From the Editor
Written by Larry Salomon Jr.
Welcome to the new and improved EDM/2 web site. I should qualify that by saying the new and improved permanent web site. Of all of the changes that I will tell you about (below), this is the biggest in my opinion.
I feel like that puny kid in the Atlas body-builder advertisements that you used to see in the comic books. You remember him, don't you? He got sand kicked in his face and then came back (200 pounds of muscle later) and kicked some serious butt.
If we didn't get any respect before, we certainly will now. And, we're gonna kick some serious butt!
Here is the list of the changes that you will find here:
New URL - I don't know if you noticed the new URL, but it belongs to me (IQPac Inc., actually). This is my very public demonstration to you, my worried audience, that I am committed to EDM/2 and to OS/2 in general. We will be around for quite a while, I can assure you.
Searching - a lot of readers have asked for this for a long time and I'm ashamed that it only took two days of fiddling to do this. It was this that I was referring to when I thanked Rocco Caputo for his help. Again, a round of thanks to you, Rocco.
Two New Columns - I have been pushing for more columnists in particular areas and we now have two of those positions filled; look for more changes along these lines in the (hopefully) near future. Briefly, Rexx Inside and Out will take you down the path to Rexx fluency, touching many different areas along the way. Under the Scope will look at one or more products that aid you in application development. These will include freeware, shareware, and commercial products so that you get a good cross-section of what's out there.
Cross References - in the Authors section, the individual writers (sans columnists) now have a "To Be Found Here" section at the end of their information which links you to all of the articles that they have written which are readable on the site.
Advertising plugs - this isn't something that is pleasing to all, but it is a big change which hopefully will not stop with the "Your name here" pictures that you currently find here. I am still hoping for retirement on Maui! :)
More Changes Down the Road
There really hasn't been a lot of changes in quantity. However, the magnitude of the changes is quite big, and we don't plan to stop here. More changes to come, as soon as I can get the time to do them are:
Hot Sheet - I did get minimal feedback on this which was positive, and I do think that it would be a good thing for all. How many of you are near graduation in college or post-graduate and still don't have a job? How many of you are contractors who are starting to think about your next assignment? More than the number that responded, I'll bet.
More Columnists - I'm slowly, but surely, making progress here. Although it is difficult to find people who really are qualified to write about the topics I am looking for, I am finding them, albeit at an extremely slow pace. Watch this space!
More Back Issues - I haven't had time to convert the older back issues to web format, but I will return my attention to this as soon as possible. I hope to have issues 3-1 though 3-3 also on the web server by the end of January, but - if I hustle - I might be able to get a few more also.
That's it. I hope you enjoy what's currently here and are excited about what's to come. If the new web site hasn't convinced you of my committment as well as the committment of my columnists then nothing will. However, if you feel that EDM/2 will continue to be a leading force in providing you with the information that you need to get your work done then follow us to a more productive work environment!
"Mother, May I?"
Getting used to Unix is a bit difficult. It's not that I have no Unix experience. It's just that, when I use it so infrequently, I have trouble switching between it and other operating systems with usable file systems. [big grin]
Seriously, I've already been bitten by not setting the "executable" attribute on the search script, and I am constantly finding files with single letters uppercased. Please bear with me as these are corrected and let us know if you find any that are still around!
Where's the Source Code?
I frequently get asked where the source code which accompanies the articles can be found. Since I only have access to 20M of disk space without paying more, and my wife will not authorize another nickel for this site before I can demonstrate a "return on investment," I will not be able to place the accompanying source on this site at this time.
Worse yet, issues 3-4 through 4-1 only are present, and we're consuming over 5M already. At this rate, I'd better start generating some income quickly! [grin]
I will try to place a very conspicuous notice to forward people to the .INF versions of EDM/2, where the source code can be found.
