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November 2000

Spirits up?

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

The OS/2 world has been changing for some time and obviously we are currently experiencing the most important changes for a long time to come. On the virge of the new millennium the topic is nothing less than OS/2's future. Now, what will it be? Is the future so bright we gotta wear shades? Or will it end in the dark soon? Well, though it's impossible to know yet I think we can be optimistic, upbeat.

The last years saw many commercial software and hardware vendors drop support for OS/2. Think of companies like SPG or ELSA. The last one in the long queue is Stardock that will drop free support at the end of January next year. And then IBM announced that Visual Age for C/C++ and Java won't be developed further, contradicting their own Java-centric strategy.

On the other hand we have ISVs like ROM Logicware who extended their OS/2 product Papyrus to Papyrus Office and added English language support. Scitechsoft even started developing for OS/2 from scratch with the excellent Display Doctor. And then there's Serenity Systems with eComStation, of course.

As with the commercial packages the amount of shareware dwindled. However, at the same time the freeware movement has gained momentum. There clearly has been a shift to freeware and OpenSource software, mostly written in people's spare time now, but surprisingly of no lower quality than before. Well, not that surprisingly. Fortunately, many developers have realized that it doesn't make sense to waste resources by writing lots of competing products and re-inventing the wheel for each of those. Netlabs and the Russian project platforms are doing a great job in coordinating development efforts, resulting in faster progress and better development. Something that hopefully will add to this are the OpenWatcom compiler and the Warp 4.5 Toolkit Serenity managed to include into eCS. As a result there is going to be both an excellent starting point for the beginner and a decent IDE for the advanced developer.

This year's Warpstock events are over. Judging from what I've read and experienced myself they were very successful. What is most important: many developers attended, exchanged knowledge, confirmed cooperations and established new ones. Cooperation. It is the magic we need most, also in other areas like information resources. VOICE and OS2.org are planning to cooperate for building the Warpdoctor site and the VOICE Newsletter including a transfer of reviews into the OS2.org searchable databases.

Something that will drive away people from OS/2 is the need to pay for future updates (like Java 1.3 that is freely available for every other operating system and platform), fixes and even device drivers. Recently this topic has been discussed to death in newsgroups and at OS2.org, showing that people are really upset. Upset? Many of them behave like children who somebody is trying to take their favorite candy from. We OS/2 users had years of free support while Windows users had to pay for their upgrades. Software pirates don't count. It is extremely irritating that so many people reduce Software Choice to a single package. You are not paying your US$215 or so for a Software Choice or eComStation Upgrade Protection subscription for Java 1.3 alone. Instead you get the whole package including the fixes, drivers, TCP/IP 4.3 etc. pp. Another important fact to consider is that writing drivers is the hardware manufacturer's job, normally. Instead IBM licensed a light version of Scitech Display Doctor and invests a large budget into the development of USB drivers. Don't they deserve to get something in return? If you look at the whole package the pricing seems quite fair, though it definitely is a major investment for a home user.

It looks like we will end up in the situation with a commercial operating system and mostly freeware and OpenSource applications. Paradox. And obviously a nightmare for some OpenSource advocates. Of course IBM will retain their rights and be able to finally pull the plug on OS/2 any time they see fit. Worst case scenario. On the other hand OpenSource is not a cure for all the evil in the world. I have heard statements like "If IBM made OS/2 OpenSource we would fix the bugs in [enter your favorite short time here]" many times now. That's plainly ridiculous. I do not doubt that many bugs could be fixed. Imagine the WPS code in the hands of Ulrich Möller! Being able to e.g. really integrate XWorkplace into the WPS would be heaven on earth, but look at the Odin project, for instance. They surely have done a fantastic job so far, but they are few and do their work in their spare time. And that's a problem other projects suffer from, too. This is the time to be realistic. Anything else is counterproductive as people won't take you seriously anymore otherwise.

