My Impressions From WarpStock Europe 2006

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From the OS2eCS Organization

By Axel Meiss

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On November 18th, I went to [Warpstock Europe] which took place in Cologne, Germany. It was my first visit to any Warpstock, so I didn't really know what to expect. I had been to larger computer fairs like [CebIT], but that was many years ago and Warpstock also is a much smaller event. Following community news about past Warpstocks, I was prepared to estimate just a few users visiting the event, but there were actually more users than I had expected. [There were over 113 visitors on the opening day!]

I arrived in Cologne quite late because I had trouble getting up early, so I took the train from Hamburg to Cologne, departing at 8:46 am, with an estimated time of arrival of 12:49 pm. But even that train had a delay of more than thirty minutes, even though it left in time. Arriving in Cologne, I took the exit opposite of the cathedral, as it was mentioned in the route description. The outside of the station was nothing but a big building site! I found the way to the subway though. I boarded the subway-line nine-teen without paying for a subway ticket, since I assumed my train ticket already covered the subway ticket. I left the subway at station "Boltensternstrasse", which I remembered from the route description. Then I turned right instead of left and made an involuntarily detour to get to the youth hostel. I didn't make any written notes about the way to the youth hostel, and now that paid off. Wondering that there was no hostel in sight, I decided to ask a couple about the hostel, who showed me the right direction. Then, I even found printed signs for Warpstock Europe which would have directed me easily if I had turned left instead of turning right!

So, I finally managed to find the youth hostel and followed the signs to the registration desk. Two receptionists sitting behind a flat screen were busy with something I couldn't discern. But soon they took notice of me and stopped what they were doing immediately. They asked me to fill out a form which I did. Then they asked me which days I would attend and if I wanted dinner. I paid the fee of €10 plus €5 (for the dinner). Unfortunately, Jan van Wijk had broken his leg during Warpstock - so I signed the card, instantly wishing him a soon recover!

I was given a Warpstock visitor card, which was attached to a long band to be worn around the neck, and was given a hand-out, listing the presentations.

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Sascha Weber(foreground) from [Team OS/2 Region Trier e.V.] at the Registration Desk.

The presentations had started about fifteen minutes prior to my arrival, and I was thirsty for a coffee. So I took a coffee break first. There was a coffee vending machine offering coffee for €1 a cup. I was seriously annoyed that the vending machine was out of sugar! That was the disappointment of the day!

Nevertheless, there were two guys from TeamOS/2 sitting near me, whom I talked with for a little. Then I went outside for a short break. There, I was joined by one of the managers of Warpstock Europe, Thomas Klein. I presented myself as the one who wrote him an e-mail concerning the radio station [Deutschlandfunk] who produce a radio magazine "Computers & Communication". Earlier in October, I wrote an e-mail to the head of that magazine, stating that Warpstock Europe was being hosted this year in Cologne, which is also home of the "Deutschlandfunk". Therefore, it would have been an opportunity for the radio magazine, without any travel cost. Unfortunately, I didn't get a reply from them, so I forwarded my e-mail to Thomas Klein. But, he also didn't get any reply from any of Deutschlandfunk's staff of the radio magazine. I considered that a big pity, since it would have been valuable to the OS/2 community if there had been some publicity in the media.

When I went back inside the youth hostel, I visited the exhibit area. Here, there were placed many computers in a way you may have seen in photos from other Warpstocks. I didn't consider that really interesting. But, it was very interesting to really meet the people we have all noticed in on-line articles and from their work in the OS/2 community, like Chuck McKinnis and Steven Levine. In fact, meeting people like them [celebrities of the OS/2 community], is one of the main reasons to visit a Warpstock. One other point to mention, is that it was impossible to read many of the visitor's name cards, since many of those cards were flipped, showing only the blank side!

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Chuck McKinnis, eComStation Maintenance Tool & NICPAK Developer

The first presentation I visited was Adrian Gschwend's, "netlabs.org: The Crux With the Community". He gave a status of [netlabs.org], a brief history of it and his future plans. I was really surprised when he told us that he has put some €20.000 into netlabs.org by himself. Well, I have spent only one-half of that amount in hardware and software, ever since I started with computers back in 1989. He mentioned that around 120 users were enlisted with netlabs.org, with only twenty to thirty contributing to it. His priority for the future would be to change to a new software management system. He has already switched to TRAC and subversion for development projects. Of course, he also mentioned that project [Voyager], which is as I understood it, a kind of application interface which could run on many kernels, including OS/2 and incorporating the key advantages of OS/2. He said netlabs.org web site needed a general overhaul and he is planning to do so. But first, he wants to switch to a new server, since the current hardware was over nine years old. He told us that approximately €2.000 would be needed for that and he would ask for donations. Later I told him I would not attend next year's Warpstock, and instead donate my money intended for the event-to NetLabs.(smile) After the presentation was over, I endured another sugar-free coffee and toured the youth hostel. It reminded me of a school.

