Caldera Open Linux

(note this is a guest post from Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

I have been working with Linux since around 1992, both at home and at work. I have probably seen it all with exception of item in the title. Lurking around my files, I found screenshot of a beta version of Caldera Linux. For some odd reason I somehow managed to never actually see it with my own eyes back in the day. The supreme Linux desktop was always matter of just myths and legends.


Recently I came across install media for the Caldera Open Linux 1.3 and decided to take it for spin and see how it really measures to it’s hype. The system installed just fine with dialog based setup steps. However as I wanted to see the GUI in action there was a problem – 640×480 VGA mode, or rather lack of better video mode to work with.

Unfortunately neither VMware nor VirtualBox do not support anything better than the crippled VGA mode. They do it for all other devices, like network card, mouse, ide and atapi cdrom. But somehow not for graphics. Fortunately the other virtualization engines are bit better. QEMU supports Cirrus Logic and Virtual PC supports S3 Trio.

I have spent several hours trying to convince the ancient Xfree86 to work with QEMU, to no avail. All I managed t o get was this:


Out of options I have decided to try Virtual PC. Unfortunately the system would not install due to disk errors. Upon some research I’ve found the issue was IO-APIC which I promptly disabled in the kernel (noacpi). It did not help the install much, but allowed me to run a qemu-installed and converted disk image.  This is a bit of shame that the best virtualization engine to run ancient Linux was Microsoft VPC. Anyway to my amusement I’ve got this:


And I was able to explore the GUI a little bit more:



Wait a second, these icons remind me of something! Apparently Visix Looking Glass became Caldera Desktop… I will need to dig in deeper in to this eventually.

Apart from that Caldera is loaded with tons of ancient software. Pretty much everything there was available on Linux these days and all working out of the box. Neozeed will be happy to see Neko in action (see the last screenshot)!


You can download install media and ready virtualized images here.

Michal Necasek of OS2 Museum has fixed XF86_SVGA so that it works correctly with Virtual Box in higher resolutions as well. “You’ll have to set up the X so that it uses the XF86_SVGA server and tell it to automatically detect the graphics hardware. Then it should be just a question of selecting some sensible monitor and creating a few modes. If things are configured properly, you’ll see something like “SVGA: chipset: boxv” in the X server output.“. Download it here. (It’s binary only, no source). 

Caldera Linux 1.3

Above screenshot is Caldera 1.3 under Virtual Box with SVGA driver from Michal Necasek. Network also work with PCnet III adapter in bridged mode. The IP address is hardcoded for You can download OVA here.

Update: Recently I have installed Caldera 1.3 on 86box. Unlike most hypervisors, this provides excellent emulation of various video and network cards. I have picked S3 and NE2000. Everything installed and worked out of the box. While emulation is generally slower it provides accelerated video making everything working smoothly including games.

A pre-installed Caldera 1.3 for 86box is available here. Login with root/root.

Also check out WABI running on Caldera.

67 thoughts on “Caldera Open Linux

  1. LOL this looks great, I definitely need to play with it. I was actually looking to get along with OSS CDE. I miss it a lot from my HPUX / Solaris / Unixware days.

    BTW the second CDROM for Caldera Linux contains source code for the system. WIll check if they have it for Looking Glass Desktop.

    • well, i have to admit, you were right. this system is a bi@tch to install.. it can’t see any storage devices in vmware player (module loading helps), then it thinks it’s on the wrong architecture. same in virtualbox, and refuses to format the virtual hard disk in qemu-system-i386..

      no matter which virtualisation software i use, it refuses to install lilo (complaining about missing menu items).

      however, on my optiplex gn+ (my dedicated solaris 9 box) it seems to install fine.. (fingers crossed)

      it would be awesome to be able to virtualise it properly, though.

    • I have some older Pentium 2 computers I could attempt to install this on.

      Will it run properly on a 3DFX Voodoo 3 card? If not, I believe I have an S3 Virge in a box somewhere…

  2. This reminds me of my own copy of OpenLinux. I have 1.3 running on my old pc. By the way, what version is this? I have a blog post about OpenLinux as well. Its the version including the first KDE desktop environment.

  3. I ran into the same problem getting RedHat 6.0 running, mostly because I wanted to run Sun WABI…. which was ported to x86 Linux by Caldera. The problem is I only have WABI in RPM format… RPM 1.0 format to be exact. Newer versions of rpm found in later more VM friendly versions of Linux will refuse to open up early packages.

    The bigger problem is qemu and VirtualBox only fully emulate a genericish VBE3.0 video card. qemu’s Cirrus support is far from perfect while VPC’s S3 Trio support is the most compatible by far. Back in the day, nothing really worked right with VBE drivers past 640x480x256 colors. Video cards of the time period usually had VBE1.2 support in their ROMs and usually buggy at that. XFree86 was notoriously picky about video cards and RAMDACs, which didn’t help matters either (remember dot clock hell in XF86Config?).

