About neozeed

I live in SE Asia, doing generic work, enjoying my life & family

39 years ago, the dawn of home 32bit computing.

Clive on the QL announcement day

Much like the ZX Spectrum the Sinclair QL was a machine largely unknown to me growing up in Canada, then moving to the Miami area as a teenager. While the ZX 80/81 were pioneers in low end home computers barely able to do anything the ZX Spectrum with it’s 80kb of RAM (48k usable, as half the 64kb was defective), the QL announced in the start of 1984 was announced to the world as a very serious business machine. No gaming around to be found here!

While the IBM PC had been released in 1981 with it’s 16bit Intel 8088 processor utilizing a much slower & cheaper 8bit bus, the QL went one step further utilizing the Motorola 68008, a hybrid 16bit processor with 32bit registers, also using an external 8bit bus. However, being always on the cheap sifde, the QL only offered a single expansion slot, unlike the IBM PC. Also it eschewed floppy disks in favour of it’s endless loop ‘micro drive’ cassettes. Every corner that could be cut was, and sadly the resulted in a machine that just wasn’t ready as one has to wonder if the word of the Macintosh launch the following week was out, and Clive knew that it was either announce it now, or be a meetoo going forward. For better or worse he launched.

On paper it sounds fantastic, 128kb of ram, 32bit capable processor, and 2 drives all for £399! The IBM PC was an eye watering £3,325 by comparison, while the similarly spec’d Macintosh was £2,698! Indeed the QL stood for Quantum Leap, as the jump from 8bit to 32bit home computing was going to be phenomenal.

The avid jogger, Clive taking his Quantum Leap.

But how could it all go so wrong? Within a year the price had been slashed to £199, and stores were said to be further marking them down to a mere £99 the year afterwards. How could a seemingly on par machine fail so badly? The 128k Macintosh also was limited to a paultry 128kb on it’s motherboard, while the more expensive, and expandable IBM PC/XT maxed out at infamous 640kb, and it supported up to two floppy drives, and 2 hard disks although the IBM AT would be announced later that year, and it could go well beyond 640Kb, but the lack of protected mode operating systems & software would hinder the platform for quite some time.

If the trades are to be believed it was a combination of announcing too early, and failing to deliver burnt people on the QL. Additionally the ZX Spectrum had been busy wining apps at the time (games), but Sinclair wanted so much to be a serious company, not the man who brought you jet-set “fucking” willy. Sound and video capabilities of the QL were no match for the Spectrum, just weren’t there, and also missing was the incredibly cheap European storage of choice the audio casette. Many people were also dismayed that the operating system was much larger than expected and it needed to occupy both internal ROM sockets, and the cartridge port. And of course, the microdrives themselves were seen as easy to corrupt, stretch and tear. Not the kind of thing someone in business wants to hear. The ironic thing about the QL was that in my opinion it was too cheap. The PC/XT offered plenty of expansion at the base price (albeit a high one), and Apple also quickly added a much more realistic 512kb model Macintosh. The QL never got a ‘big brother’, basically condemning it at launch as nothing more but a toy. Which is a shame.

Hello!

The operating system, burnt into ROM feels kind of 8bit as it has a basic interpreter built in, and it’ll open several hard coded windows in which you are expected to interact with. However, it feels more like a minicomputer with input on the bottom, running lists on the left, and output on the right. Indeed, it can feel outright baffling. And certainly nothing like an 8bit machine, or like the later home 32bit machines like the Amiga, or Mac. Even the TOS based Atari ST felt more ready for the world with its GEM burned into ROM.

Building my dream system

Despite all of these downsides, I was still intrigued by the machine, and I have to admit I really love the look of it. When I’d first read Neuromancer around the time of the video game, and this is what I’d imagined a cyberdeck to look like. While I was wasting my youth with an 8bit machine I wanted to experience this seemingly parallel universe where affordable 32bit micros were a thing.

My QL getting ready for surgery

Since I’ve heard of the machine, I’ve been trying to get one. Surprisingly for such an unloved machine they are incredibly hard to find, and they do go for quite a bit of money. However, thanks to making contacts on the QL User’s forum, I had managed to get my hands on one, so I could start my journey. I sent it off to RudeDog Retros, luckily located across the bridge from where I’m staying and within a week. I was able to get back a working system. I also had managed to get a tetroid ram expansion/CF card addon as well for my QL bringing it up to 880kb of RAM, and an 8MB CF card, making the machine a top of the line experience. Although the card was given to me with known issues, for the most part it worked, except when it didn’t, and it was always the same, bad ram at the 128kb boundary. Which is a shame, having mass storage certainly gets around the microdrives, but 128kb of ram just isn’t enough when factoring in mass storage.

Fully loaded!

