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November 2000

Warpstock Europe:

On Stage - Backstage

By Frank Berke & Christian Hennecke, ©November 2000

Warpstock Europe Homepage - http://warpstock.os2.org/en/
TeamOS/2 Ruhr e.V. - http://www.teamruhr.de

Photos are courtesy of Roland Junkers, Kim Haverblad and Wolfgang Wilms and used with kind permission.

On Stage

One can say that Warpstock Europe 2000 was a success, though we wished there had been some more visitors. The feedback we got so far tells us exactly this. Somebody even said that Warpstock Europe 2000 had been the best OS/2 event he ever had attended. Including former events by IBM! And: Warpstock Europe 2000 got the OS2 World.com Award as "Best OS/2 Event of the Year"!

Like last year visitors came from all over Europe: e.g. Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Spain.

In relation to last year's event in Bochum the location was of a higher-class and thanks to the excellent care by Fiducia's staff we were able to concentrate more on the real organization. That resulted in a much higher number of exhibitors. But more about that later. We did like Warpstock Europe very much and we are looking forward to attending next year. Photos of the event will be available shortly at the Warpstock Europe Homepage.

Photo 1: The exhibition building

It was really nice to see all those faces and persons behind the names from the newsgroups, the IRC nicks or the e-mail addresses. Several people turned out to be quite different from what I had imagined. Those, who I had thought of as being more of the leisurely, big kind turned out to be looking more ascetic and vice versa. It's strange how you think about people's looks judging from their way of writing or speaking on the phone. Well, I managed to meet Thomas Klein from our translation team (I still owe him a beer). First I had imagined Kim Haverblad from OS2 World.com as a quite young OS/2 enthusiast, but in reality he worked for IBM for several years. Looks like I have been fooled by the analogy to Adrian Gschwend and Netlabs. Anyway, Kim's energy is stunning and I hope that we will be able to make at least some of his ideas reality.

Fortunately, I had the chance to attend Andreas Linde's highly interesting presentation on building dynamic websites and to talk to him later. Andreas has agreed to help VOICE with some things like building up the Warpdoctor site. Also generally speaking, VOICE strives for closer cooperation with OS2.org. For instance, they could also help us with maintaining and creating the Newsletter and in turn VOICE could make available hardware and software reviews from the Newsletter for including them into OS2.org's hardware compatibility list and the SoftWhere? project.

As you can already see, there was extensive exchange among the visitors. Especially developers could be seen all around sticking their heads together and discussing. I hope that many good ideas and cooperation will emerge from this. At least, many a person went home with the solution for a problem that had eaten at him/her for a long time.

Alas, there was no VOICE booth in Karlsruhe. Frank and I were so involved in the event's organization that we had no time left. But I held a presentation about VOICE that was relatively well-visited, mainly by people from the German-speaking countries, some of which I hopefully could persuade to join VOICE.

I haven't been able to attend all presentations I was interested in, for instance "XWorkplace: Extending the Workplace Shell" by Ulrich Möller. But I have been able to learn several interesting news.

At the keynote Oliver Stein explained IBMs future strategy for OS/2. For those of us who regularly follow the common news resources there was not much news, but he did say that we can expect further support from IBM for a minimum of five years, depending on how the large customers decide in the future.

More important news was brought to us by the presentation on device drivers which was held by Oliver Stein, also. IBM is currently heavily investing in development of USB drivers for classes of devices that can be used with generic drivers. Belonging to these classes are e.g. external mass storage devices like CD-ROMs, DVDs and CD-RWs. For those, support should be available around the end of the year. Additionally, drivers for the Belkin USB-to-parallel/serial interface are under development. Many of you will surely like to hear that support for the OHCI standard is planned for 2001, though this isn't looked at with top priority.

As for their commitment to Linux IBM recently ported the OMNI driver system. According to Mr. Stein IBM received many offerings for extending the driver with specific features from printer manufacturers that didn't care at all about OS/2 support. OS/2 users are going to profit from this since IBM is going to re-port those extensions. Mr. Stein demonstrated the capabilities of the new PCCard driver by transferring photos that just had been taken with digital camera from the cameras memory stick. Then we were able to see the new IrCOMM driver in action that he used to read and write data from and to a mobile phone. To be able to do so a mobile phone with a hardware modem is required. The IrCOMM driver sits on top of IBMs complete IrDA stack that can also communicate with NICs and printers if additional drivers are provided.

Support for the new USB 2.0 standard and the next version of the UDF filesystem is also planned for next year. All these extension will only be available via Software Choice or eComStation Upgrade Protection, however.

