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Open Source Operating Systems News

FreeDOS 1.1 Released 266

MrSeb writes with this excerpt from an Extreme Tech article about the latest FreeDOS release and a bit of project history: "Some 17 years after its first release in 1994, and more than five years since 1.0, FreeDOS 1.1 is now available to download. The history of FreeDOS stems back to the summer of 1994 when Microsoft announced that MS-DOS as a separate product would no longer be supported. It would live on as part of Windows 95, 98, and (ugh!) Me, but for Jim Hall that wasn't enough, and so public domain (PD) DOS was born. ... Despite what you might think, FreeDOS isn't an 'old' OS; it's actually quite usable. FreeDOS supports FAT32, UDMA for hard drives and DVD drives, and it even has antivirus and BitTorrent clients." The official release announcement has more details on the improvements, and the FreeDOS website has the release for download.
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FreeDOS 1.1 Released

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:44PM (#38586678)

    I mean seriously, how am I going to use it?

    Running old programs maybe?

    • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:48PM (#38586720)

      Someone needs to make a CoreBoot-style bootloader that uses this. Then they could call it "DOS Boot".

    • by j-pimp ( 177072 ) <> on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:51PM (#38586752) Homepage Journal

      I mean seriously, how am I going to use it?

      Running old programs maybe?

      POS apps. Embedded apps. Yes all legacy stuff, but even in a VM, emulating UDMA and a DVD drive is useful.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:55PM (#38586808)

      The same as for Linux. Program, learn, experiment.

      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @05:15PM (#38588984)

        With Linux, you get to learn about a real OS, which uses things like protected memory, processes, virtual memory, etc. If you come up with something useful, then you can deploy it on Linux systems everywhere or share it with the world so others can use it on their Linux systems.

        With FreeDOS, you're only learning about an obsolete program loader. No one would create a serious application to run in DOS any more, because to do so would be utterly stupid. It's a lot like getting a Commodore=64 to learn about computers; they were fun in their day, but they're so utterly obsolete any more that it's pretty pointless unless you have a lot of time to burn.

        • If you come up with something useful on freedos you can distribute it not only across freedos systems, which will run useful programs with more modest system specs, but you can also distribute it across any more 'modern' platform that has v86 emulator support. So that's pretty much everywhere.
    • by ruanime ( 2543534 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:58PM (#38586846)

      I mean seriously, how am I going to use it?

      Running old programs maybe?

      Yeah I would, maybe one day I can start that BBS that I always wanted.

      • Does FreeDOS support fossil drivers?

        Though in all seriousness, you can run a classic BBS over telnet with and it is fantastic.

        • Funny you mention fossil drivers and running a BBS over telnet, because I did exactly that back in 1995. The recipe is this: shell account on UNIX server. Custom fossil driver (written by me). The driver dials the shell server. The shell account runs a small daemon, ibbsd (also written by me), which listens on a port, and does a netcat-style copyover -- on the PC end, the BBS software thinks it's waiting for a regular modem call. The fossil driver does the magic there.

          You could telnet 14919 and ge

        • I think that BBS's over the internet loose a lot of the charm of what BBS's were in the 80's and 90's. There was something about being mostly restricted to an area code that kept BBS's more intimate, and I think a lot of the discussion boards a lot more interesting than the mostly anonymous discussion today. There was something to be said that if you said something to really piss somebody off, they might just drive over to your house to confront you in person. Not to mention the monthly user gathers at t

          • While I can see your sentiment, I think to some degree it may just be a case of seeing the past through rose-colored glasses.

            Back in the day the BBS's were great for someone who was first being introduced to anything resembling a networked computer. I had had a computer that I was hacking away on for a few years before I got my first modem, and once I discovered that I was pretty much CONSTANTLY on some BBS or the other. A lot of that time was browsing file archives, or playing games (Legend of the Red Dr

          • Yeah, good memories.. I still have a couple of shoe boxes in my garage full of 3.5" floppies, full of 100-250k programs that I downloaded from local BBS's in the 80's. I kept them all, mostly because I'm a data packrat, but also because I spent SO much time downloading them all over my 1200 baud modem.. Doubt that they would even work nowadays, and I'd have to dig up an old PC with a floppy drive to even check. Oh, and if anybody cares, I have a full version of Windows 2.0 on 5 1/4" (floppy) floppies. No wa
    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:00PM (#38586868)

      Mostly I've used it for running old games (via DOSBox), but I've encountered it when using BIOS updates and other standalone boot utilities.

