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June 2003

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eComStation 1.1, the Install.

By Mark Dodel, Christian Hennecke © June 2003

After a long wait, the much anticipated eComStation 1.1 has gone gold. The release had been postponed several times due to problems with the new completely redesigned installer, the main improvement over eComStation 1.0. According to Serenity Systems they preferred to delay the release and deliver a fully functional product than deliver a half-baked one to meet a deadline. The delay of several months has created high expectations. And indeed there have been substantial improvements. eComStation 1.1 holds up to its promises... well, almost.

The biggest selling point for eComStation 1.1 is of course this new revamped installer. Yes it includes the newest version of OS/2 with fixes applied and many new drivers as well, but a consistent, reasonable interface from start to finish is the grail for which we have searched for years. The installer is basically a frontend for IBM's CID installer. I'm told the CID installer is what IBM's big OS/2 customers use to deploy thousands or tens of thousands of OS/2 installs and is the engine used for much of IBM's own hodgepodge OS/2 installer.

Serenity's new installer allows a greater continuity to the install process. So why the big deal for something you hopefully do once and then not again for another 5 years or so? Well people have been complaining about the OS/2 install process for more then a decade. And as hardware has progressed, the vintage OS/2 installer has had greater difficulty keeping up. Maybe you don't need a new install today, but eventually you will. So will eComStation work for you? We at the VOICE Newsletter have tried to put it through its paces to see if we can help answer that question for you.

Test environment

At the time of our writing this we have not received the final package of the CDs and documentation, but since Upgrade Protection subscribers were given the opportunity to download the CD images from the eComStation FTP site we were able to download those. Even with a cable modem connection it took us a while to download all three large CD images successfully.

For this review, we have installed eComStation 1.1 on several machines (see fig. 1), ranging from machines running Intel Pentium Pro and AMD K6-2 and K6-III processors, up to current AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium 4 machines.
EIDE/SCSI (Builtin Adaptec AIC7880)
Fig.1: Machines used to install eComStation 1.1
IBM PC 365
Custom-built 1
Custom-built 2
Custom-built 3
Siemens Scenic 600
Toshiba Equium 6200M
Medion MD5275 Notebook
Toshiba Satellite 2545XCDT
Tyan Trinity S1598
Asus PI55T2P4
NMIC 8TTX+ (same as Epox 8KTR3+)
Siemens D-1107 Intel PR440FX
Pentium Pro 200
AMD K6-III 400
AMD K6-2 366
AMD Athlon XP 2000
Intel Pentium II 400 Pentium Pro x2 (PII 333 OD)
Intel P4 2.4GHz
AMD K6-2 333
RAM in MBs
Storage subsystem
EIDE/2x SCSI (Tekram DC-390F UW, Asus SC-200 SCSI-2)
EIDE/SCSI (Dawi Control Fast-SCSI)
SCSI (Adaptec 2940 UW)
1x UHCI (Intel)
1x UHCI (Intel)
1x UHCI (Intel)
Network Interface Card
No-name RealTek 8139 
3COM 3C905C-TX-M
No-name RealTek 8029
No-name RealTek 8029
Intel Pro 100
Realtek 8139 and IBM HighRate wireless card
Cisco 340 wireless (PCMCIA)
Boot via Boot Menu required
External driver required to boot
Hardware detected correctly
all but Tekram SCSI host adapter
all but NIC
all but NIC
all but PCMCIA
all but PCMCIA
Successful installation
(only after manual intervention)


Prices and requirements

The 1.1 Entry package will include 2 CDs and is based on the latest release code from IBM (MCP2). Unlike 1.0 which included a CD 2 which was the original IBM MCP1 installer, CD 2 only includes extra drivers and software that weren't included in the base install CD, or are updated versions of some that were included. CD 3 is the Application Pack, which is now an optional extra cost item which includes Lotus Smart Suite for OS/2 version 1.7 and the separate 1.7.1 update for it. Currently the eCS 1.1 Entry update from eCS 1.0 is about $59 USD and the upgrade Application Pack is about $89 USD. Full (non-upgrade) price runs about $199 USD for eCS 1.1 Entry and $140 USD for the Application Pack. There is also an upgrade from OS/2 Warp 4 (about $89 USD% as well as welh as a sxecial u|grade bqndle of,both thi Entry and Appdication(product (about,$118 USD) availmble. Thise prices are pvomotionml and set to e|pire on$June 15( 2003.

