WarpStock North America 2006
From the OS2eCS Organization
WarpStock is an annual gathering of users, ISVs, resellers, and developers of OS/2 and eComStation based computer systems. WarpStock's mission is to facilitate the production of "an annual conference which provides education, information and social opportunities to the entire OS/2 community." This year there were three WarpStock conferences held world-wide. The first one was held in [Decin, Czech Republic September 22-24th]. The second event was held in [Windsor Ontario, Canada October 12-15th]. The third event was held in [Cologne, Germany from November 17-19th].
Since I only attended one event, the WarpStock in Windsor Ontario, I will relate my experience there. This year marked the tenth anniversary of WarpStock, since it was first held at Diamond Bar, California in 1997.
Since this years WarpStock was in Windsor, Ontario Canada and was located relatively close from Wisconsin (USA), I decided to drive there by automobile. It was about a ten-hour drive, but only because I needed to pull over and rest a few times for a nap. Unfortunately I didn't account for this extra nap time in my scheduling, so I arrived at noon on Thursday, instead of in the morning (before the sessions started) like I had wanted to. That combined with some cold-heavy rain and some snow, made getting there more difficult.
I arrived at Ambassador Bridge around 11AM local time. I have traveled into Canada from the USA many times before, but this was my first crossing from Detroit. Going through the Canadian customs and border was a very pleasant experience. Canadians are a very friendly and welcoming people, it was nice to be back in Canada after many years. After going through customs I proceeded to look for a visitor center where I could exchange some currency. It was not far down the road. I had an interesting conversation at the exchange counter. After finding out that I was attending the WarpStock conference, the gentleman related to me that he was surprised how many international visitors were attending the conference-"even from Saudi Arabia" he remarked! From my past two years attendance at WarpStock in North America, I was sure I knew who he was referring too (smile)!
Before leaving home, I had printed some traveling directions from yahoo maps. They provided most useful, and I continued to follow the street I was on, and the Holiday Inn Select, where the conference was held, was on my right. It was actually very easy to find, and not far from the International Bridge-very convenient! I was going to change into some better clothing, but because of the time I decided to wear the casual-ware I had on. Since I was the one responsible for setting up the OS2eCS Organization's booth, I needed to take advantage of the lunch time break and get to work! On my way into the hotel, I ran into Tom Mullins, the OS2eCS Organization's Director of Communications. He was also attending the event. He brought along his Dad. It was nice to meet his Dad after talking with him on the phone a few times, it's nice to be able to match a face with a voice!
I didn't pre-register for the event, since I wasn't sure if I would be able to attend-until the last minute! I needed to get registered. I inquired where the registration room was, which was down-stairs where all the conference rooms for the event, where located. The registration table was staffed by Edgar Scrutton. Since it was lunch time, I was surprised to find someone there!
Edgar was very courteous and professional. I was quite surprised when he gave me a WarpStock packet. It was unlike past WarpStocks I attended; where we were just handed a conference booklet. Edgar had prepared a very nice portfolio, not only containing the presentation schedule, but an assortment of handy items:
WarpStock Guest Packet
Mall Shopping pamphlets, custom printed map, Windsor Visitor Guide & Map, Windsor Life Magazine, Henry Ford Time Traveler Magazine, coupons for local restaurants, Tax Refund Guide for Visitors to Canada, and other interesting info.
Also the packet contained a specially printed coupon, for a complimentary Tim Horton's breakfast & coffee (sugar included), which I thought was very nice! For me especially since I was on a very tight budget, coupons were a nice touch. The Tim Hortons was located just outside the hotel, where the conference was located. As I've been to Canada many times in the past, I have learned that Tim Hortons is a big part of the culture, as there is one on every few blocks in most major cities in Canada! Their coffee is excellent and they provide plenty of sugar (smile)! If you've attended and participated in WarpStocks in the past, you will know then, that sleep is a very rare thing--so coffee and sugar are very important to stay awake!
Some of the Tim Hortons are open 24 hours, so I hung out there on Saturday, early morning working on SQL stuff. I happened to get into a conversation with one of the ladies that worked there. She turned out to be a computer enthusiast. She mentioned that she really didn't like Windows. So we had a nice conversation in which I discussed with her the benefits of eComStation. She seemed quite interested so I gave have her some URLs to get more information and download a Free Demo CD. She was very pleased! I also gave her my personal email if she had any further questions.
It was evident that the WarpStock team really worked hard to make the event a success--down to the details of the attendee packets!
