ArcaOS install on VirtualBox

My first job out of college was with IBM as a contractor, working in the IBM Software Center, Basingstoke, providing technical support for OS/2 and Communications Manager/2. I ran OS/2 on my own PC at home for a few years after this, before moving to Windows 95.

In the past few years I’ve installed various versions of OS/2 in virtual machines for nostalgic reasons. I’ve also kept an eye on Arca Noae’s ArcaOS as a current day commercial offering of OS/2 complete with updated drivers and hardware support for current day hardware. For a personal install though I’ve been reluctant to pay the $120 for a personal license, but recently decided to bite the bullet and buy a copy.

I like collecting screenshots of OSes during the install process, and this post is one of those 🙂

After the typical ‘white square’ top right and ‘OS/2’ text, we get to the first installer screen:

After accepting the license agreements, the next page is interesting, it prompts you to select a ‘personality’, a pre-configured set of features depending on how you intend to use this installation. I’ll select the default/first option for now. I don’t remember seeing options like this during a typical OS/2 install, maybe Warp 4 provided options like this (I’ll go check later):

I have a blank 2GB virtual disk on VirtualBox for this install, so I’ll select the option to format it. Later when I do a bare metal install I’ll be doing the same on a blank partition on a new SATA SSD:

Prompted to reboot:

The familiar shutdown compete dialog!

After rebooting, you’re back at the first page of the install again. Stepping through the same options we’re now prompted to select the install volume:

There’s no volumes in the dropdown yet, so press the Manage Volumes button:

I clicked on the Volume menu option, then ‘Create new’, then the ‘Standard/bootable’ option:

I kept the default C and named the volume:

I’m using all the free space on this volume, so kept the defaults:

Volume manager now looks like this:

Closing this dialog I’m prompted to save and now the volume is selected:

Next up, location settings. Huh, remember code pages? I set my timezone, DST, and internet time sync:

This next one is interesting and allows you to configure your hardware options. This is obviously where ArcaOS shines in it’s ability to support hardware of the time as well as updated support for current hardware:

Also interesting that support for VirtualBox is selected by default as the installer recognizes we’re installing on VirtualBox:

I kept all options as default for now. When I do a bare metal install next I’ll check out what the Display options are.

Network driver install next and prompted for machine name, workgroup, and username:

Ready to install – let’s go!

Off we go. Noticeably absent and the messages telling you about the various features that you get during a Warp install:

Time to reboot:

During the install there’s a couple reboots we are automatic if you leave the checkbox selected.

Done! Up and runnning!

Installing OS/2 4.52 (Warp 4) on VMware ESXI

Installers with floppy disk boot images require swapping the disk images which is tedious. Find ISO images with 1 boot CDROM ISO and 1 install CDROM ISO – this is a much easier approach for installing. The Boot ISO and English ISO from this collection on work well.

Create a VM with:

  • 1 vCPU
  • 32MB RAM
  • 500MB disk

In ESXi this looks like:

Attach the iso boot image and boot the VM:

Remove the boot ISO cdrom and switch to the English language cdrom the press Enter:

F5 to switch to Physical View:

Tab to the [free space] in the second section, press Enter for Options, and create new Primary partition:

Press F5 to change back to Logical View, press Enter for Options:

Haven’t created or selected a logical volume, this forces you back to the Logical Volume Manager:

Choose the physical partition we created:

Now this looks like:

Set the volume to be installable:

Switch the ISO image back to the boot ISO and restart the VM.

On restarting the VM, with ESXi for some reason it changes the boot order at this point to the HD first, CDROM image second, so you’ll get a blank black screen on startup.

Power off the VM.

Go into your VM options and check the option to force boot to BIOS on next start:

Power on again.

When the BIOS menu comes up, go to Boot and change the CDROM entry to it is first in the list with the + key, then Save and Exit:

When booted, swap CDROM ISO image to the second install ISO when prompted.

You’ll now see the Welcome install screen again. Enter through the next few screens until you get to the partition selection screen, Accept the partition we created earlier and do a ‘Quick format’ when prompted:

Select HPFS:

The install from the ISO image goes pretty quick, then you’ll see this screen:

Followed by a reboot. You’ll now see the first of the config option dialogs:

You can leave the graphics as default, or press the button and switch the the GRADD drivers (which from memory are the better drivers to use):

Next/Ok through the the next few screens, then you’ll get to the optional installs:

I left the selected options, press Next:

Complete the registration screen, and then you get more options, I unchecked File and Print Sharing, and left the other pre-selected options:

Press Next, if there’s anything that needs additional config it will be flagged here, otherwise press Install:

The install goes pretty quick from here and will reboot at least once:

“IBM Means 3 Things”:

After another reboot if you get a blank screen with network card info, press Enter to continue then you’ll get to your desktop with more options – I selected Java 1.3 to take a look, and the IBM Web Browser:

At this point the installer doesn’t see my CDROM image even though it’s attached, but pressing Exit take me to the desktop.

Welcome to OS/2 Warp 4:

The network adapter wasn’t configured with DHCP by default, so from the TCP/IP folder on the desktop, find TCP/IP Configuration (Local) and enable the first interface and DHCP:

You’ll be prompted to reboot again, but now you should have an IP, and if you open Netscape, you’ll be able to browse the web, although with some rendering issues for sites using features not supported in this older version of Netscape.


USB bootable OS/2?

OS/2 was technically far superior than any other desktop OS available at it’s time. The fact that it continued to be used in ATMs by banks, ticket machines, voice mails systems, PABXs and various other systems for years after IBM sales and support was discontinued says everything. Even though it was discontinued by IBM in 2006, it is still sold as eComStation, packaged with updated drivers for common hardware available today. According to eComStation’s site, it’s still in use by a number of major corporations.

I’ve spent probably too much time recently installing and playing around with OS/2, especially since ISOs of the install disks became freely available on the Internet Archive. This article about eComStation looking for help to build a version of OS/2 bootable from USB flash drives caught my attention. Interestingly though, from my experience recently trying to install OS/2 Warp on fairly recent PC hardware, I’d rather prefer to see updated drivers for today’s CPUs, motherboards and hard disks.