back to article What is dead may never die: a new version of OS/2 just arrived

An outfit called Arca Noae has released a new version of IBM's venerable OS/2 operating system, named ArcaOS 5.0. The Register understands that Arca Noae has a licence from IBM to do a distribution of OS/2, the OS that Big Blue pitched against Windows 95 back in the day. OS/2's fourth release was widely regarded as technically …

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Anyvody willing to donat US$99? For a good cause! :p

Heh, it's a bit above my budget for now. Pity they did not make a demo version for you to play around with.

I still have my MOTE CD somewhere, dunno where my GALCIV CD went to....

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I'll be buying it..

Long term historic business and personal OS/2 user, I've had a legacy OS/2 box running for years but eCS was just too expensive for a toy when I already had Warp 4 running fine.

$99 with enhancements for SMP, JFS, and some of the drivers that didn't ship in Warp 4? Works for me. Samba so it's not necessary to fiddle with Windows/Unix to get OS/2's creaky old SMB networking working in the modern age, definitely..

Mostly it'll probably be used for the occasional game of Galactic Civilisations 2, but I've a lot of historic software including a couple of nice graphics packages. Might even port a couple of packages to it, I've got all the dev tools.

To nitpick, Warp 4 did have some USB 1.0 capability, but it was limited to Intel USB chipsets only, and was a pain to configure.

Ultimately I was glad to move on to NT, and then BSD, but my time with OS/2 was excellent. If IBM had spent the time wasted on OS/2 PowerPC more wisely, OS/2 might still be going today. It would have meant a substantial rewrite to make OS/2 multi user, and increase OS security..

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I gave up on OS/2 after Serenity Systems mislead people about OS/2. Serenity Systems originally told customers that they had been authorized to make approved code modifications to OS/2 Warp. IBM never granted and permission to do so. Serenity systems was only authorized to provide new drivers and a new install process I believe.

OS/2 had a lot of promise and it might have overtaken Windows if the marketing was better. OS/2 was way ahead in client server technology back in the Win/95, 98 days. The other problem is that IBM mishandled the IP rights to OS/2. I never understood why IBM did not hire MS as contractor to write the code for OS/2. MS used some of IBM OS/2 code and merged it with the Windows code. MS then claimed it then owned the rights to the code.

Today OS/2 is irrelevant as OS.

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Flame

hardball licensing tactics making it commercially suicidal for PC-makers to offer it

and this is why Micro-shaft STILL gets away with what they do with Win-10-nic. Those infamous "hardball licensing tactics". WHY is this STILL going on?

Can OS/2 provide a VIABLE alternative to the WIn-10-nic (effective) MONOPOLY? I'd like to THINK so!!!

Without those "hardball licensing tactics" I bet it would be EASIER to purchase an inexpensive LINUX box. Screw Micro-shaft anyway. they've RUINED the PC market, but everybody is all to willing to blame SLABS and SMART PHONES instead, refusing to see the obvious...

I'm rooting for OS/2 on this one. I want to see it SUCCEED!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hardball licensing tactics making it commercially suicidal for PC-makers to offer it

That was the same reason BeOS was shut down and sold. They could not get dual boot because of illegal licensing restrictions and/or licensing cost threats on any dual boot. BeOS was an amazing bit of tech too but we all lost out because of anti-competitive business practices.

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As an aside, would love to hear from those who are lucky enough to be able to afford it, what their experience with the new shiny are like wrt bare-metal installation as well as virtualization (pity vmware doesnt offer OS/2 compatibility).

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Clunky?

Wasn't the GUI taken from the Amiga? Wash your mouth out!

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Re: Clunky?

Xerox designed the first GUI in their PARC, but they fumbled it. History would've been totally different had they patented it, yes?

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Re: Clunky?

Xerox designed the first GUI in their PARC, but they fumbled it. History would've been totally different had they patented it, yes?

Yes, if they'd patented it methinks it would have sunk without trace never to be seen again.

Now, if they'd Open Sourced it ...

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Boffin

Re: Wasn't the GUI taken from the Amiga?

Googling confirms that IBM did license something from Commodore, but I haven't been able to ascertain what.

And in return, Commodore licensed REXX from IBM! Leading to ARexx, one of the most popular, successful, elegant and sophisticated implementations of REXX ever, on any platform.

Googling "os/2 amiga" leads to multiple hits/sources that all use identical language:

"IBM also once engaged in a technology transfer with Commodore, licensing Amiga technology for OS/2 2.0 and above, in exchange for the REXX scripting language."

(No idea who first wrote this.)

