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The Codesmith's Library

Written by Carsten Whimster




My Web page is still growing, and has recently had over 2700 hits. Perhaps my joke about using 5 digits for my hit-counter is not a joke after all. At this pace, it may hit 10000 by Christmas. Luckily, I won't need 6 digits for a while. Check it out at .

<plug warning> My POV-Panel/2 has recently gone golden, and the release is called 1.1a and is available on my web page, as well as on, and Once I started getting registrations, I realized that I was not terribly well qualified to answer complicated questions about why my program wasn't working on certain real-world setups, and so I looked into this. This culminated in the purchase ($$$) of this month's book. If you are interested in ray-tracing, use POV-Ray, and sometimes write your own scripts, you definitely want to take a look at this program. </plug warning>

Partition Magic from Power Quest has to be one of the most timely programs to ever be released. I have just assisted several friends in installing OS/2, and in each case I am not sure if they would have installed it if they had not been able to move partitions around, grow them, shrink them, and convert them. This may be one of OS/2's strongest points. It is now available in a DOS/Windows version too, but it was originally an OS/2 program. Partition Magic definitely makes it easier to try OS/2 without nuking your current setup, which may be enough to convince more people to switch. Of course, when the next release of your favorite C/C++ compiler is released, you may well find that your development partition is too small to hold it. What better time to get a new harddrive, and resize partitions <grin>

OS/2 Certification Handbook

OS/2 Certification Handbook may seem like an odd fit for these pages. The reason that I am reviewing it is that I needed some of the information in it to properly support my shareware program. I was getting strange questions, the answers for which I had never come across, and it quickly became apparent that I needed a more authoritative command of all things OS/2. Hence the purchase (and quite a hefty one at that) of this book. The way I see it, most shareware authors, of which I am sure we have quite a few as readers, could use this information to support their products. Here are the chapter titles:

Part One: Installation
1. Versions of OS/2
2. Planning for Installation
3. Installing OS/2 Warp, Version 3
4. Installing OS/2 2.1
5. Advanced Installation Tips
6. Printer Installation
7. Font Installation
8. Control Files
9. Installing and Migrating Applications
Part Two: Using OS/2
10. Understanding OS/2 Concepts
11. Performing Basic Operations
12. Manipulating Windows
13. Getting Online Information
14. Using Desktop Objects
15. Using Menus and Notebooks
16. Using Advanced WPS Features
17. Understanding the File System
18. Running Applications
19. Installing Applications
20. System Startup
21. Printing
22. Customizing OS/2
23. Using the Workplace Shell Efficiently
Part Three: Supporting OS/2
24. Support Tools
25. Software Aids
26. The Boot Process
27. Solving Video Problems
28. Solving Printer Problems
30. Error Recovery
31. System Dumps
Part Four: OS/2 Performance and Tuning
32. Understanding OS/2 Memory and Task Architecture
33. Measuring Performance
34. Maximizing Performance
35. Understanding Other Performance Issues
Part Five: Appendixes
A. Using the Keyboard
B. Help via Modem and Fax
C. Maintenance
D. Understanding REXX
Part Six: Command Reference
  Command Reference

Again this month, I will concentrate on the sections, rather than the chapters, since the divisions between the chapters are less important than in programming books. In addition, this book is absolutely immense, and reviewing it in any kind of detail in one month is impossible.

Part One covers various installation issues, including new features in Warp, a planning section for installation, which includes checking out the system requirements for the intended usage versus the actual requirements available, a detailed section on configuration decisions, such as whether or not to use HPFS, how to arrange partitions, and whether or not to use Boot Manager. This is followed by a small section that outlines what DOS and Windows programs OS/2 can support, and how. Finally in chapter two there is a brief run-through of the amount of space required for the various selectable components, and when it makes sense to leave out components. At the end of every chapter there is a small questionnaire which tests how well you have read and retained the information offered in that chapter. This is not always as easy as it sounds!

Chapters three and four describe the actual installation in detail, for Warp and OS/2 2.1, respectively. Both the easy installation and the advanced installation options are covered for Warp. Installing OS/2 2.1 (for those of us that remember) is actually nearly identical to installing Warp, except that it has gotten easier, and there are now a few more options along the way, and a lot more drivers. Advanced installation topics are the subject of chapter five. Oddly enough, the first sentence reads "Wrapping up the installation section of this book, this chapter covers...". Considering that the installation section covers chapters one through nine, this statement is a little premature. Occasionally, I get the distinct impression that this book is a changed version of an earlier book, although I don't know which. Understanding OS/2's directory structure, support options, and removing OS/2 is all explained here. There is another small error in the support section. The newsgroups on the Internet are claimed to start with comp.os2 whereas they in fact all start with the comp.os.os2 prefix.

The next chapter discusses printer considerations. This includes a discussion of the flow through the system of the print job, printing in DOS, printing in WIN-OS/2, pooling, spooling, and installation. Chapter 7 deals with fonts. It starts with a section describing the terminology of fonts, and continues through installation, and fonts in WIN-OS/2. Chapter eight covers "control files". This includes the obvious INI files, the CONFIG.SYS, and STARTUP.CMD, but covers everything only in light detail. These topics will be revisited in another section. Finally, chapter nine covers installing and migrating applications. A brief tour through the various memory types and requirements, video support for DOS and Windows, and VDM settings ends up in installing and migrating the applications, and creating program objects for them. Modifying the migration database is also covered.

