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Ask Slashdot: Is It Feasible To Revive an Old Linux PC Setup?

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the when-real-hackers-used-fvwm dept.

Hardware 176

Qbertino (265505) writes I've been rummaging around on old backups and cleaning out my stuff and have once again run into my expert-like paranoid backups and keepsakes from back in the days (2001). I've got, among other things, a full set of Debian 3 CDs, an original StarOffice 6.0 CD including a huge manual in mint condition, Corel Draw 9 for Linux, the original box & CDs — yes it ran on a custom wine setup, but it ran well, I did professional design and print work with it.

I've got more of other stuff lying around, including the manuals to run it. Loki Softs Tribes 2, Kohan, Rune, and the original Unreal Tournament for Linux have me itching too. :-)

I was wondering if it would be possible to do an old 2001ish setup of a Linux workstation on some modern super cheap, super small PC (Raspberry Pi? Mini USB PC?), install all the stuff and give it a spin. What problems should I expect? VESA and Soundblaster drivers I'd expect to work, but what's with the IDE HDD drivers? How well does vintage Linux software from 2003 play with todays cheap system-on-board MicroPCs? What's with the USB stuff? Wouldn't the install expect the IO devices hooked on legacy ports? Have you tried running 10-15 year old Linux setups on devices like these and what are your experiences? What do you recommend?

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try it in a VM? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326391)

If it's just to dink around with the old software, why not try it in VMWare or VirtualBox? It would probably be less of a hassle to get to where you want to be with the setup.

Re:try it in a VM? (2)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 7 months ago | (#47326547)

If it's just to dink around with the old software, why not try it in VMWare or VirtualBox?

Not a bad idea, especially considering that the old PC setup would take only minimal resources on a modern VM.

OTOH, if you want the whole old-school experience, why not just trot down to the local Thrift Shop and snap up an ancient box for like $20 or so, and maybe spend $10 more for an old tube monitor, keyboard, and suchlike? At those prices, you could buy a second one for spare parts.

Re:try it in a VM? (4, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 7 months ago | (#47326897)

I have a machine of a similar vintage running an age-old copy of RHEL. I keep it, but the chances of me firing it up are slim to none, because I can fire up VMWare Workstation with an older OS release. Plus, even if the hardware is rock stable, it uses more energy than a modern computer and OS. Running a VM from a SATA SSD consumes a lot less power than an older 3.5" IDE HDD which might have at most 128 or so gigs.

It is fun to fire up old hardware, but other than having the right stuff to play a game (DOSBox is good, but some older MS-DOS games won't work correctly unless they are on bare metal, and don't sound "right" unless they are played on an antediluvian FM-synthesis sound card), there isn't much of a point to it.

I recommend (4, Informative)

infernalC (51228) | about 7 months ago | (#47326411)


Re:I recommend (2)

kbrannen (581293) | about 7 months ago | (#47326729)

VMplayer would work too

Re:I recommend (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 7 months ago | (#47326745)

Seriously - This.

It will take you far less effort to configure a PC emulator to look like stereotypical 15YO hardware, than it will to actually put together that hardware.

About five years ago I had a similar personal project, to find a way to replay some of the great DOS games I had lying around, most on floppies nearing the edge of unreadability. After screwing around with various compatibility modes in Windows and even going so far as to set up a multiboot system with real live DOS installed, I ended up just putting together half a dozen Bochs images running DOS under emulation with slightly different memory management configs (remember the bad old days of extended vs expanded memory and segmented vs flat and real vs protected vs unreal (flat real)?). Once I set up one image, I cloned it and reconfigured it to the rest in under an hour, then just had to remember which games needed which styles of memory management.

We tend to forget how much old hardware sucked. If I never have to manually hunt for an available base address, IRQ, and DMA channel again, I will consider myself blessed.

Re:I recommend (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326791)

You clearly do not remember how to use batch files.

You have wasted probably 50 megs of space with what a couple of 5k autoexec.bat's and config.sys's files could have occupied.


Re:I recommend (1)

pla (258480) | about 7 months ago | (#47327027)

You have wasted probably 50 megs of space with what a couple of 5k autoexec.bat's and config.sys's files could have occupied.

I didn't want to recreate all the "joy" of rebooting six times to figure out which configuration would best run game-X, I just wanted one-click playability.

And I actually wasted more like 10GB, since I gave each instance its own 2GB partition image. ;)

Re:I recommend (2)

rujasu (3450319) | about 7 months ago | (#47326801)

Bochs? Surprised you didn't just use DOSBox.

