Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

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There's no need to get all fancy with a new computer and lots of extra programs. Here's one more way you can turn that old box into a useful machine again.

My wife has a profound mistrust of the blessings of modern life. Computer-wise she recently upgraded to a recycled Compaq DeskPro 386/25e after wearing out the XT she bought in 1987. All she needs from a computer is a text editor for writing and a spreadsheet program for organizing. She uses WP 4.2, Norton commander (to move files) and VP Planner (a Lotus 123 clone); all three she got around 1987. But now she wanted me to add her system to our home network, but without changing anything on her system. First she wanted to be able to transfer files from her system to mine. This I solved quite easily. Then she wanted Internet access from her old DOS machine—not so easy.

My home network is made of eight systems that I run as a Beowulf. Each system is different, and I made all of them from recycled parts. So I decided to hook my wife's little computer to the head node. The following is a description of how I did this and the hardware I used.

My system, tenn, (short for Tennessee Tuxedo, a cartoon penguin in the US) is a dual-boot Linux/MS 3.1 PI/166MHz with a 6.4GB hard drive and a PCI NIC. My wife's system, hilde, is a Compaq 386/25e with a 120MB hard drive and a NE2000 clone NIC that I added. Patch cables go from both systems to a D-Link 8-port hub. Looking at the software, she has MS-DOS version 5.0 on her computer. I have a standard install of SuSE 7.2 pro on my system.

The idea was to set this up so that my system was a fileserver to her system. I solved the fileserver problem two times. The first time she wanted to be able to connect to my system as if it was her DOS d:\ partition. To do this, I set up Microsoft's DOS Network client on her computer and then started Samba on my Linux system.

New problem: when I told my wife that I had used MS software to get her system connected, she was not amused at all and demanded that I use open-source software only. It did not sway her when I explained that she was already running MS-DOS. Her reasoning was that MS-DOS was written before MS became the evil empire, so it was okay.

Back to the drawing board. I found in my SuSE CDs a DOS utility called XFS, an open-source NFS client for DOS. This software was what I needed. On her system I set up XFS and on my system I added pcnfsd so XFS could login.

Here, then, is how I set up file sharing both ways. You decide which is better for you.

Setting up MS-DOS Network Client

First you need to download Microsoft's DOS Network client software from their FTP site. There are two files from MS dsk3-1.exe and dsk3-2.exe. If you have the DOS drivers for your NIC, you only need the first file. But it was easier to use the MS disks, so I did.

Figure 1. Starting the MS Network Client Install

Here is where you start the MS install. Going from the top of the list, you need to give, i.e., change, your machine a name. I gave hilde as the name on the first two lines, but the other two can be left at the default “workgroup”.

Figure 2. Setup for MS Network Client

Go back to the main menu and make the next selection, Setup. You can leave all of this set to the defaults.

Figure 3. Adding the Adapter

Now we get to the meat of the setup, Change Network Configuration. At this menu the first thing we should do is “add adapter”. Clicking on this will give you a list of all the drivers MS has. Select the one for your machine. Now we should change settings. If you have a NIC selected, it should show up on this menu. You'll need to add the IO and the IRQ numbers here, as well as the “adapter slot number”, the slot you've put your NIC in. Start with the left slot as number 1 counting to the right, up to number 8. This information is probably needed only for an EISA motherboard.

“Add protocol” is the next step, and the spot where most people mess up. MS will default to IPX, but you need to change it to TCP/IP. At the same time you should delete the IPX line, so that MS will not be confused. To delete the IPX protocol you need to tab to the upper menu and highlight the IPX line. Then tab back to the lower menu and click delete.

At this point highlight the line that says “options are correct” and press Return. MS will take over and install all the software. Now you need to reboot your DOS machine.

______________________

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Good to see legacy stuff still in use

Anonymous's picture

why does your wife not upgrade to dos 7 it is not Microsoft anymore so its alright, or even opendos, or another open source variety. Also Win 3.1 is in the days of Dos 5 so that would be alright. You could even put Linux on her system I think you might have to build your own edition if you do post it on the web i need it for my old 386 laptop. Microsoft might be a bit evil but their new tech is not so bad, me and my dad run an old Amstrad XT All the way up to t6he most up to date computers. Your wife can also get a whole lot of new software online and if she puts a proper gui like win 3.1 or linux she could browse the internet. Also to remove certain things from memory you would have to program a low level force command in a proper programing language I am working on something for Windows 7 but I have built a legacy dos version. I am not exactly sure it works but in Windows 32bit it has a small difference in Ram and a large difference in gaming performance. I know it runs under DOS but I dont know how helpful it would be. Download it at www.schoolyardstudios.webs.com my site has not been edited for about 3 years but look under programs memory cleaner and download exgamer.exe and try it post on that websites forum if it works.

