Running KaGold under the Linux Operating System

Page Index

1. Introduction

The Linux Operating System right now is the hottest product in the PC world. Perhaps you've heard of it and wanted to give it a try, but don't care to give up your favorite packet radio program. Since Linux is based around the standards and file formats of the UNIX world, it is not designed to run MS-DOS or MS Windows programs natively. However, efforts have been under way now to provide Linux (and some other Unices) a way to run MS-DOS programs. The Intel x86 series of microprocessors since the 80386 have contained a feature known as Virtual 86 that allows the microprocessor in conjunction with supporting software to mimic the behavior of an 8086 based computer (in fact multiple virtual 86 machines can exist at once). This combination of hardware and software allows an environment to be created that allows MS-DOS programs to run as if they are being run by themselves on an 8086 machine. MS Windows uses this technique to run DOS programs and multi-task them with Windows programs. Such a program written for Linux is known as dosemu, or the DOS EMUlator.

Dosemu isn't so much an emulator of MS-DOS as it is a PC emulator as it creates a virtual 8086 PC in your computer's memory and boots DOS. Once DOS is running many programs written for DOS (including Windows after a fashion!) may now be run including KaGold. Dosemu provides programs access to real hardware including the serial ports and disk drives. Much of the configuration is done by editing a few text configuration files. Two of these reside in the main Linux directory for configuration files and the rest reside in a special file dosemu creates which DOS accesses as a bootable disk drive.


2. Installing dosemu

Installing Dosemu can take a couple of paths. I have documented installing Dosemu on Debian 2.2. Also, an older page is still available documenting building and installing Dosemu from source. Either method can be used to run KaGold.


3. Configuring KaGold

Once dosemu is properly installed and configured and you can access your drives using the same letters as under DOS or Windows, KaGold shouldn't require any tweaking. Fire up Gold and see that it can find your TNC and starts normally. Next try to access files on disk and your call-book on CD if you have one. All checks good? You're ready to have the best of both worlds--KaGold running under Linux.


4. Observations

I've been running KaGold under dosemu, mostly using the xdos program and using KaGold in the X Window System. It seems to run even more reliably than it did under MS Windows. If anything I occasionally notice a slight delay in serial comms to/from the KAM, yet I have been able to copy 200 baud PacTOR without error. This is using X on a 486DX/100 with 28 Mega-bytes of RAM. So far I've encountered no comm errors and am pleased with how well KaGold performs in an emulated environment it wasn't designed for. Credit also goes to the dosemu developers without whom this would be possible.

By the way, here is an obligatory screenshot showing KaGold in action in an X window. Resolution is 800x600 and the window manager shown is icewm0.8.16 (I now use version a much newer version).


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February 12, 2005
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