BBS’ing with Windows/386 & Windows 3.0 under Qemu or how I learned to love rlfossil

A while back I had seen this fantastic site, “Hates the internet” with a great write up on setting up a BBS on Qemu.  In retrospect it did inspire me a bit later to get my BBS going with Qemu, but I chose to use OS/2 once I found out about SIO’s vmodem feature.

HTI (Hates the internet) chose this program called rlfossil, which is for MS-DOS..

RLFOSSIL is an implementation of multi-line serial port driver corresponding to the Fido/Opus/Seadog level 5 specification and a simple HAYES-compatible modem emulator. It allows applications usually worked through BBS’s to run on the Internet, or in IP-based local, and rlogin and telnet emulation using IP services numbers 513 & 23. RLFOSSIL allows combined work with other FOSSIL drivers (X00,BNU etc.).

So I thought between that, and all the Windows/386 excitement I’d try for something even more insane.  How about running a multiline BBS on Windows?

So in the same effort, I was going to use Qemu 0.14.1, with MS-DOS 4.01 (the first version I could find that came with share.exe), and Windows/386 2.11.  The installation of MS-DOS 4.01 worked fine on an 80MB disk image, thankfully it was one of the things that DOS 4 could do better then 3 is large disk images… Yes I know 3.31 could as well, but it didn’t come with share so it was out.  One strange thing after install was this message…

It is kind of forboding that DOS is warning me that because of my “large” disk I better run share.  Since I plan on having a multi node BBS all in one computer, I need to run share anyways.


The next exciting part was installing Windows/386 2.11.  The installation went pretty smooth, and with Qemu the mouse worked fine.  So far, so good.  I couldn’t use himem.sys that comes with Windows/386, nor could I use the himem.sys that comes with MS-DOS as the Windows/386 version complains that that A20 line is already active (?) and the MS-DOS one has Windows complaining that the HMA is already in use.  Sadly then my conventional memory footprint will be unsatisfactory, but I don’t see any way around it.

The next part is configuring rlfossil.  rlfossil needs a driver to talk to the network card, and you can find them on crynwr, namely the ‘other‘ packet archive, which contains NE2000 drivers.  Keeping with HTI, I’m going to use the NE2000 and configure Qemu with the PCI NE2000 driver.

Packet drivers are loaded from the command line something like this:

ne2000 0x60 11 0xc100

This loads the driver on software interrupt 0x60, and by default the PCI NE2000 is configured for IRQ 11, port 0xc100.  Qemu 1.6.0 changed the PCI NE2000 to use port 0xc000 for what it is worth..

So keeping with the HTI tradition, I’m going to put my packet driver ( and unpack the rlfossil archive in c:\packet.  The next thing to do is configure rlfossile which uses the wattcp configuration file.  Since I’m going to use the usermode NAT and a redirect, I configure my VM like this:




With that all in place now it’s time to configure the config.sys/autoexec.bat.  Some things are going to be different from a normal install because we plan to run a BBS, and multiple instances of it!

So my config.sys looks like:


And my autoexec.bat is like this:

NE2000 0x60 11 0xC100

And of course launching Qemu I do it like this:

qemu.exe -L pc-bios -m 16 -net nic,model=ne2k_pci -net user-redir tcp:23::23 -hda telegard.qcow2

This configures the VM for 16MB of ram (which would have cost a FORTUNE back then), the PCI NE2000, and it’ll redirect telnet from my host machine into the VM.

And just like HTI, I went with telegard, because it supports fossil based ports.

Well that sure was a *LOT* of work, and surprisingly testing it with a single node, actually works.  And you can bring up a few other MS-DOS prompts and it’ll work fine. But if you launch the second node…

Disaster struck.  So needless to say, while Windows/386 was pretty slick for the day it just couldn’t measure up.  So I figured for the hell of it, I’d try Windows 3.0  I mean I would have imagined that Windows 3.0 most certainly could NOT handle this kind of challenge.

So with some disks shuffled, I fired it up and..

Two node telegard under Windows 3.0

It actually worked!  So with a LOT of chaos going on I managed to get Trade Wars 2002 running, although I couldn’t figure out how to automatically figure out the node.. Hell the whole door configuration thing is.. bizarre. Synchronet really kicks ass in regards to easy of configuration.

Running TW2002, two copies

And using PIF’s to configure each node for some easy of launching, and some reduced memory, I could easily run all four nodes that rlfossil can support.

