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June 2002

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Letters, Addenda, Errata

If you have any comments regarding articles or tips in this or any previous issue of the VOICE Newsletter, please send them to We are always interested in what our readers have to say.

April 28, 2002 - Here's a letter from Daniel de Kok regarding Jason R Stefanovich's editorial in April - The Future of OS/2 - A Human Perspective:
Hello Jason,

After reading the 2002 editorial I concluded one very important aspect of attracting young people is missing: low prices. I met many people around the same age is mine who would like to try, use and even program for eComStation (in their eyes plain OS/2 looks old fashioned, has too small number of applications in the package, etc.). But the sole thing that is stopping them is the price; for example eComStation costs more than 400 Euro, which is never in the range of students and other younger people. Especially considering the fact that they can get Linux for free.

I have spoken to some Mensys people about this problem, prices cannot be lowered because the MCP license is quite expensive. eCS can only get cheaper when more licenses are sold. Serenity Systems announced that there will probably be an Entry version of eCS 1.1, with less add-on software and a lower price. But I fear this will not be attractive enough for the average student, for that the price has to drop to about 100 Euro (this is an estimate, of course), which will probably not happen. As far as I can see the only way for young people to try eComStation or OS/2 is to get hold of an eCS Demo CD when it is finished. Then if they really want to use eComStation or OS/2, they really have a problem... (except if they have a big bank account)

With kind regards,
Daniel de Kok

Jason's response:

I understand how you feel, I even agree with some of what you are saying. I don't know what to tell you. If you read my article, and then look at the current situation as you describe it...I think you will get a pretty accurate picture of how I feel about things. I am a long time user and community member. As such, my interests do not coincide with those of short term business interests. The only person who has a hand in eCS and "gets it" is Jack Troughton. He's the only one who is sacrificing short term gain to help further develop the user base. Something that will, in the long run, help us all.

May 4, 2002 - Udo Schelp had some comments regarding some articles from last month's issue:
I have been using OS/2 since version 2.0 myself und have declared my home a "Windows-free zone"... So I made some experience (hardware, drivers, software) and would like to comment a bit:

1) Printer drivers
As far as printers and drivers are concerned, I have lost any hope. About eight years ago I had a HP Deskjet 500 C. Then with the application CorelDraw 3.0. This combination brought color print-outs to paper which were top-notch for that time and technical progress. I still have those print-outs today, so to be able to compare. I have to say that I don't dare to compare any more. Today (almost ten years later) I still have a HP Deskjet 550 C and the typical applications for OS/2 or eCS. Unfortunately I have to say that so far none of those applications in connection with the latest OMNI drivers comes near to the quality of the old print-outs.

I would be interested in up to date printer drivers, e.g. for the new Epson series (C-xx), since those have seperate ink tanks are technically capable of printing resolutions up to 2880 dpi (??). But even if Epson would provide a driver, I don't believe that it would ever come near the quality of the Windows drivers (lack of interest, too few customers...)

2) Response to surveys / articles
I read these Newsletters regularly and I can only say: Great. I doubt however that all OS/2 users read them. Maybe you could introduce that one has to supply one's e-mail address to be able to download once, or something else to see how many people are really reading them. Actually, how large is the percentage of readers of this Newsletter compared to the number of (known) OS/2 users?

3) Regarding the article Give eComStation a Chance
The author is correct. If you talk about eCS anywhere... nobody knows it. If you point out that it is the "successor" of OS/2, you just earn a sneer and the comment "...this half operating system, which is dead anyway... you can't get up to date software for it anyway...". If I also point out that one can use Winxx software by using VPC, the comment is "...then why don't you stay with WinXX..." etc. etc. ... What I am lacking is a (good) list of argument for and against OS/2. I would like to know by using which arguments Eric Baerwaldt succeeded in inducing a small to medium-sized enterprise to migrate to an OS/2-successor. It doesn't seem possible to me from today's perspective. If I talk about it to friends, there is rejection immediately and arguments like "I can't retrain all employees... why should I acquire an operating system when WinXX comes pre-installed with all computers of today and is ready for operation immediately...". I find it already hard to convince private individuals (no people who like to fiddle about) and I can't imagine how it can work with small enterprises...


Christian Hennecke's response:

Ad 1: At Warpstock Europe I could have a look at some print-outs that had been made with an Epson driver and compare them to such made by Windows (with the same printer and from the same image file). The differences were marginal.

Ad 2: We can get that data much easier. Our web server provides us with download numbers for each URL. All in all we can assume the following average numers:

Downloads English version, HTML and INF: 140 + 45 = 180
Online readers English version: 650 - 1200, depending on the topics
Downloads German version, HTML and INF: 100 + 45 = 145
Online readers German version: 150 - 300, depending on the topics

Add to that the downloads from Hobbes, which we don't have any statistics about unfortunately. I roughly estimate that we have a number of 1500 regular readers.