Re:I recommend (1)

pla (258480) | about 7 months ago | (#47327249)

Bochs? Surprised you didn't just use DOSBox.

I did end up resorting to DOSBox for a few games that used seriously funky video modes, but for the most part, I prefer Bochs as more flexible overall. For one thing, I had a few Win95 games in the mix, and at the time getting that to work on Bochs took no effort at all, while getting it to run under DosBox took an act of god, and I hope you liked 640x480x16 color.

That said, I realize DosBox has gotten a lot better since then... But, so has Bochs, so, I honestly don't know which one I would pick trying it again today. But since TFA specifically asked about Linux, that would tend to make Bochs the likely better choice.

Re:I recommend (5, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 months ago | (#47327331)

I've gotten Debian 2.2 to run reasonably well in VMware Player. Network and SCSI worked pretty well, don't think the sound did due to a missing driver, and I had to do some work to make X use the VESA framebuffer:

0) In lilo.conf, add "vga=791" (or another value) to the kernel invocation. May have had to compile a kernel with fbdev first.
1) install the xserver-fbdev package
2) copy /usr/share/doc/xserver-fbdev/examples/XF86Config.fbdev to /etc/X11/XF86Config.
3) edit XF86Config to reflect the color depth chosen in the vga= stanza in lilo.conf; with vga=791 it's 16 bits.
4) Same file, edit mouse information to reflect what VMware provides (device is /dev/gpmdata (I have gpm installed, otherwise probably /dev/psaux) and protocol is Microsoft).
5) Edit /etc/X11/Xserver and replace first line with the path to the FBDev X server, e.g. "/usr/bin/X11/XF86_FBDev".

Now you should have a functioning X desktop, assuming you installed the packages. It won't be fast, since it's just the VESA framebuffer, but it's probably the best you can get with VMware and the ancient XFree86 stack in Debian 2.2.

Note that the VMware guest utilities will /not/ work.

Misguided (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326413)

There was no ARM support in 2001. Hell there was no 64 bit support for x86 in 2001. No SATA support. No PCIe support.

Best bet, load a distro *that works* then try to run your game.

The only way your old disks will work is if you're using hardware they supported, meaning hardware that is 13 years old (or can emulated hardware that old).

Re:Misguided (1)

armanox (826486) | about 7 months ago | (#47326511)

If the games used SVGA lib, he's out of luck on a modern Linux setup. That broke with the introduction of KMS to my understanding.

Re:Misguided (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#47326559)

plenty of virtual machine tech can emulate old video, old hard drives, etc.

Re:Misguided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326687)

svgalib is not about old hardware. Its about old software, meaning OP can't use an ARM box to run his old games. OP will have to use old hardware, or modern x86 hardware and customize it to use a PCI graphics card and IDE HDD. He will not be able to emulate an x86 with the correct specs using an ARM processor.

Re:Misguided (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326693)

Yeah but the license does not allow it though.

Re:Misguided (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 7 months ago | (#47327241)

That's when SDL was developed. More than likely, any of the interesting games used that.

Re:Misguided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326803)

Debian had an ARM installer in 2000.

Re:Misguided (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 7 months ago | (#47326905)

Not to mention a RPi would already be considered an old, slow machine even by 2001 standards.

Re:Misguided (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#47327171)

That's a very good point, the P3's of the day did more work per clock and were up at 700mhz by then

Re:Misguided (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 7 months ago | (#47327661)

By 2001, Athlons were running in the 1GHz+ range, and P4s were out up to 2GHz. The RPi is closer in performance to a low end Pentium II.

Re:Misguided (1)

link-error (143838) | about 7 months ago | (#47327691)


Re:Misguided (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#47327187)

Unless the SATA drive is accessed in IDE emulation mode device.
PCIe can be accessed just like PCI.

Use a VM. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326415)

super small PC (Raspberry Pi? Mini USB PC?)

I don't think x86 binaries will run very well on ARM CPUs. :-)

You could try something like VirtualBox and run the stuff on your modern desktop.

Re:Use a VM. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 7 months ago | (#47326827)

In my collection of turn of the century VMs, I've got a similar Deb setup, and it runs just fine in VirtualBox. I've also got YDL running in PearPC, but that's probably further than you want to go.

Intel Atom might help a bit. (1)

Ilarih (3525771) | about 7 months ago | (#47327109)

It is all about drivers, and it might help if you are using Intel Atom and not ARM CPUs. Still all the drivers will make problems. It would be easier to use modern programs made for those machines. Maybe it would be more in style to use old computers with those old distros. It is quite easy to find older Debian source code, but I do not know if it so easy to get those old programs to work.

