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November 2000

OS/2 on a MAC FAQ

By Chris Backas ©November 2000 

After my WarpCast asking for a show of interest in having an OS/2 on the Mac FAQ/Howto, I received over 78 emails in less than 24 hours. This FAQ is based on the questions I got in those emails.
Is this OS/2 for PowerPC? Where did you find it?
No, it's not OS/2 for PowerPC. This is normal OS/2 for Intel, running under emulation on VirtualPC.

What version of OS/2 do I need?
Only OS/2 Warp 4 works. I have tried Warp Server for eBuisness, but I could not get it to work. The problem seems to be with the LVM. The installation process will go through all the motions of setting it up, then reboot. But on the reboot, it does not recognize anything that was done in the first step and wants to set up the LVM again. Therefore, I can only recommend Warp 4. You will NEED to apply a fixpack though. I recommend Fixpack 13, I've used it for awhile now and know of no problems.

What kind of Macintosh do I need?
While there's no specific requirements, you will need a reasonably powerful Mac to make this work reasonably. You should have a lot of RAM (you need to be able to allocate roughly 82MB of RAM just to VirtualPC for good speed) You will also need a decent amount of free hard disk space, you'll probably want to give OS/2 at least 1GB, likely more. Then comes the processor speed - there's no real minimum here (it has to be a PowerPC), but of course you have to realize that the faster the processor the faster the emulation. Having said all this, I run it on my iBook, which I bought in late 1999. At the time, it was the slowest Mac you could still buy from Apple, and it runs OS/2 acceptably. The iBook is a 300Mhz G3 (upgraded to 160MB of RAM, 12GB HD). Anything faster is a bonus - it works pretty nicely on my G4 500 Desktop.

I have only tested running OS/2 on VirtualPC under Mac OS 9.0.4. I have no reason to believe that it won't work under any OS version that Connectix supports though. VirtualPC does NOT run under any version of Mac OS X, including the beta, not even under OS X's "Classic" environment. It appears that Connectix did this intentionally. There will most likely be an updated release of VirtualPC that runs under OS X once the operating system is officially released.

How did you do that?
Glad you asked! I've written a step-by-step guide to this.

How fast is it?
To be honest, it's a little sluggish. Especially so when you do things which require disk I/O. You have to realize that VirtualPC is emulating IN SOFTWARE every conceivable function of a PC. Motherboard, BIOS, RAM, PCI Bus, HD Controller, Video Card, hard disks, CD ROM etc etc. Having said that, the performance is a lot better than you might be led to think. It's perfectly reasonable on any modern Mac.

Does everything work?/Are there any problems with doing this?

No, absolutely everything doesn't work. Here's a list:

  • Sound Doesn't work. Virtual PC emulates a SoundBlaster 16 Sound Card, and the OS/2 driver seems to load successfully against it. Problem is, no sound is produced.Now, having experienced the SB16 OS/2 drivers on a real PC with a real SB16, I know they have a lot of problems. Maybe someone else would have better luck trying various different versions of the SB16.
  • Only TCP/IP networking is supported. You can use NetBIOS, but only through the use of TCPBeui (NetBIOS over TCP/IP)
  • The mouse is a little bit jerky. This happens under Windows too in VPC, but Connectix provides a Windows mouse driver which corrects the problem. Unfortunately, they don't provide a specification for this driver, so it's not possible to write a suitable replacement for OS/2. Maybe some enterprising hacker out there could reverse engineer it? (I hope!)
  • The standard S3 SVGA drivers trap whenever you close any program. The solution is to run SciTech Display Doctor
  • Full screen text mode sessions have a corrupt display. I don't know of a workaround for this, and it seems to be SciTech's fault since these sessions work with plain VGA or the S3 driver.
  • There's a large black empty space 'stuck' on the bottom of the display with SciTech. This only happens with SciTech, but it doesn't hurt any usability - it's just ugly.

How do you right click?
Simple. If you have a multi button USB Mouse for your Mac, set up Virtual PC to use Control-Click in its preferences, and right click will work transparently. If you have the hockey puck mouse, you have my sympathy. For other one button Mac mice, simply hold down control while clicking and VPC will emulate the right mouse button click.

Why would you want to do that?

Well, in my case it was because I wanted a laptop, but I'm a programmer who tries to be as cross-platform friendly as possible. With this solution, I could buy an iBook, which is cheap (~$1500), and still be able to code for nearly any OS I wanted with only one machine. My iBook runs MacOS 9.0.4, Mac OS X DP4 (beta soon), Yellow Dog Linux, OS/2 (emulated) and Win98 (emulated).

Macs are also a good alternative for people who don't want to use Microsoft software but are finding it tough to do everything they need in OS/2. The hardware is great, and the platform has a bright future. This provides a convenient way to maintain your investment in OS/2.



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