back to article Is the world ready for a bare-metal OS/2 rebirth?

A US software company has signed on with IBM to release a new native build of Big Blue's OS/2. Arca Noae said its "Blue Lion" build of OS/2 will run on the bare metal of PCs without the need for an emulator or hypervisor. Those still using the 28-year-old operating system and its applications typically run the stack in a …

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  1. John Savard Silver badge

    Pity

    No doubt it will be expensive, and aimed at those firms that are currently still using the operating system - it won't be intended to take the desktop by storm, to offer an alternative for people not adventurous enough for Linux, sick of what's been happening to Windows, and not prepared to pay the premium for the Macintosh.

    But then, Windows is the standard, and it would be a very bold PC maker that would go ahead and dump Windows and start bringing out a line of computers running the new OS/2 - and expect the software industry to start selling applications for it. Bold to the point of insanity.

    Now, IBM bought Lotus, and there was an OS/2 edition of Lotus Smart Suite... so they could start the ball rolling. But IBM sold their PC business to Lenovo, so where's the percentage for them?

    1. Mikel

      Re: Pity

      >But then, Windows is the standard, and it would be a very bold PC maker that would go ahead and dump Windows and start bringing out a line of computers running the new OS/2 Android - and expect the software industry to start selling applications for it. Bold to the point of insanity.

    2. Fungus Bob Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pity

      Hey, its OK - OS/2 will obliterate your hard drive.

      1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: Pity

        Looks like 11 people here like OS/2.

        Or don't remember IBM's horrible marketing...

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Pity

      I think the target market will be those using OS/2 or eComStation for dedicated work. Presumably the deal include the kernel sources so that it can be recompiled to run on modern chips, BIOS and I/O (disk, video, USB) systems.

      That said Workplace Shell was the best desktop GUI bar none. It was, of course, hamstrung by being single-threaded for a long time. It made the desktop something that you could actually use productively as opposed to the pretty backdrop that it is for most of us.

      1. ps2os2

        Re: Pity

        I think IBM will use this as base for running their mainframes (again). IBM is probably gun shy of letting MS anywhere near their mainframes. Rightly so, in my opinion. OS2 was rock solid and it never crashed (like their mainframes).

  2. wcomegys

    REXX and OS/2

    I learned REXX on OS/2, it has been a very valuable skill for me to have in my tool box.

    Look forward to the new release!

  3. Jim-234

    For it's day OS/2 was amazing!

    Stuff that is all "modern" like running multiple virtual machines, each running different OS versions, while still having your main desktop up and running, along with virtual machine save files, was just a standard part of OS/2 that could run on old 486 CPUs.

    I used to use that function a lot when you had to have different versions of DOS running for different old network cards & printers.

    Hopefully they have a cheap version or a trial version I can test out just for old times sake.

    1. Your alien overlord - fear me

      You had 486's? You lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. Stuck on 386 (DX if lucky). Just hope the PC manufacturers bring back the MCA interface !!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For it's day OS/2 was amazing!

      It still is!

      We are running it on 4 and 6 core AMD 64bit processors in SMP mode without any problems. My workstation also has a 1920 x 1200 27" monitor and I have a couple of VMs up and running and sharing between each other and the standard OS/2 desktop.

      1. SE

        Presume that experience is as a guest?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No, all our machines running OS/2 are running on bare metal. The only thing we had to be careful with was the Gigabit network chip, in some cases the onboard chip wouldn't work but that was ficed with an Intel gigabit nic.

  4. oldtaku

    I have fond memories of OS/2, but I wonder if it still takes 5 minutes to boot... that was definitely the nadir for personal computer boot time. I imagine SSD helps a lot though.

    9 Started out as < 1 sec on Apple II, got worse and worse - PC BIOS, SCSI cards, Windows, and then OS/2 good lord. Since then it's been getting faster and finally back to < 10 sec from cold boot with Win10. Except CentOS. Debian boots right up, but CentOS is still a f@#$ing pig that spends minutes doing god knows what. )

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I recall booting OS/2 Warp 4 on a Pentium 133MHz machine with 64MB RAM and found it was quite usable.

      The problem I think was that mid-90s hardware had typically 8MB RAM or less, and OS/2 really needed its RAM. Windows NT had the same problem, if you want slow, try Windows NT 3.1 on a 486 with 12MB RAM (the minimum requirements). Windows 95 on a 486 with 8MB RAM isn't exactly swift either.

