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Open Source Emulation (Games) Microsoft Operating Systems Games

FreeDOS 1.2 Is Finally Released (freedos.org) 146

Very long-time Slashdot reader Jim Hall -- part of GNOME's board of directors -- has a Christmas gift. Since 1994 he's been overseeing an open source project that maintains a replacement for the MS-DOS operating system, and has just announced the release of the "updated, more modern" FreeDOS 1.2! [Y]ou'll find a few nice surprises. FreeDOS 1.2 now makes it easier to connect to a network. And you can find more tools and games, and a few graphical desktop options including OpenGEM. But the first thing you'll probably notice is the all-new new installer that makes it much easier to install FreeDOS. And after you install FreeDOS, try the FDIMPLES program to install new programs or to remove any you don't want. Official announcement also available at the FreeDOS Project blog.
FreeDOS also lets you play classic DOS games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem, and Jill of the Jungle -- and today marks a very special occasion, since it's been almost five years since the release of FreeDos 1.1. "If you've followed FreeDOS, you know that we don't have a very fast release cycle," Jim writes on his blog. "We just don't need to; DOS isn't exactly a moving target anymore..."
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FreeDOS 1.2 Is Finally Released

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  • Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @04:00PM (#53552613)

    Serious question: besides playing DOS games, is FreeDOS used for anything like industrial controls or embedded OS' or other stuff?

    • I've used it once to run old accounting software for archival reference purposes at a client. Trying to run it in Windows XP failed.

      Luckily other old software at various clients could be run in Dosbox.
      • by Jim Hall ( 2985 )

        I've used it once to run old accounting software for archival reference purposes at a client. Trying to run it in Windows XP failed. Luckily other old software at various clients could be run in Dosbox.

        People sometimes forget about legacy software, but this pops up in unexpected places. I used to be campus CIO of a small university, and we once had a faculty member bring in some floppy disks with old research data on them. The data wasn't stored in plain text files, but as DOS application data. None of our modern systems would read the old data files, so we booted a spare PC with FreeDOS, downloaded a shareware DOS program that could read the application data, and exported the data to plain text.

    • Re:Question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @04:20PM (#53552679)

      I've seen it used as a platform for firmware updates.

      • Yep- helpful instead of setting up Windows on an old desktop or something.
      • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

        by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @04:45PM (#53552765) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, that's the one thing it's kinda useful for in my world. Often you have a choice of DOS or UEFI environment to install firmware updates on things like expensive NICs and storage controllers. And to be frank, UEFI implementations suck, ranging from incomplete to unusably buggy, so you're often better off just using FreeDOS.

      • Virtually anything that isn't a .EFI executable that can be executed from UEFI's shell, comes as a bootable floppy disk powered by FreeDOS.
        (and some company provide both : a UEFI-style floppy with a .EFI executable, and a Legacy BIOS-style floppy with a FreeDOS booter).

        Some of us keep a small bootable FreeDOS partition around, just to have a handy environment to run firmware updates.

        (Though this usage pattern is slowly getting replaced by UEFI Shell and the GPT EFI System Partition)

    • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @04:25PM (#53552697)

      industrial controls

      Yes.

      There are still a lot of CNC machines from the 80s out there running every day. I worked at a shop in 2000 that had machines from the 80s. Short of them completely failing I can't see any reason they'd replace them with anything newer.

      The XPCs made by Mathworks/SpeedGoat also have a bare bones DOS and a parallel port you can use to bit bang IO before launching the Simulink-RTOS

      • And ancient Motorola Radio Service Software.

        • by Nethead ( 1563 )

          I'll have to give FreeDOS a try for the network stuff. I've got an old laptop with MSDOS 6.0 on one partition and and old FreeBSD on the other just to archive codeplugs to the fileserver where I then use a VM to run RSS for editing. If I didn't have to reboot each time it sure would be nice.

