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posted by NCommander on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:33PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the softlanding-from-dos-successfully dept.

20200618_214854 UTC Update: yes, some of these pictures are... large. Placed in <spoiler> tags for now; click each one it to see/hide the picture. --martyb]

Well, here we go again! Coming off the Novell NetWare experience, I had intended to go straight into Windows NT. After two attempts of shooting a video and much swearing, I decided to shelve that project for the moment. Furthermore, a lot of the feedback from my previous articles talked about early Linux.

That gave me a thought. Why not dig out the grandfather of modern Linux distributions and put it on camera? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you: the Softlanding Linux System, complete with XFree86 1.2!

Honestly, there's a lot of good and bad to say about Softlanding Linux, and while SLS is essentially forgotten, its legacy birthed the concept of the Linux distribution and its bugginess also lead to the creation of both Slackware and Debian. It also made me remember a lot of the bad that came with Linux of this era.

Assuming the summary hasn't scared you off, get ready to write your Xconfig, strap in your Model Ms, and LOADLIN your way below the fold!

And then Linus gave us Linux

I'm pretty sure we all know the early story of Linux, and the post to comp.os.minix that started it all, but just in case:

Hello everybody out there using minix -

I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and
professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing
since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on
things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat
(same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons)
among other things).

Linus's hobbyist project would quickly become a cornerstone of the free software movement, the beginning of the end of commercial UNIX, and eventually, the core of what would power all Android smartphones today. Not bad for something that was supposed to only run on a 386, right?

Linus's Linux would go through several releases, but Linux immediately became popular because it was a UNIX-like compatible kernel that wasn't tainted by AT&T code. Linux came at exactly the right moment when the world was looking for a free operating system, especially after Linus embraced the GPLv2.

To understand the implications, we need to step back for a moment. Richard Stallman, of the Free Software Foundation, was still putting the pieces together to create a free-as-in speech operating system. This project was known as GNU (a recursive acronym: "GNU is not UNIX") noting that while the tools and system were UNIX-like, they had no code from Bell Labs and were freely available under the terms of the General Public License or GPL.

GNU was intended to form a full operating system, but one critical component, the kernel, was missing.

Kernel diagram

In 1991, the BSD flavors of UNIX were tied up in the USL v. BSDi lawsuit, and 386BSD was still months away from its first public release. At the time, it was unclear if the BSD-derived operating systems would ever get clear of the taint from Bell Systems.

Stallman and the Free Software Foundation had instead embraced the Mach microkernel. At the time, microkernels were seen as the "future" of software development. This lead to the creation of Hurd, with its first release in 1990. However, design flaws inherent to mach's design prevented Hurd from actually being useable in any meaningful way. In short, the project was stalled, and it was unclear if the mach pit could be climbed out of. It was still possible to use components of the GNU system such as bash on commercial UNIX systems, and MINIX.

MINIX was the closest to a usable "free" operating system at the time. Created by Andrew S. Tanenbaum as a teaching example, MINIX was a small microkernel system that was system call compatible with 7th Edition of UNIX. However, it's origin as a teaching tool presented a problem. Tanenbaum's publisher was unwilling to allow MINIX to be freely distributed, so a licensing fee of ~$70 dollars was attached, with source code available. MINIX also had the advantage it ran on commodity x86 hardware, and it had a small but cult following. The end result was a UNIX-like operating system with source available.

Linux, on the other hand, was not only freely distributable, but it was also as close to a drop-in replacement for MINIX as far as an end-user was concerned. MINIX's userbase quickly abandoned the platform for Linux as it matured, and it's few remaining users migrated to 386BSD, or one of its descents. However, Linux was not a complete system in and of itself; it was just a kernel. To use the earliest versions, you had to cross-compile from UNIX or MINIX, and add software to taste. In a sense, its was like Linux from Scratch minus the good manual.

Softlanding would become the basis of the modern Linux distribution.

A Brief Note about MCC Linux

At this point, I was continuing to write this article when after doing a bit of fact-checking, I stumbled upon MCC Interim Linux, which Wikipedia claims is the first Linux distribution as it predates SLS. This is technically true, but MCC Interim Linux didn't offer a package manager or much in terms of add-on software.

In that regard, SLS was much closer to what "modern" Linux distribution provides than MCC Interim. That being said, it might be worth diving into in addition to the early boot disk versions of Linux in a later article.

Softlanding Linux System

What was most astounding about this project was the utter lack of information about Softlanding entirely. From the README file, Softlanding came with a 60 page manual and was available on both ​3 1⁄2 and 5 1/4 floppy disks, CD-ROM, and QIC40 tape. Copies were also available through FTP and various bulletin board systems. The last release has only survived in such a form.

Reading through the sparse README files, Softlanding primarily billed itself as providing "soft landings for DOS bailouts", and a lot of the default software load seems to be converting DOS users. As I would find out, while Softlanding did provide X, it was in such poor shape that it really couldn't be said to be competitive with Windows of the time period.

SLS has a reputation for being rather buggy, and both Debian and Slackware were both started due to frustration with the initial project. Nonetheless, it was best described as the Ubuntu of its era in its relative ease of use, and focus on being user friendly. As I found, Softlanding also provided a fair bit of effort in making Linux easier to use with their mesh shell, built-in emulators, and rather complete set of software for the era.

That being said, SLS died for a reason. To understand that reason, I needed to get it installed. To get it installed, I needed working media.

By all your floppy disks remembered ...

One rather curious fact about the digital download version of Softlanding is it isn't in the form of disk images. Instead, it's set of files complying with the 8.3 DOS naming scheme of the era. Only the initial boot disk, A1, is provided as a raw image.

The README file goes into more detail, and as far as I can tell, the intent was allow people to download what they need, and then use DOS to create the disks. This is understandable as even in the era where floppies were common, 31 floppies is a bit of a tall order. To put that in context, DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1 were 3 and 6 floppies respectively. Windows 95 itself was available on 13.

I had to convert these into a more usable form. My solution was a simple Python script that simply created each high-density floppy disk image, formatted them with a FAT12 filesystem, and then mcopy the files on. This removed what would have otherwise been a rather tedious process.

SLS Media Recreated

The next step was figuring out how to run this. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to get X going, and I knew that would be a challenge in and of itself. I also knew that early Linux couldn't use LBA addressing and needed some BIOS support to find the hard disk. Sarah Walker's PCem is my usual weapon of choice when I need era correct emulation. It also has the advantage of running relatively close to the original system speed so I could get a good idea of what performance was actually like.

Award BIOS Bootup

I started with an Award 486DX Clone, and 8 MiB of memory. Since PCem emulates a full system, and Linux was dependent on CHS addressing, I had to set up the drive parameters manually in BIOS. I also needed to set the clock back. I had found warnings that there were known issues with SLS in relation to years past 1996 due to faulty leap year calculations. With BIOS set, I was ready to go.

CMOS clock

I popped disc A1 into my emulated floppy drive, and got rewarded with the LILO prompt!

Login: install

The A1 disk is actually a full live system, and even goes as far as providing "root" and "install" users depending on what you need to do. Some handy notes on SLS told me I needed to partition the disk, and that meant fdisk.

FDISK

Unfortunately, my 2020 Linux brain at this point forgot it was common practice at the time to use a swap partition and more than one partition for the filesystem. Instead, I just made one single large one for root, and called it good. This didn't prove to be a problem in practice but it does highlight a problem with SLS. fdisk isn't exactly an intuitive step and even DOS 5 and 6 will both offer to partition a hard disk graphically if needed.

Another quirk that tripped me up is that to format a partition, the utility is mke2fs. This might be because ext2 was then new, and the default file system was still Minix. That however I attribute more to not having the manual and 26 years since this software was released. With a tap of the power button, I was now ready to install Softlanding.

SLS Linux

Softlanding's installation process is clean and straight to the point. It's better than some other distributions even in 2020. Tap the number, follow the directions and go. The only hiccup is creating a swapfile failed, but the install soldiered on regardless.

A2 inserted and installing

That isn't to say that it went without issue. There's the fundamental problem that I'm still stuck feeding 31 floppies. Part of the problem is while Linux 0.99 does in fact support CD-ROMs, it doesn't support ATAPI-based drives. As far as I can tell, it only supports Creative SoundBlaster CD-ROM controllers and SCSI ones. However, I couldn't get SCSI to work at all. It was mostly 30 minutes of me browsing the Internet and changing disks from time to time.

That is until the installer suddenly cried out it couldn't find X2

X2 404 error

X1 had been happy grinding away when the message popped on screen that X2 couldn't be found. Actually inserting X2 and retrying got the install going would foreshadow what happened at the end of installation. I'm still not sure what happened here, but I do suspect it was one of SLS's packaging bugs coming to the forefront.

One of the largest issues with SLS was it was just flat out buggy, and I suspect the notice for X2 was just that: a bug. It wouldn't be the last.

