Back in Februray, my blog post [A Box Full of Floppies] mentioned that I uncovered some diskettes compressed with OS/2 Stacker. Jokingly, I suggested that I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies. Each floppy contains only three files: README.STC, STACKER.EXE and a hidden STACKVOL.DSK file. The README.STC explains that the disk is compressed by Stacker, a program developed by [Stac Electronics, Inc.]. The STACKER.EXE would not run on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. The STACKVOL.DSK is just a huge binary file, like a ZIP file, compressed with [Lempel-Ziv-Stac] algorithm that combines Lempel-Ziv with Huffman coding.
In my follow-up post [Like Sands in an Hourglass], I explained how there are many ways I could have tackled this project. I could either use the Emulation approach and try to build an OS/2 guest image under a hypervisor like VMware, KVM or VirtualBox, or just take the Museum approach and try taking one of my half dozen old machines, wipe it clean and stand up OS/2 on it bare metal. This turned out to be more challenging than I expected. The systems I have that are modern and powerful enough to run hypervisors don't have floppy drives, so I opted for the Museum approach.
(A quick [history of OS/2] might be helpful. IBM and Microsoft jointly developed OS/2 back in 1985. By 1990, Microsoft decided it's own Windows operating system was more popular with the ladies, and decided to break off with IBM. In 1992, IBM release OS/2 version 2.0, touted as "a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than Windows!" Both parties maintained ownership rights, Microsoft renamed OS/2 to Windows NT. The "NT" stood for New Technology, the basis for all of the enterprise-class Windows servers used today. IBM named its version of OS/2 version 3 and 4 "WARP", with the last version 4.52 released in 2001. In its heyday, OS/2 ran the majority of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), was used for hardware management consoles (HMC), and was used worldwide to run various Railway systems. After 2001, IBM encouraged people to transition from Windows or OS/2 over to Java and Linux. For those that can't or won't leave OS/2, IBM partnered with Serenity Systems to continue OS/2 under the brand [eComStation].)
Working with an IBM [ThinkCentre 8195-E2U Pentium 4 machine] with 640MB RAM and 80GB hard disk, a CD-rom and one 3.5-inch floppy drive, I first discovered that OS/2 is limited to very small amounts of hard disk. There are limits on [file systems and partition sizes] as well as the infamous [1024-cylinder limit] for bootable operating systems. Having a completely empty drive didn't work, as the size of the disk was too big. Carving out a big partition out of this also failed, as it exceeded the various limits. Each time, it felt the partition table was corrupted because the values were so huge. Even modern Disk Partitioning tools ([SysRescueCD] or [PartedMagic]) didn't work, as these create partitions not recognizable to OS/2.
The next obstacle I knew I would encounter would be device drivers. OS/2 comes as a set of three floppy diskettes and a CD-rom. The bootable installation disk was referred to affectionately as "Disk 0", then Disk 1, then Disk 2. Once all drivers have been loaded into memory, then it can start looking at the CDrom, and continue with the installation. In searching for updated drivers, I came across [Updated OS/2 Warp 4 Installation Diskettes] to address problems with newer display monitors. It also addresses the 8.4GB volume limit.
The updates were in the form of EXE files that only execute in a running DOS or OS/2 environment, expanded onto a floppy diskette. It seemed like [Catch-22], I need a working DOS or OS/2 system to run the update programs to create the diskettes, but need the diskettes to build a working system.
To get around this, I decided to take a "scaffolding" approach. Using DOS 6 bootable floppy, I was able to re-partition the drive with FDISK into two small 1.9GB partitions. I have the full five-floppy IBM DOS 6 set, I hid the first partition for OS/2, and install the DOS 6 GUI on the second partition. I went ahead and added a few new subdirectories: BOOT to hold Grub2, PERSONAL to hold the data I decompress from the floppies, and UTILS to hold additional utilities. This little DOS system worked, and I now have new OS/2 "Disk 1" and "Disk 2" for the installation process.