      • by nnull ( 1148259 )
        Why don't they just upgrade them with Fanuc's CNC upgrade, where you get a nice screen and more precise controls for your old CNC machine? I don't understand why people still keep those old CNC's running DOS around when the upgrades aren't cost prohibitive anymore. More than likely you're going to have to gut and retrofit that CNC machine anyways, why not upgrade it?
        • It would cost more than the machine is worth. Then you will have a new control on a worn out 30+ year old CNC machine. What happens is the machine is parted out to keep others working. Or a small shop or big home shop guy will retrofit a basically free worthless old machine with new servos and Mach or LinuxCNC. Where the payback verse investment (Free Labor) would not make business sense in a large production shop. Where time is money.

          • It would cost more than the machine is worth. Then you will have a new control on a worn out 30+ year old CNC machine.

            It depends how much your CNC machine weighs. These things are basically sold by the pound. The structural requirements of the basic metal hasn't changed a lot over the years, and the cost of making it hasn't come down. So it may well be worth investing in some modern controls and/or motors for your 50 year old 20 ton machine. The cost of everything except the big iron has come way down.

        • If this was a CNC machine I bought at auction and tossed in my garage, no problem.

          But you don't just wander down to the production line and go "Oh, lets replace this with some upgrade that may or may not work". These machines were bought, paid for and have been working for decades. All of the training material is how to use them. All of the production line workers know how they work and more importantly how to fix them when they're broke. It also goes beyond "CNC" milling machines. We actually ran die stamp

          • by nnull ( 1148259 )

            "They are? Why?"

            Drives fail, it happens often in old CNC machines, and a good servo drive is going to cost you a huge chunk of change to replace (Since there is no support for them or warranty anymore). You might get lucky with some old guys that still fix them, but that line is thinning. It's 2017, I don't think you'll get much life out of that CNC machine you bought for 20k unless you retrofit it (You're really just driving until it breaks at this point). I used to play that game and found that it's not

    • Also a question: I guess it's only really necessary if you're going to use it to drive some special hardware or something like that. For everything else I'd think it'd easier to use something like DOSBox
    • by g01d4 ( 888748 )
      Until a few years ago we used MS DOS 7.1 to host (alas no longer supported) software [opticalgui...ystems.com] for pointing and tracking at our observatory. While we migrated to Windows based software, and from stepper to brushless DC servo motors, I've held onto the DOS system to upgrade an even older non-computer controlled telescope mount. The software's actually pretty good for for it does, with a decent UI and nice functionality (e.g. RS232 hooks to outside control, non-sidereal tracking capability). The software relies on an I
    • Until 3 years ago we ran an industrial solar lamp field that had the controller running on DOS.total PITA because the network stack is not very good

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      yes I use it on industrial equipment that still runs in a dos environment, it does take a bit more cpu and ram overhead but there's a lot of nice features packed in it, that you could do with regular dos but you would have to hunt it all down and blah blah blah

      its not prefect but it does the job just fine

    • Serious question: besides playing DOS games, is FreeDOS used for anything like industrial controls or embedded OS' or other stuff?

      Aside from that, I have another question. Given that DOS was a 16 bit OS and that today's CPUs are mainly 64-bit and 32-bit as well, can FreeDOS be rigged to be a 64-bit OS? And while we're at it, can PowerShell capabilities be added to it?

      Another question - can FreeDOS be ported to other CPUs, or is it still a pure x86 OS? I mean - things like R-Pi, Arduino, Beaglebones, et al could definitely use something like FreeDOS

      • Nope, it's not only x86 but requires an IBM PC/XT/AT compatible BIOS, so I don't think it could even run on non-PC compatible x86 systems such as the original Xbox or the current one.
        You can likely make a 64bit DOS, or a flat-memory 32bit native one - at least one such one exists, it's just that no existing software will run.
        On random ARM and non ARM systems? I believe you're going to recreate a "DOS" and applications from scratch every time, for every different combination of hardware i.e. for every single

        • by Jim Hall ( 2985 )

          Nope, it's not only x86 but requires an IBM PC/XT/AT compatible BIOS, so I don't think it could even run on non-PC compatible x86 systems such as the original Xbox or the current one.