Much like other 68000 based machines, the Sinclair QL is no stranger to hardware modifications. I ordered a 512kb memory expansion unit (Sinclair QL 512KB Internal Memory Expansion from *der_englaender*) to fill in the 128k gap from the Tetroid card (plugged into the left). The red 68008 socket is a real pain to deal with, and it took an unreasonable amount of force to get the RAM expansion into the QL. No doubt nearly 40 year old sockets are just not that flexible. I had thought the board was in, but I was getting a buzzing black screen, it only took a bit of reassuring and swapping in another 68008 to verify the machine was fine, and more pressing to get it to seat into the socket.

Sinclair QL effectively with no CPU!

You can also spot the Hermes 2.20 co-processor upgrade to support 19,200 baud serial operations, along with the Minerva OS upgrade, and you can see the numerous RAM chips that had to get replaced to make the unit functional. With an appropriately upgraded system it can begin to feel like a real machine.

Thanks to the folks over at The Sinclair QL Forum, I was able to complete the upgrade!

With enough luck my machine now has reliable memory, mass storage, and faster communications with the outside world. Everything you’d want in a modern computer! I now have a capable machine to do the one thing I always worry about when doing cross compiling, actual hardware verification.

SIxteen/Thirtytwo into EIght dreams…

The 68000 was used by Stanford University in it’s project based motherboards, that gave way to the 68010 based SUN-1/SUN-2 based machines, where other companys also used the 68000 line of processors in their Unix based machines. While the QL with it’s cost conscious 68008 was not going to run a ‘real unix’, it was however capable of running real programs. The big AT&T compilers (PCC!) can target the processor, just as other new and upcoming compilers, even GCC, although even 880kb of ram is probably not enough for running GCC natively. But going back to 1985 this leaves room for something more restricted to mini-computers, Hack.

While Hack had been ported to 16bit machines like the IBM-PC, or sixteen/32bit machines like the Amiga, I was surprised to find that it had not appeared on the QL. For someone like me that first meant getting a cross compiler in place to target the QL. Thankfully xXorAa had done a lot of the hard work in xtc68, qdos-libc, and Dilwyn Jones had saved the GCC patches by Richard Zidlicky, Jonathan Hudson, Thierry Godefroy and Dave Walker. With a working cross compiler, time to get hacking!

From the mini-computer to the 32bit home micro-computer

Doing my thing I put together a simple cross compiler so that I could begin work. With enough RAM, the QL is in the surprising league of many a minicomputer of the early 1980’s. It’s incredible to think of what a missed opportunity this is. When I had decided to try to get Hack-1.03 up and running, I went for the Unix version, bypassing the probably more apt PC port, as despite Hack-1.03 being free enough to be still part of OpenBSD, PC Hack however has a more restrictive license. I know it’s weird.

Using a VT library that gives the QL, something akin to ANSI.SYS functionality and another library to set environment variables (yes QDOS doesn’t have either…) a simple basic program to setup the screen type and point Hack where to find it’s files, and we are suddenly off to the races. I didn’t have to restrict or cut anything down, it’s running the same code that effectively would run on a VAX-11/780 mini-computer, or a SUN-2 workstation. It’s crazy how this machine didn’t fill the home 32bit gap that took Microsoft/Intel quite a few years to fill.

Hack 1.03 on the QL

For those into the javascript, you can download a disk image: hack.win here, and test drive it on ppe/xXorAa‘s emulator here sQLux – MIN198.rom, 4096K (qlforum.co.uk)

Another great program, COM, the 8080 CP/M emulator can also happily run on the QL, again with libvt, emulating a vt52 it opens up an entire ecosystem of software, much like it did on the Commodore-128. If it had been available perhaps it would have greatly helped out things for the platform as it languished.

While the QL was marred with it’s too early announcement/pre-orders, and terrible primary storage medium, and far too restrictive motherboard design, there was great potential in that tiny little machine. I’d like to have thought if I’d known about the QL, I’d have bought one, even though the 128kb is super restrictive, thanks to it’s processor it really was an incredible machine for 1984.

In the days of cheap arm machines, and who knows what the downstream effects of those will be, it feels like there was a much earlier missed window with the Sinclair QL.

86Box PS/2 model 60 emulation

As a quick aside, on my exploring early OS/2 betas I thought I’d try to emulate the machine that I’d clearly lay the blame as to why OS/2 was fundamentally a failure, the IBM PS/2 model 60.

So IBM machines don’t use built in ROM config programs, but rather you need the reference disk. And this being a Microchannel PS/2 machine you also need the config files to support things like more than 2MB of RAM, the ESDI controller, or even an AdLib/SoundBlaster card.

updated reference disk

Adding in the RAM card, and a sound blaster adds the following cards:

However it’s worth noting that the default ESDI config/driver on the MCA confg disk won’t work on 86box. You will need an updated version.