(If you don't have a full set of DOS installation diskettes, you can make due with "FORMAT C: /S" from a [DOS boot disk], and then just copy over all the files from the boot disk to your C: drive. You won't have a nice DOS GUI, but the command line prompt will be enough to proceed.)
Like DOS, OS/2 expects to be installed on the C: drive. I hid the second partition (DOS), and marked the first partition installable and bootable. The OS/2 installation involves a lot of reboots, and the hard drive is not natively bootable in the intermediate stages. This means having to boot from Disk 0, then putting in Disk 1, then disk 2, before continuing the next phase of the installation. I tried to keep the installation as "Plain Vanilla" as possible.
I had to figure out what to include, and what to exclude, and this involved a lot of trial and error. For example, one of the choices was for "external diskette support". Since I had an "internal diskette drive", I didn't think I needed it. But after a full install, I discovered that it would not read or write floppy diskettes, so it appears that I do indeed need this support.
OS/2 supports two different file systems, FAT16 and the High Performance File System (HPFS). Since my partition was only 1.9GB in size, I chose just to use FAT16. HPFS supported larger disk partitions, longer file names, and faster performance, none of which I need for these purposes.
I thought it would be nice to get TCP/IP networking to work with my Ethernet card. However, after many attempts, I decided against this. I needed to focus on my mission, which was to decompress floppy diskettes. It was amusing to see that OS/2 supported all kinds of networking, including Token Ring, System Management, Remote Access, Mobile Access Services, File and Print.
Once all the options are chosen, OS/2 installation then proceeds to unpack and copy all the programs to the C: drive. During this process, IBM had informational splash screens. Here's one that caught my eye, titled "IBM Means Three Things" that listed three reasons to partner with IBM:
You might wonder how these OS/2 splash screens, written over 10 years ago, can appear almost identical to IBM's current [Smarter Planet] campaign. Actually, it is not that odd. IBM has been keeping to these same core principles since 1911, only the words to describe and promote these core values have changed.
To access both OS/2 and DOS partitions, I installed Grand Unified Bootloader [Grub2] on the DOS partition under C:/BOOT/GRUB directory. However, when I boot OS/2, I cannot see the DOS partition. And when I boot DOS, I cannot see the OS/2 partition. Each operating system thinks its C: drive is the only partition on the system.
Now that I had OS/2 running, I was then able to install Stacker from two floppy diskettes. With this installed, I can compress and decompress data on either the hard disk, or on floppy diskettes. Most of the files were flat text documents and digital photos. After copying the data off the compressed disks onto my hard drive, I now can copy them off to a safe place.
To finish this project, I installed Ubuntu Linux on the remaining 76GB of disk space, which can access both the OS/2 and DOS drives FAT16 file systems natively. This allows me to copy files from OS/2 to DOS or vice versa.
Now that I know what data types are on the diskettes, I determined that I could have decompressed the data in just a few steps:
However, now that I have a working DOS and OS/2 system, I can possibly review the rest of my floppy diskettes, some of which may require running programs natively on OS/2 or DOS. This brings me to an important lesson. If you are going to keep archive data for long-term retention, you need to choose file formats that can be read by current operating systems and programs. Installing older operating systems and programs to access proprietary formats can be quite time-consuming, and may not always be possible or desirable.
Yes, it's Tuesday, and that means more IBM Announcements! A lot was announced today, so I have selected an eclectic mix for your enjoyment.
If you are contemplating a visit to an IBM [Executive Briefing Center], then April and May is a great time to come to Tucson. The weather is ideal here. The cold snap appears to be over, and spring is in the air!
The IBM Storwize V7000 was introduced last October, and has proven to be wildly successful. I saw two awesome reviews recently of the IBM Storwize V7000 disk system that I thought I would bring to your attention.
