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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
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."
"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
"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."
"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."
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.
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
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
"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."
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
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.
"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