Use a VM. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327491)

I have some chips in front of me that would beg to differ :) ARM licenses their designs to other people who actually tweak and fab them (or pay someone else to fab them). There's ARM, THUMB, ARM64, and Jazelle (which executed JVM bytecode directly). Those are all pretty well known, but I worked on a project that added a 486 core to ARM about 15 years ago. Like jazelle, not *every* instruction was implemented in silicon -- some were handled in software. But then again, that's true of x86 as well. Performance was decent enough but we couldn't find enough buyers to continue on with it. Too bad. At the time, remember, pentium was king so who wanted an ARM with a 486 attached to it? Some of my former coworkers are at AMD and AMD is getting into the ARM scene so maybe now's the time.

Shouldn't be a problem (3, Informative)

javajawa (126489) | about 7 months ago | (#47326425)

You should be able to run a modern linux distro, but you may need to install some old libraries to get those games working.

Re:Shouldn't be a problem (3, Informative)

javajawa (126489) | about 7 months ago | (#47326441)

You will, however, need to be on x86 hardware.

Re:Shouldn't be a problem (1)

Mack428 (802800) | about 7 months ago | (#47327439)

Which rules out Raspberry Pi

Re:Shouldn't be a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326517)

I'm pretty sure Q's asking the opposite. Q wants to run old linux on a new machine.

Re:Shouldn't be a problem (1)

javajawa (126489) | about 7 months ago | (#47326869)

Unlikely... the driver support just wouldn't be there - there really isn't much point to doing so.

Re:Shouldn't be a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326937)

Probably not, but that still is actually what he is asking. I do not see how the summary could be interpreted in any other way.

Will be a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327013)

In 2001, SATA drives were not around. Odds are that the old Debian distribution would be unable to find hard drives on modern hardware.
Using a modern Linux system would get beyond those issues, but you would then be in library dependency hell. You may, for example, find that they are expecting lesstif instead of openmotif or expecting XFree86 instead of Xorg or expecting libstdc++-2 instead of something more modern. Although they should work alike, minor differences may appear and the package system may not be forgiving of dependencies. Modern OS features may also become troublesome (64-bit, DEP, ASLR, SELinux, etc).

Re:Will be a problem (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#47327219)

If you're worried about hard drive access, turn on IDE mode in the BIOS.

Re:Will be a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327687)

Except Linux has since nearly the beginning only used the Bios to load the boot loader, then replace the bios calls with it's own wonderful resource manager.

Old software... (2)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 7 months ago | (#47326427)

Why not use older hardware? Is it really so hard to find an old IBM think center or Dell computer that still has IDE, etc.? We have a few at work that I keep around because I keep telling myself that one day I will have time to throw an old Slack distro on them or Windows 3/3.5 and show the kids what it was like "in my day!"

A quick google turned up this: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3... [makeuseof.com]

But I only quickly looked at it, I am not recommending it or anything...

Re:Old software... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#47326775)

Off-lease junk shows up by the pallet on fleabay and the like.

The biggest problem for OP is that 'junk' is now probably a PCIe motherboard with a P4, maybe even an early core/core2 system, rather than something that is afraid of 64-bit address spaces and rocks AGP.

In fact, based on a quick look, late-P4 to Core2 era corporate castoffs appear to be cheaper, at least on ebay, than the really elderly stuff (though it looks like the new gear has actual prices, while the old stuff has optimistic starting prices 'or best offer').

They'll still be around in the various dusty closets of the world; but you may or may not have an easy time finding one in person, even Goodwill and similar have to put more saleable stuff on the good shelf space, though they may (since recycling often isn't free) have a few stashed in the back that they'd be happy to see the last of.

Re:Old software... (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 7 months ago | (#47327413)

Yeah, I see your point. I guess thirteen years might as well be a century in the computer industry!

Re:Old software... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#47327879)

It's mostly the same stuff, just a lot faster(a latish PII should be mostly familiar, just 32bit and more parallel busses); but 'mostly' is a very, very dangerous word unless heroic patching of a wildly aged kernel is your idea of fun, which it doesn't sound like is the case here.

an ARM and a Leg (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326443)

Definitely don't expect any kind of results running those compiled game binaries on a Raspberry Pi. If you're going to try this, start with Intel architecture at least.

Feasible on Intel x86, but not ARM (2)

naris (830549) | about 7 months ago | (#47326451)

Since the Raspberry pi an dmany other "Micro PCs" utilizes an ARM processor, none of the Intel x86 software binaries mentioned will be usable on them. However, if the MicroPC in question utilizes an Intel x86 CPU, it should at least be feasible.

