The OS/2 Netlabs - by Adrian Gschwend
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Adrian Gschwend, the father of the OS/2 Netlabs, agreed to write an article describing who they are, what they do, and what they'll be doing in the future.

In winter 1994, I sat in front of my synthesizers at home as my stupid Windows 3.1 MIDI Sequencer crashed for the fourth time that evening. My neighbor worked at IBM, so I told him that I wanted to get IBM's operating system -- I didn't know the name at the time, I'd just heard that it was stable.

A few weeks later I got a brand new version of Warp 3 with Win-OS/2 support. I installed it, and after I took my Roland RAP-10 Soundcard out of my computer it even worked without problems. You want to know what I did after OS/2 started for the first time? I shut it down, because I did not know what to do with the strange (at that time, for me) user interface.

About two weeks later I started working with it, and I realized how much power my computer had with this OS. You won't believe it but IBM Germany made TV spots about OS/2 at this time... I was proud to be one of the cool OS/2 users out there. Never again Windows on my machine... I was sure about that.

OS/2 worked well on my machine. I even started buying some applications because I did not know anyone else who was using OS/2, so I had no way to copy software. I think this was the main problem of OS/2. Sure, most of the other people started using Windows '95 and I always said this OS was crap. They did not believe it at the time, but they do now... however, they had a lot of software for it because everyone had illegal copies of Windows applications at home.

We all know it, IBM was not very successful with OS/2. It was sad to see that more and more users stopped working with it, and I decided that I had to do something against this. This was the birth of OS/2 Netlabs.

My cousin started working with Linux at this time and I saw that this operating system could be very successful in the future, so I decided to do something like this for OS/2. The first step was to register netlabs.org at Internic (cool name, isn't it? :-). I got my first internet connection at home (and this was really expenseive in 1997 in Switzerland, believe ...) and I did the first page at OS/2 Netlabs.

What we are about

The goal of OS/2 Netlabs is to provide open source software for OS/2, this was the idea I had in 1997, at the same time when some guys started the first Warpstock conference in the USA and another guy called Sander van Leeuwen decided to start the Win32-OS/2 Project, now better known as Project Odin. 1997 was a bad year for OS/2 because a lot of commercial companies stopped OS/2 support, but it was an important year for new community-based projects.

The project developed very well, a lot of developers started working on new free OS/2 applications. We also started porting Linux applications to OS/2, for example the well known GIMP image manipulation program.

The main problem of OS/2 Netlabs is that no-one gets paid for the work, so everyone just invests as much time as possible. Most of us are students, or have a real job out there, so our power is limited and depends on what we have to do for our job/university. Unfortunately, not all people in the OS/2 community realize this, please be patient, we do what we can!

Our projects

Today we have a lot of great projects, for example Odin, the Win32 implementation for OS/2. This is definitely one of the biggest projects, and the team has had great progress in the past month. Our goal is to get full Win32 support in OS/2... it is possible to do that, get the latest alpha release and test some small applications by yourself, you will be surprised.

We're porting the Opera web browser to OS/2 with support of the Odin32 Win32 API, and we're also trying to get the Lotus Notes R5 client binary running on OS/2. Odin is not an emulator, and because of this, performance loss is very small.

Another big project is EverBlue, the X-Lib implementation to the OS/2 Program Manager. You may know Xfree86/OS2, the great port of XFree86 by Holger Veit. With EverBlue you will be able to run X Applications like GIMP in the OS/2 PM, without the need of Xfree86/OS2. This will be a very nice improvement for OS/2 because this way we will get a lot of great Linux/Unix applications running native in the OS/2 PM. Unfortunately, the team members don't have that much time at the moment and because of this progress is not that fast. But the project is still very much alive and maybe you can support our develoeprs!

Maybe you also know about Linux distributions... in fact a Linux distribution is just an installer for free and open source software. Sure, a lot of distributions provide more but the main thing is the software you get. We decided to do something similar for OS/2, the first step was to write a new installer because the old software installer from IBM is very much out of date. The project got the name WarpIN, you can download the latest sourcecode at our CVS Server at OS/2 Netlabs.

