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.comment: Little-Iron Chef - page 4

Relieving Ennui

  • March 28, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The other drive, the one with Windows on it, didn't have a suspend partition, and I've always considered an ability to suspend to disk, where everything in memory is copied to a file and the machine is entirely shut down, with the file's contents copied back into memory upon restore, a crucial but elusive feature. The last machine I had that could do it reliably with OS/2 was a Zeos Contenda 486-25 with 8 megs. It had no PCMCIA slot, and I've come to conclude that PCMCIA, in my view the worst standard in the world until USB arrived, is the culprit. I wanted to put this to the test, and that meant installing a suspend partition, so that the memory would have a place to be dumped.

I poked around the Dell site and didn't find the utilities that the online documentation said were on the machine, but that weren't-- no surprise there, because it was a used computer, and whatever had been there originally had been reformatted into oblivion. I phoned Dell and after the obligatory time on hold between two or three transfers, I was told, first, that my computer had been purchased by somebody else, so they didn't really want to help me out until I could prove I owned it (something that I didn't find troubling at all -- watching out for stolen computers is a good thing), but just this once they'd point me to the download I needed.

Having gotten the file and read the docs and copied the appropriate stuff to a DOS boot floppy, I booted from it and learned to my utter lack of surprise that there was no space on the drive for the suspend partition. Time to Fdisk the drive. So long, Windows!

The result was a drive with a 59-meg primary suspend partition and a lot of free space. This was fine, because I wanted to use OS/2's High-Performance File System.

I employed several strategies in my effort to get OS/2 onto the machine, the chief hindrance being that my Warp 4 was on CD, and though I'd found drivers for the Panasonic CD reader, I was never able to get them configured correctly on copies of the OS/2 boot diskettes, of which there are three. Finally I just yanked the drive, put it in a desktop machine, and installed Warp 4, forcing options based on the Dell specs. (I also made a calculation error in partitioning; one should allow 250 megs for the C: drive, with applications and so on going onto subsequent logical partitions. This caused me some trouble later, but it got resolved without much difficulty, once I learned that you do not want to run Partition Magic with cards in the PCMCIA slots.)

I put the drive in the machine, and it booted without error. Dropping into config.sys, the alchemic master configuration file in OS/2, i added /IRQ to the driver for the printer line, rebooted, and suddenly had sound -- surprisingly good sound for a notebook. This was of interest to me, because Warp 4 came with IBM's Voice Type Dictation system, whereby I can plug a headset into the computer and talk, and my words will appear on the screen. I've never found it all that useful, but it's cool, especially on a notebook.

Unfortunately, the screen was ghastly -- 640x480 in 16 glorious colors. Fortunately, there was a NeoMagic driver for OS/2 on the Dell site, which I downloaded on my Linux desktop machine, transferred to floppy, and installed. Whole process took 10 minutes, and now I had 800x600 at 8bpp, which is maximum for the memory provided.

I installed the drivers for the CD reader, which worked perfectly, broadening the mystery of why they hadn't worked on the floppies. Now I was able to install the late, lamented DeScribe, in my opinion the best word processor ever. The entire program, with all its filters, templates, and huge dictionary and the bonus Mesa2 spreadsheet, took about 25 megs of storage.

This was followed by a collection of other OS/2 applications. In a few hours I had a machine competent to perform just about any desktop task. There were some surprises -- for a start, everything was very fast. I was amazed at how much I'd forgotten in the three years since I used OS/2 regularly. Fortunately, friends on an OS/2 mailing list that I've been on from its first days as a Prodigy forum in 1992 were more than helpful -- and probably delighted to see the discussion turn from Linux, which has been talked about a great deal there in recent years. I'd been concerned that the OS/2 I'd installed was code from 1996, and there had been several upgrades since then, including one that did some Y2K stuff (even though I'd found no Y2K problem). They told me about WarpUp, a CD that contains all the fixes, plus a bunch of other stuff such as a new TCP/IP stack, for $20 from a place called Indelible Blue. I remembered it well -- its proprietor, Dr. Buck Bohac, was one of the Prodigy regulars, and I remember his having inquired on the forum there whether there would be interest in a store catering to OS/2 users. I even visited the place when I was in Raleigh, N.C., in 1994. Now he has Linux and a variety of other things. I called and ordered WarpUp, which I'll apply when it arrives.

There was a lot of configuration to do, and for some reason I was bored and wanted to get back to tackling the thorny problem of XFree86. I pulled the OS/2 drive and installed the Linux one.

And on television, poor Joey was having a terrible time trying to skin the rat. He lacked the Junkyard Chef's skill in bladework. His stabbing was okay, but more delicate stuff was beyond his ken. He had found a salamander and some earthworms under the dumpster, which the panel agreed would become part of the dessert he would make; he'd also built a fire inside the drawer of an old filing cabinet, turned on its side, with the right side becoming the cooking surface. The Junkyard Chef had grabbed an old gallon paint can, half-filled with water that turned out to contain nutritious mosquito larvae. He was now boiling this on his own fire, and slicing mushrooms he'd found to produce a light and tasty broth.

Uh-oh, I thought, those look like toadstools -- deadly poisonous. No antidote.

``Uh-oh,'' said the rescuer of the stars, ``those look like toadstools -- deadly poisonous. No antidote.'' The judges groaned: They were obligated to eat what was put before them.

The next six hours, negotiating with XFree86-4.02, would make toadstools sound appetizing.

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