A New Year is Upon Us
Well, the holiday season is over, for the most part, and I have another 12 months to wait before I get to spend without the same, extreme scrutiny my CFO has during the other times of the year. Gee, it looks like I'll have to earn some money to buy the 32M of RAM and a Pentium 133MHz upgrade. Visual Age better be a good program, or I'll be rather upset. [grin]
(This sounds like I wouldn't want the extra memory and horsepower anyway. Yeah, right.)
New Years Bring New Changes
I haven't really received much feedback about the new changes on the site. For that matter, I haven't received much feedback at all, lately. Where is everyone?
Maybe everyone got scared from the new logo. The magazine, still nicknamed EDM/2, is now called simply the "Electronic Development Magazine, OS/2 Edition". Yes, I realize that this has ominous overtones of publications on other platforms. To be honest, the thought has crossed my mind more than once, and - when I'm not dodging labels like "traitor" and "blasphemer" - I am quickly growing attached to it.
In my life, two of the things that give me the most pleasure are to be able to teach and to learn. This magazine is a method that allows me to teach, in an odd way. Expanding things so that I have a presence on other platforms will allow me to do more of both.
Out of Touch, Out of Mind?
I haven't reported any good, juicy bits of news lately in this section, if you haven't noticed. (That is something I doubt.) That's what I get for being out of touch with the computer community.
Speaking of being out of touch, I've talked to yet another good friend who, by virtue of employment, has their ear to the ground. According to them, 1997 seems to be the final year for OS/2.
After your peril-sensitive sunglasses have returned to normal, let me caution you of two things: 1) saying something doesn't make it true, and 2) there is a lot of time between now and the end of 1997 for more decisions to be made. To round things out, however, if you haven't made contingency plans, you might start giving consideration to doing so.
Just in case, don'cha know.
There's Always a Need, However
Although I readily admit I haven't been everywhere, it does seem to me that there will always be a need for OS/2 developers. Every place of employment has always had a deep-rooted suite of (internal) applications based on the OS/2 platform. One company that interviewed me two during the 2.1 period of OS/2's history was still using OS/2 1.3 with no Presentation Manager, and they had no plans to change! (That's the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.)
In other words, don't sweat it too much.
(That reminds me - I haven't listened to my David Bowie albums in a long time.)
I'm not through yet with the magazine. I'm still looking for new columnists, and I'm always looking for new contributors. If you know a guru in any of the following areas who would be interested in an article, let me know:
Graphics - what is a transformation, anyway? How 'bout a page viewport? Or, how do you write a .GIF file?
Multimedia - we've had a few articles in the past on sound, but that's just the "tip of the iceberg." There is DIVE, Video, and Audio input to consider, and I'm sure this would be a hot topic!
Workplace Shell Programming - this topic shouldn't need an introduction, but I know that many people are still wondering not only how to successfully build WPS objects, but how they can be used in real world applications.
Device Drivers - the one item that we had which generated more mail than many others combined was the unfinished series on writing an Installable File System. This, along with other forms of device drivers, is still considered black magic by many. A hot item to be sure!
Sleep is For The Weak
It's been a tough week. Having a new job, a near-record amount of snow, and the aftermath of the holiday season to deal with has been a strain on me mentally. However, that's not the half of it. Let's take a look at what's been happening around here.
OS/2 for the Power PC Has Been Released!...
But you can't get it without making a special request to your IBM System Engineer. That won't get it either because they have to specially request it from the Austin lab.
That's strike 1.
Furthermore, Infoworld reports an IBM spokesperson, whose name escapes me, as saying that all further development on the microkernel version of OS/2 is suspended.
That's strike 2.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that OS/2 for the Power PC is in trouble. What worries me is the possible translation of these problems within IBM's strategy to the Intel-specific version of OS/2. Is strike 3 - the halting of all further OS/2 development - coming around the corner? It's hard to say.
(I really wish I could do this from work, like I did at my last job. Not having Infoworld and PC Week in front of me is definitely a handicap.)