LILO Landing

Towards the end of installation, SLS prompts to create a boot disk, and then installs LILO to hard disk. It also prompts if you want to setup dual-boot with DOS. This is pretty standard for operating systems of this vintage and I didn't think much about it at the time. What I didn't notice was the mistake in how SLS installs LILO. This would represent the first major footgun I would run into.

Unaware that there was a lurking time bomb, I removed the last floppy, rebooted the system, and was greeted with a system hang.

Hung system

What had happened was a perfect storm of failure. Normally, when faced with a non-bootable disk, BIOS should give the typical "Non-system disk message", or dump to BASIC depending on the vintage. However, for whatever reason, I ended up with a flashing prompt. I was well aware that LILO would sometimes have issues booting from the hard disk, so I didn't initially give it a second thought. I had the boot disk SLS had made during installation, and that allowed me to start-up Linux.

SLS booted

I should have taken a closer look at what SLS had actually done. It wasn't until much later I had actually pieced together the series of events that had taken place.

LILO's Landing

Let's step back for a moment and talk about how a PC boots. In the most basic form, booting from either a floppy disk or a hard disk is done by BIOS loading the first sector of a given disk into memory, then executing it. On PCs, sectors are typically 512 bytes, and this forms what's known as the Master Boot Record.

Master Boot Record

Beside the initial bootstrap code, the MBR also contains the partition map and some information on how the disk was formatted. However, 512 bytes is a bit too small to do anything useful. This is where the Partition Boot Record comes into play. The PBR is a secondary holding area for bootloader code, and the PBR is what gets loaded at startup when a partition is marked 'active'. Microsoft's DOS MBR uses the PBR to load the rest of DOS and then eventually load COMMAND.COM. This is a fairly well-documented process, but it's slightly problematic that your MBR and PBR must agree with how the system is started.

It also means that a MBR had to be installed in the first place. I had started with a blank hard disk which meant there was no MBR. FDISK had written a partition table, but the actual bootstrap code portion was still NULLed out. What I hadn't noticed was that SLS had installed LILO to /dev/hda1, or the partition boot record. This meant that there was no MBR to start the system, leading to the hang.

Where LILO Landed

In general, I find PBR based booting rather unreliable at best. This is compounded by the fact that Microsoft has a very bad habit of trashing boot code. My fix was to simply change lilo.conf and then re-run lilo to re-install to the MBR. This let me boot from the hard disk!

With that interlude aside, it was time to actually take a closer look at the Softlanding System itself.

Serial numbers filed off

Softlanding only provides root as a default user with no password. After loggining in, I'm greeted by this login banner:

Softlanding Software (604) 592-0188, gentle touchdowns from DOS bailouts.
Welcome to Linux SLS 1.05. Type "mesh" for a menu driven interface.
Fresh installations should use "syssetup" to link X servers, etc.

The phrase "softlanding for DOS bailouts" appears on most of SLS's media, and from what I can tell, SLS was intended to be that: a better DOS. This becomes very clear when we follow the instructions to load 'mesh'.

mesh shell

If this looks familiar, it probably because you're familiar with Norton Commander for DOS or one of its clones

Norton Commander for DOS

mesh is entirely something Softlanding cooked up for SLS. Source code isn't provided, and its LICENSE file states it can only be distributed with SLS. One thing though has to be said is that I have to give SLS props here, this is a really good way to help users soft land from DOS. Norton Commander was exceptionally popular with DOS, and I even remember it holding in until Windows 95. By giving the console a decent UI with familiar functionality, you've basically eliminated an entire cliff in migrating.

I do wonder how much Softlanding was trying to mimic DOS. At no point did the installer or any official instructions tell me to make another user. Although even in the era, running as root 24/7 would have been a bad practice, it would have made Linux resemble DOS a lot more than it did out of the box. Once again, I don't have the manual so I have no real idea how much any of this is intentional.

However, one thing is noticeable is that the default software load is very much tailored to help those migrating from DOS.

Softlanding from DOS

The first notable addition to the party is the joe editor. For those not familiar with joe, it's a clone of Wordstar. For those not familiar with Wordstar, it was the emacs to WordPerfect's vi.

Wordstar

NOTE: I'm not apologizing for the above.

Joking aside, WordStar has a rather diehard userbase and there are quite a few writers who still get by on the old CP/M and DOS-based versions of WordStar. Including joe as a default editor in addition to the more common vi and emacs would help those familiar with WordStar make the migration a bit easier.

Ease of migration from DOS also shows up with DOSemu, which is included in the box. DOSemu as the name suggests is a full-functioned DOS emulator. It can either work with an existing DOS partition, or with a micro hdimage. In either case, you need an actual copy of DOS to use it. Linux folders can be mapped into the emulator via the LREDIR command, and a compatibility list is provided.

WordPerfect 5.1

WordPerfect loaded up just fine. DOOM crashed the emulator. Windows 3.0 interestingly is marked as "working in real mode", but trying to install it just leads to a hang. Most Linux users might be realizing that I've been up to this point tap-dancing around a rather large pain point of early Linux.

Xrossing the X

X-Window

NOTE: Still not apologizing for that joke.

If you watched the video, you might have seen the rather large failure montage that went with my attempts to get X up and running.

Let me be rather blunt about this. X was the reason that Linux on the desktop was a fracking disaster throughout the 90s and early 2000s. The problem isn't with the X protocol or design, it's entirely with the driver stack. While X of SLS 1.0.5 may get a partial pass because it predates the VESA VBE BIOS extensions, X was an utter nightmare up until Xorg finally plastered over most of the bullshit with working autoconfiguration.

A lot of people are going to yell at me, and say "Oh, but graphics card vendors didn't publish docs.". Maybe that's true, but even in cases where there is a working X server, you still have to do a lot of manual configuration to get it working. Red Hat specifically went to get drivers available as free software when possible; my ThinkPad's NeoMagic card has a driver due to these efforts. Remember, back in this time period, there was more choice than AMD, NVIDIA or Intel GMA. It gets worse if you can believe it: X specifically also requires timing information relating to the refresh rates, and arcane bullshit that no other operating system needs. EDID initially appeared in 1994, and was more standardized by 1996.

Let me give you an example of an X modeline:

 Modeline syntax: pclk hdisp hsyncstart hsyncend htotal vdisp vsyncstart vsyncend vtotal [flags]
 Flags (optional): +HSync, -HSync, +VSync, -VSync, Interlace, DoubleScan, CSync, +CSync, -CSync

 Modeline "1600x1200" 155 1600 1656 1776 2048 1200 1202 1205 1263
 # (Label) (clk) (x-resolution) (y-resolution)
 # |
 # (pixel clock in MHz)

This is utter bull. Games that talk to hardware directly such as the DOS-based DOOM or Duke Nukem 3D could get 800x600 or better. Duke3D could theoretically even go as high as 1600x1200. Windows 3.0 and 3.1, by comparison, was archaic because it required you to still run SETUP to set the graphics mode and have a driver for what you specifically needed.

Windows SETUP

Linux ran on 386+ and higher processors. Virtual 8086 Mode is there; a 16-bit BIOS driver is not an excuse on why this was so bad. Even if we jump ahead to 1998 when 32-bit VBE was standardized, it still. didn't. work.

A 486 had enough horsepower to do unaccelerated X with something like fvwm without issue. While SLS had some specific pain points related to X, this mess lasted well up until the 2000s. KNOPPIX was the first time I specifically remember where X autodetection had a semi-decent chance of working. Most X applications on Linux were ports of software originally written for UNIX. A lot of this software that assumed higher resolutions 640x480. While X can run at standard VGA resolution, the default config was entirely broken and it got set in virtual desktop mode which is basically unusable. Even if I fixed the resolution, a lot of apps would generate oversize windows because they didn't expect non-workstation style monitors.

I eventually got X working, by getting lucky by finding the right README, and a graphics card that PCem can emulate. That moment of joy lasted right up when I found that the mouse didn't work. This was primarily because I was too used to what modern Linux distros do and either set Xconfig correctly or have working autodetection. Mouse and X driver configurations are handled by syssetup, but what it does is non-obvious and incorrect. What syssetup does is rather silly. When you select either the X-Window option or Mouse option, it helpfully prompts you to select a mouse driver and seemingly sets everything for you. Unless you're using a Microsoft 2-button serial mouse, the default settings won't work. This is because syssetup only changes the /dev/mouse link to point to the correct device. It doesn't edit Xconfig or prompts you to do so. I can only assume this was in the missing manual, but behavior like this is not going to reflect well on SLS, and likely in part why it was considered so buggy.

And let there be FVWM!

With a working mouse driver, I could finally use X.

Working X

SLS's default environment is the tried and true fvwn which is essentially a visual clone of Motif. Unfortunately, even when working, X, at least as shipped by SLS, is not great. Many of the menus have links to broken or missing applications. This can even be seen in the quick launch bar at the bottom which references file shares to machines that don't exist.

