What I Saw at the Revolution:
Warpstock 2000 Review

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When people are angry or feel abused by their leaders or others in positions of authority, they often rebel. A rebellion is an act of defiance, sending a message that "we're not going to take it any more!" However, most rebellions only serve as a means of complaint, and sooner or later the resolve disappears and people just keep on "taking it."

Some rebellions grow to the point of attempting to overthrow or at least disempower the establishment. This means a revolt, an attempt at change instead of merely posturing. When people revolt, they seek a freedom from real or perceived oppression, even though they generally do not have anything better to replace the established order with.

But beyond mere rebellion or revolt is REVOLUTION: a real change to a new and different paradigm. A new paradigm means a new model for cultural and societal cooperation, a new mode of thinking, and a new set of social priorities. One example of revolution is the Open Source movement, which is far more than merely angry people trying to voice their disapproval, or trying to put people out of business. It is a new paradigm with new values, different from the "capital uber alles" attitude of the decadent leadership in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Redmond, and Washington DC.

What I saw at Warpstock 2000 was nothing less than a revolution. Instead of waiting for IBM to do things -- to fix things, to promote OS/2, to provide guidance or stewardship -- I saw a new mode of thinking that places the responsibility for OS/2's growth and success upon the members of the OS/2 community themselves. I saw innovative small companies, as well as grass-roots enterprises, beginning to establish a sense of ownership of OS/2. No, I don't mean that IBM is giving away control of OS/2. I mean that the OS/2 user/developer community is beginning to establish a sense of ownership of "our OS/2," and finally beginning to take control of development and business-case innovation for the small-business and home-based OS/2 users. This is good news indeed.


The discussion called "Where Do We Want to Go Today?" revolved around the importance of EComStation(ECS) by Serenity Systems (http://www.serenity-systems.com/). Serenity has licensed OS/2 from IBM and will be selling it under the name EComStation through consultants and independent computer specialists as a SOHO business solution, as well as an excellent choice for medium-sized businesses. (By "medium" I mean million-dollar instead of billion-dollar enterprises.) Unlike IBM, who has a huge collection of technologies and platforms to rely on for income, Serenity has bet the farm on OS/2. Since their survival depends on OS/2's prosperity, the OS/2 user should begin to look to Serenity as their support and enhancement steward. While IBM will continue focusing its OS/2 development and promotion on the megabusiness market, Serenity provides an alternative, more personal approach that allows us to think of OS/2 as "our" thing instead of "their" thing. We OS/2 users should support Serenity wholeheartedly, relying on IBM for device drivers and fixes while looking to Serenity for marketing and technical support. We should think more about "ECS" and less about the name "OS/2."

As far as device drivers are concerned, IBM continues to make great progress. An average of 100 new printer drivers a year is expected, as well as USB support for the MS/Compaq OHCI specification, in addition to continued UHCI enhancements. We may yet see full DVD support in the next year, and of course we will have nearly universal video card support from Scitech's Display Doctor. But the area of multimedia and sound cards remains weak.

One of the main reasons for OS/2's continued success in obtaining printer drivers is the smash-hit product called the Met@box, from Europe. This OS/2-based SOHO product is an excellent Web-access box that is popular and reasonably priced. (However, it is not expected to be available in the U.S.) As a result of this product entering many European homes, printer manufacturers are compelled to develop OS/2 drivers for their products, or else lose sales. Sooner or later almost anyone who gets on the Web will want to print things, so the future compatibility of printers with OS/2 and ECS is expected to be excellent.


While IBM appears to be evacuating the software development space for C++ products (by discontinuing Visual Age C++ on all platforms), an old player has returned to this space in a new form. Sybase is open-sourcing the Watcom compiler family, including the OS/2 versions. More info will be available at http://www.openwatcom.org/. The importance of this development cannot be overstated. A software developer will be able to run their development platform on almost any PC environment -- DOS, Windows, or OS/2, and later Linux -- and target all of these platforms simultaneously. No need to maintain multiple platforms and multiple products from different vendors to produce a cross-platform application that includes a native OS/2 version! No need to rely on IBM for compiler fixes! At last, a reasonably-priced (like free!), any-to-any compiler environment is soon to be ours. Once this tool has reached maturity in the open space, new applications for OS/2 will be a certainty. The cost of adding an OS/2 native version will be near-zero for developers of other platforms, and students and hobbyists are expected to flock to a free and open development environment in droves.

