Setting up DOS

Discussions about using non Windows and Linux guests such as FreeBSD, DOS, OS/2, OpenBSD, etc.

Setting up DOS

Postby Ozymandias » 25. Oct 2016, 07:06

Good evening, everyone! I am new to these forums, as well as virtualbox itself - actually, I am new to a few things, but I'll get to that in a moment. This will actually be my first post, so bare with me. If for some reason this has already been covered, then forgive me for any duplicate topics. I've sifted around through the forums a bit and I am not sure I found anything in regards to what I am about to ask. As a matter of fact, I joined these forums primarily because I was unable to find a straight answer (nor was I able to find a detailed one) in regards to my question. I did a bit of research already, and well... it hasn't worked out. Now, let me start this off: Recently, I've been interested in older operating systems. I don't know what it is, but I think it's just the nostalgia. Also, curiousity. I'm interested in seeing what the limits of DOS (and Win 3.1) are. Now, I have actually managed to install both of them onto my virtualbox. Obviously, one must run Win 3.1 on top of MS-DOS (I installed 6.22, the latest version of DOS). I've seen an on going debate all over the web about people using DOS in Vbox versus just simply outright using DOSBox. Honestly, I don't care about DOSBox right now. I'm more content in just using Vbox right now, so please don't bring it up. I might ask about that debate later, though. It seems like a very common thing with people who are interested in DOS.

Anyway, getting off topic. When I installed DOS, I did so successfully, but then I began to quickly learn that the OS is quite barebone (as well as Win 3.1), and it doesn't seem to have come bundled with any drivers or apps. Yes, even no internet browser! Egads! I should have known better than to think for a moment that they would come bundled with that stuff. So now, with that said, here's what I want to do with DOS out of hobby and mere curiousity:
1) I would like to browse the internet.
2) I would like to see about playing music from it
3) Possibly even play some DOS games on it
4) Maybe muck around in Win 3.1, but this is lower priority, for now...

I have listed what I would like to do with a numberical priority, so obviously, first thing I would like to get into is just simply browsing the web. Second, I would like to see about getting music to run on it. You get the idea. Anyway, after doing some research, I heard that there are a few browsers out there for DOS. There's Lynx, which appears to be strictly text based. There is also Arachne, which I am more interested in, but I would love to see if I could install both. But there's just one big (or, should I say simple?) problem that I just can't seem to find an answer to! How in the world do I install dang software onto a virtual MS-DOS machine? And more importantly, how in the world do I even find the directories in my guest machine from my host machine? I can see the virtual image in my directory.... but I can't peer further into it. Why do I want to do this? Allow me to explain what I want to do: I figured that if I could find some of the drivers for DOS somewhere online (as well as any of the applications I want to install into that guest machine), I could just download them onto my host machine, and then move the files onto the guest machine. Well, blast... I'm not sure what's going on here. I did do some research, and it's beginning to seem like it isn't that simple...? I've been seeing stuff like "you need to mount an ISO/image into the machine" or "you need to connect it into a network". I don't know if I am looking in the right places, so correct me where I am wrong. First thing is first, I want to know how the heck you're supposed to move around files between the guest machine and the host machine. Is there a simple solution for this without using a bunch of third party software, or whatever? Whatever you know about this, please share your knowledge.

Once I figure that out, I'll feel comfortable about moving onto the next step: installing applications onto DOS. I know I need drivers for the OS... right? If I want to run some apps (music, internet browser primarily), I need something for those, yes? (I hope I am right about this, even if I admittedly know almost nothing about computers.) If that is the case, is there any good, trustworthy place where I can install Arachne and the associated drivers to run it (or Lynx)? And what about sound drivers? And for that matter, is there any software for playing music in DOS at all? I thought I have heard you could play music on it. But I think it would just be fun to have.

