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SCOUG was there!


Copyright 2019, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

June 2001


Special Report

eComStation Version 1.0 Rolls Out

SCOUG Hosts Presentation Of World Wide Release

End Users Cautious; Questions Remain, Concerns Are Voiced


by Peter Skye

Section List
1. The Demonstration
2. The Alternatives to eCS
3. The Road To Windows


LOS ANGELES --- The international release of eComStation 1.0, the new package from Serenity Systems containing IBM's OS/2 Warp 4 operating system, was rolled out in its final version at the May 19 meeting of the Southern California OS/2 User Group (SCOUG).

The well-attended presentation ended with mixed comments; some in the audience were enthusiastic while others questioned existing bugs, system failures during the presentation and unanswered questions about the product.

The Show And The Problems Faced

The eComStation (eCS) presentation was made by Kim Cheung of Serenity Systems.

Cheung demonstrated an eCS boot up from CD-ROM plus an eCS installation to hard disk prior to intermission, and showed his add-on WiseMachine utility during the second half of the five-hour show.

In his opening statement Cheung said there were three problems facing eCS, the first being IBM's unwillingness to supply all the support they needed, the second a lack of what Cheung described as a "killer application" and decent installation program, and the third a shortage of OS/2 application development.


Section 1: The Demonstration


New CD Boot

eCS boots from CD and can be run from the CD without installing to a hard drive, although no networking is included in this mode and SCSI drivers aren't automatically loaded -- you have to first investigate and determine the required SCSI driver and then manually select it from the 15 supplied by eCS when you boot.

Cheung pointed out that the CD boot capability allows an OS/2 software developer to visit potential customers and demonstrate software on the customer's non-OS/2 machines.

The manual SCSI selection during a CD boot makes it necessary to know what driver is required by the SCSI card or chip in a machine. Accordingly, when you visit a customer site you may want to first do a normal boot and watch for a SCSI identification message to determine what SCSI driver should be selected, or open the case and see what adapter card is installed or what SCSI chip is on the motherboard.

Also, many apps today need networking and can't be demonstrated without it. Nor can the developer include a server in his onsite demonstration since networking isn't supported.

Don't Install Until You Print

There is a special errors and omissions document which Kim repeatedly said must be printed from the CD and referred to throughout the installation process.

One user, however, searched for the document on the pre-release version and could not find it. Another commented that eCS did not contain such a document, but rather contained a number of "special instructions" files which should be printed and referred to during the installation.

These separate documents do make for a more complex install process. Kim noted several times that failure to follow the printed install documentation instead of relying on the screen displays could lead to a failed install.

The installation documentation files aren't on the eComStation web site so couldn't be reviewed for this article. What is clear is that, as always, you should thoroughly read the documentation and then very carefully follow the directions.

The Pre-Boot Installation Screen

eCS has a Pre-Boot Screen where some of a system's hardware is specified. The specified hardware is then assumed by eCS to be available. In the old OS/2 Warp 4 the installation boot floppies often had to be modified, but eCS is on CD which allows enough space for many more drivers. Newer drivers are applied manually.

The Pre-Boot Screen in eCS 1.0 still has bugs and users should be wary. During Cheung's demonstration both the video resolution and video color depth selections weren't working properly; the selection screen showed 800x600 and 640x480 resolutions simultaneously selected, and color depths of 64K and 256 were also both set on.

Cheung was apologetic. "This code wasn't written by Serenity," he said, "it was a worldwide effort."

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Following the first phase of the installation is a list crediting the worldwide individuals who contributed to eCS. A long list of developers and testers contributed to eComStation, and it's a nice touch to see their names displayed.

A "Refresh Now" button reboots the machine and continues the installation.

Selecting Third-Party Software; No Odin

The eCS CD includes several "light" versions of OS/2 software applications which various third-party developers hope you will try and then upgrade to the full versions if you like the products.

One example is Ray Gwinn's SIO driver for COM ports; the supplied light version does not support PCI but the upgrade does.

A version of StarOffice For OS/2 comes with eCS but Kim recommends not using it. "Get the Windows version and run it under Odin," he said, "it works better".

Real Player for Windows is also supplied; it will run if you install Odin.

Odin itself is not included due to legal concerns. Cheung explained that they were trying to avoid lawsuits.

Also included is the WarpIN installer which some of the third-party software requires. The version supplied with eCS is buggy, however, and locked up the demonstration machine.

There are some full versions of software included although most are free downloads such as Pillarsoft's Enhanced Editor and a beta of XWorkPlace, and the versions on the eCS CD should be upgraded with the latest releases available from the individual developers. The notable exception is SmartSuite 1.6 which Kim says has been funded by IBM for two more years. The big concern that everyone seems to have about SmartSuite is "no support"; more on SmartSuite in the section "The Road To Windows" below.

