Tuesday, December 31, 2013

FreeDOS and Ubuntu on Asus EEE PC Netbook

Accidentally killed MS Windows XP on my netbook. Used Partition Magic 8 to create partitions on my Netbook. All seemed to be going fine, then turned out that it wasn't. I got the netbook a while back now, the general idea was hopeful expectation that it would boot faster than Windows XP laptop, if it didn't then I would install MS DOS (Assuming I could figure out how to get around it being on 3.5" floppy disks) At the time I downloaded FreeDOS and Unbuntu for netbooks, but never got round to installing. Though I did burn CD's and otherwise load Ubuntu onto a bootable usb memory stick/flashdrive which was useful for fixing MS Windows problems. Also at the time I managed to network the netbook with my laptop share the laptop CD drive and install Powerquest Partition Magic on the netbook, though Bootmagic didn't seem to install. Any case problem was only allowed to have 4 primary drives and the netbook already had so I didn't pursue any further: primarily because have no Windows XP disks to re-install the system. On top of which at the time didn't fully understand how to get the system back without installation disks: it seemed like needed to install over Internet or something. Instructions didn't seem clear, and I didn't have time to pursue further.

So this time round I took a closer look at the partitions and identified one of them as the recovery partition for Windows XP, this was after I removed its hidden status with Partition Magic, and rebooted and could see in windows explorer. After which I discovered I could have probably browsed the files in Partition Magic. Any how I proceeded to remove the 4 primary drives and create a single primary partition and an extended partition. In the extended partition I then set up swap partition and ext2 partition for Linux. That all seemed to go fine. I then installed Ubuntu netbook edition from the usb drive. That all seemed to go fine too. The grub bootloader was automatically setup, and allowed booting Windows XP, Ubuntu, and also the Win XP recovery drive. However I didn't like the Ubuntu netbook edition, as none of the user guides I could find gave instructions which matched the Unity desktop it used. For that matter one guide discussed a gnome desktop.

I did also install both FreeDOS and Ubuntu netbook edition in virtual machines on my 64 bit laptop using Oracle Virtual Box. It seemed to go fine. For that matter Ubuntu in the virtual box made a connection to the Internet and spent an hour or more downloading and installing upgrades. I thought these upgrades would change the desktop to match the more recent user guides but it didn't. Installing Ubuntu 12? into virtual box didn't go so smoothly. But then virtual box wanted to update. After Virtual Box update, and allowing more ram for Ubuntu the installation, with power supply, and Internet connection, the install went more smoothly. I also tried the 64 bit version of Ubuntu, that wasn't compatible. So things went relatively ok in virtual box: only problem with respect to FreeDOS was how do I get files and other software into the virtual machine. That seemed somewhat complicated: further no real value to using FreeDOS inside a virtual box under MS Windows 7. The real objective was to boot my netbook fast and otherwise install Turbo C and Turbo Pascal along with maybe Paradox, and take a look at some of my old programs. {As there are some memory problems running at the Windows Command Prompt}.

The real objective a fast DOS box for writing and number crunching: don't need all the fancy graphics, my HP 28S calculator doesn't have such. Switch a calculator on get straight to crunching numbers, switch a word processor on get straight to typing. Switch a Windows computer on, get straight to no where: all that power and flexibility is good but its not always appropriate.

So creating another partition for FreeDOS on my netbook was the next task: that's where I hit problems. Partition magic would no longer start, complaining about drive assignment. I ran Ubuntu from the flashdrive again and went through the install, its partitioner indicated that none of the drive was allocated.

I then downloaded and installed GParted on a Live CD. I ran that but had problems, didn't seem to have any touch pad or keyboard control: touch pad could move cursor but couldn't execute any commands or select anything. After booting and trying a few times, eventually it worked with mouse plugged into usb port. It confirmed that none of the drive was allocated. Hunting down this problem, seemed that the partitions overlapped or something similar. So whilst XP and Ubuntu didn't seem to mind, and seemed to run ok, the disk partitioner didn't like. I ran a program called TestDisk, that seemed to identify the problem, and could apparently fix the problem. That is where I did something wrong or missed something: as after the fix I lost the bootloader and thus access to everything. One dead netbook.

Well not entirely dead as the data obviously still there on each partitions. So that using Ubuntu from a Live CD and further use of TestDisk could probably get everything back and adjust the start and finish of each partition. But seemed all too hard. So I just adjusted the partitions on the hard disk, created a partition for FreeDOS and installed FreeDOS then installed the most recent stable version of Ubuntu, which created a new bootloader menu for both FreeDOS and Ubuntu. So my netbook can now run either FreeDOS or Ubuntu.

Though the partitions are still not right. FreeDOS complains about faulty partition starting at 1 MByte, but when using GParted such no longer shows up: though it did when I created the partition. For some reason it had 1 Mbyte of free space before the partition. I simply accepted this. As another thing I discovered is that there should be unallocated space between a primary partition and a extended/logical partition: I didn't do this at the beginning. I did do this when I created new partitions. I don't remember doing such several years back when I set up my desktop for Windows XP, MS DOS and Linux.

Part one of objective achieved the netbook boots into FreeDOS fast. Only problem now is getting data to and from the netbook. It doesn't have any CD Drive, nor floppy disks, only usb: and DOS doesn't recognise USB drives without additional software. Problem is how to get that additional software onto the FreeDOS drive if it doesn't recognise the usb flashdrive. For installation can boot to Unbuntu, it recognises the usb drive and the FreeDOS drive, and can therefore copy files across. For general operations however booting to Ubuntu for copying files not practical when objective is a fast booting device. So hopefully can get the USB drivers to work in FreeDOS. If can then that would be good.

Already copied Turbo C and "As Easy As" over to FreeDOS drive. So far only tested that they open. As Easy As is a Lotus 123 like spreadsheet: a relatively small program and cost considerably less than Lotus, but was mostly compatible with: so something to crunch numbers with.