After getting registered, I proceeded to get the OS2eCS Organization's booth setup. I ran into one of our members, John Lindsay, who was gracious enough to assist me with assembling the booth:
After about fifteen minutes, the booth was setup:
OS2eCS Organization's Booth
The OS2eCS Organization offered information about the projects and services it provides as well as membership information. We provided a membership application form much like our on-line version. Also provided were sign-up tickets for our raffle, which will be announced along with the winners of the OS2eCS eZine's author drawing in January 2007.
Alex Taylor's "Programming with the OS/2 Unicode APIs"
I briefly attended Arne Blankerts: "XML Web Pages on eComstation & Warp" presentation, but I wasn't there enough time to really learn anything useful. I was rather too tired to focus on an in-depth presentation after my long drive, so I spent most of my afternoon mingling and talking with people. I managed to get in a few minutes of Lewis Rosenthal's "How-to Setup, and Troubleshoot Wi-Fi LANs under OS/2".
Lewis's WiFi Session
The classes on Thursday ended early around 3:30pm. The Social program was to be at the Hiram Walkers & Casino. Since me and Tom are not gamblers or into drinking, we went to a Harvey's restaurant, nearby for dinner. Their service and food was excellent! Because I had driven my van to the event, I provided the wheels. That's one nice thing about driving to WarpStock, its easier to get around and view the area.
Later in the evening, I met up with some other attendees that were hanging around the hotel lobby, clenching their laptops running the latest eComStation beta (smile)!
On Friday morning I first attended Paul Curtis's, "DrDialog. What you can and can't do with DrDialog" class. Paul gave a good overview of working with DrDialog, pointing out some pitfalls, notably clicking the "save" button before exiting a notebook setting. The class reminded me a lot of Doug Clark's class on DrDialog at WarpStock in Denver in 2004. Between the both of them, I think together they could put on a really dynamite DrDialog & REXX class! Anyhow, I couldn't help regress, because Paul did an excellent job. Being that I have already built a couple DrDialog applications, the basic stuff wasn't important to me. However, during the event, Paul graciously assisted me with some challenges I was having with DrDialog. It's one of the great things about attending WarpStock, not only do you get to meet the people who you read about on the Internet (who are actively involved in the community), but many of them will assist you one-on-one with any OS/2 or eComStation issue you may have!
About half-way through the DrDialog class I decided I wanted to visit another presentation, so I went over to the room where Tom Melendez was giving his presentation, "Web Application development with PHP". It was an interesting session, but because I came in the middle, I'm sure I missed a lot of basic stuff. So it was hard to appreciate what he was talking about. The session didn't seem to be very OS/2 specific; if I wasn't mistaken, I believe he was even running his presentation using Linux. Because I'm more interested in REXX CGI web development, I am probably biased against PHP. Since I wasn't too interested in that presentation, I went back to the exhibitor room.
Tom's session: "Web Application Development with PHP"
The Social program held in the afternoon (The first time for a Social program, in WarpStock's history, I believe.) was to be a Ford Essex Engine Assembly Plant Tour & Dinner at a place called Koolini's. I opted to stay behind and staff the Exhibitor room. A few others stayed behind also. A few of us managed to get some chocolate cake! During this time Roderick Klein of Mensys was demonstrating an Apple Intel Power Book...almost installing eComStation:
It loads the Pre-boot menu!
But hangs on the famous A20 Gate issue!
Friday afternoon, I attended Andy Willis' "Odin Tips and Tricks for Usage" presentation. Andy pointed out that Innotek is no longer contributing to the public ODIN project.Currently only himself and a couple other developers are involved with the project. Because of the lack of developers, the ODIN project has fallen behind the Linux WINE project. It used to be that ODIN was superior to WINE, and could run more Windows applications. He didn't have access until August 2006 to the sources, so it wasn't helpful to send out emails to users--without being able to fix anything until that time. ODIN is a project hosted by Netlabs.
After giving an overview of ODIN, Andy pointed out a strong need for bug reports. He followed this up...showing how to report bugs via the Netlabs Xtracker. Even though NetLabs is using a new CVS system the XTracker proves to be more useful for the Odin project. The original name for ODIN was "Win32OS2". It was also mentioned that ODIN requires the ODIN APP to be installed in order to get the Microsoft SDK (Build Environment). Andy walked us through installing ODIN. Where to put ODIN is not critical. It can be unzipped into any directory. If your installing from a WPI package, one should update afterwards with a weekly build, since the WPIs are couple years behind. One of the things shown, was the Odin Bug Report Generator. It was pointed out that the application uses a default email address of, "odin AT yahoo DOT com", but this should be changed to, "odin-user AT netlabs DOT org". It was demonstrated how to use the Registry Editor (Which was created by Lotus and has some quirks.) to configure applications to use ODIN. It wasn't until FixPack 13, that introduced the "HIGHMEM=1" in the config.sys, that allowed OS/2 to use memory over 512MB for a single process. This fixed a lot of problems with running Windows programs under ODIN, since many of them load into high memory areas. He also mentioned about INNOWIN, Innotek's ODIN, which is an internal build of ODIN. It was shown that AROS2 is a wrapper that is identical to ODIN's PE--almost! In some cases this version of ODIN could be used to run some Windows applications.It was also mentioned that setting "VIRTUALADDRESSLIMIT" to a maximum of 1536 or below in the config.sys, provides better performance for ODIN. Andy put on a very good presentation! It's really great to see someone like him and others taking the lead and continuing development on ODIN. Individuals like Andy do this work in their spare time and we all benefit from it, so the least we can do is support their effort, by testing the latest builds and reporting bugs! Next time I will take better notes.
