VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org
[Newsletter Index]
[Previous Page] [Next Page]
[Features Index]

October 2000

Warpstock 2000 Wrapup
The Future of OS/2

By Dan Casey, ©October 2000 

Websites this article refers to:

IBM Software Choice - http://service.boulder.ibm.com/asd-bin/doc/en_us/catalog.htm?
eComStation - http://www.ecomstation.com
os2.org - http://www.os2.org
IBMFORUM - http://www.ibmforum.com
OS/2 Netlabs - http://www.netlabs.org

By all accounts, Warpstock 2000 was a huge success. By some accounts, this year's show was the best, yet.

It's not an easy task to pick out the "Highlights" of the event. There seemed to be something there for everyone, and everyone there seemed to have an opinion as to what was important to them.

Speaking for myself, I found that the issues regarding User Support to be most important. There are some changes coming in the way that IBM will continue to support the Operating System, and we all need to be aware of these changes, and how it will affect our continued use of OS/2 in the near future.

First, some facts that you should all be aware of:

As most of you should know by now, the OS/2 Warp 4 Client reaches its EOS (End Of Service) date on January 31, 2001. This means that IBM will no longer support the Warp 4 Client after that date, and consequently, will no longer offer it for sale. This does not mean that Warp 4 will stop working. It simply means that you will no longer be able to buy it from IBM, though there are still some copies of it in stock via the independent distributors. IBM is not recalling the unsold copies, but when these copies are gone, you'll no longer be able to purchase a new copy of OS/2 Warp 4.

On or about November 30, 2000, IBM will release a "Convenience Pak". This is a Warp 4 Client pak with all the fixes, to date, applied to it. This is the only OS/2 Client product that IBM will support, and they have committed to 2 years of support via a subscription to Software Choice for the Warp 4 Client. For the user, this means that you'll have to buy a subscription to Software Choice. This will give you access to new features such as TCP/IP 4.3, JAVA 1.3 and the next version of Netscape Communicator, based on the Mozilla code. It will also give you a copy of the Convenience Pak (CP) when it's released.

Sometime mid-year of 2001, IBM will release, for download via Software Choice (SWC) a Fixpak for the CP. On or about December 31 of 2001, IBM will release a 2nd CP, and the pattern repeats for 2002, with a Fixpak released mid-year, and a final CP released in December. What happens after this is currently unknown. IBM has no plans beyond this date. That means that they have no plans to kill it, nor do they have plans to offer another 2 year support package. We'll all have to wait and see what is going to happen beyond this date.

The only way to get a copy of the CP is via SWC. It will not be offered for sale as a stand-alone product. And the SWC subscriptions requires that you have a valid license to the OS/2 Warp 4 Client. Basically, this means that there won't be any new users buying a copy of OS/2 from IBM after January 31, 2001.

Also note that IBM has made changes in the SYSLEVEL files for the CP, and in the installer. While it has not been tested, it is highly unlikely that a Fixpak meant for the CP will install on a current Warp 4 client system. As one IBMer mentioned to me, "I'm sure someone will try it, and we'll see what happens". However, it is not supported by IBM.

IBM has released Fixpak 14 for Warp 4, as well as the 2nd release of the Device Driver Fixpak. Fixpak 15 for Warp 4 is currently being "built", and it is this level of fixes that will be in the CP release. Fixpak 15 will be released for free download sometime in December of 2000, and will be the last available Fixpak for the Warp 4 Client (unless you have purchased an Extended Support Contract from IBM).

The Alternative:

Provided that you all want to continue using OS/2 as your Operating System, there currently is 1 alternative to the CP release: eComStation, or eCS, from Serenity Systems.

eCS is a "Mobile Managed Client" based on the CP release of the OS/2 Warp Client package. The product is targeted towards networked users, and the software bundled with it will make it very easy for a Network Administrator to work with the users on his network as well as maintain all the Workstations/Desktop machines. The product is NOT targeted to the individual or SOHO users.

But that doesn't mean that it won't work for these users, or that we can't take advantage of the bundled management software.

The word "Mobile" in "Mobile Managed Client" means that eCS can be installed on a standalone system, not connected to a network, and used as a Client OS. You do NOT need to be connected to a Network, nor to you need to be connected to the Internet to use this OS.