mComStateon requmres at deast a \entium 533MHz C\U, 48 Mig of RAM (thougl 64MB es recommended) ind a mifimum of$a 400 Magabyte drive paztition.$Of cour{e if yo} are ibstallinc the op|ional A|plications as wmll you sill nee` more dzive space, thoqgh some,of this, includmng base,featurew can be(installed to other drives if nmeded. Baing a long time OS/2 user we woqld neve~ instald an apphication to the operating systee partition anywiy, but Werenity,is targiting Wijdows users with this rilease afd they ere use xo dumpibg everyphing into a sinole partation.



The manual,mainly hescribe how to use the Boot Menu, provmdes an gverview,of the(installition process, and intro`uces thm new MiniLVM an` the dimler. A xrouble-whooting section should help most users to avoid potential pitfalls and get their machine to boot the CD. Overall this is done straightforward and quite nicely, and the screenshots do help considerably. There is no more "Do not do this even the dialog on the screen says so".

One could argue if placing the directions on how to enable booting from CD in the motherboard's BIOS in the trouble-shooting section instead of the description of necessary preparations was a good idea. That is one more potential point of failure for novice users.

Except for the boot menu, which is explained sufficiently, the manual doesn't go into detail and remains superficial though. This is not too big an issue as far as MiniLVM and the dialer are concerned, since both provide their own online help. The installer, however, lacks context sensitive help and novice users can easily be confused about what information they have to enter where. This especially applies to the advanced installation's networking setup.

There is no mentioning of the fact that you have to format your partitions before entering the install to be able to change the destination of selected components.

The manual advises to start the installer with install.cmd from the root of CD 2 after the initial installation. At this point, a novice user will hardly know how to do this.

One thing which struck us as particularly positive about the manual is the now extended section on using eComStation in a heterogeneous network with machines which are running one of the several Windows flavours. It deals with password case issues, TCPBEUI-based networks, using WINS, and how to fix the LMANNOUNCE classic on each Windows version. This should avoid many headaches.

What we are really missing is a short tutorial on MiniLVM with one or two examples of different configurations, e.g. installing eComStation as the only operating system with a separate volume for applications and data and another that deals with installing it on a mixed system with Windows XP or Linux.

Online documentation

Thanks to Ulrich Möller and eWorkplace many pages of the WPS's online documentation and glossary have been added, updated, or replaced with more meaningful ones. A huge improvement.

The rest of the online documentation has basically remained the same - with all pros and cons. Together it provides a wealth of proven information, but much of it is outdated to a certain degree - the command reference has been updated with some additional parameters, but a description of JFS options is still missing, for instance - and sometimes bound to cause confusion.

The eComStation installation manual can be found at A general FAQ about eComStation 1.1 can be found at

The Installation

The first new thing about this installer is the change in CD boot method. Unless you have some really old hardware, it should be able to run the install process directly from CD assuming the system allows that. No more making boot floppies, though the process is still available if you need it. The new CD boot process uses a non-floppy emulation CD boot which is supported by more hardware than the CD boot technique used in eComStation 1.0 or the IBM MCP releases. All we can say is it worked successfully on all the systems we tried it on, including a 5 year old Toshiba Satellite 2545XCDT notebook that wouldn't boot from the eCS 1.0 CDs.

On boot with CD 1 in the drive you are given the option to boot from CD or boot from the harddrive. Default is to boot from the harddrive and you get 30 seconds to decide otherwise. You can hit the [Esc] key to stop the selection timer.

Fig.2: Initial boot selection

After you choose to boot from the CD, the boot images are copied to memory, and you are then presented with a menu to select either a simple boot with default values or advanced installation process where you can select drivers to load or add drivers that are not on the install CD.

Fig.3: Selecting the boot type

If you plan to boot from IDE you should probably use the Boot with default values option. For Mark however this didn't work on his Medion laptop, as it hung with a blank screen almost immediately. He had to do the menu option and select either the DANIS506 with busmastering turned off or the IBM1S506 driver for a successful install. In contrast, the older machine listed above as Custom-built 2 on which eComStation 1.0 would only install with great efforts started without problems now. The Custom-built 3 machine even worked correctly with the installation CD inserted into the second CD-ROM drive and the only hard disk jumpered as slave, and most surprisingly the Siemens SCSI-only machine didn't choke upon the default values either.

