OS/2 Logo IBM's OS/2

Declared "Finally Dead" every 6 months by every computer magazine around, OS/2 hangs tough in applications that "have to work".





Who uses OS/2?

You are an OS/2 user whether you realize it or not - whenever you use an ATM machine at your bank. You also encounter OS/2 when you shop at your local supermarket, when you drive on the Century Freeway in Los Angeles, when you make airline reservations, or when you shop at KMart. Particularly, OS/2 is used by banks and in other places where money is being handled and reliability is absolute necessary.

On the desktop, OS/2 is the most elegant of operating systems, and is easier to learn, easier to configure, and easier to use than Windows95/98. The OS/2 Workplace Shell (the desktop) is completely object oriented, something the Win95 desktop, and even Linux desktops, can only pretend. The OS/2 desktop has been integrated with the Internet for years, something Windows98 has just discovered. Also, OS/2 runs for days, weeks, even months without crashing.

So why isn't everyone using OS/2 instead of Windows? The answer to that question is twofold: IBM's failure to understand how to market and promote a package of this sort, and Microsoft's relentless campaign to kill a product they recognize as superior to their own. Nothing has so occupied Microsoft as their campaign to discourage people from using OS/2, and especially preventing software developers from publishing products for it.

Of course, had IBM properly marketed OS/2 and put Microsoft in it's place, that might not have been pretty either. Check out this article by Joseph McKendrick

OS/2 comes in two varieties: OS/2 Warp and OS/2 Warp Server - client and server. The client fully supports networking on a peer-to-peer basis, and is compatible with servers running OS/2, Windows NT, Linux, Unix and others. The server version completely supports DOS and all varieties of Windows clients and servers. Microsoft Networking, is, after all, just a version of IBM's PC-Net network (really, you didn't think Microsoft actually developed something themselves, did you).

Won't IBM Abandon OS/2?

The computer press has published blazing headlines "IBM Abandons OS/2" so many times everyone has lost count. Microsoft uses every bit of their considerable influence over the magazines to assure this continues. Truth: in 1997, IBM signed contracts with major customers requiring them to "continue to develop and support OS/2 for a minimum of 10 years".

An IBM exec once answered a journalist's question about why they don't drop OS/2 this way, "Yes, we have few customers for OS/2 compared to Windows - but look who those customers are". You can see for yourself at the Large OS/2 Customers List This is not an IBM sanctioned list (they keep their list confidential), so it is by no means complete.

Today, IBM is moving OS/2 into their vision of a Java future. Running Java programs under OS/2 does not require a Web browser, because Java is built right in. The OS/2 Java engine has repeatedly been shown to be the fastest available.

Large organizations have been adopting OS/2 WSOD (Workspace On Demand) to greatly reduce their administration costs. If a workstation dies, another can just be put in place, connected to the network, and become fully configured in just a few minutes.

Aside from Microsoft, IBM's marketing department would like to see OS/2 "go away" because it is a constant reminder of their total incompetence. IBM's service divisions would like to see OS/2 go away (along with AS/400 and RS/6000) because none of these need even a fraction of the service Windows NT requires. Nonetheless, OS/2 is too deeply ingrained in IBM's business, and brings in too much revenue, to be abandoned.

The small business OS/2 market has, at least for the present, been de-emphasized by IBM because they are not geared to support this type of user. Consequently, this market segment has become largely self supporting and increasingly self promoting.

[Update - IBM has arranged with Serenity Systems to issue a special OEM version of OS/2 Warp 4 including a lot of updates and bundled software packages. This package, named eComStation is expected to ship in May 2001 and is available from Indelible Blue. ]

For more information on current OS/2 happenings, check out our page OS/2 News. For OS/2 information, software and support directly form IBM, check out the OS/2 Homepage. For current and recent OS/2 news from IBM, look in the Warp FM section.

Software for OS/2

The weakest aspect of OS/2 has been the relatively small number of "shrink wrap" software packages written specifically for it, though many that do exist are of outstanding quality. This is a result of two factors: Microsoft's threats (written into Non Disclosure agreements for Windows) to cut off any software developer who publishes an OS/2 title from access to necessary Windows programming information; and the fact that OS/2 runs DOS and Windows 3.1 programs so well.

Fortunately, there is an adequate selection of high quality native OS/2 programs to satisfy most general business needs, including two major office suites equivalent to Microsoft Office: Star Office, and Lotus Smart Suite. Papyrus, the most productive light Desktop Publisher and Word Processor available for any platform as become available in English. More native software continues to be developed, in fact, it seems to have accelerated. Instead of Act! you would run OmniFile, instead of PhotoShop you would run Gimp. OS/2 is particularly strong in Internet and communications software.