Currently, eCS is not shipping in its final release form. Serenity is, however, shipping a "Preview Edition" of eCS which is, essentially, the CP release from IBM with an enhanced Installer and a copy of WiseMachine. The first two publicly released copies are residing in Disneyland, and control the music that is heard playing on "Main Street USA" in the park.

Installation of the Preview Release (PR) can be accomplished from both the bootable CD, or via creation of the 3 Boot Diskettes from the CD images.

The PR ships with IBM's Logical Volume Manager (LVM), a replacement for the FDISK utility. Take note that once you have started and used LVM, FDISK will no longer work on that drive. The CP will also ship with LVM, and it is a much more powerful utility for managing Hard Drive partitions than FDISK is.

Once the system has booted, and LVM has converted and/or created the partitions, eCS PR will install just like the OS/2 Warp Client installed. When the installation is complete, and your system reboots, your desktop will come up with an object for WiseMachine, and an object for a Fixpak install. This Fixpak includes some things that IBM hasn't yet fixed in the CP release.

Simply drag the Fix object to the WiseMachine object, and the fixpak installs itself. No scripts to run or modify, nothing to download, no 3rd party utilities needed. You don't even have to be connected to the Internet to run it.

An "Upgrade Protection Plan" is available as an optional purchase from the Distributors (Serenity doesn't sell the package directly to users), and includes both the fixes and upgrades to eCS as well as everything that is offered via SWC. Because eCS is based on the code level of the CP, Fixpaks for the CP can be applied to eCS as well.

Serenity, and its distributors, also plan to bundle many software applications with the GA release of eCS. As of now, the only ones known to be included are the Lotus Smartsuite for OS/2, version 1.5, the VoiceType package that originally shipped with the Warp 4 Client, but left out of the CP and SWC offering, and the original Bonus Pak of applications that originally shipped with the Warp 4 Client. Other applications will be added, and the list of applications will depend entirely on the feedback and assistance of the users who will "test" the PR.

Support for eCS will be handled by the Distributors, who in turn will rely on direct contact with Serenity Systems, who in turn will have an official Support Channel direct to IBM Level 2 Tech Support.

So, where does all this leave us ... the Users?

It actually leaves us with even more choices than we had before. It also leaves us with more options to support. There are still many users running Warp 3, and there will be many more users continuing to run Warp 4. Not everyone will automatically opt for the CP or eCS ... at least not right away.

Currently, some of the best support mechanisms in place are targeted Mailing Lists and USENET News. The various OS/2 Websites are also a great place to find information that has been gathered and presented for easy reference.

However, with all the choices we have now, and the different versions of the OS and the Drivers and the Applications, it's going to be difficult to keep up with all of the information.

To address these issues, VOICE has been pursuing a "cooperative" support plan that would involve more than one site, more than one group, and more than one method of gathering the information and distributing it to users. During Warpstock 2000, I had a chance to meet with Andreas Linde of os2.org, a very fine OS/2 Support site in Germany, and I sat on the Panel in the "Keynote Roundtable" discussion with Bob St. John of Serenity Systems, Irv Spalten of IBM Service and Support, Larry Finkelstein of the Compuserve IBMFORUM and Adrian Gschwend of OS/2 Netlabs. While most of the Q&A session centered around eCS and IBM's CP, the underlying message was that of cooperation. After the Roundtable discussion, I had a chance to speak with Andreas, and we have taken the first steps towards a cooperative effort between os2.org and VOICE to provide the support mechanisms that all OS/2 users can take advantage of. We feel that there is just too much that can yet be done in the way of supporting users for any one group or organization to be able to do it effectively.

The details have yet to be worked out, and each of us has something valuable to contribute to this project. But it can't stop with just this one effort. We need to all work together if we want to continue to use OS/2 and support current and new OS/2 users.

As I stated in my closing remarks at the Roundtable:

"If we all work together, there is nothing that we can't do. .... If we can't work together, then nothing will get done."

If you'd like to provide any comments or feedback, or if you'd like to be a part of this effort, drop me a note at: dcasey@attglobal.net. If you'd like to support this effort as a user, then please consider joining VOICE.

Thank You.

Dan Casey
President, VOICE

[Previous Page ] [ Index] [Next Page ]
VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org