Mon, 31 Oct 1994

Warp: The future of personal computing is here

By Zatni Arbi

JAKARTA (JP): Have you ever cursed at the hourglass on the screen that never stops dancing while you were trying to print out a page full of combined bitmap and vector graphics? I bet you have. Quite frequently, I'm sure. And while the computer is busy, the best you can do is grab a piece of paper and fish for your pencil, hoping that you'll have the chance to jot down the brilliant inspiration that has just briefly and quickly passed through your mind.

If that's your notion of multitasking, then you must have stopped reading PC-related articles a long time ago. Multitasking does not merely mean that you can drink Coke while driving your car. It has the idea of productivity built in it. That's the reason multitasking has been such a big deal in the PC industry.

The ability to run more than one applications at the same time is the basic interpretation of the term. Microsoft has promised to give us this capability for a long time, but we still have to wait for Chicago to see whether the promise is finally delivered. That means next year at the earliest. Windows NT already has it, but this operating system requires a hefty hardware configuration so it's not right for our personal computers. Fortunately, IBM already has a true multitasking operating system for you. I've tested it, and I must say I really like it.


For starters, I now no longer have to waste any time formatting diskettes. The moment I hit the Yes button to start the formatting operation, I can switch to another application. And while the diskette is being formatted, I can start printing a CorelPHOTO-PAINT! bitmap on my Postscript-enabled HP IIIP. Moreover, while the program is downloading the complex Postscript file and formatting the 1.44 MB diskette simultaneously, I can press Alt-Tab one more time to switch to another application.

If I had ReelMagic, I could have a window open in which I could watch Top Gun next to my Ami Pro. Yet the performance doesn't degrade. OS/2 can multitask programs in DOS, Windows and itself without any glitch. Just take a close look at the accompanying illustration, and you'll find even WordStar 5.5 running in a window.

So, if you're a faithful user of WPWin but hate its loading process that seems to last eternally, grumble no more. With OS/2, you can double-click on the WPWin icon and immediately hit Alt- Tab to start working on something else. That way, at least you don't have to waste your time waiting for your application to accomplish its task. You immediately get back control over your machine.


I did have a copy of OS/2 for Windows, a great product that was launched earlier this year. I didn't get to use it for two reasons: I didn't have a 486 machine and Disk of the installation diskettes was defective. The Pre-release Version of OS/2 Warp that I got about two weeks ago came in two installation diskettes and one CD ROM.

IBM promised us that installation of Warp would be as easy as it could get, and it is easy. All I had to do was swap the connectors for drive A: with drive B: since OS/2 installation utility requires the 3.5" drive as drive A:, run the CMOS setup, put Disk 1 on Drive A: and the CD ROM in the CD ROM drive, and reboot. IBM people told me that it would be a one button installation procedure, and it is. I even chose the Custom installation to have more control over the process, and still there weren't many stages in which I was able to interfere. The installation utility detected most of my hardware components and loaded the necessary drivers.

Unfortunately, the Pre-release version did not have the driver for my Orchid Fahrenheit 1280. Well, don't laugh at me; I know this graphics accelerator board was one of the first of its kind, and I'm out of luck as even the shipping version doesn't have the driver for it either. My only hope is that Orchid Technology has it and is willing to send me a copy. In the meantime, I have to work in a standard VGA resolution, and hence the overcrowded screen pictured in the illustration.

CD ROMs are really a blessing, as they free us from having to swap diskettes. Needless to say, inserting and taking out 35 diskettes is no fun at all. Expect to see more and more programs come in CD ROMs instead of diskettes.

During installation, OS/2 searches the hard disk, creates folders for all DOS and Windows programs, and adds their respec tive icons. It didn't recognize all of my programs, though. For instance, it didn't recognize Hijaak Pro, my favorite tool for screen capture. It did ask me to insert Disk 2, 5, 6 and 7 of Windows for Workgroups installation diskettes. By the way, I captured the OS/2 screen that you see in the illustration with the help of this program, which did a similarly great job on the Workplace Shell.


I know I must remind myself constantly that I've just graduated from 386 to 486, and that most of the perceived increase of speed of my computer should be attributed to the upgrade. But, boy, Warp is really fast. Even Windows programs run at least as fast as in their native environment. It may not be equal to what the word warp literally means, but it is fast. I loaded a couple of programs, including CorelPHOTO-PAINT! and jumping from one program to another was always as fast as getting yourself robbed in the Grogol area in the middle of the night.

Craig Allen, IBM's technical marketing specialist, also reminded me that I could further improve the performance by letting OS/2 reformat my entire hard disk and use the High Performance File System (HPFS) instead of the aging FAT. I didn't do this, as I still want to be able to boot into the old, familiar high-resolution DOS plus Windows when I need to work on highly detailed DTP projects. Well, at least until I can get OS/2 driver for my Fahrenheit.

Bonus Pack

As many in the computer industry agree, the success of an operating system depends heavily on how many applications are available out there to take advantage of its strengths. IBM seems to realize this, so they have bundled a number of great applets with Warp, which they call "Your first OS/2 applications". And, although I'd still call them applets, these programs are by no means boneless. The word processor that comes in IBM Works, for instance, has everything that you may need for your everyday writing tasks. You can see this program in the illustration; just look for a window in which you find the words "smoking in public areas". The word processor can even convert files from Ami Pro and WordPerfect automatically during the File Open operation. Oddly, though, it doesn't read Microsoft Word or Winword files, although the full shipping version may.

In the illustration, to the right of the word processor, you'll see the spreadsheet that comes in IBM Works. You cannot produce presentation-quality charts with the charting program in Works, but you still can very easily make sense of the charts created with this applet. In addition, there are personal information management tools such as an address book, an appointment book, a calendar, a contact list, a planner, and a notepad. These may not be as well-integrated as Lotus Organizer, but at least you don't have to pay for them since they all come in the Bonus Pack.

Great value

Honestly speaking, OS/2 is a new and unfamiliar world to me. Just the idea of shutting down before pressing the Power button of the PC already gave me a feeling that I was not riding my old Raleigh mountain bike. There's still so much to explore, and what I have found so far leaves me convinced that this should be the way we use our PCs. I'll tell you more as I find more interesting things in this new world.

If you had been at the OS/2 Warp Launch demo, you'd be able to see how Warp handles multimedia easily. Again, I was unable to test this capability on my machine since my copy of Warp didn't have the driver for my first-generation ProAudio Spectrum. Sheesh... so much for early adopters.

The Information Superhighway is perhaps the biggest thing happening in the world after the settlement of the Arab-Israel conflicts. Warp also comes with a number of tools in its Internet Connection, such as Web Explorer and Gopher, that will enable you to roam the highway.

So, if you work with Windows programs, DOS programs or just want to have fun, OS/2 is what you should have. As I wrote two weeks ago, it can be installed on non-IBM machines as well. It sure has all the drivers for the most popular add-on components today, such as graphics adaptors from ATI, Cirrus Logic, Weitek and Western Digital, ProAudio Spectrum 16, CD ROM from Mitsumi, Sony, Phillips, Panasonic and NEC, and multimedia boards from Hauppage, Creative Labs and ReelMagic. Printers drivers are as complete as you'd find in Windows.