(ARexx was first created in 1987 by William Hawes, and included with AmigaOS 2.0 by Commodore in 1990. It included a number of Amiga-specific features that allowed it to communicate with and be incorporated into third-party apps in a very easy, flexible and powerful way. This plus the intrinsic power and simplicity of REXX as originally developed by Mike Cowlishaw of IBM made it immensely popular with Amiga users.

OS/2 2.0 was released in April 1992.)

But whatever IBM got from Commodore and the Amiga, it was not OS/2's GUI. Certainly not its entire GUI.

OS/2's GUI consists of two main components.

The GUI itself is Presentation Manager. It's what's responsible for defining a coordinate system, drawing objects — including windows and pointers — on screen, controlling the mouse and receiving and directing input from it, and so on. It was developed primarily by an IBM lab in Hursley, England (but with some involvement by Microsoft as well), and introduced with OS/2 1.1 in late 1988.

The really cool object-oriented desktop shell that sits and works on top of Presentation Manager, but that many OS/2 users think of as OS/2's GUI (or at least as part of OS/2's GUI), is the Workplace Shell. It was developed by IBM's lab in Boca Raton, Florida, and it is built on top of IBM's very powerful System Object Model (SOM). Which in turn was developed by IBM's lab in Austin, Texas. The SOM-based Workplace Shell — which in turn is very nicely integrated with REXX — is by far and away the coolest thing about OS/2, interface-wise, and the one area where it actually offers capabilities that even the wonderful Amiga did not yet have. And it was introduced as part of OS/2 2.0 in April 1992.

So whatever IBM got in the way of Amiga technology licensed from Commodore (and I really wish I could find out what it was!*), the vast bulk of what constitutes OS/2's then-revolutionary and very impressive user interface actually was developed by IBM itself, in house!

.

* The fact that whatever was licensed was licensed for OS/2 2.0 (and above) makes me suspect that it must have been some component, aspect or feature of the Workplace Shell. But certainly not the Workplace Shell itself, for the Amiga had no such thing, and the Workplace Shell is built entirely on SOM plumbing, which was entirely IBM's creation.

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Re: Wasn't the GUI taken from the Amiga?

Workplace Shell used some of WorkBench's technology, most of which were passed on to NT by proxy. I can't remember the details, but I remember the joke back in the day being that IBM traded REXX for the trash can in NT.

REXX (as Regina) is still available, I use it frequently in odd corners. See:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/regina-rexx/

Also worth mentioning is The Hessling Editor:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/hessling-editor/

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@bombastic bob - why do you refer to it as Win-10-nic?

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Devil

@Anonymous South African Coward

"why do you refer to it as Win-10-nic?"

Icebergs ahead! better open the throttles and race them! Queue the music with Celine Dione, and some emotionally touching scenes, and next thing you know, it's not so "unsinkable" any more.

Microsoft released Windows 10 *KNOWING* it's a pile of crap, they did it at the objection of their customers, they jammed it down our throats and up our backsides, and did everything except show up at your house and demand you install it at gunpoint, etc. etc. to force it onto our lives [not a mis-spelling of 'into']. And it's doomed to sink. Hence, "Win-10-nic".

And it's also why I'm glad OS/2 is getting another jump start.

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Cool. Freshly released and they call it "Archaic".

Fitting.

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Some clarifications

As the Managing Member of Arca Noae, and one of the engineers who worked on the release of ArcaOS 5.0, just a few points to clarify (both from the article and from the comments, here):

1. $99 is introductory pricing for the personal edition. After the first 90 days (about 85 days left, now), the normal pricing takes effect, to wit, $129/license.

2. There are quantity discounts for the commercial version, starting at 25 seats.

3. The personal edition ships with 6 months of included support and maintenance, while the commercial edition ships with twelve months (1 year, not 2, as stated in the article). After that, support and maintenance is available for each by subscription.

4. There are still a good number of large (really large; huge) enterprises with OS/2 entrenched in their IT infrastructure. We know because we consult for more than a couple of them. Running OS/2 on modern hardware is a must for organizations like these, where virtualization - for one reason or another, whether due to lack of device driver support for connected hardware or performance reasons - is not a viable option.

5. ArcaOS ships with SMP support for up to 32 CPUs (I think 32 is the number, though it could actually be higher; I haven't actually tested on anything more than 4 8-core CPUs.

6. ArcaOS includes rudimentary PAE support, where we are able to utilize RAM above the 4GB boundary as a RAM disk with up to two partitions. This may not seem like much, but for any application which requires fast access to temporary files (cache, etc.), this is a HUGE performance gain.

