SCOUG OS/2 For You - February 1998
Small Machine Shop Runs Three Warp Machines
The rails keep rolling, thanks to OS/2
DETROIT -- I've collected quite a menagerie of friends over the years, and they always seem to turn up in unexpected places. At last October's Warpstock convention I ran into a thirty-year friend who knows almost nothing about computers. Even though he uses OS/2, I truly and honestly can't say that he was smart enough to choose it. It just sort of happened.
"Puller" Rubowski and I met when we were both 19. I was on summer break from college, but Puller never finished high school and had already been working full time for two years. His dad had gotten him a job with a machine shop that refurbished the steel wheels on railroad cars, and Puller's job was to yank each wheel off the end of the rail car's axle after it had been loosened and then set it on the flatbed truck. Some other pumpkin had the job of taking a fresh wheel off the truck and setting it onto the end of the axle (maybe that guy was known as "Pusher"), and Puller quickly was anointed with his nickname ("Yanker" was out, for obvious reasons). Since he's always hated his real name, because he liked "Puller," and because he's bigger than just about anyone else, it's been "Puller" ever since.
"That OS/2 is really something," says Puller. "It's on the computers that the three office girls use. I took the spare office computer home and put it on the kitchen counter. We all use it for family notes and reminders and stuff. No printer, just that neat program you told me about that keeps track of our schedules."
"You mean Relish. Glad you like it." (I'm relieved. It's always a bad sign when Puller tells you that something you've recommended was not to his taste.)
Cycle built for two
I gave Puller his first ride on a motorcycle. Puller is a pretty big guy; he's the one that statisticians average with my vertically challenged frame to get the "typical" U.S. male height of 5'11". I'm 5'6"; you figure it out. Anyway, Puller didn't know that, on a motorcycle, you're supposed to lean when you go around a corner. The first turn we made was left, which was good because it's a wider radius, and I found myself squeezing the handlebars like crazy while hanging off the left side to keep the bike from tipping.
"So what did you think was the best thing at Warpstock?" I ask, remembering how Puller deftly held two sandwiches in his right hand and ate them both simultaneously. "Anything special catch your interest there?"
"Those slick t-shirts with the cool palm trees," he replies without hesitation. "I snapped up a couple of those - I like having OS/2 plastered all over my chest." (Where, as you can imagine, it covers a lot of space.)
"And, RelishWeb," he continues. "I bought it on the spot, too."
But that's just a little cheap program. What about something big. What about WorkSpace On-Demand or The Win32-OS/2 Project?
"WorkSpace On-Demand is for sissies," says Puller. "If somebody's gonna do a job, they need a good tool to do it. You can't do much with a wimpy little terminal."
"And Win32-OS/2 is a great idea, and I hope they hurry up with it, but I can't use it right now because it's not ready. Now RelishWeb, it does what I need. Listen to this."
It's Our Family
Let me back up. Puller's dad, the one who got him the job at the railroad yard, was well connected in the non-governmental non-societal circles of Detroit. He knew where the vigorish was, he was in on a few deals that couldn't be refused, and when Puller did well down at the railroad yard's rip and repair track his dad saw to it that Puller became a co-owner of that machine shop. Puller now owns the whole thing.
"First, the big problem is keeping track of stuff," says Puller. "I tried carrying a briefcase for a while, but that's a real pain in the patootie. So then I tried printing out my notes every day so I could carry them with me to all these meetings, but I didn't need most of them and I'd have to wait ten minutes for the printer to finish when I could have been halfway to Harry's. But now, I just zap my notes onto a diskette, zip to the meeting, and if I need something there's always some cute little secretary who'll pop my notes up on her screen, or print out a page or two."
So you carry the diskette instead of the printouts? Where do you carry them to?
"I've got to meet with the rail yard people, and I need to know how many wheels we've got in the shop and when they'll be ready. I need to know how many wheels we can handle in the next week. I've got to meet with the tool and die reps, because if my machines are down I need a fixer part now. I've got to meet with the kiln guy to make sure my new furnace is on schedule."
The Song of the Railroad Wheel
"To heat the wheels. Listen, I can tell just by tapping on it what a wheel is gonna need. If it has a chime sound it's got flat spots, and we'll have to turn it before it goes in the oven, and when it comes out we'll have to turn it again. If it's got a clear ring, no oven at all, just turning. And if it's got a dead thunky sound, it's got heat damage and we have to scrap it."
So what's on the diskette?
"The wheel counts. The accounting. Who I'm meeting with, and when, so when I'm done at Atchi's and forget where I'm going next, it's all there. Everybody's phone number, because if I call back to the office and one of the machinists is in the pokey again I've got to make some phone calls quick to get an operator over there. Or if there's a breakdown, I'll usually call the tool rep and tell him to get over there, just in case my guys can't handle it. And Darcy's swimming schedule."