Re:Feasible on Intel x86, but not ARM (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#47326497)

Re:Feasible on Intel x86, but not ARM (1)

naris (830549) | about 7 months ago | (#47326573)

or an AMD chip running the Intel x86 32-bit ISA will also work...

Dear OP.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326453)

You're an idiot.

Re:Dear OP.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326527)

An anonymous insulting message does not show much wisdom either.

Re:Dear OP.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326697)

you're an ignorant hypocrite

come on slashdot, I come and visit and this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326467)

every ten months I visit slashdot. This is the crap I see.

why don't you get with the times. stop living in the past ,dammit!!!

Re:come on slashdot, I come and visit and this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326767)

And every ten months we're reminded why we don't miss you.

Mixed advice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326471)

I wouldn't suggest running old distros on new hardware, just because the old code may not support essential features or even just the underlying standard (if you were planning to use something based on an HDMI output with a build that predated the HDMI standard for example).

Still, I'm not sure what price range you have in mind, but for less than $300 you can get a fairly passable little box that runs modern Linux builds at a comfortable speed with some power to spare. I used a Zotac model for a project at work recently, but I'm sure there are other options. It was designed to serve as a mediaPC, but don't let that stop you from putting the software of your choice on it (DVI, USB, and standard audio plugs were present and are enough for most PC-like uses).

Re:Mixed advice (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#47326505)

plenty of machines can be put into legacy device mode in BIOS, I've run os/2 warp on modern machines for business reasons

Re:Mixed advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326727)

os/2 can't do anything, that's probably why it works...

Re:Mixed advice (1)

dotgain (630123) | about 7 months ago | (#47327899)

Linux doesn't use those BIOS I/O calls though. The bootloader (grub/lilo) uses them to load the kernel into memory, and then that's it, the kernel uses its own I/O routines after that.

Re:Mixed advice (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#47326809)

Newer GPUs are very, very, likely to be unsupported except in whatever fallback VGA mode they offer; but HDMI is actually pretty decent at pretending to be DVI (which is actually pretty ancient, even if you couldn't afford it at the time since LCDs were still $100 per nominal inch, in smaller sizes) so long as you don't expect sound or HDCP to work.

Even if nothing freaks out and dies, if you want to go back in time 13 years, you are probably going to be adding quite a few PCI IDs to assorted bits of kernel.

Use a new Linux setup (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326477)

Many (if not all) of the Loki games run on current platforms, with minor amounts of tweaking. There's even a "community" of people who are keeping these things going, although they are not always committed to making them run better than they originally did. I still run Alpha Centari on my Fedora 20 box, with a small wrapper around the launching executable (to set environmental variables and correct path entries specific to the game).

Re:Use a new Linux setup (1)

jandrese (485) | about 7 months ago | (#47327087)

Do you have a link explaining how to do this? Maybe a link to the community? I wouldn't mind getting Kohan working again.

don't have systemd yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326491)

They're all stoneage. Decent linux _has_ binary logging enabled.

Re:don't have systemd yet (1)

naris (830549) | about 7 months ago | (#47326613)

They're all stoneage.

Well -- yeah -- that's kinda the point of this thread.....

Let's see... (4, Informative)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#47326495)

I was wondering if it would be possible to do an old 2001ish setup of a Linux workstation on some modern super cheap, super small PC (Raspberry Pi? Mini USB PC?), install all the stuff and give it a spin. What problems should I expect? VESA and Soundblaster drivers I'd expect to work, but what's with the IDE HDD drivers? How well does vintage Linux software from 2003 play with todays cheap system-on-board MicroPCs? What's with the USB stuff? Wouldn't the install expect the IO devices hooked on legacy ports? Have you tried running 10-15 year old Linux setups on devices like these and what are your experiences? What do you recommend?

Raspberry Pi is probably out of question as it is an ARM device. I do not think any current systems offer SoundBlaster hardware compatibility either. VESA is fine, IDE HDD should be fine in ISA mode, but you won't get UltraDMA and there's probably other limitations. USB requires a specific driver, I guess you might get some kind of OHCI/UHCI USB1.1 support if you are very lucky.

All in all, there will probably be too many missing drivers and all sorts of weird errors to solve. I recommend that you get some vintage hardware from the same era to go with the Linux distro that you have.

Re:Let's see... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#47326601)

there are sound blaster 16 emulating drivers for windows, and various VM technologies have them

Re:Let's see... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#47326647)

Of course, but those are out of scope for his plan.

