Sad day for people who signed onto SUN’s virtualization strategies.

From slashdot, Oracle to stop developing SUN virtualization technologies.  In a way I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner, as chasing after VMWare isn’t part of Larry’s strategy to take over the world with databases.

How long does the SPARC have left to live?

Or Solaris for that matter?

—edit seems they are going to keep VirtualBOX afterall!


Going forward, Oracle’s desktop portfolio investments will be focused on continued development and new enhancements to both Oracle Secure Global Desktop and Oracle VM VirtualBox software.

Mouse issues with VirtualBOX on OS X

So I’ve been using this old intel mac pro, to run VirtualBOX with a really weird issue.. The moue pointer just doesn’t work in the VM no matter what I’ve done.

Ok, I’ll admit that instead of running in 32bit mode on this mac, I’ve set it up to boot like a PC into the chameleon bootloader to then let me boot OS X in 64bit mode.. Which makes this a great ‘hackintosh’ as its all Apple hardware.  But to get me through the booting and whatnot I’ve been using a USB keyboard/mouse, then once booted up I’ve been using bluetooth Apple keyboard/mouse (yes my desk is a disaster).

Anyways with the USB mouse plugged in, I can only move the mouse by right dragging in the VM.  It doesn’t matter if its relative mouse pointer or not.

But as soon as I unplugged the USB mouse, it works fine… Maybe its because I have two mice??

Also you’d think Apple could have done some softload 64bit firmware for the 2006 Mac Pro 1,1 but… I guess some times you have to take matters into your own hands….

Oh and that reminds me of another tip, when installing Windows XP you’ll be expected to hit F8, which on my keyboard just pauses the currently playing song.. Instead hold down the `fn` key, then press F8.  Which makes me all the more glad I got a real apple keyboard, as finding all these special keys on a windows keyboard… involved.

Running OS/2 1.x on VirtualBOX Intel vs AMD

Well I know this is a limited topic, and my testing is anything but .. thorough.

But for some strange reason I’ve been trying to run OS/2 1.1 under VirtualBOX on Windows, and OS/2 crashes in under a minute all the freaking time.  It really is quite annoying.  Now I wonder if it is because my Windows PC has an 8 core AMD Processor?

Now when I run VirtualBOX (all the same latest version) under OS X, Intel it works fine!

OS/2 1.1 under VirtalBOX Mono EGA mode

Now what I don’t get is that under OS X with Intel Xeon CPUs I’ve been running for over an hour now, without issue!

As for settings, remember to add a floppy controller, remove the IDE CDROM, and remove the sound & networking!  I’m using 8MB of ram, but the glorious 80286 could go up to 16MB of RAM… Even though its virtual address space was 1GB!

I don’t know if anyone has any real insight into this whole AMD vs Intel thing, but from this super minimal testing it seems to me the Intel CPU is the way to go.

Also I don’t know why OS/2 decided to go with some greenscreen EGA.. It is kind of neat in a throwback kind of way, but nonetheless very odd.  I’d have preferred colour EGA but I guess you can’t win them all.

VirtualBox 4.1.12 released.


As they say it’s only a maintenence release, some of the fixes include:

  • VMM: fixed VERR_NOT_SUPPORTED and VERR_RAW_MODE_INVALID_SMP guru meditation due to an invalid reschedule to raw mode (bug #10370)
  • VMM: fixed PDMCritSectLeave guru meditation under rare circumstances with SMP guests
  • VMM: proper Math Fault handling with certain legacy guests (bug #9042)
  • NAT: fixed a socket leak under certain conditions
  • Storage: better sanity check against reading beyond end-of-file
  • Audio: fixed a crash in the NUL audio backend (bug #10374; 4.1.10 regression)
  • HGCM: fixed a crash during savestate under rare circumstances
  • VBoxSVC: several locking fixes
  • VBoxManage: return the correct error code if controlvm savestate failed (bug #10134)
  • Guest Additions: VBoxService should not crash on exit (bug #10326; 4.1.10 regression)
  • Windows Additions: set the correct time stamp when a file is closed (bug #6473)
  • Windows Additions: better help if the DirectX backups are not properly installed
  • Linux Additions: Linux 3.4-rc1 compile fixes

Hours of good fun, I’m just glad its still receiving updates.  As always you can download it here. I just wish I could upgrade Windows 2000 to XP and beyond.

