OS/2 Warp Compatible Hardware List Web site: News
The New OS/2
By Alex Taylor, hosted by www.os2warp.be.
June 1st, 2001
- The Convenience Package
- What's New in OS/2 version 4.51
- New Device Support
- Video Drivers
- Storage Enhancements
- Logical Volume Manager
- Journaled File System
- Application Compatibility
- Integrated compatibility
- The Odin Project
- Unix compatibility
- The Future
- Open source OS/2?
- Looking ahead
- Sources & References
OS/2 is a much-misrepresented operating system. For fully
ten years, its imminent demise has been predicted, and it has been subjected
to repeated accusations of obsolescence, irrelevance, or lack of support.
Nonetheless, OS/2 has stood the test of time remarkably well, it continues
to do so today, and it will no doubt continue to do well into the future.
To that end, two brand new versions of OS/2 are currently hitting the market.
The Convenience Package
First of all, we have IBM's
own official release, which arrived at the very end of the year 2000. Its
official name is the 'Convenience Package', because it is aimed at current
licensees of OS/2 Warp 4 and OS/2 Warp Server for e-business. However, the
Convenience Package is not an incremental service release, but a complete
new OS/2 version. By releasing this product, IBM accomplishes the following:
Brings OS/2 up to the latest service levels, and integrates
all major enhancements and feature additions which were previously only
available as add-on products;
Unifies the base code of the client and server versions,
updating both to OS/2 version 4.51;
Makes many features available to the client version
which were previously only available in the server version;
And, of course, adds new features and improvements
specific to the new version.
There are convenience packages for both the OS/2 4.51
client (commonly referred to as the 'Merlin Convenience Package', a reference
to the previous Warp client's development name) and the server (the 'Aurora
Convenience Package'). This article is mainly concerned with the OS/2 client
operating systems, since the server versions are priced far beyond the means
of most individual users.
The main difference
between the client and server versions is that the latter includes
the IBM LAN Server product, Domino Go Web Server, WebSphere
Application Server, various server and network management tools,
and 64-way SMP support. (note 1)
The Convenience Package is primarily aimed at business
users (which has been IBM's primary market
for OS/2 since 1996), and is being shipped to all Software Choice members.
The Convenience Package, while highly significant, is
only the beginning of the story. For one thing, it requires Software Choice
membership, which (while a valuable product for many) can be considered
overkill if all one wants is the one-time purchase of a single product.
And, of course, this also requires that you already own a copy of OS/2 Warp
The best answer to this dilemma is a new package called
eComStation. Despite the cheesy name, eComStation is a dynamic
and promising product, with the potential to breathe new life into OS/2
outside its current market.
Officially, eComStation is a new operating system designed
to be the ultimate network client. Released by Serenity Systems (under license
from IBM), it uses OS/2 version 4.51
in its underlying technology, but adds significant new enhancements.
At first glance, the most visible change is an enhanced
user interface. The object-oriented desktop for which OS/2 is renowned has
been updated with new dialogs, icon graphics, and a more intuitive layout.
Considerably more is planned, however, than appears in
version 1.0 of eComStation. Serenity has assembled a group of developers
and designers to provide continuing enhancements to usability, functionality,
and aesthetics, in both the short and the long term.
On the more practical side, eComStation includes a completely
new install process (to replace the old and rather awkward OS/2 installer),
which allows the user to boot a functional version of the operating system
right off the installation CD, and start evaluating before (or even while)
installing it to the hard drive.
eComStation provides more than just a makeover, however.
Central to eComStation's new technology is a product called WiseMachine.
WiseMachine is best described as a universal software deployer. It allows
a software product to be installed on a workstation from an existing source,
such as a ZIP file, or a previous installation on another disk or LAN drive.
Of course, it can also cleanly uninstall anything that has been installed
in this fashion.
The implication of this is that, with WiseMachine, product-specific
installers and uninstallers become unnecessary. It also becomes trivial
to repair a damaged or incomplete installation, or clone an existing installation,
with a few mouse clicks.
The fundamental purpose behind eComStation is highly
controlled network management. Remote IPL technology allows eComStation
to boot on diskless systems (as a 'thin client'), or on fully-fledged workstations.
Applications can be run from a central server, or on each individual system
-- but in either case, all software can be installed and managed centrally,
thanks to WiseMachine and its LAN-based cousin, WiseManager. LAN administration
promises to become much easier and more cost-effective under such a model.
