Virtual OS/2 International Consumer Education

July 1998


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View From the End (User)

9 Steps To Better Communication

By: dON k. eITNER (

Well here it is, early July, and IBM have put out another bug fix (I mean maintenance release) to Netscape Navigator for OS/2. The NETSCAPE.PKG file claims this is build level 8, yet still we're wallowing with a hybrid of Navigator 2.02 and 3.0.

Navigator 3.0

For any who don't know (it seems not everyone has heard the news) you can make Navigator for OS/2 declare itself to websites as version 3 by placing NETSCAPE.EXE in the Path & File Name field and putting -3 in the Parameters field of the Properties Notebook (and be sure to add this into any other app that might call NS/2 to handle URLs, such as your mail reader). This will enable NS/2 to run JavaScript on the web which looks specifically for version 3. You see, IBM gave us the version 3 back-end (the HTML engine, the JavaScript engine, and so forth) but never gave us the full version 3 front-end (the updated right mouse button popup menu, some items in the Preferences menu, etc). One could almost call the OS/2 release of Navigator version 2.5, but IBM did not do so.

So why hasn't IBM just given us version 3 already? Every other platform had Navigator 3.0 in late 1996 and Communicator 4.0 in summer of 1997. Well recall that IBM's original plan was to provide us with a stable product (and when they began porting, 3.0 was not yet stable). They gave us 2.02 because it was time-tested (from 1995). Their plan was to then provide us with an equally stable version of Communicator 4.0 as quickly as possible--well anyone who's used NS/2, especially with Java, should be painfully aware of the instability of the Navigator/2 product. This did not suit IBM's WorkSpace on Demand needs which are based heavily on Java, therefore we're still getting updates for the 2.02 release while IBM continue to advance Communicator to 4.0x or maybe now to 4.5 for their next wave of WorkSpace on Demand clients. It seems they may now finally be prepared to bring it on. (note that as of mid June, the Software Choice website lists Communicator 4.04 for OS/2 as a Coming Attraction)

Again, it shouldn't surprise any of you that IBM's refusal to release even a beta copy of Communicator/2 has greatly hurt OS/2's chances to appear to compete on the internet. Of course we as insiders know that OS/2 competes just fine. After all, much of the world has yet to upgrade to the 4.0 level browsers, so few sites yet require their use. Also, it's evident that OS/2 has a wealth of software for other internet purposes (e-mail is particularly strong, newsreaders, FTP, IRC and other forms of chat, and so forth). But Communicator/2 may be coming soon enough, as it appears IBM have finally struck upon a stable coexistence of NS/2 build 8 and Java 1.1.6.

But Wait--There's More!

I rushed to the FTP servers to download the official release of Java 1.1.6 and the new NS/2 the other day, and I'm glad I did. Not only have I noticed a marked improvement in the stability of Java on the web, but in the speed of its execution as well. For the first time in months I've enabled both the Java runtime and Java Just-In-Time compiler under NS/2's Security Preferences and gone out in search of Java applets to test. I hit three main sites:

  1. Castlewood Systems ( for their silent radio-like Java applet
  2. Missile Commando II ( to try my hand at a Java game
  3. and the SCOUG website for their Java calendar of events (

I also visited various sites with small Java applets such as banner ads and scrolling text. Not only did the apps and applets not lock up my desktop* (even with me continually leaving the page and coming back to it in an attempt to make it "snag") but they seemed to load on average about 10-15% faster than they did under Java 1.1.4 and the February release of NS/2.

There's further good news for Java fans--IBM rethought their practice of only providing one file to download that included the runtime, toolkit, and samples (Java 1.1.4 was a huge 28 megabyte download!) and provided us with 3 download options. First is the Java 1.1.6 runtime ( at about 8 megabytes). Then there's the runtime with the Unicode Font for international support ( is roughly 17 megabytes--that font must be HUGE! Last there's the toolkit and samples ( which come in an 11 megabyte download. All of this can be found on the Software Choice website ( The new Netscape Navigator for OS/2 has been reduced in size (to about 3.7 megabytes) by no longer containing the outdated Java 1.0.2 runtime environment.

