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posted by Fnord666 on Friday December 09 2016, @02:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the retro dept.

Via FOSS Force, the founder and coordinator of the FreeDOS Project writes about FreeDOS 1.2:

Tim Norman wrote our first command interpreter to replace COMMAND.COM from standard DOS. Soon after, Pat Villani contributed his DOS-compatible kernel, which others later improved to add networking and CD-ROM support. We released our first "Alpha" distribution in only a few months, in September 1994. From this small beginning grew FreeDOS, an open source implementation of DOS that anyone could use.

We released several alpha versions over the next four years, then posted our first beta in 1998. By this time, Microsoft had all but eliminated MS-DOS, so FreeDOS didn't have to chase a moving target and shifting compatibility with new MS-DOS versions.

[...] We posted the FreeDOS 1.0 distribution on September 3, 2006, and released FreeDOS 1.1 over five years later, on January 2, 2012.

[...] Big-name computer vendors like Dell and HP shipped it as a default operating system on some PC desktops and laptops. Even today, you can find popular manufacturers pre-installing FreeDOS on some computers. But the story doesn't end there. Soon, we'll have a whole new version of FreeDOS--and I'd like to tell you about it.

[...] The Utilities package group includes several new useful tools. For those who use FreeDOS to play classic DOS games, we provide SLOWDOWN to let you run certain older games on a fast CPU. We provide several image processing programs such as GIFSICLE and PNGCRUSH. If you wish for a more Unix-like environment, we also include several familiar commands such as SED, GREP, HEAD, TEE, and BC.

[...] One major change is the inclusion of a new Games package group. We've avoided games in previous FreeDOS distributions, but since so many people prefer FreeDOS to play their favorite classic DOS games, it seemed a good idea to include a variety of open source games from different genres.

[...] The official FreeDOS 1.2 distribution will be available on Sunday, December 25, 2016.

In the comments there, someone mentions the popularity of FreeDOS for doing firmware updates. (It always seemed crazy to me to be running a multitasking OS when doing something that has the potential to brick your box.)
Any Soylentils using FreeDOS for that or something other than that?


Original Submission

Related Stories

FreeDOS Turns 25 Years Old 15 comments

Last week, FreeDOS turned 25 years old. FreeDOS is a complete, Free Software Disk Operating System (DOS) and a drop-in replacement for MS-DOS which has disappeared long ago. It is still used in certain niche cases such as playing legacy games, running legacy software, or certain embedded systems. Back in the day, it was also quite useful for updating BIOS.

Of those that will be, are, or have been using it, what tasks has it been good for?

Also, at:
The Linux Journal : FreeDOS's Linux Roots
OpenSource.com : FreeDOS turns 25 years old: An origin story
OS News : FreeDOS’s Linux roots
Lilliputing : FreeDOS turns 25 (open source, DOS-compatible operating system)

Earlier on SN:
Jim Hall on FreeDOS and the Upcoming 1.2 Release (2016)
Retro-Malware: DOS TSRs, Interrupt Handlers, and Far Calls, Part 2 (2016)
Retro-Malware: Writing A Keylogger for DOS, Part 1 (2016)


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by aim on Friday December 09 2016, @03:18PM

    by aim (6322) on Friday December 09 2016, @03:18PM (#439178)

    My current laptop is from the german supplier Wortmann.de (aka Terra computers). Being a GNU/Linux user I didn't want to send any money to Redmont, so I opted for "no operating system". The laptop came preloaded with FreeDOS and OpenGEM, which reminded me of olden Atari ST times - I didn't even know there are a couple of FOSS implementations of GEM.

    It was quite refreshing testing the Laptop with that combination for a short while before installing Kubuntu, it felt more than blazing fast. It sure shows how many levels of cruft have been added to current OSs, in normal interactive use they don't really feel any faster than what we used to have with DOS (yes, I know we do much more now than back then).

