Column: Suspicion lingers that OS fight rigged

After watching Bruce Seldon lying face-down on the mat after barely experiencing the business end of Mike Tyson's glove two weeks ago, for some reason I started to think about the clash of the desktop operating systems.

After watching Bruce Seldon lying face-down on the mat after barely experiencing the business end of Mike Tyson’s glove two weeks ago, for some reason I started to think about the clash of the desktop operating systems.

As the crowd yelled “Fix! Fix!”, I couldn’t help likening poor old Seldon to OS/2 and mighty Mike Tyson to Windows 95.

As with Windows, Tyson entered the ring firm favourite. While there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this behemoth of a man would eventually conquer Seldon, few realised it was going to be such a stroll in the park.

The same goes for Windows and OS/2. For a long time now, it’s been an undeniable fact that Windows was leading the operating system contest, but with Big Blue seemingly taking OS/2 out of the contest the question has to be asked, did Windows achieve overall victory by fair means or foul? See what I mean by the Tyson analogy?

Ask any OS/2 fan, and I’m sure they will be posing similar questions on the final results of both campaigns. They’d say that, overall, they had the right formula to win but it was the dollar that finally made all the difference.

And while the computer industry seems to have given up on IBM’s product as a client platform, it seems all is not lost in the OS/2 camp. The following article on the latest Merlin beta comes from the IDG international newswire, and is written by Infoworld’s much-respected reviewer, Nicholas Petreley.

Merlin release saves the day

Did you know that the great pyramid of Giza was constructed so carefully that the gap between the stone blocks is about half a hair’s breadth? Until I received the latest beta version of Merlin — the code-name for OS/2 Warp 4 that IBM is calling a “gamma” release — that’s also about how close I came to giving up on OS/2.

This release’s new installation, dramatic improvements in speed and impressive stability changed my mind. The improvements in the interface leave little to be desired, and whatever gaps remain are cleanly filled by Stardock Systems’ immensely popular add-on Object Desktop Professional 1.5 for OS/2. And Netscape’s Navigator 2.02, built to slide right into the workplace shell, will fill the need for a credible Web browser.

The Merlin installation is a completely different animal than what most people experienced in the earlier beta version. It is friendly, easy and attractive, and it fixes some of the annoying bugs. Admittedly, there are still a few things which really need fixing. For instance, IBM needs to configure its SCSI drivers to probe for all logical unit numbers by default. That way, those with CD-ROM drives that double as read-write optical drives can install Merlin without having to edit files on the install floppy.

After all these years, it’s still possible for a single application to stop OS/2 dead and force you to reboot. The work-around for this problem that appeared in an earlier service pack seems improved (I still have not experienced a hang on this release), but tricks simply aren’t a substitute for a real asynchronous input queue.

All the minor networking glitches I experienced in the earlier beta versions have been fixed. The one thing missing from this release of OS/2 is network file system support. Although Windows NT doesn’t have it either, I consider it a must for IBM’s so-called network-centric strategy.

Overall, it looks as if IBM is making remarkable progress with Merlin since the earlier beta version. I wonder, however, what took so long.

(Griffiths is a Computerworld reporter. His email address is Doug_Griffiths@idg.com.)

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments
[]