Initial Conclusions

SLS was pretty innovative for it's time. Compared to even modern Linux distributions, it's relatively straight forward, and is better than a lot of software of the era. While Linux was still a newborn project, it was already making a lot of strides as a stable and useful workstation and server host. Driver compatibility quickly became better as Red Hat and other companies began to involve themselves in Linux.

As a replacement for DOS, it fulfills that role well. Since a full set of development tools came in the box, including GCC, and Smalltalk, it was also pleasant to use as a hobbyist or developers system. I can't find much about Softlanding Software itself, but I get the impression it was a very small company at best. One thing I will note is that when compared to Debian or Slackware from this era, SLS is both simple to setup and relatively easy to use.

While Microsoft basically forced everyone out of the market through OEM agreements, Linux could have been a more serious competitor on the desktop in the days before the Microsoft monopoly was fully formed if it wasn't for the aforementioned issues. I would remind people that companies like Caldera and Corel did make quite a few efforts in this space throughout the mid to late 90s. I can't say that Slackware or Debian, even now, put much stock in having an easy migration path from Windows.

SLS, on the other hand, provided decent online help, for example, "install.info" on the install disk gives you a step by step help for every aspect of installation. mesh helped with users migrating from DOS and Norton Commander-like shells. I can't blame SLS for the disaster that was Xfree86, but it didn't help matters either.

I apologize if the above is a bit of a rant, but "usability" really wasn't a focus through the free software ecosystem until Ubuntu tried with the release of Warty Warthog. I do want to explore more in this space, and I'll likely be digging out Yggdrasil, early Slack and Debian, as well as the BSD series for test drives to document the history. Suggestions welcome on what to try out!

Normally, I'd end with a teaser on what is coming up next. More specifically, I want to explore more about the graphical and networking aspect. However, during the video, I said if we reached 250 subscribers, I'd do a special. At the time of recording, I was at 150 subs. I figured I had a few weeks/months before we hit that threshold. In the 24-ish hours since I posted the video, and now, my channel is nearly at 300.

For those who didn't watch the post, you might wonder what that special is?

ThinkPad 380D

It's mastering SLS to actual floppy disks, and seeing if I can get SLS installed on real hardware from 1997, which is three years later than SLS. I did a video about this ThinkPad and its history, including dumping its HDD via serial but never did a writeup as I actually did was install a RAM upgrade.

Coming up next

This might not sound super interesting, but I already know I'm going to have to write some kernel patches just to get a basic installation going. As of the time of writing, I've had to also partially rewrite the ATA driver. Theories welcome as to why!

ThinkPad boot error

I already expected this specific failure, but I suspect I'm going to have more surprises on real hardware. I don't know if X will be possible. As far as I know, this laptop is entirely ISA based; no PCI. According to ThinkWiki, the graphics chip is a NeoMagic MagicGraph 128V. This was a bit of a surprise as I thought this laptop had the more common Cirrus Logic chips that were prevalent throughout the 90s. This chip didn't exist until a 1996-1997, and while there's an X driver available, I'm not entirely sure I can port the SVGA XFree86 driver to run on it.

Until the next time, NCommander, signing off ...

Related Stories

Retrotech: The Novell NetWare Experience 92 comments

On what is becoming a running theme here on SoylentNews, we're reliving the early 90s, and picking up right where I left off from Windows for Workgroups, it was time to look at the 800-pound gorilla: Novell NetWare.

Unlike early Mac, UNIX and Windows, I didn't actually have any personal experience with NetWare back in the day. Instead, my hands were first guided on a stream of my weekly show, HACK-ALT-NCOMMANDER, hosted as part of DEFCON 201, combined with a binge reading marathon of some very hefty manuals. In that vein, this is more of my impressions of what NetWare user and administration is like, especially compared to the tools of the day.

Ultimately, I found NetWare a very strange experience, and there were a lot of pluses and minuses to cover, so as usual, here's the tl;dr video summary, followed by more in-depth write-up.

Novell NetWare video

If you haven't ABENDed your copy of server.exe, click below the fold to learn what all the hubbub was about!

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:44PM (18 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:44PM (#1009722)

    Stop ruining this website with this shit.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:49PM (#1009723)

      Honestly it's as relevant as 80% of the articles that are posfed here.
      I'll take it as a break from political articles!

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:35PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:35PM (#1009742)

      These are interesting, but bloaty articles. Hmm, "somewhere" in a box I might have an old 4Gb HDD with an image of SCO Unix. Reading this makes me want to search for it and fire up one of my doorstopper crates, like an old 386. But would the SCO zombie resurrect and sue me?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:10PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:10PM (#1009763)

        They wouldn't sue, they would just make you run SCO unix. Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away I tried to run SCO Opendesktop on a Zenith 386. It would fall over in about a week and I would have to reload all 50+ floppies. Fortunately I discovered Slackware (v0.99 kernel) to replace it.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DannyB on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:47PM (14 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:47PM (#1009752) Journal

      This is very useful. If we get blown back into the stone ages, this is what you can expect to use.

      --
      Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:19PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:19PM (#1009769)

        That and Gandalf boxes, yellow hose, vampire taps, thinnet and 50 ohm terminators.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:27PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:27PM (#1009772)

        I'll expect to be using an axe. Now give up your lunch and your solar panels, nerds.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:35PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:35PM (#1009777)

          Does the axe have a GUI?

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by Freeman on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:32PM (9 children)

        by Freeman (732) on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:32PM (#1009774) Journal

        Let us get blown back into the stone ages, but with modern replacements, like FreeDOS, please. Just because we have bloated OSes now, doesn't mean there aren't things like Tiny Core Linux (19MB or the fat 200MB+ Tiny Core Plus), or even ReactOS (less than 100mb compressed zip file). Puppy Linux is a nice alternative, but it screams amateur. I used it to piece together a Kiosk for my Library for a while. Was pretty simple and let us squeeze some life out of some ancient PCs when we needed it.

        --
        Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:44PM (8 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:44PM (#1009780)

          >Tiny Core Linux
          >19MB
          Perfect summary of Linux's sad state of affairs. Not that it was ever that great.

          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Friday June 19 2020, @07:54AM (7 children)

            by maxwell demon (1608) on Friday June 19 2020, @07:54AM (#1009930) Journal

            Please name another operating system offering the same features in less than 19MB.

            --
            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:10AM (5 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:10AM (#1009961)

              QNX

              • (Score: 3, Informative) by Freeman on Friday June 19 2020, @02:47PM (4 children)

                by Freeman (732) on Friday June 19 2020, @02:47PM (#1010061) Journal

                While useful for industrial/commercial applications. Tiny Core is suitable for Hobbyists and home usage. Much more in line with a general useful OS, than the highly commercialized QNX.

                --
                Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
                • (Score: 3, Informative) by RS3 on Friday June 19 2020, @04:11PM (3 children)

                  by RS3 (6367) on Friday June 19 2020, @04:11PM (#1010085)

                  Owning up- I posted the QNX as AC, which I rarely do, but because I was at another computer without my login.

                  Not sure if you remember or are aware, but 25-ish years ago QNX famously had a 1.44M floppy that would boot into a GUI desktop with TCP/IP "stack", phone dialer, some Ethernet support, and a web browser. Did I mention, all on 1 (compressed) 1.44M floppy? Not sure how much RAM it needed, but typical machines in those days would have had 2-8 MB. It worked.

                  No question QNX didn't succeed in the broad PC market, but sadly the broad market tends toward the lowest common denominator. Look at all the issues with Chrome, including the new article on SN about spying extensions, horrible crap webcode that will only run and render in Chrome, and yet, Chrome suddenly became the big winner. It's a discouraging mess.

                  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Freeman on Friday June 19 2020, @05:18PM (2 children)

                    by Freeman (732) on Friday June 19 2020, @05:18PM (#1010103) Journal

                    There definitely were/are some Linux distros that targeted the "fits on a floppy disk" and it was much more doable back then. Now, we'd need a few hundred floppies just for the browser.

                    Still, OSes like Tiny Core, Puppy Linux, FreeDOS, and ReactOS (potentially) have their uses. At least from this consumer's perspective. Kind of hard to go wrong with something like Lubuntu or the like, though, too. In the event you have a computer that can run a modern browser, choice of OS, isn't going to be an issue.

                    Still, I'd rather be stuck with Puppy Linux than just about anything else.

                    --
                    Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
                    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by RS3 on Friday June 19 2020, @06:22PM (1 child)

                      by RS3 (6367) on Friday June 19 2020, @06:22PM (#1010134)

                      Thank you so much for all those tips. I will try them.

                      10-ish years ago I had a project requiring a very small Linux distro, fast boot, etc. Client was flakier than anyone I've ever encountered and the trail went cold and they never did anything with it. Long story, really. Anyway, I did try many of the smaller distros, incluing "slitaz" and I forget. But I'm going to try some again.

