OS2.GURU - Intreview with Alex Taylor (2014/07)OS2.GURU - Intreview with Alex Taylor (2014/07)

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Intreview with Alex Taylor (2014/07)

TITLE: Intreview with Alex Taylor (2014/07)

DATE: 2014-07-25 00:50:18

AUTHOR: Alex Taylor

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  OS/2 GURU Jam Session (2014/07)
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Tell us, why OS/2 Warp was popular in Japan? your opinion.

I'm not sure how popular it actually was... Probably closer to a North American level of popularity rather than the higher European level. I imagine people liked it for much the same reasons as everywhere else: it was originally more powerful, capable and stable than any of the alternatives. Now that those advantages have largely passed, it still has hobbyists who simply like the platform, as many of us do.


You was assembling eComStation 2.2. What can you tell about eComStation internals?

It's a pretty well designed system in terms of basic architecture. It's pretty modular and flexible - there's a fairly clean separation between the core OS and the services (like networking, GUI, and so on) as well as within many of the components. Pieces can be replaced or extended surprisingly easily. That's one of the reasons I like the platform so much.


Is it perfect or ugly?

"Perfect" vs "ugly" is probably too black and white a description. Of course, the basic system is not as "modern" as more mainstream operating systems nowadays. But when you take what we've accomplished as a community to keep this platform running, we've done a pretty impressive job, especially considering our limited resources.

It's true that I did a fair bit of work on the first eCS 2.2 beta. However, since I moved to Japan and started studying for my Master's degree, I haven't been able to continue with that. I still contribute to OS/2 in my limited spare time, but my studies are keeping me extremely busy.

I understand that Lewis Rosenthal in the United States recently announced a new organization aimed at providing support and updates for the OS/2 community. This sounds like a very promising development, especially when I look at some of the people involved. When I have more time, I'll certainly keep an eye out for ways that I can support this endeavour.


What fonts were added to eComStation? Does it influence on desktop, applications or browser only?

Several high-quality open source fonts were added to eComStation 2.2. Besides the Deja Vu collection (which has been included for the past several releases), the Droid and Libertine font collections are also now provided. Also, several fonts from the GhostScript collection were added in order to provide a complete set of PostScript-compatible fonts.

A couple of individual high-quality fonts were added as well, namely Bitstream Charter and Heuristica (an open source fork of Adobe Utopia).


Is it necessary increase interactivity of OS/2 desktop? What means to use? (more animations, transparency, help bubbles)

I don't think those are important so much as improving the basic usability. I'd be far more interested in more & updated folder views, better desktop support for Unicode, more standard controls like proper multi-column lists, and so on. That's not to say there isn't a place for purely visual improvements, but I think subtle improvements are much better than flashy effects. Translucent icons and anti-aliased text, for example - both of which have had some work done by various parties.


(future) It is possible switch language of eComStation installer on fly?

No, not at the moment. This was actually intended as a feature of the installer from the initial design phase, and the earliest versions did support it. Logistically, however, it was ultimately deemed to cause too many issues for too little benefit. It's not enough to simply switch language resources, you must frequently also change the codepage, the keyboard layout, and sometimes even the fonts. And the benefit only applies to the installer, not to the installed system, which could create some confusion.


What do you think about centralized setup of operating system? All configuration settings are distributed among separate programs.

There are arguments to be made in favour of both approaches. Personally, I think the decentralized approach meshes better with the object-oriented paradigm of the desktop interface. It's the logical way in which the platform evolved.


Is it easy separate components of the operating system (Win OS/2, ...) to separate packages so users can install this parts later.

Well... it can be done with the separate service components of the OS, like the various networking products, or application packages. Within the core OS component itself, however, it's much harder to do cleanly. Part of the problem is the OS installer, RSPINST, which is still an IBM program. This program has been modified frequently, and apparently quite haphazardly, over the years, and its actual behaviour doesn't always entirely match what the documentation claims.


Did you see unknown components in OS/2 Warp? Unofficial functions and uncompleted features?

I don't know about 'unknown', but two very interesting features which I've spent some time investigating are Feature Install and the Unicode support. Both of them had a lot of promise, at least in theory, but were clearly never properly finished. I suspect they're both legacies of the abortive "Workplace OS" project that got backported into OS/2. It's sometimes interesting to wonder what might have happened if IBM hadn't poured so many resources into WPOS (a.k.a. OS/2 for PowerPC). But, of course, dwelling on "might have beens" is generally fruitless. We have the platform which we have, so let's focus on sustaining and improving that as much as possible. Leave the speculation for pundits or science fiction writers.


What libraries for developers do we need?

What I'd most like to see is a set of modern, Unicode-capable controls which can be integrated into legacy applications. We have QT4, which is fantastic, but unfortunately you have to write the entire application with QT from the start... that isn't really much help for developers who want to update their pre-existing software.


How to migrate to new version of eCS? How to reset eCS to "factory settings"?

There's a migration feature in the installer. It's not perfect, but honestly, I don't think it's possible to have a foolproof migration system. You simply can't anticipate every possible situation and design for it, because there is a potentially infinite number of possible situations out there.

As for restoring factory settings... the desktop archive feature does a pretty good job of letting you go back to the first-time desktop and system configuration.


Additional information:

  • Questions collected by: Eugene Gorbunoff


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