Community, eComStation (OS/2) and the Future

Dear eComStation Community,

A few months ago I was in a funk over eComStation and started to write up a rant based on my feelings. I spent about two hours writing, reading, deleting, rewriting, tweaking and generally wallowing in muck. I eventually became aware what I was writing was not productive. Parts of what I was writing were pure whining. But other parts of the rant were valid grievances. Finally, at one point while rewriting a paragraph for the umpteenth time, I realized writing for public consumption based on one’s feelings is rarely a good idea. I saved that rant to revisit it at a later date when I was less emotional. I think today is a good day for that.

What was I funking out over? No, it was not about eComStation 2.0 GA not being out. As long as there are usable release candidates, Software Subscription Service, Betazone and hobbes.nmsu.edu I can be content. My funk was over the “community” of eComStation end-users. There are a few dedicated users who pitch in and help other users in forums, traditional USENET news groups (Yes, I know the Noisy Ones on USENET can make one need filters.), news.ecomstation.nl (a.k.a. http://news.ecomstation.com/) and mail lists. I can probably compile a list of these folk on a 5×7 note card and have room left over. If you are an end-user get active and stay active on these resources.

Did you know there are IRC channels on irc.freenode.net just for eComStation? People, our IRC channel #ecomstation is relatively empty. This specific channel, set aside for user to user support, has no one in it (except me and a ‘bot) day after day after day. Compare this to the GNU/Linux community, the FreeBSD community or other “alternative OS” communities. Those other communities have end-users that monitor their IRC channels every day. Sure, GNU/Linux and FreeBSD are “free” software and eComStation is not “free”. Why should that stop our user community from using the IRC network? The #netlabs channel is also on Freenode. There one can have access to several of the developers keeping eComStation up to date. If you had a bad experience on IRC in the past and now avoid it I suggest you rethink that and come idle in the IRC channels on Freenode a while each week.

I forgot to add the eComStation IRC network which may be accessed at irc.ecomstation.com.

Now, if you are inclined to make an argument that eComStation is commercial software and as such only the commercial vendors should provide support, do not make that argument. It will not be productive. Frankly, there are too few of us commercial vendors and we cannot know The Answers to every possible hardware or software problem that arises on eComStation. I personally know how to do what I do, that is build new systems and preload the eComStation latest beta making sure everything works before the system ships, but beyond that I do not have many answers. That is where a community of users steps in.

I see people posting in eComStation mail lists stating they are leaving eComStation behind because of:

  1. eComStation 2.0 has not gone GA yet.
  2. Cannot install eComStation 1.2R on newest hardware.
  3. Application foo is not up to date.
  4. Have to pay for “free” software on eComStation.
  5. Probably other reasons I have forgotten or missed.

Regarding #1, get over that, keep your SSS up to date and use the latest beta. Mostly the eComStation 2.0 betas have been good enough for production use in my experience. At least eComStation development calls its betas by the correct name instead of shipping Vista, er I meant 2.0 GA, knowing it is a beta yet calling it a GA.

About #2, see my answer to #1. Use the beta, Luke.

As for #3, that stinks I know. Some ISVs have left eComStation behind because they cannot make a living selling to the eComStation community. If you cannot find an alternative under eComStation and the only reason you use eComStation is for that application then you should move to the platform that has what you need. We will miss you, but understand your need to move along.

Now #4. If you want to take up the mantle of porting “free” software to eComStation for “free” I congratulate you and will do what I can to help you. Granted my help is probably not going to be much as I am not a programmer, but I can test your builds and provide feedback. If you just want to complain that porting “free” software to eComStation has a cost and the people providing that software want recompense for their work you will get no sympathy from me. Hey, are you not the same ones pointing out that eComStation is a commercial venture? If you want “free” stuff, switch to GNU/Linux or one of the “free” BSD variants.

Anyone want to point out items for #5?