                      Any ideas of what distros are being used for "embedded control", etc? I don't mean Arduino, Raspberry, etc., I mean x86, but some kind of headless, even IoT stuff. I just haven't done any searching yet.

                      BTW, I don't think browsers need to be so bloated. I'm okay with not being able to "experience the latest trends". :)

                      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Freeman on Friday June 19 2020, @06:32PM

                        by Freeman (732) on Friday June 19 2020, @06:32PM (#1010142) Journal

                        I've not gotten into embedded control anything. Closest I've gotten is multiple Raspberry Pis and all I've really done is slap a few distros on and try them out.

                        --
                        Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @06:20PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @06:20PM (#1010132)

              No. That is completely irrelevant to what I said.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Freeman on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:50PM (12 children)

    by Freeman (732) on Thursday June 18 2020, @08:50PM (#1009724) Journal

    It's just, a bit jarring, and umm..., I come here to get away from all the image noise. Not that it's in the same vein as the likes of Facebook or the like, but . . . there are pictures . . . on my text news site.

    --
    Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
    • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:15PM (4 children)

      by krishnoid (1156) on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:15PM (#1009734)

      Is there a way to put the pictures in a spoiler tag so they can be hidden/expanded when reading the article? I assume this functionality is available in the summary area, but I wanted to actually confirm it.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by richtopia on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:24PM (1 child)

        by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:24PM (#1009738) Homepage Journal

        Or maybe permit some JS to have a lightbox functionality with tiny images? If someone has JS disabled they wouldn't miss any content, just the easy resizing of images.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Freeman on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:15PM

          by Freeman (732) on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:15PM (#1009766) Journal

          No, because No.

          --
          Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by martyb on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:05PM (1 child)

        by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:05PM (#1009759) Journal

        Yikes!

        That is... too much. The story preview while editing didn't look so bad. For the time being, I've taken your suggestion and put a <spoiler> tag around each pic.

        We don't get many of these so we are learning as we go.

        Updated story should appear shortly .

        So sorry about that!

        --
        Wit is intellect, dancing.
        • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:53AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:53AM (#1009913)

          Were you always this stupid? Or is it due to lingering effects from your stroke?

    • (Score: 2) by martyb on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:12PM (6 children)

      by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:12PM (#1009764) Journal

      You mean, we got peanut butter on your chocolate? =)

      But seriously, noted and we've implemented a workaround [soylentnews.org].

      --
      Wit is intellect, dancing.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:21PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:21PM (#1009736)

    Back in the 90s, I thought Pentium PCs got way too complicated. But that was compared to early 80s with 8-bit processors and 64KB memory address space (some processors used memory-mapped IO, so understanding the memory space gave you decent grasp of how IO was managed).

    Now I look at that Award BIOS screen with Energy Star logo, and I think "that used to be the simple clean good ol' days." And they were - we didn't have spying coprocessor system cooked into the CPU itself.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 05 2020, @06:47PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 05 2020, @06:47PM (#1016574)

      I'm seeing some enthusiast built devices out there that boot straight to a basic interpreter now.

      On a different note, having only removable media for storage may have "humanized" the computer when combined with running a single program at a time.

      If you wanted to to spreadsheets you inserted the storage media for the spreadsheet software, booted, and then either switched out the media for one that held your relevant files or inserted that into a second drive.

      This meant that a computer could be operated much like a record player or VCR. And if the media housing one of your programs went bad you didn't lose your whole software library.

      This is perhaps also why even though games consoles have become more and more computer like, they are retained the physical media element. This makes the act of picking a game to place that of picking a case on a shelf, and inserting the media within. Then you power on the device and up comes the game.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by richtopia on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:22PM (4 children)

    by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:22PM (#1009737) Homepage Journal

    Installing Mandrake in 2002 (High School years for me) was challenging enough. When my friend showed me Ubuntu, my mind was blown.

    Although I suspect the Mandrake book+CD combo my father gave me was from the bargain bin, so it was probably an even earlier release, I just remember KDE having no power off button in the GUI. Still, not nearly as tough as what you documented here; at least I had 1 CD to deal with.

    • (Score: 2) by Kitsune008 on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:06PM

      by Kitsune008 (9054) on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:06PM (#1009760)

      Yeah, I did not have the fortitude and skills to get comfortable with Linux my first time.

      IIRC, it was Caldera OpenLinux Base 1.2, and having experience of only Windows OS's, I was amazed the there were several games that could be played DURING THE INSTALL!!! "Holy brain asploding, Batman!"

      Then the install insisted on info that I was clueless about. After multiple attempts of entering random info and having it fail, I finally logged the info it was asking for, done the research, and wrote down the req'd info.
      Well, I managed to get online(networking), and everything else working except for X, of course. Finally get xconfig sorted out, and all working!
      And then I found out it could not run any of the games I liked playing, and found little in the way of games that interested me, that would run. Sigh...
      Sadly, back to Windows for the time being. And such promise...

      I believe this was all back in 1997, and now I use Linux fulltime after a decade of periodically checking on its progress from Windows. I dual booted for a good while with various distro's, then I found Kubuntu 6.04 and was hooked.
      It may not be 'The Year of Linux on the Desktop', but for several years I have enjoyed Linux on MY desktop!

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:09PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:09PM (#1009762)

      Your mistake was using a redhat derivative. Redhat didn't get functional-ish package management until 2010-ish.

      Both Slackware and Debian were very good experiences in the early 90s.

      Source: me. Slackware user since '93, and Debian since 96. Forced to use redhat at work only for a couple commercial vendors' software (we use Debian for everything else), and even in mid 2000s, redhat was still shite-- better now, but amazing that they still recommend against in-place upgrades due to their not invented here attitude leading to creating an inferior package management system than distributions that were already years old when redhat was born, and could do dist-upgrades just fine, even back then i.e., Debian).

      Even if it were not technically inferior, I'm not a fan of redhat, they did a lot of sleazy stuff:

      * For commercial reasons (they wanted to be able to announce they had it first), redhat took CVS head of gcc, and included it in their distro as if it were the upcoming (not yet released) version of gcc. Tons of redhat customers complained to gcc team about "their" broken software. Lots of wasted time and reputational damage for the gcc team who had nothing to do with redhat or their stupid decision. Gcc folks eventually figured out what had happened, and ended up skipping the version number that redhat had faked, so teh only thing reporting that version number would be the fake version that redhat shipped.

      * Before ReiserFS became murderfs, Hans Reiser tried to get redhat to accept a patch for the version of ReiserFS that redhat was currently shipping. The patch fixed a data corruption bug. Redhat refused the patch, said they would re-sync to the upstream kernel for the next version of redhat. Redhat doesn't care if their customers suffer data loss, if it saves them a little bit of effort!

      * Having not learned their lesson with the gcc debacle, redhat decided to fuck with the reputations of the KDE devs. Redhat hacked the fuck out of the KDE source, and shipped it. Redhat customers complained to the KDE devs that their software was buggy shit. To save their reputations, the KDE devs stopped what they were working on, and devoted time to fixing the hack job that redhat shipped.

      etc.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Arik on Friday June 19 2020, @12:03AM

        by Arik (4543) on Friday June 19 2020, @12:03AM (#1009816) Journal
        IIRC the last time I tried to use Redhat would have been 1999.

        It had an absolutely atrocious "package management" system. All of the foibles and flaws of Debian plus some extra, without any of the benefits. Not the worst distro I ever tried - I mean I never got SLS to even boot, and Yggdrasil was definitely even less polished, and the ASUS fork of Xandros was truly awful as well. But after those, it was the worst.

        Mandrake was actually better. I knew one guy that loved it and used it until he died. Most of the problems I saw with it happened when people tried to install RPMs meant for another OS. But it was still fundamentally built on RPM, so package management was a dangerous nightmare.

        "For commercial reasons (they wanted to be able to announce they had it first), redhat took CVS head of gcc, and included it in their distro as if it were the upcoming (not yet released) version of gcc."

        Hahaha I remember that.

        It's truly sad they were able to recover. People are far too forgiving of this sort of idiocy, and it costs us.

        "Having not learned their lesson with the gcc debacle, redhat decided to fuck with the reputations of the KDE devs. Redhat hacked the fuck out of the KDE source, and shipped it. Redhat customers complained to the KDE devs that their software was buggy shit. To save their reputations, the KDE devs stopped what they were working on, and devoted time to fixing the hack job that redhat shipped."

        I remember that too.

        In retrospect, the correct response would have been to add a routine that detected if KDE was running on a RedHat system, and if true halted the system leaving Slackware installation instructions on screen.

