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Is DOS worth learning?


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#1 Wonko the Insane

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 05:10 AM

I'm already learning Linux, having dedicated my SSD to it, and am booting Windows 10 on an external HDD. I really cannot think of any other OSes that are worth my time to learn, except maybe one of the BSD variants (most likly FreeBSD), and Hackintosh/OSX. This brings me to the question of the ancient DOS. Is it really still useful today in our modern age? I'm thinking that focusing on Linux is my best bet. I would mainly like to try DOS for the learning experience and maybe to install some old games like Doom, King's Quest series, Hexen, Heretic, etc. (although the latter can be easier played with DOSBox or D-Fend Reloaded, I don't mind learning to manually configure them to work properly).

 

Which now brings the question of original, pure MS-DOS vs a clone like FreeDOS. The former has been largely abandoned, whereas the latter is actively developed. I'm not so much concerned with getting a purist DOS experience, I mostly am just interested in the basic concepts. Original DOS may not boot so well on modern hardware, whereas FreeDOS is more compatible and has improved utilities and better hardware support. What are the chances of getting original DOS running on modern hardware? I had recently tried to boot XP and Hirens on my ultrabook, but got an ACPI error that stopped booting cold, so if that is any indication........There is also the issue of which version of DOS to use, probably 6.22 since it seems to be the widest supported and most commonly used, whereas FreeDOS only has one main version worth considering. And pure DOS is proprietary whereas FreeDOS is open source, although I've never been one to make decisions based primarily on ideologies, I prefer to choose the whatever that gets the job done most effectively and efficiently with the least amount of hassle. In other words, "just works" and by "whatever is necessary".

 

The next concern is booting on real hardware vs a VM. VM is safer and isolated, but works with virtualized hardware, which gives no indication of performance on real hardware. And isn't optimal for video performance in games. My ultrabook isn't exactly built for VMs, and I want optimal performance, so I think native booting on real hardware is better. As long as I don't try to run utilities that have direct disk editing abilities, the chances of destroying my partition table are slim to none.

 

What about booting on an SSD, speed won't be a real issue, and neither will write cycles, given DOS's small size. But I don't think that TRIM will be possible except in an OS that supports it. Does TRIM work on an OS level, affecting only the OS and its' related partitions, or on the whole drive?

 

Can DOS be installed to/booted from a logical partition, or is a primary necessary? I assume that it can. What about GRUB2, will it detect DOS/FreeDOS and add a entry accordingly? Do I need the format the OS partition as FAT32, or FAT16 (the former is preferred for performance reasons)? What about partition size? I need something that will be more than big enough for the OS, utilities, and some games. I have a 17GB torrent that consists of almost every DOS game ever released, but I don't think I'll be needing 20+GB. I'll simply install one at a time as desired.

 

I can't really think of any other questions, so if someone has suggestions, put them forth.



#2 i

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 05:30 AM

Unless there is a Boot Manager that has an emulation layer for incompatible legacy hardware, DOS cannot to utilized right on real hardware (without OS and emulation app's overhead)

 

:lamo:

 

Time keeps repeating this question, How cool it would be to see Win98 (and others) on current 2016 blasting fast hardware but it won't be answered unless Bill Gates gets reinstated  :loleverybody:



#3 Agent47

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 09:42 AM

Dos/FreeDOS has very little use today. The CMD prompt in Windows supports a majority of original DOS commands (some are deprecated/replaced). Windows CMD commands are lot easier to learn than "Unix/Linux" commands but any power user should know them very well in order to code batch scripts efficiently.



#4 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 10:14 AM

Dos/FreeDOS has very little use today. The CMD prompt in Windows supports a majority of original DOS commands (some are deprecated/replaced). ...

With the trifling omission in recent windows (lack of 16 bit subsystem and/or lack of direct disk and memory access) that most/all the fun with DEBUG is lost forever ...

http://www.rayknight...t/debug.htm#Dbg

http://thestarman.pc...debug/debug.htm

 

@AnonVendetta

Dos normally NEEDS to be booted from a Primary partition on FIRST BIOS disk (0x80) (IO.SYS and MSDOS.SYS MUST be there), but you can use a image file fine with grub4dos or memdisk.

BUT at least at first you shouldn't EVEN THINK of running DOS on your real hardware, start experimenting in a (QEMU advised) Virtual Machine.

