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eCo Software prospects - Eugene Gorbunoff


TITLE: eCo Software prospects - Eugene Gorbunoff

DATE: 2010-11-24 16:54:02

AUTHOR: Eugene Gorbunoff

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The russian text was published at: 2009/04


Eugene Gorbunoff: My goal is to release more and more software for eComStation.

What is eCo Software known for?

eCo Software is one of the developers of the eComStation operating system (IBM OS/2 Warp successor). Also, we have created more than 30 applications and drivers for eComStation.

Our flagship product is eComStation/Rus, Russian version of eComStation (several versions have been previously released: 1.05, 1.1, 1.2, 1.2.5). We've been doing localization since 11th Fixpak for OS/2 Warp 4.

To release a new version of eComStation/Rus 2.0, we have to integrate into a unified OS build system as soon as possible (this will attract more developers, and new releases will be done quickly and without delays).

What system components have you developed lately? It usually takes several years to develop and debug such a thing!

We work in all directions:

OS kernel (and subsystems) While developing file systems and special drivers, we had to study the issues and limitations of the OS kernel. As a result, developers gathered large experience of working with the kernel.

ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) subsystem is our largest project. Kim Cheung (Serenity Systems) has initiated (ordered) the development back in 2002, however the work started in 2005 only. Soon after beginning, a group of professionals joined this project.

Today, to continue the driver development, we have to adopt experience from Mensys (they support far more users of eComStation): we have to properly document the results of the work, make notes for project consulting team, support internal documentation or, as they say, provide a proper support of the project.

Device drivers Panorama VESA - fast universal VESA video driver.

This project has been completed in short terms. It changed eComStation's history and saved the system from imminent "death" (remember the days when ATI Radeon adapters with their ATOM BIOS appeared on the market).

API interfaces Another OS component is Application Programming Interfaces. New versions of our development libraries we release as "eCo Software Runtime".

We started developing runtimes to reanimate our projects.

System utilities We bundle our drivers with configuration tools. The number of such utilities is increasing.

Sometimes a small utility required a lot of developers' efforts and attention.

User interface All desktop extenders and widgets are combined in NeoWPS package: Sunny Icons large transparent icons, Imagination image previewer, eSchemes color schemes etc.

How do we improve user interface? We study experience of the competitors and collect preferences and offers from our users. UI changes rather slowly since most of these offers are not fundamental.

File systems Bootable JFS - Bootable JFS boosts system boot-up and performance.

NTFS.IFS driver - often eComStation is installed alongside with Windows. Therefore it is important to support Windows file systems.

Development of the drivers is ordered by foreign companies. Although first version is often released on our own initiative.

Developing system components only is not enough. First of all, people need applications.

Yes indeed. We wrote several utilities.

Disk utilities JRescuer and JUne - JFS file system repair.

DVD/CD Toys - CD/DVD burner.

Multimedia

Central Remote Control - event router (press of a button on a remote control is redirected to media players).

eCo Tunes - radio over internet. Users prefer eCo Tunes when internet bandwidth is good enough.

coolfm - USB FM radio. When there's no internet access, it is possible to listen to music using USB FM tuner.

Databases Personal Cards Manager - contacts manager.

MySafe - secure password storage.

Internet tools PM Downloader - download manager.

General Network utilities - network troubleshooting tool.

Widgets/Notifiers NeoWPS (a set of small applets) - weather, system info etc.

These project were started by authors' own initiative. Whole eCo Software team takes part in development of every project, we also get help from translators (localization team), super-testers, sponsors and investors.

Who defines what system needs most?

eComStation market is formed by a number of companies, developers and businessmen, therefore development is often chaotic. We see this, so we try to define a vector and direct community to the common goal.

What application or system component users expect first? Is there a need to repeat the competitors' experience? Or blindly do what users say? Or port just about anything?

We study demands of the users:

We process all the results and publish annual reports or "Evolutionary Sprint" as we call it.

What do OS developers have to do? First of all, we have to create "node" applications (programs that can be easily extended via plugins or class inheritance). This will make it easy for independent developers to add own modules to such programs and solve their tasks without wasting time and inventing the wheel.

Is it possible to make the system popular?