Of course, eComStation is also perfectly capable of functioning
as a powerful personal operating system. While corporate administrators
are more likely to prize its power as a managed network client, individual
users may find a great deal of value in eComStation as a significant new
evolution of OS/2.
Another major promise of eComStation is its potential
to re-ignite both consumer and developer interest in OS/2 as a platform.
Discussions are already under way for new device driver development, new
APIs, and extended multi-platform application support.
Bundled together with the initial release of eComStation
are several useful software products, including: Lotus SmartSuite (the newest
release), Sun StarOffice
(the most recent OS/2 version), STi Applause (a commercial graphics application),
and IBM Desktop On-Call (a remote control service which can be accessed
from any Java-enabled web browser).
eComStation is available (note 3)
from a number of resellers, including
Prism Data Works
part of Indelible Blue
; United States), Jacaranda Business Systems
(Canada), and Mensys Online
(Europe). The first general availability
(GA) version of eComStation is expected to be released within the next few
However, this article is not intended as a review, or
preview, of eComStation specifically. Its main purpose is to outline the
new features and technologies of the operating system core. Consequently,
the remainder of this article is devoted to describing these features without
specific reference to either eComStation or the Convenience Packages. The
term "OS/2 version 4.51", which provides the underlying technology for both,
will be used instead.
What's New in OS/2 version 4.51
The OS/2 v4.51 client contains the following significant
new features, some of which were previously included in the server edition:
UDF filesystem and DVD
Support for booting partitions past the 1024 cylinder
limit via INT13h extensions
Per-process virtual address limit has been raised
from 512 Mb to 3 GB*
New 32-bit SMP-aware Kernel Execution Environment
device driver API enhancements*
Dynamic accelerated video support via multiple-chipset
GRADD video driver architecture*
Java runtime environment and development kit, version
Java 2 runtime environment and development kit, version
Graphical locale builder (Glocale)
DBCS fonts included in all language versions
Wheel and scroll-point mouse support for PS/2 and
Journaled File System (JFS), with support for:
Maximum partition size of 2 TB
Maximum file size of 2 TB
Dynamic volume expansion via LVM
Logical Volume Manager (replacement for FDISK), allowing
Arbitrary 'sticky' drive letter assignment
On-the-fly partitioning without rebooting
Partition linking into virtual partitions or 'volumes'
Dynamic volume expansion (with JFS)
TCP/IP version 4.3*, including the following features
32-bit 4.4-BSD compatible TCP/IP stack
SSL, IPSec and VPN support
SecureWay Firewall components
32-bit multi-threaded NFS
Streaming LPD with new security features
Full developers' toolkits included*
* Feature was previously
available as an upgrade to OS/2 Warp 4
Some of these features will now be examined in detail.
New Device Support
OS/2 has, of course, had USB drivers available as a downloadable
extra for a while. Out-of-the-box support, however, greatly facilitates
first-time installation on a system which relies on USB devices such as
keyboards and mice.
OS/2 USB drivers have also been improved such that they are now fully
compatible with VIA-chipset controllers (a patch was previously necessary
for this). There remains one important limitation to the USB support,
however: only UHCI type controllers are supported. This specifically means
USB controllers with Intel or VIA chipsets, which comprise most "integrated"
(on-board) USB controllers. The competing
I standard, which is used in a number
of add-on USB controller boards, is not supported under OS/2 at this time.
OS-level USB support does not, of course, mean that any
given USB device is automatically usable. Device-specific drivers are still
necessary in most cases. IBM has provided a number of these, so that most
USB mice and keyboards, as well as some printers, modems and speakers, will
work under OS/2. However, other devices such as scanners or external CD-writers
will not -- until and unless drivers for these devices are written.
Another new category of driver support is Intelligent
Input/Output, or I20. I20 support was introduced in OS/2 Warp Server for
e-business back in 1999, but OS/2 v4.51 marks the first time it has been
available on the OS/2 client. For most casual users, however, this is not
likely to be a major feature -- I20 devices are still fairly uncommon, and
are even more so in consumer-grade computer systems.
More significant is the fact that OS/2 now has native
filesystem drivers for the Universal Data Format, as used on DVD-ROMs and
in some CD-recordable solutions. These media may now be read (and, if applicable,
written) under OS/2.
