x86 OS's (was: Re: system info request)

From: Zane H. Healy <healyzh_at_ix.netcom.com>
Date: Sun Dec 6 02:48:22 1998

Sam Ismail wrote:
>On Sun, 6 Dec 1998, Gareth Knight wrote:
>> I'm buying an old 486 and want to try some of the FREE alternative OS' (no
>> Microsoft stuff thank you) that are available for it. Operating systems such
>> as GEM, QNX, OS/2 and GEOS. Can anyone recommend any other that can be run,
>> such as embedded or old operating systems?
>The last I heard, none of the OS' you mention are free. Try Linux or

GEM - Doesn't this run on top of CP/M-86 and/or maybe DOS, since it's DR I
      believe it's free for personal use. I doubt it would be very useful.

QNX - There is a free demo version, about all you can do is surf the web
with it
      though. The demo boots from floppy.

OS/2 - About the only thing out there on the PC more non-free would be WinNT
       Server or OPENSTEP. I've run versions 1.3 through 3.0 on a 486/33 first
       with 8Mb, and then 20Mb. It's a great OS, but basically dead.

GEOS - Runs on top of DOS, the company currently supporting it, had been
       providing some sort of demo version for it. It looks really great
       actually, and come to think of it I believe my above mentioned 486 has
       a copy on it somewhere (probably still on a Linux partition) that I
       downloaded to try a year or so ago. I'd forgotten about it.

       Unfortunatly they no longer support the really low end systems, I can't
       remember if they still support the 286 or not. Should run great on
a 486
       and from what I saw provide a useful system.

CP/M-86 - Free for personal use. I've got a hard drive in a sled for my P133
          that has CP/M-86 loaded on it, but I've not really played with
it, and
          am not sure what would be available.

OpenDOS - Originally DR DOS, then Novel DOS. Caldera now owns it and the rest
          of the Digital Research software such as CP/M. Free for personal
          They seem to be trying to sell it for embedded apps.

FreeDOS - A FREE opensource version of DOS.

IBM PC-DOS - Can you believe CompUSA still carries this?

MS DOS - Shouldn't be hard to find copies at Goodwill, etc.

MS Win95/98/NT - In a word, the work of the Devil.

TSX-32 - Is there a demo version? I gather the commercial version is seriously
         expensive. Based on TSX-11, the same company did both.

NextStep - Commercial, but you might be able to find a version of 3.3 fairly
           cheap. It's very nice. OPENSTEP will run on a 486, but personally
           I recommend a Pentium for it. Think BSD UNIX running on a Mach
           Microkernel with a custom (not X-Windows) GUI. Beautiful, ahead of
               it's time, the Lighthouse apps are now available for free for
           personal use, and provide all the apps you need. I can't say enough
           good about this OS, but Apple bought it and it became...

Rhapsody - Well, you've got to be a Apple Developer to have a copy, it's
           OPENSTEP heritage is glaringly obvious though getting better.
           called MacOS X, MacOS X Server, or some such. I really like MacOS,
           so am looking forward to the finished product. I can't stand the
           new name though, sounds to much like part of X-Windows!

BeOS - I don't think there is a x86 Demo version, and I don't think it will run
       on a 486. I've not played with a x86 version, but the PPC versions I've
       played with on a Mac didn't impress me.

SCO Unix/Xenix - Commercial UNIX, I think a personal use version of SCO
Unix is

Sun Solaris x86 - Free for personnal use, BUT you've got to sign up for their
                  developer program (apparently free), and pay $10 for
                  and handling, you can get either the x86 or Sparc/UltraSparc

Various other commercial UNIX's - If you can find them, they'd probably be
                                  used software.

Linux - This is a FREE OS, it's also one of the best OS's out there in my
not so
        humble opinion. I've currently got four different systems that run
        Linux, though I normally only have one of them up. A 486 can
handle it
        without any problem, though you'll want more than 8Mb RAM if you
        to run X-Windows. All kinds of useful software out there that is free
        for Linux, and there is starting to be a lot of commercial software
        available. A lot of which is free for personal use (WordPerfect is a
        good example). Supports x86, Alpha, PPC, 68k, ARM, Sparc, and I think
        a couple other processors.

FreeBSD - Well, Linux is a System V varient, and FreeBSD is obviously a BSD
          varient. That about sums it up. It's x86, but I've heard they're
          adding Alpha support.

NetBSD - NetBSD is cool, their aim is to support as many platforms as possible,
         and they support a lot!

OpenBSD - Their aim is Security, they run on most platforms supported by
          I've just set up a DEC Alpha running OpenBSD and so far am impressed.

          As far as security, well, I just ran 'Saint' on my PII running
          5.1, and my Alpha running OpenBSD 2.4. It turns out I'm running
          network services I don't want to on the Linux box, and I hadn't even
          realized it. Plus there are some definite vulnerablities. On the
          OpenBSD box however, it's only running what I _TURNED ON_, and
          recommended turning off 'R Services' and 'finger'.

I know I've missed a few, but they're probably more obscure than some I've
listed here.

I'd recommend Linux, or a used copy of Nextstep or OS/2 (Nextstep has
better Office Apps, and you can get them free).

| Zane H. Healy | UNIX Systems Adminstrator |
| healyzh_at_ix.netcom.com (primary) | Linux Enthusiast |
| healyzh_at_holonet.net (alternate) | Classic Computer Collector |
| Empire of the Petal Throne and Traveller Role Playing, |
| and Zane's Computer Museum. |
| http://www.dragonfire.net/~healyzh/ |
Received on Sun Dec 06 1998 - 02:48:22 GMT

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