Infoworld today reported that a new cross-platform development environment has been released (or soon will be). But instead of paying the usually high costs to join in the fun, this will cost less that $500 (US) per platform. I do not remember whether or not OS/2 was one of the supported platforms, but the low pricing is a trend that would be well-appreciated by the programming community.
I'm happy that we have our two new columnists. Both of them are great contributors in terms of ideas and are definitely assets to the team. Look for more changes to occur within their columns and the web site in general which will make it easier to use.
Speaking of Issues
I will hopefully remember to release the .INF version of 4-1 tonight. Please bear with me and I do appreciate your patience.
Welcome to Another Week of...
Uh, well, maybe I won't finish the sentence.
One must wonder if Microsoft will finish the sentence that they will start (or have started). It was reported that Microsoft will supposedly report less-than-stellar (their words, not mine) sales of Windows 95, save for preloaded systems. This has to be good news for OS/2 Advocates (note the capitalization, thus denoting this as a reference to a race and not just a descriptive adjective) who have been saying "I told you so" since Microsoft renamed the project to "Chicago" after the ill-fated "Lobeco".
(That's just a joke and I extend my sincerest apologies to the citizens of Lobeco, South Carolina, on whom I have probably laid a curse which will take generations to erase. [grin])
At Least They Have a Strategy
Even if they change it weekly, a changing strategy is better than none. After all, they have NT to fall back on which, for all of its ugly user interface, is supposed to be the most stable of the 32-bit PC operating systems available.
What I'm referring to is the item I reported last week about the "availability" of OS/2 for the Power PC. After all of the hype, in spite of the delays it had (which 1, 2, or even 95 other operating systems also suffered from), you would think that it would do anything but fizzle out in the way that it did.
"Hel-loooooooooo. Anybody home, McFly?"
Come on, IBM. What is the problem with the decision makers?
When "Paging" Does Not Refer to Document Imaging Systems
Although I never confirmed any of this (let the reader beware!), OS/2 for the Power PC was doomed from the start apparently. When I heard these things long ago, I was quick to dismiss them as idle fantasy and/or speculation. However, now that we've seen what could be interpreted as the ultimate backpedaling for a many-times-delayed operating systems, I can't help but reevaluate my earlier prognosis.
Before I continue, I invite any IBM'ers who know what they are talking about to comment. Please let me know if I may publish your responses and if I may use your name and department, if so.
Paging - it seems that the paging algorithm was rewritten more than once for reasons usually related to performance. Not wanting to infer that I consider myself an expert in this area or even remotely knowledgable, I must state that I have no idea what the problem is. Every computer science student is taught the benefits of a good design and learns (at Hard Knocks University) the lessons of a poor design. How many poor designs did they need before they decided to do it properly?
Device Drivers - You don't use an object-oriented device driver architecture when the rest of the system is procedural. Period. I will give credit to the idea when you consider it by itself, but it just didn't make sense when the rest of the system had to go through "shims" just to communicate to the hardware. Considering the performance hits that this design must have taken, it's hard to imagine why this idea wasn't thrown out from the start by some of the people who supposedly knew better. Hmmm, maybe they were having a case of Bad Loucks or weren't eating enough Mastrianni and Rye. (Hey, no hard feelings, guys, even if that was a cheap shot. [wink])
I Hate Databases
At work, my current project is to write an ODBC driver that sends requests over a custom network protocol to a backend DBMS that could easily change in the future. When I was in college, I avoided databases because I thought it just wouldn't fit with me.
For the record, I still feel that way. I'm not about to bite the hand that feeds me, though. Once I figure this "database stuff" out, I will happily add the topic to the end of my queue of things to write about.
More Changes on the Web Site
If you've closely followed the site, you'll notice that we've been making changes for your benefit. "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands?" (My change in punctuation.) We have many other changes planned for the site, but half of them involve a Perl script or two, so be patient; I'm still not entirely comfortable with the language and I expect lots of time to be consumed implementing these changes.