After the presentations, the social event was a "Dine Around on Your Own"..meaning you just get together with, who ever you want, and go somewhere for dinner. I happened to meet a few OS/2 users from Wisconsin, so along with some others we went downtown to a Thai restaurant. The food & company was excellent! I haven't had Thai food for some time. I was really surprised to meet OS/2 users from Wisconsin. Up until this time, I thought I was the only OS/2 user left in Wisconsin! The group I went with was really a nice bunch, we had a great time!
Saturday morning had a few different presentations. In the Ambassador room, Chuck McKinnis & Team discussed eComStation installation and troubleshooting on an Attendee's PC. In the Malden room, Paul Curtis demonstrated his new CSSDir a new GUI tool for directory sifting and sorting. And finally in the BelleRiver room was an employee from Microsoft showing off the Microsoft Virtual PC (Microsoft bought out Connectix virtual machine technology). I didn't attend the session personally (I attended WarpStock to learn about OS/2 software solutions, not Windows), but I heard that OS/2 v1.3 and versions all the way up to eComStation were demoed running on the Microsoft Virtual PC as a guest. It was also told that when OS/2 v1.3 was running in the virtual machine, the machine "crawled on it's knees". (The kernel in OS/2 v1.3 was developed by Microsoft programmers. It wasn't until OS/2 v2 that IBM rewrote the new 32-bit kernel for OS/2.) The morning is a blur... so I'll move onto the afternoon sessions.
In the afternoon I attended Chuck McKinnis's eComStation Maintenance Tool. I personally haven't used this tool for many years. (The eComStation systems I run, rarely have need for updates.) But I was really impressed to see the improvements in the latest version of this tool. Much better from the days of running it with PMRexx (smile). One of the attendees brought up the question--why is the tool not included in the regular eComStation codebase and shipped with eComStation? I wondered too! Apparently it will be included when the author feels the product is mature enough.
The next presentation I attended was conveniently located in the same room. It was titled "eComStation 2.0". Alex Taylor and Roderick Klein, the "eComStation Guru" delivered a very informative session. Following are some highlights from that session. Much of what was presented is already available in these two documents, so I will just highlight changes and new info:
[eComStation News & Info from WarpStock in Denver Colorado] [eComStation Road Map 2005]
First off, some features originally planned for v2.0 won't make it into the product until v2.1. Notable among these is "multi-user desktops". This was done in order to get v2.0 GA out in 2007! Planned is a new front-end for the installation process utilizing XUL, a XML processor. This could come by the time eComStation v2.0 reaches GA, but will more likely be in v2.1 GA. v2.0 will have SMP support included. So you will no longer need to order an extra product to get SMP functionality. This is especially a good value with new hardware offering dual-core cpus and dual-cpu hardware.
Further explained was the new ACPI support. The new resource.sys provides up to 64 IRQs. ACPI support is auto-detected. If the user de-selects ACPI support, then the old ISA snoopers are installed, otherwise with ACPI, ISA device detection is disabled in eComStation and the user will need to manually configure drivers. With the current ACPI beta code, if the boot logo is removed, debug information is output to the screen, to assist in debugging the new ACPI. eComStation v2.x will provide updated snoopers for auto detection of devices. Also new with eComStation v2.x, will be a new APM driver. The previous APM driver from IBM was just a wrapper for the BIOS. The new APM driver hooks into ACPI. With the new ACPI architecture, it will even be possible to dynamically load and unload drivers in eComStation!
