New Life for Old Software

Since I’ve had some down time, I decided to work on an annoying matter. I have probably blogged before that I have some older expense files written with a C/Pascal code generator called DataBoss which had its own proprietary file system. These files are well past the window for IRS audit as I converted to another expense tracking application more than a decade ago. Still, the geek in me wanted that data in my new database because I had it. I wasn’t going to get rid of my last Windows partition until I got that data imported into my new PostgreSQL database.

Naturally, I tossed out the floppies which had DataBoss on them long ago. I think they might have been 5.25 anyway, so I was probably screwed no matter what. I poked around on-line and found some interesting sites.

http://www.emsps.com/oldtools/

Believe it or not, this site has a lot of old software. Original disks and manuals for sale. They even claim to buy/trade it.

http://vetusware.com/

Quite possibly one of the best ideas to ever hit the Web. Oddly enough, if the stuff was still being sold by the original vendor, this might be considered a piracy site. Today, it’s a Godsend. There is now a place where all of this great old software can be stored and retrieved for those times when it becomes relevant again. This is especially important in situations where the vendor has gone out of business. If you are as long in the tooth as I am, it is a trip down memory lane. Oh how I wished I still had some of that old DOS software I used to use to send to them.

Remember the Pro-C code generator? (not the Pro*C tool put out by Oracle) I wrote a lot of stuff with that under DOS…tossed it out long ago. The company dropped off the face of the earth. Sadly, now that we have Qt and Gtk on Linux, an OpenSource version of it using both of these underlying libs for the interface and PostgreSQL or another OpenSource database for file storage would probably get a large following. It was a 60-80% solution product like most code generators. I don’t even remember who made the product. I do remember the manual actually came in a binder and without that manual you couldn’t do much. Sigh…

Why would I be interested in such a piece of software now? OpenSuSE has two DOS emulators now. One is DOSbox, which once installed, appears on the KDE menu. It is set up mostly for running games. You cannot access anything which isn’t mounted out in your Linux environment. Another is dosemu. This seems pretty cool. It is an implementation of freeDOS which seems quite robust. There are some adjustments, such as you have to use xcopy instead of copy *.* if you want to copy more than one file. If I have free time over the next few months, I think I will try getting the old versions of “Lords of the Realm” and “Warcraft” running. I actually liked the older versions of these games. Don’t really care for the last version of Warcraft I bought. The old DOS version with cheesy graphics I really liked though.

Of course, once I managed to re-obtain a copy of DataBoss, I found out the utility programs weren’t all ready to run executables. That meant I needed to find a compiler. You guessed it. I tossed out Borland C 3.1 a long time ago. Other than DataBoss and one client, I never used it. I used Zortech for a lot of years, MS when I was forced to, and Watcom when I started my cross platform days. Love of Watcom lasted over a decade. There is even an OpenWatcom project now:

http://www.openwatcom.org/index.php/Main_Page

Sadly, DataBoss didn’t live long enough to support Watcom. I did force Pro-C to support it at one point.

Not a problem though. I found another beautiful site.

http://edn.embarcadero.com/article/21751

A link on this page takes you to the place where Borland is handing out Turbo C and Turbo Pascal gratis.

Once you get a floppy drive functioning, you can see things like this:

Of course, getting a floppy drive working is another blog entirely.

You know…I might even dig through my old floppies and install Vedit again. I used to like the DOS version of that editor…it really blew after it went to Windows.

 

Installing a Floppy Drive in OpenSuSE 11

Some of you might have guessed this post was coming given my prior post about needing a floppy to install some DOS software. When I installed my 64-bit version of OpenSuSE 11.1, I did not have a floppy drive installed on my machine. Indeed, it was even disabled in the BIOS. (Some of you might even remember from a prior post that the BIOS only supports a 3.5” floppy, not 5.25”.)