Let me be clear with everyone: I am no computer expert, so I am probably misunderstanding a lot of this stuff or maybe I am even asking the wrong questions. Sure, I have built my own rig, but it was with some assistance. I know the very basic stuff(I understand what certain hardware does, for example, but I am horrible with software), but I certainly wouldn't even come close to being IT. I am definitely interested, though. And I really just wanted to mess around in an older system for the hell of it. After hearing about Virtualbox and it's whimsical magics, I just had to install it and see what I could do. Beyond that, I'm not sure how a lot of this stuff works, but with detailed instructions, I could follow advice and at least understand half of it. So, for ahead of time, forgive me if I come off as stupid or ignorant in any of this stuff. Why am I messing around with this stuff? I am bored, and just curious how it works. If anyone wishes to help me understand some of this stuff, I would greatly appreciate it.

With all that said, it's a great pleasure meeting you all, and I will have plenty more questions to come in regard to Vbox. If I posted this in the wrong section, work your magic and feel free to help me move this to the right section.
~Ozymandias
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby mpack » 25. Oct 2016, 10:50

DOS and Win3 predate what you call the Internet (i.e. the html network) by about a decade. You won't find a usable original browser for either: I'm aware that there are a bunch of raving lunatics that keep DOS alive (or at least in a permanent coma), and they might be able to point you to some obscure modern browser project that won't work very well.

I say "by about a decade", but in fact you have to fast forward about two decades to get to browsers that can handle modern websites (badly). Even the browser that came bundled in XP (IE6) is wayyyyy out of date by now.

Basically, since time travel wasn't yet invented back in 1993, they had no idea what would be required to render websites in 2016, so the expectation that you can set up a dinosaur OS to navigate the modern world... just isn't realistic.

If you want to browse the Internet then Win2K is probably the absolute minimum you require, and in practice it's XP, because Win2K was too short lived. And you'd have to install a modern third party browser such as Firefox or Pale Moon. Yes, Win98 had a browser, and some of the more advanced third party ones were maintained on that platform for longer than others (e.g. Opera 10.63), but that takes us back to the topic of browser projects that don't actually work very well.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby scottgus1 » 25. Oct 2016, 14:38

If you really want to get that DOS guest running, and there is a thrill when you can accomplish something esoteric, then there could be a couple ways to rather easily get data into the DOS guest.

First, if your DOS comes with a CD-ROM driver, then you can use the Virtualbox CD drive to get data into the guest. Use an ISO-making program on your host PC (for Windows, ImgBurn is free and works well, just be careful of the heavily-ad-driven download page.) Make an ISO using the data you want to put in the DOS guest, then mount the ISO in the guest's CD drive.

DOS apparently does connect to the Virtualbox network if you can get network drivers into it. (I haven't tried this, I don't have network drivers for my DOS guest.) See https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Sharing_files_with_DOS

Finally, there's a way, if you do have a Windows host (7 or later at least, maybe Vista), and you can't get networking running, you can set up your guest so you can get data into and out of the guest, although the guest has to be shut down to do so. Instead of using Virtualbox's default dynamic VDI format, you make a fixed-size* VHD for the guest's virtual drive. Windows can mount and read/write to VHDs in Disk Management (Google for how). So you mount the guest's VHD in the Windows host OS, while the guest is shut down. You can get access to the guest's files and add what you want. Then detach the VHD from the host and start the guest. The new files will be on the guest drive. Edit anything you want, then shut down the guest and mount the VHD on the host again to access the edits, and so on. There are command-line batch files on the web that apparently can do this mounting and unmounting without using the graphical Disk Management. Don't use Virtualbox Snapshots if you intend to use this method.

I have tried the mount-the-VHD option and it works. I have also tried to add a second VHD drive to a VDI-based DOS guest but could not get the DOS guest to see the second drive. I'm no longer DOS-savvy.

* Fixed size virtual drives are not commonly used and are recommended against on the forum, but there's a possible consideration for using one here. VHD has a design flaw, which when used on a dynamic drive file that grows as it is filled up, may cause data loss. In VHD the data section that describes the size and layout of the drive is at the end of the file, rather than at the beginning, like other drive formats. If the VHD is also dynamic, the description section has to be moved as the drive file grows in size. If a host disk error or power loss or other Murphy event occurs just as the description section is being moved, then the description section is lost and the whole VHD is unusable. A fixed-size VHD should have the description section at the end of the full-size file and therefore not have to move. (All this is theoretical, based on folks' descriptions of the problem with VHD.)