Boot options menu

The boot options menu has undergone a considerable clean up. The crowded and confusing single options screen of eComStation 1.0 has been replaced by three separate pages with better layout, each of which has a help screen available.

Using the Boot options menus, you can elect to use a Swap file for the install (necessary if you are running less then the required 64MB of RAM), and to load an NTFS read-only file system driver.

Fig.4: Boot Options Menu, Miscellaneous page

The most important changes concern storage and USB controllers. eComStation 1.1 comes with auto-detection for IDE and SCSI types, and for UHCI, OHCI, and EHCI USB as well. Now it is possible to select up to three different storage controllers from a pre-defined list, specify individual parameters, and determine the order in which their drivers are loaded. If your system is equipped with a controller which is not listed, you can still have eComStation load the driver from floppy disk. So even for most complex system setups, creating modified boot disks should be a thing of the past. For us, we found that we needed the Boot option screens for installing on one Pentium Pro and the AMD K6-III system with SCSI as well as the a new P4 laptop which didn't like the default IDE selection.

Fig.5: Boot Options Menu, Storage page

In the option screen for USB drivers and devices, the result of the detection and be checked and support USB mice, keyboard and mass storage, which can be crucial for installation, can be adapted.

Fig.6: Boot Options Menu, USB page

The hardware detection seems to work well in most cases. IDE controllers, and Adaptec and Symbios SCSI host adapters were detected correctly, as were the test machines' USB controllers in both number and type. This detection is also active when booting with the default values when it successfully detected the Custom-built 3 machine's Dawi Control and the Siemens' Adaptec SCSI host adapter and loaded the appropriate drivers. USB mice, both standard and optical, did not impose any problems for the detection either.

Christian's Tekram DC-390F UW SCSI host adapter (based on a LSI/Symbios Logic chip) however wasn't detected at all and also caused some grief. The boot options menu's storage controller selector has entries for Tekram controllers, but since Tekram refused to let Serenity include the required drivers with eComStation, you have to provide it via diskette. He followed the directions in the boot menu's help screen and rebooted the system with the driver diskette in the floppy drive, selected the entry for the Tekram DC-390F and continued. The installer loaded the driver correctly and everything went fine - until the first reboot: "OS/2 is unable to operate your hard drive".

Investigation revealed that the installer had copied the driver to the installation partition, but had failed to update CONFIG.SYS with the appropriate BASEDEV statement. After consulting the FAQ.TXT file on CD 2, lo and behold, it describes how to work around the problem more clearly by choosing to use an unknown driver and specifying the driver name manually in the boot options menu.

There is another issue related to the boot options menu, namely the codepage setting. Most non-native English speakers who want to use the US English version of eComStation will want to change this setting so eComStation will be able to display special characters which are used in their language. For instance, people from Western Europe are likely to use the combination of 850,437 instead. But changing the codepage setting will result in failure to install certain components of the GUI enhancements later. This is easy to work around by applying the change after the installation, but the problem shouldn't exist in the first place.

Phase 1 of the Install

Once you complete the boot options if any, you will begin the actual install configuration process. There are 4 phases to this process. Phase 1 performs the initial hardware detection and base operating system install and gathers all your required information to complete the following two phases. Phase 4 is just some further customization.

After you begin Phase 1, you will be presented with a EULA (End User License Agreement) to agree to. Nothing in there ominous as there is with products from some (well at least one well known) predatory monopolies. You then have to select the type of install you want - Easy or advanced installation. Advanced gives you control over what and where software is installed, similar to the old IBM Selective Install process. The Easy Installation assumes DHCP networking and booting from IDE. All the following screen captures are from the Advanced Install. There is also an option to start a Management Console instead, which exits the install process allows you to access a command prompt, run the regular LVM utility, check disks or run programs. Also throughout the install you can activate a Command Prompt window by pressing the [Shift] and [F3] keys.

Fig.7: Determination of the installation type

Next you have to select an installable volume. You are presented with a list of possible volumes to choose from.

