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April 2002

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HOBLink X11 on the local network

By Jeremy Workman © April 2002

HOBLink is a "X-Server" that can enable you to run applications that require XFree86 (aka the X Windows System.. typically found on Linux and UNIX operating systems). HOBLink X11 allows you to use these apps without installing the OS/2 version of XFree86. XFree86 only runs in full screen sessions, so you can't access other PM applications. While HOBLink runs each app in a separate window so it doesn't cover up your WPS.

In this article I'm going to go over how I'm using HOBLink to make my life easier. In the past I had considered installing XFree86/2, but always decided against it. I never liked the idea of covering up my OS/2 desktop. We all know that the WPS is one of the best things about OS/2. I am a user of multiple operating systems. When I needed to run a program that I couldn't have in OS/2 I would boot Linux.

I recently installed HOBLink X11, which comes with eComStation. Now I had a couple options. I could install required libraries and executables from the XFree86 packages and run applications that have been ported to OS/2 (which is limited). The second option being to run the applications from my Linux machine.

I decided to try running applications from the Linux machine, and I'm glad I did. I know, to some of you who maybe reading this you're probably thinking that this isn't going to be an easy task. It turned out to be much easier than I expected. HOBLink didn't require any special settings. Just general settings for video.

HOBLink settings

Here you want to choose your color depth. You would choose the color depth you are using in OS/2. In the "Image format" field I choose to use the Auto setting since I wasn't quiet sure about it.

I had to select "Use DIVE extensions" before apps would display correctly on my machine. It's supposed to work okay without this option, so you may or may not need it. If you only have a two button mouse you will need to select "Middle button emulation". Three button mice are very useful under Linux, it will allow you to Paste by clicking the middle button in X applications. The middle button emulation works similar to the way you can click on the OS/2 desktop to call a Window List (hold in left, tap right).

Running the applications

As far as I know, settings besides the ones I mentioned above can be left at the defaults. Now you will need to login to the Linux machine with a Telnet client (ssh, or whatever you use). I like to use EmTec's Zoc, it has some nice features that I would rather not do without such as; being able to scroll up (Shift+PageUp), and you can keep an address book.

Now we need to tell the Linux machine that programs we execute are to display on the OS/2 machine. At the shell we want to send a command something like this: export DISPLAY=os2box.local.ip.address:0

That is pretty much all there is to it. Now you can run just about any XFree86 application you want.

A couple valuable tips that I suggest you use is 1) when you launch a program add a "&" at the end. This allows you to launch the program without tying up the shell, so if you need you can run more applications. 2) Some programs may send annoying output to the shell, to prevent this when you run the app you can send it's output to /dev/null.

Here is a screenshot to give you a idea of how it looks.

Of course there are still some limitations. You have to remember that these programs are only being displayed on the OS/2 desktop. Therefore programs that 1) use sound will use the sound card in the Linux machine. 2) When saving your work you can only save it to the drive in the Linux machine (unless you have file sharing?). 3) Copy ~Paste doesn't seem to work between X programs and your native OS/2 programs. 4) Some programs require xfs (X Font Server) apps like The GIMP, and word processors such as Abi Word. I have been unable to get HOBLink using xfs on the Linux machine. If anyone has information on resolving items 3 and 4 please let me know :-)

I also have the OS/2 port of The GIMP installed and fully functional using a truetype font plugin which can be found at the gimp-os2 message board at Yahoo! Groups. If anyone is interested in a follow-up article explaining how this works, please let me know.

I can say this has made things much easier in my situation. Now I don't have to reboot to Linux until I really want to use it. It has been really annoying in the past, having my work scattered out among two operating systems (ext2fs.ifs doesn't work with versions of OS/2 that use LVM). When I had files in Linux that I needed in OS/2, I would have to reboot to Linux and copy the files to one of my OS/2 partitions from there. I hope this information benefits others as much as it has helped me.


HOB web site -
eComStation web site -
gimp OS/2 mailing list -

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