    Thanks for keeping DOS alive this way.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Friday December 09 2016, @03:44PM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Friday December 09 2016, @03:44PM (#439192) Homepage
      Laptop? Way too big a machine for a lightweight OS like this! You should be sticking it on your smartwatch or smartpen (I assume there's such a thing).

      How does FreeDOS, and the apps it supports, handle the huge amounts of memory in modern systems. Can I write code that does calloc(60000, 60000)? calloc(70000, 70000)?
      Back in DOS days, djgpp (a GCC port designed to link with a DOS extender) would probably have permitted the former, but not the latter, obviously. Now we've got 16 GiB laptops, what does FreeDOS let you access? The webpage implies "very little" with its "or develop embedded apps", which agrees with my first sentence. It certainly has its applications, there's nothing wrong with being small.
      --
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
      • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Friday December 09 2016, @10:27PM

        by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Friday December 09 2016, @10:27PM (#439438)

        It is interesting that you are imagining a DOS program that needs 16 GB of memory to run. Just what are you thinking of doing? I thought the most they needed was 640k...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @03:22PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @03:22PM (#439182)

    In the past 6 months, thank you Jim Hall, Tim Norman, Pat Villani and all other assorted FreeDOS contributors, your work is still useful today, provides a comprehensive set of features allowing all sorts of fun computing, networking, and retrogaming, and helped me fire up and diagnose issues with BBS software that couldn't be diagnosed in a virtual environment.

    I haven't had the space to play with it again recently, but FreeDOS allowed me to run native DOS Terminal apps, and Bulletin Boards with real hardware and real modems (with linux, asterisk, and a couple FXS VOIP adapters creating a usable PBX/phone network!) I spent a number of hours enjoying reminiscing about the pre-internet past, and polishing up skills I haven't used in almost a decade.

    Furthermore, having returned to DOS, it showed me, just how much productivity can still be gained using older software and hardware, sometimes even more than can be recieved today due to excessive features and/or code bloat. Latency on DOS cursors tends to be consistent, unlike modern systems where it can range from instantaneous to a few seconds of lag. And quite a bit less lost keyboard input, unless you've getting 'out of buffer' beeping from dos to let you know things aren't being stored.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Tara Li on Friday December 09 2016, @04:08PM

      by Tara Li (6248) on Friday December 09 2016, @04:08PM (#439209)

      Consider - FreeDOS, and Lotus 1-2-3. This is (at least in theory) going to fit in the L2 cache of a modern CPU. And Lotus 1-2-3 could handle some pretty damned big spreadsheets, especially with XMS/EMS support. Delays? What delays?

      Of course, I doubt you could get a modern machine to actually boot directly into FreeDOS. Still....

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @04:25PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @04:25PM (#439220)

        Of course, I doubt you could get a modern machine to actually boot directly into FreeDOS. Still....

        Sure you can - that's part of the point! It runs on old systems, but it also runs on new processors. Some companies still use it for firmware upgrades.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Friday December 09 2016, @07:13PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 09 2016, @07:13PM (#439334) Journal

        I doubt you could get a modern machine to actually boot directly into FreeDOS.

        If by modern, you mean any UEFI computer, you would be right, [sourceforge.net] as least as it comes directly from FreeDos.

        However, there are other implementations such as Rufus [rufus.akeo.ie] that will let you build a bootable FreeDos thumb drive by supplying their own signed shim. There were other methods [servethehome.com] as well that required a bunch of manual steps.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10 2016, @12:00AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10 2016, @12:00AM (#439495)

          FTFL (Link):
          many new (2010 and later) computers boot using UEFI, which is not compatible with BIOS

          In distro help forums, I have seen folks recommending tweaking CMOS Setup to specify Legacy BIOS mode as a workaround.

          Is this that uncommon an option??
          Does anyone have a broad enough exposure to enough varied equipment to put a percentage on this?