The future of eComStation is as much in the hands of the end-users as it is in the development, marketing and sales people. If you, the end-user, want to use eComStation and want to see it succeed then change your thinking about it. Do not just think of eComStation as a traditional commercial venture. Think outside of that box. Yes, eComStation has a cost but it also has a long tradition of users helping users going back to the OS/2 era in the 1990’s. Most of you already are “outside the box” simply because you chose OS/2 and have stuck with it for years. Don’t lose sight of that and be willing to change your perspective about eComStation as reality changes.

Okay, that is my updated “rant”. Comments are welcome as long as they are civil and in the interest of promoting eComStation. Anything else will likely be deleted.

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Edit Sun May 31 15:21:33 CDT 2009: Add sentence about irc.ecomstation.com.

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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

9 thoughts on “Community, eComStation (OS/2) and the Future”

  1. Notice: I will be out of the office working at a client site for a while. The other moderator is ill today. So comments will languish a bit of time in the approval directory before I can get to them.

  2. I really liked OS/2, i loved and supported for a long time eComStation but as a System Engeener i really need to have 2 thinks… one computer to make my job and one computer for my family to use.
    On the first computer i need to have the things enterprises are requiring, such the latest OAS (IAS or the name you want to put to the Oracle App Server), WAS, Java 5, 6 or 7, Flash, (supossing the enterprises i have projects with are free of the WPF/C#/VS200x stuff), Eclipse, NetBeans or a good Java J2EE compiler/debuger IDE interface ( irellay really misses VA for Java), some database… that could be MySQL (bought by Oracle) and some “minor stuff” like editors.
    If you see the list there’s nothing for eCS/OS/2 that i can use except for “minor stuff” or MySQL…
    On the second machine i need an office suite that can open the files my family receives, a good antivirus (yes even in OS/2), some games like Oni, Sims, or access to Internet games that, usually are made with flash, good printer support (that was the point that mades me “uninstall” eCS from Home at the very first time) for HP inkjet multifunctionals, scanning for HP scanners (multifunctionals), I have an HP laser that i guess can be supported and i have a “personal” website (www.beisbolicos.com) that started with eCS but i had to move it to windows, cause is Lotus Domino based…
    From the “family” user point of view they need personal accounts and individualized desktops and personal profiles for the major programs (the office suite, the web browser settings and bookmarks), some “utilities” like google earth, PMView Pro is part of the legacy eCS left us but is Windows availabe, a good PDF reader, and eventually the software to test the programs i do in my “office” machine
    Today i am considering to move to a new machine with Win 64 to have a “natural” way to support more than 4 megs of memory.
    As you can see even if i wanted to move back to eCS that would be a very difficult step, i “maybe” will buy my copy of 2.0 when available to help in my free time with some of the ports needed, but hoping the OS could evolve to a IBM indepenent system that can have a 64 bit kernel and a good team to look the way to support “MONO” (.NET porting project) or a way to have some kind of “compatibility” with systems with more software… i can not afford a “single porpouse machine” so the fact is that eCS 2.0 will be installed on a VM instead a “real machine”… Software world is crude and without a major company support the TCO, expected life and availability of eCS will be more and more dificult to defend… I really hope that the time can point that i am worng, but the facts are out there… just a machine far from anyone.

  3. It is very, very rare that somebody is mentioning OS/2 or eComStation. I was once in a German TeamOS/2 UserGroup and know the OS/2 Community very well. I think that the Community has the wrong attitude, an attitide that makes the situation for eCS more and more difficult.

    Attitude 1: eComStation is a main stream OS that is still better than Windows, Linux… because we have the “WorkplaceShell”.

    Fact is, that eComStation is OS/2 Warp 4 and therefore an OS developed in 1996. Of cource Linux, Windows … are all better than eComStation. But why is the Community lying to itself? Are they hoping to lure somebody new to eCS? The WorkplaceShell was and still is a unique feature of OS/2 and eCS that can not be found on any other OS Platform. But is this one feature so important, that you loose so much productivity if you switch to a different OS?

    Attitude 2: eComStation runs “NATIVE” on new Hardware.