Great article - exactly what

Alexander's picture

Great article - exactly what i was looking for!

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

i would have shot her, you have way more patience than me, congrats. ~simontek

Re: Setting Up Compaq 386 portable with 1MB

Anonymous's picture

Were going to have to see how this works on a Compaq 386 Portable with 1MB ram, 40MB IDE, 3c509 (I may change this back to a generic NE2000), and the Beautiful Rugged Plasma display (nice at night time in a car or when your looking through night vision you don't get blinded. )

WFW wouldn't run. It installed but when rebooting... Not enough memory.

With intersvr.exe and interlnk.exe was I able to make any connection to this box. But hell that's no fun... ;o)

Win3.11 ran but not enough memory when running win + winsock + the drivers for the card.

DesqViewX wouldn't run, no extended / expanded memory.. bagh..

I'd love to see linux on it, but not if it is slower than DOS is.

I'd try using it as a dumb terminal with a modem, but I already have a WY75 for that. (nice on IRC btw)

Someone snagged my EV-135 card, I still have the LIM 4.0 drivers though.. damn... that will be hard to find another one now.. heh heh

Well here's to tweeking... Which is what I will be doing again. You gave me hope again at least.

If I can track that telnet proggie down..

That's one of the hassles right there, finding old software. I had a few things cause I ran a bbs way back, but there are some things I don't have.

Another thing that would kick butt is PING.EXE for DOS.

At least with the FILENAME I can find things. Never forget to give the FILENAME. even when you skip giving a link.

for example http://www.filesearching.com/cgi-bin/s?q=dsk3-1.exe&t=f&d=&l=en&x=0&y=0

Sure make it easier..

peace for now

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

I've got an old Philips laptop at home (it uses an NEC chip which is equivalent to the 8086), and I've simply put a terminal program on it and connected it to my Linux box via a Null modem cable. Surely that kind of sepup needs less effort and expense. You could have moved the HDD from the old PC to the server and set dosemu up to boot from that

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

this is simply amazing... i've done almost the exact same thing with old boxen... i even have an XT netbios server on my network just because i can >

[this takes the addition of a file or two from another M$ package and a simple edit of the config file(s) but don't try to run any real applications on that machine... even with utils that can place programs in "high" memory, there's still little of that base 640 left for other things...]

on your problem of some software going TSR and not leaving memory when your wife runs stopd, you should see if you can locate a copy of the MARK and RELEASE utils... i use them to unload tsrs that don't have any way of unloading them...

ie: mark

tsrprog

mark

'nothertsr

[sometime later]

release ; releases 'nothertsr

release ; releases tsrprog

these utils were, IIRC, put out by a company known as Turbo Power... they wrote software libraries for turbo pascal and other languages... one of their most popular packages was used in the development of DOS-style BBS packages... the BBS is where folk went with their computer and modem before the internet was "released for public consumption" by the US gov't...

hope this info helps... if you can't locate those utils, i'll be reading the mag and the online stuffs... just ask, eh? >

Re: NFS

Anonymous's picture

I don't understand the need for NFS. You can mount SMB shares in Linux with smbmount, even put it in the fstab. Requires the kernel to be required with support.

Re: NFS

Anonymous's picture

SMB is single-user only; NFS is trusted-client multi-user. In other words, when you mount an SMB share, every transaction you do with that mount is performed as a specific user (specified at mount time). With NFS, you specify the user to use for each transaction. It is not particularly secure, since the server has no way of knowing if the client is being honest about who is doing what - that's what makes it "trusted-client".

(Note: PCNFS over MS-DOS is single-user, just like SMB.)

For a more secure system, use DCE/DFS, which uses Kerberos to ensure that individual clients can't cheat so easily, since they have to convince a trusted third party (the KDC) that they are legitimate.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Boy this sure comes as a reminder, that before Microsoft's Windows graphical shell, everything in the MS world was text based! That there are still people computing in this environment, I find quite intriguing.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

From another farm dweller on another continent :-)

Have you tried talking your wife into switching to Linux? I suspect she would take well to the transition, especially if she "gets" free software already. Have her try it out (telnet'ing into your
current system from hers) to see what she thinks.