          -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @03:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @03:44PM (#439193)

    I had this acer laptop whose firmware would not let me run 64 bit linux (nasty overheat and shutdown if I did)
    Went to acer, got updated firmware, but alas, it required windows.
    The first thing I had done upon buying the laptop was getting rid of its vista which I would have never used.
    So I crossed my fingers and ran the bios update utility through freedos.
    It worked, I had no need to touch MS derived stuff since.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @05:21PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @05:21PM (#439250)

      I think most people would be surprised as to how many of the different utilities use FreeDOS, especially when they require a reboot to work. For example, every firmware and BIOS installer for my laptop embeds FreeDOS, the disk checking utility that came with my HDD has an option to scan on reboot, which launches FreeDOS. Of course, this is slowly becoming more rare due to UEFI and Windows providing a similar environment to do such updates and scans, but we all know how long momentum can keep certain practices going.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by frojack on Friday December 09 2016, @06:53PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 09 2016, @06:53PM (#439314) Journal

      Freedos It saved your laptop's life, not yours.

      I had the same situation with a brand new Gigabyte Mother board. Came with buggy bios, and I had the option of sending it back (and waiting for a replacement) or installing the manufacturer's newly minted bios upgrade. That required Windows, or DOS.

      I had a bootable flash drive that I retain just for these occasions. (This was like the third time I've been through this exercise).

      I've never run any other thing with FreeDos. As far as I'm concerned they might as well rename it FlashBiosDos, and call it a day. Adding features seems pointless.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Friday December 09 2016, @11:49PM

        by jmorris (4844) on Friday December 09 2016, @11:49PM (#439490)

        What? The Gigabyte boards I have dealt with recently had flashing built into the BIOS itself so as long as you could get the BIOS to start up you could invoke the flasher. Just put the file on a USB stick and go. Sad to hear they have lost functionality.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20 2016, @08:33PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20 2016, @08:33PM (#444023)

          He didn't say it was recently, just it was brand-new at the time he had to flash the bios.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by bzipitidoo on Friday December 09 2016, @03:52PM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Friday December 09 2016, @03:52PM (#439200) Journal

    Long time ago I made a bootable flash drive with FreeDOS 1.0. But I didn't record exactly how I did it, and had forgotten how when FreeDOS 1.1 came out. Thought it would be easy to figure out again. Nope!

    FreeDOS wasn't the best way to play classic games on modern computers. The problem is that hardware has changed so much that old drivers will not work. Sound in DOS is most likely to work with Sound Blaster hardware, not the integrated, high quality, surround sound capable audio hardware common today. Video has done better at keeping backward compatibility, but it too might not work. Another barrier can be the lack of disk drives, both floppy and CD. If the modern machine has a CD-ROM, can an IDE driver access it? Maybe not unless you fiddle with the BIOS settings to choose legacy mode for drive access. It's just easier to run an emulator such as DOSBox or DOSEmu.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by LoRdTAW on Friday December 09 2016, @04:10PM

    by LoRdTAW (3755) on Friday December 09 2016, @04:10PM (#439212) Journal

    FreeDOS is life saver. I recently had to replace a failed hard disk in a glove box that is DOS controlled. The system, a P3, ran windows 98 but booted to a DOS prompt via the autoexec.bat. I installed a compact flash to IDE adapter, 8GB industrial CF card and installed freeDOS and a backup of the glove box software. Boots super fast in the rare case when we need to shut it down.

    My only gripes are we need to keep a parallel inkjet printer around for printing and there is no USB mass storage support. Networking is a PITA so I haven't found a good way to do backups or an alternative printing method yet.

    And of interest, I found this: http://www.vdos.info/ [vdos.info]. Supposedly better than DOSbox for older business applications as it supports printing, graphics scaling, and copy/paste. Useless for me as I am tied to two ISA I/O cards.

  • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Friday December 09 2016, @04:15PM

    by Unixnut (5779) on Friday December 09 2016, @04:15PM (#439216)

    Really useful for embedded systems. You can write software in C that is fast and with fixed latency. Very close to a real time system there. I used to use it a lot for this, but things like the raspberry pi finished that (You can't get FreeDOS for rasbpi, and the x86 embedded systems are too expensive in comparison).