Sure. There are all conditions for that:

  • eComStation is available in 9 languages (English, Russian, Chinese, German etc), which means it can be used by people around the world.
  • eComStation is an OS/2 successor. It works on PC platform (eComStation PC): that's about hundreds of millions of machines, so there's no need to buy special hardware to use eComStation solutions.
  • There are thousands of applications available for eComStation and a mature, well-documented API.
  • Device drivers available for eComStation are usually universal.

What needs to be changed to increase the number of users? A lot of things around us are created by small groups of people. Even 10-20 engineers can continue OS development while independent developers can create interesting ready-made solutions.

What does eComStation need to become popular? It needs more applications. However, application market for eComStation already exists. Currently there are about 50 actual commercial products. New applications will appear if there's more interested companies and active users. We have to work on that.

First step is to create about 20 shareware products, simple yet skillfully designed, that perform standard tasks. This is possible. This can be done easily if we provide developers with additional ready modules and libraries. Using them as "cubes" it is possible to "build" an application (DevCon). If the list of required programs is strictly defined, developers will not have to waste their time and efforts.

As soon as quantity and quality of the software exceeds the critical level, developers of software products from other markets will join us.

After worldwide user community becomes large enough, companies will strive to work on eComStation market.

Is it interesting enough in eComStation world?

Users have their own reasons to choose eComStation (see the results of our survey).

What is the most interesting for me personally? Communicating with users (as well as reading emails of appreciation), releasing new products and testing softwares created by other developers. It is interesting and challenging to compete with other OSes. It is fun to take part in conferences and mutually plan the development of the operating system with other developers.

For developers:

Users are expecting new applications. It is a pleasure for them to purchase new software for eCS and OS/2, they are always willing to reward developers' efforts. Besides that, eCS is an international product: everything developers create for eComStation quickly spreads around the world.

Is it possible to become successful on eComStation market? Yes, but you have to do only what's in great demand. As in any other market, program should be turned into "software product" and then promoted and supported.

What is the range of use of eComStation in the future?

eComStation is a general purpose (universal) OS. We recommend using it a) in the office, b) at home, c) as a basis for ready-made solutions (e. g. to control industrial or scientific equipment etc).

eComStation does not aim at gaming systems or computer-aided design (CAD) market.

Do eComStation developers implement and develop "own" technologies?

It depends on developers of software and solutions (as well as engineers and students). But you are right: use operating system's means and resources. We make our efforts:

  • First of all, there's a need to improve UI (think of NeoWPS project).
  • Data visualization. We plan to provide developers with additional means of data visualization (not only for documents and images).
  • Drivers. Good driver attracts no (or very little) attention. We need to improve driver debugging tools. There are currently no plans to develop our own new subsystems.
  • Applications and utilities. It is enough to provide templates of such applications and additional widgets.

Is there a need to port programs from Windows/Linux to eComStation? Does it help the system development?

Yes if this is a library or standard implementation, or a technology.

If this is a commercial software, then we have to protect interests of russian-speaking eComStation developers. We have to limit porting of small and middle-range commercial products. However, we need large products because we are not able to develop them on our own (but developing company has to "pay taxes").

What's the size of eComStation market today?

eCo Software estimates market in such a way: about 10 thousand people use eComStation... market size is more than 1 mln. EUR a year.

After release of eComStation 2.0 market size will increase, but it can decrease again if we do not support the growth.

Small generally available utility can bring up to 10 thousand EUR a year. It means that to increase the market size, shareware software only is not enough, we need ready-made solutions based on eComStation.

How do you estimate a market?

  • Population: among thousands of visitors of websites and forums, about 20% are active.
  • Business, ready-made solution, generally available software products.
  • How much does a user spend on software a year? With no doubts, more than 100 EUR (survey).

For whom do you create eComStation and applications?

Our system is widely used in Russia and Holland. Age of our user is different as well: from a student to a pensioner.

How does an average eComStation user look like? You can find our that if you go to a conference or read interviews. (It is a pleasure to me to see new people every time, although most of the people remains the same).

Another group of users is "super-testers". They support developers of a driver or a program, help them every day and test new versions. Without super-testers it is impossible to release a single program.

How does an eComStation developer look like?

I see that more and more users are trying to compile programs themselves.

And here's our Hall of fame. These are professionals who do their job fairly and day after day create programs and products for users: Evgeny Kotsuba (Evgen), Dmitry A.Steklenev (Glassman), Andrei Porodko (Andy Porro). I'd also recommend reading interview with the most active members of eComStation community.