Dell UNIX Lives Again!

(please note that this is a guest post from Antoni Sawicki)

Dell UNIX is so ultra rare among rare Unix species that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. I have been hunting this elusive but important piece of computer history for well over 15 years now. Fortunately thanks to Charles H. Sauer and his excellent blog post I was finally able to lay my hands on disk and tape images and the restoration process begun.

The install tape

The system can be installed from either a tape or network server (presumably NFS). Unfortunately no virtualization software can emulate a tape drive. Hopes for a network install are even slimmer since the required network support floppy disk has been lost and chances of suitable Ethernet driver working in Bochs or Qemu are equal to that of finding the lost floppy disk.

I have decided to try a hard disk image from a readily pre-installed system. The original Dell 486 workstation had a 1GB SCSI hard disk. Unfortunately neither Dell UNIX supports LBA mode nor Qemu/Bochs support the Adaptec 154x controller required by the OS.

As all normal install options have been exhausted, the only option left was to use a second hard disk image as source of cpio archive files. Booting from the two install floppies and attaching two disk images was a snap. The next step was to inject the tape “file” in to a right place on the disk, so it can be read by cpio command. A hard disk in Dell UNIX is pretty much unusable without a valid SysV partition and VTOC. Fortunately dellsetup command does it all for you. Once VTOC was put in place I’ve attached the transfer disk image as a loopback device in my host OS. In couple of iterations I was able to aim the host os dd if=file1 of=/dev/loop0 bs=512 seek=offset at the right place, which you work out using prtvtoc /dev/rdsk/1s0 command. Then cpio -ict < /dev/dsk/1s1 was able to list contents of the emulated tape… with errors…

In my infinite wisdom, for some unknown reason I’ve assumed that LBA addressing is required above 540MB. So to be on a safe side I have made the hard disk images 512 MB. What a mistake it was! I have lost several hours trying to figure out cpio header errors coming from the disk… By pure coincidence, while the tape archive was installing (with errors) I was researching for this very blog article and found that LBA starts at 504 MB… Recreating the hard disk images just few MB smaller took all tape and prior boot problems away!

Once the cpio archive was extracted I have made few final touches taken from the original tape install script. After a reboot Dell UNIX booted perfectly. You can experience this by using the firstboot image file. The final part of installation was injecting the second tape file containing System V PKG file to the transfer disk image and running pkgadd -d /dev/dsk/1s1. This is what’s included on allsoft.img.

Dell Unix at First Boot

Some final notes on running the OS:

  • To enable mouse to work:
    • Qemu just add “-chardev msmouse,id=msmouse -device isa-serial,chardev=msmouse” to the launch arguments.
    • Bochs add to the config file:
      mouse: type=serial, enabled=1 
      com1: enabled=1, mode=mouse
      then you have to kill mousemgr process and prevent from starting by deleting /etc/rc2.d/S25mse
      then edit /usr/lib/X11/Xconfig:
      disable Xqueue
      enable Microsoft Mouse
  • To enable keyboard to work correctly in VirtualBOX start with Num Lock OFF.
  • You can use qemu-img utility to convert the image to VMware vmdk to use in VirtualBox.
  • To run X window type startx

X11 and all its glory

  • To attach it to internet use SLIP as there is no working Ethernet driver.  Contrary to most UNIXen of the time, the command is not slattach, but rather slipattach.  Thankfully it does work the same way.  I have found that running Dell Unix with VirtualBOX, along with Windows NT 4.0 I was able to connect into the Dell Unix VM, and get network access.  Just set the two VM’s up for a named pipe (\\.\pipe\dellunix) and make one of them a server, and start that VM 1st.  The steps to prepare Windows NT have been outlined before.