      • by Hatta ( 162192 )

        DOSBox runs its own DOS like interpreter, not FreeDOS. You *can* boot FreeDOS on it, but I'm not sure why you'd want to.

    • by TopSpin ( 753 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:01PM (#38586884) Journal

      I actually used it extensively last November to develop an Option ROM BIOS extension. DOS is a convenient long real assembly code testing environment. Compile a COM program with NASM on Linux, use mtools to copy the output to the (live) VirtualBox FAT floppy image and execute in (Free)DOS.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:06PM (#38586952)

      I asked Dell to sell me a Vostro 200 ST with FreeDos instead of Windows and avoided paying for an OS I wasn't going to use [].

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:29PM (#38587228)

      I mean seriously, how am I going to use it?

      Running old programs maybe?

      I use it for installing BIOS and other hardware driver updates that need a DOS boot disk. The process goes something like this: []

    • by toriver ( 11308 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @03:11PM (#38587726)

      Run it in VirtualBox - I had better success running some old DOS games in that combo than in DosBox...

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @03:31PM (#38587932) Homepage Journal

      Actually yes. I know of people that keep old dos computers around just to run one old program.
      Also Embedded systems. DOS is light and small and does not get into your way. If you have a crash you can almost bet money that the problem is 100 your code.
      Under DOS you can also bit bang hardware interfaces that would be difficult to do with anything else.
      As to uses let me give you an example. Their are some old devices that used 3.5" floppies but with a custom format. There are programs for dos that can read that data. If you have one of those devices then this is exactly what you need.
      And of course to flash bios.

    • I had a motherboard that provided a ROM flash program as a DOS application. FreeDOS ran it.
    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      Quake for Steam ships with (I think?) DOSBox. Once you buy the game it downloads the non-DRM game and you could conceivably install it on FreeDOS. Other games, like the DOS version of Tie Fighter has some features (an entire campaign, I think?) that you don't get even in the Windows or Collector's Edition version. In both instances I ended up using DOSBox though.

  • FreeDOS is surely #1 on the list to require AV, I'd say it's safer than mac in regards to security through obscurity. AV not to be confused w a firewall, the latter helps quite a bit.

    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:54PM (#38586792)
      Right... because prior to Windows 95 there where no viruses! So there's NO WAY that the old floppy disc you have with your copy of Elder Scrolls could possibly have a virus on it.

      This is DOS we're talking about. There has never been a more virus filled OS in history. What kids today think of as viri are just worms and trojans. DOS has REAL virus issues. Self replicating bastards that attach onto other executables.
      • Ha. I remember a co-workers computer running DOS getting a virus and it was throwing out random error messages. Mostly "Drive C: out of paper". (I'm NOT making that up!)

  • by SensitiveMale ( 155605 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @01:50PM (#38586750)

    and FreeDESQview as well.

  • Is No One Excited? (Score:5, Informative)

    by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:03PM (#38586918) Homepage Journal

    I remember the early days of Slashdot where this would have everyone talking. It's pretty damn cool. At this point it's prefect for reproducing real old school gaming. DOSBox is great for that too. But look... you're running a real DOS here! No VM needed! Pull out your 486! Get out your 1994 era Pentium 90! Relive the days when computing was actually fun! I installed FreeDOS with GEM (which was the better GUI compared to Windows back in the day until Apple ruined it by suing Digital Research) on a laptop from 1998. That thing is a BEAST now. Seriously, doesn't anyone get excited about this stuff anymore?

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:29PM (#38587224) Homepage Journal

      Anybody who flashes BIOS ought to be excited.

      Real CDROM support means we should be able to have a .288 file that doesn't need to be mounted loopback and modified with mcopy for every different flasher. An big BIOS images aren't a problem anymore.

      One stock boot image that gets written to the ElTorrito sector and then jump to the CDROM drive to continue execution of the startup script.

      Boilerplate FTW.

      • Anybody who flashes BIOS ought to be excited.

