Author Topic: Building an OS/2 system from the ground up, what would it look like?  (Read 1336 times)

Travis Thoms

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Assuming you had the means to design a computer from the motherboard up, what components would your system have?  Would you bother with a 64 bit processor or more than 4 G of ram?  What sound and video hardware would you use? 

I'm wondering (fantasizing) if it is plausable to design an SBC or FPGA specifically to run OS/2 (and other "legacy" systems).  Amiga seems to be able to pull this sort of stuff off; I'm asking myself if we can do the same.

Dave Yeo

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OS/2 was designed originally to run on a PC, an AT to be exact, with OS/2 v2 designed to run on an 80386 or better, which includes most IBM compatibles up till a few years back when they still had a BIOS. What it is missing is drivers for newer sound cards and video cards etc. We currently even have a driver to use memory above 4GB as a ram disk, which is handy. 64 bit doesn't matter.
Amiga's and such had custom hardware that they have to reproduce, OS/2 didn't, excepting certain use cases such as noted in the "OS/2 and Mainframe" thread for example.
So, for example, the 8 year old I5 system I'm writing this on works fine for OS/2, would be nice to have a better driver for the sound, and not have to use an ancient video card to use any of the capabilities beyond whats in the video bios and 3D support would also be nice, but that's still a driver issue, as well as software to take advantage of it

Martin Iturbide

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Hi Travis.

It is kind of a nice exercise to fantasize this. What if we had access to a Chinese factory and several components we know they work in OS/2 and ArcaOS and built an specific computer that will be complete OS/2 compatible.

- Maybe we can rule out that a mainboard and processor that is x86 compatible will work. We will have to enable by default the UEFI compatibility mode (Compatibility Support Module) by default (until AN release the driver) and disable the UEFI security.
- SATA: It is working, not sure if there any incompatible modern bus.
- PCI: That stuff keep working
- Wired Network: Maybe this can be easier like selecting an relative modern Intel network chipset that is compatible with Multimac.
- USB: It may have USB 3, but we need for the moment real USB 2.0 hardware on it.
- Wireless Network: We will require al older chipset that is supported on OS/2.
- Sound: That makes it hard. Old Soundblaster things works, but maybe there are too old to put it on a newer computer. What about HDMI sound output?
- Video: It works, but there is the problem with the HDMI output sometimes.

No thunderbolt, no bluetooth... this is just a first quick though. The may be things missing.

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Martin Iturbide
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Neil Waldhauer

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If a computer was built just for OS/2, it would also be a simple trick to have our existing drivers customized and tested for that particular hardware.

1. Memory model would provide 2 TB RAM managed as a file system.
2. 10 GB Wired, two interfaces
3. Up to date WiFi, two interfaces
4. 32-bit multi-channel sound in and out
5. up to date USB
6. SATA interfaces, eSATA
7. Working DOS VDM support
8. PS/2 ports, Serial ports, Parallel port
9. PCI, PCIe and ISA slots
10. VESA video support for new 8K monitors

If we also got drivers for it,

10. M2 DASD support
11. RAID
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Travis Thoms

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Let's presume that the driver set that is available limits the hardware available. So far I'm hearing:

CPU: 32 bit (is there a 32 bit multicore that you'd prefer?  Or would we have to have a 64 bit processor to have a decent multicore option?  Arca does handle multiple cores, correct?)

UEFI compatability mode or Legacy BIOS support

Storage: SATA harddrives and optical drive  (Limited to DVD?  Does OS/2 use Blu-Ray, Blu-ray burners?)

Input/Output: PS/2 mouse and keyboard, serial, Parallel ports, USB 2.0

Sound:  Soundblaster 16?  (Does OS/2 do USB sound?)

Video:  If SNAP drivers are all we have, what's the best video chipset/card for this?  VGA output? DVI?

For me, all of this would have to support the DOS and Win_OS/2 VDMs as well.

Dave Yeo

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Let's presume that the driver set that is available limits the hardware available. So far I'm hearing:

CPU: 32 bit (is there a 32 bit multicore that you'd prefer?  Or would we have to have a 64 bit processor to have a decent multicore option?  Arca does handle multiple cores, correct?)

AOS supports multiple cores fine, does not support hyper-threading, seems to work fine with the AMD equivalent though I personally haven't tested.
Basically the newer the CPU, the better for performance and multi-core due to shared cache and such and as all CPU's have been 64 bit for quite a while, we'll end up with a 64bit in 32bit mode.
64bit CPU's also do PAE well for that ram disk in memory  above 4GB (actually 3.5GB or so)

Quote
UEFI compatability mode or Legacy BIOS support

Storage: SATA harddrives and optical drive  (Limited to DVD?  Does OS/2 use Blu-Ray, Blu-ray burners?)

