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IBM Operating Systems Linux

Is OS/2 Coming Back? 432

mstansberry writes "Is IBM considering relaunching OS/2? One source close to IBM says Big Blue plans to repurpose OS/2 services atop a Linux core. IT managers ask, why now?" Hey, back in simpler times OS/2 was super badass. Both of the guys who ran it were hard core.
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Is OS/2 Coming Back?

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  • WPS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:57PM (#31846640) Homepage Journal

    I would be delighted to switch my window manager back to the Workplace Shell (well, provided that there were keyboard shortcuts). I would not be so delighted to again deal with the SIQ lockups (but I imagine a port of WPS to X11 wouldn't have that problem, except to the extent that its own components might themselves use their own queue). I also would worry about EA corruption, which was always a concern with OS/2 as the collection of cruft in EAs kept growing and often a little mistake led one to need to repair them (or reinstall the system).

    Anyhow, point is if I could just have the interface back, with some light Unix sensibilities injected, I'd be happy to switch from WindowMaker back to WPS. (Actually, having Stardock's Object Desktop as part of that would be a huge plus).

    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:08PM (#31846792) Homepage Journal

      I also would worry about EA corruption

      Did EA even make any games for OS/2?

      • Re:EA corruption (Score:5, Informative)

        by Warphammer ( 610896 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:20PM (#31846964)
        Humor value noted, but for those wondering, he's talking about Extended Attributes, the big database of stuff about files, stored on HPFS. Kind of like a Resource Fork on a Mac file. EA corruption was one of the more annoying things you'd have to deal with on an OS/2 system. Examples of EA data would include the file's icon, data type (which would refer back to which program to open it), etc. Without it, a lot of the system would get really unhappy. There was even a hack IBM came up with to let you have EAs on FAT volumes, but that was a little less nice.
  • Although there are a lot of virtues in UNIX programming, some people just don't like it. They prefer richer APIs that Windows and OS/2 provide.

    So with OS/2 aging, it makes sense for IBM to put the APIs onto a modern OS. App migration becomes a cinch, and the future of the system is guaranteed.

    Does OS/2 have enough customers to make this porting effort worthwhile? I don't know.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tepples ( 727027 )

      Although there are a lot of virtues in UNIX programming, some people just don't like it. They prefer richer APIs that Windows and OS/2 provide.

      That's why there are richer toolkits that sit on top of POSIX and X11, such as Glib/GDK/GTK, Qt, wxWidgets, and Winelib.

      • That's a great idea, how about an OS whose API is Boost and QT?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mkrup99 ( 1586809 )
      Maybe a port to the ReactOS kernel? Would keep a whole bunch of the OS/2 benefits of Windows compatibility, only now it would get Win32 support. Could be interesting. Plus, it would give the ReactOS project a key differentiator, instead of just being a "hey, I'm kinda like Windows too!" thing.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:26PM (#31847060)

      Although there are a lot of virtues in UNIX programming, some people just don't like it. They prefer richer APIs that Windows and OS/2 provide.

      I have a revolutionary idea: Let's put only the necessary primitives into syscalls and let rest of the rich APIs be served by user-space libraries. Chances are the applications won't give a damn.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:10PM (#31847646) Homepage

      This would not be for your auntie or some drooling drone making sales calls. It would be for real work like launching missiles, aligning satellites, Controlling a 900 ton press making metal clips, ATM machines, roaming death bots for the new death panels, I.E. real work.

      Most of those people don't want a richer API. they want a minimal API that is rock solid stable.

      IBM could care less about someone that wants fluf and talking paperclips.

  • Typical (Score:5, Funny)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:01PM (#31846696) Journal

    This is just typical of IBM Services missing a delivery target.

    The article is really an April 1st joke, but the 12th was the closest they could come. Probably need a few more contractor billable hours next time.

  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@fredsho[ ]org ['me.' in gap]> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:02PM (#31846718) Homepage

    People moan and whine because there's Gnome and KDE (although there's increasingly a bit of a norm unifying the whole thing thanks to opendesktop) and now they pull, out of all things, OS/2 services ?

    Granted, why not ? But the few who actually worked on OS/2 programming let it go a long time ago. And why OS/2 and not [insert whatever other dead system here] ?
    Everybody nowadays either uses Unix or Windows. Come up with something new or work with the crowd. Out with the IT necromancy I say. Bring out the torches and pitchforks !

    • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:10PM (#31846822)

      From TFA, it doesn't sound so much like a desktop environment as it does server protocols. Kinda like Samba, LikewiseOpen, netatalk, etc, provide services and/or connectivity to other OS's protocols, but they don't actually change anything about the Windows environment.

