Failed Retro emulation attempts

For reasons that should escape everybody, I went back and looked at some old Operating Systems a little while ago: OS/2 Warp, Windows 3.11 and Microsoft Chicago. So, I went on a little adventure this weekend, largely in failure though.

Windows NT 3.51

This was the first version (err… no, second I think) of Windows NT that I ever used.

Lesson 1: qemu doesn’t expose a SCSI adapter that isn’t virtio-scsi (and I have a feeling there aren’t Windows NT 3.51 installer driver floppies for virtio-scsi)

screenshot_winnt3-1_2016-10-29_191707Lesson 2: OMG I’m so glad I don’t have to wait for things to be read off floppy disks anymore:

screenshot_winnt3-51_2016-10-29_193833Lesson 3: I’d forgotten that the Windows directory on NT 3.51 was different to every other Windows NT version, being \WINNT35

screenshot_winnt3-51_2016-10-29_194040screenshot_winnt3-51_2016-10-29_194139Lesson 3: Yeah, sometimes there’s just fail.


Windows NT 4.0

This brought the UI of Windows 95 to Windows NT. It was a thing. It required a fairly beefy PC for the day, but it could use two CPUs if you were that amazingly rich (dual Pentium Pro was a thing)

Lesson 1: Windows NT 4 does not like 8GB disks. My idea of “creating a small disk for a VM for an old OS as it probably won’t work well with a 20GB disk” needs to be adjusted. I’m writing this on a system with 8 times more RAM than what I ended up using for a disk for Windows NT 4.

screenshot_winnt4-0_2016-10-29_192840But hey, back to \WINNT rather than \WINNT35 or \WINDOWS


Lesson 2: Sometimes, full system emulation turns out to be a better idea:

screenshot_winnt4-0_2016-10-29_192418screenshot_winnt4-0_2016-10-29_192304Lesson 3: Remember when Windows couldn’t actually format NTFS in the installer and it installed to FAT and then converted to NTFS? No? Well, aren’t you lucky.

screenshot_winnt4-0_2016-10-29_193102screenshot_winnt4-0_2016-10-29_193235Apple Rhapsody DR2

Before there was MacOS X, there was a project called Rhapsody. This was to take NeXTStep (from NeXT, which Apple bought to get both NeXTStep and Steve Jobs as every internal “let’s replace the aging MacOS” project had utterly failed for the past ten years). Rhapsody was not going to be backwards compatible until everybody said that was a terrible idea and the Blue Box was added (known as Classic) – basically, a para-virtualized VM running the old MacOS 9.

Anyway, for the first two developer releases, it was also available on x86 (not just PowerPC). This was probably because a PowerPC port to Macs was a lot newer than the x86 port.

So, I dusted off the (virtual) Boot and Driver floppies and fired up qemu…..

screenshot_rhapsodydr2_2016-10-29_172732Yeah, MacOS X got a better installer…


screenshot_rhapsodydr2_2016-10-29_182218This was after I decided that using KVM was a bad Idea:


screenshot_rhapsodydr2_2016-10-29_173333Nope… and this is where we stop. There seems to be some issue with ATA drivers? I honestly can’t be bothered to debug it (although… for the PowerPC version… maybe).

MacOS 9.2

Well.. this goes a lot better now thanks to a whole bunch of patches hitting upstream Qemu recently (thanks Ben!)

screenshot-from-2016-10-29-20-37-24screenshot-from-2016-10-29-20-42-10Yeah, I was kind of tempted to set up Outlook Express to read my email…. But running MacOS 9 was way too successful, so I had to stop there :)

Microsoft Chicago – retro in qemu!

So, way back when (sometime in the early 1990s) there was Windows 3.11 and times were… for Workgroups. There was this Windows NT thing, this OS/2 thing and something brewing at Microsoft to attempt to make the PC less… well, bloody awful for a user.

Again, thanks to abandonware sites, it’s possible now to try out very early builds of Microsoft Chicago – what would become Windows 95. With the earliest build I could find (build 56), I set to work. The installer worked from an existing Windows 3.11 install.

