EurOS/2 Magazine - Volume 1 Number 12

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MERLIN - the future of OS/2

The Merlin beta was officially launched in June, although it was July before many copies became available in the UK. Even then, there was an unfortunate scarcity of copies that frustrated a lot of interested and enthusiastic people. If it is any consolation, one of the first actions of Simon Dyson, following his promotion from head of IBM software in the UK to a similar European position, was to have more copies made. A few EurOS/2 members have obtained copies, of which I'm one. Although the gamma is now in existence, and the real thing isn't far away, here are just a few personal impressions of the Merlin beta.

My immediate impression was of a brighter user interface. All of the windows and controls have a more sculptured, 3-D appearance. The default font has been updated, so text appears crisper and more attractive. These changes, combined with more colour, give an impression of modernity that is encouraging. To me, the very clever context dependent automatic help is irritating. It pops up and gets in the way just when I'm trying to do something. For some of my colleagues, it even hung the system. The OS/2 Warp Centre also got in my way, floating to the top and obscuring useful buttons on applications. But that's not a fair judgement for the typical user, who may be less impatient and less familiar with OS/2.

Voice recognition as an integral part of the system has a good deal of interesting potential, and I can imagine a number of users who would be keen to dictate directly to the computer. However, during the beta it was impractical to get very far with this, as a particular microphone is needed (not easily obtained outside the US for the moment) and one ideally needs to have an American accent! But I'm looking forward to trying out the UK version when the product is fully released.

What of the significant technology developments in Merlin? To me, further emphasis on Java and OpenDoc show the way forward. Java is one of the Internet based ideas that may radically alter the direction of computing in the near future (see the article on the "Java Earthquake" below). As Java becomes more familiar, and applications start to pour out from the many developers who have enthusiastically embraced it, IBM hope to see OS/2's popularity increasing as the best available Java platform. Likewise, the development of compound documents really needs better technology than OLE and it would be encouraging to see OpenDoc gather more momentum. So it is good to see these standards built into Merlin.

Although I haven't been able to try it yet, the mail functions for Merlin promise a great deal. A new Lotus Notes mail client provides not only basic e-mail functions within the LAN, but also builds on the Notes replication model to ensure that e-mail connectivity can be easily maintained by users who switch between LAN connection and mobile use through a modem. Notes Mail will include a full featured word processing editor with multiple fonts, colour and formatting options. But in addition, Notes Mail will operate as an Internet mail client, providing POP3 and MIME facilities, allowing users to receive all e-mail in one place, and including the ability to send and receive attachments of any kind.

How about stability and compatibility? Well, it crashes from time to time, which is only to be expected with a beta. The gamma is said to be very much improved (see below). But I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run IBM's Restricted Workplace Shell and our own network login programs without much difficulty. I found that the Object Rexx seemed to work better than the "Classic" Rexx, and had to make a few small changes in my programs, but nothing major. The system was running well enough that I've been using it for Visual Age Smalltalk development work. It seemed fast and stable enough that I preferred it to my rather slow regular machine. So I'm optimistic that the final released version will be speedy and reliable.

For another individual perspective, see Kris Kwilas' Merlin comments at the [EurOS/2 Web Site] and the July edition of the [OS/2 e-Zine!] carried a Merlin review. The official IBM story can be found at [the OS/2 Warp Home Page].

MERLIN gamma shows promise

Based on an article in PC Week Online August 23rd, 1996, by Norvin Leach

IBM appears to have solved many of the installation problems that plagued the final beta version of Merlin, the forthcoming OS/2 Warp client, according to testers of the recent gamma version. The gamma, sent to fewer than 200 users on Monday, was designed to clean up the last remaining bugs in the product, most of which revolved around installation issues.

IBM hopes to complete the code and ship it to manufacturing by the end of the month, IBM officials said. The formal launch for Merlin is scheduled for September 25th, with the product planned to be in US users' hands by September 28th at the latest. Another "Warp Teleseminar" has also been scheduled for that date by John W Thompson, head of the IBM Software Company.

One tester found only "one small problem" in the gamma release, instead of the multitudes in the beta. "I was not surprised to see how much cleaner the gamma was compared to the beta, said Brandon Allbery, senior programmer with Telotech Inc., in Beechwood, Ohio. "It has been working quite well as my primary work platform over the past several days. A few problems still remain. For example, testers said Merlin does not support a new NCR Corp. chip set in host bus adapters. Still, most agreed that the majority of bugs in the beta had been eliminated.