      My biggest complaint with OS/2 apart from its idiosyncratic support for hardware was the need to spend about 20 minutes turning all the sound effects off.

      1. Michael Duke

        Try Windows 95 beta on an AMD 386 40Mhz with 4MB of memory.

        My first introduction to the Win9x stack.

        Or installing WIndows NT 3.5 Workstation from Floppys and finding a corrupted disk (36 of 38 from memory)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Try Windows 95 beta on an AMD 386 40Mhz with 4MB of memory.

          I can beat that: 386 SX 25MHz with 4MB RAM.

          That said, it was Windows 95 release A not the beta. Loaded from floppy.

          1. Pirate Dave
            Pirate

            I can beat that: 386 SX 25MHz with 4MB RAM

            4 megs? Weren't you lucky. I had a 386-25 SX with 1 meg, well 640K really, since a dude I knew said that should be enough for anybody. And that was a replacement for the old 4MHz ITT Xtra that I got second hand (MFM - FTW baby...).

            When I got Windows 3.0 (a couple of years after 3.1 came out), I seem to remember adding another 2 megs at a cost of like $110. I think this was after one of the memory price crises' - can't remember if it was where Bush Sr smacked the Korean manufs for dumping, or if it was after a factory blowing up (or some such). I also ran the DOSSHELL (from DOS 4.0 or maybe 5.x, iirc) and honestly liked it better than Windows - was much faster.

            But back to the OS2 topic - the question in my little non-OS/2 mind is - OS/2 was a really well thought-out, designed, and implemented OS that came from the Big Brains at IBM. And I think that's a big part of its reliability. Not to poor-mouth Arca Noae (whoever they are), but do they really think they are up to the task of updating an entire OS like OS/2 by late next year, and having it be as reliable as the original software that came from IBM? I admit, when I RTFA, I was a bit skeptical. Seems like updating OS/2 to current hardware would be a big task even for IBM itself. Or is Arca Noae a group of the old OS/2 folks from IBM?

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: But back to the OS2 topic & Arca Noae @Pirate Dave

              See http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/2686640

              And visit the websites:

              https://www.arcanoae.com/ - and specifically the 'about us' page.

              http://www.ecomstation.com/

              As for potential markets this recent El Reg article and associated comments might enlighten you:

              http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/09/14/world_finally_ready_for_usbbootable_os2/

              You will quickly see that OS/2 isn't intended for Joe Public but for those who have specific business application needs.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Try Windows 95 beta on an AMD 386 40Mhz with 4MB of memory.

          Back then, an acquaintance was complaining about the snail-like pace that W95 exhibited on his machine, which had roughly the same spec (may have been an Intel 386/33). I told him to buy as much memory as the system and his wallet could take, but instead he went to the shop and bought a 486/33 with, again, 4MB. As expected, that yielded very little gain, if at all.

          In comparison, my 386/40 with 16MB performed excellently under Warp 3

        3. bpfh Bronze badge

          Been there, seen it, done that...

          Win95 Education version on 38 diskettes, then Office 6 on 42 more.

          One of the diskettes always had to have a read error and you waited in dreaded anticipation of the bzzz-bzzz-bzzz-bzzz...... Read error on A:\ Abort-Retry-Ignore...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I recall booting OS/2 Warp 4 on a Pentium 133MHz machine with 64MB RAM and found it was quite usable.

        64? Did you win the lottery? I remember buying a 486 with 8 megs just to run OS/2 and my friends all said I was showing off.

        Note for younger readers: 25 years ago RAM was incredibly expensive. Thieves use to steal it to order.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          64? Did you win the lottery? I remember buying a 486 with 8 megs just to run OS/2 and my friends all said I was showing off.

          You didn't need to win the lottery to afford 64MB of EDO RAM near the turn of the century. You could get it pretty cheaply from second hand computer shops as most modern computers had moved to SDRAM DIMMS by then.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            You didn't need to win the lottery to afford 64MB of EDO RAM near the turn of the century. You could get it pretty cheaply from second hand computer shops as most modern computers had moved to SDRAM DIMMS by then.

            I was thinking more about the early nineties when it was very expensive. Here's one example.

            1. Bloakey1

              "I was thinking more about the early nineties when it was very expensive. Here's one example."

              I recall saving up to buy memory pairs, those were the days. I used to build lots of PCs then as it was worth while doing and a good result was often had at a budjet price.

