Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

May 1998


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Interview with an OS/2 User

This month VOICE interviews a couple of OS/2 users One a SOHO business user and the other a University Student who is supporting OS/2 in his University Computer Department. First up to the plate is Eugene Bartley, a SOHO OS/2 user since Warp 3.0.

Voice> Who are you?

Gene> That could be a loaded question. ::smile:: Outside the realms of metaphysics and existentialism, I'm Eugene Bartley. More importantly, I'm an OS/2 user, specifically SOHO. Regrettably, at this time I'm unable to add that I'm also a bluewater sailor who uses OS/2. Navigation, weather, and other nautical software doesn't exist for OS/2. For those applications one is stuck with MS-Windows. Consequently, I'm also stuck with an MS-Windows platform. I keep hoping that if I pound my drum long enough, a developer will hear the call.

VOICE> What kind of business are you involved in?

Gene> Entrepreneurial. Retired Navy from the submarine service. I'm a freelance writer, film documentarian, and independent scholar. - an information broker, in short. In today's world, we need information yesterday to stay ahead tomorrow. Information is computer intensive requiring a reliable platform. The days when you could hold data on 3 x 5 cards are so much foggy history. Information changes too fast aside from the physical mechanics. It wouldn't be cost effective even if you had the personnel to do it. As the Internet, Intranet, and the WWW come into their own, the problems of access, storage, retrieval, and manipulation will increase geometrically. Consequently a system failure becomes increasingly catastrophic.

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?

Gene> The system is a 100S Pentium, which started another lifetime as an 8086 before becoming a 486, with 128megs of RAM and two Hard Drives. It runs on a platform of OS/2 Warp, version 4.0 GA (basic) without any Fixpaks. It's an almost free MS system. Telecommunications software includes Injoy, Netscape for OS/2 with plug-ins and NetChat, which is SecureCom now, Time868 keeps me in sync with Naval Observatory time.

For a maintenance package, I use SoftTouch's suite of GammaTech Utilities, FileStar/2, and Unimaint to save my bacon. Omnifile Pro for a PIM (Personal Information Manager), Adobe File Reader, PMView for graphics, Ceres Sound Studio, PolyCalc, ZipControl, and the delicious TimeTrak and PMNotes. The strays are an English and French version of WordPerfect for Windows, version 6.1, (Novell), nautical software, and video editing programs.

I occasionally foray into bi-lingual desk top publishing (DTP). I need software that allows an easy switch between English and French with the power that WordPerfect offers. I'd like nothing better than to have the ability to do everything in native OS/2 programs. On a larger scale, my basic maxim is KISS -- keep it simple, stupid. The less you have loaded, the less you have to search for the culprit when something goes wrong. Thankfully, all operate well.

Being data-intensive, if I suffer a malfunction, it's possible to loose a significant amount of work product in between daily backups. Stability is a necessity, not marketing jargon. Multi-tasking, the same thing. I did a self-study a couple years ago. My guesstimate was that OS/2 reduced my work day by roughly ninety minutes. Without OS/2? Horrid thought! That's not even a bad joke.

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?

Gene> When the Internet was still in its infancy toward the end of the large BBSs, two local sysops were running OS/2 and singing its praises. Having a natural hatred for learning curves, my attitude was "So, what?" When Warp 3.0 arrived on the market shelves I took a look at the package (Red Spine) to see what the fuss was about. The first item that caught my attention was the price - $79.00. Does all this for that? Interesting! I bought it. The installation - all 16 attempts - was less than amusing. In retrospect, the problem was me. I was fighting it instead of going with the flow - how can it be so easy! Once I made the mindset adjustment, I became a devoted OS/2 user. Since that time, I've never looked back nor do I want to. It also cleared three bookshelves of auxiliary programs for MS-Windows maintenance.

Three words: reliability, stability and multitasking are key. All are summed up in one word - Warp. Simple as that.

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?

Gene> I'm a SOHO and I'm not networked. As Rick Hunter ("Hunter") says, it works for me. Warp has from the start. If things work, I tend to stay with them. I'm not adventurous in that regard. As I mentioned earlier, I have a mixed system but non-OS/2 programs are channeled through WIN-OS/2. I look forward to when I'll be able to drop WIN-OS/2 entirely.