Telnet via SLIP

Legal disclaimer: Dell UNIX is a commercial software and should not be distributed without manufacturers permission. However as the operating system has been dead for 20 years and with a long tradition from Unix Heritage Society and Bitsavers I’m publishing this in good faith under abandonware category. If Dell or any other copyright holder wishes this software removed, please let me know.

Attached are:

  • firstboot image
  • all (pkg) software installed
  • setup instructions if you wish to install from scratch.


You may also be interested in my post about a sister System V operating system – Interactive UNIX:

Update: Dell Unix now runs on 86Box with higher resolution and proper networking.

VirtualBox 4.1.10 released!

VirtualBox splash

Well what a surprise, a new version of VirtualBox this AM.  The good news is that it works with Windows 8 preview.  Even better all my machine save states work fine.  phew.

Apparently a maintenance update, but it brings apparent stability to Windows 8, and brings python support to OS X Lion…
I haven’t even looked at what to do on my G5 PowerMac….
Anyways you can download it from here.

Yet another update for Novell Netware 3.12

I managed to come across this link, which details some installation experience with Netware 3.12 on VMWare.

What is more interesting is that someone mentions that it’ll run on VirtualBOX!

So downloading their toolset and whatnot I proceed to install on VirtualBOX, and get a booting Netware 3.12 system using the ISADISK driver… I couldn’t find the IDEHAM thing but you get the idea, it actually WORKS!

Novell Netware 3.12 on VirtualBOX!

I’ve got to admit I’m really surprised!  So for the heck of it I try the same disk image on Qemu and get…


The usual panic/crash after mounting a disk volume.  Its a damned shame, but hell at least there is something out there that can run Novell Netware!!!

Upgrading through OS/2; Version 1.3

Keeping with the ping-point tradition, I’m going to upgrade IBM OS/2 1.2 to Microsoft OS/2 1.30.1, the LAN Manager 2.1 install.  At this point Microsoft basically was taking IBM OS/2 1.3 and repackaging it.  All their efforts were shifting out of OS/2 and into Windows NT.  But to support existing customers and build their enterprise market OS/2 was still very much an integral part of the strategy as Windows NT wasn’t ready by a long shot yet.

Products like Microsoft Mail & SQL Server (ported & rebranded Sybase SQL) were the companies future direction, but for now they were OS/2 applications, and they needed an update from OS/2 1.2.

And continuing on, it’s the same bland tradition.

Maybe I just have mixed feelings about the grey background thing, it just feels either military or industrial.  Then again that was what OS/2 was trying to be, industrial computing on the PC.  I suspect there was a color study done by IBM on the whole look and feel.  The schema feels like a design by committee thing.

And please, don’t format my disk!

Now this selective installer is new.  Prior to this you’d get all of OS/2 and from there you could disable or delete as you wanted… But now a selective install.  I went ahead and selected everything.  Naturally this being a ‘server’ version you may not want the MS-DOS stuff at all…

It sounds like a lot more stuff… But go through and select down the line.  It is strange that my control+c (break) on is never honored, I have to always go there and enable it.

Now we just shuffle diskettes, and let the install finish up.

And to select a printer.  I don’t know why it just doesn’t upgrade my old printer, maybe it just wants to show off all the drivers… A sharp contrast from OS/2 1.0!

So with the install done, and a quick reboot we are teleported to the OS/2 1.3 desktop.

Very cool.  And… very.. 1.2’ish.

So I thought I’d first verify my applications work.  Excel launches but Word..

