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October 2000

Our Choices

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

I think it's still tough to say which is the best deal at the moment, IBM's Software Choice(SWC) subscription or Serenity's eComStation(eCS) and it's Upgrade Protection subscription. That is a choice we each have to make on our own in our own timeframe. SWC is less expensive, but other then 2 Convenience Pak(CP) releases and a promised mid-year fixpack for each CP, IBM really hasn't promised anything in the way of additional development. At Warpstock I was told that IBM has a budget item for a DVD multi-media player for next year. I presume that will be part of SWC, but that is not confirmed. You will get the TCP/IP updates, Java updates, IBM branded web browser and eventually the UDFS (this is required to read DVD data disks). Any other OS/2 development is contingent on a customer contracting/paying for it. Perhaps buying an IBM Software Choice subscription will show IBM that there are still OS/2 users that care, but whether that will translate into a renewed interest on the part of IBM is anyone's guess.

Serenity's eComStation is based on the IBM Convenience Pak. It does not require a network, but will include networking support(Peer and TCP/IP). It is based on the Warp Server eBusiness source(same as the IBM CP), so it will support SMP and JFS (SMP is an optional cost component, but Serenity announced that JFS will now be in the base eComStation). It requires an initial purchase of either a full license or an upgrade license which is available for existing Warp4 users. After January 31, 2001, this will be the only way to buy a new OS/2 based workstation operating system, once retail outlets are sold out of existing Warp4 boxes, though I'm sure there will always be a few used licenses for sale on eBay.

eCS has it's own version of SWC called Upgrade Protection, which will include everything that is included in SWC, plus anything that Serenity and it's distributors develop themselves or pay to have developed. So far this is mostly enhancements to the install process of the operating system and install process for many third party applications (reportedly just drag and drop to install things). The initial license purchase of eCS also gets you a licensed copy of Lotus Smartsuite 1.5 and IBM's Desktop On Call and of course the aforementioned JFS support. Those items alone are worth more then the eCS upgrade cost, if you need them. The biggest advantage that I see with eCS, is that Serenity will have a support contract with IBM, so if you report a defect problem for eCS, and Serenity can't fix the problem they can report it to IBM. As far as I know, there is no support mechanism included with SWC.

Reporting problems to IBM has been the biggest problem with OS/2 the past 3-4 years. How do you report a problem today? There is a defect reporting form to fill out, but in the few cases I have used it I was told that to get the problem looked at would require a paid support contract or I could phone in the problem, be charged for the support call, but if IBM determined it was a defect, they would not charge me. So even though it costs a little more for the initial eCS license, I'm hoping that this will be a way to formalize problem reporting. Right now OS/2 users have to rely on mailing lists and the comp.os.os2.* Usenet groups, none of which is an official IBM channel. We are thankful for what little actual IBM presence there is on these forums. For the most part we have to help ourselves. Serenity and their distributors are planning online News groups to report problems and ask questions. That to me is a big advantage also.

Software Choice has been around for a couple years now, and I have heard from those who subscribed when it first came out, that they felt they did not get their moneys worth. Most items on Software Choice were either Server Oriented, or were freely available to everyone, Hopefully that will change with the promised Convenience Pak releases and the other SWC only features. Serenity's eComStation is still not released yet, so we are discussing a product in development. The Preview version is expected imminently, but we have heard that this is just an initial release for feedback, which may or may not look a lot like the final full fledged version. To me that is an advantage, since it gives me a chance to have a say in what eCS will look like. That is far more then IBM has ever done for me with their "operating system direction of the month" focus.

For more on what our OS/2 options are, you can see Oliver Rick's excellent "Future OS/2 Warp Upgrade/Update Options" page - http://home.knuut.de/orick/english/warp_futureoptions.html. Also for still more on the future of OS/2 see Dan Casey's article in this issue of the VOICE Newsletter Warpstock 2000 Wrapup - The Future of OS/2.

As others have said, it's great that we have the choice to continue using OS/2. Hopefully both paths will be successful, but there are no guarantees either way. It's your Computer, Your Choice; You decide where you want to go with OS/2 in the future.

Now onto a completely different topic. I periodically see on mail lists and in Usenet requests for suggestions for RAID SCSI controllers to use under OS/2. I myself have been looking for an inexpensive SCSI RAID solution for my small OS/2 servers for a long time. Mostly people end up getting older DPT or AMI cards if they can find them. In the VOICE Newsletter we have reviewed one IDE RAID solution - the Arco DupliDisk IDE RAID 1 Controller, which is great for an OS/2 workstation, and they have released an ATA/66 version which is also supported under OS/2 (Hopefully we'll have a review in the near future). But some people, especially power OS/2 users want the bleeding edge speed and topnotch reliability that only SCSI can provide.

