Installing FreeDOS 1.1 on a T-23 Thinkpad

I recently had need to install DataScope on my T-23 Thinkpad (1.1GHz Pentium Mobile with 1G RAM and a 40G hard drive). DataScope is a serial data protocol analyzer that runs on DOS (and really does need DOS because it’s interacting directly with the PC’s serial ports). I had heard about FreeDOS, but never had a need to check it out before and this seemed a good opportunity (instead of finding my equally old set of MS-DOS 6.22 disks, or even worse, a Win98SE CD).

Although installation went smoothly, I simply could not get the T-23 to boot FreeDOS. I scoured the wiki and web for information, repeated the install over and over looking for a step I’d missed, went through the BIOS setup screen by screen, and googled for why the bootloader might fail.

Almost ready to give up, I recalled having to fully wipe a drive a few years back to remove both primary and backup boot records before FreeBSD would boot from the drive.

I booted the T-23 with LinuxMint 13 XFCE (more recent releases had display issues with the old Savage graphics chipset), and wrote 0’s to the entire drive:

> sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda bs=1M

To see the progress, I peridically sent a kill notice to dd from a second terminal session:

> ps -aux
> sudo kill -USR1 dd-pid

Twenty minutes later, the drive was clean. One more FreeDOS install and success.¬†It’s alive! (or at least boots).

The next step is enabling USB support so I can install DataScope from a USB stick (the floppy drive for the T-23 is long gone, and so are any disks I once had).

Dale

P.S. Bill, why, oh why, did you decide MS-DOS file paths should have backslashes? Was it really better for it?

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