          Interesting trivia: the FreeDOS Kernel used to run on m68k machines. Pat Villani wrote a DOS-like kernel for m68k that simplified his embedded development at the time. Later, the kernel became Intel-only.

          These days, the FreeDOS Kernel can only run on an Intel PC with BIOS.

          You can likely make a 64bit DOS, or a flat-memory 32bit native one - at least one such one exists, it's just that no existing software will run.

          We had this same discussion in the FreeDOS mailing lists as we decided what the next version after "1.1" should be. Some wanted the new FreeDOS to be 32-bit. I didn't go that far, but for a while I thought we should imagine what "DOS" woul

          • Shouldn't the 'modern DOS' have the same sort of commands as DOS, as opposed to Linux, which is an (uncertified) unix and uses various unix shells? That's why I asked the question about whether DOS could be enhanced w/ PowerShell
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @07:42PM (#53553341) Homepage

      Serious question: besides playing DOS games, is FreeDOS used for anything like industrial controls or embedded OS' or other stuff?

      We ran a survey a few years ago, and most people use FreeDOS for three things:

      1. Playing DOS games

      2. Running legacy software

      3. Developing embedded systems

      That survey is about five years old now. These days, I'd guess 90% of people using FreeDOS are using it for playing DOS games. And of course, those of us who just like to tinker on DOS as a hobby.

      I guess we could add a fourth one to that list too. As others have said, a lot of people use FreeDOS to install firmware updates on computers. That's a good use for FreeDOS too!

      • These days, I'd guess 90% of people using FreeDOS are using it for playing DOS games

        Do not underestimate all the various boot disks to upgrade firmware (BIOS, disk/network controller firmware, etc.)

        Lots of them use FreeDOS to boot a floppy in Legacy-BIOS mode.

        (Although this niche is progressively getting replaced/supplemented by flash tools running as .EFI executable within UEFI Shell).

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Still used on brand new computers in fact for eye tracker software, includes a TCP/IP stack for communications with other computers. Also frequently seen in embedded x86-based devices.

    • I had a legacy program that was DOS only. The only copy of the program the customer had running on the legacy equipment was in that program. I got it running well enough to dump the code to an output text file that I was able to then migrate forward to the modern version.

    • Serious question: besides playing DOS games, is FreeDOS used for anything like industrial controls or embedded OS' or other stuff?

      I have a tv card installed in my system that the old freedos had drivers for. I'm hoping version 2 has the same drivers.

      i've yet to install version 1 - I haven't the time yet to of instalL1, but grabbed 2 just the same

    • by orient ( 535927 )
      Since the local law does not allow the sale of a computer without an OS, in Eastern Europe many stores sell laptops with FreeDOS pre-installed.
    • For controls DOS is normally limited to embedded applications in single pieces of industrial controls. Think CNC machines other embedded equipment.

      In terms of more general control pretty much every major vendor that has to present an interface to the user has moved to some Windows based HMI in PLCs. Not sure what PLCs run internally anymore but it wouldn't surprise me if it was either DOS or direct embedded code with no OS to speak of.

  • The last I booted up FreeDOS, I ran Quake on an Radeon 3870 video card and got 500FPS. I wonder what the Nvidia 740 would get in FPS.
    • DOS version of Quake didn't use OpenGL, so it wasn't accelerated. A different GPU will hardly matter. It is using the CPU to do all of the work
      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        DOS version of Quake didn't use OpenGL, so it wasn't accelerated.

