I don’t know why I was so dumb as a kid, but I remember thumbing through various magazines, and always seeing this ad:
And isn’t that sounding great? Lex, Yacc, UUCP, and UNIX functionality on a AT compatible machine for $99! And then you see reviews like this one from PC Mag:
Now even if you want to you can’t wind the clock back to the late 1970s, but Unix lovers can do the next best thing-pick up a copy of Mark William’s Coherent for $99.95.
Included in this time capsule are all of the utilities that you would have received in an AT&T Unix, Version 7, distribution circa 1978. The package includes a protected-mode multi-user multitasking operating system. over 150 utility programs, a C compiler, an assembler, software development tools, text formatting tools, system management tools, telecommunications utilities, and complete documentation in a very hefty, 1,000-page, perfect bound book. Most of the Unix classics-grep, ed, sed, awk, lex, sh, emacs-are there as well. The only favorites that are missing are vi (which is a text editor) and Dave Korn’s new shell.
Whether Coherent’s views on the Unix system match your own is a matter of taste. In the halcyon late 1970s, the Unix system was a relatively simple affair-lean and clean, and understandable to mere mortals. Since then, in an effort to make Unix the universal solution, countless features and versions have been grafted onto it by innumerable programmers, managers, committees, and boards of directors.
The result stands in stark contrast to the stated goals of Unix’s inventors. Coherent remains true to Unix’s roots and eschews local area networking, graphical user interfaces, menus, mice, and many of the other amenities that present-day DOS users and Unix users have come to expect of modem software.
Coherent’s installation is painless, but only after the agony of freeing up a 7MB or larger partition on an ordinary MFM or RLL disk, on a classic AT architecture machine. Since they are products of the modem era, ESDI and SCSI disks, as well as IBM’s Micro Channel architecture are not supported. Graphic display adapters are tolerated (used in text mode); mice are not supported. Coherent worked flawlessly, though, on my geriatric AT clone.
Coherent has a dual boot facility, so that you can choose to boot either DOS or Coherent during your startup procedures, but unfortunately you can’t run
DOS software from within the Coherent environment.
Mark Williams’president Robert Schwartz explained that the intended audience for Coherent are people who want to learn about or try the Unix system, without the hefty price tag and steep learning curve of the latest Unix versions. Part of Coherent’s advantage in both simplicity and price stems from its origins as a privately developed “clone” product-therefore no AT&T requirements need be met and no per-copy royalty is paid to AT&T. This gives Mark Williams the freedom to set prices as well as compatibility targets.
But learning Unix from Coherent would be a bumpy road. You could certainly master traditional system administration, learn the utilities. And experiment with Unix software development. But you couldn’t learn about networking or the increasingly important X Windows system. Nor could you realistically use Coherent to automate a small business.
Schwartz promises that future versions of Coherent will support 32-bit operation on the 386, and will likely support tighter integration with DOS, some form of window manager. And local area networking. When that occurs, Coherent will be much more like modem Unix systems and, like modem Unix systems, it will have strayed far from its roots.
List Price: Coherent Version 3.0, $99.95.
Requires: A free 7MB or larger hard disk partition, 640K RAM, highly disk drive, MFM or RLL controller.
And then it seemed to my teenage eyes something pretty underwhelming. So I dove into OS/2, and ignored the idea of having a UNIX like system. I was still happy to finally move onto a 16-bit machine, and the thought of running stuff from the 1970’s wasn’t that appealing. Such missed opportunities. But in the last few years, Coherent has been placed under a 3-clause BSD license.
Over at unix4fun, they did unearth some version 3.0 disks! And yes, it’ll install on PCem/86Box using a 286/386/486 machine. One issue I had was I first tried to install onto a massive 40Mb disk, and it never would reboot after the install correctly. However it works great with a 32Mb or smaller disk. As you can see from Kaare’s review it’ll fit into 7MB of disk space! At least having to either re-partition or worry about dual booting is a thing of the past. The disk images are 5.25 disk images, so re-configure your VM appropriately.
As the advertisement says, the installation is a mere four diskettes! And yes, it really does have a C compiler. You will need a serial number for Coherent 3.0, which took a while to find, but Peter had one, and has been poking me for the last week+ to finally write this up. Oh the number is 130500000. 305/Miami connection? Unlikely, but who knows. Don’t forget to download the hefty manual, Coherent_Revision_8_1992, which is for a later version, but still suitable.