Multi-Processor Warp wins plaudits

A beta tester of the Warp Server SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing) reports that "I have had such good performance running the beta that I am currently testing every application I can get hold of . It is the only operating system I have not been able to bring down very easily. It's flawless so far but, of course, I want more enhancements."

"Rumour has it that IBM may be developing a SMP module that could convert any OS/2 version to SMP kernel. That or some Merlin features in Warp Server SMP would make my day!"

Fix Pack 22 wins approval

from a report on Compuserve

After two weeks, I can now safely say that FixPack 22 is so far the best of the fix packs released by IBM. After applying it to two separate systems, neither machine has experienced a TRAP, hang, or lockup of any kind. My home system, which I keep up 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, normally would lockup four or five times a week requiring a reboot.

Since applying FP22, I have yet to get a hang or lockup condition, and no traps whatsoever. And I BEAT on my home system, too! The office system is used primarily as a common communications point between the mainframe MVS/ESA system, the office Intranet (TCP/IP), and the office E-Mail system (NetBIOS). The home system is used for scanning, word processing, graphics work, communications, and GAMES GAMES GAMES.

Only problem? The colour corruption problem in TD-Gammon introduced in FP17 is still unresolved, though the truncated characters in Vx-REXX appear to be fixed. However, the SYS3175 error in shutting down Vx-REXX is still not fixed, even though I reported this problem way back when I first installed FP17, and IBM sent me a SOM.DLL that corrected the problem. Why that fixed SOM.DLL is not in FP22 is beyond me.

Fix Pack 22 can be obtained from IBM, or from the [EurOS/2 web site].

The Java Earthquake

Robin Bloor of Bloor Research predicts that "the thin client will eat about 50% of the total PC market and about 70% of the corporate market". According to Bloor Research, Java is the centre of an "earthquake" that heralds a return to centralised or "server-centric" computing.

Bloor's predictions are based on inexpensive "thin clients" such as Larry Ellison's Network Computer taking market share as client computing devices, while servers grow in power with greater use made of massively parallel processing (MPP) technology. The impact on vendors is expected to be apparent by autumn 1997, when the PC market will begin to decline.

"Java has removed the PC and server lock-in. Soon the whole gamut of PC applications will be available in Java. The browser will become the PC desktop operating system". This will result in a decline in the importance of systems such as Windows 95 and OS/2. Bloor claims that the web browser breaks the de facto monopoly of Windows applications, and that the "Java HTML approach will gradually evict the current approach to client/server because of the economies it deliver".

At the same time, Nick Davis, brand manager for operating systems at IBM, says that Merlin's built in Java engine will allow application icons residing on the Internet or an intranet to be dragged onto the Merlin desktop, from where they will be run using Merlin's Java engine, rather than as an applet within a browser. Davis claims Merlin provides a more resilient platform for running Java applications than using a browser. He emphasises the reputation OS/2 has for performance and robustness.

It appears that IBM is expecting Bloor's predictions to be fulfilled, with the next generation of PC applications based on Java, releasing users from the hegemony of Windows. Nick Davis suggests that software will come in boxes with "Written in Java" rather than "Compatible with Windows" and that this will make OS/2 Merlin the platform of choice. IBM already claims to have a 15% corporate market share with OS/2 and up to 30% in the UK's financial sector.

Exchange of Views, Magazine Contributions

Can you offer comments on your own experiences of OS/2 based server or workstation implementations? Contributions from readers are very welcome, especially in computer readable form. Please see contact details below or mail your ideas right now while you think about it! Or if you want to know something, mail in your request so that it can be mentioned in future editions.

Planned Meetings

We are developing an exciting autumn programme, covering diverse topics by a range of expert speakers. Meetings currently planned are:

  • Wednesday 11th September 1996 - featured speaker will be Graham Lea, industry analyst and expert on Microsoft. Graham will speak on "WILL THE MICROSOFT BANDWAGON HIT THE ANTI-TRUST BUFFERS?"
  • Tuesday 8th October 1996 - Internet and OS/2, a practical guide.
  • Thursday 7th November 1996 - "Merlin" released, the future of OS/2
  • Wednesday 18th December 1996 - featured speaker will be Romilly Cocking, international OO expert. Topics relating to object orientation and OS/2.

At present, meetings are taking place at 4 pm at the Moore Stephens Training Centre, 1 Snow Hill, London EC1A 2EN. Nearest underground stations Farringdon, St Paul's or Blackfriars. Please let me know your fax number for a map or details of local hotels. The formal presentations will usually finish by 6 pm, but are likely to be followed by extended informal discussions over light refreshments. For the very latest information on meetings, please refer to the [EurOS/2 Web Site]. If you've any comments or requests concerning meetings or the magazine, we'd love to hear from you - contact details below. Which articles do you like or dislike?