The organizers of WarpStock Europe had scheduled three presentations or classes at a time. So I had to choose which one of them to attend. Because I got up early in the morning, I couldn't take any heavy programming classes. So I decided to attend only the presentations, and the next one was Eugene Gorbunoff's, "Get Ready for Modern Systems", where he explained how eComStation is run on modern hardware. He demonstrated it [eComStation's SMP capability] on his core2duo notebook that is seen under eComStation as a two-cpu machine. The presentation circled around the ACPI system with eComStation. He mentioned that one of the keys to ACPI capability was the replacement of RESOURCE.SYS. This allows eComStation to utilize the modern APIC (Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controllers) in contrast to old PIC (Programmable Interrupt Controller). He mentioned that many device drivers should be able to work with the ACPI system and asked the users to report which ones actually do and which ones don't. [There is an on-line forum for users to report their results with the new ACPI support [here]. I'm not a big "hardware guy"; so afterwards, I realized that I should have taken notes!

The breaks after the presentations were scheduled for fifteen minutes. After Eugene's presentation, I got another coffee-even though I don't like coffee without sugar [did I mention that yet?]! I had a short talk with Adrian who seemed quite busy. Users who brought a computer with them, could connect to the wireless hot spot that was available. I didn't bring any laptop with me, since I already was carrying my heavy analog camera. It would have been cool though, to show the community my neat 486DX-50 with 20 MB [of RAM] running OS/2 Warp Connect! Instead, I took my 1 GB USB stick, but I wasn't able to use that-since I had forgotten it in my camera bag. I was a little surprised how many users were using their notebooks at Warpstock Europe! As for me, I expected more presentations with computers turned off, since they are a distraction [distraction-from one who is trying to speak and have everyone's attention]. That was the reason why I didn't want to bring a computer with me. I also expected more serious talk, not users showing-off their computers. On the other hand, I wasn't going to a simple meeting but to an exhibition for [OS/2 & eComStation] software. One has to expect that users are in love with their digital babies! (smile)

The last presentation I joined was Peter Weilbacher's, "Mozilla Development Explained or How Do I Report Bugs in Firefox?". I had heard of P.W. many times so I was quite keen on listening to his presentation. It was very interesting because he showed how Mozilla development takes place. He first covered some biographical issues - he is an astrophysicist - and told us that this was his first presentation at an IT exhibition. He did very well except for the fact that he didn't use the microphone as Adrian Gschwend did. Though he spoke clearly and the hall was small enough for one man speaking-without sound reinforcement equipment, he was hard to listen to when he turned his face to the screen and away from the audience. During that I wished he had used the microphone. Peter explained which persons were currently involved in the Mozilla project for OS/2 and explained their specific tasks. (For example, Mike Kaply who is the official maintainer for the Warpzilla project.) He presented the time line for Mozilla development and where development branches are set. Though he is an important contributor for the Warpzilla project, he has to follow the conventions of the development process. By giving an example of a sample bug in Mozilla (environment variable TMP not set), he demonstrated finding the bug, inspecting the corresponding code and finally fixing it. A key procedure, as I recall it, was that someone has to review the fix. He said that this was a lengthy process sometimes, and contributors have to be reminded occasionally. But, he pointed out that it had to be done in a tactful way. One shouldn't expect to have replies within a few hours but rather within several days. He reminded the audience that developers usually perform development in their spare time, something I can honestly confirm. I was highly pleased by that presentation and afterwards I felt strong enough to take another awful coffee without sugar!

Then I visited the "hardware room" again where Mensys had a small booth.

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Hardware Room (Exhibit room)

I was amazed again how busy the users and presenters were with their computers. It was already 6:30 pm then, and since I had paid for the dinner, I asked at the registration desk when dinner would take place. They answered it had already begun a couple of minutes ago, but I shouldn't expect too much of it. They were right, nothing warm was served, actually nothing was served at all because it was self-service. I took two bread rolls, two pieces of butter, a slice of cheese and a small pack of cottage cheese. I hadn't eaten a full meal the whole day so I congratulated myself for spending the extra money on the dinner. This small dinner was very helpful. When I saw other visitors carrying cups with a drinkable fluid, I suspected it was hot coffee. I went to the source but discovered it was only some fruit tea. So, no coffee with sugar for me. Disappointed, I left the room.

My schedule was rather tight, so I wanted to take the train back to Hamburg that evening still. So, I couldn't join others for the recreational meeting and said good-bye. I would have liked to stay there for another day, but there were reasons why I had to leave. Arriving at central station, I realized I was a little early for the departing train. This enabled me to have a short walk through central Cologne. I managed to find a fast-food restaurant, entered it and had a whopper. After finishing it, it became necessary to find the way back to central station. Fortunately, they had signs showing the direction. I arrived there and had to wait awhile for the train, which would go directly to Hamburg. Inside the train I rested for a few minutes. Because I didn't want to sleep in the train, I decided to visit the dining-car where I took my first coffee (with sugar!) ever since I left my apartment in Hamburg...