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August 2003

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Letters, Addenda, Errata

If you have any comments regarding articles or tips in this or any previous issue of the VOICE Newsletter, please send them to We are always interested in what our readers have to say.

July 16, 2003 - This month we have turned our Update page over to Roderick Klein from Mensys BV who has written a long response to our June review of eComStation 1.1, the Install.:

eComStation, backstage...

First, I would like to thank all customers for patiently waiting for the release of eComStation 1.1. It has been quite some project. Also a big thanks go out to the group of volunteers that code, test and design things. The response we got from a couple of people has been something like "And thats what you have been working on all this time ?" - well, let's elaborate a bit on what has been going on behind the scenes!

Firstly I would like to comment on some of the issues pointed out in the VOICE review of eComStation 1.1 ( After this I will go in detail what has all been happening and what kind of things are being worked on at the moment.

From the VOICE review:
"The installer was contracted out to IBM and 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."

Comment Roderick Klein:
The installer in eComStation 1.1 was not contracted out to IBM. It is true that CID is used by large accounts of IBM to deploy many OS/2 installations. The network installer from IBM and selective install all generate so called response files. The new eComStation installer does this as well. You can find these response files on your eComStation 1.1 boot drive in the directory \ecs\install\rsp.

From VOICE review:
"Even with a cable modem connection it took us a while to download all three large CD images successfully."

Comment Roderick Klein:
We are working on many projects at Mensys and Serenity Systems. One of these projects is to make eComStation 1.1 available in an electronic form. For this purpose a new FTP server with high bandwidth has been installed, which will take the load of the other servers and most important provides faster downloads of ISO tracks that will be released. Of course, downloading more than 1 GB of data will take some time, no matter what. To enable a fair amount of simultaneous users, the bandwidth per user has been limited to 2 x 100 kB/s.

From VOICE review:
"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. "

Comment Roderick Klein:
I'm writing this from France while on vacation. I'm working again on the project (one of many :-) ) of contacting hardware vendors to get permission to distribute device drivers. Many people think we can just include device drivers, however they are protected by copyright laws. Although they will only work on the hardware of the vendor and can be downloaded from the website of a hardware vendor, we may not put a device driver on the eComStation CD or website without permission. Dealing with legal departments can sometimes be very time consuming.

From VOICE review:
"The Easy Installation assumes DHCP networking and booting from IDE."

Comment Roderick Klein:
When you choose Easy install, support for a detected SCSI card will be automatically installed! So it is not only for IDE systems.

From VOICE review:
"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. "

Comment Roderick Klein:
For some reason IBM has killed MMOS/2 uninstall in MCP. We added this feature and improved it while we were at it.

From VOICE review:
"Owners of TV cards with Brooktree 8x8 chips can use Cinema/2 to watch TV."

Comment Roderick Klein:
The drivers only work with Hauppauge based Brooktree 8x8 boards. Other manufacturers are unsupported by the drivers.

From VOICE review:
"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."

Comment Roderick Klein:
Well it has always been documented with minstall. You select 0 to uninstall a soundcard. We have now put that option more clearly in the spotlight.

From VOICE review:
"eComStation 1.1 also comes with the IBM Developers Toolkit, but now installation can also be invoked via the guides. A notable addition is an informational package on writing device drivers by Daniela Engert, including source code examples."

Comment Roderick Klein:
The installer for the IBM developer Toolkit was written by Alex Taylor. He was not happy with the fact that you could not uninstall the IBM toolkit. The way the toolkit is installed now enables it to be uninstalled as well. The documentation from Daniela Engert to my best understanding should be seen as to fill the gaps in the IBM documentation. This missing documentation in the IBM DDK is most likely the reason that there are some real unstable OS/2 device drivers out there that have very poor IRQ sharing. One known trouble maker is for instance the driver from SiStech. But fortunately a third party solution is in the pipeline!

From VOICE review:
"Believe it or not, Serenity Systems has replaced the Java 1.3.1 installation process."

Comment Roderick Klein:
The old Netscape installer works the same as our replacement installer. It creates a response file which will be processed. What we added is the frontend to create this file.

From VOICE review:
"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. "

Comment Roderick Klein:
We would have liked to include the GCC compiler from Innotek but at the time of release it was not clear which build of the GCC compiler we would be able to include.

From VOICE review:
"Some people complain about the fact that the FAT32 driver wasn't included in the install (its on CD 2). "

Comment Roderick Klein:
There were some doubts about including the FAT32 driver, as it had been reported that data loss could occur when using it to write to (very large) FAT32 partitions. So based on these reports it was decided not to include the driver in the main install. Since then some updates have been made to the driver and it will be reconsidered to include it in the main installer next to the NTFS driver.

What is new in eComStation 1.1 ?

So what is new in eComStation 1.1? Getting the product out the door was quite some job! Lets just work through the boot procedure and the installer. That might answer some questions.

The first thing you may notice when booting eComStation 1.1 from CD is the way the boot menu looks.