I ended up using full system emulation rather than normal qemu later on, as things, well, booted in full emulation and didn’t otherwise (I was building from qemu master… so it could have actually been a bug fix).

chicago-launch-setupMmmm… Windows 3.11 File Manager, the fact that I can still use this is a testament to something, possibly too much time with Windows 3.11.

chicago-welcome-setupchicago-setupUnfortunately, I didn’t have the Plus Pack components (remember Microsoft Plus! ?- yes, the exclamation mark was part of the product, it was the 1990s.) and I’m not sure if they even would have existed back then (but the installer did ask).

chicago-install-dirObviously if you were testing Chicago, you probably did not want to upgrade your working Windows install if this was a computer you at all cared about. I installed into C:\CHICAGO because, well – how could I not!

chicago-installingThe installation went fairly quickly – after all, this isn’t a real 386 PC and it doesn’t have of-the-era disks – everything was likely just in the linux page cache.

chicago-install-networkI didn’t really try to get network going, it may not have been fully baked in this build, or maybe just not really baked in this copy of it, but the installer there looks a bit familiar, but not like the Windows 95 one – maybe more like NT 3.1/3.51 ?

But at the end… it installed and it was time to reboot into Chicago:
chicago-bootSo… this is what Windows 95 looked like during development back in July 1993 – nearly exactly two years before release. There’s some Windows logos that appear/disappear around the place, which are arguably much cooler than the eventual Windows 95 boot screen animation. The first boot experience was kind of interesting too:
Screenshot from 2016-08-07 20-57-00Luckily, there was nothing restricting the beta site ID or anything. I just entered the number 1, and was then told it needed to be 6 digits – so beta site ID 123456 it is! The desktop is obviously different both from Windows 3.x and what ended up in Windows 95.

Screenshot from 2016-08-07 20-57-48Those who remember Windows 3.1 may remember Dr Watson as an actual thing you could run, but it was part of the whole diagnostics infrastructure in Windows, and here (as you can see), it runs by default. More odd is the “Switch To Chicago” task (which does nothing if opened) and “Tracker”. My guess is that the “Switch to Chicago” is the product of some internal thing for launching the new UI. I have no ideawhat the “Tracker” is, but I think I found a clue in the “Find File” app:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 14-10-10Not only can you search with regular expressions, but there’s “Containing text”, could it be indexing? No, it totally isn’t. It’s all about tracking/reporting problems:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 14-15-19Well, that wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping for (after all, weren’t there interesting database like file systems being researched at Microsoft in the early 1990s?). It’s about here I should show the obligatory About box:
Screenshot from 2016-08-07 20-58-10It’s… not polished, and there’s certainly that feel throughout the OS, it’s not yet polished – and two years from release: that’s likely fair enough. Speaking of not perfect:

Screenshot from 2016-08-07 20-59-03When something does crash, it asks you to describe what went wrong, i.e. provide a Clue for Dr. Watson:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-09-22

But, most importantly, Solitaire is present! You can browse the Programs folder and head into Games and play it! One odd tihng is that applications have two >> at the end, and there’s a “Parent Folder” entry too.

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-01-24Solitair itself? Just as I remember.

Screenshot from 2016-08-07 21-21-27Notably, what is missing is anything like the Start menu, which is probably the key UI element introduced in Windows 95 that’s still with us today. Instead, you have this:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 11-55-15That’s about the least exciting Windows menu possible. There’s the eye menu too, which is this:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 11-56-12More unfinished things are found in the “File cabinet”, such as properties for anything:
Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-02-00But let’s jump into Control Panels, which I managed to get to by heading to C:\CHICAGO\Control.sys – which isn’t exactly obvious, but I think you can find it through Programs as well.Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-02-41Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-05-40The “Window Metrics” application is really interesting! It’s obvious that the UI was not solidified yet, that there was a lot of experimenting to do. This application lets you change all sorts of things about the UI:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-05-57My guess is that this was used a lot internally to twiddle things to see what worked well.

Another unfinished thing? That familiar Properties for My Computer, which is actually “Advanced System Features” in the control panel, and from the [Sample Information] at the bottom left, it looks like we may not be getting information about the machine it’s running on.

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-06-39

You do get some information in the System control panel, but a lot of it is unfinished. It seems as if Microsoft was experimenting with a few ways to express information and modify settings.