OS/2 News

In the US, it is claimed that OS/2 has emerged as industry leader in the retail banking arena. Mentis Corporation, a leading research firm for the banking industry, says that OS/2 has increased its overall client operating system market share among large banks from nine percent in 1994 to a projected 25 percent in 1996. This compares to only seven percent for Windows/NT in 1994 and a projected nine percent in 1996. In addition, OS/2 has maintained over the past two years approximately one third of the market share in all large US banks for its server operating systems, compared to the 13 percent held by Windows/NT. Within the community banking sector, OS/2 market share for clients and servers has more than tripled, with Windows/NT penetration declining dramatically.

Netscape has committed to providing a native OS/2 version of its Navigator web browser. The initial implementation will be at the 2.x level, but unofficial comment suggests that the forthcoming version 4 will be brought to OS/2 along with other major platforms. IBM is evidently lining up with Netscape for its OS/2 browsing facilities, seeking to establish a broad front to combat the incursions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. For the moment, Netscape Navigator is firmly in control of its position as the leading browser. Details of the IBM - Netscape announcement for OS/2 are obtainable via the Web links section.

LinkRight is a serial and parallel port file transfer utility for OS/2. It includes an OS/2 PM version, OS/2 command line version, and DOS version. It is multithreaded so you can queue more files while other files are transferring in the background. LinkRight version 2.0 was released in August. Users of Version 1.1 of LinkRight can get an upgrade to Version 2.0 for $29.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling. You can order by email or FAX. Further details from +1-(301) 762-1185 (fax) or Jeff Tremble <>.

Sysbench is a benchmarking program for OS/2. You can find the latest version on where it will be moved into the /os2/wpsutil directory. This is a bug fix version of the current 0.9.1a and 0.9.1 versions.

Mount Vernon, WA, August 19, 1996 - Perez Computing has released Ctrl-Alt-Del Commander v. 1.5, a $29 utility for OS/2 Warp that defends against desktop and application freeze-ups. It takes control of the boot services of an OS/2 Warp system, and prevents accidental rebooting of OS/2 from within any type of OS/2, DOS, or Windows session. In addition, it also allows "rebooting" of the Workplace shell without stopping any running applications. It gives complete command over all application's status (including their priorities), and allows selective shutdown of errant applications which cannot normally be shutdown via OS/2's Ctrl-ESC key sequence. It also provides a handy status line and enhanced task list to let you control applications from your PM Desktop. Finally, it includes a Game Boost option for DOS and Win full screen games to enhance their performance under OS/2.

At the August "Object World" show, IBM and Sun announced a scheme to consolidate their CORBA-compliant object request brokers. The partnership calls for the merger of IBM's SOM & DSOM and Sunsofts's Neo through the Internet InterORB Protocol (IIOP). The companies will seek to create a common code base. IBM will license its' MQSeries middleware to Sun, and Sun will license its' Joe Java-to-Neo middleware to IBM. Another highlight of the show was a deal between Next Software and Iona Technologies to combine technologies and incorporate the IIOP standards into future products.

CUPERTINO, CA, August 20, 1996 ... IBM and Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced an agreement to integrate technology developed by IBM's wholly owned subsidiary, Taligent Inc., into the Java** development environment. The Taligent class libraries, which implement key components of the Unicode** international character set, will enable developers to create global applications and applets in Java. Using the class libraries' interfaces, Java applets and applications can recognize and respond to different languages and individual country requirements automatically. These libraries adapt dates, currencies, numbers and text to fit respective countries' formats. For example, a German developer working with Java will be able to represent currency in Deutschmarks and dates in German formats, while Japanese programmers can work with the information in their native formats.

Magazine format

The EurOS/2 Electronic Magazine is despatched by e-mail in HTML format. You can read it with the tags, but it is most effectively read using the OS/2 Web Explorer or a similar Web browser. Simply save the magazine in a convenient file, giving it a name with a .HTM extension. The file object can then be dropped on the Web Explorer and you will be able to read a fully formatted version of the magazine. Provided you are connected to the Internet, the live Web links will all work for you.

If you would like to access the EurOS/2 Magazine (including back numbers) through the Web, you can now find [the EurOS/2 Home Page] which houses all editions of the magazine and a few useful OS/2 files. The EurOS/2 web site is at an early stage, but I hope to make further improvements as time goes by.

Various methods of stripping off the HTML are available if required, including the use of PM Stripper, which can be obtained from the EurOS/2 web site. Alternatively, if you'd prefer to receive a stripped version of the magazine, please mail me to be moved to the appropriate list.