So inside the diag disk the config will appear like this:

I’ve uploaded the reference disk on archive.org here: 86box PS/2 Model 60 Reference Disk : IBM : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive.

Unfortunately, at this moment 86Box’s PS/2 model 60 can’t run OS/2. The model 80 however has much better luck. But for anyone who want’s to play Wolf3D on an emulated 10Mhz 286, well this is your big chance.

Looking back at MS-DOS 4.00M, or in the beginning before there was OS/2

With the pre-christmas release of the Microsoft OS/2 betas 1.00, 1.01, 1.02, 1.03 & 1.05 on archive.org, and helping Ncommander with an upcoming video, it seemed like a good place to start, not with OS/2 but rather with MS-DOS 4.0.

From the book INSIDE OS/2 ( ISBN 1-55615-117-9 )

Microsoft started work on a multitasking version of MS-DOS in January 1983.  At the time, it was internally called MS-DOS version 3.0. When a new version of the single-tasking MS-DOS was shipped under the name MS-DOS version 3.0, the multitasking version was renamed, internally, to MS-DOS version 4.0. A version of this product–a multitasking, real-mode only MS-DOS–was shipped as MS-DOS version 4.0. Because MS-DOS version 4.0 runs only in real mode, it can run on 8088 and 8086 machines as well as on 80286 machines. The limitations of the real mode environment make MS-DOS version 4.0 a specialized product. Although MS-DOS version 4.0 supports full preemptive multitasking, system memory is limited to the 640 KB available in real mode, with no swapping.2 This means that all processes have to fit into the single 640 KB memory area. Only one MS-DOS version 3.x compatible real mode application can be run; the other processes must be special MS-DOS version 4.0 processes that understand their environment and cooperate with the operating system to coexist peacefully with the single MS-DOS version 3.x real mode application.     

Because of these restrictions, MS-DOS version 4.0 was not intended for general release, but as a platform for specific OEMs to support extended PC architectures. For example, a powerful telephone management system could be built into a PC by using special MS-DOS version 4.0 background processes to control the telephone equipment. The resulting machine could then be marketed as a “compatible MS-DOS 3 PC with a built-in superphone.” Although MS-DOS version 4.0 was released as a special OEM product, the project–now called MS-DOS version 5.0–continued. The goal was to take advantage of the protected mode of the 80286 to provide full general purpose multitasking without the limitations–as seen in MS-DOS version 4.0–of a real-mode only environment. Soon, Microsoft and IBM signed a Joint Development Agreement that provided for the design and development of MS-DOS version 5.0 (now called CP/DOS). The agreement is complex, but it basically provides for joint development and then subsequent joint ownership, with both companies holding full rights to the resulting product.

As the project neared completion, the marketing staffs looked at CP/DOS, nee DOS 5, nee DOS 4, nee DOS 3, and decided that it needed…you guessed it…a name change. As a result, the remainder of this book will discuss the design and function of an operating system called OS/2.

– Inside OS/2.

Although MS-DOS 4.00M disk images have been floating around for quite some time, either a 2 360k disk set, or a single 720k disk image, I don’t think anyone (including me) really tore into it that much. It does have the ability to freeze DOS 3 programs, giving the illusion of running more than one. The session manager is pretty sparse but hitting left alt twice will pop it up giving you the ability to toggle through programs with ease.

MS-DOS 4.00M

There is a FDISK, FORMAT & SYS command making it straight forward to setup a hard disk, and copy the files over, I didn’t see any installer.

there is a PS command to show running processes. Also there is a DOSSIZE to show the memory partitioning and how much is available. Although there is a SWAPPER program I’ve been unable to get it to actually fun.

multitasking!

Another interesting thing if you run the unix ‘strings’ command against all the EXE’s you’ll find the string:

C Library - (C)Copyright Microsoft Corp 1985

Implying that not only was DOS 4.00M a ‘new’ DOS, but it was also written in C. No doubt this contributed to a larger file size than DOS 3, however it would also give that holy grail of portability, at least to new CPU modes. Also many files have the name of the source files baked in such as:

@(#)append.c    1.1 85/10/09
@(#)assign.c    6.1 85/10/23
@(#)attrib.c    6.1 85/10/24
@(#)fdisk.c     1.1 85/10/09
@(#)fddata.c    1.1 85/10/09
@(#)fdlow.c     1.1 85/10/09
@(#)fdsub.c     1.1 85/10/09
@(#)joinsbst.c  6.3 85/11/08
@(#)sysvar.c    6.2 85/11/08
@(#)cds.c       6.2 85/11/08
@(#)dpb.c       6.1 85/11/08
@(#)label.c     6.1 85/10/24
@(#)newdef.y    6.2 85/10/14
@(#)ms4bnr.c    1.1 85/10/15
@(#)mode.c      6.2 85/10/24
@(#)getkey.c    6.1 85/10/25
@(#)pifmes.c    6.1 85/10/25
@(#)advpscrn.c  6.1 85/10/25
@(#)advescrn.c  6.1 85/10/25
@(#)usrscrn.c   6.1 85/10/25
@(#)rangers.c   6.1 85/10/25

Okay so far, so good. But we’ve all seen this before, and scratched this OS about this far, because what else can you do? It’s not like there is any dev tools to do anything fun!