"Audio Station", a new audio player, was originally planned to be included in eComStation, but the developer apparently dropped off the edge of the earth! Maybe someone can find him, as Audio Station is an excellent application--but needs to be developed more (latest version is still alpha and has stability issues)! It would be nice to have an application like AudioStation included in eComStation. With eCS v2.x you will be able to resize Fat32 and NTFS partitions. This function already works in the beta of eComStation v2, but the GUI is still being developed. This is especially an important benefit for users that want to install eComStation on a machine that has an existing installation of Windows--that they want to keep. I really don't understand why anyone would want to keep Windows when they have an alternative like eComStation (smile)! There was much more discussed about eComStation v2.x, but this might be better discussed in a review article about the current v2.0 beta. To get all the details...you just need to attend WarpStock!
Roderick Klein from Mensys, presenting the new eComStation v2.x
The next session I attended was in the same room again. Roderick Klein marketed the new OS/2-eComStation News System. He stressed that such a system is crucial in our community, since we have many island communities. One problem of this, is when a developer releases a new application or driver, the news doesn't reach the whole community, and the developer suffers a lack of feedback. Well my personal opinion is that it's not a communication issue, that the news isn't reaching the community, but rather OS/2 users are getting very lazy! There are so many important projects, where the developers are just asking for feedback and reports on their work. Many projects die because the developers perceive a lack of interest, from users failing to communicate with the developers--with bug reports or sometimes just a simple thank-you email or postcard. Granted, I think the OS/2-eComStation News System is a worthy project and would encourage all OS/2 web masters to get involved with it. There is no doubt it would facilitate better communication and distribution of news--aka a "routers news system" for the community. The OS2eCS Organization has plans to link up with it, but at this time we have other higher priority projects and don't have the human resources to implement it.
This years WarpStock had a few exhibitors. As mentioned previously, the OS2eCS Organization had a display booth. Also again this year was the WarpStock Computer Museum. Unlike in WarpStock Hershey 2005, this was a more slimmed down exhibition. But it should be understood that this is a traveling museum, meant to travel to WarpStocks. The museum has its permanent home at [InfoAge Museum]. The museum was put together with the great work of Mark Dodel of VOICE. More information on the permanent museum can be [found here].
[Image:WarpstockMuseum1.jpg] [Image:WarpStockMuseum2.jpg] [Image:WarpStockMuseum3.jpg] [Image:WarpStockMuseum4.jpg]
WarpStock Traveling OS/2 Museum
Also on Display were some issues of OS/2 Professional:
OS2 Professional Magazine
Derek from Finnegan Software, Inc. also hosted a display. Due to family health issues, he didn't arrive until Friday evening. The display was up on Saturday though. On display was a dual-core cpu system running eComStation and had various hardware components available for sale. It was great that Derek could make it. He even brought his wife (his partner) along! Finnegan the cat (the company's president), wasn't there, but his picture was posted on the wall (smile)!
Reality Bytes Computers also had a display table on Saturday, containing some computer accessories:
Reality Bytes Computer's Display
Banquet & Speech by John Dvorak
The banquet was..what can I say..it was excellent! Delicious! There were around 65 in attendance for the banquet dinner and speech by John Dvorak. John Dvorak...what can I say about him? He is a very well known figure in the IT industry. Who hasn't heard of him? I recall as a teenager reading his articles in PC Magazine. He has been an evangelist of OS/2 through the years, and it was learned that he even now, was a partner with Serenity Systems International, the producers of eComStation. This was perhaps most obvious during the Q&A session after his speech, when I asked him.."What do you think of eComStation?" After some silence, some in the crowd chuckled (smile). I was quite puzzled that he used a laptop running Windows PowerPoint for his presentation. Normally the old phrase, "use the best tool (Windows is usually never the right tool!) for the job" might excuse this, but at the end there was a system error and he would have had to reboot the system, but instead decided not to use it and continued on with his presentation. I almost felt obliged to hand him an eComStation Live Demo CD so he could boot a "real" operating system (smile)!
His speech was about this history of computing through the ages. It wasn't the kind of speech I was hoping for, as I thought it would have been an analysis of current computer technology trends. I was looking forward to seeing him bring out his magic glass-ball and tell us the future (smile)! After his speech he took questions from the audience. I was really impressed that WarpStock was able to get someone of his caliber to speak at the event (Bob St. John from SSI, was no doubt instrumental in this.), it really rounded out an already successful event!
Banquet Dinner & Speech by John Dvorak
Because of budget and time constraints, I wasn't able to stay for Sunday, so shortly after the dinner and speech I prepared for my long drive home.
One of the highlights of attending WarpStocks, is being able to mingle with other like-minded enthusiasts. Your able to exchange ideas and learn a great deal about your favorite operating system! In my past three years of attending WarpStocks, I've found that many of the people you meet there are some of the finest in the community, not just in their technical prowess, but they are also all-around great people! The experience is more than worth the time and cost to attend! WarpStock is not just another IT conference...it's an OS/2 event where the memories will last a lifetime!