Go XFree86/OS2!

Many people don't know that lots of excellent Un*x software have been ported to XFree86/OS2. Let's try and change that!
First let me introduce myself. I've been an OS/2 user since 1994 beginning with Warp 3 red-spine. Last year I became one of the editors of the VOICE Newsletter and founded the translation team for the German issue. I began to use XFree86/OS2 out of pure curiosity way back then when there were no things like the GIMP port and all the GNOME and Enlightenment stuff was still to come.

Meanwhile the list of software ported to XFree86/OS2 has become pretty long and it contains some kinds of packages that aren't available for OS/2 otherwise. Unfortunately many people don't know about them or are afraid of the task of getting them to run as Un*x software has a reputation of being a nightmare to configure. Especially the thought of installing XFree86/OS2 is something that scares the hell out of many people. Well, do not fear since help is at hand! Rather have a close look at my homepage here on OS2 World.com. In the section "The X11 Files" you can find quite some information on how to set up XFree86/OS2 and accompanying packages step by step. This collection is about to be further extended during the next months. Other resources are Christoph Vogelbusch's pages and flash's homepage.

Ok, so what will this column be about then? Well, spreading the news about existing and new ports of software packages for XFree86/OS2, of course, so to increase the number of OS/2 users who will be able to profit from good software and get the best of both worlds. I'm not going to post full-fledged reviews or setup instructions here. That's what Focus on OS/2, OS/2 eZine, the VOICE Newsletter and people's homepages are for. Instead about once a month there will be a compilation of new applications and tools with the place to get them, a very basic list of features and requirements and a personal comment if I feel that I know enough about a package. Oh yes, the requirements. Be absolutely sure that you always read the list of requirements. The majority of ported packages takes the existence of certain libraries and tools that normally can be found on every Un*x system for granted, just like an OS/2 multimedia package expects MMOS2 to be installed, and won't run otherwise. So if a packages complains that it cannnot find the file bla.dll you know what could be wrong.

What I hope to see in the future is lots of articles for OS/2 eZine and the VOICE Newsletter written by you. Reviews of and instructions for the packages that I introduced here and that you found useful. Remember that you don't have to be a developer to give the OS/2 community something back in return and the people out there are always hungry for information.

So let's finally start with this month's compilation and some basic stuff.
  • Enlightenment is a window manager. (If you don't know what that is, have a look at my homepage.) In fact it's the most feature-laden and configurable window manager out there while it is very user-friendly compared to others. Enlightenment is the standard WM for the GNOME desktop (see below). Note that Enlightenment also has the highest requirements in terms of hardware and software. Don't even think about using it if your machine is below Pentium 166 class or has less than 64MB RAM. Additionally it requires that a lot of standard libraries and packages are present on your system, namely Image Magic, a working SHM, GNU gettext, GIFlib, the Gimp Toolkit (GTK), Imlib, JPEGlib, PNGlib, TIFFlib, TTFlib, Zlib and several GNU file and shell tools. All libraries can be downloaded in one WPI package. There are also some add-ons available at the Enlightenment download page. A setup guide written by Platon Fomichev is available at my homepage.
  • Window Maker is also a window manager and resembles the NextSTEP interface. Like Enlightenment, Window Maker can be used with GNOME and is quite configurable - though not as far as Enlightenment - , but its hardware and software requirements are much lower. So if you have a slower machine or you prefer something more slick, then give Window Maker a try. The required libraries (most of those that are required by Englightenment) are all available at the download page and can also be downloaded as one WPI package.
  • GNOME is one of the two desktop environments for Unices, the other being KDE. GNOME applications all share a common look and feel that is determined by using the Gimp Toolkit (GTK) etc. To provide certain features all apps rely on the GNOME and other libraries. All of them can be downloaded from the GNOME page, as well as all ported GNOME applications. Have a look at the GNOME homepage for more general information.
  • There are lots of other window managers available. They all have in common that they are harder to configure (no GUI) on one hand. On the other hand they don't eat up so much resources, don't require additional libraries, are faster and sometimes a bit more reliable. The classic one that e.g. RedHat uses as default WM is fvwm2.

    WARNING:Always use an editor (like EPM with the /U switch) that supports the Un*x way of textfiles for editing the configuration files! Otherwise the WM won't be able to read them anymore.
This should get you going. We'll close this month's column with a list of some sites that carry ports for XFree86/OS2:
  • Alexander Mai's XFree ports: Alexander has ported a real load of applications and some games to XFree86/OS2. Links to required libraries are provided, too.
  • Christoph's pages: The official distribution site for ports of Enlightenment, Window Maker and all GNOME stuff including The GIMP.
  • Hobbes: The standard OS/2 archive also carries some ported software. Some of it is outdated though.
  • LEO: The other standard OS/2 archive mirrors the XFree86 distribution and offers some ports. Like on Hobbes some of the stuff is outdated.
  • The Power Users BBS: Ted Sikora's site not only carries information about XFree86/OS2, but also the largest collection of ported Un*x software on earth. The only drawback is that there is no description for the packages.
  • Jun Sawataishi has ported lots of GNU utilities. His versions are mostly more up to date than those on Hobbes and LEO.


That's it for now.

Christian Hennecke


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