 

 

:duff:

Wonko



#5 Wonko the Insane

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 10:29 AM

Given the mostly negative comments thusfar, I will assume that learning DOS won't really be all that useful. But I'll make my own decision. If knowledge of DOS is mostly useful for scripting and knowing how to get things done in DOS/Windows via commands, then learning DOS seems to be little more than a novelty, but still interesting nonetheless. I know of people that have also used DOS/FreeDOS to fix issues and perform maintenance tasks. It would also be nice to play old games in their original glory and looks, as the devs intended. Most (digital) games today are lacking in substance, characters, a storyline that players care about, etc. Classic games are better in this regard. I used to play Doom for hours on end, until my parents told me to sleep.



#6 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 10:44 AM

Well, to play games, use DOSBOX, no need to "learn DOS" at all.

For learning to use it, instead QEMU is advised.

No reason to risk botching your current system booting in a dual/triple/whatever boot.

And - particularly - DOS games used every kind of trick (+1 more) to get some decent performance, so running DOS games on modern hardware is among the most difficult things to do successfully ("normal" DOS programs are usually not a problem, but games ... :ph34r: ).

 

Think a bit about it, in good ol' DOS days the faster processor was - maybe - a 486DX 100 (and conversely a number of programs need to be modified to be run on today's faster processors and with huge amounts of RAM, and also some IRQ's may be assigned differently, etc.), the slowest VM will add a performance slowing of - say - 30% so, instead of having DOS running 30 to 50 times faster that it ran at the time, you will have it run only 20 to 30 times faster, and in a VM virtual disk access will be so blazingly fast to outperform by several times the fastest Wide SCSI 10.000 RPM disks only a few - very high end - machines could sport at the time.

 

:duff:

Wonko



#7 Wonko the Insane

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 11:11 AM

@ Wonko: Out of all the people posting here, I half-expected you to be one of the few that would advocate learning DOS, given your affinity for the retardly-named GRUB4DOS.

 

What makes learning DOS with QEMU better than learning it by booting it on real hardware, or in VirtualBox, etc? I don't know much about virtualizers and emulators (or the fine differences), but I do know that either of these will have extra overhead, compared to native booting. It does make sense that DOS would run unusually fast on hardware that is far ahead of its' time, possibly resulting in, say, a game running so fast that it is essentially unplayable. So I can see why virtualizers/emulators would be useful for this. I haven't the slightest knowledge of how to use QEMU, or why it is better in this case.

 

How is booting DOS on real hardware putting my current OSes at risk? If I install it first onto a clean partition table with a FAT32 partition already prepared (with no other OSes present), then install my other OSes (or restore them from a backup), and update my bootloader, then I just have to be careful to not run utilities that have direct disk access (like fdisk, messing with bootsectors, etc), and nothing should go wrong other than me potentially screwing up the system by messing around with commands. This is why frequent backups are wise.



#8 Blackcrack

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 11:49 AM

First was Dos, then the Grafical Gui Windows, dos it is worth to learn, why? :

Dos have all this what have windows also, because, Dos it is the principle

of a Gui-system from the MS-Windows Systems and you can work further

in the cmd-prompt later more easily .

 

Linux it's the same, if you works before try to make at all on an server, without a Gui,

have you later more easier for working in the gui and you know, how it works normally.. and also in promt.

 

In dos gives the Help System "help" or binary.exe /? (so dos 6.22 if you use this and try to learn and play around with this)

optimize the Ram, ems and load different in the hight(set high) memory and so on,

with this finger trainings helps you lat6er for be better and have later more easy.

Also learn an bit batch programming it's helps also an bit :)

 

but if you start, then try directly tiny c compiler also play around for

more easy to coming into c programming :

http://bellard.org/tcc/

 

then, the next step, html, php and upwart ..

 

best regards

Blacky



#9 Agent47

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 12:46 PM

 

 

I know of people that have also used DOS/FreeDOS to fix issues and perform maintenance tasks.

 

I have used DOS to fix systems back in the days of Win98. In reality, Win98 is actually a GUI subsystem running on top of DOS.If i remember correctly, there is an option in Win98 which allows to reboot to pure DOS environment as a mean to fix issues (sort of a "Safe mode with command prompt" equivalent). However Windows XP defaulted to NTFS file system which DOS can't read (at least without third party drivers) and hence ended the glorious days of DOS boot discs as a rescue/recovery medium. 

