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Why a Linux User Is Using Windows 3.1 415

colinneagle writes "About two weeks back, I was using my Android tablet and looking for a good graphics editor. I wanted something with layers and good text drawing tools. That's when it hit me. We already have that. Photoshop used to run on Windows 3.1. And Windows 3.1 runs great under both DOSBox and QEMU, both of which are Open Source emulators available for Android and every other platform under the sun. So I promptly set to work digging up an old copy of Photoshop. The last version released for Windows 3.1 was back in 1996. And finding a working copy proved to be...challenging. Luckily, the good folks at Adobe dug around in their vaults and managed to get me up and running. And, after a bit of tweaking, I ended up with an astoundingly functional copy of Photoshop that I can now run on absolutely every device I own. And the entire environment (fonts, working files and all) are automatically backed up to the cloud and synced between systems. But what other applications (and, potentially, games) does this give me access to? How far can I take this?"
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Why a Linux User Is Using Windows 3.1

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  • by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @01:55PM (#42717147)


  • Old software? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:02PM (#42717259)
    I use tons of "old" software every day. I use a copy of Paint Shop Pro from the 90's. I use DVD Shrink from about a decade ago. Windows XP still runs my entire business. It doesn't wear out. Congratulations to one more person for realizing that they don't have to have the latest and greatest software to be productive.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by benjfowler ( 239527 )

      Just keep that stuff air-gapped from the public Internet, otherwise you'll get owned in about 30 seconds (not that you'll know it).

    • Right, but the file size limit on a 16-bit OS has me wondering if TFA isn't a joke.
      • 3.11, at least, could (optionally, if run on a 386 or better) use 32-bit file pointers. I'm not sure if that meant it could actually use FAT32 or not, though.

        • Re:Old software? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by FreonTrip ( 694097 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (pirtnoerf)> on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:40PM (#42717837)
          Well, sort of. You can hex-edit the COMMAND.COM from a Windows 95B or higher boot floppy, replace the "Windows 95(c)" or whatever tag's in there with "MS-DOS 7.xx," partition and format C:\, do a quick install to the hard drive's boot record from the floppy, copy over files from the old C:\Windows\COMMAND directory into C:\DOS, roll your own autoexec.bat and config.sys with proper path setting, reboot, and have a functional DOS install with FAT32 support. Then Windows 3.1 can run on top of it and take advantage of some of the functionality, but applications within Win3.1 may still try to warn you away from long filenames just because they were an unknown quantity at the time of development. Finding a functional defragmenter may also be tricky. At that point you could have a very large FAT32 volume, but above a certain size threshold your cluster size would balloon to 16KB or so, and you'd still be hobbled by the ~4GB filesize limit... to say nothing of memory addressing issues, or the large size of the COMMAND.COM in conventional memory. Some, or all, of these things could be circumvented by using FreeDOS, but I haven't really tried that. YMMV.
        • With all of 8 characters for the file name I guess anything larger than a floppy will soon contain files with names nobody can relate to their content anyway...
      • by cnettel ( 836611 )
        FAT16 handled 32-bit files sizes. There are probably hard-coded RAM limits in the (32-bit) virtual memory code in Win 3.1 that are more serious, not exceeding more than a certain number of pages and some address space restrictions.
    • Re:Old software? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Howitzer86 ( 964585 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:19PM (#42717539)
      The neat thing I remember about Paint Shop Pro 3 was that the trial didn't stop you from using the program. It was like Winzip used to be - you could keep using it. These days if an activation server goes out the company has to give you a non DRM version or you're just SOL. And even if they do it, it could still end up becoming confusing legal mess like it did for Adobe.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Agreed completely. Of the three of my computers I actually use, one runs XP, one runs kubuntu, and the newest one, a two year old notebook, runs W7. I think the last piece of software I bought outright was XP, back when XCP destroyed a 98 install and I couldn't find drivers after wiping and reinstalling. Most of my software is FOSS, freeware, or it came with hardware. I seldom spend money on computing, except of course my ISP bill. And there are so many free hotspots here I could get away without that (but

    • Windows XP still runs my entire business. It doesn't wear out.

      Not in the normal sense anyway. You still have to worry about security vulnerabilities. All commercials software reaches a point where it is no longer supported and doesn't get any new security patches. You only got 427 more days (April 1, 2014) of updates before you are going to have to move off Windows XP.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      ACDSee Classic is still the fastest all around photo viewer I've tried and its error handling on malformed JPEG's is vastly superior to most (it will partially render the image rather than showing nothing or force closing like many viewers out there). I think I started using ACDSee on my 486, but it might have been the k5.