I can't say what the readers' percentage is. I'd say some per mille. In regard to the fact that the majority of those people probably uses OS/2 at work only (employees of banks, insurances, etc.) such a number wouldn't be very enlightening though.

Ad 3: A while ago Serenity Systems made the decision not to market eCS until version 1.1 is out. If one has a closer look at version 1.0, one can only approve that, actually. In my opinion you can hand version 1.0 to nobody but an experienced OS/2 user or someone who has employed such a person as administrator.

Regarding the list of advantages and disadvantages:
Some advantages over Windows: no virii, better "default security" on the net (i.e. without the need of engagement by the user), essentially more "fluent" multitasking, substantially lower consumption of resources, a better user-interface, essentially lower TCO (total cost of ownership = costs for acquirement [software/hardware], operation, etc.), more control by the user. If you think of the server: OS/2 can handle up to 1000 clients, Windows only up to about 250 IIRC.

Disadvantages: a lot less software available, especially in the multimedia and office sector (ERP, etc.). Lack of support for hardware, especially in the multimedia sector (sound cards [may be fixed by the port of ALSA soon], digital cameras, scanners, printer).

May 6, 2002 - Stefan Schwarzer sent the following letter regarding Don Eitner's editorial on why he continues to use OS/2. Don's responses are interspersed in Stefan's letter:
Hello Don

I just read your intro of the "VOICE Newsletter" 5/2002 and agree with many of the things you say. However, I have a few comments:

To me, it doesn't seem that desktop shadows are "just as real as the files to which they point". Unfortunately, this reality ends when you enter the command line. If I open a command prompt and change to my desktop's directory, I don't see either the shadow pointing to Wise Machine nor the Program object referring to my UML drawing tool. Since I mostly work on the command line and dislike this mismatch, I rarely use shadows.

Don: This is true and may be the one disadvantage to OS/2's WPS shadows -- they are only accessible through the graphical user interface and not through the command line interface. Certain other operating systems (such as the once great but now defunct BeOS) expose their particular variations of OS/2's shadows to their own command line interfaces as Symbolic Links. This allows a BeOS user, then, to place a "shadow" of a drive folder on their desktop, then open a command line window and change directory into the "shadow's" target as if it were actually contained right there in the current directory. OS/2's filesystems have historically lacked support for Symbolic Links. Neither FAT nor HPFS supports them natively -- TVFS (a free "virtual file system" developed by IBM employees in the 90s) claims to support them however.
The ability to delete a shadow rather than the object it points to, probably is a Good Thing. Otherwise, you could never remove a shadow without deleting the referred object too. One could argue that there should be both options in the shadow's context menu: "delete shadow" and "delete original and all its shadows".
Don: This may be a point to make with the Ulrich Moeller and the other developers of XWorkPlace ( to see if there is something they can do to enhance the functionality of WPS shadows.
The launchpad (maybe with another name) also exists in the Common Desktop Environments (CDE), available with some Unix systems. I am sure that you can get something like this also with the free Unixes (Linux, *BSD).
Don: I have seen similar tools (NeXT had such a thing in the early 90s for example) but in my experience none were so easy to use as OS/2's Launchpad. Perhaps the others have matured over the years, but the fundamental lack of desktop "objects" such as exist in OS/2's WorkPlace Shell graphical user interface makes me skeptical that they are yet as useful as my Launchpad. Windows has the "quick launch bar" along the left side of its taskbar (right next to the infamous Start menu) which also has a similar purpose, but again the icons you place on Windows' quick launch bar are shallow "shortcuts" which can be easily broken.
I assume, the file format of WordPerfect has surely changed during the time - though it is designed so well that mostly older versions can read the newer files. I've been a user of WordPerfect for DOS 5.1 and 6.0 and remember notes on this in the manuals. I think the same holds true for format changes between the Windows versions.
Don: Actually WordPerfect 10 (2002) does still use the same old file format from WordPerfect 6. I'm sure that specific markup codes within the file has changed to enable new features over the years, but older versions of WordPerfect can safely ignore those codes. Try opening an M$ Word 2002 file in Word 97 or 95 -- it cannot be done. But I agree that from WordPerfect 5.x to 6.x the file format did indeed change.
I've never worked with PMView on Windows (but I'm a registrated user of the OS/2 version) but the program's author should in principle be able to work around the missing EA concept by putting the thumbnails into a special directory. I consider, the problem is that Windows NT, 2000 and XP usually wouldn't a regular user allow write access to the PMView directory _and_ AFAIK the concept of a "home directory" is absent. Under Unix, you would create a special directory e. g. named .pmview in the user's home directory and store the thumbnails there. (On the other hand, the problem would remain when to remove the thumbnails; the files to which they belong may long be deleted. One could use something like a "thumbnail cache" and delete a part which hasn't been used for x days on the next start of PMView.)
Don: The main problem with enabling this sort of thumbnailing in PMView for Windows is that all the major versions of Windows currently in use (everything from Win95 through XP) has a different file system and different functionality. Win95 uses the FAT16 file system, Win98 uses FAT32, WinNT4 uses NTFS 4, Win2000 uses NTFS 5, and WinXP uses (I believe) NTFS 5.1. Only the NTFS versions offer built-in support for what we on OS/2 know as Extended Attributes, FAT16 and FAT32 do not. And the problem with using a separate directory to store the thumbnails is that a directory with 1,000 or more images would force the system to go hunting all over the hard drive to find the related thumbnails. Extended Attributes on OS/2 and eComStation are stored with the file to minimize searching. Win95 and 98 would more likely than not lock up or crash trying to find and display a few thousand thumbnails scattered all over their FAT file system. Supporting only NTFS would certainly enable PMView for Windows to use OS/2-style EA thumbnails but it would lock out millions of Windows users who still have the old DOS-based versions of Windows.
Have fun with OS/2 / eCS :-)