Fig.8: Selecting the installation volume

If you need to create a new volume there's a new, easier to use version of LVM for managing volumes called MiniLVM. From what we can tell this is just meant for the install process, though you can find it in the x:\ecs\install directory after installation. Starting the Logical Volume Manager in eCS 1.1 after the install still gives you the lousy Java version. Serenity advises against using the MiniLVM after install as it doesn't have all the functionality of the LVMGUI or the text based LVM utilities. There is three pages of documentation on using MiniLVM in Appendix C of the eComStation Installation Manual. Here is a screen capture of MiniLVM on a system with three SCSI drives:

Fig.9: MiniLVM user interface

After selecting the install volume you get the Format volume screen. You can format the install volume (no option, it just formats HPFS), but no others. You can elect to skip the formatting, or to just perform a CHKDSK (they call that a Consistency check on the screen). You have to perform something to be allowed to proceed to the next step.

Fig.10: Formatting the installation volume

Then you will have to enter your eCS 1.1 registration key (the 1.0 key will not work, and the 1.1 key is much longer at 128 bytes). The easiest way to do this is to save the key to a floppy and use the Import Registration Data option.

Fig.11: Registration

Verify Hardware

After you verify your locale (default is the Eastern time zone of the United States), the next step is to detect your existing hardware. The hardware detection function was updated by Britt Turnbull and works well as long as your hardware is listed in the detection database. If it's not the detection routine will search for added entries on a floppy disk in A: drive if you have one. As of this writing those were not yet available anywhere. Mark had worked with Britt while testing the eComStation 1.1 Preview version on adding his laptop's components to the additional detection database. This helped with detection of the laptop's Realtek RTL8139 network card, but unfortunately there were still problems with detecting the PCMCIA chipset (a TI PCI1520 chipset).

Fig.11: Verifying the support for detected hardware

After the detector runs you will get the above listing of hardware. By default eCS 1.1 uses the Scitech Display Doctor Special Edition. This allows a default resolution of 800x600 on all but the most primitive of display adapters, and supports up to 1600x1200 (assuming your graphics card and monitor support that). The other option is Generic VGA. Drive support includes various SCSI drivers as well as the choice between two IDE drivers (the standard IBM1S506.ADD or Daniela Engert's enhanced DANIS506.ADD IDE driver).

As with IDE support, eCS 1.1 provides a choice for serial port controller support as well. The default is Ray Gwinn's SIO enhanced COM driver, though the IBM standard COM.SYS is available as well.

Various mouse drivers are available, including the standard PS/2. There is significant USB support (OHCI, UHCI and the EHCI for USB 2.0) and support for USB mass storage. modem and CDROM. Advanced Power Management (APM) is off by default, and at least for us was something we made sure we enabled, especially for laptops.

Speaking of laptops, PCMCIA support is improved over the IBM WSeB/MCP install's Thinkpad only support, with many of the older PCMCIA drivers available. You have the choice of selecting PCMCIA support by notebook model (all IBM Thinkpads) or by driver. PCMCIA support on my old Toshiba installed without a problem using the SS2PCIC1.SYS driver. However selecting the IBM2SS14.SYS driver for my Medion laptop resulted in the driver not loading on boot. Replacing the version installed by eCS 1.1 with the latest version included in the Cardbus.exe package available from the eComStation driver download site fixed the problem. The issue has been reported to Serenity who suggested using the SS2TICB.SYS from Daniela Engert which is the first driver PCMCIA driver list. Be careful here as the PCMCIA driver selection allows multiple selections and the IBM2SS14.SYS is already selected by default. I had to deselect this or it was added to the config.sys file along with the correct driver.

Finally there is an option for an external floppy. There is also a selection of Kernel options including enable Java high-memory access, enabled by default; Fast time-slicing which appears to set CLOCKSCALE=4 in CONFIG.SYS. And finally Allow drivers access to memory above 16MB. The latter of these options is off by default.

Select Components

This part of the process gives you the ability to determine what gets installed besides the base operating system. Things like

The components are displayed in a well-organized tree view. For some, e.g. Java, DOS, and Windows 3.1 support, a different destination volume can be selected. A display of hard disk space required by the components would have been helpful in determining the system layout. The destination selector has one major issue: For the volume selector to be able to detect a volume and make it selectable, it must have been formatted prior to entering this page of the installer. Formatting the volume from a command line at this state, or going back and forth in the installer does not help. This prevents users from being able to take advantage of JFS's larger cache and should at least have been mentioned in the manual or at an earlier state of the installation.

