16 January 2001
Robert Basler is the president of Aurora Systems, Inc., as well as OS/2 eZine's new Editor in Chief. He doesn't really know what he's getting into, and the guy he's replacing doesn't want to scare him off by telling him. ;-)
If you have a comment about the content
of this article, please feel free to vent in the OS/2
eZine discussion forums.
eComStation vs. the Warp Convenience
Vote With Your Wallet
If you haven't been following things
closely, there are now two options for continuing support and upgrades to OS/2:
IBM's Software Choice with the Warp Convenience Pack, and Serenity Systems' eComStation.
Both choices offer a lot of value, hopefully this article will help you figure out
which is best for you.
The Warp Convenience Pack
The Warp Convenience Pack is a new
CD release of OS/2 Warp, with the addition of many of the features of OS/2 Warp
Server for e-Business including the new OS/2 Warp 4.5 kernel, support for UDF formatted
disks, updated 32-bit TCP/IP, Java 2, Macromedia Flash, Journalled File System (JFS),
support for many new video cards through the bundled Scitech Display Doctor Special
Edition, new drivers, fonts, support for files larger than 2Gb, and much more. From
the impressive list of additions, it is apparent that IBM has been hard at work
since the release of Warp 4, even if the mainstream press doesn't take much notice.
Notable in its surprising absence is the Warp 4 Bonus Pack, the entire suite is
no longer included.
While most users will be interested
in the client version, (usually called the Merlin Convenience Pack - MCP) it also
comes in a server version. See the table below for a fuller list of features included
in the MCP. While many of the features in the MCP have become available at no charge
at various times and in various places over the last four years, there are several
key features that will be new for your average Warp 4 user. Besides, there's a reason
they named it the "Convenience" pack.
The MCP is shipping now and comes
on a set of CD's which include the base OS with all the fixes up to FP14 applied
and a bootable CD for installation (if your machine won't boot a CD, you can still
make diskettes.) The updated installation is a welcome addition for Warp 4 users
as the original Warp 4 release now requires a lot of work to install and bring up
In case you haven't tried to install
Warp 4 lately, it isn't pleasant. You'll have to update the boot diskettes if you
have a hard drive larger than 4Gb just to get the installation to start. To install
a FixPak you have to update RSU or get the latest version of CSF and make diskettes,
and adding Netscape requires a new version of Feature Installer. All in all, the
process has grown much too difficult for the novice user and even experienced users
find a fresh install somewhat trying.
I was told by an IBM'er a few years
ago that at one point, IBM actually ran completely out of Warp 4 CD-ROM's at their
warehouse. They were then faced with the decision to refresh the CD to the current
FixPak level at the time, or remanufacture the original CD. Because such an update
would have taken time to assemble and test, the decision was made to continue with
the CD as it was. I'm glad they have finally reversed this unfortunate decision
with the MCP.
eComStation (eCS) is an OEM version
of OS/2 Warp 4.5 that is scheduled to ship in its final form, in the next couple
of months. It is based on the same core operating system components and new features
as IBM's Warp Convenience Pack, but it also includes some interesting improvements
and some fantastic bundled software.
Probably the biggest difference between
the MCP and eCS is the inclusion of Lotus Smartsuite 1.6 in the latter. This is
a new version of the suite with a few new features, a few bugfixes, and much improved
filters - it now includes filters for Word 2000. With a new user license for Smartsuite
alone at over $400, this is a very attractive addition if you don't already have
it. If you don't like Smartsuite, you can use StarOffice 5.1a instead - the native
OS/2 version which is no longer available from Sun.
eCS also offers a significantly better
selection of smaller bundled applications than the MCP. eCS includes all the original
Warp 4 bonus pack features including speech recognition, IBM Works, plus the excellent
fax application, Faxworks Lite, which has been updated. They are also offering new
programs such as virus protection plus 3 months of updates, as well as scanner software.
The list of bundled applications announced to date is impressive, see the table
below for a partial list, and keep your eyes open, more additions seem to be announced
The other major feature in eCS that
you won't see anywhere else outside of expensive IBM server operating systems is
SMP support for up to 64 processors. This is included in the Professional Edition
and if you want an SMP workstation, it is the only game in town. I've been running
an SMP system for a little over a year now and it is definitely an improvement over
a single CPU system. Everything is so smooooooth.
One of the best things that Serenity
Systems and eCS seem to have done, is to light a fire under the OS/2 ISV community.
There has been a flurry of activity going on behind the scenes between ISV's, Serenity
and IBM. Because Serenity now has access to portions of the source code for OS/2,
they are working with developers to make a number of small improvements to several
areas of the OS, all designed to make eCS the premier OS/2 client system. I for
one am glad to see some parts of OS/2 finally having some work done on them.
The only real criticism I have of
Serenity's product is the price when in addition to your eCS upgrade from Warp 4,
you also purchase their Update Subscription for two years of updates. This adds
$145 to the cost of eCS over the MCP, and while this is still a great price for
Smartsuite and the additional bundled software, if that doesn't interest you...
The only downside with eCS from a
decision-making standpoint is that it is still very much a moving target. Hopefully
everything will become finalized before the time limit on the upgrade offer expires.
Serenity announced this week that they would extend their upgrade deadline an additional
two months to March 31, 2001 to give existing Warp 4 users a little longer to think
If you are a little daring, you can
purchase the preview version of eCS now, and then receive the final version at no
extra charge upon its release. The people who have already received the preview
version of eCS are very enthusiastic about it.
The debate over which upgrade path
to take, or whether to upgrade at all, has been long and vicious on usenet. Which
choice is best for you depends very much on what sort of user you are and what applications
you already have. Take a good close look at the attached table, and consider these
Although OS/2 Warp's future is now assured out to 2006, if you are interested in OS/2 having more new features in addition to long life, vote with your wallet and pick an upgrade. There has been no better software bargain than OS/2 Warp 4. Which choice you make is up to you. Get in on the excitement that is surrounding eCS, or choose IBM's straightforward upgrade package. Either way, you can be assured that IBM is looking at the bottom line here. We can't rely on large corporations to finance our FixPaks and new features forever.
1) $110 option at time of purchase,
also available separately.
All prices are in U.S. dollars from
Indelible Blue, January 4, 2000. Take the time to shop around, there are bargains
to be found on everything mentioned here and prices vary by country. Any errors
or omissions in this table are my doing, you can't blame anyone else, if you are
particularly concerned with anything, contact Serenity Systems (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or IBM for confirmation.