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July 2000

Ramblings on WarpTech

Article by Wayne Swanson ©July 2000

Pillarsoft's website: http://www.pillarsoft.net
WarpTech's website: http://www.warptech.org

My visit to WarpTech started about a week early. The Rexx Language Association Symposium had their annual pow-wow just before WarpTech and I had an interest in taking some of it in, as well as spending time with family and friends in the area.

We spent the first weekend on the Colorado river in western Arizona and came back to Phoenix on Tuesday just in time to sit in on the Rexx ANSI committee meeting. It was soon clear that the meeting table was surrounded with very, let me make this perfectly clear... "Very" intelligent people. There was only one country bumpkin in attendance but he didn't say much during the meeting. He nodded knowingly once in a while and laughed politely at the appropriate times. I am sure they would not have known who the bumpkin was if I hadn't worn that stupid feathered hat with my name spelled out in sequins. I suppose the leisure suit may have given me away eventually although it was a very business like color combo of lime green with yellow stitching.

After a couple of days work in a temporary office setup I returned to the Wigwam late Thursday afternoon. As soon as I got out of the car I saw a familiar face. I couldn't remember his name but I shed my shy image and yelled across the parking lot, "Hey! I know you!" He looked a bit puzzled at first but I knew he was an OS/2 user... I had seen him before... "OS/2?" I yelled (politely... this is a high class place) "Didn't I meet you at WarpStock in Atlanta?" That's how you have to be here... you can't waste time. We have only so many hours to spend and need to get our fill ASAP. To a person of a religious nature, one may consider his holy book as bread for the soul. For an OS/2 user, we may equate events like WarpTech as bread for the soul. We gather for education, edification, fellowship and just plain old camaraderie.

Thursday was really a day early for WarpTech and mainly for setup and last minute preparations. It's kind of funny but usually when volunteers are called for many folks try to blend in with the surroundings hoping they will not be noticed but that's not the way it seems to work around OS/2 users. When someone from POSSI asked for help in putting the attendee grab bags together the positions around the table were filled easily. They gave us our instruction and we were off, moving bags around the table at the speed of light... well, at a pretty good clip. Because I am so shy I had to try to overcome it and stop production every once in a while to shake hands and introduce myself to the people around me. It was only after we started that I found out that on my right was Tim Cardozo, with whom I had talked via email before but just now had an opportunity to meet and on my left was that "difficult" Evelyn Hitch.

I thought I was pretty hot because I had TWO pages to put in each bag. I started bragging about my "multitasking" abilities until Evelyn let it be known that she had three items to place in the bags. We had a very lively banter going throughout the job. Lest you think that she is really difficult, I must say that Evelyn was an absolutely lovely woman that always wore a smile and was very friendly all weekend.

The marketplace opened it's doors for setup on Thursday evening so with the help of Richard Klemmer and Duane Chamblee I quickly setup a few items and headed for some social time. I knew it would be difficult entering a period of "social interaction" without Dan Casey there to coach me but I managed to survive. The rest of the evening was spent visiting with a mix of WarpTech and RexxLA attendees. This is actually what I enjoy most about gatherings like this. Everyone is ready to have a good time and most of us are on our best behavior.


There were four session tracks for most of Friday and three tracks for the Saturday-Sunday sessions so one could always find something good to take in. The problem is that for some, there may be sessions of interest that conflict with each other. There is no easy way around that problem so one must pick and choose. Normally I do not get a chance to take in many sessions but the marketplace did not open until after lunch on Friday so after doing a bit more preparation during the early part of the day I did catch Mike Cowlishaw's NetRexx presentation just before lunch.

Mike's handling of his laser pen to highlight talk points was an interesting sideline. He handled his assignment (and the laser pen) with such grace and accuracy that I was fully expecting him to do a few trick shots with the laser from behind the back or under the leg a few times. At least I know what to practice on for my next session.

Lunch at the Wigwam was nice. The Wigwam is the kind of place that gives you enough utensils to use a clean one for every bite and even puts chocolate decorations on your dessert. (I think the decorations are to distract you from the empty regions of the plate) I am the kind of guy that usually picks his dessert from a wide variety behind a sneeze guard and then puts ice cream, peanuts, fudge and some those little colored speckles (Editor note: These are correctly termed "Sprinkles" or as we called them in Philly "Jimmies" for some strange reason) on top. It is rather funny to read a whole paragraph explaining what a pastry biscuit with sliced apple on it really is. One would think that they could do it in fifty words or less.

