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

October 1999

One Man And One Step At A Time: Worldwide Communication At Warp Expo West

Peter Skye pskye@peterskye.com

Dave Watson is an active VOICE member, the Internet SIG Leader for SCOUG, and a fervent believer in IRC. He uses IRC a lot, and his Monday night Help Desk and Wednesday night Internet SIG meetings are all IRC-channeled. He's a man with a mission, to move communication to the web and web communication to real-time. And his convictions have firmed significantly since he ran the VOICE and SCOUG chat lines from his central exhibitor booth at Warp Expo West.

Two-Way, Worldwide and Free

Dave's vision is worldwide communication, and he's making it happen one steady step at a time. "I don't think that one-way communication, such as you get with TV, is the answer," says Mr. Watson. "It has to be both ways, so you can give feedback on other people's thoughts and get feedback on your own. That's why IRC is such a humbling experience -- you get away from your family and immediate friends and learn quickly what a large number of others think of your ideas. And you're also exposed to all kinds of new ideas from people you'll never be able to otherwise speak with. This is a true neural network, not of machines, but of mankind itself."

IRC is the current tool, but there's more coming. "Wait until we have videophone," says Dave. "Wait until each one of us can have a free hookup, any time of the day or night, to anyone else on the planet. Now that's cool." What about CUSeeMe, I ask? "There's a patch available that will override the timeout in the last release," states Dave. "CUSeeMe is great because it has both video and text."

This man of vision, communication style, thinks it's very cool indeed that you wouldn't dare pick up your phone and dial a number randomly just to speak to someone you've never heard of before, but it's so very easy to click into an IRC chat on any subject that fits your fancy and instantly start up a conversation. "You can ask a question or just listen in on others," says Dave. "Anything you're interested in is covered somewhere. There are IRC channels about OS/2. There are IRC channels about IRC." Dave pauses, thinking. "There are probably IRC channels about muppets."

A Booth At The Show

Dave arrived early at Warp Expo West. He and fellow VOICE member Sector (AKA: Andrew James Alan Welty) were running a combined VOICE and SCOUG Internet SIG booth in the Expo exhibitor hall, and they had to make sure everything was set up and operating by show time. Sector managed the VOICE activities while Dave kept the SCOUG side busy.

"There are a lot of people that visit us on IRC from all over the world," says the ever-active Mr. Watson, "and it's been hard to schedule meetings when everyone can be there at the same time. We have people in Australia and people in England, and there's a bit of a time difference that we have to compensate for. I didn't want the Expo connection to start late because of a network problem or something, since then people in Australia wouldn't be able to check in with us before they went to sleep."

Indeed, the number of people checking in and out of the IRC at what came to be collectively known as the Dave/Sector Table seemed quite large, indeed. "I was pretty busy from the very beginning, saying 'hi' to people I'd already met online and answering questions about the show. And there were some people who visited the channel and were delighted that we were at Warp Expo West -- they didn't know we were doing something special and just happened to drop by."

And did he win any converts from the mass of people milling about the show itself? Were there OS/2 users who had never used IRC? Was he kept busy demonstrating how IRC worked?

"Very busy," replies Dave. "And not only did they want to see IRC in use and discuss some of the very neat things you can do with it, but a number of them showed up in one or more chat sessions in the weeks after the show. In other words, IRC really intrigues people with its massive communication power, and they wanted to try it for themselves."

Warp Expo West - Dave Hits the High Spots

Dave Watson gave one of the best seminars at Warp Expo West. The title was "Internet Communication Methods", and the description from the presentation brochure is all-telling: "... the full range of internet-based communications methods, from traditional asynchronous protocols such as email, lists and newsgroups, to live interactive sessions with chat, instant messaging and CUSeeMe."

"And I also set up video cameras in the auditoriums and lecture halls so we would have all of these lectures for posterity," says Dave. "As soon as bandwidth climbs a bit higher, and I know it will, we can put these presentations on the web for everyone on every continent to see. That's what's so neat about the web, it allows for this vast array of different methods of communicating."

And the lectures?

"Well, mine was excellent," grins Dave.

The big talk at Warp Expo West was IBM's future plans for OS/2, and a three-member roundtable was scheduled in the large auditorium for a discussion. The Technology Editor from PC Week, Peter Coffee, came in from Santa Monica. Another well-known Technology Editor, Esther Schindler from Sm@rt Reseller, flew in from Phoenix. And Alan Zeichick, the man who created OS/2 Magazine and was its Editor-In-Chief, arrived from San Francisco. All came to discuss "IBM: The New Strategy To Control The Worldwide Desktop" and give the audience their best impressions of the intertwined OS/2-IBM future. Those impressions, discussed and embellished in the great hall that day, were very positive for OS/2.

IBM itself sent in a squad to defend its OS/2 vision. Steven King is the Senior Manager of IBM's Network Computing Software Division, and he came by plane from Austin Texas to speak at Expo. IBM sent their Rapid Deployment Team, with Dennis Sposato speaking on new services. Jim Williams, also from IBM Austin, ran the IBM booth. Michael Steinberg from Lotus spent the day discussing SmartSuite.

"IBM's participation was a breath of fresh air," Dave stresses. "Having them come in and present their new OS/2-based products, having them talk about an IBM future that included OS/2, this was beneficial for the entire community. There were some concerns up until then, and I think IBM pretty much alleviated them."