The rise of Java assures there will be a lot more titles for OS/2 users to choose from. Considering OS/2's native Java, IBM's Visual Age for Java development environment, and IBM's total commitment to Java, much Java software will be developed on OS/2, and much more will be tested on it to prove cross- platform performance.

The rise of Linux is also bringing more software to OS/2. Linux apps are easily ported to OS/2 using the EMX library and XFree86 (X Windows). Gimp is a prime example, a major graphics editing program developed for Linux and now running also on OS/2.

Microsoft has taken special care that Windows95 software will not run on OS/2, but, a group of volunteers has been working on a program that converts Win95 software into OS/2 native software. While still in "alpha test", this project is meeting with enough success that the publisher of Blue CAD is using it to convert some of their own Win95 tools to OS/2, and Stardock is also converting some of its Win95 software with it.

Who Can or Should use OS/2?

If you need to run Microsoft Office, you can't use OS/2. If you really must run any particular Windows95/98 program, you probably can't use OS/2. If you want to run the latest games and "edutainment" software, OS/2 won't do that.

If what you need is a stable, productive general business, Internet and communications environment, with software that does the job quickly and reliably, check out the OS/2 offerings - they are often less expensive, easier to use, and more stable than similar Windows titles. For communications, especially on the Internet, OS/2 software is among the very best.

If you want the most elegant, easy to use, and stable graphic, mouse controlled desktop environment, OS/2 is it - really the best by far. Another advantage is your employees won't be continuously messing up their machines like they do with Windows. They are used to thinking of Windows as a toy because they run games on it at home, but take the OS/2 desktop seriously.

OS/2's peer-to-peer networking is compatible with Microsoft's, but in use they are like night and day. OS/2's peer-to-peer networking is fast and trouble free. OS/2 Warp Server is simply the fastest, most sophisticated general purpose server in existence, and nearly as stable as the best Unix has to offer.

We at Automation Access needed to migrate from Digital Research's multiuser DOS, and expected to use the soon to be released Windows95 from Microsoft. When we received our dealer pre-release, we quickly loaded it in anticipation - and just as quickly decided we didn't want to try to run a business on Win95.

We took a gamble and ordered OS/2 (Warp 3 at the time) and immediately liked it. We have run OS/2 ever since with no temptation to change. We can spend our time trying to keep our Client's Win95 computers working, not our own. We do keep one machine on the network that can be booted into Windows95 so we can use a few occasional programs that don't yet have OS/2 or Linux equivalents (mostly new scanners and cameras).

Our OS/2 workstations now connect to a Linux/Samba server, and connect to the same server over TCP/IP as a Unix/Linux host to run Appgen, a major Unix accounting package. OS/2 gets along very well with other systems, from Linux to mainframes.

Contact Automation Access if you would like help determining if OS/2 is a fit for your business.

OS/2 Warp Server for eBusiness

OS/2 WarpServer is simply the fastest all-around server in existence, nudging NetWare for file and print, and shredding NT as an application server, with stability approaching that of Unix.

WarpServer is highly compatible with NT Server networks - they are both based on IBM's PC-Net and further developed cooperatively between IBM and Microsoft (before the split). IBM's version is simply implemented a lot better than Microsoft's version. The new Warp Server for eBusiness v5.0 (formerly code named Aurora) has added features for managing NT Servers, making it a good master server when you must have NT servers (because you have MS SQL Server, MS Exchange, or some such).

Among the advanced features of Warp Server 5.0 is a journaling filesystem. This type of file system is used for large "enterprise" servers. It keeps track of disk writes in a manner that allows it, after a crash or power failure, to correct the filesystem without running something like CHKDSK or SCANDISK, which can take a long time on 100-Gigs of data or more.

While OS/2 WarpServer is normally administered using graphic tools, just as NT is, it can easily be administered from afar by modem, either using the graphic interface like NT, or from the command line like Unix. You can use a WarpServer computer as a workstation (peer) but it is not recommended (see disadvantages of peer-to-peer).

When PC magazines first compared WarpServer to NT, they panned Warp Server for not supporting multiple processors. They did, though, have to note that WarpServer on a single processor out performed NT on a multiple processor. Since WarpServer now supports multiple processors, and does so far more effectively than NT, no magazine has dared do a comparative review (it would produce the "wrong" answer).

OS/2 WarpServer supports OS/2, DOS, Windows 3.1x, Windows95/98, and Windows NT clients.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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