The very likely small size that a DOS guest disk will be would negate the usual objection to not making fixed drives, namely, they take all the virtual disk space on the host at once and take some time to make at first. A couple-gigabyte DOS drive should be easy to make quickly and take up very little space on today's multi-terabyte drives.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby Ozymandias » 26. Oct 2016, 03:30

I figured out how to mount the VHD image. However, in order to look inside it, I have to format it... well, I wiped my MS-DOS by doing that (Yes, I was 95% sure that was going to happen. Not sure why I decided to do that, besides assuming that it wasn't going to clear the OS). No big deal, I didn't have anything on it. Sooo.... yeah. Any idea why it forces me to format the mounted VHD? All I want to do is look inside it and move files around, but it won't let me unless I format it first.
Last edited by socratis on 26. Oct 2016, 04:05, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Removed unnecessary verbatim quote of the whole previous message.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby socratis » 26. Oct 2016, 04:38

Ozymandias wrote:I wiped my MS-DOS by doing that
Aren't you glad right now that you're running a VM, instead of the real thing? :D Most probably you gave it the wrong command, or the wrong drive? C: instead of D:? Although I can't seem to recall this from being achievable (formatting the boot drive from within the boot drive). Gonna test it...
...
OK, I did test it. You sure as Hades you can do it! I thought that even DOS would prevent that from happening. No siree:
Code: Select all   Expand viewCollapse view
C:\>format c:

WARNING: ALL DATA ON NON-REMOVABLE DISK
DRIVE C: WILL BE LOST!
Proceed with Format (Y/N)? y

Checking existing disk format.
Saving UNFORMAT information.
Verifying 2043.53M
Format complete.

Volume label (11 characters, ENTER for none)? FreshFormat
2,142,502,912 bytes total disk space
2,142,502,912 bytes total available on disk

       32,768 bytes in each allocation unit.
       65,384 allocation units available on disk.

Volume Serial Number is 4547-0CEF

C:\>dir

 Volume in drive C is FRESHFORMAT
 Volume Serial Number is 4547-0CEF
 Directory of C:\

File not found
C:>

Just don't reboot after that, you're not gonna like it:
Code: Select all   Expand viewCollapse view
Non-System disk or disk error
Replace and press any key when ready



[Mod edit: @Ozymandias, I edited your previous message and removed the unnecessary verbatim quote of the whole previous message. You can use the "Post Reply" instead of the "Quote". Saves screen space ;). Also, moving this to "Other Guests" from "Windows Hosts", as clearly it is a more appropriate forum.]
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby Ozymandias » 26. Oct 2016, 07:55

scottgus1 wrote:If you really want to get that DOS guest running, and there is a thrill when you can accomplish something esoteric, then there could be a couple ways to rather easily get data into the DOS guest.

DOS apparently does connect to the Virtualbox network if you can get network drivers into it. (I haven't tried this, I don't have network drivers for my DOS guest.) See https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Sharing_files_with_DOS

Oh yes, I have seen a similar guide for DOS. For some reason, the two "self-extracting files" (whatever that means) DSK3-1.EXE, DSK3-2.EXE links don't seem to work. I don't know if it is me, or the links themselves. But I found another website linking those as well and it didn't seem to work either.

**EDIT:
Okay, so I figured out the manual disk mounting approach, and that actually resolves my first question, mostly. So now I know how to look inside my vm via the host machine. Thank you scottgus. Just out of curiosity, though: would a network between the host and guest still be necessary? I feel it would definitely be more convenient. Especially if I want to do anything online, no?
Last edited by Ozymandias on 26. Oct 2016, 08:37, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby socratis » 26. Oct 2016, 08:16

Ozymandias wrote:Anyway, if you have any ideas, I'd like to know how exactly Vbox places all the files and VMs?