One thing I want is to replace the recently-added resource counter with one that looks more polished. If you know of one, and can give me simple directions on installing it, please send the location and directions to me!
Ain't Nuttin' Like a Good Conspiracy Theory
...to get your blood going. (Heh.) I've been receiving some interesting feedback regarding the demise of the PowerPC edition of OS/2. None of it is worth publishing here, because none of it is confirmed and that takes all of the punch out of it. However, if half of these things are true, it doesn't surprise me that IBM never got out a product worth promoting.
It's nothing personal, please understand. I know half of the "big names" on the OS/2-PPC team personally and they are definately heavy-duty programmers. It just seems that the left hand didn't know what the right was doing some times, or maybe that it did know what the right hand was doing and that was the problem.
Go figure. (Sigh) I don't want to kick a man (or a company) when he's down, but I won't be shy in saying that I and many others had placed more than one egg in the OS/2-PPC basket. And now the basket turns out to have been made by straw which the first little pig blew down without the help of the Big Bad Wolf (tm).
So What's a Girl To Do?
I picked up the January 1996 edition of OS/2 Professional, a magazine which always has been known to be a bit zealous in their persecution of IBM (although I admit I haven't been much better lately), and read an article which consisted of the musings of a number of prominent OS/2 personalities what they thought the future of OS/2 was.
(Hey! They didn't ask me what I thought! I mean, hey, if they asked Carey Gregory, I think I should've received a phone call too! [big grin] Well, at least they didn't ask Rich Schwerdtfeger...)
The general consensus was that OS/2 is dead, all hail to Windows and its strategy-of-the-week strategy, and let's retire to the inner sanctum of the Temple of Syrinx. Now it's my turn to offer two cents to IBM about what they can do.
Scenario one: IBM should concentrate on the Intel-specific version of OS/2. This plan has some merit, but I believe that they've just about crossed the line between offering a lot for the money and just plain including the world in the box. Heck, you could probably fit all of Hobbes on the number of diskettes it takes to install the system and the BonusPak, so why not call it "Hobbes in a Box" and sell it that way? Seriously, Merlin sounded interesting the last time I read the then-current feature list. If IBM can truly pull it off like I hope they can, this new version of OS/2 will inject some life into the system.
Whatever Merlin does, however, its effect can only be temporary. What IBM really needs to do, in my opinion is...
Scenario two: IBM should start from scratch and redesign the PowerPC version from the bastardized IBM version of the Mach microkernel up. This is an unlikely scenario, but it would produce the best, long-term result, ideally. That is the key word, unfortunately, and after waiting for two years longer than we should just to get a product that made less noise than a pin drop in the Dallas locker-room tonight (after they won the Superbowl), I doubt that IBM can achieve this idealistic vision of mine.
Before you discount me as a looney-tune, consider the advantages this would yield for IBM. Many OS/2 advocates could argue (almost successfully, even) that OS/2 is a contender in the workstation market, going against NT and Unix. The one thing that NT and Unix both have going for them that OS/2 doesn't is their cross-platform versions. Even with the many different versions of Unix (Berkeley, AT&T, SunOS, Ultrix, AIX, just to [gasp] name a few), there still is a fairly large set of common APIs which can be depended upon in most versions. Sure they behave slightly different in each version, but it's still better than OS/2 on the Intel only.
There are other advantages of Unix and NT over OS/2, but this is, by far, the one which weighs heaviest in their advantage. A PowerPC version of OS/2 wouldn't be as great as the fact that it would be built on top of a very portable microkernel which should allow quick ports to Intel, MIPS, etc., allowing OS/2 to better compete against NT in the corporate marketplace.
"Toto, this isn't Kansas anymore." Maybe I should just wake up and smell the coffee.
EDM/2 4-2 is Being Worked On
The following was posted to the comp.os.os2.programmer.* newsgroups tonight:
Even so, we still have five columns in this issue, so it will not be a very easy task to build the issue. Since it is the 28th, expect the issue to be a day or two late this month.