        --
        If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 2) by sjames on Friday June 19 2020, @02:27AM

      by sjames (2882) on Friday June 19 2020, @02:27AM (#1009866) Journal

      Back in the day, if we wanted the power off, we flipped the big red switch the way God intended, dad gummit. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a cloud that needs yelling at.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by hubie on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:35PM (9 children)

    by hubie (1068) on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:35PM (#1009743) Journal

    I remember those XF86config days well. I still remember the trepidation of setting the monitor refresh rates in the file on the line under the comment that essentially said "be careful what you put here because it you get it wrong you may ruin your monitor." It always said you could find the horizontal and vertical refresh values in your monitor's manual, but my monitor's manuals never seemed to give those values!

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by PartTimeZombie on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:35PM (6 children)

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:35PM (#1009778)

      I actually did blow a monitor by using the wrong refresh rate (I think).

      I can also remember getting things to the point on one Linux install where I could type "startx" and actually get a working GUI. A friend who was a Sun technician at the time helped me get to that point. He was of course guessing, but his guesses were better than mine.

      Then I got hold of a copy of BeOS, and forgot all about Linux until Mandrake happened.

      Weirdly, Mandrake worked out of the box and detected my PCI modem which also worked out of the box. This was unheard of and unlike any Linux I had ever seen.

      Now I'm trying to get a CentOS install working properly, and I'm wondering why the installer is so unintuitive.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by deimtee on Friday June 19 2020, @05:35AM (2 children)

        by deimtee (3272) on Friday June 19 2020, @05:35AM (#1009908) Journal

        Late nineties I went through redhat, suse, and a few others off magazine disks I don't remember. I liked suse better than redhat, but it was a bugger to get going on a new machine.
        Mandrake was by far the best at running straight off the install, and I used it well into the mageia years. It was a great learning distro, everything had sane defaults and just worked, but if you wanted to experiment all the controls and configs were out in the open and well documented (for the time).
        I even paid for the official disks for the 9 and one of the 10.something upgrades. Still have them in a drawer somewhere.

        --
        No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hendrikboom on Friday June 19 2020, @12:06PM

          by hendrikboom (1125) on Friday June 19 2020, @12:06PM (#1009982) Homepage Journal

          I remember buying suse from a local computer book store.
          It installed, but had serious problems.
          When I tried to contact customer support I just got an automated message saying the version I had was no longer supported and that I should buy the new one.
          I could not reach *anybody* to inform them that I had just bought the version I was using and that if it was already out of service they owed me a new one. IIRC, the local store gave me a refund.
          I never used Suse again.
          A friend (the janitor at my church) advised me to switch to Debian. Stuck with Debian until systemd happened to it.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 20 2020, @12:37PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 20 2020, @12:37PM (#1010352)

          My first Linux install was in 2000 I think, first year at Uni. I had just replaced my desktop machine, and the old one got relegated to "Internet Server" for my dorm (PPPoE ADSL, so we couldn't just put a network switch behind the modem). I don't remember exactly the SuSE version, but I'm sure the kernel was 2.0.36 (that puts it at SuSE Linux 6.0 [opensuse.org]). I never used Linux on the desktop until years later, I think Ubuntu Breezy.

          Have been using Debian ever since. That tower case saw a lot of hardware and software upgrades, I think I dist-upgraded all the way from Breezy->Dapper->Etch->Lenny->Squeeze before I finally replaced the entire machine. But since the systemd fiasco, I've been diversifying. My network appliances now run OpenBSD, and my next NAS will probably run FreeNASTrueNAS instead. Linux has been relegated to VM duty only.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @12:46PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @12:46PM (#1009994)

        I think what actually solved the issue was the emergence of EDID data embedded in the monitors.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @02:58PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @02:58PM (#1010064)

        A Gateway 2000 monitor that had come with a 386. Excellent Monitor, but Windows 95 or something defaulted to 60 hz, and the monitor only ran 43Hz interlaced (which was the default with the XGA drivers in Windows 3.x at that resolution.) Long story short it worked for about 5 minutes before the flyback transformer blew. I actually still have it on a shelf somewhere, but the EMI shield inside it is horribly corroded from sitting near a swamp cooler over a summer. I always planned to repair it, because it was a damn fine monitor, but alas it still sits on the shelf awaiting an opportunity.

      • (Score: 2) by dry on Saturday June 20 2020, @05:26AM

        by dry (223) on Saturday June 20 2020, @05:26AM (#1010282) Journal

        I blew up a monitor, fly cable problem, looked like lightning happening behind the CRT, and it basically was. While the VGA monitor survived installing Slackware 1.2, and I didn't have much of a problem getting X up and running. I had a Mach64 video card and the OS/2 driver seemed to try all kinds of modes during initialization during the boot, which is what I think broke it.

    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Friday June 19 2020, @12:00PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) on Friday June 19 2020, @12:00PM (#1009981) Homepage Journal

      And then they started selling monitors without manuals. I remember one where I had to get the frequency information from the cardboard box the monitor shipped in.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22 2020, @08:57PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22 2020, @08:57PM (#1011244)

      I wonder how much we can thank Microsoft for fixing all this, with Xorg just piggybacking their efforts.

      Frankly i find little that Xorg improved since they became the boss of X11, and a lot that they have made messy.

      The prime example is how a X11 install is no longer a single blob but a massive number of small parts that have to be within a few point releases of each other or they will not compile. And if you mention this pain to them, you are told to shut up and use a big name distro (preferably something with a fedora in the logo, apparently).

      Yes, people may raise a bit of a laugh of complaining about Xorg's X11 being split in 1001 files while also complaining about systemd being a single big blob.

      The thing is that Xorg's X11 is basically a massive set of libs importing libs importing libs. Systemd on the other hand is blobbing up previously independent executables that were usable on their own, but is now tied to having a particular binary running as pid 1.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:43PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:43PM (#1009748)

    Please, no graphics. Please. For Soylentil's sake! Make it stop!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @02:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @02:16AM (#1009861)

      Thank you, martyb! My vision is starting to return, though it still be as through a glass, darkly.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by sjames on Friday June 19 2020, @02:30AM (1 child)

      by sjames (2882) on Friday June 19 2020, @02:30AM (#1009867) Journal

      You're not fooling us. We know damned well you're just ticked off because you're still trying to get X running and using lynx in the meanwhile...

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:20AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:20AM (#1009962)

        Preposterous! I'm running w3m in graphical mode on the framebuffer!

  • (Score: 2) by istartedi on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:44PM (2 children)

    by istartedi (123) on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:44PM (#1009750) Journal

    That's interesting. I never heard of this distro. Maybe next you could install BSD from "a pile of floppy disks". Believe it or not, I actually did that on a 386 junker that I got from work in the late 90s. I think it was maybe 20 disks. I downloaded all the disks through a dial-up modem for added masochism; but when it was all done, I actually managed to get a dual-booting Windows95/BSD system on the 386. Yes! You could run Win95 really slowly on a 386. The BSD system was command-line only. I don't think I ever managed to get it networking, it was one of the few pure "just to see if it installs" things that I ever did.

    During that same time frame it really did seem like "getting it to install" was the killer app for desktop Linux, although it was already dominating servers.

    Fond memories of the dire warnings about improper X-windows configurations that could damage your monitor. I have no idea how often that happened, but I was always really careful to check refresh rates and other relevant criteria. Yes, X was a pain.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18 2020, @09:51PM (#1009754)

      The TV sci-fi shows (stargate?) used the noise telephone modems made when negotiating protocols at the beginning of the call.

      Also, stack of floppies (3.5") for SLS distribution was my first linux software "package".

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Friday June 19 2020, @05:03AM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Friday June 19 2020, @05:03AM (#1009902) Homepage Journal

      I know up to FreeBSD 2.2 at least floppy disk install was an option. I've done Linux, OS/2 and Win95 from floppies plus probably a few others. Maybe for a later article.

      --
      Still always moving
  • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:55PM (2 children)

    by krishnoid (1156) on Thursday June 18 2020, @10:55PM (#1009786)

    I went into this in depth recently with a colleague -- how many *processors*, and for what definition of a processor, are there on a PC motherboard? And what do the processors other than the CPU, well, do?

    All of the references I found except for one [freebsd.org] describe the BIOS as executing code, so I'd trying to find an exact description of what's happening at a digital logic subsystem-block level, rather than in software abstractions.

    • (Score: 2) by shortscreen on Friday June 19 2020, @05:18AM (1 child)

      by shortscreen (2252) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 19 2020, @05:18AM (#1009905) Journal

      Prior to the AT there was one processor. The AT added an i8042 microcontroller to translate keyboard scan codes and stuff. That was pretty much it, unless you had a TMS34010 on your video card or something like that. Maybe the Sound Blaster "DSP" (an 8051) would count.

      That lasted until about the time that it became necessary to emulate PS/2 keyboards and mice from USB ones, then they added another embedded processor doohickey whose name escapes me at the moment.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:48AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:48AM (#1009910)

        There was Agnus, Denise, Paula, and Gary. Later Agnus was replaced by Fat Agnus , and then Obese Agnus.