    Fact is, there are only a few Mainboards, Notebooks, Chipsets, Hardware components that are entirely working with eCS. Mensys can not provide that amount of new Drivers. Therefore many eCS Users ask for a reference Hardware that supports eCS. Most of the eCS Users require that eComStation has to run natively on new Hardware (because it is the greathest OS in the World), and not in a virtualisation environment that runs on a modern OS (Linux, Windows …) and emulates the required reference Hardware.

    Attitude 3: With a little effort here, and a little donation money there we can keep eComStation alive and well.

    OS/2 and eComStation is closed source. OS/2 and eComStation therefore died at the day IBM stoped development for OS/2. Mensys can pep up the Surface of eCS but they can not fix the core. All efforts to write new drivers for that dead-horse will not resurrect it, it only slows down the decay process.

    This attitides are forcing sane persons out of the community. I stated to write a blog about OS/2 because i like that system as it was in the 90s. OS/2 had a very good chance in 1992-1995 to become the dominate OS of that era. All efforts of IBM after the release of Warp was a try to keep up with Microsoft and Apple. IBM realised this and climbed up the Linux bandwagon. Apple did a similare thing by not developing a new Operating System form scratch; they used BSD and the best parts form Nextstep to create MacOS X.
    It is simply not right to pretend that eCS is at the same level as these systems. It is also not right to pretending that eCS is not dead, because someone is still pretending of using it.
    I like OS/2 Warp 3 as it was 1995. It is still fun toying around with it and even learning with it. I don?t like eCS because it is a defaced OS/2 Warp 4 that pretends to be something that it is evidently not true. And I don?t like the eCS Community because there only purpose is pretending and proclaim these lies.

  4. Carlos (comment #2), thanks for the comment. Yours appears to be the case 3 section I mentioned above. The software and functionality you need to get your work done is not available and you may have to move on. That is a fact with eComStation that has to be taken into account for those looking to fulfill specific needs.

  5. Blotto (comment #3), I appreciate your commenting. While your comment is not positive and does not promote eComStation you do raise some valid points so I allowed it. However, your prejudice against eComStation is rather apparent.

    It is true that IBM cannot release the code for the OS/2 kernel and some other core components. This does limit what can be done to improve eComStation. It is not true that this makes the current eComStation less valuable to those who can use it for specific purposes. Since OS/2 was designed to be somewhat modular the incarnation of OS/2 called eComStation can build on that. For example there was no bootable JFS when OS/2 Warp 4 went to EOL. Now there is bootable JFS under eComStation. Anyone wanting to update his OS/2 Warp 4 by hand can probably get Software Subscription Service from Serenity Systems/Mensys and add these new updates to it. Or just get the latest eComStation release when it arrives in a few weeks and they will be integrated for one.

    Your dislike of the eCS community is also apparent. You call what they say “lies”. That is a rather harsh, and untrue accusation. While there are “True Believers” that might “stretch the truth” I have not had anyone flat out lie to me personally about eComStation.

    By the way, have you seen Sigurd Fastenrath’s “Plan B” discussion at the German os2.org forum? Perhaps you should go there and discuss your concerns with those participating. For non-German speakers this discussion is mostly in German, but English responses are encouraged. I believe they are making an effort now to only respond in English on the thread to allow for wider discussion.

  6. Hi Gene,

    i think you don?t get me point right. The Community currently has one goal:

    Develop Drivers to make eCS run on new Hardware for a little bit longer, and port essential Applications to eCS to keep up with the rest of the world.

    You don?t need to be a genius to realise that this will only drive the Community to split up. There are a lot of old OS/2 (not eCS) User how still love OS/2 and like to use OS/2. They love the stability of OS/2 and hate to see how instabile eCS has become. Most of them (like me) have left the community for long because they do not understand the actions and goals the community heads for.

    The assumption that eCS will die, if there is no new Hardware-Support is so much ********, but everybody in the community believes this. The reality is that OS/2 died 2006 and that OS/2 will “exist” as long as there is somebody willing of using it.