        That's where MiniGL came into play back in the day. When I got a 3Dfx Voodoo Rush video card and played Quake in OpenGL, my roommates ran out and got 3DFX Voodoo 2 video cards.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiniGL [wikipedia.org]

        My best setup back then was an AMD K3-400 processor, a Nvidia TNT 2 video card (desktop/OpenGL) and a pair of Voodoo 2 boards in SLI mode (OpenGL).

        • MiniGL was only for WinQuake... which was a Windows executable
          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            which was a Windows executable

            Windows was a DOS executable back then.

            • Re:Oh, sweet! (Score:4, Informative)

              by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday December 26, 2016 @06:35AM (#53554961) Journal
              Not really. WinQuake and GLQuake were win32 executables, and only worked on Windows NT and Windows 9x. I ran both on Windows NT 4, which wasn't in any sense a DOS program. Windows 95 used DOS as a bootloader, but then ran its own drivers, scheduler, and memory manager (DOS didn't support protected mode directly). It did thunk to DOS for a few things, but it's not really accurate to call it a DOS program.
  • by blogagog ( 1223986 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @04:35PM (#53552727)
    Does it work with older machines? I'm not yet ready to update my 286. Maybe next year.
    • Can this be run from 64-bit Windows to provide 16-bit program support?
    • Re:Compatibility (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @07:46PM (#53553361) Homepage

      Does it work with older machines? I'm not yet ready to update my 286. Maybe next year.

      I know you're joking here, but yes you can run FreeDOS on an older PC. FreeDOS should run on an 8088, but I don't know anyone who actually has a working one these days. A few folks have emailed me as recently as this year to say that they run FreeDOS on a '286. So in fact, the '286 example you gave is possible!

      But how you'd install FreeDOS 1.2 on an old computer like this will be interesting. The FreeDOS 1.2 release has a CDROM installer, or a boot floppy + CDROM installer, or a USB fob drive installer. You can't use any of those on a '286 computer. So the three people who have a '286 will probably transfer FreeDOS 1.2 packages to the '286 by copying them to a floppy and unzipping them.

      In 2016, we know that most people use FreeDOS in a PC emulator like VMWare or VirtualPC or QEMU. I use it in QEMU. We recommend the CDROM installer for emulators.

      • Awesome job; I'll have to dig out my IBM PC-XT (still works perfectly) and see if it'll work on 8088

      • No....
        You temporarily install the HDD on a new(er) computer, install FreeDOS on that drive, then replace that drive back into the 286. It's a variation of "sneakernet".

      • by RLiegh ( 247921 )

        and also pcemu [pcem-emulator.co.uk]

        Thanks for hanging in there so long!

      • possible way would be :
        - use a legacy proprietary cd-rom controller (some extra function in 8bits/16bits audio cards, mostly SB clones) and hookup a proprietary cd-rom.
        - use some isa/ata bus interface card (mostly 16bits cards, there are some 8bits cards) and hookup a standard pata optical drive

        - on the legacy machine, use some isa/ata bus interface card with a boot rom (enhanced bios) and hookup a compact flash card - it will show up as a diskdrive.
        on the internet connected machine simply use a usb adapte

      • You just download the CD image and mount that and install from that. There's even a special boot floppy disk image that will do it for you. At least that's how it was when I downloaded FreeDOS years ago.

  • I disagree it needs a lot of work and was outdated the last time I tried it in a VM last year. DosBox keeps moving ahead. What it needs are:
    - modern drivers
    - modern VM support and drivers for things like Hyper-v/KMS, VMware, and Bhyve as most of us would run it in a VM in 2016
    - A better more modern file manager/shell
    - Multimedia support or at least pseudo drivers for those who like to run it in a VM

    I will download a copy this weekend to take a look to see if anything got better. So far it is DosBox

    • Pretty sure they had an interview recently where the developer said he was tempted to do that sort of thing but concluded that it wasn't the right direction. He wanted to focus on being the best legacy os possible for maximum compatibility, not to be a dos box competitor with new features.

