Enterprise Software

Run (some) Win32 programs on OS/2 using Odin

Still running OS/2 on some company workstations? Wish they could run some of your Windows programs? It might be possible. In this TechCetera column, editor John Sheesley introduces you to Project Odin.

If you’ve used OS/2 for any amount of time, you know that it runs DOS, Windows 3.x, OS/2, and Java programs with little or no trouble. But there’s an entire universe of Win32 (Windows 9x/NT) applications out there that doesn’t run on OS/2. As an IT professional responsible for supporting OS/2, what do you do when users need to run Win32 applications, but you can’t or won’t install Windows? Fortunately, you can now install Project Odin on your OS/2 workstations to run some of those pesky Win32 applications.

What’s Project Odin?
Project Odin, or just Odin for short, is an open source project written under the watchful eyes of Netlabs. Just as with any open source project, programmers volunteer their time and expertise to Odin. Odin’s purpose is to create an environment in OS/2 that runs Win32 applications seamlessly.

Odin can run Win32 programs without requiring you to have Windows on your workstation. Unlike OS/2’s Windows 3.x support, which incorporates actual Microsoft code, Odin doesn’t use or require any version of Windows.

So how do they do it? Odin includes its own set of APIs, which mimic Windows system calls. Odin also makes use of OS/2’s Open32 library. IBM created Open32 to help programmers port applications from Win32 to OS/2. IBM also donated its WGSS50 library to speed up graphics applications. However, just because Odin relies on some IBM code, don’t think that IBM is in control of the project. IBM doesn’t directly have anything to do with Odin. IBM has shown some interest in Odin, but the project is supported purely by open source programmers.

Where can I get it, and what do I need to run it?
You can download Odin from Netlabs’ Project Odin Web site. The program is freeware, so you don’t have to worry about paying for it. However, the program is currently only in the Alpha stages, so in some respects, you’re getting what you pay for.

Team Odin releases both official and unofficial versions. The official versions are only updated occasionally—whenever Team Odin feels that the version is somewhat stable and when it has significant additional features. Team Odin constantly releases unofficial versions in the form of daily builds.

These daily builds aren’t always as stable as the official versions because they are works in progress. However, the daily builds include more features than the official versions and usually support more programs.

Odin doesn’t have many stringent hardware requirements. If your workstation runs OS/2, it should run Odin as well. The only real hardware requirements revolve around the application you’re trying to run. Your workstation should at least match the minimum hardware requirements of the application. Odin currently only takes about 4 MB of additional hard drive space. By itself, Odin doesn’t require any additional RAM unless you install its WIN32K.SYS driver. If you plan to run 3D games, the Odin team suggests that you use Voodoo or Voodoo 2-based video cards.

Odin won’t run on OS/2 2.0 or earlier. You must at least be running OS/2 Warp 3 with FixPack 26 or later. The Odin team recommends that you use OS/2 Warp 4 or Warp Server for eBusiness. Due to architectural changes to the base OS/2 Warp 4 code by the FixPacks, you’ll probably get the best results if you’re using the latest FixPack for Warp 4, as well. At the time of this writing, the current FixPack level for Warp 4 is FixPack 15.

Additionally, if you didn’t install the Open32 libraries when you installed Warp, you must install them. The Odin team further recommends that you upgrade your OS/2 video drivers to the GRADD drivers if they exist for your video card.

So I can run Microsoft Office 2000 on my OS/2 workstations?
Well, actually no. As I mentioned above, Odin is only in the early Alpha stages. Most Win32 programs, including Office 2000, won’t run under Odin. Because the Win32 API is a constantly moving target, Odin may never run all Win32 applications. However, there are many applications, including Quake and RealPlayer 8, that run fine under Odin.

Netlabs maintains a database of applications that run under Odin. Odin users contribute their experiences running Win32 applications under Odin to the database. You can use the database to check to see if the application you want to run is supported or what problems other people had when they tried to run it. Sometimes you can even find a solution to problems with running an application in the database.

When I first installed Odin on my OS/2 workstation, my main goal was to run the Windows 9x version of RealPlayer 8 seamlessly on my desktop. The installation program didn’t go smoothly at first, but I was able to use Netlabs’ database to figure out the settings I had to change to make it install. Now, RealPlayer 8 runs as smoothly on my OS/2 workstation as it does on my Windows 2000 Professional workstation.

OS/2 Warp is a great operating system. Unfortunately, most software vendors have instead focused on Win32 applications and left OS/2 behind. Instead of enviously missing out on the latest Win32 software while clinging to your operating system, you can now try to run it using Odin.

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