I think you're in the wrong mindset. What do I mean by that... Do you know where, or how your LibreOffice application puts a graph inside your spreadsheet? No. Do you care? No. Something similar is happening with VirtualBox (the you don't know/care thing).

You tell VBox to create a VM, with a certain virtual HD. That vHD (note the small "v") is a single file in your host. You may or may not have access to its insides. Do you care? No (for the moment). Sometimes your host may not be able to even read the contents at all. Do you care? No.

You want to modify the contents of the vHD, e.g. add files/programs. Since you don't have direct access to the vHD from your host (most of the time), you have to rely to the one thing that does; your VM. The VM uses the vHD like your PC uses your HD.

You have to think like having two physical PCs and wanting to modify the contents of PC-A from PC-B. If you stop for a minute and think "How do I get files in and out of PC-A?" you'll have your answer of how you get files in the VM:
  1. CD,
  2. floppy,
  3. external hard drive,
  4. the network, or
  5. shut down PC-A, take out its hard drive, put it on your second PC-B, boot PC-B, modify the HD of PC-A, shut down PC-B, stick the HD in PC-A, boot PC-A, have your files.
Turns out that the last solution is the best/easiest in the case of DOS, if your host is Windows. Why?
  1. CDs could work, but they need drivers and setup that I'm not sure you have mastered yet.
  2. Floppies for sure, but they're limited in size (1.44, max 2.88 MB).
  3. Network is definitely not a plug-n-play thing.
  4. External hard drives are all Greek to DOS (USB was invented many years later).
  5. You are in a mixed environment, so you follow Scott's advice about the VHD format hard drive.
Since you're new at it, I'd suggest going to a site that has a DOS tutorial about the basic ideas. If you can't apply them because you're in a Virtual environment, please ask again. But using 'fdisk' and 'format' should not be asked here, but in a more appropriate forum.

Happy "hitting the books" ;)
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby scottgus1 » 26. Oct 2016, 14:01

Glad the VHD swapping finally worked for you, Ozymandias! Perhaps the first required format was because there was something unusual about the way the VHD was formatted previously. The VHD I tried was formatted FAT and plugged into the host Windows 10 and the Virtualbox guest equally without trouble, no formats required.

Having a network in the DOS guest would make transferring files a lot easier, if you can get it going. I found that the EXE files in the Virtualbox DOS tutorial I linked don't download properly on my host. If they can't be found, then networking may be unavailable. Back to swapping the VHD...

(This link to a non-Virtualbox tutorial has links to downloadable DSK3-1.EXE and DSK3-2.EXE that do run in the DOS guest: http://www.legroom.net/howto/msdos Looks like a good tutorial, too.)

As for where Virtualbox stores its files, see the manual, section 10.1. You can right-click the guest in the main Virtualbox window and choose "Show in Explorer / Finder / whatever else" and the folder containing the guest .vbox recipe file will open. The best location for the virtual disk is in this folder (it's the default location if you let Virtualbox make the disk). And if the disk isn't in this folder, make a new thread and ask about how to fix it. See this tutorial Moving a VM and re-interpret it as "Backing Up a VM".
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby scottgus1 » 26. Oct 2016, 14:36

Just a side thought:
socratis wrote:formatting the boot drive from within the boot drive). Gonna test it......OK, I did test it. You sure as Hades you can do it!


I figure that this would be the true test of artificial intelligence. All the attempts to get a computer to fool a human into thinking that he/she is talking to another human instead of a computer is barking up the wrong tree, in my opinion. All one would get is a really good simulation of a human, not artificial intelligence.

But, give a computer a really good learning algorithm, and feed it info about life and death. If it can figure out that "Format C:, reboot" is a bad idea, all on its own, without ever being told beforehand, then it is now self-aware.