Ouch.  I guess this Microsoft OS/2 doesn’t do upgrades.  Although it did preserve my groups. I’ve got to say this is kinda sad.  At least it did backup the config.sys so I could simply append the lines to the PATH & LIBPATH and get my applications running again. One can’t help but wonder if this was some passive aggressive attack on Word & Excel?

Also new in OS/2 1.3 is the ability to lock the desktop!  Good stuff to keep people out, too bad it’s just a system thing, not an account / role based thing.

The default ‘screen saver’ lockout screen is the OS/2 logo.  I’ve only seen it on the Microsoft BOX, and a few Microsoft books, but here it is.

OS/2 1.3 is said to be more stable then OS/2 1.2, and faster.  I couldn’t tell the difference, I’m sure being under emulation would be one of the reasons, the other being on a significantly faster machine.  Nobody could imagine Ghz CPUs in 1987.

I don’t have much to add to OS/2 1.3 as it really feels like OS/2 1.2.

Next up is OS/2 2.0, the first of the 32bit releases of OS/2… Operate at a higher level!

Upgrading through OS/2; Version 1.2

I couldn’t find a Microsoft OS/2 1.2 so on with IBM OS/2 1.2.  I figured it was still a joint project that IBM should upgrade a Microsoft install.

OS/2 1.2 installAnd away we go!

Into good old fashioned blue on grey. I’m not even going to bother with the dual boot thing, and anyways who cares, right, better dos then dos? right!

New in OS/2 1.2 is the HPFS filesystem.  I could go on about it’s extended attributes, long file names, speed, but I’m sure others have written far better about it then me.  Also how it didn’t have any journaling, could crash out easily, and there was no method to map longfilenames onto the 8.3 filesystem could easily leave DOS applications in the dark.

So basically we let it load and hit enter… select a keyboard and..

Again don’t let it format the disk.  I wonder how many people went ahead and formatted thinking it’d preserve anything… Oh well we’ll keep things FAT for the duration of this exercise.  Which reminds me, it’s a shame IBM/Microsoft didn’t include a tool to convert FAT to HPFS.  I guess that was another lesson learned for WindowsNT.

The install also asks if I’d like to keep my old program groups (yes!) and a mouse & serial port.  The IBM OS/2 1.2 version has no support for PS/2 mice on AT computers.  Oddly enough the PS/2 driver won’t load on VirtualBOX, so the real fix is to load the OS/2 1.3 PS/2 mouse driver on OS/2 1.2, add it to the mouse driver, and it’ll work fine.

So with the installation out of the way, let’s boot it up!

And here we are, in the OS/2 1.2 GUI.  Notice how it looks more Windows 3.0’ish which is a nice improvement.  The timestamps are from 8-31-1989.

Two BIG things that were absent in OS/2 1.1 is the inclusion of a Tutorial, “Introducing OS/2”, and the “OS/2 Command Reference”.  It’s sure nice having online help for the system commands.

The text mode editor is gone, replaced by the PM e editor.

E seems designed for you to use the mouse, not the alt/arrow keys.  But that’s how I navigate and I find it kind of forceful to alt, then letter to get a command menu. Oh well.

As you can guess by the grey backgrounds, OS/2 doesn’t do wall paper.  Not even a screen saver.  As you can see for the late 1980’s and early 1990’s OS/2 is missing out on two of the big sellers for bored office workers.  It’s an IBM inspired system, which meant GREYS and YAWNS.  But it sure can multitask, but boy is it BORING.

Oh sure there is a control panel, but it’s mostly rigged to date, time, and the incredibly convoluted process for adding a printer.  I’m just glad that my printer has been preserved to this point.

Since this is OS/2 1.2 there is some applications at this point I do have that will work.  Namely Microsoft Excel 3.0 for OS/2.  Installation is just like installing Excel 3 on Windows.  3 disks, and a reboot.

Excel 3.0 for OS/2 1.2Since there was no divorce at this point Excel runs just fine.

And PMWord 1.1 (Microsoft Word 1.1 for OS/2).  So far so good, right?

