Posts Tagged ‘operating system’

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How I Got My Android Tablet to Boot Windows 95

24/05/2013

I was rummaging through some old software of mine a few weeks ago and taking stock of the old operating systems that I had commercially. I noticed that along with some older versions of Redhat and Ubuntu Server, I owned every version of Windows since 95, including quite a few server versions. I wondered what I could possibly do with them, since I don’t even use my store-bought copy of Windows XP anymore.

Hey, I remember you.

Hey, I remember you.

Then I looked at my new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and got an idea. I wondered if I could get Windows 95 to boot on it. So, I fired up Virtual Box and an old machine I had and got to work.

Note: I am using Ubuntu 12.04LTS and a Galaxy Note 10.1 to do this project. Also, I had access to another, older machine with which I could install Windows 95 myself. Your mileage may vary.

Build 95

There are a few ways to go about this. One is to use Virtual Box to create working Windows 95 VDI file and then convert that to an IMG after you’ve got it running and another is to just find a computer with Windows 95 and make an image of the drive. Either way you’ll have to do three things:

  1. Install DOS 5.x or better before installing Windows.
  2. Install Windows 95 and get it working.
  3. Make your image (.IMG) file.
Click to Enlarge

In Virtual Box, you’ll need to set up an MS-DOS environment first and then probably migrate to 95 later.

Now, I’ve tried both ways, and they’re both complex. In the first example, using Virtual Box to create a Windows 95 compatible area for the OS to work in is a pain. This is because the Windows 95 disk is not bootable (and neither is Windows 98 for that matter). You have to have DOS 5.x or later installed first and THEN go to Windows 95. This is as much work today as it was back in when Win95 came out.

Then, once you have Windows 95 running you need to get all the drivers (and you’ll probably have to use an older version of Virtual Box because of compatibility issues), some of them custom-made, install them, and squash bugs as they come up.

When you have everything set up Virtual-Box side, you can convert the VDI to an IMG file to make it usable with the vboxmanage command in termninal:

vboxmanage clonehd Win95.vdi Win95.img --format RAW

This is not the method I recommend, as it is the hardest even with a walk-through, however it may be the easiest for people with limited access to hardware. I had, luckily, a piece of hardware that would run Win95 with minimal effort so I went that route.

First, I put I installed MS-DOS 5.0.7 (available legally and for free here) from some image files to actual real-live 720KB disks. Yes, I still have a few of those. Then I set up my CD-ROM*, no small feat, and began the Windows 95 install.

Once this had been done, I pulled the HDD out of the computer and connected it to an IDE slot in another machine. I then used the dd command to make a raw image file of the newly-added drive. This ended up giving me a large file because I had given a Gig of space to the virtual drive so I’d have lots of space to move around. You could probably get away with only 200 or 300 MB if you wanted to do so. In any case, the command to image the drive was:

dd if=/where/drive/is/mounted/ of=where/you/want/image/ bs=4K

Now I had my Windows 95 image and it was time to get it running on the tablet!

Install 95

There are multiple ways to get Windows to run on your tablet once you have an image you like. I personally went through my version and pulled out all the things I didn’t want so I could create a smaller image. I eventually got the entire thing down to 200MB, but that was with a lot of work. There are also two ways to get the image running on your tablet. There’s the way I did it initially, and then the easy way. I’ll be showing the easy way and then give a brief overview of the more difficult path.

The Easy Way

You’re also going to want to use something like AirDroid, which I’ve reviewed before, to move the files over because chances are you’re going to be doing this a lot. As you make tweaks or move different things back and forth that GUI is going to come in real handy.

Click to Enlarge

After you put in the image location and name, it will need to copy it to the SDLlib’s directory, probably on your internal memory.

Move your image file over to your device and take note of its location. You’ll probably want to write it down or something, make sure you note the CASE of the letters, because that will be very important. Also you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to copy the image over to the working directory of the emulator that we’re going to use here in a minute. So you’ll need at least twice the space of the original IMG file to use it.

Go to the Play Store and find Motioncoding’s Emulator. It looks like an Android with the Windows XP flag colors on it. Download, install and run it.

Once running, go through the menus (using the forward/back buttons, it really couldn’t be more simple) until it asks you to install libSDL and do so. Then select the option under “Import from Library” to Add Custom Images. Name the image whatever you want and put in the path to the image in there. For example, mine is:

/storage/extSdCard/SDL/Win95.img

Select the image from My Images and continue to the end. You should see your OS boot.

