Have you ever used the NNTP service that comes with NT 4.0?

and higher?  It was part of the Option Pack, and later incorporated into the OS starting with Windows 2000.

I’ve always seen people mistakenly install it, but I don’t think anyone ever really used it, as it cannot feed from other servers, and is really all around inept.  Then I stumbled onto this post, from 1998, which mentions that you can feed NT’s NNTP with a 3rd party program, and then he gives a simple example written in perl.

Now the program hinges on the NEWNEWS command.  Although I’m sure with a little perl knowhow it could work with the normal user list commands, as it would then need a database of what messages it has already transferred.  I was interested in taking a peek of MS NNTP in action, so I installed a copy of NT 4.0 in Qemu, redirected port 119 (which needs elevated privileges).  The next thing you need is a news server.  Once upon a time netnews was a feature of your ISP, and they would keep local news servers to reduce network loads.  But times have changed, and now Netflix and it’s cache boxes are the bandwidth kings, as people want to turn the internet into VOD.  But whatever.  Finding a news service requires some googling around, and the one I found that is the best deal (free), text groups only (yay!), and it’s online stores go back at least four years is Eternal September. Another contender is Aioe, which doesn’t require a user id.  Since I’m going with eternal september, I had to create a userid, get the password in the mail, and then I was able to do a group listing.

I made a small change to this section of the perl program:

#Open connection to Master and slave
$nntp = Net::NNTP->new($NNTPMASTER, Debug => $opt_debug ? 1 : 0) or die “no connection: $!”;
$nntps = Net::NNTP->new($NNTPSLAVE, Debug => $opt_debug ? 1 : 0) or die “no connection: $!”;

#$nntp->authinfo($usr,$pw) or die “Could not authenticate $usr”;

This lets me know if there was an error connecting to the servers, and of course inserting in the username/password.  Since we don’t have the newnews command at hand (I don’t see how to pay for it either..) I just did a simple one line change to grab a whole group.  Obviously you wouldn’t set this up on cron.

#Uncomment line 2 for an initial feed… after this, run as an “At” job every 24 hrs.
#$new = $nntp->newnews(time – 86400, lc $group);
#$new = $nntp->newnews(time – 31536000, lc $group); #initial feed – 1 YEAR
$new = $nntp->listgroup($group);
if(ref($new) && scalar(@$new))

But if my perl-fu was stronger I’d whip it up, but I suspect it wouldn’t be too hard to have the script maintain what is the last message it’s posted to NT.

Next create the groups on the NT side, and we are ready to run.  I foolishly tried a massive (well it seemed big) group comp.os.linux.advocacy, and after some 10,000 posts I just aborted it, and set the script to manually updates groups of my choice.  I remembered an ancient article about writing socket software on Windows, and the small group alt.fan.surak, which I figured would make a better test.  There is only one article and it’s spam, but what can you expect..



Even better, it worked!

The next step was to run perl directly from NT.  And to make this difficult, not only do I need an obsolete version of perl, but I need one with the optional network modules, specifically Net::NNTP.  This took a bit longer to find, but thankfully Jeffery Baker kept his build around!

There really wasn’t an install program, but rather adding the perl.exe into the path.  And it works, too!

Perl feeding MS NNTP

Perl feeding MS NNTP

So there we go, after all these years, 100’s of option pack installs later, and I’ve finally used it.

Fun with Windows Timeout command…

(this is a guest post by Tenox)

I’m pretty good at finding bugs in Windows and I get a new one every couple of weeks or so. Today I found out this unbelievable gem:

So there is this (cmd.exe) command called timeout. It works roughly similar to sleep(1) under Unix. It is supposed to stop execution of a batch script for a given period of time. Example:

In reality just wishful thinking, because apparently this is not always the case. Sometimes it does and sometimes… it doesn’t.

Wait… what?