But of course it would be selfishly self-aware, like Skynet. To teach it morals, try to get it to figure out that "Format C:, reboot" might be required in some extreme situations, that "giving itself up in behalf of good friends" might be needed. Like learning on its own Asimov's four laws of robotics. Then it's truly artificially intelligent.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby socratis » 26. Oct 2016, 19:33

We're getting slightly off-topic here, but, funny you brought AI up. Just two days ago I watched "Ex Machina". Impressive. Geek. Must. See...


PS. You might want to edit your last message about the "four" laws of robotics. It links just to "three" of them... :D
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby scottgus1 » 26. Oct 2016, 19:38

There's also a 0th law. More sinister, the 0th. I came across it in the Foundation series.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby Ozymandias » 28. Oct 2016, 05:31

Okay guys! So... I think I got something working with some success, but now I am stuck. I was following this helpful guide to setting up a network in MS-DOS with Microsoft Network Client. It seems to get stuck at initialization, and this is what happenes:
Image
I'm not sure what that means. However, since I followed the guide (correctly, I hope), I was supposed to get a login prompt upon start up, but I do not. Instead, I get error 2183. I tried looking up that error elsewhere, but there doesn't seem to be anything on it.

I'm probably a huge noob (which I am) and there is probably something very easy or very obvious that I must be missing or not understanding. Anyone who is readings this and is tech savvy enough is probably cringing at my idiocy here...
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby mpack » 28. Oct 2016, 10:38

Login prompt? DOS doesn't have a login. The screenshot shows that you're at the C:\> prompt, which means you're running. Apparantly you have networking up and running too, and I'm impressed! Quite a feat for anyone, never mind a confessed noob. Perhaps you meant you still have to establish a network login?

p.s. I see you have a huge gray border around the DOS terminal. Note that DOS is a text mode OS, so dragging the window border will not resize the non existent GUI. Try enabling VirtualBox's scale mode if the text is too small.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby Ozymandias » 28. Oct 2016, 11:17

mpack wrote:Apparantly you have networking up and running too, and I'm impressed! Quite a feat for anyone, never mind a confessed noob. Perhaps you meant you still have to establish a network login?


Heh... well, thank you, that means a lot! o//o
Still, I didn't realise that. Yes, well... I spent hours sifting through the internet finding guides and drives and all that fun stuff (holy crap, I see now the consequence of trying to work almost completely manually from a fresh install of DOS! The thing is so dated that drivers are actually pretty hard to find... or maybe I am just not looking at the right places or right things). And I know I wasn't going to talk about DOSBox, but now I see there is no debate: Apparently it comes prebundled with several drivers and other things already. But... honestly, I came this far with my VM, I don't want to stop. To say the least, it's interesting doing all of this on my own. Well, sort of on my own. Thanks for your help so far, you guys.

With that said, I don't really know how to establish a network login. Maybe you or someone else could help me a bit? Alright, let me try and figure this out a moment... allow me to share some of my ventures with you guys:
No network currently available??!
Okay... I'm gonna take a shot at this and guess that dialog means that I don't have anything set up on the host machine, right? Here's what I want to happen: I want to directly (not wirelessly, since I don't have a router) connect my VM to my host. I am lead to believe that somehow the "shared folder" thing will help in that. How close am I to getting the guest and host connected, and am I actually making any real progress? What should I do from there?

Also, all this TCP/IP and SAMBA stuff is really confusing! I... kinda understand FTP, but I am unfamiliar with how some of these things work.

Image
~"SAMBA..." That is my understanding of it.

Oh yes, about the gray border: I was partially aware of the resolution stuff, already. I just expanded that window to cover up my desktop. Thank you, though! At least now I know about how to remedy it, sort of. Not that I really mind it.
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Re: Setting up DOS

Postby mpack » 28. Oct 2016, 12:02

If you don't want us to see your desktop then don't include it in the screenshot. What's your host, is is Windows 7 or better? If so then search for the Snipping Tool, which makes it a (er) snip to grab any rectangular portion of the screen and save as a png, perfect for posting on forums (preserves screenshot detail better than JPEG).
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