        Along those lines, as of two months ago there was no downloadable ready-to-use USB image ready for dd'ing to your handy flash drive. I wrote up the steps I took to make one [] on OS X using VirtualBox. I've spoken to James Hall about making the resulting image file available for download directly from, but it looks like he hasn't taken me up on it yet.

    • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:29PM (#38587226) Journal

      I am, so that likely brings the total of excited people up to 6, maybe 7. Everyone else is busy marveling over their iPad and iPhone (oooh, round corners....) and other walled gardens. Like you, I miss being able to actually communicate directly to the hardware, from the command line. I miss hand tweaking my config.sys and autoexec.bat files to squeeze out an extra 500 bytes (yea readers, 1/2 of a kb) of lower RAM. Using QEMM and DesqView to quazi-multitask by multiple line BBS on my 486 with 4mb of ram. (3 lines, but I still have plenty of ram left for a prompt to do maintenance while monitoring chat) There was a certain empowerment that came from operating a computer back then. We actually knew exactly how much power the system had, because we easily found ways to saturate it, just to get every ounce of power out of it. Back then, we did things just because we COULD, and we enjoyed learned from crashing and burning stuff.

      I also remember the good old days when the Internet was hard to use. THOSE were the days. No spam, no popups, and if you could find a website, likely it had real information on it because only computer "experts" and universities had servers. The days before the "Browser Wars", when every Congressman didn't know what the Internet was, instead of now where they know what it is, but still have no idea what it is. And who could forget BBSes, Gopher, and Veronica, Archie, and password protected FTP accounts brimming with goodies like Wolfenstein.... :)

      That said, I don't MISS those days, but at 47, I'm glad I got to be a part of those days, and the days before that with CPM, portable computers with 8086s that weighed 50 pounds, original Macs, and even a VIC 20 with no storage device. You can't recreate them, or duplicate them, so those days are gone for good. It's up to us to create new ideas to eventually become "the good old days".

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Using QEMM and DesqView to quazi-multitask by multiple line BBS on my 486 with 4mb of ram.

        Bah. OS/2 FTW!!

      • by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @03:17PM (#38587796)

        Nostalgia is a deceptive mistress. It tends to glorify things that weren't objectively good but carry sentimental feelings. You miss communicating directly with hardware and editing DOS startup files, but the DOS developers who had to support everybody's esoteric PC hardware sure don't. In fact, those days were a step back from the initial push in the 60s and early 70s toward higher-level abstraction that we've only now come back around to but took a detour from during the initial commoditization of low-end PC hardware. But you explained why you liked it--a sense of mastery that mentally justified the time investment.

        • Agreed. Fuck that. I miss TIE Fighter, Ultima 2, and PROCOMM+ terminals pointing at old BBSes. I don't miss having to spend 4 hours tweaking a three-level config.sys menu to squeak out an extra 2k out of 8MB of ram...

      • This brings up an excellent point that I've been considering for a while now. I was forced to work with a Win7 PC and absolutely hated the changes made to Explorer. I looked at some boards and saw that I am far from being the only one with the same issue, but 99% of those posts were replied to with (paraphrasing) "Get with it, new is good". No, it's not. It occurs to me that most Computer/SmartPhone/Tablet manufacturers would rather that you didn't have deep access to the OS or file system. And tailor all c
        • After working years in support, no. God no. People don't need to be more empowered to shoot themselves in the feet.

          You're advocating they either have better guns to shoot themselves with or more feet. Or both.

          • You totally miss my point. Yes, if I'm at work, restrict me to your hearts content, I don't care. But on my personal device, stay the hell out of my way. If I mess things up, TFB for me, I will have to deal with the consequences of my actions (and BTW, in all probability learn something in the process). See this link to see how people can actually die because of hand-holding software, an extreme case yes, but in principle, an appropriate comparison. []
      • There are free realtime OS where you can talk to the hardware directly, but that is not the best for a general purpose personal computer for the masses. But you can still play, invent or tinker if you want. [] (columns where source model == open source)

        Or you can write a driver for Linux or a BSD kernel....yes more complicated, hence more fun.
      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        I recall getting in a lot of trouble for swearing in front of my parents for the first time while trying to resolve an IRQ conflict. I thought I was done with all that in win95 but I still had to wrestle with it to solve a conflict between an isa token ring adapter and my generic brand soundblaster. Ugh. Plug n play, my ass!