Sounds unbelievable but it appears the timeout command uses Real Time Clock for it’s sleep function. If you change the clock while timeout is running…

t2LOL 🙂

I found this because my batch scripts were stuck for rather long time when a machine would have time changed by NTP. If the change was negative the timeout command would wait x thousand seconds. When the change was positive the integer rolled and timeout stopped immediately causing avalanche of problems.

So beware to timeout eating your batch scripts…

IDLEHLT16 for OS/2 1.x

Tobias let me know that he’s released his IDLEHLT16 driver for these early OS/2 versions.  If anyone has run them in an emulator, you’ll know they’ll easily soak up 100% of the CPU they are given.  This process will call the HLT opcode found in later (well compared to the 80286!) processors allowing them to ‘sleep’.



Needless to say, for fans of the beleaguered 16-bit OS, this is a great thing to have!

If anyone wants to know why there isn’t one for OS/2 2.0 and above, it doesn’t need one, it can sleep fine on it’s own.


While trying to see if STAC ever went into the disk compression busness again, I ran across this interesting bit of software, DMSDOS, which is a kernel module for versions 2.0.36 and 2.2.3 of the Linux kernel support read/write access to STACKER version 3 and 4 containers.  It also support’s MS-DOS’s drive space, and doublespace!

The latest version dmsdos- even runs on modern x86_64 and i386 boxes!  Although in library mode.

# ./mcdmsdos list /tmp/STACVOL.000
mcdmsdos version 0.2.0 (for libdmsdos 0.9.x and newer)
libdmsdos: DMSDOS library version 0.9.2pl3-pre2(alpha test) compiled Jun 12 2014 17:14:06 with options: read-write, doublespace/drivespace(<3), drivespace 3, stacker 3, stacker 4
libdmsdos: mounting CVF on device 0x3 read-write…
libdmsdos: CVF end padding 1 sectors.
libdmsdos: CVF is in stacker 4 format.
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 10396254 Dec 16 1993 13:35 doom.wad
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 68923 Dec 15 1993 01:01 setup.exe
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 20850 Dec 15 1993 01:01 readme.exe
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 627155 Dec 16 1993 13:53 u1_94.exe
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 579187 Dec 16 1993 13:47 doom.exe
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 439 Dec 15 1993 01:01 file_id.diz
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 190 Dec 15 1993 01:01 use1_95.bat
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 218 Dec 15 1993 01:01 use1_94.bat
-rwxr-xr-x 1 0 0 7527 Dec 15 1993 01:01 license.doc

How cool?

Even better it can extract files from the stacker volume!

# ./mcdmsdos copyout /tmp/STACVOL.000 /doom.wad doom.wad
mcdmsdos version 0.2.0 (for libdmsdos 0.9.x and newer)
libdmsdos: DMSDOS library version 0.9.2pl3-pre2(alpha test) compiled Jun 12 2014 17:14:06 with options: read-write, doublespace/drivespace(<3), drivespace 3, stacker 3, stacker 4
libdmsdos: mounting CVF on device 0x3 read-write…
libdmsdos: CVF end padding 1 sectors.
libdmsdos: CVF is in stacker 4 format.
# md5sum doom.wad 981b03e6d1dc033301aa3095acc437ce doom.wad

And if you google ‘981b03e6d1dc033301aa3095acc437ce’ you’ll know it’s the registered DOOM version 1.1 data file!

The author tired to get it to work with Microsoft Visual C, and it does not.  It also doesn’t work with MinGW or Cygwin, and the reason is once more again the way GCC handles it’s structures on Linux vs Windows.  Sadly there is no silverbullet fix for this, the structures oddly enough are too small on Windows, and too big for what they should be on Linux.

But at any rate, I though it was cool.  For anyone interested all versions that I’ve found I put online on my cvs server, unix.superglobalmegacorp.com.

Shoebill ported to Windows!



Good news, as mentioned here, the Shoebill emulator was recently given some much needed SDL love, and ported to Linux.