And yes, it feels just like Unix v7. The kernel is tiny, 77kb! It’s really cool for 16-bit era stuff, and really interesting to knock around. I know there is a few more people out there that want fun things for their 286, and Coherent will certainly scratch that itch.
Additionally on the site are the 3.1 and 3.2 updates to give you thinks like Elvis so it doesn’t feel anywhere near as primitive. Installing updates and 3rd party packages is covered on page 736 of the manual, or in short you need to know the magical ‘disk set name’ for everything you want to install. I suppose back then it had stuff like this printed on them.
While a ‘dump’ of the source code has been out there, I haven’t really gone through it, so I thought now would be as good as any to take a look at the kernel. The layout is very similar to v6, so I based this on the file ‘sys1.c’ which appears quite a few times in the trees. Using a MD5 checksum against the files there appears to be no less than 17 duplicated tress or 7 unique kernels, spread over three years.
Phew! Naturally the tree structure drifted, but I went ahead and just did a blind import into my CVS server to take a look. And there really does appear in the 1991 versions to be the remnants of either 2.3.37, 3.2.1. It’s hard to say.
I just saw this over at 8-bit guy, and thought this was pretty cool. It’s an YM3812 / OPL2 of AdLib fame, on a parallel port.
Naturally the parallel port sits at a different IO port then where the Adlib would normally sit. There is 2 strategies around this, the first is a 386 based driver that can intercept calls to the Adlib port, and redirect them to the parallel port, giving you audio. However that apparently conflicts with protected mode software, and will require you to patch games to output to the parallel port instead.
So yes, this means you can boot MS-DOS with a USB stick on a modern machine, and get Adlib sound! Or bring music to older machines either lacking an ISA bus, or being unable to source a working 8bit ISA card.
I know it’s about as interesting as watching security footage, but I was testing if I could actually ‘broadcast’ an application. In this case, SimCity for Windows 3.0 on Citrix 2.0 in PCem. I’ll have to mess with Virtual Audio Cables, to rig something to get audio working.
Ugh so I was forced to setup something with JDBC. It’s been like forever since I have messed with Java in forever. So I thought I’d try something simple first. I found this very simple program to query against the NorthWind database from here.
// Import the SQL Server JDBC Driver classes
public static void main(String args)
// Load the SQLServerDriver class, build the
// connection string, and get a connection
String connectionUrl = "jdbc:sqlserver://ServerName;" +
Connection con = DriverManager.getConnection(connectionUrl);
// Create and execute an SQL statement that returns some data.
String SQL = "SELECT CustomerID, ContactName FROM Customers";
Statement stmt = con.createStatement();
ResultSet rs = stmt.executeQuery(SQL);
// Iterate through the data in the result set and display it.
System.out.println(rs.getString(1) + " " + rs.getString(2));
As you can see it’s pretty simple. The server I’m using is on the default instance so I don’t need the instance name. So first thing off, compile the program, and run it, right?
# ./javac sql.java
# ./java Example
Well that’s great. No doubt we actually need a driver from Microsoft, which surprisingly wasn’t too hard to find. I’m sure the link will drift over the years, but right now here is the Microsoft JDBC Driver 6.2 for SQL Server. From what I remember you would just use the jar flag, and be on your way.
# ./java -jar mssql-jdbc-6.2.2.jre8.jar Example
no main manifest attribute, in mssql-jdbc-6.2.2.jre8.jar
Great. What’s this crap?
Well it turns out that you now need a Manifest.txt file. Oh and the best part is that it needs a blank line at the end of the file. So much time spent trying to figure that one out.
Ok, now to make my life easier I’m just going to throw this thing into a jar.
jar -cfm Example.jar Manifest.txt Example.class mssql-jdbc-6.2.2.jre8.jar
and now we get to the real fun, trying to get it to run. My main testing SQL server is an ancient SQL Server 7.0 SP4 which I really need to just finally get around to upgrading. While it’s served it’s time as a good base test instance, time has finally come to that point where nothing is going to talk to it anymore. But while I was crazy enough to try to talk to it I got this fun error:
WARNING: ConnectionID:1 Prelogin error: host ServerName port 1433 Unexpected end of prelogin response after 0 bytes read
I guess the hint is the Prelogin, as it’s failing the higher security checks for the authentication. So I quickly installed a 2003 server along with SQL Server 2005. And oddly enough it was lacking the Northwind database, but I did find this great site, northwinddatabase.codeplex.com with a handy SQL script to generate the database.
