and its future direction

There are quite some things going on these days, and after some discussions we had on the community mailinglist I think it’s time to give some more insight about what is happening behind the scenes. This is gonna be a long posting, so let us start.

In the past weeks I had some discussions on the #netlabs IRC channel (Freenode network) with Silvan Scherrer about Qt 4.x. The 3.x port is outdated so we decided it would be nice to port the lastest version. Fortunately, the porter of the 3.x version (Dmitry) has some free time right now and can thus start porting it, once we can pay him a salary. Although things are going well, we still need a lot of money, but I’m confident that we will succeed. If you want to support the Qt4.x project, check the posting Silvan did for details and the web page of the project for a status of the fundraising.

Based on that discussion, Peter Weilbacher made a remark that he has a bad feeling about supporting it because never provided any details about what happens with the money. I did some more postings in that thread to clarify issues and here is a short summary from my side:

  • Expensive things like hardware were always collected separately with sponsoring units at Mensys. Since I switched to a new machine about 2 years ago, I didn’t need any more money. All new services I’ve set up (XMPP/Jabber, Voice over IP) are running on hardware I got for free.
  • I never had to pay any money for bandwidth. This is for years kindly donated by n@work from Hamburg, Germany. Which is a good occasion to thank them a lot for their ongoing support! n@work is an excellent hoster and provides marvelous services and performance. This was arranged by Arne Blankerts years ago and it is still running well.
  • For some time I hired programmers like Vladest. Part of that money was payed with sponsoring units but it was never enough to pay his full salary back then. The missing money was payed by myself, with my savings (bye bye own apartment). I was also traveling a lot around the world for In total I invested more than 20’000 Euro into that adventure the past years. I do accounting for my private accounts so I could prove that in case anyone doubts that :) Note that, for a long time, I was a student, so it’s not that I have piles of money on my accounts.
  • In short: The money I get from the normal sponsoring units is used for my activities like traveling around. There is probably less than 3000 Euro on that account right now. Again, if anyone wants to know details I can provide them.

In the posting I also mentioned what’s going on with The Voyager Project and this generated some more questions. So let us look at where we are right now and where will go in the future.

The future direction

A few years ago I started asking myself what I wanted to do with It is obvious for me that the OS/2 and eCS history will come to an end. We still invest hours of coding into stuff that doesn’t bring us any additional value but just makes it possible to run the system on recent hardware. Some years ago, I already proposed that we should rather go into a direction where eCS would run on virtualized hardware and that we invest our energy and money into something new. Unfortunately this never happened and I see more and more of the big contributors at switching to other systems, including myself. As some of you might know, Daniela Engert also decided to stop development of her famous DANIS506 driver.

In 2005 Bart van Leeuwen and myself decided to launch a new project, which soon became known as The Voyager Project. We started thinking about what we would have to do to get the OS/2 experience on a new platform. Our conclusion, back then, was that we take an existing kernel, some userland code, an interface and put a WPS like desktop on top of that, which we would develop from scratch. While presenting this idea to the public I started to get feedback by people I respect a lot, most of the time the feedback was not too enthusiastic. Many of my good friends asked me why we want to do stuff that is based on assumptions which are more than 20 years old (think of keyboard and mouse for example).

Based on that feedback we started questioning our ideas as well and I soon realized that I use my computer way different than I used it 10 years ago. Today more and more of my computing is done on mobile devices  and my data is stored at various places, which is  not my local computer (MP3 player, subversion repository, file servers at work and so on).  So why should we invest time into a desktop concept that still assumes that we work like this in the future? I want access to my data every time from everywhere in a form that makes sense for the device I am using (laptop, mobile phone, TV box at home…). So I don’t want to use a web interface for that, as a web interface is a very primitive way to interact with data when you are used to the OS/2 Workplace Shell.

So this is what our project is about: Access information in its most perfect representation on any device. Our work will provide a small layer of software that can be run on your laptop, your mobile device and maybe also on your TV at home. This software will use a lot of technologies that were developed the past years by people around Tim Berners-Lee and the Semantic Web.  This is a very ambitious project which has to solve some fundamental problems and we are not sure if we will succeed with it. But we reflected this idea to many people, the past months, and the feedback is excellent, which is our motivation to seriously work on this project.