Well the tool hidden in plain sight is LINK4, which in retrospect is specific for MS-DOS 4.00M.

Microsoft (R) 8086 Object Linker  Version 4.01
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1984, 1985.  All rights reserved.

Object Modules [.OBJ]:

There is no SDK for MS-DOS 4.00M, but they were kind enough to leave the linker in place. A quick check of the Windows 1.01 SDK shows that it also includes LINK4:

Microsoft 8086 Object Linker
Version 4.00  (C) Copyright Microsoft Corp 1984, 1985

Object Modules [.OBJ]:

It appears that if the dates and versions are to be trusted they are of the same vintage, but the Windows linker is older, and that they both output to a NE or New Executable. So to start the experiment I created a simple hello world exe from a simple:

void main(){
  printf("Hello from MSC 3\n");
}

To compile this I used Microsoft C 3.0 (more on why later), and used LINK4 to create an EXE:

C:\dos\msc3>cl /c hello.c
Microsoft C Compiler  Version 3.00
(C)Copyright Microsoft Corp 1984 1985
hello.c

C:\dos\msc3>msdos dos4m\link4 hello.OBJ

Microsoft (R) 8086 Object Linker  Version 4.01
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1984, 1985.  All rights reserved.

Run File [HELLO.EXE]:
List File [NUL.MAP]:
Libraries [.LIB]:
Definitions File [NUL.DEF]

Okay, everything looks fine so far. Attempting to run this under MS-DOS just results in the error:

Program too big to fit into memory

Well now that’s odd. Checking the EXE with the Linux ‘file’ command reveals:

file HELLO.EXE
HELLO.EXE: MS-DOS executable, NE (unknown OS 0) (EXE)

So obviously it’s a NE, but it is an older/unknown version to the file map database. There is no stub so I suppose that is why MS-DOS is getting confused.

Now let’s try MS-DOS 4.00M

Hello!

Well now isn’t that interesting?!

Excited with the ability to create special MS-DOS 4.00M programs, I get my favorite vintage ’87 Infocom interpreter, InfoTaskForce 87, and get it building on MSC 3.0. However instead of using the MS-DOS 4.00M linker, I thought I should try to use the Windows 1.01 linker and libraries for the exe:

C:\dos\msc3\infocom>msdos ..\win101sdk\bin\LINK4.EXE @infocom.win.lnk

Microsoft 8086 Object Linker
Version 4.00  (C) Copyright Microsoft Corp 1984, 1985

Object Modules [.OBJ]: FILE.OBJ FUNCS.OBJ INFOCOM.OBJ INIT.OBJ INPUT.OBJ +
Object Modules [.OBJ]: INTERP.OBJ IO.OBJ JUMP.OBJ OBJECT.OBJ OPTIONS.OBJ PAGE.OBJ +
Object Modules [.OBJ]: PRINT.OBJ PROPERTY.OBJ SUPPORT.OBJ VARIABLE.OBJ TERM.OBJ
Run File [FILE.EXE]: INFOCOM.EXE/ALIGN:16
List File [NUL.MAP]: INFOCOM.MAP
Libraries [.LIB]: MWLIBFP MWLIBC/NOD
Definitions File [NUL.DEF] INFOW.DEF;

And for those interested this is my .DEF file:

NAME    Infocom

DESCRIPTION 'Infocom 87 interpreter for Planetfall(83)'

DATA    MULTIPLE


HEAPSIZE    1024        ; Must be non-zero to use Local memory manager
STACKSIZE   4096        ; Must be non-zero for SS == DS
                        ; suggest 4k as minimum stacksize

SEGMENTS
    _INIT   PRELOAD MOVEABLE DISCARDABLE

One thing to save you the horror is that between MS-DOS 2 & 3 the way command line arguments changed. I forget the details but no matter what I tried I was unable to parse the CLI or the environment in this setup. I suppose if I had documentation of the product there would be some hint as to what tools or setup to use. Instead, I took the easy way and hard coded to load Planetfall.