This new paradigm means that software development will no longer be controlled by a handful of powerful companies who can shift versions, change support, or charge exorbitant prices for key tools. Users and developers will determine the capabilities of software development tools, and competing toolmakers who do not provide a reasonable level of cross-platform support will be left behind. The quality of finished software products on the Watcom system is likely to be high, and to continue growing higher, as thousands of developers collaborate to make the compiler efficient and error-free. There is no limit to the benefits of an open-source compiler, even for proprietary-source target platforms such as OS/2 and ECS.


Not only is platform equality coming to the development side, but even finished products targeting the Win32 platforms are becoming fair play for OS/2 users. Project Odin's game-playing abilities were on display at Warpstock, as native Win32 games were playing smoothly and easily (including sound support) on OS/2 machines. The new approach of Odin is finally bringing down the artificial barriers that Microsoft has raised between the two platforms.

In fact, Odin no longer keeps a list of Win32 apps that will run on OS/2. Instead, they keep a short list of the ones that WON'T run on OS/2, and then attack this list one-by-one. This means that the corner has been turned, and we can expect the vast majority of Win32 apps to run on OS/2 in the near future. With the Aurora kernel's 3-GB virtual memory capacity, even MS Office should be running on OS/2 in its latest incarnations very soon.


The small or even medium-sized business that needs call-center support simply must look at TouchVoice's CTI systems. See http://www.touchvoicecorp.com/. While a Nortel Enterprise Edge system maxes out at 192 voice lines per PC due to its wimpy WindowsNT core, TouchVoice's product can handle half a million simultaneous voice calls on a single OS/2-ECS PC! As electric power shortages and technical support issues continue to plague users of legacy NT-based systems, TouchVoice is ideally positioned to cannibalize the NT installed base of backroom servers.

For a service-based business needing to track parts and labor costs, nothing beats Aviar's Ounce of Prevention System (OZ). See http://www.oops-web.com/. Every component and every category of labor can be tracked and flagged for exception reporting. Even the category names on each screen can be customized to each type of business being tracked. This means that the same product, OZ, can be sold to a Hollywood production company, a string of hotels, and a plastics manufacturer as a vertical application. In each case, the product can be sold as a custom solution that specifically targets that industry and uses the terminology that people in that particular industry have grown accustomed to using. Aviar plans to add full accounting capability, then go after SAP and other overpriced, Windows-based legacy products.


It seems no small coincidence that the Warpstock 2000 convention was held across the street from the U.S. Mint. There is big money to be made by people who wisely take advantage of the new opportunities blossoming in the computer marketplace, as people finally get fed up with the decadent, obsolete Microsoft products and begin looking for long-term solutions on alternative platforms.

The revolution I saw at Warpstock 2000 means that IBM will continue to support and improve OS/2, but IBM's relative importance to the SOHO user will recede into the background as we move forward. Instead of experiencing rebellion and frustration, the OS/2 community is beginning at last to take things into their own hands and to make OS/2 what it can and should be: a viable, long-term alternative to mediocre and wasteful platforms. With the anticipated release of the open-source Star Office product, the importance of porting this new version to OS/2 becomes even greater.

The Warpstock2000 board and volunteers should be heartily congratulated for a superb, smoothly-run convention. The excellent meals and companionship enjoyed at the Warpstock social event, the numerous clever jokes and insightful comments at the sessions, the impromptu conversations and business contacts made -- there is simply not enough time or space to cover them all here. I can only recommend that you readers keep an eye on http://www.warpstock.org/ for news about Warpstock 2001, and make arrangements to be there!

Viva La Revolucion!!


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