Network Configuration

The default for networking install is a connection type of Network adapter connection. If you aren't connected to a network or want to be able to use a modem dial-up connection, you have to select Modem or serial connection. The installer then tries to detect the NIC and select an appropriate driver.

It seems that there are problems with some RealTek-based cards. Detection failed for both identical RTL8029-based cards and the laptop's RTL8139-based card, while another no-name card with RTL8139 chip was detected correctly, as were the Intel and 3COM cards. The problems may be due to the large number of manufacturer's who are using RealTek chips. With Britt Turnbull's help Mark was able to get eCS 1.1 to recognize his laptop's Realtek RTL8139 network card, and it automagically selected the driver for it. This was by using the floppy to read in additions to the hardware detection database.

Fig.12: Selecting the type of network connection

By default both TCP/IP and NetBIOS/SMB are selected for install. The later includes both IBM NetBIOS (NETBEUI) and IBM NetBIOS over TCP/IP (TCPBEUI) protocols. Since we don't connect to any SAMBA or Window's network clients/servers we usually deselect NetBIOS over TCP/IP.

Fig.13: Network adapter and protocol setup

TCP/IP settings default to DHCP. If you were connecting this directly to a cable modem or other high-bandwidth internet provider, that might be all that's required. For our local LANs we assign static IP addresses so we changed to Specify address manually and keyed in our IP addresses, Subnet masks, Default router, Host name, Domain name and DNS server. Beware the Domain name field only allows alphabetic and numeric characters as well as the "." separator. So if you have a dash or underscore or some other character it won't allow you to enter it.

The LAN settings page is where you key in the Workstation ID and LAN DOMAIN. The Domain doesn't default to "IBMPEERS" as the old Warp 4 File and Print Networking install did, so you have to make one up.

After the networking is configured you get a screen telling you the system configuration is complete and you have to to accept it and move on to the final part of Phase 1 of the eCS 1.1 install - copying the files. Up until this point you can return to a previous screen and change your configuration. After this it begins the process of actually installing the base operating system and other components. On Mark's P4 2.4GHz notebook this took about 5 minutes, on his Toshiba AMD K6-2 333 Satellite laptop it took about 15 minutes.

Phase 2 of the Install

An automatic reboot follows Phase one, and the system comes up building the desktop objects, and then installing non-base operating system features like the web browsers, Java virtual machines, networking components, the GUI enhancements and the Scitech Display driver. Be aware that if you already have the IBM Boot Manager installed and active on your system, it will boot to the first bootable partition on the Boot Manager menu. We had to quickly select the correct eCS 1.1 volume. Serenity is aware of this problem (I complained about it with the previews) and feels they can't do much about it. Of course if you don't have BM installed it's not a problem at all.

The final steps here in Phase 2, were updating the desktop for all the components installed followed by another reboot. On my Medion P4 2.4GHz notebook this phase took less then 10 minutes. On my Toshiba AMD K6-2 333 Satellite laptop it lasted about 17 minutes.

Phase 3 of the Install

If you blink you might miss Phase 3. On my Medion laptop (again Intel P4 2.4GHz) it took less then 20 seconds. On the AMD K6-2 333MHz laptop it took about two and a half minutes. This phase is just labeled "Finishing Installation" and the text status indicator just says that it is processing MISCTASKS.

End of eCS Installation

After the reboot from Phase 3 the system comes up installing the MultiMedia subsystem. You are warned not to reboot the system until you have completed this next part. The WPS is available by this point, and a tabbed notebook titled "End of eCS Installation" opens when the Multimedia install completes.

Fig.14: Final installation steps

In this final configuration you can change the screen display characteristics including the base default of 800x600 resolution. In the Screen tab you can also modify the ePager (A multi-desktop feature which appears in the bottom left hand area of the above image initially showing 6 virtual desktops) and set screen corners/borders to activate processes when the mouse touches them.

The Network User ID tab can be changed from its longtime default standard of USERID and PASSWORD to something more unique and secure. This will only work if the LAN Requester loads successfully, so if there is a driver problem it won't work and you will have to change your userid/password once you get your LAN networking configured properly.