        Never say die.

  • (Score: 2) by zoward on Thursday June 18 2020, @11:37PM (10 children)

    by zoward (4734) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 18 2020, @11:37PM (#1009804)

    I started with Yggdrasil, which came around the same time as SLS. I bought it at Quantum Books, around the corner from Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. It came in a package with a book called "The GNU Testament". Yggdrasil later went under as SLS transitioned to Slackware (which I still use and fund through Patreon). Those were good times. I had a 286-based PC clone with the OS/2 bootloader starting up OS/2, Linux, Windows 3.11 and DOS all on the same overloaded hard drive. I didn't have a lot of room for, y'know, programs, but it was lots of fun to tinker with!

    • (Score: 2) by Arik on Friday June 19 2020, @01:22AM (9 children)

      by Arik (4543) on Friday June 19 2020, @01:22AM (#1009840) Journal
      SLS did not "transition to Slackware."

      It died, as people who had been spending most of their free time trying to get SLS to boot discovered Slackware just worked.

      Yggdrasil had great ideas but it was never more than a beta.

      "I had a 286-based PC clone with the OS/2 bootloader starting up OS/2, Linux, Windows 3.11 and DOS all on the same overloaded hard drive."

      You're a liar.

      Linux required 386 from launch. I remember this quite clearly, as I had an excellent 286 at the time, and was most butthurt that Linux simply would not work with it.
      --
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:20AM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:20AM (#1009906)

        Don't remember the details, but I think 286 lacked memory management feature needed to implement pre-emptive multitasking kernel with process model (each with its own memory space).

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:30PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:30PM (#1010197)

          I was wrong. The problem with 286, as such, was that switching between "real mode" and "protected mode" was funky, not that 286 lacked MMU feature to support process virtual memory.

          • (Score: 2) by Arik on Saturday June 20 2020, @02:45AM

            by Arik (4543) on Saturday June 20 2020, @02:45AM (#1010237) Journal
            Yeah the 286 was actually a shockingly capable chip, it would do a lot more than most people realized. But it didn't work quite the same was as the 386, so it would have required extra work on memory management. And while it has protected mode, it lacks v86 mode.
            --
            If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
          • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday June 22 2020, @03:42AM

            by RS3 (6367) on Monday June 22 2020, @03:42AM (#1010943)

            I knew a little about this stuff at the time, but it's been a few years. Please help me remember if you know- iirc, the 286 needed to go into real mode to access BIOS or something or another. But to do that, it was designed to use NMI or RESET, and RESET wasn't meant by Intel to be a full-system wipe and restart, but the IBM MB did it that way. And NMI wasn't available the way Intel designed- IBM used it for RAM parity error, again, IIRC. So Intel made major changes to almost everything in the '386. Oh, and the '286 needed RESET or NMI if there were nested exceptions, virtual memory mapping needed (swapping or paging?), or some such. I'm probably all upmixed...

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by zoward on Friday June 19 2020, @09:41AM

        by zoward (4734) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 19 2020, @09:41AM (#1009941)

        Guilty as charged; I had a series of boxes at the time, going from 8086 --> 80286 --> 80386 --> 80486SX (with the 487 coprocessor), mostly hand-me-downs, and I couldn't remember which I had set up this way. I couldn't remember the size of the hard drive either, although I remember it was about 80% full once I added linux to the mix. I remember what a workout it was getting Netscape Communicator up and running, and being a little nervous I was going to fry my monitor. Details aside, those were interesting times.

      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:52PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @05:52PM (#1010118)

        Linux required 386 from launch.

        You're very mistaken. I ran Linux on 286 and XT. Monochrome (Hercules) and a couple of EGA or maybe CGA monitors, no mice, networking worked.

        This was our school computer lab in 1994-1996. Our machines were woefully underpowered but there was no budget. Distro was Debian. Games included nethack, advent, and that trek game I haven't seen for decades.

        The fact that you called another poster a liar, when I factually know you are wrong, is upsetting. YOU couldn't get YOUR 286 to work. We had a room full of Linux machines and only one (sysop's) was a 386.

        • (Score: 2) by turgid on Friday June 19 2020, @09:36PM

          by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 19 2020, @09:36PM (#1010185) Journal

          You might have run Xenix on a 286, not Linux. Linux needed 32-bit linear addressing, virtual memory and paging on the 386. Much later the Embeddable Linux Kernel Subset came along. There was also a project called uCLinux for Linux on microcontroller without virtual memory.

        • (Score: 2) by Arik on Saturday June 20 2020, @02:36AM

          by Arik (4543) on Saturday June 20 2020, @02:36AM (#1010232) Journal
          You might have run Minix or Xenix on a 286. Not linux.

          https://www.oreilly.com/openbook/opensources/book/appa.html

          --
          If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21 2020, @09:58AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21 2020, @09:58AM (#1010619)

          You're very mistaken. I ran Linux on 286 and XT.

          This is 100% factually impossible.

          This is the source code for Linux 0.01: https://github.com/zavg/linux-0.01 [github.com]

          Specifically: https://github.com/zavg/linux-0.01/blob/master/kernel/asm.s [github.com]

          This is some of the assembly code that went into this extremely, extremely early version of Linux. See all of those instructions that reference, say, %ebp? Or those instructions that have an 'l' at the end of them? Those are all 32-bit 386 instructions. They are specifically introduced in the 386. A 286 literally cannot physically even recognize these opcodes, let alone carry out the corresponding operations. You will find evidence of 386-specific code throughout assembly code in Linux at this early date (although boot.s probably doesn't have much, since Intel processors boot into the original 16-bit "real mode" so that it can run a 16-bit OS). If I recall correctly (as it's been a long time), you will also find that the system code 32-bit word sizes, and 386 PC-specific conventions (e.g. hard-wired memory addresses for DMA).

          Furthermore, the release notes [gunkies.org] explicitly state that it must be a 386-based processor. Specifically an AT clone with a 386. Although the AT specifications were initially for the 286, they were adapted for the 386, 486, and I believe they even stuck around for the Pentium and possibly a little later than that.

          This is long before Linux supported any architectures other than the 386. Linux went through substantial rewrites in order to properly support additional architectures. These were very effective, but the processor must be a 32-bit processor. Making it compatible with 64-bit architectures required yet more work (although those with 32-bit backwards compatibility could typically use the 32-bit kernel).

          There were versions of Unix, or highly-similar clones, that were available for the 286. There are at least three I know of:

          • Xenix - literal port of the original AT&T Unix, by Microsoft. Licensed. For many years it was the most popular Unix for the x86 systems. It petered out sometime after its 32-bit version was released, which again required a 386, but it supported the 286 for much of its run, as well as the 8088/8086/80186 (in a crippled form, as those processors were missing much of the equipment for memory protection and multitasking).
          • Minix - simplified Unix clone written for OS educational purposes after AT&T prevented educational facilities from using the Unix source code for classes. Also supported the 286. Minix is still in use to this very day, at least the 32-bit version; one rather dubious usage is that it's the core of the Intel Management Engine, which many think of as Intel's universal back door labeled as a feature that is built into just about every chip and chipset they offer these days. Minix is also the OS that was used to develop early versions of Linux, as it was the best Unix approximation available to a lot of students at the time, due to the ridiculous cost of licenses for a "real" Unix. Note that Minix being 16-bit based (in some versions) does not mean it is not suitable for development of a 32-bit kernel; so long as there are cross-compilers and cross-platform assemblers available, it can be done, and cross-compilation has been, for decades, a pretty typical way to write code for new architectures.
          • ELKS [wikipedia.org] - started with attempting to port Linux to pre-386 (re: 286) Intel processors, but moved beyond that. This is not something that would typically be used by end users. I don't know if more recent versions still support the 286.

          There might be more of these, but that's all I can think of. And I think there may have been other attempts to fork or port 16-bit compatibility into the kernel, but suffice it to say that the mainline kernel most regard as the official Linux, to the best of my knowledge, has never run on any architecture with a word size of less than 32-bits, and if there were any actual ports they had either little support, didn't last very long at all, or both.

          The fact that you called another poster a liar, when I factually know you are wrong, is upsetting.

          Although that person calling the other a liar wasn't nice, you're hardly on your own best behavior. Your obviously didn't do your homework, so your rather smug attitude is, suffice it to say, unwarranted at the very least.

  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Thursday June 18 2020, @11:50PM (11 children)

    by Arik (4543) on Thursday June 18 2020, @11:50PM (#1009811) Journal
    "it was best described as the Ubuntu of its era"

    Buggy and unusable? Yep, that's how I remember it.

    "Unfortunately, my 2020 Linux brain at this point forgot it was common practice at the time to use a swap partition and more than one partition for the filesystem. Instead, I just made one single large one for root, and called it good. "

    Rookie mistake, whether then or now. Really shakes my confidence in the author. NEVER EVER DO THIS.