I wrote an article a while back about setting up Linux on a slightly higher-spec system (486/33, 170MB hard drive, 8MB RAM). Use joe or pico for text editing, sc for a spreadsheet, and the same networking software you set up for her on the "main" system.

Since you already have NFS shares set up for her, you could set up her 386 with root/boot/swap and mount /usr, /home, and so forth over NFS. My 486 is more of a standalone system, including some basic X11 capability, and it has about 50MB free space on the hard drive. Her 120MB hard drive should be large enough for a console-only system, especially if most of the system is on someone else's hard drive.

Good luck!

Re: Other nice color text programs for 386 telnetting

Anonymous's picture

A couple of other nice color text applications for linux are:

  • jed: a text editor with menus
  • midnight commander: file manipulation
  • slrn: news reader
  • slsc: spreadsheet
  • mutt: mail reader
  • mmail: BBS mail reader
  • minicom: terminal program
  • links/w3m/lynx: WWW-browsers
  • gcal: calender
  • myman: scrolling text pacman!
  • funktracker: mod tracker
  • xaos: fractal zoomer

Above applications need either slang or ncurses library.

For local machine there are also text CD-players etc.

- Eero

DHCP

Anonymous's picture

You can use DHCP to configure DOS-clients. Both MS-client and WatTCP stack supports it.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

In case you'd like to let your wife know... MS started becoming very evil while still in their DOS years -- just ask Digital Research, the makers of DR DOS, and Stac Electronics, and many others who's cries were drown out by the pro-MS media.

Of course, they weren't as evil as they have been, but just a little evil doesn't hurt? right? ...FreeDOS and OpenDOS should be available even as we speak.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

I'm getting nitpicky here, but the MS network client was written well before DOS 5.0 was. So by your wife's logic, if DOS 5.0 is OK, so is the MS network client. Though I would argue that MS was the evil empire even before DOS 5 came out.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Definitely. If I remember correctly, DOS 5 was the one that was designed to break Lotus.

Basically, MS was corrupt from the very beginning. It's the mindset of the founders that made the company what it is. Just read the "open letter" that bill gates sent to the hacker movement back in the late 70's, and you can see that there is no difference in his thinking between then and now.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Wow! I mean, Wow!

This got to be one of the geekiest articles I've read in a long time. VP Planner ! I didn't use it, but I sure do remember the name. Heh, long time no see, bwana...

Congrats to your wife on her wisdom -- and to you, too, for being even wiser ;-)

I myself once used Linux with a CGA video card (monochrome 80x25 no graphics) so you might still give that old XT (or parts of it) some usage.

I've been considering a Beowulf, too, or rather that OpenMosix thing. I know nothing about this, so I shall try it sooner or later, of course. :-P

I don't know how this compares, but there's an app called "sc" which does look like Lotus 1-2-3 for Linux, and it's not graphical. My only gripe with it is the usage of C-N and C-P for cursor movement, instead of the arrow keys (this can be changed by editing "termcap", but I'm into minimal-hardware graphical usage).

Good luck, thanks for this account and, again, congrats on an excellent hack!

Renato.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

If you are interested in Bewoulfs email me

James.Hatridge@epost.de

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Hear hear! My first PC was a 386, and I got it onto the web (using Arachne and Lynx), and the feeling of seeing the yahoo! page download was *fantastic*! Apart from networking, I was probably more productive on that 386SX with 1MB RAM than I am now with a whopping great machine for development. Such is progress!

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

SC = SuperCalc. It was more powerful spreadsheet (true 3D) than Lotus and others I came across. I used it extensively for years on my old AST Bravo 386 16SX with 2MB and a 40 MB HD!

SC was owned by ComputerAssociates who have long abandoned it.

Bodvar

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

You also might want to try upgrading. You can get a new machine for probably $400 (that is a conservative estimate).

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

hell, you could always even dumpster dive a weak 586.

turn it into an x-terminal

Anonymous's picture

even better get xappeal (x server for dos). it runs over packet drivers and supports many cards.

for sharing files you might prefer mars_nwe on the linux side and netx or vlm on the dos side - it works faster than the m$ software

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

You may want to D/L the textbrowser links from http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/~clock/twibright/links/. It is much better than lynx (it handles tables, frames, etc. much better.)

However, please buy your wife a 17" monitor, and use VESA drivers to push it to 85 Hz, or else she will get nearly blind (12" @ 60 Hz is SO BAD for the eyes).

