From the Editor: A Look Back, and A Vision Ahead!

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From the OS2eCS Organization.


Well, we are here, the end of 2006! This is our fifth issue! We have survived one whole year (smile)! It hasn't been easy to get out a complete eZine each quarter, especially with the lack of articles. But we have managed to publish each quarter! I want to extend a big THANK-YOU, to all those who have put forth the effort and contributed articles over the last year! We couldn't have done it without the support of the members of the OS2eCS Organization and others in the community. This issue is the biggest and I believe the best yet! We have re-done our layout, graphics, and improved other aspects. If you would like to see additional improvements, please contact us and let us know how we can improve. In the coming year (in January) we will announce the date and time of the on-line (live via IRC) drawing of prizes for this years eZine author awards. In the coming year we have many things planned, one of which is to publish our first printed magazine. Starting with this issue, we have a [new publishing schedule]. We are planning to move to a content management system. This will streamline the publication of new eZines and allow translation into other languages. Once implemented we will be able to add search and other features. We hope to bring on-board a new web master and an assistant editor, to the team at the OS2eCS Organization. I will stay on as a senior editor.

Well its official, [end of support (By IBM) for OS/2 is over] (unless you have a special contract with IBM)! Now once again we will see the mainstream IT press issue a flurry of articles, gleefully announcing, yet again the "Death of OS/2". It's a ritual for them. If they weren't so blind-sighted from their computer screens--running whatever is the latest rehash of code out of Redmond, powered by a Super Computer struggling to process keystrokes, on a bloated, over-priced typewriter...perhaps they would see the flurry of activity and life in the OS/2 world?

In the past year we have also seen much hype in the IT press about the coming Windows Vista, but as usual it has been more hype than reality. OS/2 Warp v4, was the first operating system to include integrated voice-recognition in the base OS (1996). Ten years latter, Microsoft is still trying to get their voice recognition to work as is seen in the video below (requires Flash 7 Plug-in(r14), some older versions of FireFox before v2 are reported to have problems playing sound, works well with FireFox v2, SeaMonkey and Mozilla):

eComStation has been delivering an option for voice-recognition that is integrated into the WorkPlace shell, since v1.0 in 2000.

Over the past year we have seen a lot of developments with eComStation and OS/2 software. Let's recap some of the highlights. Fore-most we have seen multiple beta releases of eComStation v2.0! eComStation v2.0 Beta brings some really great technologies and improvements to the platform:

Contents

ACPI Support

  • New Hardware support.
  • Power Management support.
  • [SMP] (now standard).
  • Dual-Core & Hyper-Threading support.
  • New APM driver.
  • Better detection of devices.
  • Possibility for dynamic loading/unloading of drivers in the future.

Resize Hard Disk Volumes

New engine to Resize NTFS & Fat32 partitions; allows installation on systems with pre-loaded OS.

Bootable JFS

Huge performance increase, also increases reliability of the file system, ensuring data integrity.

Samba

Allows access to network resources on Windows and Linux file servers.

GenMAC driver

Provides support for most modern network cards, including Gigabit and wireless cards.

Firewall

OS/2 has provided a built in powerful firewall since it's 32-bit stack. A new easy to use utility allows configuration.

eComStation v2.0 [1] GA is expected to be released in 2007.

Other highlights in 2006:

We have current native builds of SeaMonkey (v1.1), Firefox (v2.0.0.1), and Thunderbird (v1.5.0.9). SeaMonkey is a continuation of the Mozilla Internet Suite, that includes an integrated browser, email client, address book, IRC client, and composer. Also Peter Weilbacher has released a special build of [SeaMonkey (latest v1.1)] that adds high memory support, MNG/JNG support, SVG, Canvas support, and many WPS specific enhancements.

We have seen the release of [OpenWatcom] v1.6, a current native compiler based on the Watcom C & C++ compilers. The latest version includes an OS/2 installer.

[OpenVPN] has been released on OS/2. This is a full-featured SSL VPN solution which allows secure remote access to systems across the Internet, LAN/WAN, or WiFi network.

There have been updates to many popular native OS/2 applications as well. PMView has been upgraded (v3.30). It now sports EXIF support, scripted batch conversions, lossless JPEG rotation, fly-over image info and [more]. [T&V HappyPlayer] is now at v2.00 beta R10. This provides a native PM application to operate built-in cards utilizing the Brooktree BT848 chip, as well as ATI and nVidia cards.

The list of new applications is quite long, many of them are ports from other platforms. But we have many new native WPS applications as well. One such example is [eSchemes], which provides great visual enhancements to the desktop (providing the GUI Candy that many people mistakenly associate as the mark of a "current" and good OS). Also eSchemes Deluxe, which is a related project, provides an up-to date image previewer, also bringing current image formats to the WorkPlace Shell. [Personal Cards manager], is another WPS application that allows you to store contact information about friends, colleagues, and customers on your desktop in a convenient fashion.

A Vision Ahead

After reading about the [osFree] and [Voyager] projects this past year, I have thought about some visions of where OS/2 and eComStation could possibly go in the future.

While eComStation will install on the new 64-bit AMD Opterons, it's not able to utilize the 64-bit architecture, since it runs still in 32-bit mode. While this really isn't much of a concern for most users, especially business users (eComStation's target market), it does leave the platform at a disadvantage in high-end scientific and graphic applications--or does it? Well, lets put some perspective on this. Most business applications utilize integer functions, which don't require high precision 64-bit representations. So in reality, 64-bit applications will actually use more bandwidth and memory within a system. This was illustrated when IBM ported the 16-bit PM (Program Manager, in OS/2) over to 32-bit code. One of the challenges for them was to get the new 32-bit code to run as fast as the 16-bit PM.

