Warp 4 Comments

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by Derek Clarkson

Hi all, I've just spent the last few days loading and playing with Merlin so I thought I'd give you a run down of what I think of it.

Merlin is definately a culture shock. The first thing that I found with it is that I was not sure what to do first. With previous versions of OS/2, I didn't have too much a problem with finding my way around once they were loaded, things were pretty much in the same place. With Merlin on the other hand, thing were quite different.

The redesign of the interface makes it look very snazzy (suk that '95), and it now has all the visual appeal you could ask for. Full window dragging, resizing, more display options on icons, sexy new buttons and brightly painted icons all add to the new look.

The new Lotus WarpCenter which is a replacement for the Launchpad, is a nice piece of work. It provides a (dare I say it!) Windows'95 style toolbar, but as per IBM, does the job properly rather than half arse. Firstly the popup aka'95 menus are in fact a duplicate of the icons and folders on the desktop rather than a menu system in their own right as they are in '95. This turns out to be much better for several reasons. Firstly they automatically update themselves whenever you change the icons on your desktop, and secondly installation programs can't hide things in there. But to give you some flexibility, there is another section of the toolbar where you can add your own 'Trays' of icons to create your own custom tools. Again being OS/2, drag and drop is the rule here. But wait, there more... the WarpCenter also has a section which can act as a hard drive and CPU meter, clicking on it cycles through the drives you current have attached. It also has the basic lockup and shutdown options, time and help file access through a section of information menus.

But what about the old Launchpad? for those of you who like it it's still there and can be activated by adding it to your startup folder.

At the present time there is a raging debate over which is the better, for me, I like the new WarpCenter.

Next, I noticed that the default action on a drag operation on the desktop is to shadow the icon. This is now controlled through a page on the Desktop's properties which give you the options to move or create a shadow when dragging. Speaking of options, I'm still in two minds about the new form of the settings notebooks. They look sexier, but the old style had some definate appeal.

The Multimedia has been given a major make over in functionality. Firstly, if you go into your drives and locate some wav, mid or avi files, double clicking on them will play the file rather than loading a player or editor. This is really handly for going through large numbers of files. Secondly the players have been given a visual make over and look a lot better, but, barring the video player, don't seem to have any more functionality. And surprisingly enough, IBM still has not included any sort of mixing control that I can find. This is quite annoying. I have a ESS688 card currently in the machine. On installation Warp 4 was not able to recognise it despite having support for ESS cards. This wasn't really that surprising as every clone card maker and his dog are using the chips and like video S3 chips, the circuits around the chip can dramatically effect how they respond.

In my case, once I told the install that I have a ESS688, it had no problems and everything worked. Well, almost. With no mixer app available I was reduce to using the volume control on the CD player app which did not want to work, like my previous PAS16, it was either on or off and once I had turned the sound off, I had to reboot to get it back. Obviously there was a problem communicating with the sound cards mixer.

I've also noted a problem with the CD player when it comes up with Autoplay turned on. For some reason it can't get access to the CD drive despite the fact that it has told the drive to start playing the CD.

You have to watch out with Warp 4 as a lot of functionality has been shifted into the menus and settings notebooks of folders. For example, to enable or disable the Warp Guides (auto ques to guid you around windows) you have to goto the settings notebook of the Warp Guide folder. Another trick in this area is to goto a file icon of a graphics file and popup the menu on it, you will see a new option down the bottom which allows you to do file conversions from one graphic format to another from the popup menu. This is really handy as it means you do not have to load files into a view to do this. Plus, it also handles a wide range of file formats.

The next thing I noticed about Warp 4 was the intergration of the Inernet, As part of the installation process, a massive number of icons are setup, all of which point to internet sites. It's like someone dumped theire whole quicklist into your desktop, enabling you to quickly start surfing without wasting time finding things.

Speaking of which, one of the things that got me first was setting up the Internet. With Warp 3 I was used to installing the Bonus pack as a separate thing and as part of that, installing TCP/IP which in turn, installed the dialers, explorer and applications. With Warp 4, it's quite different. In order to get TCP/IP in, you have to install the TCP/IP protocol as part of the main installation and then tell it that you do not have a LAN adaptor installed. The result of this is the machine being setup both for LAN TCP/IP and modem TCP/IP which is how Warp 4 refers to it. This then installs the dialers and Internet Applications.

Warp 4 comes with a lot of other exciting features which I have yet to explore. Firstly being a Connect package there is the neworking side. I'll leave Nic McGuigan to look at this as this is his area of expertise. But things like OpenDoc, Java, OpenGL, VoiceType and many more all make it a great new toy to play with. Finally, expect to see some big things happening with Merlin, With the press packages came several press releases which are very interesting. Firstly Corel have announced that their upcoming Java based suite will run on Warp 4. This consists of products based on WordPerfect and Quattro Pro. A preview of these should be available from Corels Web Site now. In addition there was a press release which I gave to someone to have a look at and haven't got back yet, about a company who have announced Win'95 and NT emulators for Warp 4. That's right, run you Win'95 and NT applications under OS/2. MS of course, still can't run OS/2 software.

-Cio. -DC