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Users seek to put OS/2 into their own hands at Warpstock Europe

September 9, 1999
Web posted at: 4:18 p.m. EDT (2018 GMT)

by Mary Lisbeth D'Amico


MUNICH (IDG) -- There just seems to be no dampening the enthusiasm of OS/2 devotees in Germany, even though IBM no longer supports individual users of the operating system.

That has not stopped a group of German OS/2 users from next month holding the first annual European Warpstock, a 4-day event devoted exclusively to OS/2.

Warpstock will be organized by a group called TeamOS/2 Deutschland e.V.i.g, with the support of Germany's Ruhr University Bochum. The user group wants both to draw new OS/2 fans and to continue needling IBM to pay attention to the needs of individual OS/2 users, according to the conference's organizers.

OS/2 was originally developed by Microsoft and IBM, but was then abandoned by Microsoft after it developed its own Windows operating system. Later versions of it were called OS/2 Warp, hence the name Warpstock.

A Warpstock event already exists in the U.S., and is to be held for the third time in Atlanta in late October. Warpstock Europe differs from the U.S. event, however, because it is being organized by OS/2 users rather than software vendors, according to its organizers. To be held Oct 1-4 at the Ruhr University Bochum, Warpstock is aimed at showing everyday users software alternatives, according to Detlef Schäbel of TeamOS/2 Deutschland.
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"OS/2 is perfect for those who find Linux too complicated, and it is more stable than Windows," he said.

Lectures, held in English, will be practice-oriented, with industry experts covering topics such as OS/2 applications, OS/2 in local area networks and OS/2 development. Already, about 500 people have registered, although attendance could be greater as no fee is charged.

Another goal of the event, Schäbel said, is to "tweak IBM" and once again bring to its attention the interest in OS/2 by individual users. In April, the German user group did just that, taking an e-mail poll of what device drivers -- which make it possible to connect a peripheral to a PC -- OS/2 users wanted. The group was astounded to receive a flood of more than 36,000 e-mails from OS/2 users worldwide, which it promptly passed onto IBM Germany.

Even if IBM doesn't support the operating system for small users, TeamOS/2 Deutschland hopes IBM will respond to its demand to release the source code to users, along the open-source software model. This would allow users to develop and adapt the operating system as they see fit.

For sponsor University of Bochum, the event will be a chance to highlight software alternatives, said Olaf Cichewicz, one of the conference organizers with the University's experimental physics department.

Cichewicz also has a personal interest in OS/2. Describing himself as a "lone rider" in the university's physics department, he is the only one who has OS/2 installed on his computer. He hopes the meeting will bring over more converts to the operating system, both within and outside the University.

The Ruhr University Bochum also has another motive in sponsoring Warpstock. It wants to address why IBM several years ago abruptly withdrew support for training and education programs which it sponsored at universities throughout Germany. "Maybe we can get this going again," said Cichewicz.

While IBM Germany has shown interest in Warpstock, it still appears to hold firmly to its position that it will offer support mainly to corporate users with existing investments in OS/2.

"We are happy that such a strong interest has developed for OS/2," said Christopher Därr, marketing manager for network computing with IBM Germany's software division. "Our efforts in this direction are focused on network computing," which involves supporting things like a Java virtual machine or Netscape's browser for OS/2, he said.

IBM Germany is not sponsoring a stand at Warpstock, although it will be sending a number of people to give talks related to network computing, Därr said. He could not confirm whether IBM would have a stand at next year's Warpstock Europe, which already is in planning.

Asked whether IBM will respond to the demand to make public the source code to OS/2, Därr confirmed that the topic is under discussion but said he could make no official comment on behalf of IBM on whether it plans to act on that request.

Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is Munich correspondent for the IDG News Service.

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