The second part, called "Using OS/2," is a fair amount larger, and I will not mention the chapters explicitly, but rather cover only the topics of most interest to us, as OS/2 professionals. This section discusses objects and the WPS. It enforces a rigid understanding of the object paradigm, including both how to set them up, and how to manipulate them. Getting help on the use of certain objects is covered, the settings notebooks are explained, customization of objects, the file system's relationship to objects, and printing and objects are all explained. The various object types are covered early on. The various window components are explained, but this should be old hat to most OS/2 programmers. Most of the stuff covered is done so in excruciating detail, but every once in a while, there is a little gem of information which you didn't know before, and which clears up something that happened once in the past. At other times there is very little on some subject. The new feature "pickup" is explained. Here is a feature which is potentially quite useful, but which I bet very few people actually use. DDE between applications is also touched on. Sometimes it is surprising how little detail there is on some subject or other. Considering the thickness of the book, it may seem a little odd, but when you check, there is actually something written on every page, and so I guess they must have run out of room for certain minor things. Chapter 23 is one of the more interesting chapters. Entitled "Using the Workplace Shell Efficiently", it has a definite emphasis on contrasting various features for the purpose of enabling you to choose the one you prefer. Again, this chapter seems a little short on explanations.

Part three is the one of most interest to me personally, and is in fact the part that I bought the book for. "Supporting OS/2" is of immediate importance to any shareware or commercial OS/2 programmer. How many times have we heard "it doesn't work on my system", and then had to (sometimes remotely) analyze a system only to find out that a certain option, or replacement program isn't 100% compatible. 4OS2 falls into this latter category for me. Great program, but careful how you use it. It doesn't have a "start" command, for example, so don't make it your default shell unless you know that you don't need this feature. I had trouble with this in my POV-Panel/2. It uses the "start" command to launch POV-Ray. The resulting error took me a month to figure out! In the future, I want to be better at this type of thing, hence this book.

First, the various types of built-in documentation are explained. Besides this, there are several files and tools mentioned which are available through IBM's BBSes. How would you find out about these tools without this book, without spending tons of time browsing the net, trying out tools and programs? I don't know. Yet this is how they recommend that we proceed. So be it. Some tools are outlined next. The boot process is explained in a little more detail than usual, including the POST, BIOS/CMOS, and OS/2 itself. Video problems are next, followed by printer problems. Following this is an immensely helpful chapter on the CONFIG.SYS, including what many of the parameters mean, and what they do. The actual tuning comes later, but this chapter really helps the comprehension of this text-based dinosaur fragment in OS/2. The following chapter is also a great help, but in a different way. It treats recovery from terrible events, and how to prepare. It includes brief explanations of some of the tools, such as tedit, bootos2, and other EWS programs. Diagnosing is another useful sub-heading of this chapter. The level of detail isn't great, though. System dumps is an OS/2 feature I have never used. Actually, I did do a dump once, but then I had no tools to analyze the dump, so I deleted it. Chapter thirty-one discusses dumps briefly.

Part four is about performance and tuning, and I am sure that there is no area of OS/2 which involves more black magic than this. Everyone seems to have their own opinion of what works best, so it is refreshing to have official advice. What is more important than just making changes, this section explains how to measure performance differences, and thus effectively lets anyone try anything they want, without fear that they have inadvertently slowed down their system without knowing it. For us OS/2 professionals (you are going to get very tired of me saying that ), there is a certain pride, but also practical value, in having a well-tuned system. Everything from the CPU to multi-tasking and applications is discussed. Many OS/2 features which are used by programmers are discussed, such as semaphores, signals, pipes and so on. Inherent features of the O/S itself, such as virtual memory, I/O, and file systems are also discussed. All of this is followed by practical ways of measuring performance. This includes using "pulse", SPM/2 (available from IBM), and creating your own tool. Both installation-time options and post-installation options are examined. There is probably more meat on the why's of OS/2 in this section than in any other single place, possible excluding OS/2 Warp Unleashed, and The Design of OS/2.

The final part consists of appendixes (appendices?) only. The REXX appendix is quite informative, and includes a mini-reference, but it is a bit short. The other three chapters are even shorter. The book is wrapped up with a command reference, and a good index.


This book is not a programmer's book, but it is a book for the aspiring self-employed software company CEO . It teaches long and hard lessons about the intricate details of OS/2, both OS/2 2.1 and Warp. Installing, using, and supporting OS/2 are all taught well, and apart from some unfortunate errors, it is all reasonably accurate. For any reasonably well-versed OS/2 user, between 50 and 75 percent of the material will not be new, but the remaining 25 to 50 percent would be very hard to learn on your own. It is a very expensive book, but it is very large (over 1000 pages) and well worth it. I rate this book an A-, due to the errors and occasional omissions.

Note: Unfortunately this book has turned out to be fairly studded with errors, so I have downgraded the original valuation of it from A- to C. Once many of the errors are fixed, and the tests are aligned a little more with IBM's current suite, I would upgrade it back again.

OS/2 Certification Handbook, Hallberg and Ivens

  • New Riders Publishing. ISBN 1-562-05407-4. US$89.99, CAN$122.95
  • Intended Audience: OS/2 Professionals
  • Mark: C

Reviewed Books

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