Today marks 20 years of FreeDOS!

From the original announcement:

A few months ago, I posted articles relating to starting a public
domain version of DOS.  The general support for this at the time was
strong, and many people agreed with the statement, “start writing!”
So, I have…

And how does it measure up?  Well the current release version is v1.1 and I tested it in both Qemu and VMWare Player.  First the installation process is SLOW.  Extraordinarily slow.  I really have no idea why, but 10+ minute installs in either environment were the best I could do.  The one thing I did do on installation was to disable a FAT32 drive, defaulting to the older FAT16 file-system.  Why? well because ..

Stacker 4 on FreeDOS

Stacker 4 on FreeDOS

Once installed, I thought I’d torture the environment, and install Stacker 4.0.  The installation went ok (I modified my system to boot up with option #3 as the default (Load FreeDOS including XMGR XMS-memory driver).  The installation went smooth, I setup a 300MB compressed drive, rebooted and the drive was not available.  I think this was because MS-DOS uses a config.sys file, and FreeDOS uses fdconfig.sys.  Although at the same time the autoexec.bat file was not modified as I had requested.  So I ran ‘config.exe’ and it walked me though additions to the c:\stacker.ini and what needed to be added to the (fd)config.sys (device=c:\stacker\  I did that, and rebooted, and I had my compressed D drive.

Then I installed DOOM v1.1 onto the compressed drive, and it runs perfectly fine! (is a screen shot really necessary?)  Seeing that DOS4G/W works (I also tested Descent, and Wolf4GW).  Oddly enough Wolf3d just hangs at a black screen, and Descent runs too fast although I think both issues are more specific to the games running on Qemu/VMWare than FreeDOS.  And if you want to skip the lengthy install, you can download my stock VMDK right here.

Seeing that 32bit DOS extenders seem OK, I thought I’d try TradeWars 2002 with it’s 16bit DPMI version, and it ran fine as well.

TradeWars on FreeDOS

TradeWars on FreeDOS

Now when it came to multitasking, Windows 3.0 won’t work outside of realmode.  Windows 3.1 however will run in standard mode.  386 Enhanced mode still doesn’t work correctly (is that even an issue)… So to use this for a BBS you’d need a network and some nodes… maybe fun for another day.  Excel 3.0c works under Windows 3.1 Standard mode, while Word 2.0c does not.

Another weird thing is that the FreeDOS partitioning program (fdisk) chooses a NON-DOS partition type by default, so if you were expecting to dualboot between MS-DOS and FreeDOS I think you need to install MS-DOS first, although I guess in the age of virtual machines does it matter that much?

For basic MS-DOS program compatibility it seems pretty much there, even with weird stuff like stacker.

11 thoughts on “Today marks 20 years of FreeDOS!

  1. My biggest problem with FreeDOS is the weird incompatibilities it sometimes has, particularly with some of the included tools like the memory managers.

    • yeah I’ve found using himem.sys makes it play happier… although so many emulators can’t run emm386.exe properly.

      but in all fairness, memory management of the era was a freaking nightmare anyways.

  2. Do you recall if this FreeDOS was on a FAT16 or FAT32 partition? Stacker 4, 4.02, or 4.12? It looks like your chose a ~1GB drive in VMWare.

    • Fat 16, stacker obviously won’t work correctly with Fat32. This is Stacker for OS/2 4.0 I never saw any updates/patches unlike the strictly MS-DOS version.

      I bought 4.0 for my BBS originally thinking that compressing the text section would be a ‘cool thing’. But it ended up creating far more hassles for me, so I gave up. That and my OS/2 install is on HPFS, so the added complexity of the drivers more disks, and ore drive letters ended up giving me a rather unstable system.

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