It ought to be a simple thing. Once I found a 3.5” floppy and a cable long enough to reach the bottom of my machine from the next to top drive bay things were looking up. You can forget about getting your LS-120 drive recognized as a floppy drive. I tried everything. Yes, you can stick a floppy in it and if there is anything on the floppy Dolphin will show the icon, but you couldn’t format an empty floppy there on a bet. You also cannot get either DOSbox or dosemu to recognize the thing as a floppy, which is the ultimate goal.

There are a lot of instructions on line when it comes to adding a floppy drive after the fact. Most of them only worked for one person at one time. All of them “assumed” the reader would do certain things automatically, thus left out critical pieces of information.

After you’ve done the hardware part, you need to open a terminal window and change to root. Once you’ve done that, you need to edit a file named fstab. I humbly suggest you make a safety copy before editing. Please note that you have to be careful about what editor you try to launch. Most of the on-line places will tell you to use vi. I don’t live in a cave, eat my own young, or foul my nest, so I don’t use vi.

roland@linux-uz4n:~> su

Password:

cp /etc/fstab /etc/fstab.save

linux-uz4n:/home/roland # madedit /etc/fstab

You need to add the following line to the end of the file. Make certain you leave a line with only a carriage return on it at the end of the file.

/dev/fd0 /media/floppy auto noauto,user,exec,rw,sync 0 0

Once you do this, you need to create a directory so there is a mount point. I know, the installation should have created this for you, but it didn’t. I think a large reason behind that is the move to Dolphin and changing how storage devices are handled. Many will now automatically mount when connected if you have Dolphin installed. The downside is floppies don’t get recognized.

mkdir /media/floppy

ls -al /media

total 12

drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 2009-05-08 09:58 .

drwxr-xr-x 23 root root 4096 2009-05-08 09:58 ..

drwxr-xr-x 2 root users 4096 2009-05-08 09:52 floppy

chown root:users /media/floppy

chmod a+rw /media/floppy

ls -al /media

total 12

drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 2009-05-08 09:58 .

drwxr-xr-x 23 root root 4096 2009-05-08 09:58 ..

drwxrwxrwx 2 root users 4096 2009-05-08 09:52 floppy

I’m not certain you have to change the protection on the directory, but I did. I had still had issues. Finally, I went into YAST User management and check the “floppy” checkbox for my user ID. I still had no real success. Then I did the one thing nobody mentioned. I rebooted.

Now I can type dosemu in a terminal window. A DOS window opens and I can do things like this:

 

2009 Finalist

Logikal Solutions is proud to announce that “The Minimum You Need to Know About Service Oriented Architecture” ISBN-13 978-0-9770866-6-5 has been declared a finalist in the 2009 Eric Hoffer Awards. This award competition is much more general that there is no category for computer related books, they must compete with all other business and reference books.

Many of you reading this may also be aware that “ The Minimum You Need to Know About Service Oriented Architecture” also won a Best Book Award from USA Book News, which does have a category for computer books.

 

Too Much of a Legacy

Today was one of those days where I learned something I’ve always known. Everybody knows putting things off increases the cost of doing them later…with the possible exception of purchasing a new TV, yet even that will significantly burn you. Because so many people experience similar things, I added a category to my blog called “Thankyou Sir May I Have Another”. It seems appropriate for these types of tales.

Almost all of us have old programs or data somewhere we’ve been saving in case we ever wanted to use them again or have something to show the grandchildren. I probably have more of that than most given the fact I did significant work on multiple platforms and I’m by nature a pack rat. My office looks like the inside of one of those houses you see on the news where they find two old men dead inside with just tunnels to crawl through the trash heap which was their collected treasures. I’ve gotten a lot better, but this still isn’t the kind of place I would show anyone. One thing which really helped was the opening of an electronics recycling drop off center in Kankakee. I now try to make a trip there every couple of months to drop off all those treasures I was always going to “try putting on eBay before tossing out”. Given what I see for shipping charges and eBay auction fees, I’m never listing anything there again. Other than some memory which came with “free shipping” on the back of a camel which had to swim both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans before getting here, I haven’t even stooped to buying on eBay much lately. If I’m looking for new stuff I can always get a better deal with an on-line search than I ever find on eBay. Now the only time I visit eBay is when I’m looking for used junk…like my “new” Sony Mavica.