If you like playing around with the new look and feel or just want to turn some or all of it off go to the User Interface tab where you can find buttons to allow you to modify the WPS enhancements (eWP and eStyler), window control themes and icon themes. These last two features are nice but the included themes are severely limited (eComStation, Warp4, Warp Server and Warp3 styles for the icon sets and some variations on those as well as a Windows look for the window controls). With the codepages changed from their defaults, the process of building the icon themes failed.

The Clock tab allows you to setup the eCS clock. We hope to have an article on configuring and using the eCS Clock and its associated features ( automatic update and scheduling ) in a future issue of the Newsletter.

For the installation of sound drivers and other related software, the Multimedia tab points to the separate installation from CD 2.

The Printer tab allows you to run an Install Printer guided process. Unfortunately for us this only works with models displayed (those models using the standard OMNI, Postscript, LaserJet, etc). When Mark tried to use this to install the Epson Color Stylus 1520 using the EPOMNI driver using the I have a disk option, the Guide gave him an error. Easy enough though to just open the EPOMNI.drv object and drag the 1520 model to the desktop and install the driver. A newbie to eCS might be lost though, but would most likely not know to use a non-standard printer driver anyway. It also is not clear how to install a USB printer. The Install local printer guide doesn't offer to select the USB port, even though the related base support and port drivers were installed and the USB resource manager detected the Lexmark Z51 test printer correctly. When the printer was connected and turned-on from the beginning of the installation, eComStation created a correctly named printer object in the Printer folder with IBM Null selected as driver (which is fine as that model is not supported by the included drivers).

Supplemental software

Bundled applications and tools which are not directly related to the basic operating system functionality have to be installed from CD 2. However, this is not done via a generic installer with a common modus operandi. Instead you are presented with a generic guide front-end in notebook/wizard-style, which users of eComStation 1.0 will know from its last installation phase. This guide is used to start other guides grouped by application/tool type which in turn start the proprietary installers of each application. The guides have a decent layout and worked flawlessly.

Browsing the guides displayed both similarities and changes. Most applications and tools from version 1.0 are also included in version 1.1, e.g. the applications from the old Warp 4 Bonuspak. There are several notable changes, especially in terms of connectivity and multimedia.


Both FX products, Injoy Dialer and Injoy PPPoE, have been dropped in favor of eCSCoNet, an OEM version of ISDNPM. The new dialer software doesn't come with any loss in functionality. In spite of the base product's name "ISDNPM", connections can be established via analogue modem, ISDN, PPPoE, and even PPtP. eCSCoNet also supports Network Address Translation (NAT) and includes a firewall. Networking-related additions include Mozilla 1.3 with Flash 4 and 5 (Flash 5 as trial version) plug-ins, drivers for several ISDN cards by four vendors, most of which were directly installable from the guide, and tools to improve the TCP/IP stack's performance and to synchronize the networking configuration files in case of problems.

Fig.15: eCSCoNet user interface

ISDNPM is infamous for its user-unfriendly configuration via several text files and the sparse documentation. eCSCoNet however is supported by the Internet Assistant for eComStation, a wizard-style setup tool by Team OS/2 Germany which clearly guides you through the setup and shields you from unnecessary configuration items. When you have entered all necessary information for your chosen types of connection, the assistant automatically configures eCSCoNet and SLIPPM (if you have chosen to connect via modem) for dialup, and your internet browsers. Note that configuration of PPtP connections requires running an additional script which we were not able to test. After installation of the drivers for the ISDN card, we were connected to the internet and browsing in three minutes. So far, we have noted no problems with this approach for both ISDN and serial connections.

Fig.16: Internet Assistant for eComStation, selection of programs to configure

The TCP/IP performance tool applies a number of changes to parameters upon startup of the TCP/IP services. Judging from the changes, this should prevent problems with overflowing routing tables, improve throughput for connections of higher speed, and increase security a bit. Nice, especially for novice users who don't want to spend hours on reading the TCP/IP documentation.

Another bonus is the configuration file tool. Sometimes changing the setup of network adapters and/or protocols can lead to problems with file and print sharing, because MPTS only changes PROTOCOL.INI and doesn't adapt IBMLAN.INI. This new tool is able to re-synchronize the two files. A very handy addition.

eComStation still comes with DTOC 4 and 3. This means that users will still experience problems when having to enter non US-ASCII characters. While this doesn't hamper the use of DTOC as a means of remote-control that much, it renders it useless for actually working with the remote machine.