Users may want to skip installing the supplied third-party software during the basic OS/2 install and then download the latest version of WarpIN before installing the additional applications.

Journaling File System

IBM's Journaling File System (JFS) is included but the installed version does not have the IBM Fixpak. The Fixpak is elsewhere on the CD and must be installed manually.

Once more, Cheung was apologetic and said they ran out of time. Users are cautioned to manually apply the JFS Fixpak manually as soon as the eCS installation is complete.

SYS1041

After rebooting out of the WarpIN lockup, another eCS utility called WiseManager was to restart the install process but returned a SYS1041 (the specified executable "is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file") message. A second reboot attempt was successful.

Installing A Printer

Cheung encountered a documentation problem when trying to install a printer. Since the demonstration didn't include a printing demonstration it wasn't clear what end users need to do when installing printer drivers. The online documentation errors may be covered in the errors and omissions documentation supplied with eCS.

Networking

Kim has replaced some of the original Warp 4 networking installation interface and wants to eventually replace it entirely. "OS/2 networking has three installers," he said, "and you have to use the right one at the right time."

Users must refer to the printed errors and omissions documentation while installing networking. "On the last Network Install screen, you should not click OK," added Kim. "OK will reboot. Click on Cancel instead, which will save the data. This allows you to continue the install and configure Network Services and the proper driver."

There are other anomalies such as duplicate installs of Netscape or TCP/IP which kills the installation with a SYS3175. These are all documented in the online files which must be printed out and followed while doing the installation.

The network install process in eCS version 1.0 seems a bit treacherous, although to be fair it was confusing in Warp 4 as well.

Does It Install Faster?

An eCS install, at least for eCS version 1.0, doesn't seem to be faster than a Warp 4 + Fixpak installation.

A fast CD drive certainly helps, and Kim's presentation machine used a fast one which kept the audience from fidgeting during the file copying processes.

But there are spots in the eCS installation where, as one programmer put it, the user has to "stop and do something" based on the errors and omissions documentation, which slows the procedure.


Section 2. The Alternatives to eCS


The Five Alternatives To An eCS Installation

OS/2 users have several alternatives to eCS and should compare features, pricing and future support when deciding on a choice.

Here are the alternatives:

1. A Warp 4 + Fixpak install using an original Warp 4 CD or floppies plus the WarpUp! CD which contains the Fixpaks

2. Install Warp 4 and then individually download and install the Fixpaks. This is the least-costly method, although it is the most time consuming.

3. Use the UpdCD program which makes a Warp 4 installation CD containing the Fixpaks. One source is Hobbes in /pub/os2/system/patches/ and a new version (when this was written) in /pub/incoming/.

4. Software Choice. A subscription to Software Choice gives immediate access to new OS/2 components as they are released by IBM, without the delay of waiting for a new version of eCS. The cost is for a two year subscription which on an annual or monthly basis is relatively inexpensive. Indelible Blue sold Software Choice at a discount; there may be a current vendor who also offers a discount. And for price comparison, eCS can become more expensive that the original purchase price because you need to buy the basic eCS package plus the eCS Upgrade Protection to receive new components as they are released.

5. Do nothing. This is a seldom-mentioned but very viable option. There are many OS/2 users who are still using Warp 3, and many more who use Warp 4 with older Fixpak levels. If your current computer gets the job done and you have more important things to do than fiddle with new software, you should remember some very, very wise words that have been spoken for generations: "If it works, don't touch it!"

Buy Now Or Buy Later?

A lot of hard work has gone into the creation of eCS and every person involved deserves a pat on the back. The developers and beta testers are proud of what they've created, and rightly so.

But many OS/2 users may not feel they should entrust their systems to version 1.0 of eCS.

Many of us remember the fixes upon fixes which IBM had to release when they switched the OS/2 kernel code base last year, and for the cautious user it might be wise to wait until eCS has a chance to settle down and release a bug fix or two.

If you want to get involved with eCS development and test this new OS/2 release, that's great. And if you want to wait a bit until eCS is a little more stable and is a little easier to install, that's great too.


Section 3. The Road To Windows

Kim summarized his plans for eComStation towards the end of the eCS rollout. "eComStation does not have to be an OS/2 operating system. Next year, or two years down the road, it can be running on a different operating system -- but it will still be eComStation," he said.

eCS is a good fit for those current OS/2 users who are planning to migrate to Windows. eCS has been designed with that in mind; the inclusion of SmartSuite 1.6, for example, allows users to become familiar with a Windows office suite which will speed up their conversion to Windows. SmartSuite on OS/2 has limited support and a limited future, but SmartSuite on Windows appears to be healthy.

The future of eCS appears to be a cross-platform product which supports various operating systems, most likely Windows and, possibly, Linux.


The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 2001 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.