you know of any other sites using OS/2 in your industry?

The NYS Senate selected OS/2 as a desktop and server OS last year or the year before. As far as I know they're continuing deployment.


Previous Page | Index | Next Page