Customs Canada and Network Computers

Last month we reviewed two OS/2-preloaded computers, one from Indelible Blue and one from Mercede Computer Associates (MCA). In our review of the MCA system we reported that the machine was nonfunctional when we received it due to some loose cables inside the box. During discussions with MCA, we speculated that these loose connections might be the result of Customs Canada inspecting things on their way across the border.

We still have no conclusive evidence of how or when the cables inside the system came loose but we can make a few educated assumptions. We know that OS/2 was preloaded by MCA on the machine we received and that this required the use of the floppy disk and CD-ROM drives. These drives were both disconnected when we received the machine but since Warp 4 was installed, these disconnections obviously occurred after the installation.

In retrospect, and especially after some further incidents which occurred while sending the machine back to the USA, we believe that Customs Canada probably was the culprit. The moral of the story? If ordering a computer from outside your country of residence, be prepared to have your customs department be a little rough with it -- above all, always insure valuable shipments (we did).

We apologize to MCA for any potentially misleading information we may have published regarding their system. We do not apologize to Canada Customs.

I read the other day about IBM's newest plan for OS/2 Warp -- Warp for NCs (Network Computers) and was amazed at the state of the world today. We are rapidly approaching the day when people will no longer be able to deny that computers have reached "critical mass" (yes, there are people out there that still claim computers aren't essential). Just like televisions and telephones before them, our information appliances will soon be so essential to the way we communicate -- to the way we live -- that only the most impoverished or most eccentric will even consider forgoing one.

After a year or more of unsuccessful attempts to make a popular "thin client" (a computer that exists basically just to connect to a network -- for example, the Internet), many of the biggest players in the computer industry are still pushing toward that goal. And right there in the thick of things is that little "train that could", IBM's Personal Software Products, with its powerhouse engine, OS/2 Warp, pulling the weight.

Despite the public's (so far) lukewarm reception to "thin clients" or NCs, the big boys remain convinced that these machines that may some day be a merger of telephone, web browser, computer, television and more, are a winning project. And IBM remains convinced that Warp is the operating system to run them.

Once again, IBM is showing the world that there is still enthusiasm for OS/2 in their sometimes apathetic ranks. What better OS to run a machine that the average Joe and Jane will someday view no differently than their Sony TV? To be an appliance, you have to run like an appliance: you turn it on, it works.

Windows 95 for NCs? Hah!

Windows NT for NCs? A little fat for a "thin client".

No, once again in the computer industry, there is only one real answer for this particular niche. The only operating system that is reliable, time proven, robust and that works in next-to-no-memory situations (we're not talking about full blown Warp here, just a stripped down kernel welded to a web browser).

Is the world ready for NCs? Has the overall state of technology progressed to a level that Joe and Jane will be comfortable using it? Probably not. But the day is coming; anyone with a history book and a memory can see that. And Microsoft's "Windows everywhere" motto is certainly the winning strategy in this time of sweeping cultural change that we are soon to enter. Getting in on the ground floor of these booms, when standards are being written, is obviously the path to follow for any corporation.

The only problem with Microsoft's game plan is that they seem to have underestimated one fundamental step in the plan: make sure you have the goods to deliver when the world comes knocking. Users can be cowed along on predetermined paths for periods of time but when big changes come, if your technology isn't up to the task, you'll fall by the wayside. The big change will be when the average consumer starts buying "information appliances". The necessary technology will be a robust, simple and stable OS. Right now, that means Warp.

My prediction? Warp for NCs will be one more concrete demonstration of how and why Warp is the best operating system in the world today. It will further expand the growing and loyal OS/2 market. Its detractors will continue to claim that it is just a niche product as they scurry around desperately trying to bring their own products up to Warp's level of technology. And OS/2 will silently advance.

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