You might have guessed that I’m getting things ready for a trip to the electronics recycling drop off. It’s not too far from where I get my hair cut and it is getting close to that time again. In building the pile I came across those two 5 ¼ floppy drives I’ve been saving. Yes, I have some things on 5 ¼ floppy that “I’ve been meaning to copy off to disk one day.” I thought I would try making today the day when I “got to it”. Believe it or not, I even had the “edge connector” floppy cable to go with them in a box on a shelf…Odd since I threw two massive boxes of old cables including edge connectors out a few years ago.

I was a good little geek. I dutifully did an orderly shut down on my machine. I opened the cabinet and even cleaned all of the dust bunnies out. (Leave a machine run 24×7 with 3 fans in it and you will be amazed at how much gets inside. Add in the occasional office kitty or visiting office dog and…well…you get the picture.) The motherboard port for the floppy cable just happened to be on the bottom edge in the most inconvenient place possible. I guess a lot of people don’t use floppy drives anymore. I know I keep my LS-120 installed, but mostly copy things off to USB these days.

Something in the back of my mind told me this wasn’t going to work. Perhaps it was the fact I had saved two 5 ¼ drives and didn’t mark either as 360 or 1.2? Perhaps it was simply that I had saved these two, but not my dual floppy drive which I always treasured…I did look on eBay to find some fool thinking they were going to get over $200 for one of those…think again.

When I booted the machine I left the case open and hit the DEL key to get into the BIOS. My gut told me this was going to be a bad day…it wasn’t wrong. There is Legacy Floppy support in this BIOS. It will operate either a 720 or a 1.44. If a 5 ¼ drive isn’t Legacy…how can a 3 ½ be? Just how much room could it actually have taken in the BIOS to leave the 5 ¼ code in? Obviously there is room because you have released many BIOS updates for this motherboard since I bought it. Who’s bright idea was it to nuke this?

I like my disappointment in small doses. I put off making today the day I “got to it.” There is still an old machine that used to belong to my parents gathering dust on a shelf. It was the first machine they ever owned which had XP on it. I’m sure it still supports a 5 ¼ floppy drive. Maybe before my next trip to the recycling center I’ll “get to it” then.

 

The New Corporate Crime Wave

With all of the criminal investigation efforts being focused on Bernie Madoff and other financial fraud mongers, most of corporate America seems to think it has a “get out of jail free” card with respect to its own criminal activity. What has been building for several years is now out there in full force.

We have seen contracts posted for billing rates well below 1/3 of the actual going market rate for some time now. Usually the companies had a system in place which would allow pimps to present candidates at actual market rates, then have the manager manually reject them as being “too high”. While this was unethical, it was legal. The newest venture into time and cost savings is to install a system which physically will not let a pimp submit a candidate which is outside of your chosen rate range. The pimps have to sign an agreement saying they will abide by this application restriction. At this point, multiple crimes have been committed. If you live in Illinois you are used to hearing these two crimes talked about a lot…Price Fixing and Racketeering. I think we hold the international patent on both. We certainly have enough high profile trials putting people in prison for both.

There is a MAJOR difference between manually saying you won’t pay a price after a candidate has been entered into the system and having the system block all said candidates from entry. Anyone care to take a guess at one more place where that difference comes into play?

Once management decided they wanted to illegally use H1-B labor when there were hundreds, if not thousands of qualified U.S. Citizens around, they basically said they wanted to commit this other crime. Trouble is, if any evidence exists that qualified candidates actually existed and had applied, you can’t hire that $10/day person. What do you do Aurthur Andersen? Why shred the documents, of course! In this case, you deliberately block the documentation from being created. Now you can fill out that form for an H1-B and show them no qualified candidates existed for the position.

The additional crime is perjury. It happens on virtually every application justifying an H1-B visa and is a crime more widespread than the mortgage fraud. Thankfully, the only thing federal investigators need to do to make arrests is to find out which companies had a vendor management system which allowed for the blocking of higher priced submissions.