        2. asphytxtc
          Unhappy

          "I recall booting OS/2 Warp 4 on a Pentium 133MHz machine with 64MB RAM"

          "64? Did you win the lottery?"

          Most likely, I think the Pentium 133 was the hint there... I bet it was an MMX too!

          (not so) fond memories of seeing my slightly "better off" friends showing off their Pentiums and 3dfx cards whilst I sat there chugging along on a 8mb DX2 :-/

          1. Daniel Hall

            I miss my 2x voodoo 2 1000's in SLI just so I could get 1024x768 display.

            Those were the days, ahh carmageddon

            1. P. Lee Silver badge

              Voodoo2?

              Luxury!

              I have an S3 Virge...

              It goes nicely with my 3c509

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Most likely, I think the Pentium 133 was the hint there... I bet it was an MMX too!

            Nope. Actually, I thought the slowest MMX chips were 166MHz. (Wikipedia confirms this for desktop CPUs.) An upgrade that machine did eventually get: it got upgraded to a Pentium MMX 166MHz around 2004-2005. The original 133MHz chip is laying around… somewhere…

            I still have that box though. Last time I fired it up, it was to install SCO OpenServer 5 for a project at work (a customer wanted a new driver for MacroView). That's when the PSU dropped a big steaming one. Thankfully the customer there decided to upgrade the boxes to run Linux and so it was, we got the PLC drivers ported from SCO to Linux and SCO was no more.

            I'll have a dig around and see if I can fix the power supply and put Linux back on. Since '97 when I got it, it has run: Windows 95, Linux (Red Hat 4.1 and later, Gentoo, Mandrake, Slackware, SuSE), SCO OpenServer (the installer, briefly), QNX, OS/2 Warp 3, OS/2 Warp 4, IBM PC-DOS 7 + Windows 3.1 and Windows 2000 Release Candidate 2.

        3. skswales

          Life before the lottery...

          Dell 386DX / 16MHz. We upgraded this system with a whole 6MB for development using OS/2. SRAM at £1000/MB. Oh yes, those were the days.

        4. Les Matthew

          "25 years ago everything was incredibly expensive"

          There FTFY :)

        5. bpfh Bronze badge

          IBM memory prices!

          Ahhhh, my parent's IBM Aptiva. 486 DX2 66, 4 mb + 540 mb HDD.

          Wanted to go to 8 mb. Wanted to stay stock. Got quoted nigh on the equivalent of 200 quid for a stick of 4 meg of 72 pin DRAM.... Before VAT!

          Local high street shop sold me 2 x 32 meg sticks for under 40 quid. Ahh, those were the days...

        6. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          I remember...

          My parents really went all out 'future proofing' their first pc. 200mmx pentium with 32mg of ram and a whopping 2.6gb hard drive... Hated the damm thing on win 95 c. Seemed a backwards step from the amiga we had before.

        7. SE

          True, dat (or whatever). I remember my uni computer suite being robbed several times just for ram and CPU.

        8. Scorchio!!
          Thumb Up

          "64? Did you win the lottery? I remember buying a 486 with 8 megs just to run OS/2 and my friends all said I was showing off."

          Plus using the UMB switch to gain a little RAM and tiny hard drives; my first one was 32 Mb, and I had a genuine floppy drive (5 1/4"?). I was pleased when I bought a 500 Mb drive, which I then compressed using what I recall was Stac technology. Doom on a 486 DX with 1 Mb video RAM and 4 Mb RAM was OK until the end. I had to cheat in order to win, or it collapsed into a heap of slurry vision and melted sound.

          At the more serious end of things I was using WFWG and had a Jumbo tape drive to cater for my backup needs and I was in heaven. I once had a problem with a document that seemed to vanish, but owing to the capacious nature of the tape drive, number of tapes and the daily backup cycle I fixed that in seconds; using the DOS interface I could backup the system drive speedily and easily. The GUI interface was ISTR MS Backup for windows, and I also recall an anti virus package. Windows at that point seemed to work, and I don't recall a BSOD under WFWG, even though my hardware was inadequate.

          I will be very interested in OS2 when it is relaunched. I have written off Windows 10; having briefly tried it I restored the drive image and reject it utterly. If Smartsuite reappears I will be even more interested; I still use the last Windows version, along with the LibreOffice package when I need to work on files associated with Microsoft. As of today for me it is probably either Linux or OS2 in the future.

      3. bpfh Bronze badge

        Late 90's, that's all IBM was using...