Well that’s great and all, but the vast majority of people who run anything these days do it with Windows.  So I decided to try to get it to compile with MinGW to see how far I could get.

And the short version is that I got it working!

The long version is that in the first pass there is some SIGUSR2 stuff that is undefined.  And for a good reason, since it won’t work.  So I just commented them out.  The next minor problem was the lack of bzero.  Honestly I don’t know why bzero is missing from MinGW, but who knows why.

Shoebill also processes some internal macros with a perl script that for some reason was dropping in binary values into the source, making GCC mad.  I just commented out a line that was adding in more comments into the header.  This let me compile with a simple pass.

There was some issues reading the ROM file, since the 68000 is a BIG ENDIAN processor, and the 8086 is LITTLE ENDIAN, Shoebill makes extensive use of hotns and hotnl, ntohl, and ntohll.  These can be found in the winsock library, and even better they dont need any winsock initialization, they work right away.  I just have to make sure I include winsock2.h, and link against the winsock library.

However when trying to boot, the checksum was 0x00000000, not the expected value!   Luckily there was an assert to catch that and crash.  This led me to notice that in Linux files are opened in binary mode by default, while on Windows, they are opened in ASCII mode.  A quick change of all the fopen calls, and I was reading the ROM, but now crashing on the disk.

As it turns out newer versions of GCC go all crazy when it comes to structs, and try to automatically align to boundaries for quick access.  Which sound nice, until you try to read in some binary data, and expect things to be in certain locations and find out that your structure is larger than expected, and data is read in the wrong place.

The solution is to force the compiler to leave it alone with

__attribute__ ((__packed__))

HOWEVER as luck would have it, Microsoft apparently packs structures a different way, and you have to either make a macro to do a bunch of work to force it to make the structure 1:1 of what you expect, or use the CFLAG option of


And now MinGW’s GCC will build something along the lines of what it’d build on Linux.

Putting it all together, I amazingly got this!

Shoebill on Windows

Shoebill on Windows

Phew!  So for those interested, here is the source code drop(Use the updated one here!), and here is the binary.

If you ever wanted to see the “OS X” of the 1980’s, now is your chance!

Announcing HECnetNT!

HECnetNT in action!

HECnetNT in action!

So I have my little project working well enough to let it out into the world.  I call it HECnetNT, and it’s available out on sourceforge.

It’s a port of  Johnny Billquist‘s bridge program to Windows.  This isn’t a MinGW or Cygwin build, but rather, a native build, compiled in Visual Studio 2003.  I’ve been able to run this build on NT 4.0, 2000 and Windows 7.

I also made some additions to the bridge program, by allowing it to bridge IPX/SPX Ethernet_II frames, so you can now build legacy networks that let you logon to NetWare servers, or even play those old IPX/SPX games.

Back when I first got DOOM v1.1 working on IPX/SPX I noticed that it sent an incredible amount of packets that were mostly empty.  To work around this, I incorporated LZSS to compress data between HECnetNT bridges.  Even better, I don’t see any significant CPU utilization, even with DOOM blasting packets like crazy!

The best part is that you can mix compressed & uncompressed bridges.  So you can have an uncompressed connection to one host, and a compressed connection to another.

I’ve been able to bridge CTERM with SIMH to hosts using compressed, and uncompressed links, and this also includes a LINUX box with the original bridge software!

To take it one more step, I also setup a Windows NT box with an ethernet adapter, and the MS LOOPBack adapter, setup TCP/IP on both interfaces (a dummy address on the loopback is enough, but there needs to be something there), and then installed DEC Pathworks 7, on NT, bound it to the loopback adapter, ran the HECnetNT software, and I’ve been able to connect my NT instance.  Logically I could go one more step, and install PPTP support, so I the NT server could then use PPTP to VPN to a HECnet bridge, and then join it.