The Hard Way

The reason I’m putting the hard way on here is because it gives you a bit more control over your install and, I think at least, runs a bit faster. In any case I’m going to assume that you’re doing it this way because you’re a little more experienced/curious and don’t need me to hold your hand.

Click to Enlarge

Copying over the SDL apk and related software.

Step one is getting a working version of the SDL apk and installing it. You can do a quick Google search for it, but I’m not sure of the legal ramifications (or its copyright) so I’m not putting a direct link here. Keep in mind that you will need to allow “Apps from Unknown Sources” to be installed on your device. This can usually be found in the “Application Settings” area, depending on your version of Android.

Place your Win95 image in the SDL folder with the APK and rename it c.img, and load SDLlib. You may have to do more tweaking at this point as Networking didn’t work out-of-the-box for me. I needed to modify some already existing .bin and .inf files to coax them into doing what I needed to do, and even then it’s a little haphazard. You’ll need to have some method of editing the img file if you can’t get networking going or you’re going to need to re-image the drive every time you want to make a change.

This way you’ll also have access to the BIOS and VGABIOS bin files, if needed, but I didn’t end up touching them.

Android 95

My reasons for doing this were purely academic. I just wanted to see if I could get it to boot and get it usable. After several weeks of poking at it I was, by all of the above methods, able to get 95 and 98 going this way. Windows 98 was just a matter of upgrading 95 and creating a new image file. I can’t think of many reasons to do this other than for the learning experience, though there are lots of pieces of software out there that don’t work so well in modern versions of Windows and maybe you want to take them with you.

Click to Enlarge

Windows 95 successfully running on my Galaxy Note 10.1 with mouse and keyboard support

Also, I was able to get my Logitech keyboard/mouse combo to work through the 30-pin charging port, and while dragging the cursor across the screen and “clicking” by tap was interesting, the keyboard is the way to go. It’s just too cumbersome for daily use otherwise.

So there it is, an Android tablet booting Windows 95/98! You can supposedly do this with Windows 2000 or XP, but I have not tried. If you have let me know, because I’d be interested in how you got native NTFS to work.

*There’s no instruction here because it really depends on your CD-ROM as to how you’d go about this. You’ll have to find one that will work with Win95 and DOS. I had one in the machine already so it was just a matter of setting it up manually through DOS.

-CJ Julius

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Setting Up a Raspberry Pi with Ubuntu

17/05/2013

I had been putting off posting about this project until I had gotten RaspBMC to work, as that was step two, but it looks like the problem I need to be resolved is going to be a little while coming. So, I’m going to come back later and put an update if I get it running correctly. Either way, the Raspbian (the Debian Wheezy Raspberry Pi distro) setup is pretty clear and the same for every model of Raspberry Pi.

Here is the hardware that I’m working with:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B
  • Logitech USB Wireless Mouse Keyboard combo
  • 4GB SDHC Class 10 Memory Card
  • Edimax USB wireless adaptor
  • 4GB USB stick (for extra storage)
  • Gearhead Passive USB hub
  • USB 1.0A power adapter and Micro USB cable
Raspberry Pi Model B with SD card and wireless adapter inserted.

Raspberry Pi Model B with SD card and wireless adapter inserted.

I did this all in Ubuntu 12.04, so my work will be related to that OS; though commands are pretty similar across many distributions. Also, I have an SD card slot in my laptop, which means I did not need an adaptor to access the card directly.

The first step is to get the image on the card. I snapped in the card, it mounted and I went to the disk utility to find out where it had put it (in the system). It was mounted at /dev/mmclbk0. Once I knew that, I was ready to go get the Raspbian OS.

You can get the latest image off of Raspberrypi.org’s downloads page. I’d recommend the straight Raspberry Pi Wheezy image, as the “soft float” one is slow, and the others are more for advanced users that want to do very specific things.

Raspberry Pi booting for the first time

Raspberry Pi booting for the first time

In any case, once I had it downloaded I checked the SHA1 sum, because we’d hate to have a corrupted image from the word go. If you’re unfamiliar with SHA1, then it’s simply a method of verifying file integrity. Quite basically, an algorithm generates a unique number for a file and then that number can be checked against a copy of a file to make sure that it’s in good condition. In terminal, and in the folder that I downloaded the file into you put the command:

sha1sum 2013-02-09-wheezy-raspbian.zip

And you’ll get an output that looks something like the string listed on the downloads page. In my case, I was looking for the following: b4375dc9d140e6e48e0406f96dead3601fac6c81

