16 May 2000
Harris does not yet have a bio. He's Canadian.
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
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
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