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The Codesmith's Library - OS/2 Warp Unleashed - Deluxe Edition

Written by Carsten Whimster


OS/2 Warp Unleashed

This book is just full of both common and obscure hints and tricks; it has chapters on the applets, the Internet, and just about anything else you can imagine. Here is a list of the chapters:

 1.  Installation
 2.  System Configuration
 3.  Reconfiguration
 4.  Workplace Shell
 5.  Workplace Shell Objects
 6.  Configuring the Workplace Shell
 7.  Command-line Interface
 8.  REXX Programming
 9.  Virtual DOS Machines
10.  WIN-OS/2 - Windows in OS/2
11.  The Video Subsystem
12.  Fonts
13.  Printing
14.  File Systems
15.  Multimedia
16.  Productivity Applets
17.  Networking
18.  Troubleshooting
19.  OS/2 and the Internet
20.  Portable Computing with OS/2

Appendix A.  The OS/2 Unleashed CD-ROM
Appendix B.  Resources
Appendix C.  OS/2 System Messages

This book is huge! Over 1200 pages, to be exact. Hence, I don't think that I can read everything in one month, and also have a semblance of a life. I will read whatever I am interested in, and base my review on these chapters. In the process, I will probably (hopefully) cover the items of interest for most of the column's readers.

I skipped certain chapters, since my machine is already set up, installed, and pretty well configured the way I want it, but there were still a large number of chapters of interest to me. Having skipped chapter 1, I started reading in chapter 2. Many of the tips in this chapter (and the other chapters) can be found on the Internet in one of the various newsgroups, or in a file on an ftp site, but I have never seen anyone explain this stuff in such elaborate detail, and with such accuracy and confidence as the authors of this book (et al covers about a dozen other authors), many of which actually develop or assist in developing OS/2 itself. The usual foundations are well explained in this book, although the authors are careful not to explain anything that they feel IBM already explained well either in the documentation that came with OS/2, or in the on-line help files. Unfortunately, there is a large amount of information which doesn't fall into the latter category, so the authors have the opportunity to improve on what you have seen before.

Chapter 2 has a number of interesting tidbits of information about the config.sys, and the file system. Many of the usual tips are here, but there are many extra tips as well. David Moskowitz, who wrote this chapter, shows you how to set up OS/2 for a minimum system, a "better" system, and a power user system. These types of tips abound, but the descriptions given here are better than usual, complete with rationale. Explanations are given for most, if not all, of the unusual and obscure config.sys parameters.

Chapter 3 shows you how to move things around, which parts of OS/2 can be deleted under what circumstances, and gives more configuration tips. The first item is how to remove OS/2 Warp! If this is all you wanted to do, you would probably just scan the book at the bookstore, and you certainly wouldn't be reading this column. Unless you were running a 100 OS/2 machine site, perhaps. There is a really neat section on how to use the Recovery Choices screen available on booting with the Alt-F1 keystroke to set up custom config.sys'es. The end result is similar to what DOS 6.x offers with both config.sys and autoexec.bat, but more integrated. It outlines what to do if you want to use your desktop like you used to use the Windows desktop, before you switched. Also explained is how to recover from INI file corruption, and how to set up multiple desktop configurations. There is a section with MSHELL and TSHELL, and how to use these correctly, as well as how to use these concepts to use any other program as your desktop. Once you have your desktop set up, you probably won't want to change it too much, but there is a lot of interesting information here. If you develop on a small system, perhaps you may consider going to an MSHELL desktop to conserve RAM, and regain a little memory, and hence performance.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 all discuss the Workplace Shell. Chapter 4 is a slightly more in-depth tutorial than IBM gave us with OS/2. Many obscure features are noted, such as the fact that the objects listed after a Find has been performed are the real thing! Do not delete these objects. Also, if you have your desktop set to need a password on bootup, and then forget that password, there are directions on how to get yourself out of that mess.

Chapter 5 discusses the objects on the desktop in elaborate detail. The whole WPS internal class hierarchy is given, and the most important ones are explained. A neat tip is given in this chapter: how to move templates. This is not obvious at all, but once you realize that all objects have a default drag-and-drop action that sometimes can be over-ridden, that the default action of the templates are a version of copy, and that the move augmentation key is shift, then it all comes together. This level of detail is standard throughout the book, and is immensely helpful for those of us that say "Yeah, ok, but why?" all the time. Another neat feature of the book is that little REXX scripts are given all the way to accomplish helpful tasks. These are all on the included CD-ROM, so that they don't have to be typed in. The obscure pages in the object settings notebooks finally seem more purposeful to me, even if I don't personally use them all. One of the strong points of the book is that all the way through it, there are little short-cuts for commonly performed actions.

Chapter 6 explains how to customize the Workplace Shell. This includes explaining the PROTSHELL and RUNWORKPLACE statements in the config.sys. It also goes through the AUTOSTART and RESTARTOBJECT parameters. These parameters are fairly misunderstood by many people, both novices and self-proclaimed "experts", with which the Net abounds, but the record is set straight here. A neat little tip follows: try putting the line SET MENUSTYLE=SHORT in your config.sys. You can probably guess what it does, but what a relief from information overload on every pop-up menu the system presents you with. Many of the tips presented in earlier chapters are elaborated on here as well. There are a number of tips here on how to develop WPS objects under Warp. Some of the old tips are no longer relevant, since Warp now uses DSOM by default, which means that your objects will run separately from the WPS, and will no longer bring the system down, if they are buggy.

