The loyalty that OS/2 users give to their favorite operating system would make some Linux users look like Benedict Arnold. If you’re a Warp-loving support tech, you don’t need to abandon OS/2 to remotely administer your Windows-based charges. Using the OS/2 version of VNC, you can access a Windows workstation or server without having to run Windows yourself. Here’s how you can make it work.

VNC? On OS/2?
VNC is a great remote control utility that allows you to do just about anything on a remote computer’s desktop as if you were at the machine itself. Not only is it powerful, it’s also free. As if that weren’t enough, VNC also comes with an added benefit. Because it’s open source software, it’s available on platforms other than Windows, including OS/2.

There are several different versions of VNC that will work on OS/2. OS/2 supports both an XFree86/2 and Java version of VNC. These versions work well under OS/2 but aren’t without their limitations. To use the XFree86/2 version, you must be running XFree86/2, which adds its own complications. You can run the Java version, but like most Java programs, the Java version of VNC is large and slow by comparison. Don’t be discouraged. You can use an OS/2-native version of VNC called PMVNC.

Like most versions of VNC, PMVNC is a small, yet powerful utility and its system requirements are very low. If your system is already running OS/2 and is connected to your network, then you don’t need to worry about much else. Just make sure the remote workstation or server you want to access is already running the server version of VNC and you’re ready to go.

Obtaining and installing the software
You can obtain PMVNC from the Hobbes Archive. Just download the PMCVNC100.ZIP file to a temporary directory on your OS/2 workstation. The file is only 131 KB long, so it will download very quickly. In addition, if you haven’t already installed the EMX Runtimes for your OS/2 workstation, you should download and install them as well. Installing EMX is beyond the scope of this article, but you can obtain it from Hobbes as well.

There is no installer or Setup program for PMVNC. Create a subdirectory in the root of your OS/2 workstation’s hard drive called VNC. Extract the files from PMVNC100.ZIP into this directory. There, you’ll find 40 files taking a total of 460 KB.

Most of the files are either TXT documents or source code for PMVNC. The only file you need to worry about is VNCVIEW.EXE. Unless you plan to modify the source code and create your own version of PMVNC, you can delete all of the .C and .H files.

Because there’s no Setup program, you won’t have an icon on your desktop or the Launchpad to start VNC with. Don’t panic. You can create one yourself. To do so, double-click Drives to open the Drives window. Then, double-click the drive where you created the VNC folder. When the drive window appears, double-click the VNC folder. You’ll then see the VNC window containing all of the VNC files you extracted. Drag the VNCVIEW.EXE object to the Launchpad. Doing so won’t actually move the VNCVIEW.EXE file. It will merely create a shadow icon on the Launchpad that you can use to start VNC.

Running VNC
Now that VNC is installed on your workstation, you can start using it. You can either click the VNC icon on the Launchpad or start it from a command line. To start VNC from the command line, go to an OS/2 Command Prompt. Change directories into the VNC subdirectory. Type vncview and press [Enter].

No matter which way you start VNC, the first thing you’ll see is the Connect To window. Enter the name or TCP/IP address of the remote server you want to access in the VNC Server field followed by a colon (:) and session number. For example, on my test server, I entered godot:0. Click Connect to initiate the session.

If you’ve enabled a remote password on your VNC server, you’ll see the Authentication window. Enter the password in the Session Password field and click OK. When the session connects, you’ll see the remote server appear as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Here’s Windows 2000 Server as viewed from an OS/2 workstation.

VNC works best when the screen resolution of your workstation is higher than the screen resolution of the server. If the screen resolution of the server is higher than your OS/2 workstation, you’ll have to scroll the PMVNC window to see what you need.

If you click the VNC icon in the upper left hand corner of the PMVNC window, you’ll see the drop-down menu shown in Figure B. As you can see, there are several things you can do from this menu. Next to each menu choice is the key combination you can use to directly issue the option instead of going through the menu.

Figure B
You’ll use this menu to issue special commands to VNC.

The commands above are standard OS/2 windowing commands, so you’ve probably seen them in other OS/2 programs. The rest of the menu options allow you to issue special commands to the remote server. These options include:

  • Connection Options allows you to specify things such as encoding and pixel format.
  • Connection Info displays the name of the server you’re connected to, the screen resolution of the remote system, and color depth.
  • Request Screen Refresh forces a screen refresh. Normally VNC will update screens regularly, but if it’s not fast enough for you, you can force a refresh.
  • Paste pastes information from OS/2’s clipboard into the VNC window.
  • About VNC Viewer displays the version of PMVNC you’re running and other information about the program.

The Send commands are very important. You probably noticed that as the mouse of your workstation enters the VNC window, VNC takes focus on the mouse and moves the remote workstation’s mouse to match yours. Likewise, when the focus is on the VNC window, most keyboard commands you enter go directly to the remote workstation. The reason I say “most” is because PMVNC can’t capture and forward system key combinations like [Ctrl][Alt][Del], [Alt][Esc], and [Alt][Tab]. If you need to issue these key combinations, use the Send commands from the drop-down menu.

If you don’t use the Send commands, but instead try to issue the key commands using your keyboard, you could be in for a nasty surprise. For example, if you press [Ctrl][Alt][Del], you’ll reboot your OS/2 workstation—not bring up the Windows Security screen on the remote server.

Not dead yet
It seems like people have been declaring OS/2 dead from the first day it shipped. With programs like PMVNC, you can not only keep your OS/2 workstation running, but you can keep it relevant by giving it the ability to remotely access and control Windows servers. PMVNC may not be perfect, but it’s a useful utility that every OS/2 support tech should have.