by March 3, 2001 0 comments

What do you do with your old PCs?

Stack them in a corner? Pay someone to take them away?

What about getting them to do some good, fast work?

No, we’re not joking. Old machines, even 286s and 386s, can be made to work
really fast if you have the right software. In this issue, we bring you two such
software–NewDeal and QNX (Quick Unix).

NewDeal is a fully graphical office suite that works on good old DOS, and
delivers a full graphical interface and fast performance on very old machines.
(We tested it out on a 386 that we haven’t used in ages, and were really
impressed). A 45-day trial is available on the CD for you to check out. And yes,
it works on Win 9x too.

QNX is perhaps even more exciting. A complete operating system, browser, word
processor, e-mail client…all for free. QNX is actually meant for embedded
systems, and as such can run with very limited resources.

Do check them out and tell us what you feel about them, and whether you would
like us to carry more such stuff. 


A fully-configurable, application-centric and tiny

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!


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.


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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