After lunch I fumbled my way through my planned presentation on VisPro/Rexx. I joke about being shy but in reality I have no problem getting in front of people and talking. Due to my lack of pre-session preparation I found myself in a poor location to see what I was doing on the projection screen to start with and it all went downhill from there. If anything could go wrong... it did. I found myself speeding through it just to get it over with. Next time I will know better.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the booth, visiting with old friends and making some new ones. We snagged a hub and some cat-5 from David Azarewicz (our WarpTech network guru) for Richard Klemmer and Chuck McKinnis to set up and they helped out whenever I stepped away. Chuck and Richard were helping all comers with any kind of question. Even if it was helping some guy across the room get their networking straightened out. It was great fun to see OS/2'ers helping each other. Richard and Chuck, Thank you!

There were several hosted dine-outs to sign up for but a few of us anti-socials went "off-campus" on our own on Friday. After returning (I hope this was Friday... my days are running together) we helped place labels on the new issue of Extended Attributes. There were a lot more copies of EA's being sent out than I had ever dreamed. I thought it might be a special mailing but I believe that Bill said it was the standard monthly mail-out.

As is my custom, I invited a few folks back to my place to continue earlier conversations and strike up some new ones. The way the Wigwam is laid out makes it easy for people to filter away so I didn't get a chance to invite very many. That is probably a good thing because although the rooms were large, we had a distinct lack of chairs for everyone.

The Wigwam isn't your standard hotel/motel setup. They have "casita's" which are more like a spacious motel room in apartment buildings separated from the main offices/meeting rooms. The casita's are situated in courts that surround a pool area in some cases or possibly a tennis court or fitness center. I am told they had three very nice golf courses but as much as I love my golf, I didn't bring my sticks and didn't take advantage of them.


I had a nice walk from my casita to the convention center Saturday morning. The place was so well kept that I had a hard time convincing myself that I should cut across the courtyard to save a few steps. But I did...

Funny thing about Arizona, the temps were warm the whole time I was there but in my part of the world it always cools off at night by 20 or 30 degrees. In Arizona a 10 degree drop is more like the average. With the low humidity 110 doesn't feel that bad. 100 degree days can be almost unbearable at home but I can and have taken 117 in Arizona without much trouble.

The day started with most of us sitting in on Steven King's address on the "Application Framework for e-Business Roadmap" followed by the rest of the sessions and the opening of the marketplace. As per usual, we all heard what we were predisposed to hear... For some, the cup was half empty and for others it was half full. I have always considered myself to be a half full kind of guy... although my wife insists that I am completely full.

The marketplace was laid out in a "U" pattern with some large round tables in the center for people to rest their weary bones and read or visit. During each of the sessions we had time to make small talk but between sessions the marketplace would get busy and it would be back to work.

Saturday also had a couple of the major attractions for WarpTech: Warped Jeopardy and the SCOUG Rodeo at Rawhide.

Warped Jeopardy pitted POSSI, SCOUG and VOICE against each other for some friendly competition. When Randell first mentioned it to me I was already thinking of someone else that would have been a better selection as a participant but after he explained that it was going to be POSSI, SCOUG and VOICE I realized that I was the only representative we had available... they were scraping the bottom of the VOICE barrel to find a warm body for the game.

POSSI was represented by Bill Schindler and SCOUG had Steve Schiffman doing the honors. It turned out to be a great time. Yours truly started talking too much (trying to be funny) on a $1000 question and let the time limit pass before answering at one point and dropped himself to minus $400. They did offer to let me answer it even though the time had expired and though I knew the answer I didn't think it fair of me to take advantage of the situation. I did recover later though to salvage some of my reputation and avoid a possible lynching by the Blue team ticket holders.

One of the funny categories had every answer the same, "What is OS/2" so it was a timing thing to get in on answering those by hitting the button quickly when it was activated. There were three guys cramming buttons on all of those. Another funny one was a succession of a couple of rexx questions. The first one showed just a comma (IIRC it was some punctuation mark at any rate) and Steve buzzed in and said "What is a comma?" The next one showed a colon so I buzzed in thinking it was a joke and said "What is a colon?" BZZZZT!!! Wrong! Bill leaned over and said, "No it's, 'What is a dot over a dot?'" I smiled politely and took my beating from the crowd... They were looking for a "real" rexx answer and I had let it slip by.

I think we all had a great time and took home some lovely parting gifts. I got the "Blue Spine" Rice-A-Roni which my wife says we will actually eat. Apparently she loves it although I am not sure I have ever had it. So much for my wide ranging tastes.

Sundial does a bangup job on Warped Jeopardy but they have mentioned that this may be the last one. Randell says they don't want to wear out their welcome and I can understand that but I sure hate to see it go. You can tell they have put a lot of work into it and I realize it also takes time and resources from their own business preparation for events like this. Along with the fun of the game, the added touch of the commercials, etc. make it a truly enjoyable event.

I didn't take in the trip to Rawhide but having been there I know everyone must have had a good time. Rawhide is contained in what one might call a walled city. Once you enter the gate you are taken back to the 1800's and what the old west was like complete with gunfights and Can-Can girls. Now that I think of it, I should have gone, I ain't seen a Can-Can girl in nigh unta' three years!

