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I am a sick puppy! - Windows on RISC OS

That's on a RaspberryPi running RISC OS.

Mostly for the lulz, as responsiveness is akin to trying to use Windows on a very very low end 386. But, hey, yes you can. Sort of. :-)


NOTE! There are many screenshots. It'll look quite crappy in the quality-and-size-reduced mobile version. If you are using a mobile device, either switch to "desktop" mode in your browser, or click on the "Switch to desktop version" link at the top (or bottom).


The first piece of advice? Do not download dosbox from (or via !Packman - same location). It is extremely liable to fall over dead when you least want it to.

Get !FastDOSBox from NoRisc-NoFun (aka Capsule Entertainment).
This is also buggy, but less so - for starters it allows you to go to full screen mode (press Alt-Enter) which is a world of difference faster than when it multitasks.

Your prerequisite here is that you have a copy of the contents of the Windows For Workgroups 3.11 installation discs. By this I mean the files themselves, not disc images. You ought to be able to find a copy somewhere online, if you don't have an ancient set of discs kicking around in the back of a cupboard.

So, unpack the archive of installation files to $.Win. It should leave you with a set of subdirectories called Disk1, Disk2, etc.

Now, start up the emulator. If it crashes just after the splash screen, and it probably will, you'll need to disable alignment faults - this is a complicated internal thing that I can't be bothered to explain, suffice to say that your computer runs on unleaded and the DosBox program runs on diesel so we're going to apply a little cheat to magically make your computer run on diesel. It's this little BASIC program. Type it in (carefully!), save it, run it, job done:

DIM code% 32
P% = code%
[ OPT 0
  SWI "OS_EnterOS"
  MRC CP15,0,R0,C1,C0,0
  BIC R0,R0,#2
  MCR CP15,0,R0,C1,C0,0
  MSR CPSR_c,#&10
  MOV R0,R0
  MOV PC,R14
CALL code%
The corresponding way to switch alignment faults back on is to replace the BIC R0,R0,#2 with ORR R0,R0,#2, in case you want to save these as "AlignOff" and "AlignOn". They're useful to have, as slightly older (Iyonix-era) software that crashes and/or dumps a backtrace when you try to start it will probably work with alignment checking turned off. You shouldn't turn it off as a matter of course though. Long boring technical reasons you won't be interested in.


So, as FastDOSBox starts, press Alt-Enter to switch to full screen. It is quicker. A lot.

You will need to "mount" the directory that you unpacked all of the files into. In order to do this, enter the following command: mount c /sdfs::riscospi/$/win and then start up the installation program in the usual way (usual for those of us that grew up with DOS):

cd disk1

When the prompt appears, press Enter because you want to install Windows.

Then press C for a Custom install.

The suggested path (C:\Windows) is good, so press Enter again here.

You may want to change the keyboard to British and the language to English (International).

Then press Enter to let installation commence...


Part way through you will be prompted for new files. Just modify the path shown to be C:\DISK2 then press Enter.


After a while, the initial setup will be complete and the screen will go black for a long time. You will eventually see the Windows installer with a better (graphical) UI. It will take a good few seconds to work out that you don't have a network card, then it will ask you to enter your name. Enter your name or the name of your cat into the upper box, leave the other stuff blank.

You'll be asked to confirm this, so do so.

The next stage is to tell Windows what you want installed. Well, you can uncheck Set Up Printers and Set Up Applications Already on Hard Disk(s) right away; there's no printer port and there's nothing on the harddisc.

Then Continue.

The next window is for setting up what we do want to install.

We don't really need Readme Files so uncheck that.
Now click on Select Files... beside Accessories as we can trim that 4MB down a bit. In the window that pops up, on the lower right pane, scroll down and click on Mail and Mail Help. Do likewise for Microsoft At Work Fax, Object Packager, Schedule+, Sound Recorder, and all the associated Help files. You can also get rid of the Windows Tutorial.
Now click on the Remove <- button and they'll all shove over to the left panel, the "this stuff will be forgotten about" panel.
Click on OK and you'll see the stuff to install for accessories has dropped to a tad over a megabyte. I also got rid of the Hearts game, because it is a network game and we don't have networking (I don't think?).
To install now? A megabyte and a half. It's quite comical given the size of operating systems these days.

Click on Continue and Windows will begin installing the components that were requested.


It isn't terribly fast (everything needs to be decompressed) which is why I wanted to skip installing the stuff that is not useful.
Additionally, the installer is a bit braindead so you'll be asked to tell it where stuff in a few times. Just read what the description says, like in the picture below it is looking for something on "Disk 3", so amend the path accordingly. You will, however, have plenty of time to make a cup of tea between prompts. Don't wait eagerly anticipating something happening, that's a task for puppies...