There's still more good news for Java fans who are running OS/2 Warp 3.0--Java 1.1.6 claims to officially support Warp 3, whereas Java 1.1.4 could be made to run but it was not officially supported.

Smooth as...

Due to a human error (thanks to a relative lack of installation documentation) my installation of Java 1.1.6 was a bit troubled. Unlike earlier updates for Java 1.1.x, you cannot just unzip the runtime (or toolkit) over the existing \java11\ directory--you must unzip into a temporary directory and then run the installer. The install procedure uses IBM's Feature Installer (available from Software Choice) to help you set up and install the components of Java 1.1.6. This will then automatically copy the files into the \java11\ directory for you. I made the mistake of trying to unzip into the \java11\ directory and then running install.exe--when I found what I'd done wrong, I deleted that directory from my drive and tried again, using the temporary directory method. All went fine from this point.

The installation of the new Navigator for OS/2 was about as smooth as could be. However I've been told (and confirmed) that it installs an unnecessary njibm.dll into your \netscape\ directory. This should be deleted even if it's more recent than the one in \netscape\java11\. The only problem I've had so far in running this new Navigator is an annoying tendency it has to keep forgetting my visited links. I haven't gone more than one day without it reverting all visited links to the unvisited link color. On a seemingly related thread, having gone and poked around the Monster Board ( for employment opportunities, I noted a tendency for NS/2 to forget information I'd input into their forms when I used the Back button to return to the selection screen to edit my search criteria. No financial loss is likely to come from this glitch, but it can waste time and that's just as bad if not worse.

Here I sit with what IBM claims is the future of computing (network computing, in particular) and a web browser that finally lives up to the proud heritage of stable OS/2 software. The stage is now set for IBM's next move, and from watching the Warpstock '98 website ( I've noticed that "a new browser" is scheduled to be debuted there. Now there's only 2 browsers currently in the making that I can think of that would fill this role--the port of Opera and IBM's Communicator for OS/2. I, like most others, will have to wait for Warpstock to find out for sure which it is, but I have a sneaky suspicion. Besides, having kept an eye on Opera's Project Magic page (, I've a feeling Opera/2 may actually be available before Warpstock. There are, of course, still at least two ports of Mozilla (the free Netscape Communicator source code) to OS/2, so it will now be more interesting to watch how they develop in parallel with IBM's "official" Navigator releases.

Late News

It seems there is a "new" version of NS/2 about, with a file date of July 9, 1998. I have downloaded this from IBM's own FTP server and have found no evidence of anything new within. Yes the .exe file has the July 9 date, but all files within are dated the same as the June release, the netscape.pkg file still claims build level 8, and the About:netscape screen still displays the same 980630 in the title bar. My best guess is that the date got changed when they moved the .exe file from one server to another.

*There was one instance when, during the loading of Missile Commando II--after the Java applet area had turned from gray to white--I hit the browser's Back button and NS/2 locked. The interesting thing here is that, unlike earlier releases of NS/2 which would "black hole" on the desktop and would not die without extreme force, this June release closed from the standard Window List! This, at least, is evidence of bugs having been fixed under the hood.

Test System

Naturally the speed of the test system and the amount of RAM play a factor in the performance of any application. My system is a Cyrix 6x86 (P166+) with 32 megabytes of EDO RAM, a 31.2Kbps dialup internet connection, and all of my OS/2 applications reside on a 200 megabyte hard drive partition (with the OS and Java residing on a 400 megabyte partition). I'm running OS/2 Warp 4.0 with fixpack 6 and the TCP/IP 4.02t update.

About The Author

Don Eitner has been an OS/2 user since 1995 and has maintained The 13th Floor website since 1996, where he keeps an ongoing list of as many currently available native OS/2 applications as he can find ( which was awarded 3 A ratings, including an A+, from SCOUG ( To date Don has written 12 articles for the VOICE Newsletter and was elected as Secretary on the Board of Directors of VOICE in April, 1998.


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