As at Warpstock USA the Odin team ensured full rooms. The number of already working applications has increased a lot. The team received much applause when Achim Hasenmüller started Microsoft Word and typed "Welcome to Microsoft Word for OS/2". People were also very impressed by several games that ran without problems and with decent speed. Even if Odin is not nearly complete yet, the progress that has been made since the revival of the Win32-OS/2 project is stunning and Odin can already be used for productivity.

Being one of the Newsletter's editors I naturally was keen on attending Esther Schindler's presentation on product reviews. She gave us a very humorous view of what goes on behind the scenes and of course hints on what to do and what to avoid. In addition Esther and Bill Schindler attended as representatives of the Phoenix OS/2 Society and showed its members' magazine Extended Attributes.

Zsolt Kadar introduced his package UpdCD for updating the Warp 4 installation CD. Meanwhile it is capable of integrating additional packages like Java 1.1.8, Netscape 4.61 and TCP/IP 4.1. In addition to his presentation he also showed the software in live action and offered to visitors the opportunity to take an up-to-date CD home if they were able to provide a proof of license. His CD writer had a lot of work to do.

Rainer Feuerstein from IBM explained the methods to create bootable CDs for command line, PM and WPS systems. Using them it is possible to create more or less standard maintenance systems that can be used for purposes like backups or installing special pre-configured OS/2 systems fast and convenient. For those interested Mr. Feuerstein offered some CDs with a compilation of all necessary software.

Photo 2: Panel discussion about eComStation

The panel discussion about eComStation took place on Friday evening with Bob St. John and Kim Cheung from Serenity Systems, Oliver Mark from IBM, Achim Hasenmüller from Innotek Software, Joachim Benjamins from Mensys and Richard Spurlock from Starfire Technologies. Interest was large and many didn't manage to get a seat in time. Surprisingly most of the questions dealt with developer topics. But that only reflected the huge number of developers in the audience. The impression we got was like what Achim Hasenmüller said: That Serenity Systems really want to see their product succeed and that they are highly motivated to fulfill their customers wishes. I was able to experience this first hand on Saturday when Kim Cheung gave a demonstration for a few people. I am an absolute greenhorn as far as things like remote maintenance and installation are concerned. But nevertheless the demonstration of WiseManager's capabilities was very impressing. You could also see Bob St. John and Kim Cheung talking to developers a lot. I'm looking forward to see what will become of it.

In the non-commercial exhibition area you could see developers showing their products, user groups presenting themselves and giving a helping hand to those with problems with OS/2, and of course the people from OS2.org. Daniela Engert had brought her hardware testing equipment with her, offered to have a look at "problem children" and at the same time updated her drivers. Christopher Wohlgemuth presented his CD-writing software Cdrecord/2 together with the Audio/Data-CD-Creator frontend, and a new version of CandyBarz that looked really cool with transparency effects. Bill Ritcher from Guiffy Software came all the way from the USA and brought his Java-shareware program Guiffy, a tool for comparing and merging files that really can save you an awful amount of time.

Nowadays you don't get to see new packages from the multimedia field very often and accordingly Carsten Tenbrink's booth with Cinema/2 was always crowded with TV-junkies. The same was true for the technology demo of a DVD video player by Rüdiger Ihle. I strongly hope that he will be able to find someone who funds further development and finances those exorbitantly high license fees, especially since the company that wanted IBM to develop a player has canceled the project.

Meanwhile Jürgen Dankoweit has decided to continue development of Secure Desktop again and has also taken over that of a package for HAM radio enthusiasts. Karlheinz Schmidthaus took over for Harald Mayer and presented the new and feature-laden ISDNPM 3.0.

From Great Britain came Dimitris Michelinakis from the Warp UK usergroup and brought his server and firewall configuration and CONFIG.SYS maintenance tools with him. Carsten Müller could not only be found representing Sun, but also introducing people to the online forums of commTalk.de that we heavily used for advertising by the way.

Cornelis Bockemühl competently and patiently explained the basics of astronomy even to absolute beginners, demoing his freeware package PmAs. Some may have a new hobby now. Timo Maier was there with his VIO packages ADRp, Snee and Voldep. It's quite surprising how many people seem to have invested in stocks.

Photo 3: View from the gallery on the first floor

The commercial exhibitors had much to show, too. Our main sponsor IBM not only came with several speakers, but also presented e.g. two Netfinity servers, each of which was equipped with four processors. The staff of VTS Datensysteme demoed their products for network and server administration.

At Sun Microsystems' booth people gazed at the new StarPortal. A Sun Sparc Ultra 60 provided the complete StarOffice functionality that could be accessed from a machine running OS/2 as a Java application or from a browser, and all this with decent speed. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to attend Starfire Technologies' presentation, but the demo of Titan, a server management package with a web interface, at their booth was extremely interesting.