And it can shutdown!  So really what are my impressions of OS/2 so far?  It’s come a LONG way, it’s starting to feel like something workstation esque, but really it’s just so.. barren.  With the ‘standard’ version you don’t have all the accessories you did get with Windows.  I know they were largely ‘junk’ but hell even having the windows terminal with X-modem was still awesome for the time as you could actually kind of multitask. It would have been different for OS/2 but you’d never know it.  IBM & Microsoft really expected people to fall in love with the multitasking, and basically bear with the ultra minimalism of OS/2.  But Windows 3.0 changed everything.

Anyways, Onward to OS/2 1.3!

Upgrading through OS/2; Version 1.1

Continuing from the previous post, let’s get started with Microsoft OS/2 1.1

I added a 500MB hard disk to VirtualBOX, booted up an OS/2 1.1 boot diskette I had created that allows me to fdisk/format and do basic backup/restores, esp since OS/2 1.0 cannot install on a large (lol) 500MB disk.

So with the restore done, I’m booting up the Microsoft OS/2 1.1c Nokia OEM release.

Nokia OS/2 1.1c splash screenAnd..

The dates for this release is 2/20/1989.  I would have imagined that the original version of OS/2 1.1 shipped in 1988, as mentioned by the copyright. Apparently the Microsoft versions of OS/2 1.0 & 1.1 included support for the 386 method of switching from protected mode to real mode, while the IBM versions only included the 286 triple fault method.  I’d imagine the Microsoft ones would include both, but the only way to verify is to install on a 286.  Something that I simply do not have.

This style of the OS/2 installer will be with us for quite some time.  it’s not until Warp did the look and feel start to change.

It’s a little worrisome that OS/2 is always looking for a way to format your drive.  OS/2 1.1 only supports the FAT filesystem at this point, and formatting defeats the point of the upgrade.

The setup program renames my config.sys , autoexec.bat and startup.cmd files.  Obviously things are now different from OS/2 1.0

And at this point it’s just an install disk to prepare the disk, then we reboot off the hard disk to continue the install, in text mode.

We just feed some disks to the OS, then we get to select a mouse.

Thankfully the PS/2 option is in here! Very exciting stuff.

For some reason things like serial ports are optional, so after letting it load the serial driver, we are all set to go!

Ok, let’s experience some real OS/2 power!

What is cool is that my printer choice has been preserved.

And the C drive has been cleaned up… some.  Although most of this stuff is backups of my OS/2 1.0 stuff, along with some portion of the OS/2 1.0 install in os2.000 .. I just deleted all of this crap.

Now to see OS/2 1.1 in action…

OS/2 1.1 stress testSo again you are limited to 12 sessions in OS/2, along with the single DOS Box.  However notice that the windowed icons (the black ones) and the full screen are independent.  This was also another annoyance in OS/2, that you cannot switch an application from full to windowed at will, and some text mode stuff is compiled as full screen so launching it from a window will jump you fullscreen.  OS/2 also finally included a game, a breakout clone, with various neat pictures.  I like the Seattle one myself.

And a text editor! A nice one too.  Also I don’t know if it’s VirtualBOX but the UI is VERY sluggish, the worst thing you can do is open a command window and have it scroll.

But all in all, OS/2 1.1 was certainly a step in the right direction, and really what people would start to expect in an OS.  The GUI really is needed to get a feel for multitasking.  It’s a shame that ‘paging’ the real mode box out to disk and going between multiple sessions could have been done…. But I imagine they tried it, and it failed badly.  Or the paging got out of hand.. Hard to say.

As a slight detour I’ve also setup IBM OS/2 1.1 Extended Edition, which you can see my quick review here.

And for the few people who care, here is what 1.1 in Mono EGA mode looked like:

The other things that Microsoft OS/2 is really lacking is online documentation, and a way to shut down the OS from the desktop. It’s still control-alt-delete.

Onward to OS/2 1.2