Re:Let's see... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#47326671)

he was asking us for the plan

of course on ebay old stuff can be had where the shipping cost is more than the item

Re:Let's see... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#47326747)

Huh? This is what he writes:

I was wondering if it would be possible to do an old 2001ish setup of a Linux workstation on some modern super cheap, super small PC (Raspberry Pi? Mini USB PC?), install all the stuff and give it a spin.

But OK, if we change the rules and using a virtual machine is allowed, that pretty much solves all of the problems.

Virtual Machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326639)

Should also be able to load the software in something like QEMU or Virtualbox and emulate IDE if neeeded.

Let's see... (1)

ntropia (939502) | about 7 months ago | (#47327827)

Not sure about the x86 issue.
DosBox runs just fine on Android [google.com] and RaspberryPi [raspberrypi.com] .
Indeed, I've tested several ol'times masterpieces on the former, and it worked all very well (with Genuine Tears(TM)).

Re:Let's see... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#47327883)

He's trying to run native Linux games. DOSBox would not help here.

Debian-3 (2)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 7 months ago | (#47326521)

You've got mix of incompatible requirements here. IIRC Corel's support for L:inux ended with the introduction of libc6 and kernels in the 2.0 series. These linux binaries will not run on Debian-3, which had both. I know, I tried to keep WordPerfect for Linux going on RH-6.2 till about the time Debian-3 was introduced but it became a losing proposition.

Worse still, source code for Linux-kernel series 1.x will not usually compile on later kernels which require an incompatible libc.


Next steps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326531)

Relive 2001 legit -- buy the hardware and tinker. A Raspberry Pi or BeagleBoard can be had for $100, often with all the necessites, like power adapters, video cable...

If I had to guess where stumbling blocks might be: USB, HDMI, maybe even SD card support were pretty shitty if they even existed back then. There are others (wifi), but those three are probably the most useful to a general hobbyiest.

You might be better off running current Linux and trying to get that other stuff working on there. Full hardware support would provide better performance (thinking mostly from a stability perspective).

Recently got a BeagleBone Black Rev. c.. By recently I mean last week. I haven't done much with it yet, but load up Debian and copy over some favorite dotfiles. Definitely felt a wave of nostalgia. I think I'll be plugging that back in tonight.

Re:Next steps? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#47326611)

eh? beagleboard and raspberry pi can't run x86 software, those are different ARM based systems

duh: arch (4, Interesting)

vinn (4370) | about 7 months ago | (#47326577)

Obviously architecture is the biggest hindrance to what you proposed.

You could get away with some modern hardware, as long as it's x86 based. Or, maybe what you really want to consider is virtualizing an old distro on other modern hardware along with a modern distro, assuming the other modern hardware supports it.

There is some novelty in running old stuff, and I suppose everyone goes through that phase (along with the "I'm going to build a massive home network with multiple servers and run my own email" phase). But, I suspect you'll tire of it so you're just better off keeping it at a small budget and use hardware you can repurpose when you get bored with that little experiment.

raspberry pi is out (3, Informative)

epyT-R (613989) | about 7 months ago | (#47326581)

That stuff will only run on x86 anyway. You're better off with virtualbox or vmware. You might get lucky and get a distro from that era running on modern hardware too. You'll have to set the disk controller to ide compat mode and live with unaccelerated vesa video unless you've got a PCI slot and an nvidia vid card from that era. The drivers that ship with X back then won't validate the PCIIDs from today's cards, nevermind use them properly.

Another option would be to install the software on your modern x86/64 install and see if it runs. If it's missing libraries, copy them as needed from the old distro (or symlink current ones to the older names) to an oldlib directory and set LD_LIBRARY_PATH to point to it. Just don't dump them in your system's lib dirs or leave the environment variable set globally. Use ldd and grep to examine what libs are missing from the binary you're trying to run. YMMV.

The kernel guys guarantee ABI compatibility back to 2.0, but that's just the kernel. Today's userland has changed a lot from 1998-2001. It could also be that your glibc is not compiled with the compat symbols from previous glibc 2.0-2.2 versions common then, in which case you'll need to bring that over to your oldlibs dir too. That can get messy but it is doable.

keen to see how this turns out. (2)

pinkushun (1467193) | about 7 months ago | (#47326585)

I for one am keen to see how this turns out. Will you keep us updated if you do try to get the rig running?