HOB showed their products for remote access to Windows machines, HOBLink JWT, and to machines running Unixes, HOBLink X11. They told me some quite exciting news, especially for home users. So far there have been performance problems with running local programs on a stand-alone machine. This should be fixed soon. And HOB is also going to include support for the new X11R6.4 standard.

Artem presented their hardware solutions for wireless networking. I heard that they are currently pushing development of OS/2 drivers for their product families and that they are thinking about offering a small set for home users at a reduced price. Another company coming from the field of communication was Hypercope, who provide professional ISDN hardware.

Like last year EPSON attended the show. At the booth you could see printers, of course, but also other hardware like scanners that were running very well with PMSANE and SANE. Wolfgang Wilms, who also was a member of the Warpstock Europe planning team, told us that EPSON is interested in updating scanner support for OS/2. The neighboring booth of Lexmark had plenty of printers to see, too. By the way, several visitors said they were very pleased with the excellent advice and care from the EPSON and Lexmark staff, for both professionals and endusers.

At the booth of Norman you were able to learn about security solutions for networks. A topic that currently is talked about a lot now, since the huge security leak in Microsoft's own network. The German distributors Deckarm and Novastar offered their products, e.g. Lotus Smartsuite and Impos/2. A choice of their books at special prices, for example Oliver Mark's book on WSeB, was presented by C&L Verlag.

Last but not least there was Mensys, of course. Besides a wide range of OS/2 software you could also find here Bob St. John and Kim Cheung from Serenity Systems with eComStation, which is distributed by Mensys. When he wasn't holding a lecture or talking to developers, Kim Cheung gave some very impressive demonstrations of WiseManager's capabilities using a diskless client.

Sadly, the Warped Jeopardy show that had been planned for Saturday evening had to be canceled due to technical problems. Instead there was a raffle and Esther Schindler played emcee. After that Oliver Mark donated one of the last large OS/2 flags for auction. Bob St. John took the part of auctioneer and proved to be a real entertainer. On the spot he wrapped Daniela Engert into the flag. Something that will surely be remembered for a long time. Anybody out there who does not have the photo yet? Well, the flag was sold to Eirik Overby (Ltning on IRC in #voice) for about 400 Euros. The money will be used for the next Warpstock Europe event.

Photo 4: Auction of the flag with Daniela Engert and Bob St. John

Then the day closed with the "social event" that was completely sold out though we managed to add some additional seats. At the beginning Kim Haverblad announced the winners of the OS2 World.com Award and Warpstock Europe 2000 won in the category "Best Event of the Year". The atmosphere was very comfortable with music and nice food and people exchanged lots of OS/2 and other stories.

Photo 5: Nice atmosphere at the social event on Saturday evening

I really liked Warpstock Europe, even if I was much too busy. Next year I want to see another "issue".

Backstage - Warpstock Europe Unplugged

What went through the established press with the topic New energy for OS/2 [editor's note: this article is available in German only] could (without overstatement or self-praise) call itself the largest European OS/2 event. And probably the same for both the professional and end user. We are confirmed by the feedback on the Warpstock site and also every word of criticism will be taken seriously. But Warpstock Europe has its very own history and almost until the middle of the year nothing was really clear...

For me and several other members of TeamOS/2 Ruhr e.V. all began with a "failed" meeting: Thanks to the fully developed information infrastructure of the board of directors of that time no small number of members gathered at the wrong date, resulting in an unofficial meeting. We were very lucky that Wolfgang Wilms was also there, who pulled something from his hat, er, bag that many already believed they would see no more: The basic plans for Warpstock Europe 2000, ready for presentation. In the months before he, together with Christian Langanke, the current president of TeamOS/2 Ruhr e.V., had selected a location that even IBM was happy with and that had nothing in common with the University of Bochum, the location of 1999.

At the next regular meeting the cat was let out of the bag: Without much ado all those tasks that had to be worked on with high priority (the year was almost halfway over) were divided amongst the members. Christian Hennecke and I, spontaneously volunteered for the acquisition of non-commercial exhibitors. We found the idea of offering free booths, hardware (if needed) and free entry to developers, who ask for no or little money for their software, to be simply brilliant.

Because as far as we knew this opportunities had not existed at any other OS/2 event, we thought that we would barely be able to stand the run. So we began silently collecting ideas on whom to contact for a while. The problem of how to make a clear distinction between small companies and "simple" authors of shareware arose. One possibility would have been to divide by the distributing concept, but we didn't want to upset anyone, since there are real companies behind some of that which lies on Hobbes etc., declared as shareware. So we decided by common sense and we think that we got it quite right.