 

If you really like to see how DOS performs on real hardware, i would suggest making a DOS bootable USB stick which is the safest option.



#10 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 01:02 PM

If you want to try MS-DOS you will need FAT16 (FAT32 was introduced in DOS 7.0/7.1 which is the DOS underneath Win95/98) MS-DOS 6.22 was the last "self standing" version.

 

The point that seemingly failed to get through is that running a "plain DOS" command line program is likely to work (very, very fast) on *any* machine (as long as it has valid BIOS) whilst running any memory manager (needed to run most "advanced" tools) and any graphical program, including specifically games, it is extremely difficult on modern hardware.

 

To this you add that running a DOS in a Vm or emulator is safer, especially in a learning phase when you might accidentally run "destructive" commands and/or applications that - due to the hardware differences/issues might behave unpredictably.

 

Anyway, when (if) you want to create a primary partition for it on your real hard disk, remember CHS size limits and make the partition respect Cylinder boundaries.

 

:duff:

Wonko



#11 Blackcrack

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 05:49 AM

8sighn per file, yes, an bit getting used to .. but then he know's

learn to appreciate the long filenames, have all his bad and good ..

and at last the good for long term ..and the future for him..

 

so, should he really start, if he want really learn, with dos 6.22 with the help possibility's and the win3.11 with tcpip

on this point he learn also something about network..

 

2gig max harddisk , fdisk and then format.. fdisk have a ascii gui

if anyone have a 1 or i,5 Gig hardddisk..

but you can also a 80 Gig maximal pationing with ~2 gig , fdisk make only the max 2 Gig on any harddisk..

like i have not forgot .. .. but he mus have a ide-harddisk ! sata it's nothing for Dos.

 

i have a couple dos things.. pm .. if.u.w

 

best regards

Blacky



#12 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 08:19 AM

sata it's nothing for Dos.

Sata works fine in DOS as long as Bios has a provision for "IDE compatibility mode" or similar, in practice it will be fine on most desktops and not fine on most portables.

 

:duff:

Wonko



#13 wendy

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 10:40 AM

DOS is as much the OS/2 and Windows Command line, as UNIX is the Linux command line. 

 

So knowing things like 'DOS syntax' is the same as knowing Windows or OS/2.  I used OS/2 help files on LAN Manager to administer windows networks, for example.

 

Some of the exotic commands in DOS, even where they are not part of OS/2 or Windows, are none the less useful starting points for searching the help file.  SYS for example, in OS/2 is SYSINST, and is somewhat different in Windows, but the purpose of these commands are to set the disk bootable.  Likewise FDISK is a useful pointer to the fixed disk program, although in Windows it is a different (and rarely used) command.

 

Until the advent of BartPE, and installing VistaPE, the usual tool for installing Windows NT on a hard drive was DOS.  I mean, as network admin, I had a number of PC-DOS diskettes to do things like run norton GHOST and other proggies for Windows. 



#14 Blackcrack

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 10:58 AM

Hi Wendy our Dos Fairy :)

because the syntax, dos it is the principle of Gui in Windows, if he learns what's goes on "behind" the Windows, know he also what's be possible or not possible.. so, it's not bad if he learn the principle of the System and so, really pretty well if he learn how dos works..

 

 

@ Wonko the Sane : Compatibility.. yessss.. but i told, "SATA it is nothing for Dos" and in this case

it is the commands from the ide "emulated" or something .. but a clean SATA it don't work,

because other commands as it is in SATA available ..

 

best regards

Blacky



#15 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 11:17 AM

 

@ Wonko the Sane : Compatibility.. yessss.. but i told, "SATA it is nothing for Dos" and in this case

it is the commands from the ide "emulated" or something .. but a clean SATA it don't work,

because other commands as it is in SATA available ..

 

What you said before and what you are saying now make no sense whatsoever from a technical standpoint, and additionally it is simply not written in the English language.

 

It is always extremely difficult to try and understand what you mean, but it's OK :), as long as you don't provide false or wrong info.

 

I will re-write this very slowly:

IF the BIOS has an option to support SATA disk drives in IDE compatibility mode, THEN to all effects in DOS the disk drive is a PATA (IDE) disk drive, even the controller Vid&Pid changes so that (in windows NT) it is recognized as "Standard dual PCI IDE controller".