    The Hardware/Driver-Problem can be solved easily, one and for all, if you run OS/2 in a virtual environment. I run Windows Vista in Parallels on a Mac at work to use the few but unique Windows Apps that don?t run on a Mac. Where the hell is a problem with that ??? Nooo!! The Community want to run it “NATIVE”!! Can you tell me why? The Community is throwing it?s last Doation Dime on new Drivers with so few results that the most entusiasts are leaving the community with frustration.

    I know Sigurd Fastenrath and his entusiasm to drive eCS forward. I also postet my opinion on the Plan B Thread. There was much resonse but there are still too many crying that eCS has to be run NATIVE … whatever it costs.

  7. Blotto (comment #6), thanks again for your comment. Perhaps we have a communication problem. However, I think I do get your point, I just do not agree with it.

    Since eComStation is just a rebranded OS/2 then we are still talking about OS/2 even when using the eComStation brand name and abbreviations. I am a reseller for eComStation just as I was a reseller of OS/2 before I could no longer get it. I get orders from people that want a new PC with eComStation installed and only eComStation installed. They do not want a Linux distribution, a Microsoft OS or Apple OS with eComStation in a VM. As long as the customers want a native installation of eComStation on the bare metal then there is a valid reason to pursue that goal. Once the customers cannot get what they want at that point the product is “dead”. Not before.

    I do not see that OS/2 as eCS has become more unstable than when it was just called OS/2. Where exactly do you get the data for that? When I only ran OS/2 Warp 4 desktops here I can recall having occasional system hangs and having to reboot after several weeks of uptime. This was long before eCS came on the scene. If eCS has occasional hangs and needs rebooting after a period of time I see no difference.

    For me personally I can happily run eCS in a VM on Mandriva Linux using VirtualBox. For others this is not a consideration. Attempting to force end-users down a path they have no desire to follow is a certain way to kill a product. Pursuing bare metal installs as well as VM support is the way to proceed for now. If you disagree, then we will just agree to disagree.

  8. Hi Gene,

    now i understand your motivation about eCS. It would be nice if you share your PC Hardware experience with the eCS community. They are currently gathering information about Hardware components that are supported under eCS (to build up a Reference Hardware List). I know, eCS can be installed on many different Systems, but there are still enough people running into installation problems. It would be nice to hear from you what Hardware-Platform you recommend for installing eCS on.

    Stability: eCS has the last OS/2 Warp 4.52 CP2 Kernel, thats right and no forth in the world will ever change that. But eCS include a lot of new drivers for new Hardware (speaking of ACPI, WLAN, USB 2.0) that don?t have the stability yet and that is causing the trouble.

    Dead of a OS: Form your point of view (Selling eCS) that is correct… eCS ist “dead” if no customer want?s to buy it. Form my point of view, a OS is dead, if there is nobody left using it. The eCS Community is rapidly loosing Developers and Users because from year to year it gets harder to find Hardware that reliably works with a native eCS installation.
    That leaves us both in a loose situation. Your customers don?t get a native eCS installation because the community is loosing there developers because it becomes more and more difficult to develop new drivers. I don?t want to forth anybody into using eCS inside a virtual environment. But the only other way out of the driver trap is to use referenced Hardware which is not easy to find.

  9. Blotto (comment #8), thank you again for your comment.

    I do contribute to letting people know what works with eCS. I have participated in posting at http://en.ecomstation.ru/hardware.php when appropriate. I also know that some people have requested a quote from me, then canceled the quote, bought the parts themselves and built the PC. Oh, I cannot prove that in a court of law, but I know it happened. Personally I think that is an unethical method to find out what to use. It costs me time to do a quote. My personal time is a limited, precious commodity to me. But I cannot just stop giving people quotes. One of the people I am fairly certain did that was a bit of a surprise to me. I had thought he was an ethical guy.

    I think basically if one wants a business desktop PC for e-mail, word processing, spread sheets and office connectivity then eCS can easily still fill that niche. I am not sure eCS is appropriate for an average home user. But anyone willing to use eCS can get the software and a PC from me and a few others on the planet.

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