InfoTaskForce compiled with MSC 3.0, using Windows 1.01 libc / LINK4

Unfortunately, this success would prove to be the exception to the rule. I took trek, converted it to K&R C, as Microsoft C 3.00 from 1985 is well. old, and sadly it just won’t run. Likewise, I took Hack 1.03 and although it runs on MS-DOS it will not run on MS-DOS 4.00M. I am sure there is some fundamental reason why it’s not working, and probably tied to creating a proper DEF file. I’m sure it was all written down somewhere but I don’t know. And yes I tried specifying either floating point emulation via library or inline, and it made no difference.

Looking at OS/2 1.00

Loading up the infamous $3,000 OS/2 1.00 beta, and hitting ctrl+escape you are greeted with session manager!

Session Manager for OS/2

Notice the R for real-mode. With the obvious implication that everything else is protected mode. Going one step further on the excellent site pcjs.org there is OS/2 betas SIZZLE and although there is no OS/2 development bits on there, the directory DOS3TOOL reveals that the C compiler for this era for at least MS-DOS is MSC 3.0. Also included is our friend LINK4.

I create a simple def file that contains the single word ‘PROTMODE’ which should give me my OS/2 binary.

So let’s run that through hello world:

msdos sizzle\DOS3TOOL\link4  hello.OBJ,hello,,,hello.def;

Microsoft (R) Segmented-Executable Linker  Version 5.00.21
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1984, 1985, 1986.  All rights reserved.


C:\dos\msc3>

However attempting to run this just crashes amazingly.

Real mode LIBC in Protected mode:

No doubt it’s because the real-mode libc is using interrupt 21 calls, which OS/2 sure wouldn’t like. I’m pretty sure it requires an OS/2 libc that uses DOSCALLS.DLL to function, which I just don’t have any pre-release versions, nor any libc source code to really make it possible. And attempting to port one to OS/2 pre-releases just doesn’t seem so worth the time.

So for the heck of it I point the LIB variable to the OS/2 1.00 SDK’s libs and re-run the link:

C:\dos\msc3>msdos sizzle\DOS3TOOL\link4  hello.OBJ,hello.exe,hello.map,C:\86box\100\x\MSC\LIB\slibc5.lib \86box\100\x\LIB\DOSCALLS.LIB,hello.def;

Microsoft (R) Segmented-Executable Linker  Version 5.00.21
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1984, 1985, 1986.  All rights reserved.

By default it’s trying to link in EM.LIB, SLIBFP.LIB, SLIBC.LIB. Trying to add them all in the command line link just hangs LINK4 maybe a response file is better suited. Anyways:

Hello from MSC 3.0 in protected mode.

It does run on OS/2 1.00, which I guess isn’t surprising as the LINK4 & libraries are from/for this version.

As an interesting note, OS/2 links against doscalls library/DLL to interface to the OS. While MS-DOS 4.00M doesn’t have a seperate DLL, rather it’s baked into IBMDOS.COM

DOSCALLS
ALLOCSEG
REALLOCSEG
FREESEG
LOCKSEG
UNLOCKSEG
GETSEGSIZE
GETDSHANDLE
CRITENTER
CRITLEAVE
FCRITENTER
FCRITLEAVE
PBLOCK
PRUN
SUBSCREEN
GETPIDS
DOSDISCARDCODE
DOSGETHANDLE
DOSHANDLEJUMP

Noticeably absent is file I/O, No doubt allowing programs to use the standard int21 interface to the kernel for file I/O. No doubt this is in its primordial state, as the OS was going to evolve a bit more until it became OS/2. Unfortunately I have no idea how to link or call into this. Without any SDK it’s impossible to say. And even then is developing for a real mode OS worth the effort?

So what have we learned? LINK4, aka the MS-DOS 4.00M Linker, probably should have been called LINKNE for the NE format. Also there is references to it having it’s own virtual memory paging system, and being able to link larger EXE’s than the traditional link command. Sadly I was unable to get any non trivial programs running. I don’t think it was a memory model thing, although the C compiler has issues with InfoTaskForce and the large memory model for some reason, but small & medium work fine. I’d like to think that DOS 4.00M could support massive EXE’s much like Windows 1.01, however despite being from the same company and using the same tools, the memory manager for DOS 4.00M & Windows is fundamentally different.

With all these exiting OS/2 betas now available I’ll have to take some more time to explore them in more detail.

But until then I thought this genesis of DOS 4.00M was worth the look.

IBM OS/2 2.00 UK edition

Well something interesting and slightly different popped up, it’;s OS/2 2.00.. but in a different box, packaged for the UK market.

14G0495 – Generic Package

You have to hand it to IBM for making something amazing for 1992 so.. Bland and Generic. You really have to think there was some truth to that deal with Commodore licensing their bland grey style from the Amiga DOS 2.0 betas in exchange for a REXX.

One thing I did like about this package is the included quick reference card. I don’t recall this in the US version.