    • If someone released a new version of the Model T Ford, would you expect many people to be excited? Would you buy one?
      • by eno2001 ( 527078 )

        Buy! Never! Something that clunky should be FREE!!! ;P

      • If someone released a new version of the Model T Ford, would you expect many people to be excited?

        Absolutely! Haven't you ever been to an antique car show? If Ford put the Model T, or an updated replica, back into production I think it would create a lot of excitement.

    • Does FreeDOS work well with old computer games like in DOSbox?

      • by eno2001 ( 527078 )

        Not really. But think of the fun you'll have trying to figure that out! :)

        • by antdude ( 79039 )

          Bah. Have fun from games but not trying to make them work. Oh yeah like the old days with free conventional memory, EMS, XMS, etc.! :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Slashdot today is more of a political geek site, where a specific demographic comes to rant about copyrights, the DMCA, Apple, etc. Probably generates more revenue that way. I remember when programming articles used to make it to the front page.

      • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @03:30PM (#38587920)
        so submit a programming article
      • by arose ( 644256 )

        I remember when programming articles used to make it to the front page.

        And science, and computer security. Oh, wait, those are both there. I'll get of your lawn anyway, no need to hurt yourself chasing me off.

    • Computing in these days are more fun than mucking about config.sys just to get a program to work. But maybe that's just me.

      • by eno2001 ( 527078 )

        But that's where the fun came from. You learned the config file enough to get your system to do things it wasn't intended to do, or do them better than anyone who didn't mess with the config. These days, the only thing that makes one person's device more "fun" than someone else's is largely up to the developers of the web service or app and it's not as easy to get your system to outdo someone else's other than by paying more money for something "better". That's no fun.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:05PM (#38586930) Homepage Journal


    (Hmm, never noticed how much that looks like a clown smiley.)

  • by brillow ( 917507 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:09PM (#38586992)

    Does it have an app store?

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:15PM (#38587072) Journal

    In our labs, we have a shit-ton of expensive analytical and other scientific equipment which is controlled by some DOS-based software. We have been installing FreeDOS on replacement computers, and are all deeply grateful for its existence.

  • Come on, in the days of dos you sometimes had to boot from floppies and now all I can have is a pseudo live cd which is only good for installing itself to the HD?

    I guess this is really meant to be used with a virtual host?

  • by DigitalDreg ( 206095 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @02:29PM (#38587230)

    DOS and FreeDOS are still relevant in some niche areas:

    - Turn-key and embedded hardware often use DOS
    - Retro-computing: Some of us like dragging out our old hardware to play with it
    - Learning to code closer to the metal; DOS gives you enough services to get you going, while giving you a feel for embedded programming

    FreeDOS runs on almost everything from an original IBM PC (1981) to a virtual machine under VMWare and VirtualBox. People (hobbyists) are continuing to work on the utilities to keep it refreshed. For example, in the last year there was a new set of TCP/IP programs added, a utility for sharing folders with a VMWare host, and a new web browser based on Dillo.

    It's not for everyone, but if you are curious check it out - it's pretty painless to run in a VM. (Or you can drag out your XT or Pentium 90 for the full effect.)

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      "- Turn-key and embedded hardware often use DOS
      - Retro-computing: Some of us like dragging out our old hardware to play with it
      - Learning to code closer to the metal; DOS gives you enough services to get you going, while giving you a feel for embedded programming"

      All of these are better served by using a hand rolled linux. You can roll a linux kernel, FS and busybox that is smaller and far more capable.

      I have a old PC-104 386 motherboard acting as a robot that runs linux that I play with regularly. I ca

      • >All of these are better served by using a hand rolled linux. You can roll a linux kernel, FS and busybox that is smaller and far more capable.

        No. Hand rolling linux is hard. Installing Freedos takes 2 minutes, mostly that 2 minutes is spent rummaging in the draw to find the usb stick with the install image on it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        All of these are better served by using a hand rolled linux.