So the larger question is, the DECnet enthusiasts have their hecnet, is anyone interested in making a Novell like equivalent?  With older Linux that supports IPX/SPX or even NT we could even do routers, and build a large-ish sized network.

Setting up DECNet on VMS 4.7

Years ago, I was given an image of VMS 4.7.  I only tested it for idle capabilities, and that is as far as I got with it.  I never used it for anything else.

But today I needed to verify my Win32 Hecnet project works, so I needed to generate some legit DECNet traffic.  Luckily I still have the VMS image, and in the prevailing years I managed to get a copy of PathWorks for Windows NT (And one for MS-DOS as well!).

So googling around, I found blinkenbone who mentions the command needed to setup some DECNet love.  Now the one thing that is strange about DECNet is that the MAC address needs to be changed to the DECNet area & node id.  Thankfully there is an online calculator, powerdog.  Since I’m just testing, I’ll put my VAX in area 1, node 1, that means the VAX MAC needs to be set to:


So in SIMH, I just use the line:

set xq mac=AA-00-04-00-01-04

Cool.  Now I use ansicon, in the hopes it’ll make the console better, and fire up VMS.

VMS 4.7 booted

VMS 4.7 booted

And then login as system/manager

Now I can setup decnet very simply like this:

Username: SYSTEM
Welcome to VAX/VMS version V4.7
Last interactive login on Saturday, 20-SEP-2008 17:32
$ @sys$manager:netconfig

DECnet-VAX network configuration procedure

This procedure will help you define the parameters needed to get DECnet
running on this machine. You will be shown the changes before they are
executed, in case you wish to perform them manually.

What do you want your DECnet node name to be? : rabbit
What do you want your DECnet address to be? : 1.1
Do you want to operate as a router? [NO (nonrouting)]:
Do you want a default DECnet account? [YES]:

Here are the commands necessary to setup your system.

$ RUN SYS$SYSTEM:NCP ! Remove existing entry, if any
/UIC=[376,376] /ACCOUNT=DECNET –
Press RETURN to continue


Do you want to go ahead and do it? [YES]:
%UAF-I-ADDMSG, user record successfully added
%UAF-I-RDBADDMSGU, identifier DECNET value: [000376,000376] added to RIGHTSLIST.
%UAF-I-DONEMSG, system authorization file modified
%UAF-I-RDBDONEMSG, rights database modified
%NCP-I-NMLRSP, listener response – Success
Logging sink type = monitor
%NML-I-RECADDED, Database entry added

The changes have been made.

If you have not already installed the DECnet-VAX license, then do so now.

After the license has been installed, you should invoke the procedure
SYS$MANAGER:STARTNET.COM to startup DECnet-VAX with these changes.

(If the license is already installed) Do you want DECnet started? [YES]:
%%%%%%%%%%% OPCOM 28-OCT-1987 15:42:37.64 %%%%%%%%%%%
Message from user DECNET
DECnet starting

%RUN-S-PROC_ID, identification of created process is 00000109
%RUN-S-PROC_ID, identification of created process is 0000010B
%%%%%%%%%%% OPCOM 28-OCT-1987 15:42:42.67 %%%%%%%%%%%
Message from user DECNET
DECnet event 4.10, circuit up
From node 1.1 (RABBIT), 28-OCT-1987 15:42:37.69
Circuit QNA-0

It basically set itself up.

And on the Windows NT side, I simply set itself up as node 2 in area 1.

Windows NT + Pathworks

Windows NT + Pathworks

And now I can use CTERM to connect to the VAX.



Nice!.  And it even works through my port of HECNet.

On reboots you have to manually start the network.  I don’t have EDT, or I don’t know where to find it (remember the gold key? ugh).

Manually starting the network

Manually starting the network

But it’s a simple command:


And you are good to go!

Likewise shutting down is accomplished with this:


And that’s about all I know about VMS.  But it’s good to see that configuring this was pain free!