Facts, Fun, and Progress: Warpstock '99

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Warpstock '99 was held on October 16 and 17, 1999, at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, GA, USA. What was the overall atmosphere? Who was there? Is OS/2 alive and thriving, or otherwise? Inquiring minds want to know....


Despite worries about lack of marketing, a last-minute rush to prepare, or a lack of enthusiasm, this year's Warpstock was clearly the best so far. Every attendee I met seemed excited, upbeat, and happy. The vendors were quite thrilled with the volume of sales and interest in their products. Some of them even sold out of their wares! The audience participation in the seminars was very lively and stimulating. There were even approximately a half-dozen lectures by different IBM employees on various features of OS/2.

The exhibit hall was spacious and well-organized. There was plenty of room to walk around among the various exhibits and demonstrations. Approximately 30 vendors were present, and they gave out tons of demo diskettes and product literature. The appearance of the booths and the overall layout were extremely professional in appearance -- just like any other "major" trade show. Networking facilities were up and running throughout the entire event. VOICE conducted a live online chat during the whole exhibition.

Serenity Systems had a huge booth with upwards of 100 applications available for demo, all served from a single OS/2 server. They seem to be on to something here. I am planning to do a Special Report to ferret out all the details. Naturally their systems ran flawlessly during the entire show, and they also had an exciting presentation that had the audience reeling with some of the new capabilities that Serenity has added to remote OS/2 installation. It seems that the small-business user of OS/2 may finally be getting the good stuff that previously was only available to big business.

Several smash-hit events occurred during the convention. Superb columnist Peter Coffee gave the keynote address, during which he showed from a "big-picture" perspective why Microsoft's time has nearly run out. Although OS/2 is not the be-all and end-all answer for everybody, he gave numerous examples of solutions that only OS/2 has been able to provide. The move toward mobile, networked, open systems means that everybody wins except people and organizations who try to prevent the trend toward organized information infrastructures based on non-proprietary standards. OS/2 is merely one of many platforms to benefit from this transition to a networked world. If Microsoft does not wake up, open up, and learn to cooperate instead of trying to intimidate, they will soon become irrelevant.

Another of these high points occurred during the "Warped Jeopardy" game show, sponsored by Sundial Systems. Just like the real TV show, there were tons of great questions, audience participation for software prizes and other goodies, and even a bunch of authentic IBM OS/2 commercials on the big screen. The show was conducted in a smooth and well-rehearsed manner, with a great deal of professionalism and tons of laughter. The classic commercials had everyone rolling in the aisles, as did some of the less-than-accurate guesses by various contestants. I almost wish Sundial would take this show on a nationwide tour.

I missed some of the other high-energy features, such as the mondo Italian dinner and comedy show sponsored by VOICE and Mensys. There just was not enough time to see and participate in all the fabulous activities provided by the Warpstock committee. We need a 3-day or 4-day event.... maybe this will be on the agenda for a future Warpstock?


IBM left us with no doubt as to the intensity of their support for the OS/2 community. In addition to at least six or seven prominent IBM attendees, IBMers gave lectures that covered salesmanship of the thin-client concept, technical features of Warp Server and WSOD, and other vital issues such as Y2K and high-reliability solutions using OS/2. IBM/Lotus had a booth in the exhibit area and raffled off several large software packages such as Warp Server and Lotus Smartsuite for OS/2. All of this was in addition to the two carloads of IBM merchandise, souvenirs, and software given away at the daily closing raffles. While IBM is not actively marketing OS/2 to the general public, there was no doubt that OS/2 continues to be a major and growing part of IBM's strategy -- and that IBM continues to appreciate and support the user community.


To review all of the seminars and lectures would take far too long. However, there were two that I want to especially emphasize for their positive contribution to the brain-enhancing Warpstock atmosphere.

Lynn Maxson's updated Warpicity talk brought out several points about software development that deserve serious consideration. First of all, software development that does not include requirements management is a terrible waste of time and energy. There is simply no product on the market that properly and thoroughly addresses each step of the process from requirements through finished product. As a result, developers often waste time switching gears and changing their models several times during a project. What is needed is a "rapid specification development" toolkit, instead of just a "rapid application development" (RAD) software tool. Lynn is developing a specfication language he calls "SL/1" which will encapsulate the *entire* software development process, including the design goals. Secondly, he pointed out that a lot of the bugs and weak implementations of certain features result from the fact that in order to compile a partially-completed product as part of the code-compile-test-repeat cycle, it is often necessary to "fill in something" to occupy the unfinished portions of the product, or else the code won't compile correctly. Therefore, at each step in the development cycle we get a product that poorly reflects the desired objective, and therefore does not yield good feedback. (I pointed out that this also introduces a lot of unnecessary bugs because the "filler" code will obviously be poorly thought out and mismanaged.) Finally, Lynn noted that so much of the software development process involves designing to the limitations of the compiler. If we resolve problem number two by developing a real-time code-and-test capability that pushes compiling to merely the final step before delivery, then this bottleneck becomes a one-time event. Therefore, the goal of this project must include producing a compiler that does not inhibit the design process. Basically, Lynn has analyzed the entire mainstream software design paradigm, proved that it is a pile of rubbish, and has begun work on a totally new paradigm that encapsulates all the steps into a unified product consisting of requirements, code, and compilation. When this goal is achieved, any software product can be generated automatically from a set of logically consistent requirements. We can have "open specification software" which is a level beyond "open source".

In my own concluding lecture, I emphasized the need for developing and maintaining a positive, forward-looking attitude toward OS/2. I noted that we now have three native OS/2 office suites instead of just one; we have up-to-date Web browser and Java components; we have better device driver support than ever before; and we have far better grass-roots organization than in the past. The problem for the average computer user is that their *perception* of OS/2 has nothing to do with these *realities*. Our job must be to make perception catch up to the reality of OS/2's continued growth and technological superiority. If we ask ourselves what qualities or characteristics will be present in the operating systems of the future, nearly every good quality is already embodied in OS/2 today. This means that OS/2 Warp is a FUTURISTIC operating system. It was ahead of its time when it arrived, and it is still a future-oriented operating system today. Our approach to others in the computer user community should thus reflect a future-oriented, positive, satisfied perspective, not a grim bunch of hangers-on who are waiting for an axe to fall. OS/2 is more alive and healthy today than ever before; it is the *perception* which is old and needs to be replaced, not the product itself.


I recommend that anyone who enjoys using OS/2 should start making plans for next year's OS/2 events, such as Warp Tech in Arizona and Warpstock 2000. I would like to thank all those who attended this year's event, particularly the vendors, the speakers, and IBM. I especially want to thank the dozens of Warpstock attendees who bought copies of my current book, Seven LEAN Years. As a result of this success, I am seriously considering writing an OS/2 book for next year. I also want to thank the attendees of my two presentations. Here are the ZIP files containing the two presentations in HTML and Lotus PRZ formats:

"Upgrading from Windows to OS/2"
"Prospering OS/2"

Most of all, I congratulate the Warpstock board and staffers for a thoroughly fun, professional, and educational event. Anyone who did not attend this year clearly missed out on a great, great event. The best advice I can give them is GET READY FOR AN EVEN BETTER WARPSTOCK IN 2000!


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