Front side

Sorry I don’t have access to a scanner here, so this is about all I can do.

Installing this was a bit of a bear, as the only thing I could boot this up in was VMware.

XR02000

From a glance it pretty much looks the same as the US release, as an end user the only thing I saw different was that during the install it defaults to a UK keyboard, and Locale.

UK in the UK

I guess that is to be expected? The xr06100 fixpack installed without any fighting, so that was nice.

Sadly no stickers in the box, so it’s very underwhelming in that regard.

Ill have to look into the bootloops and crashes under qemu/bochs later. I had planned on installing it on an old machine I literally pulled out of the garbage, but it doesn’t emulate a PS/2 mouse with USB, so I have kind of put that on hold.

Anyone interested can find it here.

Merry Christmas 2022!

I’d been working on some stuff this month, but things got a little sidelined. At the same time some fun progress had been made.

I’ve been messing with Hack, along with some progress on some ports that’d never been mainstreamed..

First correct render on the Sinclair QL

I’ll have some more added to that, along with a port of COM, the CP/M emulator to the QL, bridging that fatal application launch gap. Some nearly 40 years too late, but as they say, better late than never.

I’ve also been digging up some older projects and throwing them up on github, along with looking at the SLiRP updates from Debian, and 86Box, and thinking of doing an update for stuff like Cockatrice III. I’ve also started uploading more to archive.org preserving stuff like MacMiNT, that was nearly lost from my primary machine being offline. Of course, check out my favourites, maybe some of what I enjoy will be interesting for you.

So since i’ve been messing with 68k ql lately:

Merry Christmas

Maybe ill do a stream. Maybe I won’t I don’t know. Its been a rough year for me and my muse but we’ve made it this far.

Running the SWGEMU server on WSL

All alone

The topic had come up again about running Core3 aka the Star Wars Galaxies EMUlated server at home. It’s always been a somewhat involved setup, but with the advent of the Windows Subsystem for Linux, there exists the ability to export and import filesystems as if they were containers. With that in hand I went ahead and set one up.

I initially targeted the older WSL v1, as it supports far more hardware, and I didn’t want to leave so many behind. The added benefit of targeting v1, is that the end user can upgrade the filesystem to v2 if they so choose. The only real difference in this project between v1 & v2 is that v1 cannot run the needed MySQL instance. This isn’t a showstopper however as there exists MySQL & MariaDB native versions for Windows.

Obviously, you’ll need Windows 10 or 11 to do this. From what I can tell even the home version of Windows 10 has WSL capabilities, so this doesn’t pose any problems. Simply open the legacy control panel (Windows+R then type in ‘control’), and go to the Programs.

and then ‘Turn Windows features on or off’, scroll down and select ‘Windows Subsystem for Linux’.

Hit OK, and it’ll download what is needed from the internet.

This shouldn’t take too long, then it’ll want to reboot the computer.

Now you just have to wait for Windows to reboot.

Now you’ll need to download the filesystem. I’ve put it on archive.org for the time being right here: wslv1-SWGEMU_Ubuntu20.22 directory listing (archive.org)

At a minimum you’ll need the files:

  • swgemu-ubuntu.tar.gz
  • mariadb-10.10.2-winx64.msi

Keep in mind that the filesystem is 4.8GB. It will take some time to download. If the torrent servers are functioning I would highly recommend that.

Once it’s installed and it’s generated it’s own databases it’ll need just under 7GB of disk space. So figure that you need 15GB free for this fun experiment.

The first step is to install the database server. We will need to know the settings in order to configure the swgemu server.

You can use any MySQL, but Maria is fully GPL, and small, and more importantly doesn’t involve Oracle.

The install is pretty striaghtfoward.

GNU software requires it reproduce the license sooo here we are.

I would HIGHLY recommend use the default option of install everything.

It will ask for a root password. In this example I’m using ‘password’, of course you can use anything you want, as long as you remember it. You don’t have to allow remote machine access to the database as WSLv1 runs in the same userspace on Windows, so it’ll effectively be connecting to itself.

I use TCP port 10000 as I want the default port 3306 for another insance. Again it’s all up to you but you will have to remember what port you put it on. Ports below 1000 are highly NOT recommended as they need special permission. I left the buffer pool as default

With those options set we can let it do the install.

Now the database is installed, and we can go onto restoring the WSL image, and then configuring the core3 server

Firstly we need place to put it, On the machine I built it on it was the D: drive, but for this re-deploy on a new machine I’m using the C: drive. It’s all up to you but it MUST be a locally attached disk, no USB disks.

Simply create the target directory and run the import command something like this:

md c:\starwars
wsl --import swgemu c:\starwars Downloads\swgemu-ubuntu.tar.gz
I only have the one disk on this VM

This will take a while.

