Linked by Michael Reed on Thu 7th Feb 2008 17:21 UTC
OS/2 and eComStation Last month, IBM made an announcement that put an end to any hope of an open source OS/2. Responding to requests from an online community that had previously collected 11,600 signatures in support of its cause, the company confirmed that they would not be releasing the source code of their OS/2 operating system. I used OS/2 as my main operating system for about four years, and unlike some former users, my reaction to the news sits somewhere between disinterest and relief.
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Huh?
by digitaleon on Sat 9th Feb 2008 16:17 UTC
digitaleon
Member since:
2006-01-22

What I took away from the article, boiled down, is this:

OS/2, once a leader in the client OS market, is now moribund. As the vendor has little interest in maintaining it, some have requested a source code release. In addition to complicated - and potentially costly - legal concerns that would limit said release, there are many other more 'modern, up-to-date' client OS projects that would benefit from the degree of user and developer attention needed to bring OS/2 into the same league. Thus, the desire for a source code release, while probably well-intentioned, isn't really worth the time and resources needed to make it worthwhile, and should be reconsidered.

Fair enough; the points presented are wholly valid. But they don't seem to reach a conclusion as to why OS/2 shouldn't be open sourced, or indeed, why the author is glad that an open source release didn't happen. It seems to be a brief enumeration of the risks and issues associated with doing an open source release, rather than an exploration of the unfavourable consequences that would result from said release.

In short, what's the actual downside, for other than IBM? From the article, it seems to be that developers might become 'tainted' if working on similar projects, that effort better expended on other OS projects would be diverted towards a resurrected OS/2 instead (with the spread of effort possibly being detrimental in the long run), that it would be a burden on the vendor preparing for release, and that what source could be released would be of little intrinsic value.

If I may play devils' advocate for a moment, wouldn't these also be good reasons in favour of an open source release (again, for other than IBM)? Those requesting the release would seem to believe that these concerns are surmountable, and I cannot see any reason as to why their doing so would be a net negative; should there be little interest, the sources will remain mostly disused. And should OS/2 and eComStation end up in the same situation as BeOS did earlier this decade, there are plenty of reasons to believe that a 'clean room re-implementation project' would emerge (if the previously noted Voyager project doesn't already qualify). In the longer term, IBMs' current business could easily see benefits, assuming acceptable licensing terms.

My interactions with OS/2 have thus-far been confined to one fleeting session in 1998, so I never really got to know the system. As an OS hobbyist of sorts though, I do hope it can live on as long as it is useful for it to do so, rather than being consigned to the archive tapes of history as a fait accompli. I am interested in yours' (and others') opinions on this.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Huh?
by rhyder on Sun 10th Feb 2008 10:54 in reply to "Huh?"
rhyder Member since:
2005-09-28

A good summary of my article.

Maybe I'm glad that OS/2 hasn't been released because I'd rather see it die off than linger on like Amiga has.

The harm that would be caused by a source code release is that such a relase would use up resources that could be spent on something more useful. Imagine what could happen if IBM decided to put some funds into Syllable or Haiku for example.

Let's say a team of programmers somehow built a runnable version of OS/2. They would then have to start building tools to run on OS/2 to add things like desktop search to OS/2. This is programmer time that /isn't/ being spent on developing things for other platforms.

And all for something that I don't believe could ever be very good.

Shame that no one who is still in the OS/2 scene has put together an initiative to log all of the useful OS/2 WPS features. They could then organize the process of adding the features back into, say, Gnome.

My main point is that there is very little that could be reused from the OS/2 source code. I notice that no one has posted a list of things that could actually be salvaged from the source code.

Edited 2008-02-10 10:58 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Huh?
by rcsteiner on Mon 11th Feb 2008 21:13 in reply to "RE: Huh?"
rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

Maybe I'm glad that OS/2 hasn't been released because I'd rather see it die off than linger on like Amiga has.

IMO, good technology should be preserved if possible and, if not actually reimplemented, then at least used as a measuring stick for comparing and benchmarking more actively developed technologies in similar areas.

There are things which the WPS does from a pure functionality perspective that I've never seen in another desktop. Some of those things are admittedly hidden and take some time to find, but some are right on the surface and blatantly obvious -- just wander through the config dialogs on an OS/2 or eCS box.

The nice thing about OS/2 and its eCS variant is that it can still be run on mainstream hardware, and that it can still be directly compared to other existing x86 platforms. That should make it easier for people who are curious about it to actually go out and play with it a little.

Shame that no one who is still in the OS/2 scene has put together an initiative to log all of the useful OS/2 WPS features. They could then organize the process of adding the features back into, say, Gnome.

My intial reaction was to flame you for this, but I'm not sure that would be helpful. but what makes you think some of us haven't been doing this over the past 10 or 15 years???!?

I've used Linux from the SLS 0.99 days on forward in parallel with OS/2, and I've made ALL KINDS of suggestions to open source desktop projects. Back in the KDE 2.x days I made a series of feature suggestions to the KDE developers based on my years of experience with the WPS, and as far as I could tell my comments and feature suggestions fell on completely deaf ears.

That sort of response from the Linux and related communities (which could be summed up as "if it ain't a feature from UNIX or Windows, it ain't worth looking at") really doesn't encourage continued interest or participation by OS/2 users in those open source projects.

Want a feature list? Get the eCS demo CD (a Live CD) from the eCS web site:

http://www.ecomstation.com/democd/

There. Now you can view the OS/2 WPS and its settings yourself and make your own list. I'm sick of being ignored, made fun of, and generally derided for choosing to use a demonstrably better GUI.

Ugly? Yes. It is. But frankly, I prefer a lack of anti-aliased fonts to a GUI which doesn't allow me to easily group programs and documents into logical execution groups, easily extend desktop menus, and quickly locate the parents of my desktop shortcuts.

I don't use pretty hammers or pipewrenches, either. I want tools that work the way I want them to work.

My main point is that there is very little that could be reused from the OS/2 source code. I notice that no one has posted a list of things that could actually be salvaged from the source code.

Not having the source to SOM, and not being familiar from a programming perspective with SOM, it's hard for hobbyist users like myself to enumerate its technical advantages.

Given the lack of interest from the Linux community, I also wonder if any substantive effort on my part would be worthwhile. I've been saying for 15 years that OS/2 has some nice features which Linux could use, and most of the folks that I say that to simply scoff and move on. You appear to be Yet Another of those people.

Both 4DOS and 4OS2 kick ass on bash and zsh as an interactive shell, really. But open source purists scoff at this and don't see the benefit of merging visual filemanager functions and classic shell functions the way the SELECT command and 4OS2 visual picklists do. These tools have 20 years of history behind them, but they aren't from UNIX, so they're not important. A Linux user would rather stick to a vanilla command line, live with filename globbing limitations in their shells, and use a full filemanager like mc when they need to point-and-shoot at a console instead of being able to easily embed point-and-shoot UIs for file tergetting into their shell aliases and scripts.

What-fscking-ever... Live in the stone ages. I don't care. I don't have to. Yet.

Fact is, I still use OS/2 as my primary OS at home, even though I have parallel Linux and Windows installations all over the place on my dozen-machine LAN. Aren't you folks even curious as to why?

Comparing it to the Amiga. Feh. I'm surprised you didn't pull out all the guns and compare it to the C64, as I've seen done (in an apparently serious manner) in other forums. Even this one in places, I think.

Edited 2008-02-11 21:32 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2