Oh and for the record: if I was someone who strives to be the first to say "use a vm!", I would recommend qemu / kvm :)

Shouldn't be too hard (1)

sootman (158191) | about 7 months ago | (#47326605)

The easiest way would be to just get an old machine. 15 years ago was the birth of the Pentium III, so with not much work you should be able to find a perfectly fine 10- to 12-year-old 1 GHz PIII with 512 MB RAM for next to nothing. (I'm personally a fan of Dell OptiPlex GX corporate desktops and HP Pavilions -- generally well-supported hardware and durable.) Otherwise, try VirtualBox on the modern computer of your choice.

Time+Effort = yes (usually) (2)

mindcandy (1252124) | about 7 months ago | (#47326633)

With enough time and effort (money being #3, but two outta three is generally all that's needed) .. yes, you can make it work.

If it's just an academic exercise then go for it, try and find hardware from the same (or earlier) era than the disks.

If you really want to flex an embedded device you'll be better off using recent distributions as those are customized for the hardware. Just because it's old software doesn't mean it'll run fine on newer (but underpowered) devices.

BOTH hardware and software have improved over time.

What's the difference between a sheep and a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326659)

Quit asking so many questions and just do it.

Re:What's the difference between a sheep and a... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326779)

Exactly. This is another Ask Slashdot where the asker wants some kind of "confirmation" for his plans, instead of just going for it.

Why ask? Tell us. (1)

houghi (78078) | about 7 months ago | (#47326661)

You know what hardware you have around. So just go for it and see what happens. Then tell us what happened.

If you want to avoid problems, use a current version. And don't use wine. Run it in e.g. VirtualBox. Also just do all that other stuff you proposed.

who gives a fuck? (-1, Troll)

retchdog (1319261) | about 7 months ago | (#47326665)

dear slashdot, i have great memories of jerking off to grainy GIFs i downloaded with my friends on a 2400 baud modem while my parents were away. unfortunately dosbox doesn't emulate modems at a low enough level, and my friends are married and/or moved away, except for one who just hung up on me when i suggested we enact our nostalgia. all this after i got telemate running! imagine my disappointment! i'm sure that at least one of those 1337 BBSes is still running, the sysops were so kewl.

so the only logical thing is to join the dosbox team to implement proper hardware support! i need some help on basic C programming. i'm awesome at computers like that javascript class i took at community college, but i'm having trouble with the next step. thanks, slashdot!

De-clutter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326675)

I would suggest professional help. Go forward and stop obsessing. I used to be like you, but I am getting better. I got rid of my NeXT's. Threw away dated textbooks, and got a NEW hobby. Bees. :)

Re:De-clutter. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#47326715)

talk about hobby with archaic systems, honey bees are found in fossil record 30+ million years ago

Re:De-clutter. (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 7 months ago | (#47326979)

Sometimes forward is better. Not always.

Re:De-clutter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327291)

> I got rid of my NeXT's.

My heart skipped a beat.

find old hardware (1)

davydagger (2566757) | about 7 months ago | (#47326711)

If you find peroid hardware sure.

As far as the rasberri pi, its ARM cpu, If you can find old stuff ported to ARM from back then sure, but otherwise no. old x86 software won't run on ARM.

Let Me Google That For You (1)

jaxn (112189) | about 7 months ago | (#47326717)

Seriously, how did this get promoted?

Don't ask, do... (1)

ZeroPly (881915) | about 7 months ago | (#47326735)

What do you want, step by step instructions with screenshots and Youtube tutorials for the hard parts?

Throw some junk together. Try different hardware configurations. Dabble with the source code. Amaze us and everyone else.

Re:Don't ask, do... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#47326857)

I would love to see this funky project documented and another post in Slashdot which links to it. :)

What makes this project interesting? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326837)

I do not want to be too judgemental, but what makes this project interesting? I could kinda-sorta understand a DOS machine with a big collection of games to try them on bare metal with that Roland MT-32 you just got from eBay. Even that I would personally do with DOSBox. But to install a wonky Linux setup with terrible hardware support and maybe get a handful of games working...meh... Where's the beef?

UT99 Linux client issues (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47326933)

I seem to recall that the linux version of ut99 had serious problems with dynamic CPU frequency. I don't remember if governor tweaks used to fix it or not, when I ran it on period hardware I had to disable in BIOS to make it work.

Re:UT99 Linux client issues (1)

OvErRiDeX (324498) | about 7 months ago | (#47327533)

Ah, yes. I remember when I first tried to run it on a machine with the CPU clock adjusting... it bases some of the timing on the CPU clock, so the game would run extremely fast, then hang for a second catching up, then run extremely fast, etc.

I do remember just setting the CPU frequency with a utility like cpufreq to a specific clock rate made it behave though.


