by January 2, 2001 0 comments

With small footprints and scalability, alternative OSs also find use in embedded systemsThe five operating systems (OS) that we have for you in this
issue are really small. After all, they all fitted on to the same CD with plenty
of room for other software. In a day and age when standard OSs span multiple
CDs, what place do these smaller ones have in the larger scheme of things?
Plenty actually!



Today India has an installed base of about five million PCs.
And about half of them are so old that they’ll have to desperately struggle to
run an OS like Win 98. Does that mean that users who use them should give up the
pleasures of browsing the Web or sending e-mail? It’s here that the smaller
OSs make their mark. QNX, for example, can provide fast and fully graphical Web
browsing with all the bells and whistles on a 486. What if you don’t want all
the functionality built into the OS majors, but just one function, say that of a
proxy server. Again a 486 or a Pentium 100, running one of the smaller Linux
machines, can do the job admirably.

QNX RTP (Real Time Platform)

Hybrid of a Real Time OS and a Platform OS

This modular RTOS runs happily on an old x486 with 16 MB RAM
for console applications. To run its full-featured GUI properly, just add 16 MB
more.

The OS has a small footprint and auto-detects a host of cards
including display, network, and sound. Installation is straightforward. The
executable (in the/os/qnx directory in the CD) runs from within Windows and
installs QNX on the same file system. You are also given the option of creating
a boot floppy if you want. The machine then goes in for a re-boot. Upon reboot,
the Windows boot menu gives you the option of booting into Windows, QNX RTP or
QNX RTP (DMA Disabled) mode. Boot into QNX RTP and the OS detects and mounts
your devices and file systems.

Login to the Photon GUI with your username and password and
enter the world of QNX. Applications included are full-featured browser
(Voyager), e-mail client (V-mail), media player (phplay), editors, and a
graphics package. You can use the Package Manager to download and install more
stuff from its WWW Repository.

Work on it for around an hour and believe us, you’ll be
hooked for good. Strongly recommended, especially if you have an older machine.

Dragon Linux

(Lite version is on the CD with console and networking
utilities only) Installs in your Windows partition

A free Linux distribution, which demands only a 486 processor
with 8 MB of RAM to run the console applications or 32-64 MB for a full-fledged
X-Window system. For a change, installation is simple. It can be installed from
a DOS or Windows partition. Create a directory C:\DRAGON. Unzip DRAGONLINUX.ZIP
from /os directory and copy the ‘DRAGON’ directory to it. Now restart into
full MS-DOS mode. Next, run ‘SETUP.BAT’ found in the C:\DRAGON\SETUP
DIRECTORY. In the login prompt presented, type ‘ROOT’ and then ‘SETUP’.
This will start an installation wizard, which will guide you through setting up
Dragon Linux. You’ll be prompted for the packages or applications you want to
install. Since we haven’t included X-Window packages, you’ll not be able to
install KDE or GNOME. You will then be asked for the amount of disk space to
allocate for Dragon Linux. Dragon Linux doesn’t support more than 2 GB of hard
disk space. After all the selected packages are installed, the installation
finishes with a reboot.

You can’t run Dragon Linux from within an MS-DOS window. So
you need to be in full DOS mode. Change to the directory C:\DRAGON and issue the
command ‘DRAGON’. After a booting sequence, you are shown a login prompt.
Login as root with no password, as the password has not been setup yet. It’s
advisable to set up the root password at this point by using the ‘PASSWD’
command.

Dragon Linux includes the Slackware Linux utility called ‘SETUP’.
This will aid you in configuring your system, setting up the mouse, network,
dial-up connection, etc. Read the Readme file (included in dragonlinux.zip) for
using ‘SETUP’.

You can download additional packages like X-Windows (KDE,
GNOME), GIMP (a powerful graphics editor), Emacs, etc, from http://dragonlinux.net/.
These are Slackware packages and can be installed using ‘installpkg’
command. Dragon Linux also has limited support for RPM packages.

muLinux

A fully-configurable, application-centric and tiny
distribution

muLinux installs on the Windows or DOS partition and requires
a minimum of a 386 processor with 8 MB of RAM. It bundles many packages
including those for console, networking, and X-Window.

