As previously mentioned, I have little to no experience with installing or using os/2 or eCS, so I had no idea what to expect. eCS comes on a single .iso file, which is easily burnt to a CD-R with your favourite burning tool. Obviously, the resulting CD is bootable.
My first attempt at installing eCS was on my Inspiron 6000 laptop. This laptop has an Intel Pentium M 1.73 Ghz, 768MB of DDR2 RAM, Ati Radeon x300 with 128MB of dedicated RAM, 40GB hard drive, and a Sigmatel audio chip and Broadcom 4318 wireless chip. The installation procedure had a few kinks (more on that later), but I managed to install eCS fairly easily. However, upon completing the install, I soon gave up on using eCS on this laptop; even though it supports the Broadcom 4318 wireless chip via the GenMac win32 driver wrapper, I was unable to actually connect to my wireless network (which is an open, freely accessible network, so no advanced encryption stuff). On top of that, even though it supports an 1280x800 resolution, it did this by using something I thought was long dead and buried: an extended desktop on one screen. In other words, the desktop was larger than my actual display. Odd, and extremely annoying, and I could not fix it.
In short, despite it installing just fine, it was not an optimal experience. I decided to retry on a dedicated machine, which I ordered a few days later at a local computer store which specialises in 2nd hand computers. It is a Dell Optiplex GX110 with a PIII 667Mhz processor, 256MB of RAM, 10GB hard drive, Avance Logic audio chip, 3Com network chip, and an integrated Intel video chipset. Coincidentally, it turned out the machine used to be owned by my high school (from which I graduated four years ago). It is a small world, indeed.
With the previous experience of installing eCS on the laptop in my mind, installation went a lot smoother this time. I generally tend not to dwell for too long on installation procedures, but I would still like to make a few remarks about it.
I have to commend Serenity Systems for the excellent help messages and instruction texts throughout the installation procedure. As a complete newbie to the os/2 world, I had no problems whatsoever getting around. The procedure is entirely graphical, and pretty much self-explanatory. A few problem points remain, though.
Firstly, the partitioning tool is a bit complicated, and could do with some simplification. The help messages here are not as good as during the rest of the installation procedure, and there is no guided partitioning option (that I could find, at least). For an experienced computer user like me this was no problem, but people with less experience might get lost in the tool.
The second, deeper problem is related to hardware recognition. The installer asks you to select the proper drivers for your network card and audio chipset, but sadly, lacks any form of hardware recognition. In other words, you really need to know your system inside-out in order to know which drivers to select. To make matters even more complicated, selecting the proper driver is kind of a hit-and-miss procedure, since the list of drivers in the installer is a bit short on details (i.e. it does not list all supported revisions for a driver). The installer should try to autodetect hardware, or at least present some device_id's it found in the system, so you can ask Google.
I spent an hour hunting down the specific revision of the 3Com network chip in the Optiplex, and another 30 minutes trying to determine the proper driver. The audio chip was a little less problematic, but interestingly, I cannot get it to work. The proper audio driver is loaded, the driver finds the device (on os/2, if you load a driver without a corresponding device, it complains it cannot find the device, during boot up), but no sound is to be heard. Sadly, my inexperience with os/2 makes it very hard to troubleshoot the situation. On top of that, there is a serious lack of decent how-to's on the internet (but more on that later).
All my other hardware was properly detected, not a problem to be found. eCS supports USB 1.1 and 2.0, as well as ACPI. In fact, the 7 years old Optiplex goes into sleep mode perfectly fine when using eCS, something I did not expect at all. For display drivers, eCS makes use of SciTech Snap Graphics, which supports a broad array of video cards.