      From that standpoint - it's neat, I guess, but I don't think any regular users will care. This is something to throw to those places running systems on legacy installs of OS/2 so that they can move up to modern hardware and a modern OS without having to redo their core applications.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Nah, that problem was solved ages ago. I worked on a project 6 or 7 years ago where we replaced a secondary computer and a KVM at each desktop with a ram upgrade and MS Virtual PC. The application was a multistate rate computation program for mortgages and if they had re-written it they would have had to recertify it in each state, projected cost of the rewrite was approaching $10M.
      • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:34PM (#31847174) Journal
        IBM sells services.

        The more options there are, the more decisions there are.

        The more decisions there are, the more people there will be who need to pay someone to help them make those decisions, or implement them.

        Making things simple from the very beginning isn't as profitable as making things more complicated and then "helping" people "simplify" stuff ;).

        Maybe I'm too cynical? ;)
    • by Wovel ( 964431 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:19PM (#31846954) Homepage

      Because more people used OS/2 than any other dead GUI OS I can think of at the moment. The other (and more important reason) is that many companies are still using OS/2 for critical applications. If they were able to build WPS (which by the way is not what this story is really about) on Linux, your concern about 3 major desktop environments would go away within 18 months anyway. WPS was a better desktop environment 10 years ago than Gnome or KDE are today. If they spent some time actually updating it, the other two would fade into obscurity. Linux has come a long way, but it is no where near being a serious threat in the desktop market. Would OS/2 services and GUI change this, no probablly not.

      Why? Because in order to support a desktop OS today, you either have to control the hardware platform or have a significant enough install base to compel every hardware manufacturer to release updated and supported drivers in a timely manner. This is why you have Windows (big install base) and OSX closed platform. Linux works on most every platform, but there are nearly always tradeoffs and limitations, no one devotes the same level of engineering to their Linux drivers as they do their Windows drivers for desktop hardware. In the server space there has been considerable progress made in driver development, in many cases Linux driver support far exceeds Windows on enterprise server hardware.

        Desktops remain a difficult nut to crack. Revere engineered drivers are not a viable solution for a consumer operating system, drivers must be engineered and supported for consumer hardware , just like they are for server systems , before you will ever see Linux make any meaningful inroads into the desktop market. Since IBM does not make desktop hardware anymore, it is unlikely they will be the ones to bring a closed platform Linux solution forward (essentially like Apple did with BSD), but an OS/2 Linux hybrid could be interesting if they could partner with Lenovo (for example) and provided a fully integrated and supported solution.

    • There's also GNUStep and XFCE and the ROX desktop and probably many more.

      KDE and GNOME are slightly warmed over versions of Windows, perhaps with a few hints of OSX. Those are not the last word in UIs by such a long way...

      The WPS was object oriented. Right now GNOME-devs are talking about making gnome more "applicaton oriented" which is really "back to the age of pitchforks". I'd like to see a desktop like the WPS on Linux so that GNOME and KDE devs have something better to copy their ideas from.

      As said

  • Those Two Guys (Score:5, Informative)

    by technomancerX ( 86975 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:03PM (#31846726) Homepage

    You seem to miss the thousands of banks and financial institutions that were using it as well. OS/2 was far more prevalent in large businesses than it ever was with home users.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      OS/2 Really fill the void (with novel) before NT came out and got popular. It offered good multi-tasking and made a good small scale server. OS/2 Warp there was a lot of speculation that it Might be the next Big thing and kill windows... However IBM was Stupid with the advertising while Microsoft was smart. And Windows 95 really got the mind share, once it got the mind share when NT 4 with a Windows 95 interface came out it caused a migration away from OS/2 Warp and Netware... At that Time linux came in a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jawn98685 ( 687784 )
      Well..., duh. Back in them days, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM..." was a literal truism. Still didn't make it a good idea, then or now.
  • OS/2 never went away (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:03PM (#31846732) Homepage

    OS/2 is still running ATMs, train systems, all kinds of important things. It never went away.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:07PM (#31846782) Homepage Journal

      Actually I have to wonder if OS/2 might not make a great embedded OS these days. It is super reliable and by today's standards petty light weight.
      OS/2 Mobile on your next phone?

      • I remember OS/2 being the opposite of reliable. I used versions 2.1 and 3.0. Did they make a quantum leap in 4.0, or are you just speaking nonsense?

        OS/2 Mobile on your next phone?