So what happens now? How do we go on? I could again write a lot of stuff about that but let me just summarize the most important next steps for the moment:

  • I will quit my daytime job at the University end of May. To pay my living and monthly expenses I will work 40% for a security company and teach about computer network security and everything related to it. In case you have some interest in that, let me know, I’m ready to travel :)
  • The rest of the time I will work (again at least 100% :) ) for We write a lot of concepts about what we do and we plan to get some serious research money for our project. Our core-team consists of 7 members at the time of writing and we plan to hire most of us at least part time for a period of at least two years to implement our technology. If you are curious about an amount, we will start doing that when we have at least 1 million Euro, more would be better. This is a lot of money, but I’m more than convinced about our ideas and I think we will be successful with this project. If you have any more ideas about where to get that money, let me know as well :) (We know about the EU FP7 project for example).
  • The software and the standards we will come up with during our implementation will be released as open source software. The code will be owned by a foundation (most probably), not by an individual company.
  • We ( will provide services, consulting and technologies needed to make some serious money on top of this concept.
  • The OS/2 and eCS projects will stay at I will do my very best to support any existing and new project and we will continue to do so in the future. The web pages will be greatly enhanced for our new project and thus also for the existing projects.

Some of you might now be disappointed because this does not resemble the original Voyager Project anymore. This is true, but I think that what we are working on might have a much bigger impact on the industry than anything else we wanted to do. It will also be possible to use our work as a base for a WPS like desktop, on whatever platform we might want to implement it on. If anyone wants to work on that, I’m ready to support it!

If you want to know more about the Voyager project, we welcome you to join our next Developers Workshop in Switzerland (June 6/7 2009). We will present the work we did the past months and we will talk about the concepts and challenges we have to solve. We look forward to present our ideas to a bigger audience. So far we did the conceptual work within a small group, because we wanted to achieve results, not endless discussions :) There are also event pages at LinkedIn and XING, on which you are welcome to join.

I hope this gives some more information about what we are up to. If you have any questions, remarks or ideas, just let me know. Especially when it is about our new ideas! You can reach me by mail or Jabber/XMPP at

Adrian Gschwend, founder of

6 thoughts on “ and its future direction

  1. Mensys and Serenity Systems would like to thank Netlabs for the years of close cooperation and supporting the eComStation project. For years we have know that the things we can do for ComStation are limited in the sense that we don’t the human and financial resources that IBM invested into eComStation. Also some technical limitations

    At Warpstock 2008 in Dusseldorf I (Roderick Klein) mentioned that after years there is a sudden spike in the amount of support calls we are getting from companies. Its primarily from the United States. IBM canceled OS/2 support in United States around 2002/2003. Now 6 years later we are getting a lot
    of support calls from companies needing eComStation.

    In conjunction with the OS/2 eCS community Mensys/Serenity Systems continues to invest money in eComStation. As Flash 10 will soon come
    out in a public beta. Togheter with other groups we will soon provide via OS/2 VOICE additional funding for CUPS (printer driver support).

    Also the DANIS506.ADD driver we will continue to develop it. Right now the driver supports SATA and PATA controllers. Right now research is being done by a developer to get AHCI support on eComStation. The follow up of the SATA standard which is slowly coming in new machines. This will be for the release of eComStation past eComStation 2.0. There will be a day that OS/2 can no longer run by itself. But so far we also have a demand from some
    companies to run OS/2 on native hardware because of certain hardware access that is needed.

    Roderick Klein

  2. Thanks Adrian for this article, the work done, and the commitment so far.

    Giving a bit of news, sign of life –in a word : “communicating”– is indeed mandatory for *any* project. This of course takes some time, but that definitely worthes it.

    Apart from that, I sincerely hope you guys will find some (or someone with some) time to revamp the web site *content* (since you already have a cute graphic theme (:-P ) and make it more informative and consistent. Not only it should be a developer tool, but also the access point for *any user* to all the netlabs projects (OS/2-eCS included) behind.

    “Long life to Netlabs” and “bon courage”.

  3. Thanks for all the work you continue to do. Your status report of what is happening under Netlabs guidance was a very good idea (I wish other groups/companies in the OS2/eCS community would do the same).

    I have already submitted my 50Euro sponsorship for the Qt4 work, and it’s good to see that others have also.

    On the change of direction on Voyager to be a WPS like web front end running on multiple platforms, I think that is definitely the right choice of direction, we ARE going to a more web-based, device processor/OS independant world and this direction fits in well with that. Just a thought, perhaps Voyager could effectively be a “skin/plugin” for Android, in that way the lower level stuff is handled by the company with the big bucks while you concentrate on the finishing touches which make all the difference?

  4. Wow, I dare say you are really serious about this. Personally, I think that Voyager has a lot of potential. I do have some doubts, though. These mainly concern security and whether the project can be made reality. It may just be too much ahead of its time, which usually means that either you don’t get enough funding to start with or that people just can’t comprehend it. Think of the WPS, how it was criticised for being too complex back then, and that most of today’s GUIs have many of those features that were criticised. Voyagers change of ways of handling things may be too fundamental. People do not react well to that.

  5. Thanks for all the remarks, yes we are serious about it and yes, it won’t be easy :) We will give more details about the project on a regular base now, this will explain a bit more what we try to do and should clarify some things.

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