7. ArcaOS is not a clone of OS/2. At its core, is a fully licensed MCP2 (Warp 4.52, a/k/a Merlin Convenience Pack 2) installation, with Arca Noae's fixes, updates, and modifications on top of that. In addition, the TCP/IP stack, ported from BSD, is in there, as are HPFS and JFS, the latter of which is fully maintained by Arca Noae. Indeed, we have a licensing agreement in place with IBM.

8. When IBM released SMP as an option for Warp, it was an option only available for Warp Server for eBusiness (WSeB). We did not license WSeB from IBM; we licensed Warp 4 (MCP2). We have a special SKU from IBM which allows us to bundle SMP with the MCP2 code.

9. ACPI support is ours. IBM included only basic ACPI support, using the OS2APIC PSD (Platform Support Driver). OS2APIC is barely useful on hardware built within the last 10 years. Arca Noae's ACPI driver is fully compliant through ACPICA 20170119.

Some follow-up to some other comments:

OS/2 (and ArcaOS) is indeed sensitive to substandard hardware. We do not claim to run on everything, and surely not on the cheapest junk floating about. Use that other OS from Redmond on that stuff - LOL.

While some may scoff at a new release of OS/2, let's bear in mind that any marketing failures on IBM's part should in no way be taken to mean that OS/2 was not technologically superior to its competitors at the time. As a NetWare engineer, I can attest to the fact that Novell's similar difficulty and lack of success in competing with the overwhelming marketing machine from that other company likewise should not be taken as any kind of statement that NetWare was not superior in its space, or that there are not still shops with NetWare running quietly and consistently to this day, managing mission critical operations, just as OS/2 is. If there were no demand for a new OS/2, Arca Noae would not have come into existence, and I can tell you unequivocally, the response to ArcaOS has been overwhelming.

Win32: Besides DAX (the Win32s subsystem built into Win-OS/2 in Warp 4), ArcaOS ships with Odin32, which is based on WINE. This allows us to run a number of more complex Win32 applications, and Odin32 can be further customized to work as a wrapper for even more complicated Win32 applications. Essentially, it's just a matter of properly mapping the Win32 calls to OS/2 calls, stubbing them out, or working around them for things which do not exist in OS/2. We can work with our development partners to support specific Win32 apps under consulting contract, and in fact, look forward to exploring such opportunities, so incidents which we've all seen recently (under XP) do not occur, while still allowing those applications to run nearly-natively.

Ah, and finally, why there are no try-before-you-buy offers: Our licensing with IBM does not allow for this. Every ArcaOS license includes an IBM OS/2 Warp 4 license. We can't just give those out for free!

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Re: Some clarifications

I for one am looking forward to seeing the OS/2 desktop again. Was just a pleasure to have such consistency between folders, the customizations and the workspace feature where complete folder trees and applications would be started on one opening of a folder. Genious.

Thank you Lewis.

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Re: Some clarifications

All very cool! I hope all goes well for the company!

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Happy

Well.......

OS/2s system architecture was ALWAYS more stable than Windows by protecting ring 0.......

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Re: Well.......

But NT did a better job, running everything except the Kernel, at ring 3.

Also, from day one, it had multiple input queues, compared to PMShell who had only one.

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Re: Well.......

At least in its earlier incarnations OS/2 actually ran graphics drivers in userland by giving specific threads direct access to the I/O ports and memory of the graphics card. Not a bad choice for its time (and I never had it blow up), but not exactly great from a stability/security point of view.

What I certainly do remember trouble with when running OS/2 is the single input queue. There was a third-party application (called WatchCat IIRC) to allow you to forcibly quit an errant application hogging it, by hitting a magic key combination (I suppose it hooked the keyboard far below Presentation Manager so it worked regardless of it) or even pulling a pin on the parallel port.

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Hobbes OS/2

We look forward to keeping hobbes alive as long as it is used and appreciated by the OS/2 community.

Thank you!

http://hobbes.nmsu.edu/h-browse.php?dir=/pub/os2

Looks like it's still around.

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FAIL

The Blue Lion

is not a blue lion at all. It is a normal yellow one viewed through a blue filter. Don't they use PhotoShop anymore?

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Anyone still got their copy of "Inside OS/2"

By Gordon Letwin?

I have!

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Re: Anyone still got their copy of "Inside OS/2"

Very good book. Worth reading even though it's only about OS/2 1.x, to get some perspectives on OS design when you don't have a flat 32/64 bit address space.

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Facepalm

Re: Anyone still got their copy of "Inside OS/2"

Just love the fact that it's by Gordon Letwin!

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Re: Anyone still got their copy of "Inside OS/2"

I have it! A very good book!

A very nicely designed OS too.

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