        Not necessarily. I spent most of the last decade working on the Point-of-Sale system for a very large QSR (Quick Service Restaurant, i.e. "Fast Food"), and we had over 100,000 computers in the field, running MS-DOS. I *think* they were all at least 80386-based, but I do know that many of them had as little as 2 MB of RAM.

        I'm not aware of any version of Linux that would allow us to operate in that small a memory footprint.

        BTW, there are still hundreds (probably thousands) of stores still happily runnin

      • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:38PM (#38591960)

        "- Turn-key and embedded hardware often use DOS

        All of these are better served by using a hand rolled linux. You can roll a linux kernel, FS and busybox that is smaller and far more capable.

        So wait, you mean my CNC machine, which uses a DOS program to talk to an ISA controller card to run the machine, would be better served on Linux somehow?

        How would you manage that exactly?
        Seriously, I would love to know. I spent a good 4 days researching this very subject. My very first thoughts were "How can I get this to run under Linux?"

        First, Linux won't even run DOS executable. Fail.
        Second, userspace apps such as DosBox can not modify system memory to communicate to ISA cards. Fail.

        Yes, this is a specific DOS program. Of course it shouldn't be expected to work anywhere else.
        But you did say ALL cases would be served better by Linux, so that includes the cases where you need to run a DOS exe that flips bits in memory to talk to hardware, and access to the exe source is not an option.

        When searching for a replacement computer for the failing Pentium 90 that controls the CNC, I spent quite some time attempting to find a way to run this on something more modern, IE something that could be easily and cheaply purchased.

        The best solution I was able to come up with for a modern computer (~2-3 years old now, but a year old at the time), was to run Linux with an ISA-to-USB converter chassis, connected to a virtual box session running FreeDOS.
        No matter how you want to twist that mess around, DOS is still the required component to which everything else there exists to support.

        There would be much less overhead to just put MSDOS directly on the newer machine, but of course that isn't really doable since none of the newer hardware is supported, and legally speaking one can't get a new license for MSDOS, which could cause problems if I was to prepare the same setup for similar machines at work.
        Especially so for work, I have to think about what might happen after I am gone (Be it move to greener pastures, or get hit by the proverbial bus)
        I can't stick them with a pirated MSDOS copy, and would prefer an easy source for replacement pieces.

        FreeDOS is the answer. It does support new hardware, and still runs the old executables.

        It's also worth noting that even for the second item on GPs list:

        Retro-computing: Some of us like dragging out our old hardware to play with it

        Not all games work under DosBox. Sure, a whole lot do, and no doubt they would want to add support for those non-working games. But for the games it does not support, you need DOS in some form.
        This also assumes that games are the only "retro" computer use you can think up, as dosbox is not good for much outside of that scope.

        I'll grant that learning to program closer to the metal would be better served elsewhere.
        Linux if using modern* hardware with more than "I just wanna" as a goal, or to teach fundamentals I would go with an 8 bit CPU that one human mind can fully understand all of.
        Personally I would choose the 6502 for that task, but there's nothing wrong with any of the older simple micros.

        * Modern meaning 15 years old or newer

  • The damn HP palmtops. They had to use the Bizzaro PCMCIA chipset in those that NOBODY supports and the freaking crap dos drivers will not load in FreeDOS

    And yes, a Dos Palmtop is very useable. IT works great as a RS232 analyzer for integration.

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @03:21PM (#38587834)
    I love to make servers and appliances out of thin clients. But some of those thin clients refuse to boot GNU/Linux or BSD from native file system in external device, or in some cases from large (>2GB) partition. But they will boot GRUB in a FREEDOS partition.
  • by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @03:25PM (#38587876) Homepage
    Would make an interesting combination for people who used to have old computers hooked up to TV sets for monitors like I did back in the day. Even though Raspberry Pi is using a few flavors of Linux, having a DOS option like that would be awesome in a retro kind of way.
  • I have some legacy products that started their lives on PC-104 boards running DOS. getting TCP/IP support onto these was arcane and generally miserable back when we started. New boards can run Linux and have great features but one great thing about DOS is it loads your app and gets out of your way. We're able to do real-time control in the 100 uS realm because of that. The only thing I need is access to more of the onboard RAM, everything else is just fine under DOS. I'm donning my asbestos suit now....
  • who misses the old 8 character filename limits?

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