20 Questions: Gordon Roland - by Pete Grubbs

Summary: Pete Grubbs grills Gordon Roland, the Event Chair for Warpstock '99.

This year's Warpstock was supported by the efforts of dozens of volunteers working behind the scenes to smooth all the wrinkles and flatten out any bumps that would prevent the convention from being a success. Leading this very competent crew was Gordon Roland, the Event Chair. Even though he was obviously feeling the strain from long hours of troubleshooting, he graciously agreed to talk with me in an empty meeting room late Sunday afternoon.

OS/2 e-Zine!: How long have you used OS/2?

Roland: Since about 1990. The first version I used was 1.3.

OS/2 e-Zine!: What new products do you have in the pipeline?

Roland: None. I'm not an ISV.

OS/2 e-Zine!: Do you think the Y2K bug will have any affect on the OS/2 market?

Roland: No. I think y2k is much overblown. A lot of people will get nicked by the y2k bug, but hardly anybody will get seriously hurt by it.

OS/2 e-Zine!: What affect will the (eventual) release of Windows 2000 have on the OS/2 market?

Roland: Absolutely none.

OS/2 e-Zine!: Sum up your assessment of OS/2's viability now that Stardock's proposed client has been rejected?

Roland: I never saw that as a significant event one way or the other. [It] would've been nice. I think IBM is serious about their vision of network computing [and OS/2 is a part of that]. . . I think that OS/2 is now going into a period of re-growth . . . it will begin to rise again . . . I don't think that it will reach the levels of Windows' penetration but I think it will become significant. Nothing will enhance the possiblity of a new client like seeing some version of OS/2 succeeding. I'm not sure how important a new client is to us. I think we'd all be better off if a client and warp server were on the same code base but I think Java is more important to OS/2 than a new client.

OS/2 e-Zine!: Does OS/2 need another client release? Is this really important to the platform's future?

Roland: I think a point release is important to the platform's future. There are a number of issues with the current client that aren't simply competitive issues. The 512M issue, for example.

OS/2 e-Zine!: If you could send one message to IBM that you know would be read by everyone directly involved with OS/2's engineering ~marketing, what would you say?

Roland: Do not confuse individual OS/2 users with consumer computer users. There are a lot of individual users and developers here at Warpstock who do their work in support of enterprise clients on a commercial level who are not the same as the consumer user who's looking for a gaming platform, an internet surfing platform; the individual professional user is a very different user than the individual consumer user; [the professional's] needs are much more like the enterprise customer than the home computer buyer.

OS/2 e-Zine!: There has always been a sense of community among OS/2 users. What do you attribute that to? Is it sufficient to keep the platform alive?

Roland: I guess the conventional answer is the lack of support from IBM has forced the community to draw together, but I don't think that's an adequate answer at all. I think one of the things you see about individual members of the OS/2 community is that they're not here to say that their computer is faster than your computer. They're here to solve problems and create solutions.

OS/2 e-Zine!: Do you have any frustration with regards to IBM? If so, how do you deal with it?

Roland: The biggest frustration that I have with IBM is failing to persuade them that my personal use of OS/2 is professional. The computer happens to be in my home but it supports two businesses. It's not a home computer. I wish there were some way to persuade IBM of that distinction.

OS/2 e-Zine!: How important is IBM's adoption of the Scitech Display Doctor Drivers? Will this have a measurable impact on our community?

Roland: Extremely. Yes. The easy an immediately visibile effect is, of course, this is going to open up any display adapter. What's significant is that we've had a measureable change in the technical model of OS/2 personal computing. The whole thing about having devices that need their own little operating systems [bios ~driver] is ludicrous. This [SDD] is a model that should be carried to every other device for computers.

OS/2 e-Zine!: What are your favorite apps to run under OS/2?

Roland: PMView, PM Calculator, PM Calender, Netscape (especially mail client) and Star Office ([but I have a] love hate relationship with it).

OS/2 e-Zine!: Do conventions like Warpstock, SCOUG's WarpExpo West and Warpstock Europe have any real impact? What/how much?

Roland: The fact is that we are still too small to show up clearly on the radar screen.

OS/2 e-Zine!: Of all the suggestions you've heard for increasing OS/2 market share, which seems most reasonable?

Roland: Support Warp Server. Warp Server is our standard bearer. That's the product that's getting in front of people. Nothing succeeds like success. Nothing fails like the appearance of failure.

OS/2 e-Zine!: Should we, as a community, try to boost mind- and/or market-share for OS/2, or should we accept it as a niche OS and get on with our lives?

Roland: We should accept it as a niche and as long as that niche is big enough to live in, who cares? I don't think I spare more than a few minutes a month thinking about what might have been and whether or not Windows deserves to be where it is.

OS/2 e-Zine!: What is the single most interesting item on the weekend's schedule? The 3 most interesting?

Roland: The round table discussion. The sheer presence of Java and IBM's presence.

OS/2 e-Zine!: What differences do you see between OS/2's position in the market this year as compared to last?

Roland: It's alive again. The difference is probably invisible if you are immersed in the Wintel world, but for anyone who tracks OS/2 at all, you can't miss the fact that you're alive again.

OS/2 e-Zine!: In a world filled with FUD ~vaporware, is there any hope for a future w/o them? Will the computing industry ever be reliable? Please respond to this quote: 'The most important problem facing this community is rampant dishonesty. We lie about schedules; we lie about features; we lie about functionality; we lie about budgets; we lie about costs; we lie about measurements; and then we lie about how much we are lying.'

Roland: I think he is absolutely correct. It astonishes me how slimy this industry has become. At the same time, I think the majority of the people working in the industry are well-intentioned. I think that 20 years into the personal computer revolution, 50 years into the computer age, we are at the beginning. Read travel books from the 16th century about people with no heads and faces in their stomachs. I think that a lot of that was people who didn't have correct information rather than deliberate attempts to deceive. People today are doing the same thing. They're trying to make sense of a world that they don't have a handle on. I think the future looks a lot more like OS/2 than windows.

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