Do you remember the days with OS/2 Warp 4 and the boot diskettes? Well MCP (Merlin Convenience Package) from IBM brought us a bootable CD. These CD's used the so called El Torito boot standard. On a defined location on a CD there are one or two diskette images that are loaded by the BIOS. That is how MCP and eComStation 1.0 boot. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this boot method.

If the El Torito boot standard with boot disk images no longer works you are required to make boot diskettes and get a USB diskdrive (which in turn requires you to update the floppy disk with drivers to support the USB drive)

We have had some users ask if we could not continue to support the old boot method we used in eComStation 1.0. There is a simple answer to this question: no.

The El Torito boot method has some very big limitations:

First the kernel + basedev device drivers like USB IDE and SCSI all need to be stuffed in a disk image of 2.88 megabyte, I can tell you that was not easy with eComStation 1.0.

Secondly the new boot system allows you to (with a specially prepared diskette) to load new drivers and even a kernel on the memory disk that is created by the no boot emulation code and use that to boot and install eComStation!

There might have been a method of supporting multiple diskette image directories on one CD. But this would have been a technical support nightmare. Also when it comes to public testing we can not support 2 different boot methods.

The "no boot emulation" is the best way of booting since Windows 2000 and Windows XP also use this method. Hardware manufacturers will make certain this method works on their systems.

So how does it work? Diskette images are unpacked from CD ROM to a RAM drive. The advantage of this system is that not all files required for the first boot phase of OS/2, like the kernel, need to be squeezed into the first diskette image. eComStation loads files like OS2KRNL (the kernel) from this RAM disk and it able to then continue the boot from CD.

The menu you see to select if you want to boot from hard disk or CD ROM also includes the code to autodetect your SCSI and USB controller. Based upon the settings you made and what hardware was detected a config.sys on the ramdrive is created to boot the system.

So that is just one of the problems that was tackled with eComStation 1.1 that former versions of OS/2 (MCP and eCS 1.0) had.

So when booted from CD you will get to the new installer. It may look simple, these couple of screens you click through. But there is more behind those then just a few lines of code.

Thats in broad lines what has happened with the installer.

Some people have commented on the fact the old WarpCenter is gone and that eWorkplace (a slimmed down version of Xworkplace) is installed. You can deselect this, to retain a more Warp 4 style system. However we STRONGLY recommend you do install eWorkplace, since it increases system performance and stability!

People who in the past have had problems with Xworkplace might need to reconsider. A lot of trouble come down to errors in INI files. On a freshly installed desktop we have so far not encountered any problems. Installing eWorkplace will provide a lot of needed features to the desktop. But most importantly the desktop becomes MORE stable. eWorkplace also puts in place extra safeguards and backups in case the desktop gets into trouble.

Another very important improvement is the eCenter. This replaces the WarpCenter. The reason this has been replaced is not only because it is much more flexible. The WarpCenter is known to cause problems, for example in the event a program crashes or hangs you may encounter a popup window stating that the program is no longer responding. You click the message away and then the desktop restarts. Another popup window follows (or not) and then you are stuck! This has to do with the Warpcenter de-railing.

In the meantime the entire eComStation website got a major overhaul, in both look and functionality.

Hopefully this explains why eComStation 1.1 took so much time. It is a large project. Besides the development of eComstation 1.1 we also needed to guide the beta testing and process the user feedback. Discuss things with users, do legal work and do a lot of research where things are not documented.

Where can US customers get eComStation ?

Some frequently asked questions keep coming up regarding Prism Dataworks (formerly Indelible Blue). We hope the following will clear up most of these questions.
You can purchase eComStation at (, via Consultation Troughton (, Finnegan Software ( or BMT Micro ( A full list of resellers is available at:

You can still get a preloaded system at Prism Dataworks but they have stopped selling retail packages of eComStation. Mensys has taken over the customer database of Prism Dataworks. When you are reading this, all Upgrade Protection customers should have received their eComStation Upgrade Protection media kit. If you purchased Upgrade Protection in the past and have not received either a message with your registration information or a mediakit, please send an email to Please provide as much details as possible, the main problem we encounter is that customers email addresses have changed, so we would need to know your new as well as your old email address. We need to confirm shipping addresses before we can ship anything and to do so, we need to be able to communicate with you over email!

Also if you have ordered an eComStation 1.0 via the website of Prism Dataworks and would like to order eComStation 1.1, your Prism website account has not been migrated to To login to the site, you can either use your existing Mensys account or create a new one simply by clicking on the logon button.

The accounts of either Mensys, and Prism cannot be used to login to the website of

What does the future have in store ?

What can I do ?

We can always use help of people who can write device drivers or people who just beta test projects that appear on the eComstation website. One of these projects is the so called DTA (Data Transport Agent). It got released on some time ago. The DTA is going to be an important improvement for multimedia in the sense that it will improve the way MMOS/2 processes audio buffers. Please visit for more details. For all of these downloads you need an eComstation 1.0 or 1.1 login account. And remember, please always reports bugs via the bugtracker!

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