OS/2 eZine

16 May 2000

Steven Harris does not yet have a bio. He's Canadian.

Previous Article
Next Article

FixPak 13

Maybe the folks at IBM should become a little more superstitious. In retrospect, it certainly might have been a good idea to skip right over the number 13 in the procession of OS/2 Warp 4 FixPaks. Then again, perhaps someone at Big Blue with a keen sense of irony decided to release the new kernel into 13 regardless of whether or not it was completed. However it came about, FixPak 13 has probably been one of the most "interesting" developments IBM has put out for the Warp client in many years.

With the release of FixPak 13, and an absolute lack of fanfare we have all come to expect from IBM, the OS/2 Warp client would now be more correctly referred to as OS/2 Warp 4.5. Of course, the only visual clue that any version change has occurred at all is a little black-and-white text banner on the bottom of the Warp splash screen. And while it's not the once highly anticipated Warp 5 Client, it does hail some interesting changes to the core of the operating system itself. For a fairly major upgrade, you can't beat the price.

Essentially the kernel contained in FP 13 is a hybrid of the original Warp 4 kernel, combined with the kernel found in the new Warp Server for e-Business. Moving over to a new kernel is never easy, especially when the maker does not see fit do heavy backwards-compatibility testing for personal software, third-party software and drivers. Predictably, there have been problems.

Some of the more serious problems identified by IBM from the outset included problems with Object REXX, the PCMCIA table, and a most annoying error in PMMERGE which caused various, mostly third-party, programs to display blank objects and windows. Quite a shock for the first users who attempted a FixPak 13 install, especially considering the relative stability seen in most of the previously released FixPaks.

In fact, on April 25, 2000, IBM was forced to re-release the FixPak in an attempt to deal with some of the more serious problems. In addition, a number of individual fixes and work-arounds were made available to those users who had already applied the first edition of FixPak 13 and couldn't reapply the entire pack.

There is even an individual fix for a problem with FP 13 which did not make it into the re-release. Itis needed when the FixPak is applied to non-Pentium systems. The machine will cut out during the reboot because of a TRAP 6 locked files error. In this case, the TRAP6FIX.ZIP must be applied in order to restart the system and complete the FixPak installation. For people with this problem, IBM recommends either applying the fix, or, for those with the luxury of not using their systems for a couple of months, waiting for FP 14.

There are even more problems for which fixes will not be available until FP 14, including a problem with suspend/resume hangs on portables, and an inability to create new Utility Diskettes. While IBM has issued work-arounds for these problems, the Utility Diskette issue is not easily addressed, as many who have tried to uninstall or reinstall FP 13 have discovered. According to IBM, old Utility or Install Diskettes will work, but only by using the external commands located on the same diskettes. Essentially, the old kernel can not use the external commands of the new.

Hopefully, by the time this article goes to publication, FixPak 14 should just about be available. According to the official announcement, "IBM understands the need for people to upgrade a system in one pass and not have to worry about checking back for later fixes," therefore, FP 14 "will contain all of the fixes posted since the re-release of FP 13 and not included in it."

Still, according to IBM, some problems remain which will be attended to over the next few FixPaks.

Ultimately, the saga of FixPak 13 and beyond will bring mixed blessings to the OS/2 community as a whole. On one side, IBM is clearly trying to quietly update the kernel and systems of the OS, leaving the door open for all sorts of interesting future developments. On the other, by releasing FP13 without a warning as to the extent of the changes that would occur, many users will become more than a little gun-shy of blindly applying FixPaks.

References: For anyone having problems with OS/2 FixPaks (or any other Warp-related problems, for that matter), WarpDoctor is located at http://www.warpdoctor.org/. The latest OS/2 Warp FixPaks are available at http://ps.software.ibm.com/pbin-usa-ps/getobj.pl?/pdocs-usa/softupd.html