    "This didn't prove to be a problem in practice but it does highlight a problem with SLS. fdisk isn't exactly an intuitive step"

    In what universe would you expect to skip fdisk? Seriously.

    "even DOS 5 and 6 will both offer to partition a hard disk graphically if needed."

    It didn't include cfdisk? I honestly don't remember if it did or not, but it's a simple and straightforward thing to do with either tool.

    "What I hadn't noticed was that SLS had installed LILO to /dev/hda1, or the partition boot record. This meant that there was no MBR to start the system, leading to the hang."

    That makes sense. It's possible this is the same problem I vaguely remember wrestling with at the time.

    "The phrase "softlanding for DOS bailouts" appears on most of SLS's media, and from what I can tell, SLS was intended to be that: a better DOS. This becomes very clear when we follow the instructions to load 'mesh'."

    I think there was an error with the screenshot there.

    "One thing I will note is that when compared to Debian or Slackware from this era, SLS is both simple to setup and relatively easy to use."

    I could not disagree more. Not just myself, but several others that I knew at the time, people with serious skills in DOS and/or one or more Unix flavors, unanimously failed to get it working properly.

    Of course, given time, we would have teased it out; but as soon as Slackware was released there was no more motivation to try. Slackware was beautiful because it /just worked./ So easy. So functional.

    We installed it in one night and within a week or two everyone I knew that had been playing with SLS had Slackware up and running and gotten back to doing real work.

    "I apologize if the above is a bit of a rant, but "usability" really wasn't a focus through the free software ecosystem until Ubuntu tried with the release of Warty Warthog."

    I suppose it would be possible to craft a statement that is more wrong than this, but it would strongly imply intent. Ubuntu is one of the worst distros on the usability scale, and as far as I am aware it always has been. Watch their hands, not their lips.

    "I do want to explore more in this space, and I'll likely be digging out Yggdrasil, early Slack and Debian, as well as the BSD series for test drives to document the history. Suggestions welcome on what to try out!"

    Yggdrasil had some interesting ideas but it was unpolished and became abandoned. I'm not sure what the earliest version of Debian I tried was, but it had some advantages for remote management. Unfortunately it made absolutely everything other than remote management orders of magnitude more difficult than it should be, and often soiled itself requiring a full reinstall.

    I recommend Slackware. The first truly usable linux OS, and quite possibly still the best.

    --
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @04:36AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @04:36AM (#1009892)

      "I apologize if the above is a bit of a rant, but "usability" really wasn't a focus through the free software ecosystem until Ubuntu tried with the release of Warty Warthog."

      I suppose it would be possible to craft a statement that is more wrong than this, but it would strongly imply intent. Ubuntu is one of the worst distros on the usability scale, and as far as I am aware it always has been.

      Yep. You are correct, but not because Ubuntu is bad in regards to usability (it's not that bad for newbie users).

      What is wrong with this statement from the article is the notion that "usability really wasn't a focus through the free software ecosystem until Ubuntu." My guess is that the clueless author was not around in those days, and it is telling that the author said "free" rather than "open source."

      Regardless, the point is that there were countless open source apps that strove for usability in the pre-Ubuntu days. Also, there were so numerous window managers in active development at that time -- it was very exciting then! In addition, the major desktops had already been established for a long while, and they of course offered more coordinated "experience." Furthermore, user-friendly installers had already appeared years before Ubuntu. Ubuntu didn't add any significant usability to those apps, window managers, desktops and installers.

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Friday June 19 2020, @05:14AM (6 children)

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Friday June 19 2020, @05:14AM (#1009903) Homepage Journal

      Unfortunately, my 2020 Linux brain at this point forgot it was common practice at the time to use a swap partition and more than one partition for the filesystem. Instead, I just made one single large one for root, and called it good.

      Rookie mistake, whether then or now. Really shakes my confidence in the author. NEVER EVER DO THIS.

      Why? I'm serious. What possible advantage does splitting the root filesystem do on a single hard disk? I can see an argument for /home on the basis of either encrypted it separately or just separating it from the rest of the FS when reformat time comes. Despite the FHS, a lot of distros shit a brick if /usr gets seperates from the rest of the FS, and while you may still be able to boot single user.

      If you're going to call me out on a "rookie mistake", then you sure as hell best be willing to back it.

      I apologize if the above is a bit of a rant, but "usability" really wasn't a focus through the free software ecosystem until Ubuntu tried with the release of Warty Warthog.

      I suppose it would be possible to craft a statement that is more wrong than this, but it would strongly imply intent. Ubuntu is one of the worst distros on the usability scale, and as far as I am aware it always has been. Watch their hands, not their lips.

      Bull. I've used most of the older distros, either at the time, or in emulation, and Ubuntu was one of the first I considered usable by end-users. You've been preaching Slackware which really makes me suspect because Slackware is not what I call user friendly. Red Hat, Debian, and Mandrake (or was it Mandriva) at that time had difficult install processes and were basically expected to read a large manual and god help you if something went wrong. You had liveCDs, and while it was possible to install some to a HDD like KNOPPIX, usually they were used to unscrew a system.

      When Unity shipped, I do think it was a major step back for Ubuntu as a whole, and the distro has had more than a few idiot moments, but it's earlier releases were much more solid.

      --
      Still always moving
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:34AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @11:34AM (#1009969)

        There is no advantage to splitting stuff off of root, except in terms of recovery. If you have backups, it's a mostly moot point, if you don't, you're doing it wrong. Swap is almost entirely unnecessary on modern systems with fast storage and lots of memory.
        I'm sure someone will say something about /var filling up with logs, I say, set up a damn cron job to check and deal with it.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by hendrikboom on Friday June 19 2020, @12:21PM (1 child)

        by hendrikboom (1125) on Friday June 19 2020, @12:21PM (#1009985) Homepage Journal

        Despite the FHS, a lot of distros shit a brick if /usr gets seperates from the rest of the FS, and while you may still be able to boot single user.

        Didn't that problem start with systemd?

        One of the reasons I held off from upgrading to the systemd Debian:
        I had a separate /usr partition. I originally had had /usr within the root partition, but had so spin it off to a new separate partition when the root partition ran out of space. I couldn't expand root because other partitions were right beside it.

        I also learned to make /tmp separate when a rogue process filled up /tmp an this also the root partition. There turn out to be shell idioms that use /tmp implicitly. Those commands fial when /tmp is full. With a separate /tmp, it's easy to reboot and clear it off. Why reboot? to make sure there are no essential processes still using files in /tmp.

        • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday June 22 2020, @03:55AM

          by RS3 (6367) on Monday June 22 2020, @03:55AM (#1010952)

          Thank you, basically what I was about to write. I'll add: I know of some specific cases, 12 years ago, where malicious attacks on some WordPress servers would fill /tmp and crash the system. I inherited administration of some such systems. It was kind of funny. All the assumptions programmers make, but I surely don't blame them for the evil hearts of the attackers. Needless to say, I built up a new server from scratch, and I kept the previous admin's partition layout of /, /tmp, /boot (duh), /var, and it's been running ever since. However, I don't bother with all of the various partitions anymore, and have had no problems (on live servers constantly under attack attempts...)

      • (Score: 2) by Arik on Saturday June 20 2020, @02:30AM (1 child)

        by Arik (4543) on Saturday June 20 2020, @02:30AM (#1010228) Journal
        "What possible advantage does splitting the root filesystem do on a single hard disk?"

        What possible advantage does *failing* to create a partitioned system give you? It saves a few minutes of install time, at best. And the disadvantages are numerous - you've just made it so that an errant process that might fill /temp or /var or /home can bring the system to a halt. And you've made it much more difficult to recover from any number of issues besides. By having separate partitions for different things, you insulate the bits required to boot from normal bugs or misuse. This results in a more robust system, less likely to fail, easier to repair when needed.

        "Despite the FHS, a lot of distros shit a brick if /usr gets seperates from the rest of the FS, and while you may still be able to boot single user."

        It sounds like you didn't finish your thought; but at any rate can you name such a distro? Just so I know to stay away from it. Engineering fail for sure.

        "You've been preaching Slackware which really makes me suspect because Slackware is not what I call user friendly."

        Yes, I suspect we must have /radically/ different notions of how to be friendly to the user. Ubuntu, when last I used it, was super unfriendly, an annoyingly paternalistic system constantly getting in the way, constantly wasting my time with nonsense. It clearly "thinks" the user is an idiot, that is not what I would call friendly. Slackware does what it's told with the minimum of fuss and stays out of the way otherwise. To me, that's friendly.

        "Red Hat, Debian, and Mandrake (or was it Mandriva) at that time had difficult install processes and were basically expected to read a large manual and god help you if something went wrong."

        First; I never read any huge book (or even small book) for an installer, I just stick in the disk, reboot, and follow the prompts. SLS aside, that pretty much always works.

