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July 2000

"Help, Help, My Kingdom for some Help!"

An editorial view from Mark Dodel, editor of the VOICE Newsletter editor@os2voice.org

The following was to appear in last month's Newsletter, but was held for the July 1st issue due to changing publishing dates from the 15th of the month to the 1st of the month. Hopefully since you are reading this now, then all (or most) went well with this accelerated issue. Thanks to all the authors and editors that made this change possible.

I spend a lot of time on OS/2 Mailing Lists and in the OS/2 Usenet groups, trying to help folks and also on the lookout for great tips from other folks for each issue of the Newsletter. People frequently seek out my help, asking questions related to posts they have seen me make elsewhere, or for some reason they just think I might know something about their problem.

Most times I have no idea what their problem is since I lack experience with their particular hardware, or software. But if it's something that looks like I may have stumbled across in the past, I'll put on my Warped detective hat and go sleuthing. Here are some of the places I go looking for answers when I'm looking for Help.

Even though OS/2 is getting a bit long in the tooth, it comes with some help tools you can easily access yourself. If you have an error message, it's easy enough to open an OS/2 command prompt and type help sys00123 and get a brief description of the error message. You can do the same with OS/2 commands as well. Type help dir and the OS/2 Warp Command Reference opens to the page describing the DIR command. There is also a tcphelp command that does the same, only it searches the TCP/IP Command Reference. There are a lot of useful online INF books on your system which can be searched, many are located in the x:\OS2\BOOK directory.

There is a Troubleshooting folder under the Assistance Folder. Unfortunately, other then the Troubleshooting INF located there, most of the objects seem related to helping IBM personnel troubleshoot your problem. Things like FFST (First Failure Support Technology), System Error Log, Trace Formatter, PM Dump Facility, don't look to user friendly. There is the Hard Disk Drive Monitor which will give you information about your drives if they have Smart (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) support built in. There is a URL object there called "Support Through the Internet", but that URL just redirects to the IBM Products page and is useless. the Troubleshooting INF has some basic direction on how to troubleshoot a problem, along with a flowchart on how to approach it. There are some detailed instructions here on how to perform specific functions like removing Ulti-Mail Lite, basic networking problems(LAN and TCP/IP), setting up AskPSP and others.

I vaguely recall installing AskPSP when Warp 4 came out. According to Dan Casey, President of VOICE, "It's a nice example of an online help desk. It uses a Casepoint search engine. You ask a question in plain english, and it, in turn, leads you through a series of questions and eventually arrives at a number of possible solutions... It used to be updated regularly, but I don't think it has been for over a year, now". Sigh, yet another feature of OS/2 that instead of being refined and augmented, abandoned by it's creator. If you are interested in giving it a spin, you can use Selective Install, it is one of the Bonus Pack applications. Anyone know if there are any database updates for AskPSP available anywhere? Looking through AskPSP, I see the IBM Technical Connection mentioned as a source for monthly updates. Has this tool been completely abandoned by IBM?

There is some help from IBM available online. A site that explains IBM's Problem tracking process is http://www-4.ibm.com/software/network/dce/library/publications/dceaix_22/a3u2l/A3U2L104.HTM

A PMR(Problem Management Record ) is a Problem Report number opened when you call in a problem. An APAR(Authorized Program Analysis Report ) is the problem being worked on. A closed APAR is the fix (if any exists) for the problem. There is a searchable database of APARs by APAR number and by product at http://service5.boulder.ibm.com/pspfixpk.nsf/. I have been told that people with IBM support contracts and Passport Advantage subscribers have access to a database of open APARs as well. I'm not clear on whether Software Choice subscribers get the same access as well.