Blu-ray works but we're behind on the latest UDF file system so it is like a big DVD.

Quote
Input/Output: PS/2 mouse and keyboard, serial, Parallel ports, USB 2.0

Sound:  Soundblaster 16?  (Does OS/2 do USB sound?)

Yes OS/2 does USB sound. As for the Soundblaster 16, I used a PAS16 (Pro Audio Spectrum) for a long time and I was quite happy with that. It included a Soundblaster clone so 2 sound cards in one and most DOS games worked with the PAS16 and those that didn't worked with the SB.
Others might have other favourites such as a Gravis card. Ideally would be an ISA slot to plug in one of these old cards

Quote
Video:  If SNAP drivers are all we have, what's the best video chipset/card for this?  VGA output? DVI?

Probably an ATI X850, which should support DVI, VGA and dual head (2 monitors).
I'm currently using a NVIDEA GeForce 7300 series, kind of slow and didn't work with DVI.
The Panorama drivers work pretty good with Intel or ATI chipsets, modern CPU's are fast enough to make up having to run in VESA mode and it patches the mode to support wide screen monitors.
Quote
For me, all of this would have to support the DOS and Win_OS/2 VDMs as well.

Need older sound cards for DOS and WINOS2 support. For full screen DOS, video probably depends on the programs video support, all the GRADD based drivers (all current) support WINOS2

Neil Waldhauer

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Let's presume that the driver set that is available limits the hardware available. So far I'm hearing:

CPU: 32 bit (is there a 32 bit multicore that you'd prefer?  Or would we have to have a 64 bit processor to have a decent multicore option?  Arca does handle multiple cores, correct?)

Currently, ACPI can handle some multicore features.

UEFI compatability mode or Legacy BIOS support

UEFI is not really ready yet.

Storage: SATA harddrives and optical drive  (Limited to DVD?  Does OS/2 use Blu-Ray, Blu-ray burners?)

SATA going away, we will need something newer.

Input/Output: PS/2 mouse and keyboard, serial, Parallel ports, USB 2.0

Sound:  Soundblaster 16?  (Does OS/2 do USB sound?)

Yes to USB audio. Soundblaster might be OK for DOS, but less so for OS/2.

Video:  If SNAP drivers are all we have, what's the best video chipset/card for this?  VGA output? DVI?

At this point, unaccellerated VESA through Panrama is faster than any SNAP setup.

For me, all of this would have to support the DOS and Win_OS/2 VDMs as well.
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Sergey Posokhov

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I'm wondering (fantasizing) if it is plausable to design an SBC or FPGA specifically to run OS/2 (and other "legacy" systems).

We have a layer called PSD, "platform specific driver", it works directly with the hardware.
So right now, an on-board FPGA is not required.

Dariusz Piatkowski

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Hi Travis,

Sorry to be a detractor, but why focus on the hardware side?

Most of the stuff out there can be used as a hardware platform for our OS/2 OS. It is not ideal, I admit, but for the most part unless you are trying to run the latest Ryzen 12 core CPU or trying to do a nightly backup over a super fast USB 3.x you won't have major problems.

Now, granted that approach may get you a working system and maybe not the ideal "gamer machine", but  what else is there on our platform to shoot for??? lol

My point being: it is far better for us to focus on building the software capabilities instead.

Case in point: I've been using my ATI X850 XT video card for a number of years now, SNAP drivers. For normal use it is quite fine, heck is the speed a challenge here? No, but it just plain sucks that of the two DVI ports the card has I can only use one and the 2nd one has to use a DVI=>VGA adapter. Why is that a problem? Well, most of the new display monitors no longer offer VGA port, it's HDMI, DisplayPort, etc. I'm even finding that DVI is being dropped.

It is the simple things that could be translated to big wins, and I see all of these wins on the software side of things.

ivan

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I admit, but for the most part unless you are trying to run the latest Ryzen 12 core CPU or trying to do a nightly backup over a super fast USB 3.x you won't have major problems.

I would love to use a Ryzen 9 3900X CPU but the problem is as you say the lack of graphics drivers for modern cards.  While the Ryzen processors with built in graphics use the ports built into the motherboards but anything other than VGA is mediocre at best.  We can live in hope, since the Linux graphics for the radeon cards are excellent, we might get something from them.

USB 3.x might arrive sometime in the future but I'm not holding my breath waiting.