When asked about your network, just press Enter to continue. Windows 3.11 is when Microsoft finally noticed that there might be some sort of value in computers talking to each other - something us Acorn users had known for almost a decade thanks to Econet. Suffice to say, Windows-with-wowee-look-at-this-networking is a bit obsessed with having some sort of network, and piling on the guilt if you're stuck in the Dark Ages with floppy discs. We use WfWG3.11 because it is a little nicer than the earlier Windows 3.1 (32bit Protected Mode, 32bit file access, greater stability (less likely to GPF on you))...

You will then be asked about CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. Jeez, the nostalgia level is off the scale - so here are some of the songs that I remember from '93 to help improve the ambience:

  • I Will Always Love You [Whitney Houston] - ridiculously popular song from a ridiculously popular film was ridiculously popular.
  • (I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You [UB40]
  • Runaway Train [Soul Asylum]
  • Rhythm Is a Dancer [Snap]
  • The River of Dreams [Billy Joel] - I like this one
  • I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) [The Proclaimers] - Benny&Joon For The Win!
  • What's Up? [4 Non Blondes]
  • All That She Wants [Ace Of Base] - one Saturday, Burger King in Taunton played this in a loop. I hated the song to start with, I wanted to kill people after half an hour of it.
Also Dr. Dre (who makes expensive headphones now), Rod Stewart (!), Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Janet and Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, PM Dawn, Tina Turner, Haddaway, Tears For Fears, Sting, Seal, Bryan Adams, Squiggle-symbol-Ankh-thing (most people just called him "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince")... A time before Take That were known to the world, a time before Pop Idol programmes, a time when music was a little less cool than the late '80s, but a fair bit better than the empty decade that followed.

Anyway, uh... configuration files. That's what we were talking about, right? Yeah... okay... let it make the modifications for you. It doesn't matter, DosBox ignores these files.

Program Manager will start and you will see icons appear and windows shuffle around. This will be followed by a prompt to see a tutorial. I'm assuming you have met Windows 3 before in your life (if not, why are you doing this?) so you can skip the tutorial.

Finally you will arrive at two options - Restart Computer or Return to MS-DOS. Choose to Restart, and at this point the emulator will drop out with the message "Reboot requested - quitting now." Wheee!


Now time for some tweaks. Open the file !FastDosBox.noriscnofun/conf and go down to the bottom.
Add the following to the end (DosBox ignores config.sys and autoexec.bat!):

mount c /sdfs::riscospi/$/win
Save the updated file.


Now, start FastDOSBox once again.

The infamous greeny-grey flying-windows splash screen will appear, an image burned into the eyeballs of an entire generation.

Then Windows itself will start. Yeah, it really did used to look like this. People really did use it. It made Microsoft insanely popular - because the "everything runs in DOS and has its own device drivers and endless quirks" that came before was far, far, worse. You people nowadays, plug some USB thingummy into your computer and expect it to just work. You have no idea...
And this? This is the image burned into an entire generation of cathode ray tubes.

What you do from here is up to you, but you might want to try out the game that wasted billions of hours of productivity in offices up and down the early '90s. Hint - if a card is to be placed on the "collected" pile (upper right), double-click it and it'll go straight there. It's quicker than dragging it.

The Write word processor is actually surprisingly good for a bundled program.

Finally, to shut down the early (3.x) era versions of Windows, remember that you have to close Program Manager (either double-click on the upper left icon of the window border, or press Alt-F4 while it has the input highlight (blue title bar)).


What not to do!
Do not try to switch to an 800x600 SVGA display, for some reason a lot of stuff gets messed up giving you bits of windows in odd places.
If you made this mistake, you might think that you need to reinstall Windows (and for less techie users, that is exactly how to 'fix' it). We, however, have a rescue that we can use. Thankfully.
Go to DOS (quit Windows - if you can't see the screen, just press Alt-F4 then Enter).
Your prompt should say "C:\WINDOWS>". Type the following:

And Windows should restart, back in (visible) VGA mode.



Your comments:

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Jess, 8th August 2014, 19:32
Oh My God WHY?
Rick, 9th August 2014, 14:21
Are you new here? ;-) 
Why? Because.
Mark, 10th August 2014, 06:51
You do know that you need to go outside a little more often don't you?
Rob, 31st August 2014, 02:25
Ah... the memories...  
Somewhere I might still have an official version of WfWG on /CD/ !! That was so much easier than almost a dozen floppies. Mind you ... in those daya Microsoft Office came on 31 of the buggers. ... and it often asked you to back-track in the sequence during the install! I know I still have a set of those somewhere... 
David Pilling, 28th December 2014, 16:48
totes amazeballs 
berniept, 27th May 2015, 10:58
I seem to remember that invoking WIN with /3 parameter made windows run in 386 mode. In my office's machines (in the days of 3.xx) that made a good difference. Do you have tried it?

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