Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

July 1998


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Interview with an OS/2 User

Next we interview William B. Bateson, PhD Physics. A scientist who develops computer models to solve not very well understood problems.

VOICE > What kind of business are you involved in?

William > R&D for Department of Energy DOE. Most of my time is spent on Science Based Stockpile Stewardship SBSS. In the present climate of a test ban, new methods must be employed to certify and re-certify our nuclear weapons. Consider, we make a high precision peace of equipment. Put it in some storage location for 10+ years. If there is an accident, say a fire, it will not go off. If it is stolen, the bad guys can not make it go off and should not be able to reasonably re-manufacture another weapon. If it is needed, it will do exactly what the president wants it to do. If there are new safety standards, we must retrofit. All of this must be done without turning it on. Try building a new kind of plane and never testing its ability to fly. One day it must be used to save lives in your community. If it fails your toast. If it works, well you have done your job. Interesting problem.

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?

William > It is our groups primary development platform. We also use it for integration and networking.

Hardware: 4 150 Mhz, 32 Mg, ATI 2Mg, 21" Nanao, P
4 200 Mhz, 128 Mg, ATI 2Mg, 21" Nanao, P Pro
2 400 Mhz, 256 Mg, Matrox 4Mg, 21" Nanao, P II

Software: Warp 4 fp1,6
Visual Slick Edit OS/2
Watcom Fortan & C OS/2
Netscape OS/2
Acrobat reader OS/2
Lotus Smart Suit OS/2
Back Again /2 OS/2
Partition Magic OS/2
Graham OS/2
X-Windows IBM OS/2

Scientific Workplace 2.01 Win32s 1.13
TecPlot 7.0 Win32s 1.25a

Testing : Visual Age Java OS/2
XAct OS/2
Mathamatica 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?

William >
1) We wanted tools that were friendly.
2) Needs to be responsive "real time OS".
3) Needs to network well.
4) Code development platform.
5) Science tools.
6) Reliability. this should go without saying.

I learned on mainframes such as IBM (JCL), CDC (NOS,NOS BE) and Crays (NLTSS, UNICOS). The stability was grate but the usability poor. I then moved to Workstations: IBM (AIX), SUN (First SunOS,more recently Solaris). More usable the mainframe and just about as stable. I then started to play with cross platform development. I acquired a 486 and plugged an i860 into the bus. The 486 was used as an I/O server and the i860 running a 32 bit DOS ran the simulations. I could also boot the system up in System V UNIX, and the 486 in IBM DOS. It was a fun little toy. About the same horsepower as the then RS6000 but with IBM DOS booted the development tools where much more friendly. Not as robust but friendlier. Around the same time I was a Beta tester for MS. Along with tens of thousands of others. Windows was the near term platform and OS/2 was being praised by MS and IBM as the OS of the future. I noticed a change in MS products as Win 3.1 stated to move. MS development tools and products were quickly acquiring features and size. The only problem was the features did not work. Bata code was more like Alpha. I dumped testing by being non-responsive. I tried OS/2 1.3 or was it 1.2. Anyway it was better then DOS. My development tools were available along with a good X Server and It, my i860, and Crays were how I got my work done.

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 OSs in any form of a network, how well does OS/2 work with these other systems?

William > When I changed directorates within LLNL, the group I entered was Sun, Mac, and Cray based. It was a small group of individuals working on cutting edge technologies. The group was looking for an edge in code development. Lets face it, if two groups are equal in talent, tools can make the difference. We went out and evaluated tools and platforms. We found the low cost PC (then pentiums) a reasonable mechanic for development. The integer performance was quite good and floating point OK. Linux, SCO, NEXT, VX Works, NT 3.0, OS/2 2.0 were tested. OS/2 won.

Linux, SCO did not have the friendliest tools.

NEXT, VX Works did not have the right tools and came with a price.

NT large consumer of resources: memory, disk, CPU, and poor networking and multitasking.

OS/2 not as stable as UNIX but otherwise OK.

Just about every year since then we go through a reevaluation of our platform of choice. Linex and NT do better each year. But so does OS/2. The only problem we foresee is in about 2 years our scientific plotting and symbolic manipulation tools will no longer meet the criteria of the day. But why discuss vapor.

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

William > There is talk of expanding our group. If that happens IBM will certainly get the business. The lab as a whole is likely to be divided between PC and RISC. PC's will certainly go NT. It is a safe decision. If you follow the pack you can diffuse responsibility. From a technical point of view OS/2 is the clear winner for our site.

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?

William > Think cross-platform development, integration, and connectivity. After all, our products are likely to be run on Crays, Decs, HPs, 6000s, PCs, and ASCI Blue.

FYI ASCI Blue is a 4k processor 1 Tarrabite parallel supper computer made by IBM for a mere $200 million.

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)?

William > Very little. I would, however, like to see a fat client. Essentially, Warp Server without all of the external serving stuff. This after all is the best way to develope code. A machine that is totally dedicated to the users "developers" requests. This makes it responsive and less damaging to the network if something goes wrong.

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)?

William > As long as IBM kept it in sync with the server version it would be fine with me.

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

William > No. But, a strange thing is happening. As people leave our group they take with them the OS/2 experience. It is not at all unusual for them to gripe about their new platform usually NT. Most of them have been trying to find a way to get OS/2 adopted as the development platform of choice in their new groups.


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