DOS relies on BIOS services, if the BIOS tells DOS that a disk is an IDE disk and provides access to it, DOS is fine with it.

 

:duff:

Wonko



#16 Blackcrack

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 12:15 PM

Wonko..

english nazi

and you simply the best.. :)

 

oh jau, i know..



#17 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 12:54 PM

Actually more like :

Spoiler

 

:duff:

Wonko



#18 Wonko the Insane

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 06:01 PM

Wonko is obviously Italian, but I'd bet he's well educated and knows as much as much about English as people from the UK. But probably not as much as an Oxford scholar.

 

There are no provisions in my BIOS regarding IDE, only SATA/AHCI.

 

I tried installing FreeDOS to a primary FAT32 partition (what the installer recommended) on my SSD, marked as active. But the installer only seemed to want to install to my Easy2Boot drive (where the ISO was booted from). I was able to create the partition with Fdisk on the SSD. But after rebooting the installer only saw the flash drive, with no option to install to anywhere else. I suspect this has something to do with E2B and GRUB4DOS, and how G4D numbers/orders drives. FreeDOS does work in VirtualBox, and I got Doom working with audio, but it lags a little, and the audio repeats incessantly. Like when shooting, you can still hear the gun firing repeatedly for seconds afterwards, even when not pressing a button. Perhaps this is due to video/audio acceleration not working so well in VirtualBox. Or maybe I need to allocate more RAM (default is 32MB, a tutorial I read says this is fine for most DOS software). here is no lag in DOSBox, and audio doesn't repeat.

 

I may try installing directly to a real partition in VirtualBox or VMware Workstation, then boot outside a VM. I haven't gotten around to QEMU.



#19 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 07:54 PM


 

There are no provisions in my BIOS regarding IDE, only SATA/AHCI.

It is a laptop, right? :unsure:
 
 

Sata works fine in DOS as long as Bios has a provision for "IDE compatibility mode" or similar, in practice it will be fine on most desktops and not fine on most portables.

 
It may much more sense to make a small disk image loading it in RAM, with grub4dos or memdisk, since you probably have plenty of it.

Dos normally NEEDS to be booted from a Primary partition on FIRST BIOS disk (0x80) (IO.SYS and MSDOS.SYS MUST be there), but you can use a image file fine with grub4dos or memdisk.


:duff:
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#20 Wonko the Insane

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 09:17 PM

Well, an ultrabook is generally a lightweight, portable laptop that is very thin. I'm sure I stated in this thread that that is what I have. I.E., not a desktop.

I have 8GB of RAM, not what I would consider plenty, but way more than FreeDOS will ever need. Since FreeDOS is 16 bit, then I probably can't utilize more than 4GB anyway. My hardware is a supercomputer in FreeDOS's eyes.

You are saying I should install to a raw disk image, and use GRUB4DOS or Syslinux's memdisk module to load that in to RAM? I have no knowledge of how to do that, so I'll have to look into it. But will I be able to save into a persistent state that doesn't disappear after reboot/power off? I want to be able to keep whatever changes I make, not run FreeDOS as a live CD. And why run it in RAM, wouldn't that possibly make applications like games run too fast to be playable? I'm still that doing a regular install 's booting from RAM will be the better option.

#21 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 10:48 AM

Memdisk will be RAM only (not persistent) with grub4dos you can choose to have it --mem mapped (i.e. in RAM just like memdisk) or using direct disk access (persistent), the only limitation for the latter is that the disk image needs to be contiguous.

If you want to install to the internal disk (the small FAT32 partiton you made on it) using the "Install" provisions you will most probably need to remap/exchange disks, DOS wants to be on first active partition of first hard disk, if you boot from USB stick, the USB stick becomes first disk, so you need to exchange devices and install from the (virtual) CD.
*like* in grub4dos:
map (hd0) (hd1)
map (hd1) (hd0)
map --hook

But you can of course deploy the FreeDOS manually with SYS, then reboot to the just deployed OS.

Fiddling with FDISK and SYS is exactly the kind of thing that may turn out as a disaster, hence the advice to become familiar with the commands in a VM ...

:duff:
Wonko

#22 Flux

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 08:15 PM

DOS is no longer used in any manner for current systems. Although some basic knowledge of file operations and navigation may come in handy in rare situations using the console in Windows, anything further than that has little to no value.