One of the goals of eComStation is to bring prosperity to it's developers.

Is there a sort of exchange of experience between developers and users?

Apart from "live" communication, we publish books (manuals) and articles.

Do system and community undergo any changes?

Everything changes: computers become obsolete and replaced, kids of our users grow up, users' needs change too: people need new applications and utilities. Society is now divided: professional developers and users are apart from each other.

There's no need in reviews "about installing OS onto this particular laptop" since this information is available in the hardware database.

There's a demand in development of internet applications: every computer these days is connected to the internet.

Developers have opportunities to earn more money: more tools and libraries appear (DevCon).

All these things bring changes to the operating system. Watch the news every week.

Now, eComStation 2.0 is released, what's next?

Next is applications... applications... applications. We need to create 10.. 20.. 50.. 100 "middle-sized" applications for an average user. Obviously, independent developers will not be able to create anything on their own. eCo Software creates modules for developers. Using these as "cubes" it is possible to "build" an application (See DevCon).

New applications bring new libraries. This will urge the OS development and so on.

We expect more frequent releases. And several releases in 2.x line.

How will eComStation 3.0 look like? Users and developers can share their ideas and send us mockups of desktop today!

What are eCo Software's plans?

We don't have to create all drivers and programs. We just create extendable "node" applications.

There are plans to create eComStation based media center. We have to create several "node" applications with plugin support. We also hope to create several wizards. Half of the budget will be spent on creation of generally available libraries. You can join our projects, here's the list of eCo Labs tasks.

Also, we're looking for an opportunity to host Warpstock Russia (user conference in Russia). Currently it is all but possible: high cost of flight tickets and hotels. Low food quality. It is cheaper for users to attend Warpstock Europe.

What is the secret of eCo Software's success?

Every day there's a place for non-standard solution: to do more using less money and resources. But the most important is to have time to write down a new idea on a little piece of paper using IKEA pencil.

Seriously speaking, the main secret is to do more than the client expects.

Another thing is division of labour. One's as good as none. Whether it is a small utility or a serious system component, there's gotta be a team behind the project: lead developer, designer, additional developers etc. It is important to keep in mind that everything is connected. If a developer didn't do his part of the work, the whole process stops.

Is it interesting to work with eCo Software?

In eCo Software we create conditions for productive and quiet work of developers. We provide infrastructure.

  • We help to build a website, and advertise it among thousands of users.
  • Bug tracker.
  • Tips and tricks, libraries.
  • An opportunity to work with other developers (and international developers, too).

eCo Software learns to work from other software development companies:

  • We've adopted Innotek (part of Sun Corporation now) developers' experience, we keep in touch with developers from IBM.
  • In 2004 together with Parallels company we were porting and debugging SVISTA 2004 (Serenity Virtual Station) virtual machine for eComStation.
  • We study experience of our german and dutch colleagues.

How does your morning start?

Morning starts with a press of a button.

Work on eComStation is conducted in several shifts: when it ends in European part, developers in USA, Sakhalin Region and Australia already working hard. So in the morning I have to sort emails for those who work in the European part: forward some messages, put other into Wiki, place bug reports to the bug trackers.

There should be no unread messages in the mailbox - everything has to work at once. Every idea or piece of text has to be included in an article or a task. OS development is hundreds of different problems and you have to deal with each of them.

So many tasks to handle. How do you keep yourself productive and in good shape?

Every day I ride around a park on my bike. The greatest thing is that each time the same place looks anew! And there's this amazing smell of pines and rain. Lots of wonderful things to discover!


Additional information:

 

Попробуй программу:

WarpOverlay! - видео-оверлей для видеоадаптеров, выпускавшихся до 2006 года.

Комментарии:

Yagiza
2010-12-07 05:57:54

And what about Japanese version?

Прокомментируйте эту статью (напоминаем, автор работал над текстом несколько недель, уважайте мнение других).


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Писать программы для eComStation - это выгодно: a) система имеет более компактный API, который хорошо продуман и эффективен, b) Рынок не такой бесконечный, как у Windows. Все пользователи eComStation узнают про ваш продукт, c) Один разработчик значительно влияет на всю ОС.

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