        Even AmigaOS would make more sense; sure, there's no memory protection (or is there, now?) but it at least reboots quickly. Put all the stuff for handling voice calls into a whole separate subsystem and let the smartphone part crash and reboot itself in under a second if it has to :p Classic AmigaDOS could be coaxed into doing that, including the GUI, if you stu

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          Did they make a quantum leap in 4.0,
          No they made a big change, not an incredibly small one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oldhack ( 1037484 )
      That's right. OS/2 is the COBOL of operating systems.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Not sure that's a good analogy as OS/2 was heavily OO and had an arguably larger feature set than its mainstream rivals. A case could maybe be made for OS/2 1.0, tho.

        If DOS is BASIC and Windows is C#, OS/2 was more like a C++ environment which also had some sort of virtual BASIC tossed in as well as some fancy object libraries which were very useful but which took a certain mindset to use effectively.

        The document-centric paradigm the WPS presented was not the traditional "launch program first, then open do

        • For those who don't know, a Workgroup Folder allowed one to put a group of programs and/or documents in a single folder and then open/close those elements as a single logical unit. Open the folder, and all of your programs and associated documents popped open. Close the folder, and everything closed as a unit. It was very slick...

    • Is it still on ATMs? I know the ATM I use is on Windows. I know because I saw it during a bluescreen.

    • Witness the awesome power of "if it ain't broke don't fix it".
  • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:04PM (#31846734)

    Gnome and KDE are fine, but if IBM really wanted to, they could make them both obsolete pretty quickly with an update WPS interface. Plus, let's face it, at this stage in the "Linux on the desktop" battle, Linux *needs* an official, fully-funded commercial desktop environment. The Gnome vs. KDE battle is retarded, and both DEs are starting to get kind of nutty. IBM could restore sanity.

    I'm all for it, personally. But I also think it's obvious that this is just a rumor.

    • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:09PM (#31846810) Homepage Journal

      I'd be wary of suggesting that we ever will or should have an official desktop. Some competition and cross-pollination helps us share interface ideas that work after having separate communities really find out what doesn't. Those of us who actually used OS/2 generally also find the very idea of "IBM will save us" to be ridiculous. IBM long neglected, ignored, and occasionally kicked the OS/2 community. They're not really the poster child for sanity. We liked the product, but were very wary of big blue itself.

      Also, as a general hint to other people, whenever somebody says "let's face it", it's a good clue that they're being a douche. It's an empty, self-congratulatory phrase.

      • I'd be wary of suggesting that we ever will or should have an official desktop. Some competition and cross-pollination helps us share interface ideas that work after having separate communities really find out what doesn't.

        Yes, because reinventing the something 27 times is such a great idea.

    • The Workplace Shell was built on SOM - System Object Model. You would need the runtimes ported to Linux to support all of that.

      SOM programming was a pain in the ass: code an IDL, precompile and get C header file from Hell (it was akin to the first C++ precomilers that would implement everything in C), link, and then there was a binding operation - IIRC. For the WPS, you'd create a dll that would extend it - your application was really a dll that was run by the desktop. It did allow multi threading BUT it w

  • They could port (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ameline ( 771895 ) <ian.ameline@gmail.PARIScom minus city> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:04PM (#31846740) Homepage Journal

    They could port the OS/2 userspace APIs to linux. It would probably work pretty well. They could probably make it load and run OS/2 EXEs and DLLs unchanged. That would be cool.

    (Spent some years of my life working on IBMs C++ compiler for OS/2.)

    • They could port the OS/2 userspace APIs to linux. It would probably work pretty well. They could probably make it load and run OS/2 EXEs and DLLs unchanged. That would be cool.

      But how many people would "Wine" about changes to the APIs during the transition that break specific apps? Or that a piece of hardware that worked on OS/2 Warp doesn't work on OS/2 for Linux because the driver API wasn't also ported?

  • Interesting.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wovel ( 964431 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:06PM (#31846764) Homepage

    For a lot of companies, if something works there is no reason to mess with it. As hardware gets old and is difficult to replace with devices supported by OS/2, this may be attractive for some companies. In the past 12 months I have visited clients running critical applications on OS/2 and Xenix, while it is easy for an outsider to say "Just upgrade it to a newer application", replicating all the business logic and surrounding process would be costly and disruptive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ulski ( 1173329 )
      I see your point, but perhaps it would be possible to run OS/2 on powerful virtual machines? That way you could have the visualization software deal with the hardware.
      • by Wovel ( 964431 )

        Interesting idea, it would be worth a shot, at least if you did not need any driver support.