KVM or VMWare player (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 7 months ago | (#47326953)

I think you want to go KVM or VMWare player. You will have just tons of problems finding diver support for new hardware on a kernel that is 10+ years old. While its true that 2.4 has been patched and maintained its been mostly fixes not nearly as much in terms of driver back-ports etc.

Much of the software you mention the Loki games and Corel will need older libc(s) to work, and they won't work with recent kernels. You are beyond the point where a chroot tree is likely to do it for you.

Rather then spend weeks fighting to get software that old working on new hardware I'd just install a distro from that era in VM and take my spin down memory lane.

Overkill (1)

jtara (133429) | about 7 months ago | (#47327031)

Most of the suggestions here are overkill, and trying to solve a non-problem.

I'd expect most modern Linux distributions to work just fine on your old 200-era hardware. In the Linux world, that is not ancient hardware.

Just try it. Don't bother rummaging through the closet, modern releases should work.

Old hardware... (3, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 7 months ago | (#47327165)

Old hardware is your best bet. Anything new would be unsupported by the older 2.2/2.4 kernels, PCIe, SATA, chipsets etc.
*Slot 2 Pentium II or III CPU's and Socket 370 CPU's are perfect. If you want multiprocessor, a Tyan or Supermicro dual slot/board is a good bet but stay away from any board with RDRAM using the i820 or i840 chipsets. They did however realize how big a mistake RDRAM was and Intel made SDRAM->RDRAM bridge chips so those chipsets could use PC-100/133 SDRAM. Tyan made a dual processor i840 board with dual slot 1 and SDRAM using the bridge chips.
*At least 256 meg of ram, 512MB - 1GB is ideal. Make sure your board supports the RAM you have.
*An AGP Riva TNT card or better yet, a Geforce 1, 2 or 3 graphics card. 3D support may not be available*
*Sound Blaster Live!, Ensoniq, Turtle Beach or Aureal sound cards should all work. Though the Sound Blaster Live! is probably your best bet.
*You are also going to need an ATA hard disk (2+GB) and CD/DVD rom drive, I am unaware of any P2/3 board that supported USB booting so you need the optical drive.
*If no onboard LAN card is present (most common scenario) you want a PCI 3Com 3c905B/C, or any PCI card based on the DEC Tulip chipset (21040/21041/21140/21142/21143). Many older Netgear FA311 cards also worked flawlessly, based on a well supported National semi chip that I think was a tulip clone)
*Bonus: decent 19"+ Trinitron CRT monitor. I still have a 21" Sun Trinitron.

Stay away from ISA cards as much as you can. I had a hell of a time getting my old ISA Sound Blaster AWE 64 Gold sound card running under Mandrake back in the day. And that was a "plug and play" card without jumpers. As for why to use Pentium 2/3 boards and not a pentium 4, the p4's after socket 432 willamette generation might not run a 2.2 or early 2.4 kernel. Socket 478 gained things like SATA and PCIe so its a crap shoot. Pentium 2/3 is a guarantee.

*Nvidia hardware 3D support does not appear to be supported on 2.2 kernels. I checked the README for the oldest Linux Driver and 2.4 and 2.6 kernels were mentioned. Have a look here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux-display-ia32-71.86.15-driver.html [nvidia.com] and check the hardware issues section in the README!

Have fun kickin it old school.

Cool but better do something else. (2)

elgatozorbas (783538) | about 7 months ago | (#47327197)

This is the type of stuff I used to find cool and tinker with 10 years ago. Nowadays, I value my time (a bit) more and prefer to dedicate it to other, more useful projects. Why waste time trying to run an old version of an OS that has been improved over the years? Processing power and RAM are dirt cheap. Even the small systems, like the raspberry pi support modern distros. It was cool to struggle with a slackware installation 10 years ago and succeed. Given enough effort and time, it can also be done on recent hardware but what does it prove? I would prefer to start a more useful and challenging project.

Smallest boards (1)

jkonrath (72701) | about 7 months ago | (#47327233)

You won't be able to get away with an ARM system like RasPi as others have mentioned, but you might find a few semi-small x86 options.

Minnowboard has a 4.2" square board based on the Atom 640, but no IDE, and it's maybe $200. (http://www.minnowboard.org/technical-features/)

The best combination of cheap/small is probably Mini-ITX, at 6.7" square. An average mboard is maybe $50, plus a processor, RAM, power, and everything else. But you also won't have IDE, and you'll run into all of the usual driver support issues.

There are Nano, Pico, and Mobile-ITX, but you're going to raise the price almost exponentially with each jump down. Pico-ITX boards are at least $200-300.