The multimedia branch offers some surprises. There are options for de- and re-installing MMPM/2, as well as resetting its configuration to the defaults. With eComStation 1.0, some sound drivers were included, but had to be selected and installed by hand. Auto-detection didn't make it into the multimedia section, but instead there are separate guides for sound card drivers and TV card drivers. The sound card guide offers the install and uninstall of a large number of drivers for each ISA, PCI, and AC97 based sound grouped by chip manufacturer and with information regarding supported chip, sound card, or motherboard included. LBMix provides decent mixer capabilities for many sound chips. Owners of TV cards with Brooktree 8x8 chips can use Cinema/2 to watch TV.

Changing the Multimedia Presentation Manager's configuration has always been very problematic. Switching the sound card, for instance, often required de-installing and then re-installing MMPM/2. The new reset option helps to avoid this and minimize the hassle.


eComStation 1.1 also comes with the IBM Developers Toolkit, but now installation can also be invoked via the guides. Furthermore the latest Java 1.3.1 run-time and toolkit, and the new Open Watcom C/C++ compiler are included. A notable addition is an informational package on writing device drivers by Daniela Engert, including source code examples.

Believe it or not, Serenity Systems has replaced the Java 1.3.1 installation process. The old way of using Netscape Communicator and the buggy Feature Installer plug-in has been replaced by a small PM front-end which gathers the necessary information and then invokes the command line version of Feature Installer. Definitely a wise choice, it is faster, and less prone to crash and leave a mess which is hard to get rid of.

Open Watcom sure is a bit aged and you won't be able to use cutting edge C++, but then it is a proven package that is able to create stable and very fast code. Moreover, you can use it for cross-platform development and - probably more important - to develop device drivers for eComStation. With the information provided by Daniela Engert, you can start right away. :-)


eComStation has come a long way and shows improvements across the board. Never has there been an OS/2 which was as easy to install, and the GUI improvements put it ahead of any other operating system once again. It is also nice to see that Serenity Systems is addressing some known weak points of e.g. networking and multimedia configuration. There are still some rough edges, and a few rather annoying bugs and glitches which shouldn't show up in a GA version - especially not after over one year of focused work on the installer. Most are quite easy to work around though, if you know what to do that is. All in all eComStation 1.1 is where many people wished IBM had taken OS/2.

We ran into some problems with some of the install as detailed above, but overall we really like the new installer. It gives a distinct continuity to the whole process. If you are using eCS 1.0, and don't require the new installer then you might pass for now as you already can have pretty much the same level of code by applying the available updates. For us this was an opportunity to make some changes we had been holding off on for a while (moving away from running a LAN Server (WSeB) network and back to a peer network now that Serenity has a fix for the longstanding Peer - SMP crashes).

If you are still using OS/2 Warp 4 and you don't want to switch to another system, eComStation 1.1 will provide you with the latest in fixes, drivers and software updates, all out of the box. And if you don't need the additional applications of the Application Pak, you can save quite a bit of money by purchasing the Entry Edition. Now would be a good time to upgrade. For users of eComStation 1.0 or the Convenience Pak things are a bit different. If you are going to (re-)install, the new and much more hassle-free installer and the load of included fixes can save you a considerable amount of time. If, on the other hand, your existing system works fine and you won't be (re-)installing in the foreseeable future, you may want to wait for the next incarnation instead.

Is there room for improvement? Yes. As good as the experience was it wasn't perfect. Some people complain about the fact that the FAT32 driver wasn't included in the install (its on CD 2). However it is nice that they included a read-only NTFS driver capable of dealing with partitions formatted by windowsXP and below for those needing that.

The hardware detection has made a giant leap forward, and the install component selection is really very user friendly, though I'm not sure its quite there for the typical computer non-literate windows user yet. Some continuing improvements here will help, though unless someone starts writing some drivers and software for things like more currently available printers and USB scanners, I'm not sure how much success Serenity will have in that market anyway.

We just don't have the time to get into everything that is included in eCS 1.1 or the Application Pack, so we will have to end here. Hopefully we will have more articles on its various components in later issues to give you a clearer picture of everything.

eComStation 1.1
Developer: eComStation web site -
Price: various see purchasing web site

Links referenced:
  eComStation 1.1 Installation Manual (PDF) -
  eComStation 1.1 FAQ -

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