  • by Lisias ( 447563 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:05PM (#42717311) Homepage Journal

    Try to setup and use OS/2 Warp 3.0.

    THE BEST environment to run Win16 and Win32s Applications I ever had.

    This beast used to run CorelDraw WITHOUT A SINGLE CRASH for hours. Honest.

    (I still have my very own original Box, witth the CDs and the instructions about how to use GOPHER to fetch that fantastic Nescape 3.0 for OS/2!)

  • According to this [], anyway...

    So I don't see the point of Windows 3.1 on an Android device.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately, the version of Photoshop that was released in 1996 is still better than the current version of GIMP.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Switching from Photoshop to GIMP is like switching languages, it's going to be a bumpy transition if you try to get things done right away.

      I guess what I'm saying is that they do the same things, but in very different ways. If the tech writer can get Win 3.1 up and running on his Android tablet in a couple days it is still better than spending weeks trying to re-learn everything you "know" in Photoshop in GIMP

      • I'm not an expert in either, so I'll take your word for it. :)

        FWIW, I installed this on my Galaxy S3. It works even with finger input, but elegant, it's not. Not sure if you could use it to install something like LibreOffice/OpenOffice. That might be fun. :)
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        On the other hand, switching from current Photoshop to ancient Photoshop is going to going to have much of the same issues. You're still attempting Herculean feats just to avoid learning a different app to manipulate data in an open format.

        You're creating a house of cards just to avoid running a native tool.

  • I've done it before for the LULZ It runs everywhere!

    Think of the possibilities!!

    • I got board in a windows server class and installed BOB on Windows Server 2008 with a bit of hacking and assigned all everything a piece of furniture. Ah good times.

  • I don't mean to rain on the geek parade, but both The Gimp and modern Photoshop runs natively and smoothly on my x86 based Windows 8 tablet.

    Whether Windows 8 makes for a better tablet UI than a cross-arch emulated Windows 3.1 with twenty year old software is another discussion.

    • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:14PM (#42717451) Journal

      Yeah, but then the problem is, then you have to run Windows 8 [].

    • I was going to say, why not just run GIMP. but then I actually re-read the summary and saw that the "Linux User" was actually running an Android Tablet and this is where his problem was coming from. If you're a Linux User and want to edit graphics, you can just use GIMP. I guess there's an open market for people wanting to do graphics work on their tablet, but I don't really know if tablets are really the kind of system I'd want to be using for anything more serious than cropping or resizing a picture.
  • I'd rather see a discussion of getting a recent model eprom programmer running under linux under ... something.
    Something like the mcumall usb model. I'm not interested in the 1980s willem designs which require a real old fashioned parallel printer port (I haven't had one of those in many years). I know there's a place in .de (?) selling something like a bat-something BX-32 or whatever with linux software, but shipping from .de was something like 50% of the cost of the device (serious WTF time, seeing as I

    • I'm not interested in the 1980s willem designs which require a real old fashioned parallel printer port (I haven't had one of those in many years).

      You can buy a single lane PCIe parallel port card for about $30 (IIRC). I bought one a while back for a cheap and easy way of getting a few IO lines on a PC.

  • You'd rather run a 1996 version of Photoshop inside Windows 3.1 inside an emulator than learn how to use Gimp?

    That's just... sad.

  • Two great DOS games for which I haven't found suitable Android clones. Both running on my Nexus 7 through DOSBOX.
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @02:15PM (#42717471)
    Why is colinneagle so important that Adobe was willing to dig up 17 year old software for him to help out on something that is impractical and only has a "Gee whiz" factor going for it? I'm hardly an Adobe expert, but my limited experience is that like any normal software vendor they are trying to get people on the latest and greatest, not make stuff from 17 years ago still work. I guess it's fantastic for him that this works, but given how hard it would be for John Q. Public to find Windows 3.1 and probably also to find an ancient copy of Photoshop, this is starting to sound like a bit of a taunt on how he was able to do something that almost nobody else will be able to do.
    • Maybe he has Photoshop under maintenance? If so, downgrade rights are typically included. I know that my company can install Windows 3.1 on any new computer we want, as long as we keep windows under maintenance.
    • You don't need to be anyone important to find most things yourself. For Adobe Photoshop Deluxe from 2000, go to []. Most sites you get software from are ftp in nature. And a "geek" to me is an Apple loyalist. Spend, buy the latest gadget and complain when others don't fall into the Borg collective.
    • If you have a TechNet or MSDN subscription MS keeps even the ancient out of support stuff available. have not looked for 3.1 but a month or so ago I needed 3.11 and had no problems downloading it from there,
  • by Barryke ( 772876 )

    Seriously. You cant create on (todays) tablets. They are for consuming.
    If he wanted to do graphics fingering, he should just install PicSay Pro on his Android.

