Operating Systems and File Systems – OS/2

Operating Systems and their File Systems

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IMB’s OS/2 HPFS File System

In the early 1990s, two of the biggest competitors in the computer industry each had an urgent need, they both needed a high performance, business oriented file system. At that time IBM and Microsoft became partners in what had been termed as an all-out-effort to develop a new operating system with the goal of creating the ultimate graphical operating system. Unfortunately neither realized their dream, al least from the partnership perspective anyway! In the end, Microsoft walked away and developed their Windows® platforms. IBM decided to support OS/2 (somewhat half-heartedly) on its own in spite of Microsoft departure.

IBM continues to support OS/2 today, but it really has been relegated to a niche role. OS/2’s file system support is similar in many ways to that of Windows® NT. OS/2 supports FAT 12 and FAT 16 for compatibility, but is really designed to use its own special file system, called HPFS. Although HPFS is similar to NTFS, and has often been said to be the same, this is clearly not the case. OS/2 does not support FAT 32, however there are third-party tools available that will let OS/2 access FAT 32 partitions. If you dual boot OS/2 and Windows partitions you are probably aware of these tools (drivers). By now, there should be tools that will allow you to access NTFS partitions, however we have not had the occasion to investigate them.

Here are some of the major features of OS/2:

  • Low System Requirements: IBM designed OS/2 with scalability in mind. OS/2 can run on any 386 or higher system with at least 8Mb of RAM and 200Mb of hard drive space.
  • Ability to run More applications: Because of OS/2’s backwards compatibility you can run more applications on OS/2 today than any other PC OS. 95% of all Win3.x and DOS software will run on OS/2 right out of the box and many of the most popular Unix applications have been ported to OS/2. Despite what many think, there are thousands of quality native OS/2 programs available for users who want to take full advantage of OS/2’s power. OS/2 can also run several different versions of DOS and Windows. One of the biggest advantages that OS/2 has over other OSs is the ability to run applications from each of these different OSs concurrently.
  • Full Preemptive Multitasking: OS/2, not the applications, controls how much processor time each program gets. This means that users won’t have to worry about a “resource hog” tying up the system, and they can continue doing their work. Users can also select exactly how much processor time they want to allocate to each program.
  • Memory Virtualization: Because of OS/2’s excellent memory virtualization users can run applications that they normally would not be able to because of memory restrictions. As an example, users can run applications that would normally use up 32Mbs of RAM on a 16Mb system.
  • Crash Protection: OS/2 protects each program in it’s own “virtual machine”. This gives the user the ability to run misbehaved applications without having to worry about crashing the system or other programs. If the system does crash, chances are that the user will be able to recover some or all of their data.
  • High Performance File System: OS/2’s file system is called HPFS. HPFS eliminates all of the problems associated with the FAT or “DOS” file system. HPFS uses disk space more efficiently that Fat, has built in long file names, eliminates the need for defragmentation of the partition, and is fully 32 bit. All these features help HPFS to be a more efficient file system than any version of FAT. In addition OS/2 fully supports the FAT file system for all your shared applications and data.
  • Complete Networking Support: OS/2 has support for all industry standard networking protocols. OS/2 allows unlimited connections to other systems in a peer network, perfect for the home or small office. OS/2 also comes with a full line of networking management tools and applications, such as Netscape, Java, FTP, Telnet3270, Ultimail (Email), and Newsreader/2 (Usenet). Users can also run their favorite DOS or Win3x networking applications.
  • Device Driver Support: It is well known that in the past OS/2 has had problems with device driver support for hardware. IBM recognized this problem and has worked extensively with hardware manufacturers to correct it. IBM now includes a CD devoted to device drivers with OS/2 and is continuously supporting manufacturers in ensuring that new hardware has OS/2 drivers.
  • Workplace Shell: OS/2’s interface is called the Workplace Shell or WPS for short. The WPS is a fully object oriented interface. This means that work can be done more efficiently, no more need to perform gymnastics with the mouse just to copy a file. Just drag & drop.

OS/2 Information on the Internet

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