OS/2 Warp Introduction
By Jonas Buys
What is OS/2 Warp?
Welcome to the world of OS/2 Warp! IBM OS/2 Warp is an inexpensive, full-featured, operating system for PC's using Intel compatible CPU's.
OS/2 is a very powerful operating system, supporting long filenames (using the High Performance File System or the Journaled File System), the built-in REXX scripting language, Adobe Type Manager and TrueType fonts, a 32-bit flat memory model, preemptive multitasking, excellent networking and Internet support, multithreading, advanced multimedia (including software motion video), and robust communications, yet its Workplace Shell user interface makes it remarkably easy to use (and amazingly flexible). Other features include support for emerging technologies such as Java, OpenGL, ObjectREXX, NetREXX, and OpenDoc. Warp 4.0 also contains the IBM VoiceType Navigation and Dictation system, allowing the user to control and interact with the computer using a microphone, and voice commands. The superb network support built-in provides access to the Internet (via modem or network card), as well as support for IBM LAN Server, Novell Netware, and Windows NT based networks. It also includes peer to peer networking with other PC's running OS/2 Warp, or Windows. With OS/2 Warp you get stability, performance, security and manageability right at your fingertips. Built on the proven OS/2-technology, combined with the ease of use by the Workplace Shell, OS/2 delivers extreme performance in an easy way. The OS/2 GUI, called Workplace Shell, is a true object-oriented interface, meaning that the screen elements are consistent and fully take advantage of system capabilities.
A long time ago, IBM and Microsoft still were great pals. At first, Microsoft developed DOS for IBM PC's, and later on, the company started - again by order of Big Blue - the development of OS/2, or Operating System 2. Bill Gates once said: "OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time. As the successor to DOS, which has over 10 000 000 systems in use, it creates incredible opportunities for everyone involved with PCs." But all fairy-tales come to an end: Microsoft and IBM split up a long time ago. That was because Microsoft started to develop its own graphical operating system: Windows, and that during the development of the joint-venture between IBM and Microsoft. IBM felt deceived and decided to continue development of OS/2 itself. Debugging and rewriting large portions of OS/2's source code led to a new 32 bit operating system that was rock-stable. When both operating systems appeared on the market, Microsoft and IBM faced each other. With the popularity of Windows and OS/2, the competition between the two former pals grew. The final collision had place in 1995. OS/2 Warp 3.0, a powerful upgrade of OS/2, had just appeared, and after some months, Microsoft introduced its Windows 95. Though OS/2 had been released some months earlier, and seemed extremely fast and stable, most PC users decided to wait to see which way the cat jumps. Next, Windows 95 was released with such a great advertising campaign that mankind spontaneously forgot about the existence of other alternative operating systems. In 1996, Warp 4.0 (aka Merlin) was released, but in fact, Microsoft had already won. Today, Windows is considered to be the standard, but OS/2 is definitely not extinct! There are still a whole bunch of people who use this OS. People who claim not to be brainwashed by Microsoft's propaganda. In 2001, OS/2 Warp version 4.52 was released, which was just an updated version of OS/2 Warp V4. In the same year Serenity Systems International released eComStation, which is in fact the same as Merlin Convenience Pak, but is much cheaper because it is an OEM-product. IBM already announced not to release any future version of OS/2 :( For more information about the history of OS/2, see http://www.os2world.com/cgi-bin/news/viewnews.cgi?category=33&id=1021470437.
At first sight, there are scarcely any resemblances between OS/2 and Windows. Yet, a lot of things are similar. For instance, the usage of folders, contextual roll-down menus, boot method et cetera. As an OS/2-newbie, you'll get used to this exciting operating system in a couple of days. Something very interesting is the resemblance of a System Registry Editor in OS/2 and Windows. This is a really powerful utility that makes both OS'es more compatible and enables the user to adapt system setting. OS/2 Warp 4.0 has some very cool extra features. For example, the VoiceCommand-function with which you can control your computer by voice. With VoiceType, you can also dictate letters so you needn't use the keyboard. Help is available anywhere, at any level. OS/2 is user-friendly, fast and above all very stable. The system will run DOS and Windows 3.11 applications, and of course OS/2 will run its own native 16 and 32 bit OS/2-apps. 32 bit Windows applications are not natively supported, though some projects (like Project ODIN) enable running some Win32 apps. OS/2 is the best in multitasking, because it has its own very good scheduler and is a real multithreading operating system (in contrast with Windows). In addition to running native OS/2 applications (both 16 and 32 bit), OS/2 Warp 4.0 can run 16 bit DOS and Windows 3.1 applications. And with the use of VirtualPC for OS/2, you'll even be able to run Win32 and Linux applications right on your OS/2 desktop! With OS/2, you can run DOS, Windows, Java and OS/2 applications simultaneously, without losing performance nor stability! With CrashProtection a bad-behaving program that generates an error, will automatically be closed so a computer crash can be avoided. But, no operating system, nor OS/2, is perfect: a bad behaving driver can get OS/2 on its knees. When this appears, the system reboots and conveys an automatic disk check. Finally, the PC will boot nicely.
Isn't OS/2 Dead?