If you're getting the faxed version of the EurOS/2 magazine, you might like to switch to the electronic version - just let me know your e-mail address.

EurOS/2 Contact Information

We would like to encourage anyone working to achieve successful OS/2 implementations to participate in EurOS/2. All communications are despatched electronically, via Internet, Compuserve or fax. To receive regular information from EurOS/2, please let us know your first name, last name, company, job title, address, telephone, fax, Internet e-mail address, Compuserve e-mail address, and indicate which form of communication you prefer.

EurOS/2 can be contacted in the following ways
  • Internet at
  • WorldWideWeb at [1] where all past newsletters and other publications are searchable
  • Compuserve to Martin Brampton 100303,2007
  • Fax to Martin Brampton, Moore Stephens, 0171-246-6055
  • Telephone Martin Brampton, 0171-334-9191
  • BBS Moore Stephens Infoline, 0171-334-0337
  • Mail to Martin Brampton, Moore Stephens, St Paul's House, Warwick Lane, London EC4P 4BN.

Web Stuff

For the full story of Netscape Navigator on OS/2, read the [official release].

The San Francisco project is IBM's shareable frameworks initiative. IBM believes that they will dramatically change how business applications are developed. For more information, refer to IBM's [Shareable Frameworks page].

Many OS/2 users are also Lotus Notes users. The development of "Domino" technology is causing widespread interest, as Notes seems to be riding the Internet wave rather than being swamped by it. The next major step forward will be Lotus Notes Release 4.5, promised for the third quarter of 1996. This will include group calendaring and scheduling, and will also be the first release to provide direct service of Notes information to the World Wide Web. Also supported will be Java applets, Netscape compatible plug-ins and a new security tool. For more details, look at [the Domino web site].

Transarc Corporation's White Paper [World-Wide Web Strategy Overview]

The OS/2 version of the Omnis 7 development system has now been released by [Blyth Software]. This adds to a lineup covering Macintosh and all current Windows variants to provide a highly portable software development environment. Products developed on one platform can be ported to any of the others without recoding.

The first OpenDoc components were finally released in August. OO component [PartPaks] are now available from IBM. There is a Person Pak and a Table Pak that are OpenDoc components. OpenDoc has been adopted by the Object Management Group (OMG) as a component model to be used with its Corba object model.

Want to know about IBM's coming Web technologies? The [alphaWorks] web site features a range of products from sophisticated Java programming tools to simple applets. You can download them, play with them, and provide IBM with feedback.

Middlesex based Apertus Technologies has introduced MQView, the first in a family of software tools for developing, managing and maintaining enterprise wide applications using IBM's MQSeries. The MQView Agent is out now on MVS, OS/2 and AIX, with HP, Windows NT and A.400 versions due soon. [For more information].

There is what is said to be a very cool, very visual, OS/2 Java developer tool at called Object Engineering Workshop for Java. It claims to be focused at the corporate application developer level. It comes in a native OS/2 version that is GA 1.0x level, and the trial version is claimed to work very nicely on a superficial check, looking very impressive. The evaluation download is 2.5 Megs, but you'll have to be quick - it has an expiry date of September 15th.

ZINE: [EDM/2 Issue 4-07] is released. It can be found at and soon at in either incoming or os2/newsltr. The file names are: - INF edition, - source code. A quick summary of contents follows:

  • From The Editor
  • Interview with Brad Wardell of Stardock
  • A progress-indicating status line part 3
  • Using semaphores in C++
  • The Codesmith's Library - Java in a Nutshell

EDM/2 is currently in its fourth straight year of publishing OS/2 development related material over the Internet for free, and has monthly columns on PM C programming, C++ programming, REXX programming, development related books, and development related programs. The EDM/2 Web site URL is: The beta version of StarOffice 3.1 for OS/2 can be downloaded from the HOBBES' archives at (Please check out the incoming directory first.) The file so310000.txt contains further information concerning the beta release. The international full version of StarOffice for OS/2 will be available in the third quarter of 1996. The pricing will be announced later. To receive regular news concerning the international version of StarOffice for OS/2 please send an email with the subject "OS2" to

Version 0.25 of Internet Adventurer is now out - this version includes a newsreader capable of functioning both online and offline. The new version is available for download at [2]. Internet Adventurer claims to be OS/2's premier Internet Suite - it supports WWW, FTP (download), Gopher, IRC and USENET News. Soon, Mail, FTP (up/download) and Telnet (with X,Y,Z-Modem) will be added.