    This story just proves how people forget to zoom out and look at whats really the problem. (answer: thats gravity)

    • by Barryke ( 772876 )

      And he should just buy a Surface Pro and be done with it. I'm going to. Its the first step beyond the classic laptop which basically just was a foldable desktop.

  • Using proprietary software in a vitrualized proprietary OS on a fork of Linux...

  • Once you have Windows 3.1 loaded and functioning properly in DOSBox, you can run pretty much any 16 bit game you can find. You might need to install certain drivers to get some games to display properly which this guide covers nicely []. Ideally, you'd be running the 16 bit game in straight DOSBox first. If it asks for a Windows installation, then boot up 3.1 first and execute it via file manager. There are entire repositories of Abandonware if you do a little Googling around, so you are literally opening
  • Gimped Irony (Score:2, Interesting)

    Everyone complains about Gimp... and then does fuck-all to help improve it. I guess writing actual code can't compare to their halcyon student days of bootlegging Photoshop.
  • Does Gimp suck so much that people are willing to go and beg Adobe for a 17 year old version, while they would not take the source code and compile Gimp in whatever platform they are working on?

    Most likely people have simply given up taking the source code and building it themselves. If a prebuilt binary is not available they will simply give up.

  • This is back when "I can see from some of the pixels" was a valid complaint.

    I have seen quite a few shops in my day.
  • It still falls short a bit of having a usable Photoshop on a tablet. The latest Photoshop is not touch-aware, and is (from experience) very difficult to use on a touch-only device. Adobe needs to do some work there, and their efforts [] thus far [] are toys, meant for dressing up tablet camera photos, not serious content creation.

    This is, incidentally, the same issue on Windows 8 tablets. Yes, you can use the latest full version of Photoshop. (Assuming intel-based tablets, because on ARM you have the same issu

  • That sounds *really* interesting - anybody know where the rest of the population can get Windows 3.1 licenses?

    I doubt that Microsoft would be willing to release it into the wild - so where can we find them?


  • and my ancient Windows 1.03 floppies. Of course, finding a 5.25" drive to read them may be a problem... I'll have to dig around in my junk box.

  • Yeah I am sure that is real usable.

    Personally I can barely stand the latency of using Linux in a VM on my 3.2GHz quad core desktop.

  • I don't know. How much time do you have to waste in an attempt to get antique software (Windows 3.1 and an old version of Photoshop) running on a platform that is almost entirely unsuited to the task the software was designed for. I mean, I could make a dump-trunk out of 1964 Volkswagen Beetle, but it would pretty much suck at all that hauling and dumping stuff.
  • Been there! (Score:5, Informative)

    by eggstasy ( 458692 ) on Monday January 28, 2013 @03:07PM (#42718167) Journal

    What an interesting question, I've done that before, mostly out of nostalgia. And, of course, frustration with the upgrade treadmill.
    There's essentially nothing you can't do with a 16-bit windows, it's what people worked with and played with, so there's a bit of everything .

    You should install Win32s, WinG, Video for Windows, Trumpet Winsock.

    Honestly I'm surprised you found it hard to track down old software, there's a pretty huge scene around it.
    You can get pretty much every OS and application here: []
    This is also a great site to get old software: []
    Moar: [] []

    There are some surprisingly modern browsers available for 3.1, grab Opera 3.62 (also Netscape 4 and IE 5.5), and try Calmira for a Win9x type of GUI running under 3.1 - put the default XP wallpaper on that, and you will fool a lot of people :)
    I once hacked XP to natively run the NT 3.51 shell on startup, instead of Windows Explorer. It wasn't hard.

    DOSBox sucks for Windows, though, you should probably just run a VM, added performance. You can find some Windows games on abandonware sites, Civilization 2 was a good one :) []

    Let me know if you need anything else, would love to have a chat with a fellow enthusiast.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"