The availability of a UDF filesystem driver also means
that OS/2 users are one significant step closer towards being able to watch
DVD video on their PCs. Of course, other
major pieces such as an MPEG-2 video player, and CSS authentication, still
do not exist, although one or two third parties are working on these.
The OS/2 Graphics Adapter Device Driver (GRADD) architecture
was introduced in OS/2 Warp version 4, but did not become genuinely useable
until several FixPaks later. GRADD is a generic video driver architecture
which allows enhanced graphics support without necessarily having vendor-specific
There are two parts to GRADD. The core functionality is
an API embedded into OS/2's own graphics API. The other part consists of
video drivers which use this API. IBM has provided a basic set of drivers
for some common video chipsets, including Matrox, ATI, and S3. There is
also a 'generic' driver (called 'GENGRADD') that provides unaccelerated
Super VGA support for chipsets which are not specifically supported.
What is considerably more exciting is the work now being done in conjunction
with Scitech Software
. A product called Scitech
Display Doctor for OS/2 uses the GRADD architecture to provide advanced
video support for a huge range of modern chipsets. Almost all currently
popular video adapters are fully supported, and new chipsets are being added
One of the nice features of Scitech Display Doctor is
that, since support for multiple chipsets is integrated into a single video
driver, it is possible to completely change video cards (from, say, ATI
to Matrox) without having to change the video driver at all. Simply power
down, swap in the new video card, power on again, and continue working.
IBM has partnered with
Scitech to make Scitech Display Doctor (SDD) an integral part of OS/2. The
"basic" version of SDD is provided to OS/2 users for free (although the
latest version currently requires Software Choice membership), and supports
2D acceleration and resolutions up to 1600x1200x32bpp at 85 Mhz. A "Professional"
version of SDD is also available for purchase from Scitech (USD $39.95).
SDD Professional adds support for custom resolutions, portrait and HDTV
(16:9) resolutions, refresh rates up to the maximum supported by the hardware
(with on-the-fly switching), 3D acceleration, and more.
The Professional version of SDD is still in beta, although
most of the above features are already implemented and are extremely stable.
Logical Volume Manager
One new feature that has caused a great deal of excitement
and consternation is the Logical Volume Manager (LVM). Like I2O support,
LVM has been part of OS/2 Warp Server since 1999, but it is now available
for the first time in the OS/2 client.
LVM is two things. First, and most simply, the LVM program
is a replacement for the seasoned FDISK
utility. (A stub FDISK executable still
exists, but the only thing it does is output a message saying that FDISK
has been replaced by LVM.) Like FDISK,
LVM allows the user to manage disk partitions, but it also allows much more,
thanks to some crucial OS-level architectural changes.
These changes make up the other part of the Logical Volume
Manager: a revamped storage-management subsystem and API. A new layer of
abstraction -- logical volumes -- has been added on top of the now-old concept
of disk partitions.
A volume is essentially a logical drive. Under LVM, partitions
are treated as little more than allocations of raw disk space. A volume
consists of either a single partition, or a group of 'linked' partitions,
and has a drive letter and a file system. The user sees only volumes, not
This new arrangement provides several advantages. For one thing, drive letters
need no longer be assigned to partitions on a 'first come, first served'
basis. Drive letters may now be assigned arbitrarily, and will remain at
their current settings even when new volumes or disk drives are added. Volumes
may also be hidden (or unhidden) from the operating system. And all of this
may be done without having to reboot the system afterwards. As mentioned,
logical volumes may also consist of more than one partition, even partitions
on separate physical hard disks. If the volume in question is formatted
with the Journaled File System (see below), then new partitions may be added
to such a volume at any later time, without affecting the existing contents
of the volume. (Partitions may not, however, be removed from a volume.)
A special type of volume called an LVM volume must be
used in order to use multiple partitions per volume. LVM volumes are not
compatible with other operating systems which are not 'LVM-aware'.
To allow backwards compatibility, however, the default
single-partition volume type (called, appropriately enough, a compatibility
volume) is designed to be usable by other operating systems. In fact, a
compatibility volume is really nothing more than a standard partition with
some extra volume-specific data (a 'fingerprint', essentially) stored in
an otherwise-unused part of the partition table. This means that other operating
systems will simply see most volumes as standard partitions, without having
access to the extra features of LVM.
The one potential
pitfall in this arrangement is that this 'volume fingerprint'
can be erased if the disk is later partitioned with third-party
software that doesn't understand LVM. This includes the FDISK
program from other operating systems (including Windows, Linux,
and prior versions of OS/2); it also includes such software as
Partition Magic from PowerQuest.