Update the java file to point to the new server, and …
# ./java -jar Example.jar
ALFKI Maria Anders
ANATR Ana Trujillo
ANTON Antonio Moreno
AROUT Thomas Hardy
WILMK Matti Karttunen
WOLZA Zbyszek Piestrzeniewicz
One nice thing is that now you can boot off the CD-ROM. And you can boot Solaris 2.6 directly into single user mode to format and label the disk. It’s very convenient. All you need here is
And from there you can either kick off the disk partitioning, or the installer will boot up.
And now to the graphical welcome screen!
And then off to the ‘graphical’ installer. Yes, it’s not that graphical at all. Like before, it’s important that you don’t let it reboot on completion, you have to make changes to the system so it’ll boot up correctly, and make changes to the network config. At least in graphical mode vi works.
It is absolutely critical that you make this change or the disk will not boot at all.
# cat >> system
And you will want a default route…
# cat > defaultrouter
Then in the file /etc/nsswitch.conf change the following:
hosts: files dns
Then to ‘fix’ up your /etc/resolv.conf
# cat > resolv.conf
And then I like to add the following hosts to speed up telnet…
And then hit Control+D and it’ll reboot back to the PROM. Now all you have to type in the PROM monitor is:
And in a minute you’ll be at the login screen.
I went ahead with CDE, and over on archive.org the old SimCity for UNIX versions are over there. One nice thing about being able to use CD-ROM’s is that Qemu can finally auto-mount the disk images. It’s great.
There is no license for SimCity, and after 5 minutes the city goes into a ‘meltdown’ mode. It’s a shame that back in the day the upstart x86 Linux was largely ignored by the UNIX market. But Qemu has come quite a bit where you can run some of this proprietary VAR software.
So this last 24 hours has been chaotic. I’d had this word press installation for a number of years, going back to the 2 week Blogspot outage a long time ago. But things change and I’ve found dealing with systemd and it’s bizarre need to hide and obscure things, along with it’s worthless logging a losing fight. So over Thanksgiving I saw this “web reseller” package that has 250gb space and 1TB of network for $15 a year. And being a reseller means I can add additional domains and whatnot for free.
As you may have seen rss was broken the menu bars stopped working and all kinds of other smaller issues. I figured it was as good time as any to do a fresh install of word press and only copy the article, comments and user tables.
In the middle of this, the superglobalmegacorp redirection broke as it’s no longer a combined site. And then disaster struck when I tried to move the install to PHP 7.1, getting away from 5.6 as I was constantly running out of memory.
Something happened on the hosting side and their server lost all configs for virtuallyfun. I’d opened a ticket, and after 4 hours of nothing I moved the site back to the old machine, but I got interrupted with life and it was all messed up. As soon as I got up, the issue has been resolved and we are back.
For me, this site feels substantiality faster than the older one. The old server literally costs me $25 a month. But it’s old and tired. I have a sales call out on a new data center in Tai Po, Hong Kong so I may be moving all my USA hosting here. Which would be nice for me, at least the server will literally be down the street.
Oh well you know the internet, things move.
I’ve been debating about doing a SQL dump and purging the user table, and placing a copy of this blog on archive.org .. I know at the same time people will load it up and place shitty ads all over it.. but at the same time I’d like to keep a better copy of my insane ramblings. I see some people already tried, but their backup strategy is clearly automated and all they did was capture a single article.
As always, keep backups!
For those with legacy systems, currently the HTTP site works.
Naturally for older systems the SSL support is still SHA-1 centered, and the entire SSL infrastructure is quickly moving to SHA-2. Plenty of the site’s resources will be linked as https, and that’s pretty much the way it is.
I’ve tried to get some devs to write a simplified front end to the wordpress database to at least make things visible to legacy systems, but for some reason people just run away at the prospect. Personally I’d love to have one in classical ASP so I can host it on Windows NT Server 4.0 … But I haven’t had any takers.
For my own benefit here is what I amputated to get rss working.