Best wishes

May 9, 2002 - Jeramie Samphere sent in this correction to a tip we published in the May issue on how to install Personal Communications Lite on MCP/eCS:
Regarding the following tip:

the correct path is: \CID\IMG\TCPAPPS\PCOM*
Thought this might be helpful for other readers

-Jeramie Samphere

May 18, 2002 - Here is a comment from Jim Burke on Christian Hennecke's editorial eComStation - Atmospherics in Germany from the March issue:

I think you did a very equitable article on eCS.

A couple of comments:

 The germans seem to have the world's most complicated systems and are the least willing to describe what they did on the install. The language problem might be one of the reasons (they have to write for help in English) but I haven't seen the usual dialog that exists when someone needs help.

I think eCS can be installed in almost any machine. You might have to strip it down to a bare bones system and even borrow some cards, but  it can be made to install.

 As for Serenity.  They were trying to be all things to all people and don't have the resources. I think it's that simple. Combine that with a horrible name for the product and the general hype seen on their pages, you get a recipe for disappointing their customers (which seem to a man impossible to please and tighter than Scrooge.)

Wisemachine.  No one can figure it out. Kim mixes the words "deploy and install"  and added  components to his program for installing the bonus items, for calling familiar os/2 programs. A crazy structure, horrible names, and no way to explain what it does. Still one of the more intriguing aspects of eCS.

They are holding out for better results with V1.1, but I'll bet they'll get many of the same comments.

The lack of software development tools, the desire of half the customers to be on the cutting edge of hardware (especially the Germans), the way some parts of IBM actively disparage their own products, and the lack of key programs for Serenity's target market (accounting, tax preparation, GIS, telephony, latest readers (Acrobat,GhostScript)) are all terrible problems.

To make inroads, they have to deliver the product to the young users and without IBM helping with the price here, it's going to be a struggle.

Christian Hennecke's response:

Yes, there is a number of people who doesn't really provide details (and quite a few just did not read the manual it seems). I guess this is related to two things, one being the language issue. The other reason may be their frustration, disappointment and anger. They have waited for their NLV a lot longer than those who ordered the English one. After many delays with very little information given why, they received a product that still showed many of the known issues that could have been fixed relatively easily. And after that it took a long time for the first fixes to show up, again. Not to mention the problems with the maintenance tool. Chuck McKinnis does a great job, but the tool should have gone through an internal beta test first. The way it was resulted in me having to restore my system from a backup several times, for instance. That is not much of a problem for a hobbyist like me, but it is for any business user.

Regarding installation: Well, that's the problem. The new installer and stuff were created to make for an easier installation compared to plain OS/2 Warp. Many people bought eCS so they would be able to install OS/2 without the hassle of making diskettes, applying fixes, and so on. Today, people expect an OS to be easy to install, at least the base system. It can be done even with most Linux distributions.

While I don't find the name to be that horrible I agree with the rest. I'd change the term "desire" to more of a "requirement" though. If you buy new hardware today, you often don't have the choice to buy devices other than USB, etc. unless you can invest a huge pile of money. Also, the product cycles have become so short that it's hard to find older, supported hardware. And you simply can't migrate your trusty old G200 or ISA soundcard to the new Athlon mainboard.

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