A half dozen of us went to Chili's for dinner saturday night (Richard, Duane, Chuck, Burke Swanson and Leo Martin) and upon returning we helped Burke (no relation, he wouldn't claim me anyway) and Leo get some AV equipment moved from Sachem (where Warped Jeopardy was held) to the three Aztec rooms where the AV equipment would be needed in the morning. We were the grunts and Burke wielded an iron fist. He had us whipped into shape in no time. There is little to no glory associated with most of the setup and organization of these events and let me be the first to say how happy and thankful I am that there are people willing to make that sacrifice for all of us.

And then... we retired to the casita...


"I can't believe it's the last day..." I say that every time I go to one of these and this one was even longer than most! It just seems like time goes so fast and you are left wishing for one more day. The last day is always the busiest too. Everyone realizes that there were certain people they were going to talk to, or vendors they were going to see, and we all try to fit it in before it is too late.

The big noise on Sunday came from the Odin demonstration. It sounded more like a basketball game than a tech demo. As mentioned earlier, I usually do not get a chance to attend many sessions but this one sounded like fun! I did hear someone say that one of the big reactions was when they started up MS Word under Odin and typed something to the effect that, "This is Microsoft Word for OS/2." Odin is becoming very impressive it seems.

We also had Kim Cheung's announcement about Serenity's new "Warp based" distribution that will be called eComStation (as soon as the deals are finalized) and I visited with a German company that is going to produce what sounded to me like an internet appliance based on OS/2. There is much more to say on both of these items but because my German isn't exactly top-of-the-line and without a better understanding of each of them I will defer comment to a later date.

We are lining up a speakup with Kim Cheung and Bob St.John to discuss eComStation in the near future so stay tuned. We will also try to provide a speakup for the other startup too when they are ready.

Even though the Indy 500 has lost some of it's luster for me after the Hulman/Cart fiasco I really wanted to catch some of it so I tried to find it on the internet during some slack time and found that it was being broadcast on that "Other" streaming media player. So much for that idea... The network, by the way, was up 100% of the time I needed or used it so kudo's go to David and his team for that.

The closing session gave us a chance to give all of the hard working people that made this all possible a well deserved "Thank you." Burke must have had a few more unsolicited helpers because he called them all up and presented them with WarpTech golf shirts. These were not just run-of-the-mill shirts either, they were very nice and more than I ever expected. I am happy with a "thanks" and having a good feeling that I could help someone but this was above and beyond what was ever expected. Thank you Burke. (and POSSI)


I would have liked to have caught a few more sessions but it just doesn't work that way for me. I really enjoyed every bit of it though and would do it again tomorrow if I could.

As things wrapped up a few of us decided to meet at a steakhouse for our last chance to break bread together. Burke decided I needed to be picked on (my home state) and I accepted it with my usual grace and geniality (cough!) knowing that I had the best possible of all worlds. I have lived in Arizona... and it's a nice place to "visit." It was all in good fun and I'll be sure to call him when I am in town again. He will be needing some comeback attempts by then. :-)

We visited over prime rib and steaks and quietly parted company. No visible tears were shed but there was a sense of sorrow. The fun is over and we now return to the rest of our lives. Klemmer and Chamblee didn't part company right away... I had to take them to the airport. Klemmer had railed on my slow driving all weekend so I picked it up a notch to get him to the airport. Duane may have thought it but he didn't vocalize what he was thinking. I guess I come from an area that is just a bit easier going and less congested to get too anxious at the wheel. I think what Richard wanted was the aggressive driver in me to show itself so I bumped it up a couple of miles an hour for him... Just to make him feel at home.

I dropped Duane and Richard off at the airport about 11 PM sunday night and took a quiet drive though a darkened Phoenix. The traffic was light, the radio was off and the only thing audible was the rhythm of the tires cresting the seams in the road. I was alone again... and thinking... I missed Dan, Judy, Mark and Abel, I wished that Peter Lazenby could have been there. I felt like I had known him for years and we still hadn't met. It would have been nice to meet our newest board member Phil Butler but it just wasn't in the cards for him. I thought about all the people I did get to see from earlier conventions, how much fun it was to see them again and how amazing it was that I visualized every last one of them with a smile on their face. New friends? Yes, this trip was no different. There were plenty of new friends... friends that I hope to see again and yet... there are so many more to meet... next time...

All in all? I wouldn't trade a weekend like this for anything.

Wayne is chief cook and bottle washer for PillarSoft (Home of WarpZip and the PillarSoft Suite and other OS/2 products http://www.pillarsoft.net) and a light commercial construction firm. On weekends he dons his cape and mask as he doubles as the Vice President (VP job description? "Stay out of the way!") of V.O.I.C.E.

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