Surf's Up in Detroit
Darcy is the younger of Puller's two daughters. She's in high school, cute as a button, and on the swim team.
"She loves the water. Swims like an otter. Those are all hers," says Puller, pointing to a number of trophies on the fireplace mantle. "This year she competes at the state level. Maybe she can get a scholarship."
Puller's older daughter, Amy, is already in college. She looks like her mom and is studying Mechanical Engineering. "When she was little she used to play hide and seek around the machines at the shop," says Puller of Amy. "Then she'd just stop and stare at one of the wheels being turned. It was scary, like she fell into some kind of a trance, watching it go round and round and round, listening to the pin noise as it turned smooth. Maybe those wheels are why she decided on Mechanical."
The last time I visited, I helped Amy install Warp 4 on her portable. Darcy, on the other hand, is not computer literate, didn't want to watch, and was upset because her parents had grounded her for staying out past 10 p.m. the previous Friday night. "Isn't 10 a little early for a curfew?" I asked Puller. "Listen," he said gruffly, "I know exactly what happens after 10 o'clock on a Friday night. When I was her age, before 10 was when you were with the gang, and after 10 was when you snuck off somewhere with your girlfriend. That's why Darcy better be home by 10."
Maybe he can back up the Playboy site
Puller has done quite well with his specialty machine shop. The house is in a nice section of town and the furnishings are well-selected. "Linda picked them out," he says. "To me, a chair is good if your backside likes it. To her, it's good if her eyes tell her so."
"And I liked that new backup thing on the pull-out disk drive. It's slick."
That must be BackMaster Ultra from MSR Development. They rolled it out at Warpstock.
"Yes. I actually bought one. No more tapes for me. That little hard drive has a solid feel in my hand, not like those flimsy little tape cartridges. And you know what? The office girls like it too because they can get an old file fast. The tapes used to take forever."
You mean when you have to restore a file. Yes, finding and restoring a file from a disk drive is much faster than from tape.
"And I went to a bunch of the seminars, although a lot of it was way over my head. I really liked the one by that Dave Watson guy, about Netscape Plug-Ins. Now that one I understood. There's some neat stuff on the Internet, and I want to see the Field & Stream site and," his voice dropping to a loud whisper that wife Linda cannot hear, "maybe the Playboy site too."
I hear a familiar beep from the kitchen. "Time to get ready for dinner," calls Linda.
"That's the computer with my ten-minute call," says Puller. "I like dinner at 6:30 sharp, and I want to know when to wash up. I don't demand too much from Linda, but I want to eat on time."
Ah! Home Cooking
Linda is petite, pretty, a perfect foil for Puller's bruskness, and a top notch cook. What Puller calls "eat" would pass for a Roman festival; dinner could have gone on for hours, if only I had space enough to keep eating. Darcy's boyfriend Eddie joins us, a nice-enough kid who isn't sure how to act around Puller, and Amy is spending her next to last evening at home before returning to college. I, quite frankly, am surprised at how much Amy knows about OS/2, Windows 95, and the Mac. I've got three decades on her; aren't I supposed to be smarter? Darcy, oblivious to all the computerspeak, is busy trading glances with Eddie and giggling. And when Eddie calls me "Mr. Skye" for the third time, I decide not to talk to him any more.
Amy tells me she wants to build machinery. Not the end products that the machines will make, but the machines themselves. "I just finished taking an AutoCAD class, and one of the drawings we made was the head piece for a milling machine. That was the most fun. We also did drawings for ice skate blades and for concrete parking lot bumpers. I'd like to draw the rest of the milling machine." I notice that she scrupulously avoids calling me "Mr. Skye." I give her an A+.
In the middle of dinner, I hear a beep-da-beep behind me. I turn, and it's Relish.
"Don't forget WRESTLING IS ON AT 7," it says.
For more information:
BackMaster Ultra, MSR Development Corporation, 4407 Manchester Avenue #104, Encinitas CA 92024, 760/633-3900 office, 760/633-3909 fax, http://www.msrdev.com
Field & Stream, http://www.fieldandstream.com
Playboy Magazine, http://www.playboy.com
Relish and RelishWeb, Sundial Systems Corporation, 909 Electric Avenue, Suite 204, Seal Beach, CA 90740, Phone 562/596-5121, FAX 562/596-7825, http://www.sundialsystems.com
Warp 4, International Business Machines, http://www.software.ibm.com/os/warp/
Dave Watson, SCOUG Internet SIG, http://users.deltanet.com/users/dwatson/isig/
The Win32-OS/2 Project, http://www.io.com/~timur/win32os2.html
WorkSpace On-Demand, International Business Machines, http://www.software.ibm.com/os/warp/workspace/
The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA
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