[Windows Suck!] [Windows Suck!]

Can IBM Catch Up?

Have you talked to your computer, lately?

[OS/2 Warp]

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by Stanislav Kelman

This article first appeared in
The Illinois Technograph
November 1996.

Just over a year ago everyone even remotely related to computing was talking about Windows 95. Microsoft made sure that it became a household buzz name long before the final product appeared. However, 1995 is long gone. By the time this issue is out, another software giant, IBM, will have the latest version of its own operating system out. September 25 is the official release date for the long-awaited OS/2 Warp 4, code-named "Merlin."

OS/2 Warp is a powerful 32-bit operating system for Intel-based computers with highly customizable user interface and impressive overall versatility. It has been around since 1987 and ironically was initially co-developed by Microsoft, which by now has became its primary competitor.

The most exciting news is that Merlin will be the first major desktop operating system to incorporate speech navigation and dictation capabilities. This will allow OS/2 users simply to tell their computers to perform most tasks in a Star Trek-like fashion. It will also be possible to dictate entire papers or write e-mail without ever touching the keyboard. A user will be able to open a message, compose a reply and send it off with the computer acting as a personal secretary.

Based on IBM's latest VoiceType technology, speech recognition in Merlin will run with most sound cards but require a Pentium or compatible processor and at least 24 megabytes of RAM. Dictation will come with a base vocabulary of 22,000 words and speech will be supported in six languages. There is a rumor that a special microphone might be included in the box with the software.

OS/2 will offer more than just speech recognition. It also will sport a user interface that is arguably cleaner and more logical than that of Windows 95. The WarpCenter, similar to Microsoft's Taskbar, will allow users to quickly launch and group programs. Practically everyone will appreciate the built-in World Wide Web access and integrated Java support.

Just a few years ago, most experts predicted the imminent death of OS/2. However, despite Microsoft's market domination, OS/2 Warp is alive and well, has a large following and comp.os.os2.advocacy is still one of the busiest technology-related newsgroups. IBM claims that it has sold 13 million copies of OS/2 to date. Curiously enough, the old version came on 13 diskettes and the new one ships just about 13 months after the official Windows 95 release. IBM seems to have the lucky number.

Meanwhile, one of the most critical issues that IBM faces is whether it will be able to persuade software developers to write their applications specifically for Merlin. For now, OS/2 Warp can execute most DOS and Windows 3.1 programs but few of those designed for Windows 95 or NT. On the positive side, Lotus (which is now a part of IBM) and Netscape are already creating their products for the OS/2 platform.

There is an independent worldwide user group called "Team OS/2." Over six thousand OS/2 enthusiasts are members, volunteering their time and skill to promote the use and availability of OS/2. Their efforts and archives can be seen at http://www.teamos2.org/. At UIUC, the OS/2 support group includes a number of people who are quite knowledgeable about the operating system. Monthly group meetings, which cover new products and answer questions from all levels of experience, are open to students, faculty and other members of the community. The main homepage used by the group is located at http://w3.ag.uiuc.edu/os2/, and they can alternatively be reached by e-mail at os2ug@uiuc.edu.

On September 10, Timothy Sipples, a certified OS/2 engineer and technical marketing specialist at IBM, gave a Merlin presentation on campus in, of all places, the Ornamental Horticulture Building. A number of prizes, including a voucher for a free copy of Merlin, were also given away. Those who did not attend, missed a lot of IBM inside information and humor directed at "that other operating system" (Windows 95). Still, IBM will be pleased to provide loads of firsthand technical and usual promotional information at http://www.software.ibm.com/os/warp/.

Warp 4 represents the first real alternative to Windows 95 on a PC desktop. Consumers finally have an exciting opportunity to choose the operating system that best suits their needs and tastes.

[Warp Center]

Screen Captures

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An OS/2 Warp 4 screen capture by Kris Kwilas.

At home I still run OS/2 Warp 3. Due to hardware limitations of my computer I haven't upgraded to Warp 4. Below are a few links to my own screen captures. Enjoy!

This is a Plain Screen (Try to make Windows look this COOL!).

This screen shows a Bunch of Folders with different backgrounds and fonts in each (Can Windows 95 do that?).

If you run MS-Windows or MS-DOS programs you have Dozens of Options (You can even have more than 640 K base memory in DOS!).

These are Mouse/Keyboard/Font Settings. Just a few of them.

This is how you Change Colors of any object (Drag-and-drop anywhere!).

Here's an Extra Desktop Window (Hey, how about multiple desktops in Windows 95?).

Find Anything quickly. You can use the Find dialog or a convenient customizable LaunchPad (So, why dig through confusing sub-menus under the Start Button?).

Finally, a LockUp Screen (A security feature that Windows 95 doesn't have).

Enough for now. Just remember that OS/2 Warp 3 appeared a year before Windows 95 and has a lot more to offer than the latter. Microsoft hype machine can do a lot. The only problem is - they deliver inferior products. It's your CHOICE to use them. I just prefer to stick with THE BEST!

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