  • YES!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by zill ( 1690130 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:06PM (#31846766)
    Finally, I've been dreaming for this day to come for years now. I've been using the PS/2 to USB adapter on my model M keyboard but it's adding unnecessary latency, not to mention USB's slow polling rate sucks. Now I can finally plug my keyboard into a native PS/2 port!

    What? What do you mean TFA wasn't talking about the port?
  • New Tag... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:08PM (#31846800) Homepage Journal

    Can we have a new tag: "Rhetorical questions to which the answer is 'No'"

  • My OS/2 story (Score:5, Informative)

    by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:11PM (#31846844)

    When I worked for the state there was a company contracted to develop a whole suite of Windows applications to move us off the old VAX green-screen interfaces into the modern world. Most of the department ran on Windows NT 4.

    So naturally, the contractor developed all of their applications on a Windows NT 3.51 emulator running under OS/2.

    Aaaaand after millions of dollars spent, the contractor demonstrated their applications (working flawlessly under the emulator in OS/2) got their money and high-tailed it, leaving us IT schlubs to implement the applications. All the apps immediately crashed when we attempted to run them in the real NT 4 environment. We never did get them working, except on the few workstations actually running OS/2 with an NT emulator.

    Your tax dollars at work. Remember kids, watch your specifications when hiring a contractor!

    • Your post should be entitled "My experience with a mismanaged Windows NT 4 software development project." The only experience you had with OS/2 in your story is that the contractor used it to emulate NT 3.51 during development instead of using actual NT 4.0 machines.

      What happened is not the fault of OS/2, but rather the contractor and the manager overseeing the development.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:12PM (#31846852) Journal

    Since MS has won the desktop OS battle, IBM has been behaving as a small company, but they are not. Sure the company that IS big IT must have more aspirations then just being a service provider?

    And of course they are a lot more, but once they were the face of IT to ordinary people. You bought an IBM or at least an IBM compatible.

    And now?

    So if this story has some truth in it, it could mark an attempt by IBM to get back out there and fight in a crowded market place and not just charge 1000 dollars per hour for its personnel.

    Doubt this is the case but I have always had the thought that if anyone can break the current stalemates it is IBM. It could force both hardware and software makers to worry about competition again.

    Not that I think it is likely, IBM does quite well as it is. But it would be more intresting if it is true.

  • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:12PM (#31846862)
    Buying software from IBM just encourages them to write more.
  • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

    I find it very telling that many of the people that have commented on this story have low UIDs, lol

  • This is the exact thing that would have a chance to make it as a general user desktop Linux distribution.

    Of course, most FLOSS fanboys will scream and cry and hate all over IBM so it probably won't happen, but it would have a much better chance of success than the current offerings.

    • The biggest coup would be to make this thing freely available for home use. I still would like to see Big Blue open source Lotus Notes and Domino. Then, IBM can leverage the sheer number of community developers to make the products even better. Open Source allows a company to tap far more developers than they could afford to keep on a payroll. They get the advantage of additional testing to make a solid, stable platform. Software suffers from so many bugs because of the push to get return on investment
  • by NicknamesAreStupid ( 1040118 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:29PM (#31847092)
    Now called z/OS, it is still popular too, mostly as the backend to all those OS/2 ATMs. However, neither will see a resurgence. The PC market is 'mature' and will not have room for another general purpose OS. The future of operating system is in the mobile device, then in dedicated purpose devices such as cars, appliances, and gadgets.

    OS/2 was a basterd child. I had the first OS/2 developers kit. It cost $3,000, had no GUI (PM came later), and wouldn't compile "Hello World." The day after I got the SDK, I drove from SF to Seattle to attend the first OS/2 developers' conference at the Westin. Balmer was there but Gates was not. I wondered why the head geek did not show up for such a "big event." Now we all know why.
  • No way (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kylere ( 846597 )
    In 1996 I called IBM Support about the fact that my IBM Aptiva was having memory problems. When they found out I had OS/2 Warp installed they refused to help unless I installed MS Windows. I have not purchased an IBM product since.
  • I found OS/2 quite stable for the year I ran it. I ran it because it was the only 32 bit os out at the time for intel hardware. I don't recall any stability issues that were above anything I experienced on Windows 3.1 at the time. And OS/2 came with something I think a lot of people would be on board with: REXX. REXX was an awesome shell language.
    • I don't recall any stability issues that were above anything I experienced on Windows 3.1 at the time

      That's the problem. OS/2 was stable, but most of the apps were Win31 apps, and they crashed worse on OS/2 than they did on Windows itself. The only advantage is that I didn't have to reboot.