Once it’s done you can check the subsystem status:

C:\Users\Administrator>wsl --list -v
  NAME      STATE           VERSION
* swgemu    Stopped         1

You may have more than one installed, so we’ll refer to this one by it’s name ‘swgemu’.

You can start the instance with wsl -d swgemu:

C:\Users\Administrator>wsl -d swgemu
Welcome to Ubuntu 22.04.1 LTS (GNU/Linux 4.4.0-19041-Microsoft x86_64)

 * Documentation:  https://help.ubuntu.com
 * Management:     https://landscape.canonical.com
 * Support:        https://ubuntu.com/advantage

  System information as of Thu Dec  8 09:02:39 EST 2022

  System load:    0.5185546875   Processes:             7
  Usage of /home: unknown        Users logged in:       0
  Memory usage:   28%            IPv4 address for eth0: 198.46.174.160
  Swap usage:     0%


0 updates can be applied immediately.



This message is shown once a day. To disable it please create the
/root/.hushlogin file.

You will need to edit the script to create the databases. I like using vi, but you may not. The easiest way is to just browse to the location and open it up in notepad. The path to browse is:

C:\starwars\rootfs\root\starwars\sql

You can drag/drop re-init.sh on notepad, or make the file association, it’s all up to you.

I had set the SQLHOST to the LAN IP I have, you should set it to 127.0.0.1 . The PUBLIC address is the one that you’ll be connecting to. You can set it to your LAN address, or a public one if you know it (you’ll have to setup NAT), or if you are running it all on one machine for testing, it’s fine to be 127.0.0.1.

Save the file re-init.sh and now you have to run it.

[email protected]:~# cd starwars/sql/
[email protected]:~/starwars/sql# ./re-init.sh
mysql: [Warning] Using a password on the command line interface can be insecure.
ERROR 1008 (HY000) at line 1: Can't drop database 'swgemu'; database doesn't exist
mysql: [Warning] Using a password on the command line interface can be insecure.
mysql: [Warning] Using a password on the command line interface can be insecure.
mysql: [Warning] Using a password on the command line interface can be insecure.
mysql: [Warning] Using a password on the command line interface can be insecure.
mysql: [Warning] Using a password on the command line interface can be insecure.
[email protected]:~/starwars/sql#

The first SQL query will attempt to drop the swgemu database. In this case it doesn’t exist, so the first error is expected. Nothing to worry about. That gives us the database, now it’s time to configure the server.

You can use explorer to browse to:

C:\starwars\rootfs\root\starwars\conf

Now open/drop on notepad the file config.lua

Again change the DBHost, and MantisHost to 127.0.0.1, and update the password for root, if you have changed it. You may also want to change the DBSecret, but since this is all for fun, I’m leaving it stock.

Now it’s time to run the server.

[email protected]:~/starwars/sql# cd ..
[email protected]:~/starwars# ./core3
(0 s) [Core] Server start, pid: 105, time: Thu Dec  8 09:11:54 2022
(0 s) [ConfigManager] Did not find conf/config-local.lua
(0 s) [DatabaseManager] converting database objects to new format
(0 s) [DatabaseManager] finished converting data to new format

There will be a lot of messages going on, and this will take a few minutes. During the first run Windows will ask for network access permissions. Be sure to check both boxes allowing WAN and LAN access.

Check both boxes!

I have a Lenovo C20 and it takes about 2 minutes, depending on your config it may take longer or shorter.

One thing to point out is that I have configured Core3 for all the worlds, and this will need more than 8GB of ram to start up. So if you get something like this:

If this happens, you’ll have to try a minimal config, commenting out the areas from the config. On this test system, it only has 8GB of RAM, and that isn’t enough to have everything. However the minimal of the training & Tatooine fits no problem:

On the machine I originally set this up on, it has 32GB of RAM, so the processes needing just under 7GB of RAM wasn’t an issue. However an 8GB machine just isn’t enough as I found out the hard way re-producing my install.

Since we have previously allowed the Core3 application LAN/WAN access you should be able to connect. If you set the public address to something public, you will need to setup your firewall to forward the following ports to the machine hosting Core3

Otherwise you’ll need to open the following ports and protocols:

TCP 44419
TCP 44455
UDP 44453
UDP 44462
UDP 44463

Again making this a WSLv1 setup makes this easier as Windows runs core3 in the same memory space.

With any luck you should now be able to connect to the address you have specified as your PUBLIC address. If you want to change, you can either update the re-init.sh script and re-run it, destroying everything, or run the HeidiSQL tool, and just update it.

I had to set it to use libmysql.dll . As always remember your root password, and what Port you used to setup MariaDB. With the profile saved you can open it up.

