In honor of the IBM PC turning 30, I thought I’d tell some stories about my experiences with the operating system introduced with it, PC DOS (aka MS-DOS).
Longtime reader Jim ` asked me a few more worthwhile questions while I was procrastinating working on yesterday’s post about RAID. Let’s go to Q&A format.
Somewhere, stashed in a corner of the basement or a closet, pretty much anyone who works on computers or even has just owned computers for a long time has a stash of obsolete hardware, stashed for a just-in-case moment.
Sometimes just-in-case comes quickly. Sometimes not so quickly. It’s when it comes not so quickly that you can run into problems.
I was talking to a new coworker today and of course the topic of our first PCs came up. It was Cyrix-based. I didn’t mention my first PC (it seems I’m about four years older–it was an Am486SX2/66).
With only a couple of exceptions, I’ve always bought non-Intel PCs. Most of the Intel PCs I have bought have been used. One boss once went so far as to call me anti-corporate.
I’m not so much anti-corporate as I am pro-competition.
So the PC that stored my resume got kicked (as in the foot of a passer-by hitting it) and died, and the backup that I thought I had… Well, it wasn’t where I thought it was.
Time for some amateur home data recovery. Here’s how I brought it back.
Here’s a familiar problem, I’m sure.
You need to back up your laptop, so you buy a monster (200+ GB) USB or Firewire hard drive. And then you can’t use it in Symantec/Norton Ghost, for one of two reasons:
1. You can’t format a FAT32 partition bigger than 32 gigabytes.
2. Ghost chokes when it tries to make a file larger than 4 gigabytes.
I’ve been experimenting again with bootdisks and the FreeDOS project came to mind.
Boot floppies are getting rarer but they’re still hard to avoid completely. I think FreeDOS is worth a look for a variety of reasons.
In case you haven’t read about it elsewhere, a new branch of the Linux kernel called -tiny was quietly released last month. Its main intent is for embedded systems, but I can see all sorts of uses for it. The smaller the kernel, the faster it loads off a floppy, so it’d be great for boot disks. Likewise for diskless machines that boot off the network.
Occasionally, a PC’s CD or DVD-ROM drive will stop responding for no known good reason. Sometimes the problem is hardware–a CD-ROM drive, being a mechanical component, can fail–but as often as not, it seems, the problem is software rather than hardware.*