We'll start off this month with a few updates to beta programs e-Zine's already mentioned.
Nick Knight's MR/2 Newsreader (mentioned in June '97), has been updated (01/08/98) to beta #44 (ZIP, 1M). WarpAMP, the GUI MP3 player mentioned in August '97, has been updated (12/23/97) to beta 3c (ZIP, 251k). Richard Castle's Dialog Enhancer (mentioned in November '97) has had its PM install program updated (12/28/97) to beta 2 (ZIP, 254k). The background changer ShowTime/2 (mentioned in November '97) has been updated (12/21/97) to beta 1.03 (ZIP, 116k). Pete Moylan's FTP Server (mentioned in October '97) has been updated (12/18/97) to beta 5. Lastly, Attribute Manager, mentioned in August '97, has been updated (01/01/98) to v0.76.50 (ZIP, 176k).
Please also note that CUSeeme/2, a program mentioned in July of 1997, has also been updated since last time, but development has just recently been halted. Originally, the author reported at CUSeeMe/2's former web site that the project had been "...terminated. There will be no more releases of it...", but a day later amended this statement with the current one, which implies that development could continue at some time in the far future. Any interested parties are encouraged to write the program's author, Kim Kruse Hansen, to suggest he release the source code to the public -- someone else might be interested in picking up development where Hansen left off.
Giorgio Costa is in the process of creating a PNG plug-in for OS/2's Netscape Navigator. (For those unaware, the PNG image format is the format which was intended to eventually replace CompuServe's GIF -- for more information see the PNG home page.) Having just reached beta 0.8, the plug-in is currently still limited to working when viewing files embedded in HTML with Netscape's <EMBED> tag. Additionally, saving of PNG images from inside the plug-in is still being worked on.
The plug-in can currently be downloaded from Hobbes' /incoming directory for testing. At this early stage, no word is available on intended price or date of final release of the plug-in. If you've ever needed to view PNG files through your web browser, check this gem out and send its author some feedback. (Note that once this plug-in has all its kinks worked out, it should work nicely with PM2Web, mentioned in October/97's Beta File.)
StarDivison, makers of the StarOffice office suite, have released an update patch which will allow users of the international beta version (see September '97's Beta File) of StarOffice 4.0 to continue using the product until February 28th, 1998. The second international beta had a time expiry which prevented the suite from being run after December 31st, 1997. StarOffice had released a patch just before the expiry date, but that patch wouldn't work if you tried running it after the expiry date had passed -- this second patch works fine after expiry. You can download it from StarDivision's international home page.
Daniel Steiner, the same person who brought you NTFS support to OS/2, has released the first public beta of his VFAT driver for OS/2. (VFAT, standing for Virtual File Allocation Table, is the new file system introduced with Windows 95, and is based on the original FAT file system used by DOS) Based on the Linux driver for VFAT, VFAT-OS2 allows you to view the long file names on a VFAT disk partition while running OS/2.
Current limitations in this first beta include read-only support (the final driver will allow both reading and writing), use of only one VFAT partition at a time (you need to reboot to gain VFAT access to another VFAT partition) and case sensitivity. More information about the program can be found at its web page, where the latest version is always available, along with a listing of known bugs. Since it's based on the freeware Linux code, VFAT-OS2 will be also freeware when released. You can download the first beta of VFAT-OS2 from the web page. Steiner requests that users use caution with this driver; given that it operates in OS/2's privileged kernel mode, where there's no crash protection, "...if a bug occurs in the driver IT CAN CAUSE A HANG OR A SYSTEM HALT, AND THUS CAN CAUSE LOSS OF DATA." He recommends you make backups of all important data before installing the driver, whether the data is on a VFAT partition or not.
IBM has once again shown their commitment to Java by developing a family of High-Performance Java Compilers. Knowing that the time a program takes to execute on an Internet server is often a very important usage consideration, IBM offers their Java compilers as a way to compile Java code into native object code. Since compilation need only be performed once before the code can be run many times, compiled Java code saves time and resources on the machine running it.
Java's normal behavior is to use 'interpreted' code, called such because every time you run a Java program the Java Virtual Machine/Just-In-Time Compiler 'interprets' the source code on the fly. This method makes for extremely simple running of the program on other Java-supported platforms -- just take the Java code and run it without any changes, letting the JVM/JIT handle platform-specific worries. However, this 'interpretation' causes a performance hit, since it has to be done each time the Java program is run.
PillarSoft, makers of the Enhanced E editor and the ShowTime/2 background enhancer, also produce a Zip management utility by the name of WarpZip. WarpZip uses Info-Zip's Zip and Unzip software combined with a GUI interface which allows you to perform any number of operations on your Zip archives; search, extract, create, view, test, virus scan, make self-extracting archives, etc.. etc.. WarpZip also handles 'packed' files, the ones you see with an underscore (PACKED.TX_) in the extension.
WarpZip is currently at beta 1.04, and can be downloaded (ZIP, 600k) from its web page. Normally it sells for $35 US, but for a limited time during the beta cycle PillarSoft is offering it for the price of $20 US. So it's in your best interest to download and try it out now, while the price is right, should you then decide to register it. For more information about WarpZip, see its page at PillarSoft.
Lastly this month, Humble Software has released beta 0.36.1 of kBootManager, a system loader which is meant to supplement (or replace) IBM's own OS/2 Boot Manager. Some of the enhancements in kBootManager include the ability to boot any logical partition as if it were a primary partition, the ability to hide/unhide partitions on the fly, not needing its own partition as IBM's Boot Manager does, the ability to boot from up to 16 hard drives, two floppies and more. (The final release will actually allow booting from a CD-ROM drive as well)
This beta version of kBootManager can be downloaded (ZIP, 101k), and since the program is 'emailware', you can use it for free. You're encouraged to e-mail the author (Knut Stange Osmundsen) and let him know your experiences, suggestions, etc. More information about kBootManager can be found at the program's web page.
Ryan Dill is a student in Computer Science at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS and e-Zine! 's assistant editor. He is reported to be relieved that, with the advent of Warp 4, talking to your computer is no longer considered a sign of mental instability.
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