Attempting to use this software
will most likely erase the volume data that LVM uses. In such
a case, it would be necessary to run LVM (possibly off bootable
system diskettes) and re-apply the volume information. However,
this only works in the case of compatibility volumes. If you have
LVM volumes on your system, using FDISK or Partition Magic will probably destroy those
volumes, and all data on them, irrevocably.
For these reasons, it is strongly
recommended that you avoid the use of partition-management software
other than LVM, once OS/2 v4.51 is installed. If you must do so,
then be aware of the complications, and avoid using LVM volumes.
The other major difference between compatibility and LVM
volumes is that only compatibility volumes may be made bootable. LVM volumes
cannot be booted from; therefore, there must always be at least one compatibility
volume (per installed operating system) present on the system, to contain
the operating system files.
There are two versions of the LVM executable program,
both of which interface with the LVM engine in LVM.DLL: LVM.EXE, which is
an interactive panel-driven text-mode program; and LVMGUI, a graphical front-end
written in Java.
Journaled File System
Along with LVM, IBM has introduced a new file system for
OS/2. The Journaled File System, or JFS, has a number of features that give
it the advantage over HPFS (note 4), and in some cases even over HPFS386
First of all, JFS supports the major features of HPFS
like native long filenames, extended attributes, and bad block relocation.
It also includes some features previously exclusive to HPFS386, like direct
inode-level support for ACLs (access control lists), and an unlimited cache
But JFS does considerably more. Maximum volume size (previously
64 GB under HPFS and HPFS386) is 2 TB (2048 GB) under JFS. The maximum single
file size is also 2 TB, and the maximum number of files per directory is
documented as 4 billion. JFS also supports 'sparse files': a feature which
allows large database structures to be defined, yet only occupy the amount
of physical space required by the data in them. (For instance, a 90 GB database
file could be defined on a 10 GB partition, as long as the actual data in
the file consumes less than 10 GB.)
As its name implies, JFS uses 'data journaling', meaning
that file system transactions are logged in a journal. This journal is used
to maintain file system integrity in the case of a system crash. The most
noticeable benefit of this is that the amount of time required to run CHKDSK
on a JFS drive is drastically less than that required on a FAT or HPFS drive
(mere seconds as compared to minutes or even hours).
JFS also supports dynamic volume expansion. When an LVM
volume is formatted with JFS, additional partitions may be added to that
volume on the fly, and the volume's file system expanded as required.
Finally, JFS is optimized for SMP support. While its performance
scaling for LAN server tasks on one or two processors is significantly worse
than that of HPFS386, the comparison improves in JFS's favor as more processors
are added. In a system with five or more CPUs, JFS is expected to yield
JFS is not a complete replacement for HPFS and HPFS386
just yet, however. Its major limitation is that, in its current version,
JFS is not bootable. It also may only be used on LVM volumes, and not on
compatibility volumes. Therefore, OS/2 itself may not be installed on a
JFS volume. JFS is, however, well-suited for dedicated data or application
JFS also lacks some of HPFS386's advanced features, like
DASD limits and RAID-1 fault tolerance.
It should be noted that both LVM and JFS originated on
the AIX operating system, and both are being ported to Linux. Source code
for both is available under the GNU General Public License.
Since OS/2 Warp version 4, IBM has made some major upgrades
to the OS/2 networking subsystem. Besides various improvements to the NetBIOS
and NFS implementations, the most noticeable enhancements are to TCP/IP
The old 16-bit TCP/IP stack has been replaced by a fully
32-bit, 4.4-BSD compliant stack, ported from AIX. (note 6) To accompany this new stack are a
new set of 32-bit TCP/IP applications and services. Several of these, such
as NFS and FTPD, are now multi-threaded instead of multi-process.
Many security features have appeared, such as SYN cookie
defense, and Secure Sockets (SSL) support. IBM's powerful AIX firewall software
has also been included, although it is sparsely documented and does not
include any graphical configuration program. However, with this software,
OS/2 now has integrated rule-based firewall support, one-to-one Network
Address Translation (NAT), IPSec, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) support.
The old TCP/IP configuration program has been replaced
by one written in pure Java. Together with a new administration security
mechanism, this allows machines to be configured remotely as well as locally.
