Bitwise Works GmbH and the OS/2 VOICE organization have been working for five years to provide OS/2 and its subsequent developments, eComStation and ArcaOS, with an updated web browser. Now Roderick Klein, President of OS/2, has told VOICE that the OS/2 community can expect a publicly available beta version of the Chromium engine-based browser (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Vivaldi, etc.) soon. . The interface for the desktop is QtWebEngine.
The opera turns into an otter
The Otter Browser is a free and open source cross-platform web browser inspired by the Opera 12.x browser and leverages the Qt framework. It is licensed under the GPL 3.0 and is available for Windows, Max OS X, GNU/Linux, FreeBSD and 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 features. In practice, many OS/2 enthusiasts browse the Internet with Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, or one of the BSDs out of necessity.
OS/2 cannot be killed
It is a well known fact that those who are declared dead live longer, as the saying goes. Apparently this also applies to OS/2 released by IBM and Microsoft in the late 1980s. From the pure 16-bit OS/2 (1.0 still without GUI) released in 1987 to 32-bit OS/2 2.0, the last incarnation of IBM OS/2 Warp 4 “Merlin” from 1996 was still available as an official update (Convenience Package 2) in January 2002. After that, there was a 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 OS/2, especially with some modern drivers, in the form of ArcaOS 5 “Blue Lion” at ArcaNoae. IBM’s OS/2, eComStation and also ArcaOS are commercial products and are not freely available. The current ArcaOS 5.0.7 costs US$129 as a “personal edition”. OS/2 and thus also eComStation or ArcaOS are hardly used anymore due to the small number of drivers and software. OS/2 enthusiasts, but also some banks, insurance companies and airlines still use the existing installations.
Five years of development?
Five years of development sounds like an inordinate amount of time nowadays, when web applications are cobbled together using (the largest possible) frameworks, so to speak, over the weekend. A look at the circumstances under which the OS/2 Otter Browser is being developed shows that this is not the case.
Bitwise Works GmbH from Austria is initially known for its cross-platform firewall solutions, but also for developments and especially for software migration to the OS/2 platform. For example, Bitwise Works has ported the ODIN libraries (for Windows software on OS/2), previous versions of Firefox, QT libraries, Java, and GCC to OS/2.
The development team consists of three people: Silvan Scherrer, who runs two of his own companies and handles OS/2 development “on the sidelines,” Herwig Bauernfeind, who is currently unable to contribute for personal reasons, and Dmitry Kuminov, who handles most of the work with him. Developers from the OS/2 community also help out 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 the link between companies, developers and users. Bitwise Works GmbH and ArcaOS finance all the work mainly through donations, which, however, could no longer cover the costs last fall. Anyone who wants to help can do so through OS/2 VOICE or make Patreon.
Giant code base
The code base that needs to be ported is huge: Dmitriy Kuminov speaks of more than 75,000 files and 35 million lines of code for Chromium and about the same magnitude for Qt5. Also, the infrastructure had to be created first, i.e. GCC 9.2 (help from Paul Smedley), libraries like LIBCn/ffmpeg/icu/libxml/…, wide character support, the Watcom linker (help from Steve Levine) and many more things. I’m almost Roderick Klein explains the six-hour video from the Warpstock Europe Conference 2020 (from 4h25m) to some extent the problems.
OS/2 enthusiasts who can’t wait for the announced beta can test the code and take a look at the qt5webtest5* files at https://rpm.netlabs.org/test/.
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