One of the best-attended lectures was a two parter on XML, given by Bill Schindler of POSSI and Extended Attributes. XML looks somewhat like HTML and, like HTML, stems from SGML. In XML you make up your own tags, anything you want, such as "draw a vector graphic using these values" or "use this data to pay these bills" or even "display a water molecule". With XML you can store and send data, images, executables, all without having to rely on a file extension or file header to identify the information. The tagged info identifies itself, and a program simply reads the file and pulls out what it needs, and a dispatcher program can even read through the file, see what data is inside, and then send the file off to the programs that will want it.

Programming was well covered. Java had multiple sessions, REXX likewise, and OS/2's Mr. Know-It-All columnist Steven Levine presented "How To Write A Workplace Shell Class". Lynn Maxson gave an update on his Warpicity proposal, methodology and project. Randell Flint of Sundial spoke on relational databases.

Ben Archer and Rocky Rakijas joined together for a presentation of Octave, a mathematics and engineering computation and analysis tool. Just minutes before the session was to begin, Archer expressed concerned that no one would come. At starting time, the room was packed.

And a Few Expo Extras

Linux and OS/2 ran as comrades with a demonstration of a dual installation on one machine, setting up HPFS compatibility between the two, and a final network demonstration of Linux and OS/2 machines working together.

Web server performance and scalability, web site management and Warp Server for e-Business took up several sessions. These sessions covered the technical issues such as response times and I/O bottlenecks, the administration issues such as link control and automated reporting, and the business issues of running a for-profit activity.

There was a stage-show, too, put on by Sundial Systems and aptly named Warped Jeopardy!. While the contestants gave the "questions" to the emcee's "answers", a multimedia array of sound, lights and video clips bounced merrily about the theater. Hostmaster Randell Flint of Sundial emceed this OS/2 spectacular.

"And the four full-motion video feeds from Tim and Tim (Tim Katz and Tim McCoy of Demand Systems) were the most exciting thing there," interjects Dave. "The video feeds worked great. It was a spectacular success, and we need more of it. To think that something this technically innovative occurred first at Warp Expo West is just sensational."

Dave had plenty of live visitors at his booth who dropped by to tell him about the presentations they'd just attended. "There was a very dynamic set of speakers. It was a non-stop schedule of four separate tracks in two auditoriums plus two lecture rooms. The social interaction was great. The exhibitors were great. And they even set out snack plates with some excellent cookies. I think just being able to put such a project together was monumental."


Warp Expo West was a place for OS/2 dreams. New products, new ideas, new roads on which to travel.

One of Dave's dreams is bubbling out of the revival of the Warp Pharmacy -- WarpDoctor.

"VOICE is the mentor," Dave tells me. "They have some very smart people working on a Warp Pharmacy rejuvenation, and WarpDoctor will be a part of that. I expect WarpDoctor will be a web based database with an artificial intelligence engine to assist visitors, and as the group gets further into the development we'll have a better idea of exactly what kind of solution it will offer. It's likely that you'll be able to ask a question or just state a problem you're having, and WarpDoctor will give you back the answer. It will be just like having online help available from some very intelligent OS/2 people. The only difference is, the Doctor will be a huge database filled with OS/2 information."

"We had an IRC chat on the VOICE channel recently and discussed the WarpDoctor project," continues Dave. "It's certainly doable and the information for the database is already available, although stored in lots of different places. This is more than just a search engine because we're taking a question or problem from a person, looking at it carefully to determine that user's actual needs, and then looking up and returning the answer. An incredibly useful tool, and maybe we could put a thousand monkeys to work typing in questions to see what kind of answers we would get back. Who knows, we might come up with something extremely valuable if we did that."

"And we'll use IRC as the method of meeting while we develop WarpDoctor. IRC is better than a mailing list because there's a spontaneity in communicating in real time that you lose with just email. IRC takes more time, but it's far more productive."

Mr. Watson feels very strongly about IRC, both as a manner of general communication and as the instrument of construction for the WarpDoctor all-knowledgeable online entity. "I'm turning what has typically been a social activity for people into a business tool that we can use to perform team activities," he emphasizes.

Internet Productivity and VOICE

There is a vast new world now that we didn't have ten years ago. Ten years ago we had a vast new world that wasn't there a decade before. And Dave Watson wants to help with the next step.

"The fundamental thing here is to figure out how the OS/2 community is going to use the Internet. VOICE is good for the community. WarpDoctor will be good for the community." Dave pauses to collect his thoughts.

"The closest thing we have to using the Internet for productivity is VOICE. Now we need to expand the VOICE capabilities so Joe User can dial into the Internet and get the answer to his problem, whatever problem that might be."

"Joe needs to be given a way to state what his problem is, and then be able to click on a button and download an applet which will do a complete analysis of his machine, or his software installation, or a file or directory tree, and have that applet then go ahead and correct his CONFIG.SYS, his INI files, download new versions of DLL's or EXE's, and when all of that is done all Joe has to do is reboot. The diagnostic program would run on the server, and the applet would check things and ask Joe additional questions based on what the server determines."

"Can the Internet become a productive aspect of OS/2? It certainly can. It's going to take some work, though, to create the first version of the applet and server programs. Collecting the data for the database will be time consuming, but we know where everything is. And next year, twelve months from right now, WarpDoctor is going to be running on the machines I'll have in the VOICE - SCOUG booth at Warp Expo West."

For more on Warp Expo West - http://www.scoug.com/warpexpowest
For Photos from Warp Expo West - http://www.scoug.com/warpexpowest/pictures/

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