  • If we can actually get MS Office ported to the OS2 Window Manager on a decent Linux distribution, Im all for it. I would switch my OS from WinBlows to OS2 in a heartbeat.
  • Hey, I loved the Workplace Shell (WPS) in OS/2 and, for its time, it was a pretty amazing product, overall. Many BBS sysops would trust no other operating system for their machines back then.

    But... simply throwing new services onto a linux kernel does *not* make for a great new product. Novell tried this when with shoddy Netware services in their Open Enterprise Server, versions 1 and 2. They actually managed to to take two stable platforms and merge them into a bloody mess.

  • Both of the guys who ran it were hard core.

    Yeah, them and NCR, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and WaMu. OS/2 was for real [1] [] [2] [] (see page 2).

    I think WaMu was the last to ditch OS/2. I worked B of A. Any WaMu vets know?

    This is seriously black humor, disentangling oneself from Big Blue. Let's not forget it.


  • by Dystopian Rebel ( 714995 ) * on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:52PM (#31847436) Journal

    BeOS, AmigaOS User Groups Say OS/2 Not As Worthy Of Rebirth As Their OS, Scuffle Ensues

    General Availability (GA) Release 2.0 Of eComStation Announced For Autumn 2009

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:58PM (#31847512)
    "2 guys who had it" jokes aside, back around 1994-95, OS/2 was way more common than Linux seems to be today. I knew several friends who had it and it blew Win 3.1 away. I actually considered getting it myself, until MS started touting Win 95. I remember them selling OS/2 pretty much everywhere you could buy software. IIRC, you could even buy it at Walmart. I suspect this was one of the main reasons that MS launched such a heavy-duty ad campaign for MS 95 (one of the biggest software ad campaigns ever launched up until then). After Win 95 came out, it pretty much disappeared, but there for a while it was pretty well regarded in computer-savy circles as a superior choice to Windows.
  • by The Breeze ( 140484 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:24PM (#31847814) Homepage

    Up until rather recently, a large majority of bank ATM's ran OS/2.

    Many call centers ran software that used OS/2.

    OS/2's attempt to reach the consumer market were laughable - they sponsored the OS/2 Fiesta Bowl in the 1990's, without explaining to the public what OS/2 even was - but the software was everywhere in the corporate world it seemed. (for those slashdotters who don't know what the Fiesta Bowl is, it's one of the biggest college football ball games.)

    Ford car dealerships ran a satelite uplink system that required OS/2.

    I used it to ran a multiline BBS. It was good stuff. Even today, many of the guts (and filenames) of Windows stem from MS's long ago partnership with IBM....the more stable portions of Windows.

    Not sure what the relevance of it today would be, but it was more widespread than you might think.

  • Ahhh OS2. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by juuri ( 7678 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:25PM (#31847838) Homepage

    OS2 is what pushed me unto the unix for good. My bad ass 486-25 sx (with math coprocessor), 16 meg of ram and WHOPPING 1.2gig full height scsi drive was hungering for some more fun. I had been running a hodge podge of operating systems and had settled on DESQView/X. I had it all, running windows 3.0 apps, command shells, x applications, even X apps from remote! But then a new version of OS2 came out (2.0? 2.1?) that promised me everything DESQView/X was giving me, but running with out DOS! THE FUTURE HAD ARRIVED!

    OS/2 promptly ate my partition table and destroyed all my DVX, windows and dos partitions.

    I was so effing pissed that it did this without really asking me anything that I swore it off. Fortunately something sorta BIG had just happened there on them ol' USENETs: The new 11 Floppy version of Slackware dropped. I installed it... and never looked back.

  • Open-sourcing it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MattBD ( 1157291 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:03PM (#31848264) Homepage
    Would it not make more sense to open source the existing code base? As I understand it some of the code was created by Microsoft so they probably can't do so with that, but the Wikipedia article suggests that code from ReactOS might be able to fill the gap. That said, I guess it would have years of development to catch up on anyway, but surely it would require less work that way than something like Haiku?
  • by Richard Steiner ( 1585 ) <> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:32PM (#31848628) Homepage Journal

    According to IDC, IBM shipped a total of 4.5 million units of desktop OS/2 (with another 275,000 as servers) in 1995.

    To put that in perspective, note that Apple shipped 4.8 million Macintoshes in 1995, all running System 7.5, plus another 800,000-900,000 System 7.5 upgrades.

    It was almost as popular as the Mac in 1995, and the Mac was #2 to Windows at that time.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter