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Interview with Lewis Rosenthal

TITLE: Interview with Lewis Rosenthal

DATE: 2014-07-25 18:52:28

AUTHOR: Lewis Rosenthal

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  OS/2 GURU Jam Session (2014/07)
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Q: Do people recall the word "IBM OS/2 Warp" in USA today?

Some older folks recall the word. Mostly, the younger group confuses "OS/2" with "OS X," which is quite funny.


Q: What is the area of OS/2 usage in 2014 and 2015? What do you expect?

I think that Microsoft has opened the world to alternatives with their fumbling of the Windows ball. I have more and more clients willing to look at alternatives for what they do (being pushed off of Windows XP, they realize that whatever they choose is going to be considerably different from what they've become accustomed to using). I think that OS/2 - or some derivative of it, whether eComStation or something else - becomes one of those alternatives to consider.

Interestingly, as more people consider alternatives to Windows, Microsoft Office becomes less and less a "must have" in business environments, competing alongside LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Once businesses realize that they no longer need to maintain their Microsoft investments, a world of opportunity opens before them. We have a way to go before we are automatically considered as a desktop replacement to XP or Windows 7 in such environments, but we're getting there. An updated OpenOffice, and the approaching end of Windows 7 mainstream support January 13, 2015 would make an OS/2-based solution much more viable. (Note that extended support for Windows 7 is scheduled to continue until 2020, however, that does not mean that new or updated applications for Windows will necessarily support Windows 7 throughout its extended lifetime.)

Home users are still likely to have some preference for other platforms, simply due to our lack of comprehensive multimedia support. However, this too may change in time, as people depend more and more on tablet devices for such functionality.


Q: How many developers should work on the operating system core to get results?

I think a dozen developers would be a good start. These would be focused on kernel enhancements, networking updates, and device driver development to support newer technologies. Of course, that is not to day that 50 or 100 developers wouldn't be a good thing, but I'm being realistic about the project and about the available resources we have in the community at large.

It's also not just about development. We have support issues to address. People pay for support and updates, fixes, and enhancements which are short of a full operating system upgrade. That coding also needs to be considered part of the OS "core." Tied into that, of course, is the need for reliable, available vendor support, with support upgrade opportunities (fee-based support beyond bundled support). Unfortunately, like development, this too requires human resources, not only to provide the support but to train the support staff. I haven't addressed these human resource requirements in answering your question, above, which only points out what I feel we need to move the OS forward.

Q: How to develop OS/2 without financial resources? What method to use?

It is literally impossible to provide proper development energies for the operating system without some form of professional labor. Whether this is paid by venture capital, funding angels, or just mass contributions by the current user base, good programmers need to be hired, not conscripted for volunteer work. Surely, there is are roles for unpaid volunteers, but quality code comes at a price. A hallmark of OS/2 since its inception has been it's amazing stability. That stability comes at a cost.

So, to answer your question, it would not be possible to continue development without financial resources.


Q: What system components can be (must be) replaced?

Disk drivers need to be updated to better support SSD partition alignment. Network drivers (wired and wireless, though wireless drivers are extremely important) need to be constantly updated. The video driver (whether SNAP or Panorama - and SNAP is almost a dead horse, at this point - needs to be updated and enhanced. USB 3 support will become more important in the near future. Audio support also needs to be enhanced.

Now do any of the above constitute "replacement?" That's a matter of opinion. They all constitute maintenance and enhancement, however. MultiMac is (or will be) a "replacement" for GenMAC, which was never very supportable, anyway (I wrote in May of 2007 about the need for a replacement for GenMAC, and was roundly criticized for my opinion: mail.2rosenthals.com).


Q: What is the main problem of OS/2 Warp / eComStation today?

I think the greatest "problem" we as a user community face is the same thing which has plagued us since the beginning of OS/2: lack of adequate hardware support. Hardware manufacturers do not have enough incentive to code the necessary drivers for our niche market, and many are against releasing enough information about their devices (supposedly for fear of others infringing upon their intellectual property) to allow for interested third parties to develop good drivers (and this is something with which the Linux community must contend, as well: look at some of the better video cards on the market today, and manufacturers like nVidia, who until recently have been slow to embrace open source development of drivers for their cards).


Q: Is now a good time to Virtualize OS/2 and/or eCS?

Virtualization is a mixed bag. For situations where there is a single OS/2 application which hangs on, and no supported hardware, virtualization extends the life of the code, allowing the application to continue in place. However, for those who use many OS/2 applications, virtualization can become an unnecessary layer of overhead, slowing the overall system, and reducing its usability to the point of forcing the user to switch to another - native - solution.

I have clients who run entire business operations on OS/2 and eComStation, some with one or more custom applications, running across literally hundreds of machines. The thought of virtualizing each one of those installations is truly daunting, and supporting two operating systems - even for a single application - simply because of all that that application does, seems like a huge waste of resources.

I use eCS as my daily operating system. I use an OS/2 browser (SeaMonkey), mail client (also SeaMonkey), application suite (OpenOffice), and other management tools which allow me to access other systems from my Workplace Shell desktop. I routinely use other platforms, but I am most at home with eCS. I don't want to switch to another platform. For me, the killer app is the WorkPlace Shell itself. Unfortunately, I am running headlong into an inevitable conclusion: my aging ThinkPad which is going to need replacement. The newest ThinkPads do not fully support eCS. Running eCS virtualized in a laptop is not a preferable solution for me; I would probably rather switch to Linux full time - after all, I would have to run that as my hypervisor, anyway.

So, the answer to your question is that for some, now is a good time to consider virtualization. I just don't think there as a single solution for everyone or for every installed system.


Q: How to interact with the users? Do you think that the community is able to generate products?

I think that as in all computing communities, there are spots of talent. We have some people who are capable of doing this. We have others who are capable, but who don't feel the need or the desire to get involved. And finally, we have others who simply do not use the platform to such an extent as to be in a good position to contribute, other than to talk about what they like and don't like (and that activity is also necessary).

I do feel that it is important for any project to maintain strong ties to its audience, listening to changing needs, responding to requests, and making regular announcements of what is coming and (hopefully) when to expect the next "thing," without making false or misleading claims. So, efforts to provide information must be carefully coordinated with those who know of such things to avoid misstatements and to maintain realistic expectations.


Q: As practically all computers and notebooks are manufactured by the same factory today, why support ThinkPad hardware exclusively?

There is no single "standard" in portable machines. As a niche OS, we must be selective in what hardware we support. Thus, if we *must* choose something, why not choose something which is familiar to most OS/2 and eCS users?

As an IT consultant, I *only* support ThinkPads. Like anything else, a good portion of this is because I know them better than I know other brands. I've recently worked on a few Samsung Ultrabooks, and I found them to be sub-standard. So, I have a personal preference for ThinkPads. If someone would present me with a viable alternative, a standard architecture, powerful machine, I might change my thinking.


Q: Will your new company create a central knowledgebase for OS/2 information? Serenity Systems and Mensys haven't created such a resource.

I don't know. It sounds like a great idea, but our community tends to lack the motivation for such grand projects, and there is certainly little profit potential in such a resource, making it a hard sell for a commercial enterprise. I'd like to see such a thing, but perhaps as a Netlabs sponsored project, or even a revamp of the venerable WarpDoctor Clinic.

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Для eComStation 2.0 были созданы виджеты (индикаторы разной информации) + новые элементы управления. Пользоваться системой стало еще удобнее. Что нового в eCS 2.0?


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