In reality, performance is not one of the concerns for eComStation, since it is one of the fastest platforms available for x86 architectures. But, what if there is a need for a high-performance application? There are really several ways to manage this. eComStation v2.0 will now include SMP and Dual-core support standard in the operating system. SMP support has existed many years ago as a separate package, allowing up to 64 processor support! So that is one option, add more processors to the system.

Another key technology embedded into eComStation is DSOM. [DSOM] stands for "Distributed System Object Model". Quite simply it allows objects to be distributed and communicate with other objects, between processes on the same machine, as well as across a LAN (among different machines). This enabling technology allows applications to distribute the work load across a network of machines, splitting up the task. This provides a low-cost way to add resources to an existing system. Another benefit of utilizing DSOM technology, is that it removes the 4GB memory barrier of OS/2 & eComStation. If you have an application that needs more than 4GB of RAM, the application is likely also going to need extra processing power to handle that data, so a distributed application utilizing DSOM technology also benefits from the RAM on the other systems. Sure there is still a limitation of 4GB per system, but like I said, if you have those large amounts of data in your system, your going to want more processing power too. With SMP and DSOM, today eComStation can provide OS/2 and eComStation applications years of service, even for demanding applications-well into the next decade!

This is all great you say! But what if I can't recompile my applications and they need more than 4GB of RAM? Well, then we approach the limit of what is available today, and need to look down the road. What are the options? Do you have your visionary glasses on? Good...we can continue!

Well there are some ideas. Perhaps the best (in my opinion) is to pick-up where the original OS/2 designers left off. By this, I mean we really shouldn't try to port everything from Linux. If that is the solution, then we may as well just migrate to Linux. Many users are still using OS/2 (and eComStation) for the many specific technologies and advantages it has--even compared to so-called "recent operating systems"! So why would we want to abandon OS/2 & eComStation? I don't believe users have too! eComStation can well-serve users for many years yet, while a better option is being built. That option I believe should embrace core OS/2 technologies, building upon them and developing new technologies. After all, that is what made OS/2 so great, it often lead while other operating systems were playing ketch up. OS/2 was the first operating system with extensive DOS support and Windows support ("Better DOS than DOS, and better Windows than Windows" was the saying). It was the first to have a suite of integrated Internet applications, including a browser..out of the box! It was the first with integrated voice recognition, Java, and OpenDOC..again, out of the box! OS/2 has been an operating system with cutting-edge technology, still "Warping" today with its speed-demon kernel on blazing fast new hardware--causing it's full Object-Oriented WorkPlace Shell to sizzle!

Where do we go from here? My vision..

Quite simply, we need to start developing an "OS/2 personality" for [K42]. A lot of the technology from the WorkPlace OS (IBM's OS/2 Warp for PowerPC) has gone into the K42 project. K42 could be called "the Next Generation OS/2". A lot of papers about K42 have been written, much of it, is highly technical for the average reader. But I believe an "OS/2 Personality" for K42 is where we should be headed. K42 provides a micro-kernel architecture, that can achieve the goals IBM set for WorkPlace OS. With an "OS/2 Personality" for K42, we would be able to benefit from the wide array of Linux driver developments and new hardware. In addition, the architecture provides a better solution for running multiple environments concurrently, without needing VMs (Virtual Machines). This means you could have an OS/2 personality running on the same machine, at the same time, as a Linux or AIX personality. OS/2 and eComStation can currently provide multiple environments now, but not in the same fashion as K42. (Specifically, "personalities" are real operating systems running on a shared micro-kernel. With VM's, you are running multiple operating systems on a shared, host system's operating system--at a great performance penalty!)

The "OS2 Personality for K42" would form the core of the "new OS/2". We would also need to replace PM, implementing it as a server to run on K42. This would allow us to bury the "Exit List" hangs and [SIQ] (Synchronous Input Que) issue and maintain compatibility with existing PM applications. (This, I believe, is one of the ways IBM solved the SIQ issue with OS/2 Warp for PowerPC. PM was running as a "server" on-top of the MACH micro-kernel.)

My vision also calls for creating a new API for the new PM, while maintaining full GPI and PM compatibility with existing applications. The new API would be an interface to a new 3D rendering engine utilizing the OpenGL standard. A new generic video driver would interface with this, providing software OpenGL support as well as hardware support for video cards. In addition, the API would interface to a PDF engine as another option for 2D rendering. These new engines would run as servers on-top the K42 micro-kernel, providing the best performance.

A new WorkPlace Interactive shell (WPI) would replace the WorkPlace Shell. The new WPI would radically enhance the existing WPS, bringing it up to the latest [CORBA] standards. SOM and DSOM would be upgraded and maintain full backwards compatibility. The new WPI would be implemented as a DSOM server, providing more fault-tolerance to applications (so when a WPS/WPI application crashes, it doesn't bring down the whole Shell) and a transparent distributed shell, that could dynamically distribute itself across a network of systems (providing greater scalability and redundancy). The new WPI would take advantage of the OpenGL engine and provide a 3D workplace. HMDs(Head Mounted Displays) and Data-gloves could be supported devices. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) would also be an integrated native interface.

Such a new radical operating system could set the stage for a new line of software--interactive intelligent agents (IIAs). Without getting too detailed (this design could cover a series of books), my point of all this is to demonstrate that we don't need to be followers. We can innovate and once again lead the technology front, creating the most useful, powerful operating environment for tomorrow's computers. A radical new approach is needed. If we try to copy other operating system's, we'll be around just long enough until the last OS/2 user migrates to Windows or YALD (Yet Another Linux Distribution). Consider the example in the beginning of this article about Voice Recognition..Microsoft is still trying to copy OS/2!

Well, thats it for this edition's editorial view! Hope you enjoy the rest of this eZine! The best to you and those you support in the new year...we'll be there!

Happy New Year!