And, of course, the new networking components are all
Almost ever since Java was first introduced, IBM
has pushed OS/2 as one of the best possible platforms for Java development
and deployment. Consequently, the OS/2 Java virtual machine has long been
one of the fastest and most efficient available.
OS/2 version 4.51 includes two full versions of the Java
Development Kit. For the sake of legacy applications which may have compatibility
problems with the newest version, the default JDK included is version 1.1.8,
with the latest service updates as of October 2000. Whether or not the development
kit itself is selected as a component during operating system installation,
the Java 1.1.8 runtime environment will always be installed. (The TCP/IP
configuration program requires it; so do the Logical Volume Manager GUI,
and the Universal Database control center if IBM DB2 is installed.)
The other Java version included provides more cutting-edge
support. IBM Java 2 version 1.3 provides
support for the latest Java platform as designed by Sun. The JDK 1.3 installs
alongside JDK 1.1.8 so that the two may coexist on a single system. A file
system that supports large cache sizes (such as JFS or HPFS386) is recommended
for installing the JDK 1.3 files.
OS/2 continues to support both 16-bit and 32-bit native
OS/2 applications, as well as Java applications (depending on the Java runtime
As it has for years, OS/2 allows DOS and Windows 3.1 to
be run in seamless virtual machines, providing near-100% support for DOS
and 16-bit Windows applications. Since multiple DOS and Windows sessions
may be run simultaneously, such applications can be pre-emptively multitasked
without compromising system stability. A misbehaving DOS or Windows program
may simply be terminated, along with the virtual machine it runs in, without
adversely affecting the rest of the system.
OS/2 includes versions of DOS and Windows, specially optimized
for running virtually, out of the box. The DOS implementation (called MDOS)
is more or less equivalent to PC-DOS 5.0. Of course, it is possible to run
other versions of DOS (such as MS-DOS 6.2 or DR-DOS 7) if t
are available, through the use of of bootable image files.
The OS/2 Windows implementation, Win-OS/2, is an optimized
and recompiled MS Windows 3.1 (to which IBM
apparently now owns the source code). Win-OS/2 sessions may be run full-screen,
in which case the old, familiar Windows 3.1 interface takes over the screen;
or seamlessly, in which case Windows programs simply appear as windows on
the OS/2 desktop (with the old-style Windows widgets, however).
The application compatibility in Win-OS/2 can be upgraded
to support a few, mostly older, 32-bit applications by installing Win32s
version 1.25 (later versions, which contain some key Microsoft "improvements",
will refuse to install).
Full 32-bit Windows compatibility, of course, remains
a holy grail of sorts; but it is slowly starting to be realized.
The Odin Project
"Odin" is the name of an ambitious community
undertaking which aims to allow Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000 applications to
be run seamlessly under OS/2. Although it was originally a separate, ground-up
project, it has incorporated (and continues to incorporate) work from the
WINE project, which has similar goals for the Unix platform. However, it
is more than a simple port of WINE.
Odin operates on two levels. First of all, it enables the execution of Windows
"PE" format executables under OS/2. Actually, it provides three alternative
ways of doing this: a program loader, a ring-0 kernel driver, and a conversion
program which can actually convert PE binaries (both executables and libraries)
to OS/2-native "LX" binary format.
The second level is the Win32 API. OS/2 actually includes
a sizeable subset of Win32 already (called Open32), originally designed
to make application porting easier. The Odin Project is updating and extending
this with the goal of eventually having a completely functional Win32 implementation
under OS/2. It is this part of the project that benefits most from work
done by WINE.
A number of Win32 applications are already capable of
being run under Odin, with varying degrees of usefulness. Examples include
RealPlayer 8, which has a few quirks but is generally quite useable; Lotus
Notes Release 5, which supposedly runs extremely well; and CyberLink PowerDVD,
which runs but cannot properly play DVD
movies -- yet. Microsoft Office is not yet working, but it remains a high
One of the major sources for new OS/2 software these days
is, interestingly, the open source Unix community. OS/2 is much more "Unix-like"
in architecture than DOS and Windows, and consequently most major Linux
applications have OS/2 ports.
A free library package called "EMX" is a valuable part
of this effort. EMX provides a standard C library, the GNU compiler (gcc)
and development tools, and a small set of runtime libraries (DLLs). For
those who simply want to run ported programs on their OS/2 systems, the
EMX runtime libraries can be copied into the system library path, and then
all ported Unix applications should run transparently. (It is also possible,
of course, to statically link the EMX routines into an executable, making
the runtime DLLs unnecessary.)