Four Nodes!

I have to admit, Windows 3.0 really is impressive considering all the UAE’s and how generally crappy we thought it was at the time.  I’m sure even emulated having a multiple Ghz cpu helps quite a bit.

460KB free!

And look at all that memory.. I guess it’s pretty impressive it even works.  Since Windows anything throttles the CPU at 100% I’m not going to put this online…. Although at the same time combined with an CPU idle program (is there a Windows 3.0 idle vxd?) it sits ok, but who wants a single user system in 2011?


Another day in the cloud.

So my BBS thing is down… hard.  After asking the provider ….

It appears that one of the air conditioning facility at the data centre has ceased operation and so servers are struggling with the heat. Emergency work is already being carried out.

Such is life in the ‘cloud’.

It’s times like this it’d be nice if doubletake were cheap enough for us low end users.

I suppose there is rsync, but that’d take a little work with Qemu, or would it?

Domain Poker

No really this isn’t some cheezy ad for ‘internet poker’.  Wait, well maybe it is.  Anyways I was on my Synchronet with a friend when we tried ‘Domain Poker’, and the version that shipped with Synchronet for DOS-OS/2 is the trial version.  And it’s old.  So while googling for an updated version I came across

Happy Y2K and beyond!
In support of the renewed interest in Synchronet BBS Software and it’s expectedtelnet capabilities some of you have been asking for registered versions of theold Domain Entertainment doors.  Instead, I’ve gone ahead and recompiled thesome of the doors (the games) so that they don’t require any registration.
Be aware that Domain Entertainment no longer makes, sells, or supports BBSdoors so use these at your own risk.  Domain Entertainment assumes no liabilityfor errors or omissions in these files or damages resulting from the use ofthem.
You may freely distribute this software so long as it is distributed in it’soriginal form with all accompanying files.

Wow that’s pretty cool!

So I’ve loaded it up on my BBS, and I’ve also updated the ‘bubble‘ BBS.

Although I don’t know poker for crap, any time I’ve won it’s with ‘neutral computers’ that don’t cheat. lol

fTelnet .. another web based telnet application

While browsing around for some hints on how to configure LORD (Legend of the Red Dragon) on Synchronet, I stumbled upon fTelnet.

The one interesting feature that fTelnet has is Ymodem-G support in the browser.  Sadly for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get it to work…

So for now if you want to try it, it’s available here on my test system…

I’ll have to detail the whole OS/2 on Qemu & Synchronet experience later.

Some updates..

I had a request for the qemu 0.90 binaries to run NeXTSTEP… I don’t own anymore so for now I’ll put them here:

Sorry for the bitrot stuff… 😐 At least I’m still here.

Also while working on Tradewars C today, I came across this great package called OpenDoors. Even better is that it’s under the LGPL. The only “downside” is that OpenDoors requires Visual C++ 6.0 or higher to build, because of the toolbar.. Also I’m not sure if going from VC 1.0 to 9.0 didn’t flake some stuff out as well… I’m not 100% sure about it, but the trading part of the game feels.. weird.

The examples are pretty straight forward, and it took a few hours on & off for me to convert the standalone tradewars into a door program. I like the feel of it so much I may try to see about converting SIMH to run with it.. Maybe even dumbfrotz.

OpenDoors trade wars
OpenDoors trade wars

Above is a picture of what the console looks like.

Synchronet / Synchterm BBS fun!


Well the last while I have ‘rediscovered’ the fun of BBS’ing. There is a resurgence of popularity of the Synchronet BBS software. The cool thing about it is the ease to setup the QWK messages (it just uses ftp!) and within 30 minutes of downloading and installing I had myself a node VERT’s quicknet!

You too can download your very own BBS software here.

There is even a GREAT terminal emulator suitably named Syncterm that completes the experence. It supports rsh, telnet, ssh, x/y/z modem and cool ANSI graphics!

Another exciting aspect of the whole thing is that you can easily link up USENET servers with this BBS software… And of course it provides some involved web server wirtten in javascript.
The source to the whole thing is GPL’d so there is some hope that this will allow BBS’s to continue out there for some time.
Oh yeah and I did get a VPS so I do plan on hosting some of the old files from .. In ther interim though you can connect to the ‘underground’ BBS @ … You could telnet in with any old telnet client, but I’d suggest Syncterm!
Update that address has long since passed it is now …!