Bitwise Works GmbH and OS/2 VOICE have been working for five years to supply OS/2 and its other developments eComStation and ArcaOS with a modern web browser. Now Roderick Klein, Head of OS/2 told VOICE that the OS/2 community can expect a publicly available beta version of the Chromium engine (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi, etc.) based browser soon. The desktop interface is QtWebEngine.
Oprah becomes an otter
Otter Browser is an open source, free cross-platform web browser that is modeled after the Opera 12.x browser and leverages the Qt framework. It is licensed under GPL 3.0 and available for Windows, Max OS X, GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Haiku, and RISC OS.
So far, the only alternatives available under OS/2 are browsers like Firefox up to version 49ESR or Seamonkey. It’s not fun, and above all, many websites no longer work in these browsers thanks to all kinds of modern functions. Practically speaking, many OS/2 enthusiasts browse the internet with Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, or one of the BSDs out of necessity.
OS/2 can’t be killed
It is a well-known fact that those who are declared dead live longer, as it is said. This also appears to be true of OS/2 released by IBM and Microsoft in the late 1980s. From the pure 16-bit version of OS/2 (1.0 still without a graphical user interface) released in 1987 to 32-bit OS/2 2.0, the last version of IBM OS/2 Warp 4 “Merlin” was from 1996 Still available January 2002 Official Update (Comfort Pack 2). Thereafter, there was slow further development until eComStation 2.1 (2011) under license from XEU.com BV (formerly Serenity Systems and Mensys BV, today PayGlobal).
Since 2017 you can get the latest version of OS/2, especially with some recent drivers, in the form of ArcaOS 5 “Blue Lion” at ArcaNoae. IBM OS/2 and eComStation operating systems as well as ArcaOS are commercial products and are not available for free, and the current version of ArcaOS 5.0.7 costs $129 as a “personal version”. OS/2 and therefore also eComStation or ArcaOS are no longer used due to the small number of drivers and software. OS/2 enthusiasts still use the existing facilities, but also some banks, insurance companies, and airlines.
Five years of development?
Five years of development seems like an exaggerated amount of time today, when web applications are bundled together using (as much as possible) frameworks, so to speak, over the weekend. A look at the conditions under which the Otter OS/2 browser is being developed shows that this is not the case.
Bitwise Works GmbH from Austria is known initially for its cross-platform firewall solutions, but also for developments and especially porting of software to the OS/2 platform. For example, Bitwise Works ported the ODIN libraries (for Windows on OS/2) and older versions of Firefox, QT, Java, and GCC libraries to OS/2.
The development team consists of three people: Sylvain Scherer, who runs two companies of his company and is developing OS/2 “on the side”, Herwig Bauernfeind, currently unable to contribute for personal reasons, and Dmitriy Komenov, who does most of the work with her. Developers from the OS/2 community also help sporadically.
Roderick Klein is the driving force behind Dutch OS/2 VOICE, an independent non-profit organization that publishes news and information about OS/2, eComStation and ArcaOS and sees itself as a link between companies, developers and users. The entire work is funded by Bitwise Works GmbH and ArcaOS primarily through donations, which, however, could no longer cover costs last fall. If you want to help, you can do so via OS/2 VOICE or Patreon.
giant code base
The code base to transfer is huge: Dmitry Komenov talks about 75,000+ files, 35 million lines of code for Chromium, and about the same size for Qt5. In addition, the infrastructure must be built first, i.e. GCC 9.2 (help from Paul Smedley), libraries like LIBCn/ffmpeg/icu/libxml/…, wide character support, Watcom linker (help from Steve Levine) and many more little things more. In a nearly six hour video from the Warpstock Europe 2020 conference, Roderick Klein (of 4 hours 25 minutes) explains the issues somewhat.
OS/2 fans who can’t wait for the announced beta can try the code and have a look at the qt5webtest5* archives at https://rpm.netlabs.org/test/.
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