Recently I saw an advertisement for a new line of SCSI RAID cards from Adaptec. The ad claimed "Full Network Operating System Support" . Well Adaptec has been supporting OS/2 with drivers for years, and it did say "Full OS" support. So I went to Adaptec's site and looked up the specs on the Adaptec SCSI RAID 1200S controller. A bunch of operating systems were listed including Netware, Linux, many BSD's , SCO, NT and of course windows 9x. But no OS/2. So I emailed Adaptec and asked if there was any OS/2 drivers in development. I was told that I was the first person to ask for this, and since there was no interest, they would not devote any resources to developing OS/2 drivers for this card.

Now I don't want to start a war over this, but if you have an interest in SCSI RAID, and you would like to see Adaptec change it's mind and develop OS/2 drivers for this card and perhaps it's bigger brothers the 3200S and 3400S, please send a polite email to salesbtc@btc.adaptec.com. It would be nice to see Adaptec continue to develop new products for the OS/2 market, and I have heard that Adaptec would consider doing this if there is a market in the OS/2 World for these cards.

VOICE Server Update: VOICE's website is now running on our own server machine. It is running Warp Server eBusiness of course on our own hardware co-located at an ISP in North Carolina. We have had some intermittent problems with running our mailing list software, but our System Administrator (Abel McClendon) is working to get the mailing lists back up without jeopardizing our web connection. A big thanks to all the work Abel has put into this project, and a big thanks to all our members for making this big step possible with their membership dues.

More services will come online as we make progress. Please bare with us as we go through this transition. If for some reason we experience a down time, you can also access our pages including the newsletter at our mirror site - http://os2voice.ibmforum.com.

No speakup sessions this past month on IRC, just a couple of general meetings. For October we have a Speakup with Sundial on Monday October 2nd at 8PM EDT (00:00GMT, 02:00 Berlin) and a general meeting on IRC on the 16th at 8PM EDT (00:00 GMT, 02:00 Berlin). For November there will be two general meetings scheduled on IRC - November 6 at 8PM EST(01:00 GMT, 02:00 Berlin), and November 20th at 8PM EST(01:00 GMT, 02:00 Berlin). For more information on attending online VOICE IRC meetings please see the VOICE Meeting Information page - http://www.os2voice.org/meetinginfo.html

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, 02:00 Berlin). 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 October we have a feature packed issue. In VOICE LINE ( how to share it ) Brian Crook tells us how to set up a voice modem using PMFax and VDIAL. Then Christian Hennecke continues to inform you how to raise the needle on your system speedometer in How to Supercharge OS/2 Warp, Part 5. This month Christian looks at printing and networking performance.

Darryl Sperber has been spreading the word in Usenet about his troubles and finally successes with Installing OS/2 with FAT32 around. I convinced him to write up his experience into an article for the newsletter so more folks who may fall into this trap if they have FAT32 partitions on a system and they update Warp to a recent fixpack.

Mark Dodel gives us his impressions of what he found at this year's Warpstock convention in Philadelphia in Peace, Love and OS/2.

Next we have an article on Serenity's new eComStation from two guys who work for Mensys, the European Distributor for eComStation. Joachim Benjamins and David J. van Enckevort tell us some of what we can expect to find in this new version of the operating system we love in A True Revolution for OS/2 - eComStation.

Finally we have Dan Casey with Warpstock 2000 Wrapup - The Future of OS/2. Dan gives us his impressions from Warpstock, and what he sees in store for the future of OS/2.

Next month we have an article on Running OS/2 on a MAC by Chris Backas; Erik Overby's article on using FDISK, and PQMagic with LVM; hopefully we will also have an article or two on what happened at Warpstock Europe, and more. Klaus Staedtler von Przyborski's new column "The Free Files" will return in November as well. Klaus is busy with work on a new version of the WPS enhancer CandyBarz.

We are planning to publish a list with topics we would like to see articles about in the Newsletter. You can and should contribute to the collection! So if you can think of a topic you always wanted to read something about, please submit it for the list! If somebody with detailed knowledge in this field reads the list chances are that he/she might feel encouraged to write an article him/herself. And of course if you have an idea for an article you want to write, please let us know. Send your ideas for topics to topiclist@os2voice.org, or your own articles to editor@os2voice.org.

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 and Christian Hennecke
Editors, VOICE Newsletter

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