Another point in terms of being counterproductive is how some people have approached Serenity Systems during the last months. Yes, Serenity failed to clarify things in the beginning and this resulted in many people becoming very skeptical. And of course you need to think about potential data corruption problems with JFS (that IBM is hard at work on) and if eComStation is the better alternative for you personally, or Software Choice. But accusing them of only wanting to exploit OS/2 and already planning to leave OS/2 users on their own in a short time is absurd and it won't get us anywhere nice soon. What about helping to improve the product by passing ideas or adopting packages instead? This is no time for demands. This is the time for diplomacy. Only making it crystal clear that giving us what we want will create a win-win-win situation, i.e. IBM, Serenity Systems and we as users will all benefit, is going to get us what we want. Yes, this has been said before and nothing happened. But this time the deck has been shuffled in a different way. Serenity is listening to its customers and chances for improvements are better than ever.

All in all this year has been much like Warpstock Europe. People arrived with worried looks on their faces, had a sometimes dubious look at what's going on, but they left with a smile and an optimistic feeling for the future. With spirits up!

VOICE Server Update: VOICE's website is now running smoothly on our own server machine. It is running Warp Server for eBusiness (complements of an IBMer who wishes to remain anonymous) of course on our own hardware co-located at an ISP in North Carolina. Our initial problems with running our mailing list software appears to have been resolved. Next up will be more services for our members. We have discussed setting up mail accounts or just an email address redirection using the os2voice.org domain. Also providing web space to members and possibly server space to OS/2 development projects. If you have any thoughts on these or other services, please let us know. Either attend a meeting, or send your thoughts and ideas to president@os2voice.org. If for some reason we do experience any more down time, you can also access our pages including the newsletter at our mirror site - http://os2voice.ibmforum.com.

In October we had a Speakup with Sundial on Monday October 2nd. The transcript for this well attended session can be found at http://www.os2voice.org/logs/V100200.LOG.html. We also had a Saturday Speakup session with the Warpstock 2000 team on Saturday October 7th. This was a wrapup of the Philly event and a chance for people to give their views on the 2001 show. The log of this Speakup can be found at http://www.os2voice.org/logs/V100700.LOG.html. Finally there was a general meeting on IRC on the 16th.

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 November we have our usual feature packed issue. We start with two articles by Chris Backas. Installing and Running OS/2 on a Macintosh and the OS/2 on a MAC FAQ. Chris raised a lot of eyebrows at Warpstock in Philly with his Apple iBook running OS/2, and he gives us the scoop on this out of the ordinary combination in these two articles.

Since eComStation has generated a lot of interest in the OS/2 world of late, we are trying to answer some of the questions that are popping up. This month we have several articles that should help. The main issue that seems to be being discussed to death in Usenet and on mail lists is the requirement that LVM (Logical Volume Manager) be used in place of the old standard, FDISK. IBM gives us no choice in this, so all the whining in the world isn't going to change a thing. All you can do is try to learn as much as you can about LVM. To help, we have a primer on LVM by Michal Necasek, A Short Introduction to LVM and JFS as well as a separate article on the use of LVM, FDISK and Partition Magic by Eirik Overby.

Next we have Dan Casey's article on Serenity's new eComStation Preview eComStation (eCS) First Look, The Preview Edition. Dan tells us what eComStation is and he puts the Preview version through it's installation paces.

Then we have Klaus Staedtler von Przyborski with another of his articles on The Free Files. This issue he tells us about "Little helpers for your office (SOHO)".

After that Frank Berke and Christian Hennecke tell you all about Warpstock Europe 2000 in Peace, Love and OS/2 in Europe.

Finally we have the VOICE Newsletter OS/2 Tips page. If you have any OS/2 or eCS tips you've uncovered, please send them to tips@os2voice.org.

Next month we have an article on The IBM Scrollpoint Pro Mouse by Jason R Stefanovich; A review of PM Timer, by Mark Dodel; and a review of The Adaptec 29160N SCSI Card, by Andrew Stephenson. Also Dan Casey will have a followup to his review of eComStation Preview in this issue. And as always, more OS/2 tips and articles.

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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