Applications ported via EMX include most of the common
Unix utilities (bash, tar, zip, unzip, sed, awk, man, less, etc.), as well
as more advanced software such as ssh, cdrecord, Apache, Perl, Samba, and
even XFree86. Through XFree86, it is also possible to run ports of X software
such as GIMP and GNOME.
Open source OS/2?
Although OS/2 has benefited a great deal from open source
software, the core operating system remains a closed, commercial product.
One wistful suggestion that is frequently raised is the possibility of IBM
making OS/2 itself open source. Unfortunately, this suggestion generally
comes from those who do not understand OS/2's rather unusual position in
It is very unlikely that OS/2 could ever be released as
open source. The first of the many reasons for this is the simple fact that
IBM still makes a great deal of money
($46 million in 1999, according to this Sm@rt Partner article) just
from selling OS/2 licenses. Changing OS/2 into free software would deny
them that sales revenue.
Many people who suggest the open source route seem to
be under the mistaken impression that OS/2 has been discontinued or placed
in some kind of "end-of-life" limbo. Although this impression seems to be
encouraged by certain media elements, it is quite untrue. OS/2 remains an
active product line which IBM still develops and sells.
The important thing to remember is that OS/2 is not marketed
(by IBM, anyway) to individual consumers. Although it functions extremely
well as a personal or SOHO platform, IBM long ago recognized the difficulty
of competing with Microsoft for that market. Consequently, OS/2 is aimed
primarily at large business environments, especially financial institutions
like banks or insurance companies.
Thus, most of IBM's
OS/2 revenue stream comes from large, traditional, paranoid, enterprise-level
customers: exactly the kind of establishment that still regards open source
software with suspicion and scorn.
Moving from practical to legal reasons, OS/2 includes
many technologies (PostScript, TrueType, OpenStep, OpenGL, to name a few)
which are owned by companies other than IBM. These would have to be removed
or replaced, at no small expense and effort, before an open source release
would be possible.
Finally, one must keep in mind that OS/2 originated as
a joint IBM-Microsoft creation. Although Microsoft left the project years
ago, they still have partial copyright over certain components. Microsoft
would therefore need to agree to any opening of the OS/2 source; something
they are very unlikely to do.
Alternatively, were IBM
to totally remove all trace of Microsoft's contributions, it would most
likely be necessary to completely rewrite the kernel, much of the driver
architecture, the graphics layer, the installer, and most of the network
subsystem. Although very little actual Microsoft code likely remains, a
single semi-colon would probably be enough to keep the joint copyright in
effect... and it may no longer be possible to determine exactly who wrote
In short, open sourcing OS/2 would force IBM to spend
a tremendous amount of time and money, cause them to lose sales revenue,
and probably alienate their largest customers at the same time. The perceived
benefits would have to be truly overwhelming; and in any case, IBM currently
prefers to spend its open source energies on Linux, which has a promising
future on their System 390 family of mainframe computers.
It would be much simpler to just start an open source
project to clone OS/2 from scratch. (In fact, such an undertaking is
in the early planning stages right now, under the working name "FreeOS".)
Some commentators have opined that the Convenience Package,
while it may be a promising step, is not in itself worth getting too excited
about. After all, they point out, it is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary
release; and does not seem likely to expand the OS/2 market.
The best opportunity for the expansion of OS/2 as a computing
platform is most likely represented by eComStation. By offering a powerful,
managed network client, Serenity is targeting CTOs and network administrators
(primarily at the sub-enterprise level) who are losing patience with the
runaway support and licensing costs associated with other popular software
What is more, since eComStation contains all the standard
OS/2 technology (including all the features previously discussed here),
it has a solid range of application and hardware support already.
IBM has demonstrated its willingness to license out OS/2
technology to such endeavours. If eComStation proves as successful as Serenity
believes it will, this may well mark the beginning of OS/2's re-emergence
as a networked productivity platform.
And that just might be worth getting excited
OS/2's SMP (symmetric multi-processing)
support is renowned for its stability and scalability. Up to
sixty-four (64) CPUs in a single computer may be utilized (although,
since OS/2 runs only on Intel-compatible hardware, encountering
more than sixteen processors per machine is rare).