Let’s get straight into setting it up. Copy the directory
mulinux from the /os directory on the CD to C:\. Unzip ‘DOS TOOLS.ZIP’ in
the same directory. Now restart the computer in full DOS mode. Change to the
directory C:\MULINUX and type ‘INSTALL’. In the first screen, select the
second option, which would install muLinux in the directory C:\LINUX. The
compressed archive is uncompressed and then the system reboots. After the
reboot, go to full-DOS by using the F8 key. Change to the directory C:\LINUX and
type ‘LINUX’. This will start up an interactive setup where you’ll go
through a massive (but very helpful because the configuration files need not be
edited later) question and answer session that covers the entire range from
setting up your keyboard to setting up networking.

You are asked to create a swap space, which can be skipped if
you have enough RAM say more than 128 MB. Otherwise leave swap file name as
/SWAP/LINUX.SWP. The swap file size can be selected to 64 MB.

You are asked to configure keyboard and also some add-ons
including X-Windows. Select Skip when you are asked to upgrade, as these add-ons
have already been setup. Specify the serial and parallel ports to which your
mouse, modem, and printer are connected. Remember ttys0 is COM1 and lp0 is LPT1.
Let mouse protocol be the default.

For networking, you are asked for the model of your Ethernet
card and only six network card models of EtherLink, Intel, RealTek, and AMD are
supported. Then though a series of questions, which are well explained, you can
configure your network, NFS services for Linux–Linux sharing and SAMBA for
Windows-Linux sharing. If you choose to have PPP support, you can configure your
dial-up connection. Subsequently you can configure Fetchmail for retrieving mail
from a POP3 account. muLinux auto detects your IDE CD-ROM drive. Finally you can
decide what daemons or background processes you need to run at startup.

You are now given the login prompt. Login, start up X-Windows
using the startx command and you are ready to swing!

FreeDOS BETA5 ("LARA")

Full distributionIf you are a DOS lover, you’ll love this

This is a free and fully MS-DOS compatible OS. System
requirements are minimal and it installs on a x486 with as little as 8 MB RAM.

The distribution on the CD has zipped files and you need ‘UNZIP’
(included) to extract the installation disks. Keep a pack of formatted 3½"
floppies at hand. Through the DOS prompt, Unzip ‘BASE1. ZIP’ using the
command UNZIP BASE1. ZIP —d A: (note the lowercase -d). This is the only
floppy you need for the Mini FreeDOS distribution. For the full version, repeat
the unzip process with rest of the install disks. Now you need to install the
Boot floppy image. Use ‘RAWRITE’ (included in the package). Run RAWRITE from
DOS prompt, read the .BIN image file (MINI.BIN for Mini version and FULL.BIN for
Full version) and write to a preformatted floppy in A: drive. Now you are ready
to install FreeDOS.

Reboot and start your PC with the boot floppy you created.
You are left at the DOS prompt. You can install FreeDOS in a folder in the
existing partition or work purely on FreeDOS. Use FDISK and FOR MAT at the
prompt in the latter case. Then run INSTALL at the prompt. Give the location
from where you’ll install as A: and the destination can be C:\FDOS. Pop in the
install floppies you created one after the other. The process is a bit slow due
to slow FDD access. Alternatively you can install from the hard disk directly.
Note, however, that in this case you’ll have to unzip all the install floppies
in one single directory say C:\FDINSTALL and give the source path accordingly
after booting up.

The package also includes the Seal GUI for FreeDOS.

MINIX

A small, free UNIX clone for those who want to peep into Unix

Unlike Linux which requires at least a 386 processor to run,
Minix can be run even on an 8088 or 80286. Basic memory requirements are as low
as 3 MB.

On our CD we have the 386 precompiled binaries (i386.tar).
The procedure for Minix installation is outlined in readme.txt and install.txt.
Unzip the i386.tar using Winzip to get the three files Root, Usr, and Usr.taz.
Then you create the Minix bootable floppies using FDVOL utility. This is also
included on the CD. These floppies are then used to boot the machine and install
the OS. We have also included zipped files for the compiler, debugger,
networking utilities, etc, in the package. DOSUTILS come in handy to prepare
your hard disk for the installation.

Shekhar Govindarajan and Ashish Sharma

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