      • I’ll have to give it a try. Hopefully I didn’t delete the qemu image I installed Linux+WABI on! I also have a rpm for the Looking Glass Desktop 1.0 somewhere. You forgot to mention that OpenLinux has a Tetris game on one of the consoles to keep you occupied while it installs. 😛 My only experience with Caldera back in the day was the Lite version of this distribution. Commercial software like Looking Glass and that crisp text editor were all time limited demo versions.

        • Chris M., the part where you can play the tetris game during install was only present in Caldera OpenLinux 2-3 (I can’t confirm that OL 3 had that feature too since I don’t have it). Unfortunately, its not present in OpenLinux 1 as the LISA installer was text-based only.

          • The copy of OpenLinux Lite that I have is dated 3/97 and only used the text based LISA installer. The tetris game is on one of the virtual consoles accessible via Alt+Fn. Just about every early Linux distro showed debug and detailed install messages and errors on virtual consoles, but Caldera went the extra step and included a game.

            I still have my Linux qemu image, but I forgot the root password! Grr

          • And then Caldera went to the dark side and renamed itself as SCO Group. We know the rest.

            You can easily reset the password.

          • Chris M, did you happen to find something related to Looking Glass in /COL/SOURCES/SRPMS in your copy of OpenLinux lite? The file is LG-EVAL-.RPM. I believe that may be Looking Glass’s source code. I’m not too sure, however. Looking into the archive, it has lots of .do files and some .h files. Some are binaries as well. I recently picked up my copy of OpenLinux Lite 1.1 yesterday.

    • It’s not “fixed”, it’s “enhanced”. It’s exactly the same XF86_SVGA X server that came with Caldera Linux 1.3 with the addition of a simple driver for the graphics chip implemented in VirtualBox (which I call “boxv”). The difference is support for higher resolutions and color depths when running on VirtualBox.

  4. The link for xf86-boxv seems to have expired. Is it possible that it’ll get a permanent home somewhere? The other day I found a hard drive image with Corel Linux 1.0 on, and it too can only manage 640×480 in 16 colours on VirtualBox.

  5. I’m trying to get OpenLinux v2.3 running on Qemu 1.6.0 – Everything installs OK depending on which configuration i pick – but all my X fonts seem to be missing in KDE file manager windows and at the XDM(?) logon screen. I’ve had similar problems with other Linux from that era.

    Any pointers?

    And yes I’d be happy to make the iso available, It’s one I bought many years back from Cheapbytes…

  6. Don’t know if someone’s still interested, but OpenLinux 1.3 runs fine in VMware Workstation 10. Just use the install guide here and after the first boot from hdd install glibc from contrib folder on the cd, then the linux tools from VMware Workstation 3.1.1. Set the resolution as you like and there you go.
    Here’s a link to VMW 3.1.1 for quick download (extract it somewhere to get the linux tools iso).
    Note that the linux tools from latest version 3 (3.2.0-2230) don’t work because of old glibc.

  7. HI, i am a novice for the LINUX, i ran into a book on How to teach linux in 24 hrs. It contained a cd as it was an e-book so couldn’t figure out the cd. Can anyone send me or guide me from where to obtain it (Caldera Openlinux 2.2)

  8. I know I’m really late to the game with this, but I think I’ve found a solution to the QEMU fonts issue you guys had. Try adding the options “no_bitblt” and “sw_cursor” to the Device section for the Cirrus card in the XF86Config file.

    These two options worked for me when I had what looks to be the same problem not long ago when installing an old version of Debian (a modified version of 1.3 that dates back to late 1997) in QEMU. It took me quite a bit of digging before I found it, but I eventually found the solution to both of the problems in a readme file for the Cirrus Logic X driver. The readme was referred to in the autogenerated XF86Config file, so I really should have found the solutions sooner!

    According to the readme, I think the core of the problem was a bug in the XFree86 Acceleration Architecture, which the authors specifically mention was new and in beta status. I’d be willing to bet that the version included in OpenLinux is close to what’s in Debian 1.3.

    Hope this helps!

    • Hey, thanks for the update! You’d be surprised how often people re-visit stuff years later, or figure that something is broken in emulation when it turns out that the drivers themselves are broken!

  9. This blog entry was helpful, at least to get an idea how to get more graphics than 640x480x16 (VGA16) with older Linux. I tried VERY HARD to install S.u.S.E. Linux 4.2 and *with* working X-Server and a higher resolution – not on a real PC, but in a virtual machine. Even QEMU was not working because in SuSE Linux 4.2, there was no X-Server for Cirrus Logic yet. But with the described trick, preparing the installation in QEMU but running it after conversion with MS Virtual PC 2007, it worked with S3 X-Server – see my blog entry at .
    I wasn’t able to get SVGA or higher resolutions in any other VM software, not in VMWare, not in VirtualBox and not in QEMU. Just in VPC, but this isn’t really a stable solution because if you save files / alter the configuration, MS VPC will not write the files without problems/errors, it results always in a corrupted hard drive image. Just using it without saving will be ok. Not sure why this happens.

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