Any program which uses multiple
threads will automatically have its threads divided between
the available CPUs, without the need for programmers to specifically
write code designed for SMP. In the event that a program is
unsuited to running in SMP mode, individual applications may
be explicitly set to uni-processor mode. There are also APIs
available which allow "processor affinity" if the programmer
wishes to designate specific CPUs for specific threads.
Currently, IBM only makes this SMP support available on the server
version of OS/2. The standard OS/2 client is uni-processor only,
although it is possible (but probably not legal) to hack the
SMP support into the client by lifting the required files from
an OS/2 fixpak.
Software Choice is a subscription-based
upgrade protection service, which includes a number of additional
products and features besides the Convenience Package. A two-year
subscription costs USD $249 (IBM price; discounts are available
from some resellers); this entitles the recipient to continuing
updates throughout the subscription period.
The subscription terms state
that you must already own a license for OS/2 Warp version 4
(which itself has a SRP of $279 US), or else be a Passport Advantage
The basic version of eComStation
currently has a suggested retail price of $279 US, or $139 US
if the user is upgrading from OS/2 Warp 4. A 'Professional'
version adds SMP support, and is listed at $389 US. These prices
are expected to increase after version 1.0 is released.
If these prices seem expensive,
remember that Serenity Systems is required to pay IBM substantial licensing fees for each copy of eComStation
Also, the value is considerably
more apparent when comparing the prices for OS/2 Warp. An OS/2
license is $279 US for version 4; without eComStation, a user
would normally need to pay an additional $249 US (subject to
reseller discounts) for a Software Choice subscription, in order
to acquire the equivalent version of OS/2.
eComStation also includes a great
deal of commercial software bundled in, and its own significant
enhancements to the operating system.
Serenity does plan to make free,
limited-functionality versions of eComStation available for
HPFS, the High Performance File
System, is the primary file system used under OS/2. HPFS uses
a B-tree to store its directory information, which gives it
a significant performance advantage over list-based file systems
such as FAT. File names in HPFS may be up to 254 characters
in length, and are case retentive (though not case sensitive).
One of the most important features
of HPFS is support for "extended attributes", or EAs: arbitrary
key-value pairs (any number up to a maximum of 64 KB in size)
in a file's directory entry. EAs may contain anything from a
bookmark in a text file to an image thumbnail or window position.
One common use for EAs is to
denote file types. This eliminates the awkward system of determining
type based on filename, and also allows any given file to have
multiple types. (For example, a C header file may be "plain
text", "C code", and "header file", all at the same time.)
HPFS386 is the server-enhanced
version of HPFS. It is written in speed-optimized 32-bit assembly
language, and adds a number of features on top of the HPFS file
system, such as unlimited cache, fault tolerance, direct ACL
support, and local security. HPFS386 is extremely fast, stable...
Due to royalty issues (IBM shares the copyright with Microsoft, a legacy of
the joint development agreement made back when OS/2 was a cooperative
project), the OS/2 client does not include HPFS386. A license
for HPFS386 costs several hundred dollars, and is only sold
together with the advanced OS/2 server product.
For those who do happen to own
a HPFS386 license, it is of course quite possible to install
it on the new OS/2 client.
One oddity with the newer TCP/IP
stack is that the popular Netcraft
web server benchmark site consistently misreports it as Compaq
Tru64 UNIX. Apparently, the OS/2 stack is so similar to the
UNIX implementation that Netcraft is unable to differentiate.
Sources & References
Convenience Package for OS/2 Warp version 4
Software Announcement 200-082. Continuing Support and
Features for IBM
OS/2 and IBM OS/2 Warp Server for e-business - All Yours Via
IBM Software Choice
Girish, et al (IBM). Inside
OS/2 Warp Server for e-business. IBM
Redbook SG24-5393-00. ITSO,
"What's New in Warp Server for e-business?". Usenet
article <37ADAC87.49FAE052@us.iNoSPAMbm.com> posted
to comp.os.os2.networking.server and
on August 8, 1999
to Update OS/2 Client. Sm@rt Partner, Febuary 7 2000
- IBM Software
Odin Project, home page
and design overview
Volume Management System project (open source release of
the Logical Volume Manager)
for Linux project (open source release of the Journaled
- Scitech Display Doctor
for OS/2. See also press release on
- eComStation web site
Many product and brand
names mentioned in this article are trademarks of their respective owners.
Failure to explicitly acknowledge these trademarks should not be construed
as failure to recognize same.