The address field tells the clients what IP address they can find the server on, so it can the the LAN if you are staying at home, or it has to be a Publicly accessible one. Another alternative is something like Hamachi, which lets you create your own virtual network of machines. It’s great, but not all that cheap, but the added benefit is that your server isn’t a public resource, so you know exactly who is connecting.

If you want to be open but in control I’ve used this in the past to great success.

If you do change the IP you have to restart the core3 program.

Simply type in ‘exit’ at the console and it’ll start to gracefully shutdown.

Then simply start it again with a ./core3

If you want to enable the god mode, I assume you have read how what changes to make on the client side, and the table to edit is the accounts table, once you have logged in, it’ll create your record, and you can find it on HeidiSQL and change the admin_level field to 15. With this set the next character you create will be a ‘god’.

I’m not going to go into setting up the client, installing the SWGEMU stuff and how to add custom servers, as I assume you already know how to do so. This is more to let people run their own instances at home, or among friends.

On building core3 for yourself, be aware that by default it’ll use a ‘native’ config option that tunes the compiler to generate code as fast as possible for YOUR processor. So if you want to run it somewhere else, it has a good chance of not running. I had to edit the following files:

./CMakeLists.txt
./utils/engine3/MMOEngine/CMakeLists.txt

And change NATIVE to NO.

I also had issues with the SQL not having a default setting for timestamps, and it would fail to create accounts. Look for stuff like this:

TIMESTAMP NOT NULL,

and replace it with

TIMESTAMP NOT NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP,

And as of this current rev I had some issues with malloc hooks, which I just commented out:

$ diff -ruN AllocationHook.cpp_ utils/engine3/MMOEngine/src/system/mm/AllocationHook.cpp
--- AllocationHook.cpp_ 2022-12-06 07:59:42.160402900 +0000
+++ utils/engine3/MMOEngine/src/system/mm/AllocationHook.cpp 2022-12-06 08:00:22.510402900 +0000
@@ -50,6 +50,7 @@
        instance = this;

 #ifndef PLATFORM_MAC
+#if 0
        __saved_malloc_hook = __malloc_hook;
        __saved_free_hook = __free_hook;
        __saved_realloc_hook = __realloc_hook;
@@ -58,6 +59,7 @@
        __malloc_hook = mallocHook;
        __free_hook = freeHook;
        __realloc_hook = reallocHook;
+#endif

 #else
        malloc_zone_t *dz = malloc_default_zone();
@@ -91,9 +93,11 @@

 void AllocationHook::uninstall() {
 #ifndef PLATFORM_MAC
+#if 0
        __malloc_hook = __saved_malloc_hook;
        __free_hook = __saved_free_hook;
        __realloc_hook = __saved_realloc_hook;
+#endif
 #else
        malloc_zone_t *dz = malloc_default_zone();

$

Yes it’s terrible, but I was in a rush so.. yeah.

Also I have access to a Windows 2019 Server which is Windows 10 1809 based, and it doesn’t support the import-export of filesystems. So this won’t be a clean install, I guess it’d be easier to copy files over from Windows 10, and install Ubuntu 20.22 from the store.

Good Luck!

Unicos CD-ROM’s found!

Okay, so it’s old news. But it was news to me!

So over on Modular Circuits, Andras had posted a promising ‘UNICOS Update‘ which had detailed that 2 CD-ROM’s of Unicos had surfaced on archive.org cray-cd1 & cray-cd2. Along with posting the updated source to github, so I had no choice to replicate the experiment!

First the install is INSANELY slow. It requires you to setup a Linux (or unix) machine with rsh. Surprisingly there is a rsh-server package for Ubuntu 22.04. Basically it boils down to following the instructions. Although with WSLv2 I ended up making the bridge manually with:

brctl addbr craybr
ip tuntap add mode tap tap1
ifconfig tap1 up
brctl addif craybr tap1
ifconfig craybr 172.16.0.1 netmask 255.255.255.0

It’s coded in the example configs to use tap1, but there you go. It’s a pretty straightfoward install but the decompression on the cray side takes the installation hours. As an experiment I changed the commands from rcp to remsh to gzip -dc the files locally on my PC, which had the benefit of of being much faster, and not taking up space.

I went ahead and uploaded both of my installs for anyone wanting to play OS tourist enough to check out UNICOS but not wanting to sit through the install.

The C compiler is.. ancient. and very touchy. You’ll need to add /usr/gen/bin to the path, and explicitly add the path for the linker like this:

/usr/gen/bin/cc zap.c -L/usr/gen/lib

Although the breakage is.. pretty epic. I had pretty much no luck bringing over any of my favorites. There should be a much better / modernish C compiler and Fortran compiler, although I’m not sure if it’s on these CD-ROM’s or I’m just massively ignorant of UNICOS, because I never got a chance to be anywhere near a legit supercomputer.

So yeah, pretty exciting stuff!