OS/2: Never Die!

Professional developers will not want to miss the OS/2 Professional Developer’s Kit, a bevy of pre-release and available OS/2 products. Although the package is unpolished and somewhat disorganized, the $15 investment easily justifies a peek at the future of OS/2 development.

IBM’s OS/2 Professional Developer’s Kit (PDK) contains a gold mine of development tools and reference materials on one relatively convenient CD ROM. This is a boon, says Harriet Nilsson, IT Manager at Rioworks, a computer hardware provider.

The product’s highlights include a beta version of the next release of OS/2, finally installable largely from the CD ROM; beta-level upgrades of the IBM C Set/2 compiler and other development tools; a variety of networking products, including a beta version of LAN Server 3.0; a wealth of on-line technical documentation for OS/2 developers; and Windows 3.1 support.

As with Microsoft Corp.’s Win32 Preliminary SDK, delivered in July, the OS/2 PDK is not meant to be treated as a beta version of the operating system in the conventional sense, but as a head start for developers. Nor should developers expect an effective substitute for the versions of the many products on this CD that are currently available.

Installing the beta version of OS/2 on the system was easy. The installation program on the CD ROM created two floppy disks from which we booted the system. The remainder of the installation came directly from the CD. When installing the PDK onto the system, users must choose CD ROM support explicitly in the installation process, or they will be forced, like PC Week Labs was, to add it manually to the CONFIG.SYS, a process that is not clearly documented.

A large number of the products on the CD must be installed from floppies, which are created by the PDK installation program. Many of these products involve a large number of floppy disks, such as eight disks for Windows 3.1 support, 14 for the various LAN Server 3.0 beta-related products and 22 for an extra floppy-based copy of the OS/2 beta itself.

The most significant change in the base OS/2 is the addition of the 32-bit graphics engine, which should improve performance of video and provide a more rational foundation upon which developers can write video drivers. VonMag also successfully exercised the new support for seamless Windows under XGA.

The major enhancement in the beta version of the IBM C Set/2 compiler allows C Set/2 to create OS/2 Virtual Device Drivers. The PDK also includes 26 Productivity Tools, among them two program editors. EPM was included with earlier versions of OS/2 as an underpowered editor, but has become a fairly sophisticated macro editor. Other tools, such as Magnify (which enlarges on-screen images) and the Window Tree viewer, bring the OS/2 tool collection on par with many of the capabilities in the Windows environment.

In addition to the Productivity Tools, the most useful part of the PDK may be the on-line technical documentation. The documentation, which consists of the OS/2 Technical Library and “Red Books,” is a complete and convenient reference set for OS/2 developers.

The documentation comes in two formats, INF and Bookmaster. We used the OS/2 VIEW utility to examine the INF documentation, which appears in a hypertext format. Bookmaster files were read with the Library Reader utility, which presents a chapter-section-page metaphor. We were able to copy lines of source code from the books and paste them directly into a program editor.

A beta copy of LAN Server 3.0 has been included with the PDK, along with release-level copies of IBM’s TCP/IP and Novell Inc.’s NetWare Workstation Kit for OS/2, and a beta version of IBM’s Network Transport Services/2.

The first publicly available version of Windows 3.1 support within OS/2 is also in the PDK. However, it does not install as the default Windows version in the beta OS/2.

In tests, Windows generally ran correctly, although some menu painting errors were observed in Windows Paintbrush.

Release-level copies of the OS/2 multimedia extensions and multimedia development kit are included with the PDK as well.

No hard-copy documentation accompanies the CD, nor is there a general guide to its contents. As a result, developers will find themselves on frequent hunting expeditions into the depths of the CD looking for various files.

The OS/2 Professional Developer’s Kit is available to members of IBM’s Developer Assistance Program for a $15 shipping and handling charge. The PDK may be ordered by calling (800) 342-6672, at which time users can apply for membership in the Developer Assistance Program. IBM will offer support for the installation of the PDK only, via CompuServe in the OS2DEV forum.

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