Galileo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327305)

I'm pretty sure you could do this on the intel Galileo but you would have to buy a video interface for it.
I HAVE done this on my lippert coolLightrunner Lx800.

Beat it n00b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327325)

I'm still playing Roadwar 2000 on my C=64. You ain't nothing.

It is possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327555)

To run on x86 binaries on ARM, you will probably need QEMU and a kernel with binfmt_misc. You may also need to run chrooted with an appropriate tree from some x86 Linux distribution. It will be slow and miserable. I have done something similar for device emulators before, such as running MIPS or ARM toolchains, built for MIPS/ARM on x86. It will be much slower to do x86 on ARM, particularly an ARM as utterly horrible as the Raspberry Pi's. Ultimately, I built proper GCC cross toolchains with crosstool-ng, but emulation is ok for simple stuff.
The soundblaster drivers certainly won't work with anything modern. Modern sound cards are not ISA, and do not have much in common with soundblaster. It will likely be possible to get graphics working in some fashion, but it will be limited to VGA modes, and it will be slow. You can probably recompile half the OS to make various parts work. It will likely even be possible to build and use a more modern kernel, eliminating many driver issues, and to rebuild X11, mesa, and many components that didn't exist at the time the original OS was built.
To run on a more modern os, you will probably need the glibc compat / libstdc++.so.5 packages to run anything substantial on an x86 distribution. There may also be issues with old LinuxThreads software, that was pre-NTPL. I have run software from this era, developed by my own company, on modern 64-bit Fedora. Sometimes it was necessary to copy libraries, and it is obviously necessary to install legacy 32-bit libraries. I also have, on the odd occasion, had to make a shared library containing some missing symbols, and LD_PRELOAD that into the to make it run. Standard techniques for debugging such issues apply. It is not difficult, but why bother for things like soffice, and you can likely get coreldraw to work without any problem on a recent wine? If the symbols that are missing are functions, rather than just things like errno, then you might have to actually implement function wrappers that call the modern versions of the same functions.
I have never come across an old piece of Linux software, that couldn't somehow, be coaxed into running on a modern system. The question is, how much effort is too much? If there is a modern equivalent, just use it instead, particularly if no data files are being taken forward, or if import of old data is of good fidelity. In my view, commercial software is a dying trend. There is very little that can't be done better and more efficiently with open source, particularly if you know how to put the pieces together.

Throw It Out (1)

crackspackle (759472) | about 7 months ago | (#47327567)

Delete it. If you haven't used it for years you never will. You're only buying yourself a mountain of lost time trying to recover and look at the same files you probably already elsewhere. Instead focus on how to stop creating the problem in the future. You've already taught yourself the lesson the hard way that there is such a thing as too many backups, at least when making them all over the place inconsistently and without scope.

Get a CM for your notes and miscellaneous cstuff. Wikimedia works great for this and you can be sure will be around a while. Use git to manage source code, scripts and text files. I find a common repo and one for each host works best. Keep large binaries in a single big software folder, Do the same for images, movies, whatever but keep them all grouped together. Back all of it up as a unit. Put all new stuff in there in the future. Do not let yourself deviate from using whatever scheme you come up with because it's the only practical way to insure you keep your stuff without having a million copies of it later.

I understand deleting it may be hard, but if you're like me, you probably have accumulate millions plus copies of files if you're including whole copies of OS's in your backups. You might try md5sum over important file types but checking and deleting by hand will take an incredible amount of time.

Re:Throw It Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327897)

Did you even read what he wrote?

Wow you completely missed the point.

In a nutshell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#47327847)

If you try to run turn of the century Linux distros and softare/games on newer hardware from today you are likely to run into many frustrating, archaic dependancy and compatibility errors (if you are even able to boot at all). The list of problems ranges from no-longer-supported disk standards to Audio and Video driver compatibility issues and possibly many other hardware based issues (network card, chipset, etc). Sure you could try to run all of this in a virtual instance (VMWare, etc), but even then you would have to get the virtual hardware settings to play nice with what the software you are trying to run expects.

Why bother with all that when you could probably find (within the space of a few hours to days) some perfectly working beige box from 2000/2001 at your local thrift store for possibly under 20 bucks (or less!). You could try Value Village, but a better bet would be the Salvation Army, or even garage sales. I've seen lots of old, crusty hardware from that era just begging to be sold for dirt cheap or given away. There is nothing like running old software on native hardware, where it belongs. (The same can be said for old games running on their original consoles/arcade hardware vs. being run on emulators).

In any case, enjoy your foray back to the year 2000. Those were the days!

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