Surviving at Warp Speed


by Bill Silverstein

In the last column, I advised you to get a Warp-compatible CD-ROM player. I was asked how one finds out if a CD-ROM player is Warp-compatible. The easiest way would be to ask the seller; however, since most sellers cannot even spell Warp, IBM provides a hardware compatibility list with the Warp package. This list is also accessible here via the Internet. Another option, at no cost, is to call IBM at (800) 992-4777 and request pre-sales support.

Communications

When you make the move to Warp, get native communications software. The ability to use DOS and Windows programs in addition to native OS/2 programs is one of the major selling points of Warp. This allows the use of most of your current programs, while gradually migrating to native OS/2 applications. Most DOS and Windows programs run under OS/2, but not as efficiently. DOS and Windows applications require several layers of translation. This translation overhead not only slows the program, but also takes additional memory to handle the translation. Native OS/2 applications are naturally faster, not needing these additional layers of translation. Usually this performance hit is reflected in slower program response. In communications programs, this overhead may manifest itself in lost characters or failed file transmissions.

IBM, realizing that the performance overhead was a significant problem, included FaxWorks and HyperAccess Lite as part of the Warp Bonus Package. Both are adequate programs offering upgrades to a "full package." The HyperAccess full package is not actually an upgrade, but a text-base program that dates back to 1993. Hillgrave, maker of HyperAccess, is still promising a Presentation Manager-based HyperAccess, after over a year. The upgrade to FaxWorks is worthwhile. FaxWorks Pro provides OCR and HP LaserJet printing ability. FaxWorks Pro allows printing from any DOS, Windows, or OS/2 application to the FaxWorks driver.

Software is not the only communications limitation when running Warp. Any multitasking operating environment, such as Warp (or even Windows), has a much longer interrupt latency than DOS. Interrupt latency is the time that the software takes to respond to a hardware event, such as an incoming character. This does not become a problem until you are utilizing speeds of 9600 bits per second or faster. Check your communications hardware. Confirm that the serial port is buffered. An easy way to do this is with the command: MODE COM1:. One reported setting will be BUFFER = . If you get BUFFER = N/A, then the serial port is not buffered. Many systems still use 16540 serial ports, as opposed to the 16550A. The important difference between these chips is that the 16550A contains buffering.

There are also intelligent serial cards on the market that are OS/2-compatible. One such card is the Hayes ESP II. This card has two serial ports, which may share the same interrupt, and 1024 bytes in buffering. However, Hayes has yet to provide the promised driver. Even Hayes recommends using the SIO drivers, which are available as shareware from Ray Gwinn. You can get SIO from any repository of OS/2 shareware, including the CD-ROM that is included with the book Warp Unleashed. SIO fully supports a wide variety of serial hardware and is also optimized for speed.

Power & Speed

A trick to improve system performance is to get an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). This allows you to leave the LazyWrite feature on and still have minimal risk of losing data. (Lazy write is a cache option that allows Warp to schedule writes to disk when the system is idle.) A low-cost UPS can be had for less than $100. The first time the lights flicker and the computer does not, you will realize this was money well spent. All that is needed in a UPS is enough run-time to be able to shut down the system. If the system is usually attended, you can buy a low-cost version that may only run 10 minutes. If the system is left unattended, you must buy a more expensive version that includes software for executing a shutdown.

I have been using the APC PowerChute Plus software (American Power Conversion (APC), (800) 788-2208). PowerChute Plus OS/2 version will shut down a system, when used with their BackUps, SmartUps, or Matrix UPS. The PowerChute has a bug that can be tricky to discover, though. PowerChute does not know how to share interrupts. If a system is configured to allow two serial ports to share the same IRQ, PowerChute will eat all the incoming data on either of the two ports. This means any other communications program that uses the IRQ will never see any of its received data. Because PowerChute does not handle shared interrupts correctly, you must use a port that has an exclusive interrupt.

And More Speed

Large numbers of OS/2 2.x users called IBM technical support with printing problems. IBM had discovered that many systems do not support interrupt-driven printing. Warp's default parallel port printing is polled, which is much slower than interrupt-driven printing. For systems that can support the faster interrupt-driven printing method, you can enable interrupt-based printing by adding /IRQ to the BASEDRV=PRINT01.SYS line. There is a DOS program that will determine if a system supports interrupts. This program, PRTTEST.EXE determines and displays the interrupts and the ports used. It is available as shareware, written by Bill Silverstein, on the BCS IBM BBS as PRTTST.ZIP.

Warp Connect

It's true, it's true, Warp Connect Red is really here. After releasing the Warp Connect Blue Package (with Windows), IBM waited several months to release Connect Red (Warp without Windows). Warp Connect is Warp and more.

The more is the built-in networking support. IBM included TCP/IP, NetWare Requester, LAN Requester, Peer for OS/2, LAN Distance Remote, and ASP PSP. IBM also included the ability to install Warp across the LAN.

When installing the NetWare client for OS/2, watch out! There is a bug in the setup for the Novell Client. This bug occurs when using 3Com EtherLink or Intel EtherExpress cards. The PROTOCOL.INI files in the section labeled ODI2NDI_NIF must contain the line NETADDRESS=" " must be in that section. If this line is not there, the driver will pick up the address as ffffffff and fail.

Next issue, more tricks for dealing with Connect. For those with PCMCIA and a notebook, how to load Warp from SCSI or the network.


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Copyright 1998 William Silverstein. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 29, 2004.