There is an FAQ on Technical Support at http://ps.software.ibm.com/pbin-usa-ps/getobj.pl?/pdocs-usa/faq.html There is a Defect Report Form you can download on this FAQ, fill out and mail in. In the past when I have used it, I have always gotten back a response telling me to call the problem in, which I can't do since I don't have an IBM Rep or a service contract. Perhaps others have had better luck with that mechanism. here is an app that I found somewhere, that will help you generate an IBM Problem Report Telephone support is available for a fee via PS Support Line Family at 1-888-426-4343, option 3.

All this assumes you have a way of reporting a problem to IBM. Generally without a service contract you are SOL, unless one of the great guys from IBM who frequent the Usenet news groups sees it and feels they can do something about it. You can post a question to the appropriate Usenet News group. For General application questions there is comp.os.os2.apps. News groups for specific types of apps include comp.os.os2.mail-news and comp.os.os2.utilities. For Fixpack problems it appears that that some IBMers frequent the comp.os.os2.bugs news group.

For networking questions there are comp.os.os2.networking.misc, comp.os.os2.networking.server, comp.os.os2.networking.tcpip, comp.os.os2.networking.www.

Having a problem with a game under OS/2 then try asking about it on comp.os.os2.games. For communication issues try comp.os.os2.comm. If you are having problems with sound cards or multimedia applications there is comp.os.os2.multimedia. For other hardware problems there are comp.os.os2.setup.misc, comp.os.os2.setup.storage and comp.os.os2.setup.video

Finally if you can't figure where else to turn there is comp.os.os2.misc and comp.os.os2.moderated.

You can search the comp.os.os2 news groups on Usenet to find answers to questions that may have been answered in the past on the comp.os.os2 news groups on Usenet. You can easily search these by going to http://www.deja.com. There is even a better search function at http://www.exit109.com/~jeremy/news/deja.html. Here you can search on Keywords, Subject:, From:. you can limit the news groups to search. I'd suggest limiting them to comp.os.os2.* just to shorten the search time and eliminate any noise from non-OS/2 posts. In addition you can limit search on a date range.

There are lots of OS/2 oriented mailing lists. You can view a list of a lot of them at http://www.os2voice.org/mailinglists.html. If you know of any public mail lists devoted to OS/2 that are not listed here, please send the subscription information to editor@os2voice.org. One I'd like to mention in particular is the VOICE Help List. You don't have to subscribe to it unless you are interested in helping other OS/2 users. Anyone can send a question to help@os2voice.org. No guarantees that anyone on the list has the answer, but many folks have been helped.

As to general sites for help with specific problems, here are a few that I turn to on a regular basis to try to answer questions:

DDPakOnline; IBM's OS/2 Device Driver Pak Online http://service.software.ibm.com/os2ddpak/html/index.htm. Here you can look for drivers by device category, or search by driver name or by date.

HOBBES http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/ and LEO ftp://ftp.leo.org/pub/comp/os/os2/ and the FTP search engine at http://ftpsearch.lycos.com/ are also excellent sources for hard to find drivers, especially older ones not officially supported by IBM.

For questions concerning fixes/updates to OS/2 and it's many components I turn to Warp Updates - http://www.warpupdates.de/english/warpupdates.html. This site is usually on top of all the current details about available fixpacks.

Compuserve's IBMFORUM is now publicly available to all. There are folks who hang out there who don't frequent the OS/2 mail lists or news groups, so it is another area of help that you may want to tap for a fresh perspective. You do need to register, but access is now free.

If you are looking for help with hardware/software, a place to turn is OS2.org - http://en.os2.org. They have searchable entries on various hardware/software and a rating system. If you are familiar with any of the items, then rate them. If yours is not there, you can enter it.

VOICE's Warp Doctor site http://www.warpdoctor.org, has some information on Fixpack application methods, the OS/2 Scanner Compatibility list, updated install diskette images and other help information about OS/2. We are always adding new information here.

