eComStation Version 1.0 Rolls Out
SCOUG Hosts Presentation Of World Wide Release
End Users Cautious; Questions Remain, Concerns Are Voiced
by Peter Skye
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
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
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
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
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
A "Refresh Now" button reboots the machine and continues
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
The network install process in eCS version 1.0 seems a bit
treacherous, although to be fair it was confusing in Warp 4
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
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
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