      • Pretty sure they had an interview recently where the developer said he was tempted to do that sort of thing but concluded that it wasn't the right direction. He wanted to focus on being the best legacy os possible for maximum compatibility, not to be a dos box competitor with new features.

        Alright I won't bother using it then. Some may have an old IBM 286 AT lying around like my Dad, but for the rest of us on modern hardware we want a VM so our host can run a more modern OS. A shame ..

  • ...is what, exactly?

  • The effort is laudable and it is even cool from an ultra-nerd standpoint but UNIX is/was always cooler. I still do most of my best work from a UNIX shell prompt. I don't see why it is even practical to keep DOS alive, other than purely for historical purposes and interest.
    • Historical purposes pretty much covers it. An OS that can run a lot of old software is great.
    • one way I've used it: some thin clients will only boot an MS-DOS partition. So, to get OpenBSD or FreeBSD or Linux to run on one of those, you put grub files in C:\boot\grub in the FreeDOS partition along with installing the grub bootloader and then chain load the BSD or Linux.

    • The effort is laudable and it is even cool from an ultra-nerd standpoint but UNIX is/was always cooler. I still do most of my best work from a UNIX shell prompt. I don't see why it is even practical to keep DOS alive

      It's all nice until the day you need to upgrade one of the firmware of your linux box.
      And then realise that the manufacturer of your motherboard, disk/network controller, etc. only provides flash software that runs under windows.
      (an there's no linux flash software compatible with the hardware you want to upgrade).

      So you'll have to download a bootdisk to do the flash.
      And gues what most of the manufacturer use to make their flash boot disk ?
      Yup, it's FreeDOS.

      (NOTE: recently some manufacturer, in addition of t

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Sunday December 25, 2016 @08:54PM (#53553639)

    What was great about DOS is simplicity of taking over every part of OS functionality and customizing it to your liking. Keyboard and timer interrupts can be intercepted with a half of page of assembly and made to do cool things. Writing a character on screen is as simple as writing one byte for character code and one byte for color at a known memory address. Floppy drive controller can be trivially reprogrammed to write 1.36MB to a 720K floppy.

    I think a true successor of DOS would enable similar extent of tinkering in today's world. Raspberry Pi is cool for playing with GPIO pins. But writing a kernel module is a major undertaking and the next kernel upgrade will more likely than not break the interface that you are relying on. And, in user space, systemd is the step in the wrong direction from ease of tinkering with shell scripts.

    Not a fan myself, but a lot of people seem to like Python. Imagine a linux distro where every userspace command is a well commented python script that you can start editing and debugging to learn and change how everything works, with some kind of snapspotting mechanism to recover from a bad edit. Then have a generic kernel interface that can delegate device control to userspace processes. A lot more people will then start contributing to technology rather than just being frustrated by it.

    • I think a true successor of DOS would enable similar extent of tinkering in today's world. Raspberry Pi is cool for playing with GPIO pins. But writing a kernel module is a major undertaking

      As you said, Raspberry PI are still full blown UNIX computer that also have GPIO pins. Meaning that you have to write complex drivers to get serious things done.
      Arduino is the kind of things you're look for. No kernel. Just simple code running on a micro-controller and playing with digital/analog IO.

      There it's the opposite, it's when you want complex tasks that are normally cared by a kernel (networking, filesystems) that you need extra code (or use available libraries).

      • by iamacat ( 583406 )

        I guess the magic of DOS was that you had a computer that you used for study work and gaming AND you could customize it to, say, create keyboard macros in your spreadsheet or slow down a game by 50% with just a page or two of code. Even non-technical users could create more customization with batch files than what they are realistically able to do with today's mobile phone.

        I guess with Internet of things and some high level IDE, people can potentially start doing similar things with their smart home. It wou

  • I can finally build that Beowulf Cluster I always wanted.
  • Now all we need is for someone to port Ruby 2.4.0 [ruby-lang.org] to FreeDOS 1.2!
  • Does it run on GNU Hurd?

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