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-07-13But check out this awesome picture of a hard disk for Virtual Memory:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-07-47The presence of the 386 Enhanced control panel shows how close this build still was to Windows 3.1:

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-08-08At the same time, we see hints of things going 32 bit – check out the fact that we have both Clock and Clock32! Notepad, in its transition to 32bit, even dropped the pad and is just Note32!

Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-11-10Well, that’s enough for today, time to shut down the machine:
Screenshot from 2016-08-13 12-15-45

OS/2 Warp Nostalgia

Thanks to the joys of abandonware websites, you can play with some interesting things from the 1990s and before. One of those things is OS/2 Warp. Now, I had a go at OS/2 sometime in the 1990s after being warned by a friend that it was “pretty much impossible” to get networking going. My experience of OS/2 then was not revolutionary… It was, well, something else on a PC that wasn’t that exciting and didn’t really add a huge amount over Windows.

Now, I’m nowhere near insane enough to try this on my actual computer, and I’ve managed to not accumulate any ancient PCs….

Luckily, qemu helps with an emulator! If you don’t set your CPU to Pentium (or possibly something one or two generations newer) then things don’t go well. Neither does a disk that by today’s standards would be considered beyond tiny. Also, if you dare to try to use an unpartitioned hard disk – OH MY are you in trouble.

Also, try to boot off “Disk 1” and you get this:
os2-wrong-floppyPossibly the most friendly error message ever! But, once you get going (by booting the Installation floppy)… you get to see this:

Screenshot from 2016-08-07 19-12-19and indeed, you are doing the time warp of Operating Systems right here. After a bit of fun, you end up in FDISK:

os2-installos2-1gb-too-muchWhy I can’t create a partition… WHO KNOWS. But, I tried again with a 750MB disk that already had a partition on it and…. FAIL. I think this one was due to partition type, so I tried again with partition type of 6 – plain FAT16, and not W95 FAT16 (LBA). Some memory is coming back to me of larger drives and LBA and nightmares…

But that worked!

warp4-installingos2-checkingThen, the OS/2 WARP boot screen… which seems to stick around for a long time…..

os2-install-2and maybe I could get networking….

os2-networkLadies and Gentlemen, the wonders of having to select DHCP:

os2-dhcpIt still asked me for some config, but I gleefully ignored it (because that must be safe, right!?) and then I needed to select a network adapter! Due to a poor choice on my part, I started with a rtl8139, which is conspicuously absent from this fine list of Token Ring adapters:

os2-tokenringand then, more installing……

os2-more-installingbefore finally rebooting into….

os2-failand that, is where I realized there was beer in the fridge and that was going to be a lot more fun.

TianoCore (UEFI) ported to OpenPower

Recently, there’s been (actually two) ports of TianoCore (the reference implementation of UEFI firmware) to run on POWER on top of OPAL (provided by skiboot) – and it can be run in the Qemu PowerNV model.

More details:

Running OPAL in qemu – the powernv platform

Ben has a qemu tree up with some work-in-progress patches to qemu to support the PowerNV platform. This is the “bare metal” platform like you’d get on real POWER8 hardware running OPAL, and it allows us to use qemu like my previous post used the POWER8 Functional Simulator – to boot OpenPower firmware.

To build qemu for this, follow these steps:

apt-get -y install gcc python g++ pkg-config libz-dev libglib2.0-dev \
  libpixman-1-dev libfdt-dev git
git clone
cd qemu
./configure --target-list=ppc64-softmmu
make -j `grep -c processor /proc/cpuinfo`

This will leave you with a ppc64-softmmu/qemu-system-ppc64 binary. Once you’ve built your OpenPower firmware to run in a simulator, you can boot it!

Note that this qemu branch is under development, and is likely to move/change or even break.

I do it like this:

cd ~/op-build/output/images;  # so skiboot.lid is in pwd
~/qemu/ppc64-softmmu/qemu-system-ppc64 -m 1G -M powernv \
-kernel zImage.epapr -nographic \
-cdrom ~/ubuntu-vivid-ppc64el-mini.iso

and this lets me test that we launch the Ubunut vivid installer correctly.

You can easily add other qemu options such as additional disks or networking and verify that it works correctly. This way, you can do development on some skiboot functionality or a variety of kernel and op-build userspace (such as the petitboot bootloader) without needing either real hardware or using the simulator.

This is useful if, say, you’re running on ppc64el, for which the POWER8 functional simulator is currently not available on.