And you make jokes, isn't it? Where do you got a 386 from? Here in Austria it would be impossible to get such old PCs. People are happy if you take their old P II 266 Mhz Lin-Boxes for free, so they don't have to pay the waste disposal costs, and are able to upgrade.
I hope I didn't fell into a timehole.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Any old 286's or 386's in the Cardiff (UK) area would be welcome! Contact me on alan_james1969@yahoo.co.uk

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

someone trash is always someone 's treasure :)

man... when will we start throwing computer like that ? .. ppl in au..!!

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

If anyone in Canada has an old computer they want to get rid of (that works) I would pay to have it shipped. Email me haskinsian@[high-temperature]mail.com

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Such old systems? Hey, I am looking for exactly these "old" machines to use for LTSP in schools here in Vienna! If you know of anyone who has such a machine they want to get rid of in the manner you say, I will be pleased to pick it up myself. Send me an email to ian-removethisantispambit-@midori.shacknet.nu

I am in the process of getting Linux, based on LTSP into a school here, and because of the threat that the school will lose thier entire compuer network because of the use of "unauthorised" software, such computers and LTSP will solve this problem very well. Please contact me.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

If you have anyone who wants to get rid of their old systems please contact me. cashaww@yahoo.com. I will pay for shipping if the systems are in working order.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

You might want to look here:

http://www.freedos.org/

If you can migrate your wife to this, it would give you another article to post!

Stay Free!
Roy K

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Free DOS does not support networking and high memory, AFAIK.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

In a way, DOS in general does not support networking, since you must use external programs to do it. But you can network with FreeDOS using xfs as described in this article. FreeDOS also supports high memory, but last I knew, while the 286 version of high memory management worked reliably, the 386 version was still considered beta and was buggy. There is preliminary documentation relating to NFS networking with FreeDOS at http://fd-doc.sourceforge.net/mini/en/nfs.txt

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

You could be better off on the DOS side using Novell's Client32. It takes less than 10k conventional/upper memory, loading all the rest in extended memory. And it's free!

On the Linux side, you would use mars-nwe 0.99pl20 (SuSE has it all right) as a Novell 3.11 file/print server emulator.

Of course, you could continue using the telnet approach for TCP/IP networking; just use odipkt over Novell's IPXODI. This little gem uses only about 3k upper memory.

If you are of the fearless type, perhaps DV/X could be of interest to you; but since your wife is of the KISS type, it does not seem a good idea.

Migrate Her to Linux

Anonymous's picture

You could probably start migrating her to Linux by

using a DOS emulator under Linux and gradually

trying to migrate her data over.. Do the old applications

support exporting to text formats? Can you program

a little?

If not, you could use LTSP and either a floppy boot

disk or a NIC with LTSP boot ROM to start her

386 computer up as a thin-client to your more

powerful server.. I'd start with just an LTSP boot

floppy until you feel comfortable with it.

Some day her old system is going to fart and die.. of old age.

Matthew

Re: Migrate Her to Linux

Anonymous's picture

Dunno if you're interested, but I use WordPerfect 5.1 on xdosemu with no problems whatsoever (even emulated, it is way faster than SO). Even managed to get some of my old games going!

I have also found a page with Desqview Desqview/X in case you're interested: http://disvr.cjb.net/freedv/index.html

Re: Migrate Her to Linux

Anonymous's picture

Actually, those old systems are the ones that take longest to die. The fact that their cpu's are still built like tanks makes them very, very durable. Why else do you think NASA stuffs 486's in everything they build?

Re: Migrate Her to Linux

Anonymous's picture

Because that's what they could buy when their procurement budget was released. It's not because the 486 is better than something else...

Re: Migrate Her to Linux

Anonymous's picture

It's not because the 486 is better than something else...

Actually, it is. First, it costs a huge amount of money and time to radproof a CPU, so not every new chip is produced in a radproof version. Secondly, 486's and moreover 386's cram less circuits in the same area, and hence are inherently more resistent to radiation and easier to radproof.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

I don't now if you have enough mem in your system, otherwise you could setup a X terminal Server using ltsp for example (www.ltsp.org). You only need a simple bootdisk on the 386 system then.

Re: Setting Up an Old 386 on Your Home Network

Anonymous's picture

Excellent. I have a similar problem with my brother computer, so i'll use your solution

copy PDF

raka's picture

saya ingin sekali mengcopy tutorial dalam bentuk PDF karena saya tertarik untuk mencoba OS linux di komputer type 386, itu karena saya gemar belajar linux.
thank's

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