        Except it was still Warp 3.0 on the P133's, though there were still some big arsed MCA based 386's running 2.11, along with the 2x20 odd plastic bag packed diskettes for the install...

        Ah those were the days, when the site techs were wondering what all the problems were with this blue-screen prone windows after being fed a steady diet of OS/2, SmartSuite & Notes for a few years.

        Still have fond memories of Warp and Warp 4...

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      @oldtaku

      just done a couple of timings on my dual-boot laptop

      Centos 7 - 20 secs to login screen

      Windows 7 - 17 secs to login screen

      Windows 7, hosted on Centos using VirtualBox - 12seconds to Desktop (automatic login)

      Both Windows instances are minimal installs/bloatware

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: @oldtaku

        There's the time taken to login screen and then there's time taken to actually do something. Any idiot can put up a login screen as soon as basic security is there but the real test is how long till all the necessary services are available.

    3. tflopper
      Happy

      Actually have a Warp4 VM running, it is quite speedy on SSD (virtualized under VMWare workstation..) Actually has a "functioning" Netscape 4.61 install as well... wonder what the websites I surf think about the web browser id...

      1. Number6

        I still have an OS/2 VM, it's been cloned to new machines a few times but still goes back to the original disk image running on bare metal all those years ago. Apart from the fact that I've forgotten the LAN password and can't figure out how to reset it, it copes with its primary job even if it's less than trivial to get files on and off of it.

    4. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > CentOS is still a f@#$ing pig that spends minutes doing god knows what.

      Maybe, but the RHEL and CentOS that I look after (including 3 around here) are maybe rebooted once or twice a year. One went for over 1000 days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe, but the RHEL and CentOS that I look after (including 3 around here) are maybe rebooted once or twice a year. One went for over 1000 days.

        I recall delaying a rebuild of two skunkworks machines we used to store data you'd now stick in a CRM so that we could have a full year uptime, mainly to annoy IT who had been fighting us all the way to the point where we had to mod a couple of desktops because we were not permitted to spend any budget on servers.

        They once blew £100k+ on building their own CMS whereas we would have picked the nearest Open Source product and pay the coders to make it work the way we wanted to, and still have enough money to throw a large launch party, but hey, that would not have worked on Windows..

        Oh, by the way, apropos modding desktops: f*ck you Compaq for making desktops that needed a keyboard connected to boot so they could not be used as servers. We did anyway, just lifted the PCB from two keyboards and turned them into a dongle :). The only other mods we did was installing thermal cutoffs in each PSUs, a practice I consider almost mandatory for *any* PSU.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Back in the stone age we used to joke about turning a desktop machine on its side and, magically, it was now a server. We used to buy the "keyboard eliminators" by the box.

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Pre-orders will not be offered until the software is ready for release.

    Maybe Warner should adopt a similar strategy after their Batman fiasco.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Titlebars, menus, scrollbars, icons!

    Wow... Look at all the features it has that the GUI hipsters killed on "modern" OSes. It actually looks intuitive!

    1. Mikel

      Re: Titlebars, menus, scrollbars, icons!

      We are trying to get away from the stuff stolen from Xerox PARC.

    2. CommanderJameson

      Re: Titlebars, menus, scrollbars, icons!

      It's really, really not.

      Remember, this is a user interface designed and built by IBM.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Titlebars, menus, scrollbars, icons!

        > this is a user interface designed and built by IBM.

        Or, as I used to put it, designed by techies, for techies. User-hostility was just a bonus..

        (Most IBM stuff I've ever used - including TPF on an S/370 - was incredibly powerful with no user protection whatsoever. You want to do something stupid that nukes your whole setup? Go right ahead!. Assuming competence on the part of the user was quite refreshing. No wonder I enjoyed linux/unix..)

        1. CFWhitman

          Re: Titlebars, menus, scrollbars, icons!

          "You want to do something stupid that nukes your whole setup? Go right ahead!."

          For some reason, "She chose down!" comes to mind.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. John 62

          Re: Titlebars, menus, scrollbars, icons!

          "WIMP was invented by Xerox PARC and stolen by Apple, Microsoft, IBM and AT&T. IBM made the strategic error of partnering with their competitor on the OS2 project. Microsoft stole all the best parts for Windows, crippled OS2 with late and buggy code and in the cradle of Microsoft evangelism, destroyed its market with fear, uncertainty and doubt."

          Oh the old stolen by Apple trope. Apple paid Xerox and then made it's own modifications. Xerox had little interest in becoming a computer company.

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