Particular usefulness comes in when you need to run an application with additional arguments as administrator, and don't feel like making and editing a shortcut.

 

Batch scripts rely heavily on DOS commands, however if you don't have a day-to-day use for batch scripting, there comes little value as well.

 

my recommendation would be to get used to CD, DIR, RMDIR, DEL, DELETE, MKDIR, CP, MV, RENAME and DISKPART.

Other than those, really no benefit otherwise for general use.

 

PS:

I'll be entirely honest, I didn't read the full post, it was a bit too long. I'm responding to the thread title itself.



#23 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 06 August 2016 - 03:20 PM

DOS is an Operating System.

Batch is a scripting language.

Command.com is the command interpreter in DOS, cmd.exe is the command interpreter in Windows NT since 3.x.

Commands in a batch script are interpreted and run by the command interpreter, that has a number of internal commands, such as cd/dir. etc. that may have a similar syntax, but not exactly the same between command.com and cmd.exe.

 

Once you have learned the syntax of a bunch of internal command.com commands, you are - maybe - 10% into "learning DOS", and since most parameters will be different in Windows NT and later (cmd.exe) it won't be particularly useful if you plan to use a NT based windows, if that is the scope, forget abut DOS and study the Windows NT CLI, cmd.exe and batch scripting in NT.

 

BTW, Diskpart is a windows NT executable, (only available since XP) and not an internal command, like cd/dir, etc. you mentioned.

In the good ol' DOS days we had FDISK (which also was an external command).

 

:duff:

Wonko 



#24 wendy

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Posted 07 August 2016 - 12:21 PM

While DOS, Unix &c are operating systems, it's the bundled utilities these come with that define the user interface.

 

The Unix interface is passed through the GNU (gnu's not unix) into the linux community, and varying attempts at the DOS group.  So if you know 'linux', it's actually the unix command interface that one learns, because each different linux runs a compiled version of the unix base utilities.

 

Likewise DOS has an interface, that has been inherited into OS/2 and Windows.  Even commands that were not released for OS/2 and Windows, were none the less made available for these (eg deltree.exe).  DOS has a number of idioms that are entirely new over unix, such as multiple fs pointers, (eg the pwd in unix is somewhere on the tree, but DOS maintains one for each block device). 

 

DOS has file extentions.  This means one could suppose that ABC.TXT is an ascii text file.  The problem comes when companies try to hack each other's extentions, so you get things like .PDF (program definition file).  It's even worse when one comes to one is gui and the other is a command line utility.

 

REXX is IBM's SAA programming language, IBM proposed a cross-os interface for all of their operating systems, but your average hacker knows this best from OS/2.  Help files were written in IPF.  The programming glue is REXX, borrows from VMS system layout, but is used in DOS and OS/2 batch files.  It is a wonderful light language, still fits on a floppy disk, and still quite servicable.

 

BASIC was the previous 8-bit dominate language, and its retention in DOS (BASICA) and MSDOS (GWBASIC) is because of this.  However, it's not really a shell extension.  It does not integrate into STDIO in the same way that REXX does.

 

QBASIC and a great range of proggies like Visual Basic for Whatever, shows exactly how not to implement an interface.  I used qbasic to test VBA proggies, and the like, but you don't just run a good old rexx script in a word processor.

 

There is CENVI, (or rather, was), it was fairly nifty in its time too.  It's a c--, but different in nature to the Sphynx version.

 

It's bad when the Windows CMD.EXE shows that it is a broken port of the OS/2 one.  One has for example 'keys on' and 'keys off', which sets a variable keys=on or keys=off.  Another juicy one is 'DPATH' which sets the dpath variable, but Windows does not use it.  Unfortunately EXTPROC did not survive the cut from OS/2 to Windows.  This is vaguely useful, and even 4OS2, 4NT and the current TCC support it.  It allows you to run a batch under a different processor.



#25 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 07 August 2016 - 02:07 PM

It's bad when the Windows CMD.EXE shows that it is a broken port of the OS/2 one.  One has for example 'keys on' and 'keys off', which sets a variable keys=on or keys=off.  Another juicy one is 'DPATH' which sets the dpath variable, but Windows does not use it. 

 To be fair dpath is undocumented, but it's the same as append, and supported by (say) TYPE :w00t:

https://github.com/n...discovers/DPATH

http://ss64.com/nt/path.html#dpath

 

:duff:

Wonko






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