    Apart from that, good as an emergency boot setup, firmware flashing, etc....

    Haven't used it much lately I am sad to say, but have fond memories of it.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by LoRdTAW on Friday December 09 2016, @05:42PM

      by LoRdTAW (3755) on Friday December 09 2016, @05:42PM (#439262) Journal

      The fun days when you could wire wrap an ISA card with a few logic chips and light up some LED's, control relays and whatnot with a few in/out instructions. Even the parallel port was just a buffered/latched interface right to the ISA bus.

      I'd go as far to say that it is easier than most of the complex crap you need to do with a raspi: http://elinux.org/RPi_GPIO_Code_Samples#C [elinux.org]. Of course there are libs. But still, a hell of a lot of code to do what you could do in a few lines of basic or even assembler.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @06:41PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @06:41PM (#439305)

        > The fun days when you could wire wrap an ISA card

        "Fun" and "wire wrap" are two things that can never exist in a single sentence together in the real world.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @05:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @05:50PM (#439264)

      You can't get FreeDOS for rasbpi...

      I'll just point out that CP/M-68K is written in C and, with a bit of work, can be shoved through gcc.

      I've run it on Cortex-M3 and ARM. Haven't done a Raspberry Pi port yet, but there's no reason it shouldn't work.

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Friday December 09 2016, @11:08PM

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 09 2016, @11:08PM (#439476) Journal

      I seem to remember seeing many very small, free real-time(-ish) kernels about a while ago. There was one called FreeRTOS IIRC. Was probably going to try it for an embedded project but left that company before we needed to try it.

  • (Score: 1) by pTamok on Friday December 09 2016, @06:34PM

    by pTamok (3042) on Friday December 09 2016, @06:34PM (#439299)

    Thank-you to those working on the FreeDOS project. Its the kind of unsung background work that can be a life-saver for people, and I am really happy that people volunteer their time and expertise for this sort of thing. It's not sexy and cool, it won't attract VC funding in the hope of making someone a fortune, but it is one of those little things than can make a lot of people's lives just that little bit easier.

    Thank-you again.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @06:42PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 09 2016, @06:42PM (#439306)

    For a while in the early days id replace hard to find/buy MSDOS on PC based embedded machine controllers. Worked better than the real thing and far cheaper and 'current'. I no longer work there so now its just a cool toy.

  • (Score: 1) by krait6 on Friday December 09 2016, @07:50PM

    by krait6 (5170) on Friday December 09 2016, @07:50PM (#439353)

    I recently had to flash a BIOS and the motherboard manufacturer (ASUS) has a BIOS flash utility that works under DOS. As others have said, there are some common issues where Windows won't run without a BIOS update first, and using FreeDOS is a good alternative. BIOS updates are possible to do under Linux too but it's not as simple: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Flashing_BIOS_from_Linux [archlinux.org]

    Another common use for DOS are hard disk utilities, such as SpinRite. https://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm [grc.com] INT 13 still seems to work with SATA hard disks. This allows running programs that operate at a lower level than a larger more complicated OS such as Windows or Linux. It's less common today for people to run these programs, but they can be a lifesaver in some circumstances.

    I also occasionally use FreeDOS for playing a few old DOS games. I use DOSbox on Linux more often for convenience, but if you want to get the "actual' feel of the game in its original form then running an older machine on actual DOS gives a more "real" experience. Thankfully some of the old DOS games, such as X-Com: UFO Defense, have been ported to modern hardware, like OpenXcom: http://openxcom.org/ [openxcom.org]

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Jiro on Saturday December 10 2016, @02:47AM

    by Jiro (3176) on Saturday December 10 2016, @02:47AM (#439543)

    Pointing out that it is preinstalled on some PCs is misleading. It isn't preinstalled because people are going to use it. It's installed because the companies have Microsoft contracts saying that they'll ship computers with an operating system, and they can't ship with Linux because someone might want to use it, so the company would have to support it. It's shipped with FreeDOS specifically because nobody would want to use it, so they don't need to support it.