While Christian and I surfed the WWW for hours at night, always searching for OS/2 software and information on the related authors, the next problem knocked on our door: Should we only consider developers, whose software existed on Hobbes or LEO in a more or less up to date version, or should we also try to "re-activate" programmers who hadn't updated their packages for a longer time? We opted for the second variant because many of those packages were still available at BMT Micro at that time (meanwhile their website has been heavily changed and I don't know if that is also true for the catalogue) and there were several outstanding packages that we wished to be continued.

Until our official deadline in the mid of September the database, which we used to maintain our list of potential non-commercial exhibitors, had grown to exactly 107 entries, while we worked on contacting the candidates in portions. Only a few developers from Germany or other near countries got surprised with an invitation by phone, if we were able to find out the necessary personal data (the internet carries more information than many would be fond of - but for us it would have been best if all developers had exactly listed their contact address on their homepages ;-)

While the phone calls we made weren't always successful, but quite amusing most of the time, asking via e-mail became a farce: At the end of August Christian and I only managed to get confirmations from a handful (!) of people, so we already feared that the developers would end up as a small, intimidated group, cowering in a corner, afraid to be found by someone...

Fortunately, things ended differently from what we expected. In September a nice number of people decided late but well, two of those being Daniela Engert and Zsolt Kadar. Though both had made it quite plain before that they would attend and Zsolt even agreed to hold a lecture on his new package, they both expressed their wish for a "seat" later, something we of course were glad to comply with. These two "late starters" were heaven sent for our marketing machine that was always greedy for sensations. Where else can you experience "live driver development" and have your Warp 4 CD updated? Such things are going to be remembered positively, hopefully also by our visitors.

Extreme displeasure is what Christian and me feel when we think of the number of those who in spite of being invited sometimes repeatedly! didn't even condescend to send a negative reply. I don't want to resume on missing netiquette here (Yes, also an e-mail is a real try to communicate with somebody. Wouldn't you be put off, too, if somebody whom you spoke to went on without saying a word?), but instead put the focus on what counts: OS/2.

What is OS/2 worth today without those who develop software for this platform? Correct, nothing. But I am really starting to wonder at some developers' attitude to this point. Many people (including companies) complain about missing sales in the OS/2 area, which sooner or later leads to the point where they abandon OS/2 as a platform, their products vanish in a drawer and are left to be forgotten. However, are the endusers always those to blame, because they keep their wallets locked out of whatever reason? Or doesn't the guilt also lie with the developers themselves, who can't or don't want to dispose of their software? Those who ignore the endusers' opinion, who only offer their software on a homepage that's as hard to find as possible, and who deliberately ignore the newsgroups and online forums shouldn't be surprised at the "success" of their software.

This is called marketing, you know, and for me marketing also includes attending fairs. Of course, I can understand, if someone from Australia, the USA, Italy, or even from far eastern Germany is reluctant to spend his/her money on the costs for traveling and accommodation. But a message saying so is the least one can expect, as a simple reply takes a maximum of a on five minutes. If we can draw a conclusion from such a behavior to the kind of support those programmers offer, I'm afraid times are looking pretty dim.

I would have liked to be able to keep these remarks to myself and rather have reported how flawlessly it all worked. But it didn't and where humans interact things just can't work all flawlessly. But when about 50% of the potential feedback is missing, something's wrong with the OS/2 community.

What was very encouraging for me were those people who attended Warpstock in the end, but also those who declined our offer because of whatever reason. It is an elevating experience to be able to gather the people who usually only meet in Usenet - if at all - and to get them to know personally. Time and time again it has proven to be true that these developers are no mouse-gray stay-at-homes, but creative people, who are able to master life and who do OS/2 programming mostly as a hobby.

The bottom line is a predominantly positive impression of Warpstock. We can pat ourselves on the back with a certain amount of pride, but there's only little time to relax. Already around the middle of November a meeting of the local TeamOS/2 groups under the roof of TeamOS/2 Deutschland takes place in Cologne, where we are going to take stock of Warpstock Europe 2000 and also discuss next year's event. We can only hope that the local groups will be willing to contribute more than this year. Also help from outside Germany is very welcome, of course. In a small circle with Kim Haverblad we already thought in this direction and I personally found his opinions and visions to be very persuading. So I am sure that it's going to get thrilling again.

I only hope that the preparations for Warpstock Europe 2001 will go off much more smoothly than this year. To sustain the vision of an event from users for users we will need much help. We can't manage to do it all alone, partially we simply are missing ideas. We only can implore anyone who wants to contribute to Warpstock in any form to really do it. It's supposed to get better, not worse.

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