        And I never understood why people got so worked up over system installers. It's like all they're doing with the OS is installing it. That takes a few minutes, you do it once, now what about that system that was installed? But it's like reviewers never do anything but install it over and over again. I don't care much about the installer, it's just a program to copy the system files in place so you can boot it; it's the least interesting part of the system really, the least important thing. Aren't you going to DO something with the computer, after you get your OS installed?

        --
        If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 25 2020, @05:41AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 25 2020, @05:41AM (#1012315)

          >you've just made it so that an errant process that might fill /temp or /var or /home can bring the system to a halt.
          /temp is often auto-setup to be tmpfs these days, and some systems put part (or all!) of /var in tmpfs.
          Not spitting means that there are no arbitrary limits on disk use. I've encountered systems where say, /usr has filled up over the natural course of installing software, while /home (which you want to give the lion's share of space to, that's where all your shit goes) still has gigs of space.
          In contrast, I've never had a system brought down by /home or /var being full.

          >Yes, I suspect we must have /radically/ different notions of how to be friendly to the user. Ubuntu, when last I used it, was super unfriendly, an annoyingly paternalistic system constantly getting in the way, constantly wasting my time with nonsense. It clearly "thinks" the user is an idiot, that is not what I would call friendly.
          Never really had this issue. Mind you, I haven't used mainline Ubuntu in ten years. I'll either install the "minimal" release, which drops you to framebuffer once installed and you can set it up as you wish, or I'll install Xubuntu, which lacks a lot of the crufty garbage that they've been pushing lately. Still has its fair share of issues, but I'm not here to wrangle the system into submission, I'm here to do shit on the computer.

          >And I never understood why people got so worked up over system installers. It's like all they're doing with the OS is installing it.
          If the install is asking to do shit that the user doesn't know crap about, the system isn't going to get installed, and the user will just go elsewhere.
          More importantly, the installer shouldn't be anything remotely close to being a difficult process. It shouldn't be possible for a distro to fuck up something so basic, and yet it happens all the time.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21 2020, @04:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21 2020, @04:57PM (#1010699)

        Why? I'm serious. What possible advantage does splitting the root filesystem do on a single hard disk?

        Resilience. The reason / was kept small these days was because it bootstrapped the system. None of those fancy initramfs-things existed, / was mounted as part of the kernel boot procedure. If mounting / failed, you had a kernel panic and had to dig in your cabinet for a rescue floppy. At least with / mounted, you had a working system and could start troubleshooting right away. Journaled filesystems didn't exist either, so: the less files you kept in /, the less chance you had of a completely borked system after an unplanned reboot.

    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Friday June 19 2020, @12:48PM (1 child)

      by hendrikboom (1125) on Friday June 19 2020, @12:48PM (#1009997) Homepage Journal

      Slackware was beautiful because it /just worked./ So easy. So functional.

      We installed it in one night

      I remember Slackware. The first Linux I used was the Slackware CDROM from Walnut Creek.
      Installation was a bit confusing because all the paperwork that came with it explained how to install from floppies and all I had was a CDROM. But it turned out that once I had actually started the install process (I think I had tentatively made a very minimal set of floppies to try the process out) it still asked for floppies but found them on the CD as if I had just put them in the floppy drive.

      I recommend Slackware. The first truly usable linux OS, and quite possibly still the best.

      Should I replace Devuan? Will instaling slackware nowadays set up dual (or triple) boot with Debian and Devuan? Will it talk sweetly with existing LVM and software RAID? Does installing still need floppies?

      And (probably off-topic) what are cgroups anyway? Claimed to be part of systemd but actually part of the kernel.

      -- hendrik

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @01:16PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @01:16PM (#1010013)

        C(ontrol)groups are mostly talked about in the context of containers, which are something like Linux's answer to FreeBSD jails, but they can do a lot more than just containers.
        https://www.grant.pizza/blog/understanding-cgroups/ [www.grant.pizza]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @03:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19 2020, @03:05PM (#1010065)

      Around 1996 or 1997, having previously used a friend's school server in the 95-96 timeframe to run a text based game on. As he was about to graduate I needed a place to run it on when his system shut down.

      Ended up running it for 3 years off my dialup modem in the evenings until I got broadband in 1999 (ADSL, 16/128k outside of official range. All kinds of things would cause it to cut out and the modem required resetting every few days as its line characteristics would get horribly mangled causing it to grind to a halt randomly until reset.

      Lasted for a few years until a different outfit brought in fiber, which I had until I moved. Fuck you AT&T (for the DSL) which other people I knew 15 years later were still finding themselves with no better than 128/384 for 30-50 dollars a month in the late 2000s.-2010s.

  • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Friday June 19 2020, @02:55AM (6 children)

    by Reziac (2489) on Friday June 19 2020, @02:55AM (#1009879) Homepage

    I love these articles, but their sheer length makes them unwieldy for replies or moderating. So how about an alternative: post a summary to the main site, and put the long article (with unspoilered images) in your journal, with a pointer (or redirect, or whatever can be done to send it there) to the summary page for discussion purposes.

    • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday June 22 2020, @04:00AM (5 children)

      by RS3 (6367) on Monday June 22 2020, @04:00AM (#1010955)

      I had suggested he shrink the pics down to thumbnail size and use a very tiny font, but he didn't like my ideas. Nobody listens to me. :)

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Reziac on Monday June 22 2020, @04:26AM (4 children)

        by Reziac (2489) on Monday June 22 2020, @04:26AM (#1010964) Homepage

        I understand the problem... even I don't listen to me! :)

        • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday June 22 2020, @05:16AM (3 children)

          by RS3 (6367) on Monday June 22 2020, @05:16AM (#1010987)

          Did you say something? I thought I heard something. Probably neighbor's TV.

          • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Monday June 22 2020, @05:59AM (2 children)

            by Reziac (2489) on Monday June 22 2020, @05:59AM (#1010996) Homepage

            I dunno, I wasn't listening. Did you hear someone fighting with linux? That woulda been me.

            • (Score: 3, Funny) by RS3 on Monday June 22 2020, @03:10PM (1 child)

              by RS3 (6367) on Monday June 22 2020, @03:10PM (#1011114)

              You need an army, man! Never fight a colonel- they have many ranks of soldiers under them and you'll lose badly without an army of your own.

              • (Score: 3, Funny) by Reziac on Monday June 22 2020, @04:28PM

                by Reziac (2489) on Monday June 22 2020, @04:28PM (#1011145) Homepage

                Ah, now I understand. So yer sayin' I shoulda recruited General Protection Fault and his Blue Soldiers of Doom?

                [Kinda lookin' that way... yon rebuilt Thinkstation only really wants to speak to *ick* Win10.]

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by sjames on Friday June 19 2020, @03:41AM (2 children)

    by sjames (2882) on Friday June 19 2020, @03:41AM (#1009885) Journal

    SLS was the first Linux I used. Downloaded from a BBS over a blazing fast USRobotics modem. The sysop was a great guy and suspended my up/down ratio so I could fetch it in a reasonable(ish) number of days.

    Some may object to the images, but I enjoyed them. I had almost forgotten about when we had to manually enter the disk geometry in BIOS. And then when IDE took over, a fake geometry until LBA finally caught on.

    Fully agreed about Xorg, it was an amazing thing to see that deleting the xconfig could actually fix X.

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Monday June 22 2020, @04:30AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Monday June 22 2020, @04:30AM (#1010967) Homepage

      Just curious if it's one I knew -- which BBS was this?

      Yeah, upgrading from the 2400 to a USR 14.4 and then a V.90 -- omg, the sheer joy of being able to download 10mb an hour...

    • (Score: 1) by tbuskey on Friday June 26 2020, @02:10AM

      by tbuskey (6127) on Friday June 26 2020, @02:10AM (#1012741)

      I started with SLS 1.04 or 1.03. It was Linux 0.98pl5. Slackware was started because SLS wouldn't fix well known issues like proper permission on /etc and things like that.
      When the next version of SLS came out (1.04 sticks in my memory), I tried it and it was buggy enough to not install. There was no reason to run it instead of Slackware.
      Xfree86 was version 2 which was easy to crash. Version 3 was much better, but modelines were still painful.

      When I was installing, everything was 5.25" floppies, 360k or 1.2MB. No 3.5". CD-ROM? Hahaha! Too much $$ in the age of $5000 486s and every model used a different adapter!

      For SCSI, an ISA Adaptec 1542b worked with everything. 386BSD, Minix, Linux, DOS.

      Still, it worked pretty well. My Gateway 8MB 486DX2 with a VL bus ATI graphics card had faster graphics than my 24MB Sparc 1+ at work. SunOS could compile in the background and be usable though.

      I'm glad Linux is so much easier than all the hacks we had to do with computers back then. The younger kids coming out of college will be able to learn & do more without dealing with them.

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