Neil Waldhauer

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Re: Building an OS/2 system from the ground up, what would it look like?
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2020, 02:59:19 pm »
Thanks, Ivan. I've got customers who would prefer AMD. I don't use AMD myself, so I don't know the issues.

Intel graphics on a current Lenovo ThinkCentre will support 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz via display port. Getting the computer to boot at all is an interesting problem, but solvable. But our support is through VESA, and I don't know if Lenovo will continue to support that in the future.

If we do our own hardware, it's important to coordinate the graphics hardware and drivers.
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ivan

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Re: Building an OS/2 system from the ground up, what would it look like?
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2020, 03:54:26 pm »
Neil, I have always used AMD processors and currently have 4 units using Ryzen 3 2200G processors on both MSI A320M PRO-VD PLUS and Asus PRIME A320M-K boards. 

They all work without too many problems.  The big problem is that they require a real USB 2 PCIe addin card (VIA based) because any USB 2 ports on the boards are attached to USB 3 chipsets with a USB 2 pass-through.

I also have a couple of ASRock Mini ITX based units.  Those are the units I upgraded to the Ryzen CPUs from.

Edit:  I should have added that one of the MSI boxes is running 24/7 and has been up for 38 days & 2 hours at the moment (last reboot was when everything slowed to a crawl)
« Last Edit: March 17, 2020, 03:58:02 pm by ivan »

Travis Thoms

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Re: Building an OS/2 system from the ground up, what would it look like?
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2020, 05:16:06 am »
Hi Travis,

Sorry to be a detractor, but why focus on the hardware side?

Most of the stuff out there can be used as a hardware platform for our OS/2 OS. It is not ideal, I admit, but for the most part unless you are trying to run the latest Ryzen 12 core CPU or trying to do a nightly backup over a super fast USB 3.x you won't have major problems.

Now, granted that approach may get you a working system and maybe not the ideal "gamer machine", but  what else is there on our platform to shoot for??? lol

My point being: it is far better for us to focus on building the software capabilities instead.

I see you're point, but I'd really like a machine that runs OS/2 like it was made to do.  The video works, the sound works, the VDMs work.  And while I admire people working through the software to find workarounds for modern systems, they are just that...workarounds.  I have a VirtualBox with OS/2 set up to a reasonable level of functionality (thanks to the help of many here), but it is no fun to use.  The sound stinks, the VDMs are slow and buggy, a lot of the older OS/2 software doesn't work right (missing icons, etc) and the new stuff is usually some unix port that I have a heck of a time getting to work.  I don't think there will be any real improvement in the software until there is control of the source code.  Everything else is a hack.

So, I thought if we can't at this moment make the OS fit the hardware, why not make the hardware fit the OS?  Anyone tried running it on the 486FPGA?

Travis Thoms

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Re: Building an OS/2 system from the ground up, what would it look like?
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2020, 05:20:35 am »
I'm wondering (fantasizing) if it is plausable to design an SBC or FPGA specifically to run OS/2 (and other "legacy" systems).

We have a layer called PSD, "platform specific driver", it works directly with the hardware.
So right now, an on-board FPGA is not required.

I'm not sure that I understand what your describing here.  Could you please elaborate?  What does a PSD do for the average user?  How do you get it to work with OS/2?

Dave Yeo

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Re: Building an OS/2 system from the ground up, what would it look like?
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2020, 06:11:57 am »
The main thing a PSD does is set things up for SMP to work correctly, so if you want more then 1 CPU (core), you need a PSD. The ones from the early '90's are useless on modern hardware as things are done with ACPI, so now we have an acpi.psd, takes care of things like handling interrupts correctly.
As for the correct hardware to run OS/2, it is basically whatever you have device drivers for and always has been. Even back in the 386 days, you had to pick hardware that had device drivers. The only difference was IBM supplied a bunch and OEM manufacturers also wrote them for their hardware, so there are more device drivers for old hardware.
My current hardware, if someone wrote the device drivers for the video card and sound card, including DOS drivers, it would work fine for everything that used to work. Instead we have general drivers that are satisfactory but not ideal and don't have any DOS drivers besides the ones built in. One of the great things about OS/2 was it ran most DOS device drivers. When playing a game, it used the DOS sound driver, not the OS/2 sound driver. Same with the joystick and such. The only ones that didn't work were things like file system drivers as OS/2 caught them and overrode them, so you can't install a vfat DOS driver to get long names as an example.
If you want to play old DOS games, whether under an OS/2 VDM or real hardware, you need hardware that those games expect.