Then, I just opened the archive and drag/dropped the file into a folder I had created previously, and returned to terminal. We’re going to be using the dd command to copy the extracted image (input file) to the card (output file). We’ll set the byte size to 4M and need be superuser to do this. My command was:

sudo dd bs=4M if=2013-02-09-wheezy-raspbian.img of=/dev/mmcblk0

Raspberry Pi Wheezy default Desktop

Raspberry Pi Wheezy default Desktop

Once it was done, I unmounted my card and slapped it in my Raspberry Pi for boot. On first boot you’ll get a lot of options. I’m not going to go through them one by one, as it’s pretty clear what each one is. The two I want to point you to however, are the expand rootfs and the memory split.

Expand rootfs is necessary if you have, like me, a larger than 2GB SD card. This opens up the rest of your card to be used by the system, so you have more storage space for your OS.

The memory split is important because the Raspberry Pi has a unified memory structure, meaning that it has one unified “bank” of memory that it divides towards certain tasks. If you’re going to be doing processor-heavy tasks like number crunching or multiple cron jobs, then you might want to push this towards the system memory side. However, if you intend to be using a lot of the graphical features, then you might want to lean towards the GPU.

My Raspberry Pi as it I use it now.

My Raspberry Pi as it I use it now.

The system is installed and ready to go. If you hit a command-line on boot, use startx to start the X Windows system (the GUI), and that’s it. I spent a good few hours customizing it, changing the wallpaper and such, but also removing and adding some software from the system to make it more useful to me, but that’s the basic setup.

I’ll come back at a later date if I get RaspBMC working, but as of right now it forgets that I have a mouse and keyboard attached to it, and there isn’t a simple solution that works so far. Everything works in Raspbian, and I’ve got quite a few things that I want to do in that, including Python that I mentioned in a previous post.

-CJ Julius

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Windows 8: I’ll Admit It; I Like It.

17/04/2013

With the headlines about Windows 8 Killing PC sales, and the laundry-list of complaints from tech websites about problems with the OS, you’d think that Windows 8 was the worst thing since, well… Vista. But it’s not. I promise you it isn’t.

Main_Start_fxd

My re-arranged “Metro” Start Menu.
Pretty elegant and useful, if I do say so myself.

It’s old-hat by now. Microsoft releases a new operating system, tech people throw a fit, but a year or so later it’s the standard. That’s the way it was with Windows XP and Windows 7. We’ll ignore Vista for the moment, since that OS had objectively bad implementation, as Microsoft’s move away from that titling system has shown.

When Windows 8 first came out, I kept well enough away. If there’s one truism about OS releases, it’s that you wait for the first round up major updates before you even consider installing it. I have lots of work that I need to get done on my computers and excluding a few test machines, I don’t have time to dink around with drivers and install problems.

The Install

One day, my Windows 7 machine crashed hard. After a laborious reinstall process, it turned out to be a hardware issue that I won’t go into here and it got me thinking that it might be time to take the plunge. I had previously had a upgrade from XP to Win7 meaning that I had to install XP first, and then upgrade to Win7 should I need to do a full reinstall. This was a cumbersome method, but I was strapped for cash at the time I made the purchase and I really needed to move away from XP.

Win8_Twitter_fxd

The official Twitter app is okay,
though like other Windows Store apps,
it needs a little more love to be useful.

So, I bought a System Builder version of Windows 8 and reformatted my recently installed Windows 7 to start over. The install was pretty clear, and guided me elegantly from start to finish with a fluidity that I honestly didn’t expect. I really didn’t have any problems of note on my custom-built rig. I was off and running… kind of.

I’d only used Windows 8 on a display in a store, and for a short bit way back in the developer preview version. Aesthetically speaking, it was largely unchanged, but boy was I lost. The main screen was pretty straight-forward, with all the apps listed across the sliding panel and the “Store” to purchase them in.

Where it really lost me though, was the desktop. See, in the new version of Windows, the desktop is kind of an app on your Start Menu. You click it and you’re taken to the old familiar Windows7-ish desktop you’re probably familiar with, sans the Start Icon. Notification area, Recycle Bin, QuickLaunch, etc are all listed there as per usual. This caused me some problems that I’ll talk about in the Not So Neat section of this post.

I shrugged my shoulders at the desktop and returned to the Start Menu, adding/removing apps to and from it, getting rid of ones that I probably will never use. Sorry, but I’m not ever going to click on the “Shopping”App. Once I had everything, including my two backgrounds and color scheme customized, I was ready to actually start using it. I forced myself to work with it for about a month to give it a chance to impress me (or not!).