Finally there are previous issues of the VOICE Newsletter. You can view a complete index of all past feature articles in the Newsletter by going to http://www.os2voice.org/VNL/past_issues/vnlindex.html. For a more wide ranging search, you can always turn to one of the Web Search engines. One of my personal favorites is Web Wombat - http://global.webwombat.com.au/. It runs on OS/2 Warp Server eBusiness. Others I turn to for help are Google - http://www.google.com and Northern Light - http://www.northernlight.com/.

So where do you turn to help when you need it? I'm sure there are other great OS/2 resources out there as well as the one's I've listed. Have you uncovered any recently? How about writing an article about it? I'd like to know more about Compuserve's IBMFORUM myself. If you can help out the rest of us, email me at editor.os2voice.org

Speaking of Help, VOICE can use your support. If you haven't done so yet, but are ready to do so now, joining VOICE has been made a bit easier if you are outside the US. Mensys has added the VOICE memberships to their online store - http://shop.mensys.nl/cgi-bin/db2www/mns_art2.d2w/report?artname=VOICESUB. As before you can also join VOICE online via our BMT Secure order form at https://secure.falcon-net.net/BMT/order0308.html. Please consider joining VOICE now. Every membership helps make us stronger in our support of the OS/2 community.

In July we are trying something a little different. Two Speakup sessions with Serenity Systems' Bob St. John on their new Managed Client The first session will be held on Monday, July 3rd at 1:00PM EDT (1300GMT) to better accommodate users who reside somewhere besides the US. Another session will be held on Monday, July 10th, at 8:00PM EDT (0:00 GMT), our usual timeslot.

Also in July there is a General Meeting scheduled on July July 17th, as usual at 8PM EDT. In August there is a General Meeting scheduled for the 7th and 21st at 8PM EDT(00:00GMT). If you would like to hear from someone in particular or have an idea for a Speakup event, please submit it to liaison@os2voice.org, and we will try to schedule something. Also on the VOICE Calendar are weekly Warp Doctor team meetings every Wednesday at 8PM EDT (00:00GMT). As always, please be sure to check out the updated VOICE Future events Calendar in this newsletter or on the VOICE website at <http://www.os2voice.org/calendar.html> for more details on future VOICE events.

For July, we have a translation of Alfredo Fernández Díaz's How to create a [complete] OS/2 system bootable off a CD-ROM. Then we have How to Supercharge OS/2 Warp, Part 2 by Christian Hennecke. This month Christian looks at system responsiveness and stability issues.

Bill Esposito has written a review of the HauppaugeWinTV GO card. Next up we have Chris McGill with "My Experience with SBLive Beta Drivers". Then Wayne Swanson covers alot of what happened in Arizona a month ago in Ramblings on WarpTech.

Finally this month Don Eitner has an article on The Best OS/2 Software Money Can't Buy: XWorkplace V 0.9.3. XWorkPlace continues to be updated and free. Give it a look and maybe you will be hooked like Don.

Just a reminder that we now have a full Newsletter Master Index page. All the feature sections of the current and previous issues can now be found on this one page. Additionally, we have added a Java based search function to this master index page. It will allow you to search all past issues for a specific word or phrase. So try it out and let us know what you think. If you have any ideas for improvements let me know at editor@os2voice.org.

That's it for this month. 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. To that end, and because of several recent requests, we have added a Guidelines for Article Submissions to the VOICE Newsletter.

Mark Dodel
Editor, VOICE Newsletter

So who says OS/2 is dead now? We have better display driver support then ever, WinDriver to help with new device drivers, and now a new version of OS/2. Too bad IBM isn't announcing this as such. Could they still be afraid of the monopolist in Redmond?

If you want to express your feelings on the way IBM has abandoned OS/2 users in it's quest to appease bill gates, please write a letter to the US DOJ and tell them how you feel.

Joel I. Klein
Assistant Attorney General
Antitrust Division
U.S. Department of Justice
601 D Street, NW
Washington, DC 20530

The email address is antitrust@justice.usdoj.gov, however I believe a written communication has more effect then electronic.

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