Chapter 7 discusses command-line windows, but since I have done a lot of work with these, I will skip this chapter. The author likes 4OS2, but personally I prefer YAOS. It also has aliases, history, and so on, but is much more like the tcsh that I use at school. Chapter 8 is about REXX programming, and again, I will move over this, having already read a number of introductory REXX books. Virtual DOS machines in chapter 9, and Win-OS/2 in chapter 10 are not terribly interesting to me either. I firmly believe in supporting the OS/2 developer community, and I am not one of the people who runs NetScape for Windows, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS or Word for Windows regularly. The current batch of OS/2 programs that do the same thing are close in functionality, and this is good enough for right now.

Chapter 11 covers the video subsystem, and is written by Bill Bodin, the OS/2 Warp Video Team Lead and Video Architect for the WPS. His involvement with OS/2 video really shows in the coverage he gives to this topic. Like so many of the chapters, this chapter is in-depth, covers pretty well everything, and has a unique insight into the inner workings of OS/2. The pros and cons of 8514/A, SVGA, VGA, and so on are all given. For example, did you know that the mode command now supports column widths of 1 to 255 inclusive? Maybe 1 isn't terribly useful, but it is nice to know that you impose your own restrictions, as opposed to following theirs. Some alternative ways of installing video drivers are given for those of you who are not able to use the display driver installation utility.

Chapter 12 speaks of fonts. I have never quite understood why screen fonts seem so crude in OS/2, but I am sure that this chapter has that information buried somewhere, although I was unable to find it. Everything I have ever printed from OS/2 has come out beautifully, but the fonts used on my screen are frequently poorly spaced, and choppy. I have seen a lot of other people complain about this phenomenon on Usenet newsgroups, but no-one has ever satisfactorily explained it. Installation and usage of both Adobe Type 1 and True Type fonts is explained.

Printing is the topic of the next chapter. Again, I skimmed this quickly. I use the HP LaserJet 4 at school, so I just print to file, and am done. For this reason, there is nothing in particular I needed to know from this chapter. Chapter 14, on the other hand, discusses file systems. Having recently written a small file system, this topic was of particular interest to me. FAT is built into Warp, whereas HPFS in an installable file system. That much I knew. On the other hand, Warp still has to know something about HPFS in order to be able to boot from an HPFS drive, with no FAT around. I hadn't really thought about that before, but it does make sense. But, then how do other people write IFSs for Warp? It is not possible for someone to port JFS, for example, and then put a little code into Warp so that it can boot from a JFS disk. Yet another chicken and egg argument... All aspects of both file systems are explained, such as caches, long/short file names, EAs, and so on. The relevant parameters from config.sys are pointed out and explained. The various disk utilities that come with Warp are also outlined. A couple of neat ways of using EAs are given, such as how to store comments with a file, without changing the file.

Multimedia is covered in chapter 15. The rationale behind developing it in the first place is given, and then everything from DIVE to TV is discussed. Several REXX scripts are given that demonstrate how to program for multimedia with REXX. In addition to this, the applets that come with MMOS2 are covered. The most popular audio cards are talked about, as well as some special applications, such as Video IN. There is even some discussion of the suitability and features of the various sound cards on the market today. Finally, a brief guide to video recording, multimedia and the Internet, CD-ROM drives, Pen for OS/2, speech technology, and error messages are discussed.

Chapter 16 is an introduction to the Icon Editor, EPM, and the other applets. There is a thick chapter 17 on networking, and another on trouble shooting. The latter chapter includes sections on installation, problem prevention, failure recovery, and error logging.

Chapter 19 covers the Internet. Unfortunately, this area has been moving so fast that some of the information is already out of date, although the book was only just published. Such is life. For example, The Web Explorer covered is version 0.91, whereas we now have 1.01, and the 950331 beta. Nonetheless, there is some good information in here, including a section on the much-maligned Ultimail Lite. PPP is also left out, since it was only released in December/January. The next update of this book will surely have a nice section on connecting to other providers, complete with scripts and information for both SLIP and PPP.

Finally, another chapter for which I don't have much use, but one that is probably a god-send for many: Portable computing with OS/2. There is also an appendix about the CD-ROM that comes with the book. Unfortunately, the CD-ROM itself is a bit messy, but the coverage of the CD in the book is excellent paradoxically.


There is a plethora of insight and inside knowledge in this book which simply can not be found anywhere else. This is one of the best books I have ever read about OS/2, and I have no qualms about giving it my mark of excellence, an A+. This is just one of those books that everyone who owns OS/2 should own. If IBM licensed it, and included it with every copy of OS/2 sold, they would probably save a bundle in support costs. Unfortunately, that is probably just a pipedream. The only possible drawback to this book is the relatively high price of 39.99US$/53.99CAN$, but rest assured that once you have paid for it, you will not regret. A "must buy" book.

This book has a wealth of hard-to-come-by information regarding just about every imaginable topic on OS/2. This book belongs in the OS/2 library of everyone.

OS/2 Warp Unleashed, Moskowitz, Kerr, et al.

  • Sams Publishing. ISBN 0-672-30545-3. US$39.99, CAN$53.99
  • Intended Audience: OS/2 Users and Power Users
  • Mark: A+

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