Pretty Neat

As step one I think it’s fair to go through some of the big things that were important to me that I like about Windows 8. There’s a lot of little stuff that it does well, but these are the things that were important to me and maybe others.

AppSwitch_fxd

The “App Switcher”, while it hasn’t
replaced ALT-TAB, is a nice addition.

First of all, it’s faster. Not in a blazing-your-socks-off kind of way, though it is a definite performance boost. Being someone who upgraded a laptop from XP to Vista, I can tell you that this came as a surprise. This is the first OS I’ve ever upgraded where the upgrade was faster than the previous version. Keep in mind that I had a fresh install of Windows 7 on the exact same hardware prior to wiping and upgrading to Windows 8.

The user interface, while a whole different ballgame from previous versions of Windows, was pretty easy to get the hang of. All apps seemed to work independently of each other, much as you’d expect from a App-architecture and most of them functioned pretty well. Most. (See below for more details) I also had no problem pulling all of the software I’ve used on my Windows 7 system or getting Windows Store equivalents.

All in all, this is the smoothest upgrade I’ve gone through with Windows.* For the most part, everything worked pretty darn well.

Not So Neat

It’s not all sunshine and roses. As with any OS, even those I like, I had a few problems. Win8 has a weird way of going about some things and I try to keep separated what I find genuinely frustrating and what is just different to me. Some things are just fine, but they’re different now and I need time to get used to that. I try pretty hard to avoid crotchety old man syndrome.

Win8_Skype_fxd

Skype is functional,
but not much else.

The learning curve is a bit of a mess. As strange as it sounds, if you’ve never used a computer before, you’re likely to pick up 8 faster than someone like me who’s been using the Windows platform professionally for a while. At least for your particular needs.

Keyboard shortcuts and the behind-the-scenes stuff has remained relatively unchanged but the layout has altered so drastically that even a week after I started using it I was still lost. I’d open up windows only to close them when I realized that I was heading in the wrong direction for what I wanted to do. I can’t count the number of times I’ve opened the Start Menu just to close it immediately when I figured out that I can’t use it for what I needed.

This leads me into my next complaint, that the interaction between the app-driven Start Menu and the desktop, to use a friend of mine’s description, is janky. If you’re on the desktop and you want to open something that’s in your Start menu, you have to go to the menu and open it. No problems there, but if it’s a desktop-based application, then you go back to the desktop to load it. It’s a full-screen back-and-forth that, while generally smooth, is time consuming and feels inefficient. So far, the only way to get around it is to have an icon in the QuickLaunch or on the Desktop, which kind of defeats the purpose of the really neat (are we calling it Metro now or what?) Start Menu system.

Those Start Menu apps also force full-screen. You can drag them off to one side, a process called “snapping” but some apps don’t support this feature as well as others. It’s best to just keep your apps in full screen most of the time. This isn’t terribly annoying, since most people are used to this now from mobile OS’s, but having multiple pieces of software open becomes hard to manage after a while.

Some apps, like Skype as of this writing, turn themselves off if you go to other software. If I’m using Skype to talk to someone and then I go to a full-screen desktop application, it will cut off the sound. There is a possibility that this is a problem in the Skype app, it was pretty rushed and looks it, though judging from the way that other Windows Store apps act, I’m not so sure. Skype is owned by Microsoft, so it should work perfectly in their new OS, right? Right?

And Now

So, after all is said and done, would I go back to Windows 7? Not a chance. Even with its janky nature sometimes, Windows 8 is a step in the right direction. Microsoft needed to do something radical to stay relevant, and this is the OS they needed to make. Short the weird desktop/Start Menu transition, the fundamentals are all there… and then some.

Windows-8-logo-300x300

Windows 8:
Not as bad as you’ve heard.

In the future, as with all Operating Systems, there are going to be improvements maybe even some heavy shifts to address some lingering issues (Check out what’s coming in Windows Blue). But, as a release that could have been horrible or have had no attempt to reinvent the OS at all, I can’t complain that much. So far, this is the most I’ve LIKED a new OS redesign in a long while (don’t even get me started on Ubuntu’s Unity), so I guess that’s something. But rest assured, this ain’t no Vista.

*For the curious, the worst was from Win98 to XP. It was just a big nightmare from start to finish. Keep in mind that this too had a lot in common with the Windows 7 to 8 transition in that it was a fairly radical (for the time) change in OS architecture.

-CJ Julius