Sunday, March 20, 2011

VAULT-OS: Configuration and Operating Systems

Working for the last year with legacy network systems in DOS has helped me to appreciate just how difficult to maintain and configure the Windows operating system really is.

To configure both your network and the I2c monitor under a DOS boot, you need to have three drivers installed. Two of them I include in the installation package for Vault-OS. If you are unable to find a packet driver for your ethernet card, you can always try a compatible driver, including the universal packet driver which I intend to distribute with Vault-OS.

You have three lines in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file required to load these drivers and from then on you have access to a TCP-IP network, HTTP server and I2C monitor. There's just very little that can actually go wrong once you leap from this boot into 32 bit protected mode. Assuming I can eliminate the bugs from my code, this system will then run until the cows come home.

Windows, by contrast ... is a labyrinthine nightmare in which you never know for certain if anything is really "working" correctly for sure. You cross your fingers and hope what you see in configuration wizards is what is actually happening in your final setup. When bugs show up ... does anyone really know what causes them? Microsoft will tell you to reinstall everything. If that doesn't work, they may tell you to reformat your hard drive and start over again. It's crazy. How can anybody troubleshoot this crap in a post-apocalyptic setting? Too many factors depending on Microsoft to get a new system replaced/repaired/running again. When you're all on your own and you may only have one manual (my book) it is simply too many factors to expect to always install and configure windows correctly.

The only reason I have a compile working for Win-32 is because I need the Microsoft Speech API SDK to power Thinkboy's interaction with the user. There is no counterpart under Linux that is open source. Even then, I want a minimal Windows installation, the least necessary OS skeleton required to power up Vault-OS and the MSAPI. This is why I have been doing all my 32 bit windows testing under NT Workstation, the tiniest 32 bit framework ever released by Micro$oft. It requires no more than 16 megs to run and it is a stripped down installation with the barest prerequisites to support 32 bit Windows programs, Open GL (Mesa) and the MS Speech SDK. I use the same sockets library under DOS for both 16 bit and 32 bit implementations. In my experiments with NT Workstation over the past year, I have found it the easiest of any of the versions of windows to install on any machine and have it work the first time with Vault-OS.

I've been tinkering with this stuff for many years now and I intend for my own setup to consist of a handful of minimal VOS-86 mini SBCs, a couple DOS-16 devices, mostly DOS-32 protected mode workstations and one master machine that runs under Windows solely to take advantage of the Microsoft Speech API for Thinkboy as the command center. A few months ago I had these systems under different compilers, including Turbo C++ and Borland 5.5 - now they are all targets for Open Watcom in a single directory structure. I think this consolidation is clear evidence I am starting to get the sort of organization requred to release this as an open source product on SourceForge.


The Anonymous Blogger said...

Come on, Come on I want to play with it

Anonymous said...

Either the most elaborate hoax ever put on the internet or the coolest thing anybody has ever done. Don't try to make it perfect just release it and let others test it for you. Totally cool sounding I recognize most of the DOS things you are writing about so I think it will be easy to install it.