No! OS/2 is far from dead! OS/2 outlived many death sentencies and operating systems that were supposed to 'kill' it or make it obsolete, to name Windows 3.1 and Windows NT only. OS/2 was designed as multitasking protected mode OS from the beginning (1987) and was upgraded to 32-bit architecture seven years ago. Multitasking, protected mode and 32-bit computing is still the topmost operating system design concept in PC industry, and OS/2 is, even if we count out it's other advantages, distinctive by it's maturity. It's now sure that it will never 'take over' the computing world because other, non-technical, factors decide (and have decided) about that, but it's still alive and kicking, with tenths of millions people worldwide depending on it's reliability and performance every day. It runs nuclear plants, simulation systems, observatories, banks, small offices, controls home appliances, industry facilities, medical data, ATM machines, allows people to browse Internet, organize time, write letters, send faxes, play games... OS/2 can natively (non-emulated) run 32-bit and 16-bit OS/2 programs, DOS, Windows 3.1 and most Unix programs, it can run/boot almost any 16-bit operating system in a window (virtual machine), including Novel Netware 4, it has the fastest Java virtual machine... and with the help of Project Odin and VirtualPC it's about to run Win32 programs as well!
IBM has already accepted that Windows is the dominant standard. OS/2 Warp 4.0 was the last major upgrade of this fabulous operating system. Happily, IBM has developed an excellent JVM - Java Virtual Machine, so the operating system can run Java applications without problems. IBM hopes this will keep OS/2 compatible with other operating systems. Of course, not all programs are written in Java. On the Internet, thousands of native OS/2 programs are available for download as shareware or even freeware. In general, OS/2-users are very content people. The system is fast and stable, IBM regularly releases Fixpak updates, and the Net is full of OS/2 apps. OS/2 is mostly used in business world, like ATM and banking, aviation and on-line transactions. Of course, a lot of people still use this OS because they can experience every day that OS/2 delivers far more than what Windows XP can only promise. But, OS/2 development is dawdling. You won't be satisfied with an OS/2-version other than the Convenience Packages or eComStation. And with people like NetLabs, drivers and other utilities like the new LookOut/2 e-mail client we continue to use modern applications. So, conclusion: as long as we, OS/2 users continue to use OS/2, OS/2 is alive!
OS/2 is a solid, mature operating system. It's still being used in almost all ATMs and in other mission critical systems such as nuclear reactors, airport controllers and pace makers. OS/2 is most probably the best multitasker available for the x86 computer family. Its multithreading support is remarkable, making multithreading programs more efficient than on any other platforms. HPFS is one of the most reliable file systems known even though it is not a journaling file system. You can make OS/2 crash as often as you want using devious device drivers, HPFS partitions will never get corrupted. HPFS is also fragmentation resistant. This makes OS/2 very suitable as a server. Note that JFS (AIX's journaling file system) has been added to the latest OS/2 making partitions recover from crash much faster. OS/2 can easily run almost any DOS or Windows 3.1 program thanks to its great Virtual DOS machine environment, although it is not as useful as it once were. However, what's more useful is that OS/2 is still compatible with most of the software and device drivers made for previous versions of OS/2 down to 1.0! Compare this to the incompatibility issues with Windows 98 and 2000 ;) OS/2's workplace shell is unanimously the best work environment anyone could wish for. It was originally developed for OS/2 2.0 when IBM was still much into OS/2. However, it does not replace the fact that OS/2 is still very highly configurable using text files which gives the user much more control on the setup. It also makes OS/2 much more forgivable on system recovery that Windows NT. The kernel and surrounding core modules of OS/2 are very well suited to be used, as a desktop workstation, as a real time processing station, for multimedia and as a server. However, only the server part is still exploited by IBM. Today's OS/2 community is very different than what it once was. It now has to rely on ports from other platforms such as Linux to get up-to-date software. It is also hosting projects such as ODIN which will let WinNT programs run in OS/2. Another project named EverBlue will eventually make X Windows software compiled for OS/2 run directly on the desktop, and ultimately bring Linux binary compatibility. Another project which has already reached success is the port of XFree86 to OS/2. This currently allows OS/2 to run full screen X Windows programs that can be recompiled. Of course, let us not forget the great technology of Connectix' VirtualPC, that is also available for great OS/2.
Where to get OS/2?
You can choose for the regular IBM OS/2, or for the eComStation product of Serenity Systems Intl. eComStation contains all the latest drivers, files, ... included in IBM's latest OS/2, plus some extra utilities.
If you want the regular IBM OS/2, you should purchase an IBM SoftWare Choice subscription, which is available under the IBM PassPort Advantage program. Please visit http://www.software.ibm.com/os/warp/swchoice/ for more information;
If you want eComStation, the following companies and distributors are available:
These companies will accept international orders:
- Mensys BV
- eCo Software
- F/X Communications
- Orion Solutions
- The New OS/2 SuperSite - coming soon
These resellers will only accept orders in specific countries:
- Austria - Bacom Systems Solution
- Canada - Finnegan Software
- Canada - Consultation Troughton
- Czech Republic - blue.point
- Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland & Germany - Berggreen Service
- France - OS/2 Boutique (+33 1 42733231)
- Germany & Austria - AP-COM
- Germany - PC Rosenau
- Germany - Compusaar GmbH
- Hungary - TeleLogic
- Portugal - IfThenElse, Lda.
- Russia - eCo Software
- Sweden - Blue Soft
- Switzerland - AROA Informatik AG
- South Africa - OS/2 Express
- United Kingdom - The H2Org
- United States - ERA Computer Consulting
- United States - BMT Micro