The first review is [IBM Storwize V7000] from Roger Howorth of ZDNet UK. Here are some quotes:
The second review is [IBM Storwize V7000 Disk System: Enterprise-class Function in a Midrange Storage Package] from Tony Palmer of Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). Here are some quotes:
This is a great review, following the February ESG Report on [IBM Storwize V7000: Real-world Mixed Workload Performance in VMware Environments].
If you are looking for midrange storage with a nice set of enterprise-class features, consider the Storwize V7000!
I started attending the Arizona International Film Festival eight years ago. I took a week off work to see the films, and came back to tell people how enjoyable it was to just sit and watch thirty movies. "Dirty movies?" they would ask. "No, not dirty, thirty!" To avoid further confusion, I quickly switched to saying "I spent the week watching 25 to 35 independent films."
A few weeks ago, the Arizona International Film Festival notified me that my 2007 System Storage video has been recognized for a technical award under the category of "Innovative use of Technology for Animated Short Film." I will receive the award in person this evening, April 1, at the opening ceremony, which starts at 6:00pm, at the [Fox Theater] in downtown Tucson, Arizona.
As is the case with the Oscars and Grammies, technical awards are handed out in smaller ceremonies in advance of the primary award ceremony that recognizes the best actors, directors and films, which will be held April 9.
The backstory of my entry is pretty amusing. Back in 2007, I was asked to run a [Product Launch in Second Life], a virtual world environment. If you are not familiar with [Second Life], think [World of Warcraft] for business executives.
In this virtual world, avatars representing IBM executives and marketing managers would present our latest products to avatars of the IBM Business Partners, Industry Analysts and the Press. A short "highlights" video that stitched together bits and pieces of the 90-minute event was used by executives at conferences and road shows. I submitted this shortened version to the Airzona International Film Festival back in 2008, so I am glad the judges had finally gotten around to review it. Here it is uploaded as a [YouTube video]:
During the event, I captured the real-time video from my laptop screen using a tool called [FRAPS]. I also had some of my colleagues capture video from different angles in case we needed these in post-production. The technique of capturing computer-generated 3D video from a computer screen is known as Machinima.
I was in Bogota Columbia that week teaching a Top Gun class. I got to the IBM building only to discover the firewall would not let me get through to the Second Life website, so I took a taxi back to the hotel and ran the event from their business center. Then the unthinkable happened, and I got to experience [Columbia's worst power outage in 22 years], in which 98 percent of the country lost power. Luckily, I had enough battery charge on my laptop and was still connected to the Internet to continue with the rest of the event.
Voice-over-IP but it did not have that feature back then. The other $91 was for virtual items in Second Life. I learned how to make virtual objects and use the GNU Image Manipulation Program [GIMP] to create avatar clothing, giveaway items, and demo equipment.
Instead of hiring voice actors, I had IBMers Andy Monshaw, Eric Buckley, Funda Eceral, David Tareen, and Kristie Bell all provide their voice talents directly.
I asked the coordinator of the film festival if there was going to be a &quot;practice session&quot; for the technical award ceremony. She laughed, and said basically that I would just be walking across the stage, receive the award in my left hand as I shook hands with my right, and then turn slightly clockwise to pose while my picture is taken. If I had ever gotten a diploma from high school or college, she said, then I already knew what to expect. "Don't worry," she assured me, "you won't have to give a speech!"
(In lieu of a speech, I would like to thank Christine Heinisch, my video editor, and Katrina Smith, my cinematographer. I could not have won this technical award without their assistance.)
After the ceremony tonight, the film festival (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) will kick off with the first of 110 films called "Journey from Zanskar", a 90-minute documentary directed by Frederick Marx and narrated by Richard Gere, starting at 8:00pm. The Arizona International Film Festival will continue through April 20, with films being shown on the evenings and weekends so that I won't have to take time off from work.
If you are in the Tucson area, come out and join me tonight at the Fox Theater!
(Update: Yes, this was an April Fools joke! I did not win any awards for this video. I apologize to my friends and family who showed up to see me receive the award that I didn't get.)