The President's Message
by Tony Butka
I always get energized about OS/2 after a good presentation, and April was no exception. Bill Ritcher's demonstration of the latest version of Guiffy (5.0, by the way), got me thinking about open standards, open source, and operating systems. Yes, I know I'm a little strange, but bear with me.
Guiffy is a very neat three-way file compare and merge tool written entirely in Java. Thus, by definition, it is cross-platform, as are all pure Java tools. This is not to minimize the difficulty of supporting all the OS flavors of Java, including VMS, Mac OSX, Unix, Linux, OS/2, and Windows brands -- as Bill clearly explained, that task is not trivial. But still, this stuff works on a whole lot of operating systems, as does more and more software. If you're a programmer, or even a serious wordsmith, you owe it to yourself to get Guiffy. Very very robust and slick stuff, and Bill, thank goodness, does not try to 'idiot proof' us into ruining his tool by oversimplification.
By the way, a very huge "thank you" to Innotek for their efforts in doing Java 1.4.1. It was very eye-opening for me to hear how buggy Sun's original 1.4 version was in practice.
Anyhow, if you add in open source projects like Mozilla and various Unix /Linux driver ports such as printer drivers, GIMP, Sane, and such, I think there is an emerging momentum away from proprietary operating systems. So long as the porting tools are available, as a community we can all help each other use whatever operating system we want to for basic computing needs. That, of course, is the underlying idea behind SCOUG's programming SIG, to settle on a standard set of tools and help the OS/2 community port drivers, applications, or whatever.
As you all know, I have been accused of being a hard copy documentation freak (all true), and I couldn't help thinking during Bill's presentation that we're very close to being able to bypass most proprietary software and operating system hijinks in playing with the printed word and graphics.
For example, I (along with most folks who work in an actual production pre-press environment) do most of my writing with a text editor like Vedit+ for DOS, Dr. Watson or the Enhanced Editor from Pillarsoft for OS/2, or Clearlook operating in text mode. ASCII rocks, and it is the universal cross platform file type as well as working with just about every word processing or desktop publishing solution out there - from Adobe (PageMaker, FrameMaker, Illustrator), Ventura Publisher (now Corel), Quark, to all the lightweight wannabe desktop solution word processor stuff like MS Word, WordPerfect, Lotus and such.
Most pro's carefully work out their images and drawings with dedicated programs like PhotoShop or Corel Draw, and assemble the final result into brochure, booklet, article or book using the best tool for the job in whatever platform.
Then (thank you Adobe for standards, even if you jobbed OS/2) you output your gee whiz bells and whistles document to either the web or a print solution. If it's a web output, you are optimizing for screen using cross-platform html or xml or such. And if you want a printed output you use Postscript, EPS (encapsulatred postscript) or PDF files for your final product file.
Well, thanks to platform independent postscript printer drivers, along with GhostScript and GhostView for viewing, we can manipulate those documents no matter what and save them to universal file types. In fact, with PostScript Level 3 printers and PDF files, we can literally bypass the operating system and go directly to the printer. We already have that capability with any PostScript Level 2 device and a PS file. Very very cool.
Add in a decent browser (and Mozilla since 1.3 is really getting there), some plug-in support for file types, and a few Java applets, and if I was Microsoft I'd be starting to worry. Especially with their involuntary biannual operating system "upgrades" at a hefty price, and their increasingly draconian licensing practices. Even major corporations are starting to notice that the latest "upgrade" keeps on rendering their legacy software obsolete - as in it won't run on the new software version.
Hey, throw in a good Java email client like PolarBar, add an open source server with Apache, and dump Back Office Exchange Server to get rid of the viruses and system crashes, and it could be a movement!
See you next month, and if you have suggestions or comments, email me at
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