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Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - July 1996

Merlin First Looks

by Rollin White

Hopefully, you've heard about the next release of OS/2 code named Merlin. I don't like to hype future versions of any product too much, but there have been enough questions about Merlin to justify this article.

Just what is Merlin? Merlin is based on Warp Connect, with WinOS/2 code. For the next version of OS/2, no longer will we have the problems of knowing which box to buy - there will only be one. Because it is equivalent to Connect, Merlin includes Peer Services, TCP/IP, and the NetWare and LAN Server requesters. If you've heard anything about Merlin, you've heard that it will have speech navigation capability. The Bonus Pak will also be included as well as a slew of new and important technologies including Java, OpenDoc, OpenGL, GRADD, and DIVE. This is not a complete list of features, so don't fret if your favorite is not listed here.


OS/2 has a reputation for troublesome installations. Historically, problems have meant outright failures during installation. Under Merlin this seems to not be as much of a problem. However, Merlin does have problems installing some of the various subsystems (such as TCP/IP or networking). The problems seem to be hit and miss, but the moral of the story is that you should not be miserly when you allocate disk space for Merlin. On my initial test installation, I was told I had enough space to install the components I needed. It turns out I didn't, and so the networking installation failed.

Just how much space should you allocate to Merlin? Before I tell you, remember that all of these neat features mentioned at the beginning take up disk space. At the least, set aside 200 megabytes of space for Merlin. If you want to install absolutely everything, 500 megabytes will be plenty. Who knows, the way hard drive prices have dropped, maybe Merlin will ship with a hard drive in every box.

Changes to the User Interface

Merlin sports a new "3D" look and feel. All of the icons have been redesigned, including slightly awkward looking folders turned back at a 45 degree angle. All of the controls (push buttons, menus, even fonts) have been changed to have a more modern look. Folders now have menus across the top and settings notebooks have colored tabs across the top.

The Merlin desktop is much cleaner looking than previous versions of OS/2

The Launch Pad has been replaced (actually for now you can still get to the Launch Pad, too) with the WarpCenter. This is a cross between Lotus's Smart Center and the Launch Pad. The idea is similar, the terminology and implementation has changed. With the WarpCenter you have trays, instead of drawers, and you can't put your objects directly on the Center as you can with the LaunchPad. Rather than having objects on the WarpCenter, it is always displaying some tray, so you put your most common objects in the first tray. My initial reaction is that the WarpCenter works fairly well, but is too small at high resolution (ironically, the opposite of my complaint about the LaunchPad).

Other minor UI changes include the addition of a single button close function in the upper right hand corner of a window. There are options to make the default menus shorter at the expense of excluding functionality such as create another, create a shadow, and copy.

Interestingly, the initial desktop is much, much, much cleaner than any previous version of OS/2. But that also means many standard objects have moved. Initially, when I couldn't find the networking components that failed to install, I had assumed I just couldn't find them.

The Warp Center is across the top of the screen. To the left, are the 4 system functions you currently have on your LaunchPad: window list, lock up, find, and shutdown. Look to the right of "21MB Free" - that button gives you the list of trays. To the right of that is the contents of the selected tray, which here has 3 objects.


Will all of my OS/2 applications run on Merlin? If I had any Windows programs, would they run on Merlin? Of course. Merlin is just another version of OS/2. The rules for which applications will run haven't changed. That means any of your OS/2 applications will run (although there may be minor problems with the beta), nearly all of your Windows 3.x applications will run, and none of your Windows 95 applications will run.

Merlin NT?

If the initials NT stand for new technology, there's never been a more appropriate operating system to have NT after its name than the next version of OS/2. Take a look at the list of technologies, Java, OpenDoc, OpenGL, GRADD, DIVE, Object REXX, and VoiceType just to name a few. These products were not produced by some big blue miracle. They have all been in development for a long time and are just now being integrated into OS/2.

This conglomeration of technology can either be a great boon for OS/2 or its Achilles heal. This same strategy has successfully been used in Warp Connect and Warp Server. On the other hand, if all of the technologies don't come together in a cohesive way, no one wins.

How can I get my hands on it?

IBM has said that the second beta will be to a larger number of people than the first (which was limited to 10,000). But they haven't said when that will happen. The current beta is scheduled to end on July 22. My guess is that it will be extended and the second beta will happen sometime in September. However, without published dates, for all we know it could go to production tomorrow.

Next month we'll take a close look at a few specific features of Merlin - it will be based on reader feedback (that means you, so speak up), but the tentative schedule is to cover Voice Type, Java, and the Warp Center. You're already getting good doses of OpenDoc each month.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1996 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.