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

Gene> That's a toughy. Personal preference is an unconditional "yes!" Will the nay-sayers and other foes of OS/2 win the war? I hope not. I don't want to sound like a fanatic here but for the sake of computing if they do win, personal computing will be sent back to the dark ages. Is OS/2 the be all and end all? No, but it's where we should've been a decade or so ago. In the future, we need faster, tighter, increased stability -- more overall power to do what we do.

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?

Gene> Smaller, tighter, faster, better. If I had the opportunity to do so, I'd emblazon that mantra on every programmer's mind. E.B. White, H.L. Mencken, and William Strunk, Jr. preached the same thing for writers. To make it even shorter - KISS. I mentioned TimeTrak (billing tracker) and PMNotes earlier being delicious programs. They are for me because they save me time, do what they say they will, and are virtually unobtrusive. What saves me time and agony captures my heart and my pocketbook.

Anything that isn't native OS/2 today should be. If "x" can be run on a computer, it should be native OS/2. That's where I want to go today and tomorrow.

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)?

Gene> Frankly, I'm not phased by it. I feel I'm safe as long as this system maintains itself and will run the software currently installed. If marketplace input is severely altered from what it is now, then I have cause for concern because my ability to gather data is in jeopardy. Look at the history. CP/M was an outstanding system but it fell by the wayside. Same with BETA. Proof is in the pudding to use an old cliche.

We've heard a lot of talk from IBM and others but have seen little pudding. IBM to me is inconsequential. They can get with the program or not. Their decision. I think they're missing a good bet in dismissing the SOHO market out-of-hand. Will it affect me? Not substantially. Other developers (OEM), shareware, freeware, OS/2 listserv, publications like yours and others will and have picked up the slack and will continue to do so if we, as OS/2 users, support them. They're product will surpass IBM because of the TLC factor along with user-oriented, user-generated programs. If we don't support our chosen platform, it'll become another CP/M or Edsel. Money, not consumer reason necessarily, drives the marketplace which in turn drives the industry. Individually, we need to do our own public relations work also. Publications like yours, letters to the editors, word-of-mouth -- all of it.

There's conversation about splitting SOHO off from IBM. Outstanding! Let IBM tackle the larger corporate world for that's what they know (or did). Allow somebody with the ability but most importantly, the desire, take SOHO. To me, it's a win-win result.

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, etc)?

Gene> Who the purveyor might be is immaterial to me within the context of what I just said. Product quality and usefulness to me are important. For as long as a program or system meets my needs, I'll use it. When my needs stop being met, I'll fly Aardvark Airlines if it allows me to meet the needs of my clientele. That's the bottom line. I wish that IBM would relieve itself of OS/2 SOHO and let another, more interested company take the reins. I believe it would increase product development and, possibly, increase public relations, which increases marketability. Some may remember the old WordPerfect Corp where tech support was free for registered users. Even so they fudged a lot. It was also swift and, in my experience, non-judgmental regardless of how bad you mucked it up.

Granted there is a lot of "abuse" by callers that six weeks in Computer 101 at the local technical school would clear up. On the other side, the system just blew and you're in dire need of help because you're under deadline to hang on hold playing button tag only to get an inexperienced tech support person for whose ignorance you've just paid. Doesn't do much for public relations.

Thomas Sowell wrote in his column recently about this very problem. When we buy a new car, we don't just buy a tire here, a gear shift there and then cobble it together after we lug them home. It's a complete, working (hopefully) package. With the package comes somebody who's responsible -- the dealer at the local level. Should be no different with computers. If the printer doesn't print, the monitor doesn't flicker, or the CPU doesn't work, the end result is a very expensive door stop. I expect hardware/software to work straight out of the shrink wrap. If it doesn't, it doesn't belong on the shelves. This is where we as consumers are missing a bet - demanding quality not "fixes." Even less having to pay again for what should have been "right" in the first place. We call the shots for we own the marketplace not the corporations.

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

Gene> Many from SOHOs to universities.


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