Category Archives: Consulting

Arca Noae progress report: USB, ArcaOS updater, multimedia

Here are some of the recent happenings around the Arca Noae labs and design studios:

We’ve recently made significant progress toward localizing various parts, particularly for German and Spanish, and will soon have a new test build of the CWMM classes in Spanish (a completely new translation for this component).


We continue to improve the update process for the next ArcaOS release, as we find edge cases where the current updater doesn’t quite finish due to unexpected conditions in the target system. (As a reminder, please check the ArcaOS Updating wiki page before beginning an update to the latest release. There you’ll find hints and tips to help avoid – or resolve – some known problems.)


When IBM left off USB driver development, OS/2 had a working, 16-bit USB 1.x and 2.0 driver stack. Fast forward to 2019, and this is no longer adequate for the needs of today’s hardware.

The Arca Noae USB stack is now fully 32-bit, and USB 3 support development continues to make good progress. Implementing USB 3 support has been tedious because the OS/2 USB architecture didn’t accommodate the peculiarities of USB 3 well.

Adding USB 3 support was not as simple as just writing a new xHCI driver. Significant changes were required throughout the entire USB stack, including changes to USBD and the OHCI, UHCI, and EHCI drivers. The xHCI driver as it exists today in beta testing works quite well. There are just a couple of things that still need to be done before we will be able to release it for general availability. One thing is to implement support for Isochronous transfers (audio and video devices). The second thing is to improve the error recovery speed. Error recovery speed was not an issue with USB 2 because USB 2 devices rarely, if ever, had errors. Super Speed (USB 3) devices operating at the new USB 3 speeds have higher error rates so the error recovery speed is important. We are actively working to resolve these last two issues.

Once the xHCI (USB 3) driver is released, the Arca Noae USB stack will make it possible to install and run ArcaOS on systems which lack USB 2.0 (EHCI) controllers. (Even though many modern systems advertise the availability of USB 2.0 ports, these ports are indeed wired to xHCI controllers. Without an xHCI driver, this will result in loss of keyboard and mouse control shortly after boot and the inability to mount the installation ISO from USB-attached media.)


Don’t have ArcaOS yet? Now is a great time to pick up a license or two and replace that aging Warp 4 or eComStation installation and get to know what’s new and improved. ArcaOS supports more modern hardware than any other OS/2 distribution available today, making hardware upgrades much easier than ever before.

Arca Noae progress report: Bits and Pieces

We continue to explore new ways to make the ArcaOS desktop experience more user-friendly and useful. To that end, we’d like to share some upcoming enhancements which should be available in the near future.

An update to the Arca Noae Removable Media Monitor widget for the XCenter is currently in testing which handles JFS, HPFS, and FAT32 media changes better, avoiding a trap which could otherwise occur when removing one device and inserting another without a proper eject operation.

We also have a component in testing now which transparently switches audio output from the built-in audio device to a USB audio device and back again when the USB device is attached or removed.

If you have a Brother laser printer, and have not been able to print to it, even via CUPS, we have some possibly good news for you: The brlaser CUPS driver package (RPM) has recently been updated to version 6.0.0, and our port should be moving from our experimental repository to the subscription repository very soon.

Don’t have ArcaOS yet? Now is a great time to pick up a license or two and replace that aging Warp 4 or eComStation installation. Better yet, why not upgrade to newer hardware entirely, and install ArcaOS fresh? ArcaOS supports more modern hardware than any other OS/2 distribution available today.

Arca Noae progress report: ArcaOS on UEFI-only hardware

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is gradually replacing the traditional system BIOS. The vast majority of PCs on the market are now based on UEFI technology, and a number of these include what is called a Compatibility Support Module (CSM). This CSM “layer” replaces the traditional BIOS and provides backward-compatibility support for booting operating systems such as DOS, OS/2, and, of course, ArcaOS. (This is typically listed as “Compatibility”, or “Legacy” boot in the system setup menu of UEFI-based PCs.)

PC manufacturers and Intel specifically have stated publicly that they intend to phase out inclusion of a CSM layer in the next few years (in the case of Intel, beginning in 2020), leaving UEFI as the only boot option, eliminating the “Compatibility” selection. To prepare for this, Arca Noae has been exploring ways to boot ArcaOS on systems lacking a manufacturer-supplied CSM. We are pleased to announce that over the last several months our development team has made significant progress in achieving that goal.

In the lab, we are now able to boot ArcaOS all the way to a desktop on a system configured to boot in UEFI mode. All necessary drivers load, with all CPU cores running, and ArcaOS properly switches to graphics mode. The importance of this accomplishment cannot be overstated. To our knowledge, this is the first time ArcaOS has ever booted without the presence of an active CSM.

Having said that, this project is still in its research stage and not yet ready for release to our beta testers. Native UEFI support requires changes to the low level disk and video subsystems, and this work is ongoing.

We remain cautiously optimistic that we will complete our Proof of Concept successfully and will have a UEFI solution for a future ArcaOS version.

Oh, and Arca Noae has been an Adopting member of the UEFI Forum since 2015.

Arca Noae progress report

Work continues at a furious pace behind the scenes at Arca Noae! Sometimes, a lot of work is needed before any highly visible releases are done, so we thought it might be a good idea to provide periodic progress reports so everyone can see just how much work is being done. Here’s the first in the series.

Device drivers

Work is continuing on Panorama. There have been improvements in monitor detection. Our developers and dedicated beta testers discovered some issues on some systems with different EDID types. Other changes to the Panorama PMI have improved compatibility with more systems. Watch for a new release in the near future, and of course, in the upcoming ArcaOS 5.0.4.