WarpIN is almost ready, we hope to release a first binary version very soon. But the real project is called the OSK, theOS/2 Starter Kit. We will provide a CDROM (you will also be able to download it for free) with loads of great OS/2 freeware on it. The good thing about this CDRom is that every application is installable as a WarpIN package, you don't have to install it by yourself. For sure WarpIN also provides a way to uninstall the application without any bits left on your disk. I'm sure you will love this project as soon as it is realized!

This is a wonderful project where you can support us! We still need a lot of people who can support us in writing WarpIN installation packages. This is an easy job and we will provide samples how to do it. This way every user can provide packages for his freeware applications on OS/2 and we will include them on the CD-ROM.

Check the homepage for more information about how to support it and join the mailing list.

I could tell you a lot more about projects at OS/2 Netlabs but you can find them by yourself at our homepage. More projects will be ready as soon as I get the time to update the pages.

I think OS/2 Netlabs and other new projects really changed the OS/2 community (at least a part of it) in a positive way. A lot of people realized that we have to do something for OS/2 by ourselves. We don't have to wait for IBM. Every user can support the community, you don't have to be a developer, there is a lot of other stuff to do. For example, you can answer questions in newsgroups, collect FAQ's about OS/2, and so on.

About one year ago I decided to change the design of OS/2 Netlabs, because the pages are very much out of date at the moment. The main problem is that I started studying computer science at the Biel School of Engineering in Switzerland and I have to do a lot for it.

After Warpstock Europe, I finally started working on the new OS/2 Netlabs design. I now use the Apache webserver, MySQL database, and PHP3 as the interface between Apache and MySQL. But, as you can imagine, this is a lot of work to do and I have a lot of plans how OS/2 Netlabs should look in the future. Maybe I will be ready with the new design in January 2000... again, all I can say is be patient!

We want OS/2 Netlabs to be the most important place for OS/2 developers in the future, where you will be able to find information about how to write OS/2 applications, find sourcecode as a reference, and if you have an open source project we can provide CVS, ftp and http access for the project. Developers often don't like to keep webpages up to date and because of this normal OS/2 users can support them.

We will provide a very easy to use web interface to keep the project pages at OS/2 Netlabs up to date. Each project should have two mini-webmasters who are responsible for one project. The will stay in contact with the developers, and if a new release or anything else is ready, they can update the webpage at OS/2 Netlabs. Everyone can do this job, you don't have to know a lot about HTML, just some very basic tags. This way we can keep users much more up to date and developers have more time to code. This will be great for everyone.

In the beginning I also thought that OS/2 Netlabs should be the first place for OS/2 users to find information about OS/2 news. But fortunately someone else started providing a great place for OS/2 news and information: OS2.org. I think this definitely one of the most important pages for OS/2 users and because of this I decided to work together with them. OS/2 Netlabs will provide free software for OS/2 and OS2.org provides news and support for OS/2. In the future we will also get in contact with EDM/2, the great developer magazine for OS/2. I think that EDM/2 and OS/2 Netlabs could provide a lot of know-how about OS/2 programming. It doesn't make sense to do stuff twice, the OS/2 community is too small for this.

I am very happy that I got the chance to write something about OS/2 Netlabs in OS/2 e-Zine! A few weeks ago I was in Amsterdam (well, it was Utrecht) and I had the opportunity to talk about OS/2 Netlabs. To my surprise, most of the people did not know OS/2 Netlabs existed until I told them what we do. I was surprised about this because I thought that most OS/2 users read information channels like Warpcast, OS2.org, and so on. But it looks like a lot of people still don't know many of the OS/2 pages out there, and this is what we and you have to change! If you know other people who use OS/2, tell them where you find your information, and tell them what we at Netlabs do.


Well, I hope I was able to give you a short overview about OS/2 Netlabs. As I said, I will do my very best to provide up to date webpages very soon. Think about what you could do for OS/2, maybe you could support us as a mini-webmaster for a project maybe you can start coding on OS/2 (it is not that hard) and I'm sure that you can tell more about us and other OS/2 projects to your friends.

I heard that some people say OS/2 Netlabs is the place where projects go before they die. This definitely not true. Please understand that we can't invest 40 hours a week... I would love to do that but live is very expensive in Switzerland. There will be a chance to support OS/2 Netlabs in the future (I mean with some money:-), check the pages the next few weeks, more information will follow.

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