The ACPI project continues to get improvements. In addition to the regular updates for ACPICA, there has been work needed to fix some minor issues, increasing compatibility over a wider range of systems.

The AHCI driver received some improvements to help protect non-MBR disks from accidental damage.

A lot of progress has been made on USB3. We now have a driver that mostly works but still needs further refining before it is ready for alpha testing.

Kernel and boot environment

Work has recently begun to investigate booting of ArcaOS on UEFI-based systems without a vendor-supplied Compatibility Support Module (CSM). Watch for further updates on this project. Early indications are very positive for this critical component, necessary to support the latest generation of hardware.

ArcaOS 5.0.4

A lot of work has gone into getting the next release of ArcaOS ready. Our next progress update will focus on this, but the biggest news to share is that thanks to our new Update Facility, bringing any version of ArcaOS 5.0 up to date will be a snap: no more reformatting and reinstalling! Instead, just boot from the installation disc, ISO, or USB flash drive, select the ArcaOS installation to be updated, and allow the process to complete.

A lot of work has gone into Installer fixes and improvements, too. For new installations, the process has never been easier or more trouble-free.

Outside development

Most of our developers also do their own things, away from ArcaOS. Most of these projects find their way into ArcaOS or into the Arca Noae software repositories in some form or fashion. Here are a couple of notable things seeing active development.

Several years ago, Alex Taylor, our Chief UI Architect, began work on a replacement utility for the graphical LVM (Logical Volume Manager) Java applet. Alex has recently returned to that work, and the latest beta is looking promising for inclusion in ArcaOS 5.1.

Alex has also spent some time working on not only the ConfigApps utility which associates various internet applications with the Workplace Shell, and has contributed some new work for NewView, the help and INF viewer. Source code for both of these may be viewed and checked out of the Netlabs NewView project repository.

Consulting and development for commercial clients

We have spent a lot of time in recent months working on some custom projects for commercial clients. Not only does this work help fund ongoing development for many of the projects mentioned above, but many new things come out of this work to benefit all users of the platform.

Ongoing subscription service and support

We work tirelessly to provide professional, courteous, and knowledgeable technical support for the software we produce and distribute. Sometimes, this support uncovers bugs which we work quickly to address, other times, we find that documentation could be improved, and in some cases, we discover hardware which may require some software modification to support (or which we may determine to be unsuitable for ArcaOS). We offer two levels of support: personal and commercial, where commercial subscribers receive priority attention. Still, we do our best to see that everyone’s needs are addressed.

As a reminder, when considering opening a new trouble ticket, it’s a good idea to re-read our ticket guidelines and Best Practices page, and be sure to search for similar issues in our bug tracker. If a ticket is indeed necessary, we generally will require a TestLog log file, so be sure to follow the directions here to get the latest TestLog build, first. You may attach a log file at the time of opening the ticket, saving time in the process.

ArcaOS

Have an enterprise Windows XP application and can’t upgrade Windows?

Talk to us about the possibility of wrapping that Windows XP (or 2000 or even NT 4) app and running it under Odin32. Similar to running an application in a container under Linux, the application itself is the only thing running in a Windows-compatibility environment, while the rest of the system is not subject to Windows security vulnerabilities on the LAN or on the internet. In this configuration, the only user training required is getting the system booted, authenticating to the network, and clicking the program object to start the same Windows application with which your users are already familiar.

Have a Windows application which requires LAN transport, but the version of Windows now in use is too outmoded for the latest file transport security? No problem. Applications running under Odin32 on ArcaOS which need to access network shares may do so using the integrated Samba 4 networking in ArcaOS, which appears to the application to be a local drive. All authentication, security, and transport encryption (if so configured) happens at the ArcaOS level, outside the Windows environment.

Maintain your critical applications on OS/2, DOS, or 16 or 32-bit Windows, on modern hardware or virtualized, while running on a secure, stable, maintained platform: ArcaOS 5.

Note: Any application accessing the public internet may be at risk. ArcaOS itself cannot defend a Windows application running under it against such exploits, if that application is vulnerable to attack.

ArcaOS 5.0: Full support for existing OS/2 applications

Still running a critical application on OS/2? Still have some old, musty Pentium III workstations humming along, and hoping that a power supply doesn’t fail or that the noisy 20GB IDE disk doesn’t develop a bad spot because the workstation can’t recognize anything bigger? Afraid to power it off for fear it won’t start again?

Perhaps it’s time to look at new – yes brand new – hardware for that application. Let’s face it, that app has been around this long because it works. It’s worked all these years just fine. The fact that the hardware is showing its age and the application continues to be useful (critical, in many cases) is a testament to the quality of the software. Why do away with a perfectly good application, just because the moving parts are wearing out?

ArcaOS 5.0 runs all of those great OS/2 applications just like OS/2. Why? Because at its core, ArcaOS 5.0 is OS/2. No emulation. No compatibility mode. Pure OS/2 Warp 4.52 – with updates, fixes, and modifications to be compatible with the latest multi-core and multi-processor hardware available. Replace that old Pentium III with an i5 or i7 or AMD multi-core system, 16 or 32GB of memory, and a 240GB SSD, or move an existing Pentium 4 with 1GB of memory, and a 250GB SATA 3 hard drive from something else. ArcaOS 5.0 has lean hardware requirements, but can take advantage of some of the latest technologies.

Why replace an entire PBX system because the OS/2 workstation which has been storing voicemail all these years is in need of replacement? (We’d call that an often forgotten, yet critical, application.) Move that software onto a new system running ArcaOS 5.0. Need help? Let our team of engineers have a look. We don’t just develop and license software, we design, implement, and manage it, as well.