Hi,
   Just a few answers:

On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 4:51 PM, bruce.bowman tds.net
<bruce.bow...@tds.net> wrote:

(part one)

> My program is a fairly simple role-playing game. It was originally written
> in Turbo C for DOS, and reads/writes to disk using DOS (not BIOS) calls.

(BTW, which Turbo C version? Some here still use it.)

So it's not NTFS that is bothering you, nor 32-bit NTVDM, just the
lack of VESA support?

> It runs in 256 palletized colors on a 640x480 console.

I don't know jack about graphics, honestly. But IIRC the "normal" BIOS
only supports 640x480x16 (16 colors?) or some such. It couldn't be too
too hard to adjust to running in fewer colors (although not ideal)
e.g. under WinXP. And/or you could just resize your .PCX image files,
etc.

> While running, it
> frequently reads image files off disk, and for that reason won't fit on (or
> reliably run from) a floppy. I want to share it with friends such that all
> they have to do is insert a CD and boot up.

But how much total storage do you need? More than 1.4 MB? You could
uncompress it from physical floppy to RAM disk if speed is an issue.
It's not that floppies are so great, but they've been around forever
and have fairly good support and are fairly simple to use, modify,
emulate, etc.

> Having said that, I've tried DosBox, just for my own purposes. My
> program runs very slowly in it, no matter what settings I use;

notepad dosbox-0.74.conf
(change memsize=16 to memsize=32 if desired)
(change core=auto to core=dynamic)
(try again)
(revert changes or use a separate .conf for certain projects)

I'll admit it can be fairly slow, but it's mostly for popular games.
In fact, it's "only" for games, as the devs often admit. But Doom and
Quake (mostly) run perfectly fine under it, etc. etc.

Since your game is an actual game, you could always post on the DOSBox
forum (Vogons / ZetaFleet or whatever) and bug the devs to fix it for
you. Assuming you're willing to share with them also.

I know you don't like emulators (who does?), but when they work, they
work well. And DOSBox is small and easy to use (and GPL).

> and
> for some reason the graphics palette does not get reset properly.
> I've downloaded VM too, but haven't tried that yet, and for
> reasons already mentioned I probably won't.

Well, the point is that DOSBox is a natural solution for DOS gaming.
Of course, it's not a "real" DOS, per se, but it works pretty well.
However, if you're unwilling to hack at it some more in cooperation
with DOSBox devs, then you'll have to find another way.

It's not that booting a CD is bad, but sometimes people like not
having to reboot (and lose network access, background processes, etc.)
just to play a game.

> The DFSee CD image that someone else recommended looks like
> something I can modify for my purposes. I've already booted off
> of that and confirmed that the game runs well...here at home,
> anyway. And it seems to detect and do i/o on my FAT32 partition
> just fine. NTFS? I'll worry about that later.

The problem with NTFS is moreso in the overhead, both memory and
storage, not to mention its inherent security that is underdocumented
on purpose (and of course several internal revisions). XP is the last
Windows to boot natively off of a FAT file system. Newer ones only
boot off of NTFS, but at least those newer ones have built-in
capabilities to resize the main NTFS partition, if desired (which XP
lacks, sadly, hence the need for GParted).

> Floppy disks? I realizing I'm backtracking by using DOS instead of a GUI,
> but am loath to go all the way to 80s technology. A bootable thumb
> drive, though, intrigues me -- because I can write to it.

It's not ideal but it's easy to use and widely supported (or at least
used to be).

> But how do
> you make it show up? If I stick one in a USB port and restart, my
> BIOS menu doesn't show it as a drive. A boot image that requires
> a loader before it's seen by the BIOS sounds like a real
> chicken-or-egg problem.

It's only older machines (sorry, not trying to disparage anyone) that
don't boot from USB. E.g. my older P4 machine. For machines like that,
you can use "freeware" PLoP boot manager (from floppy, hard disk, or
CD-ROM) to boot from USB:    http://www.plop.at/

(part two)

> All the bootable CDs that I've seen have contained a floppy disk image.

Bernd is (one of) the resident experts. There are two modes for CD
booting, one using fake floppy, one using another method. It's a bit
confusing to me. But no, I don't think you're forced to use a floppy
image. Though, again, it seems the easiest way (IMO), esp. if your
whole app + minimal FreeDOS can fit (compressed) on a 1.4 MB disk.

> MagicISO seems to do well with editing the CD image but not the FD
> image.

As mentioned, you can edit the floppy disk image in various ways:
QEMU, VirtualBox, mtools, etc.

> I'm now starting all over using the instructions found here:
> http://www.k1ea.com/hints/Creating_a_Bootable_DOS_CD_V%201.5.pdf
>
> I would like to do this using FreeDOS instead of DOS 7.1, though.

Well, if you intend to distribute your game to friends, DOS 7.1 is
right out ... even if those users already have copies of DOS 7.1. This
is where FreeDOS has an (intentional) advantage.

> The more I play with FreeDOS the more I like its features. What actually
> happens if I "install" FreeDOS on my Windows computer? I don't want
> to do that and end up with a machine that won't boot XP.

You shouldn't have that problem. XP uses boot.ini, which is fairly
well documented to use FreeDOS along side it (once you resize the NTFS
and create / format a FAT partition and save the boot sector to a
file). Later Windows use BCD, so I suggest third-party EasyBCD to help
configure those.

(part three)

> Okay, I have the CD working now, just need to fine-tune it.
>
> Is anyone aware of an FDOS utility that can probe for available drives,
> preferably writable ones? On my machine it finds my FAT32 partition (D: in
> XP) and assigns it to the C: drive. Can I count on that behavior to continue
> on other machines?

IIRC, there were some tiny DOS utils that assisted in such things like
that, e.g. whichfat, finddisk, etc. (I assume that's what you mean. If
you want something more powerful, you'll have to be more specific.)

http://ericauer.cosmodata.virtuaserver.com.br/soft/specials/

> What's the best way to install FreeDOS on my D: drive (XP is on C:)? For
> further game development that might come in handy.

DOSEMU would be easier, or even DOSBox if your RPG ran correctly. But
for Windows, if you had VT-X, you could use VirtualBox or (maybe
without) VMware.

If you insist on dual booting, you'll have to resize the partition
with GParted (from Linux liveCD). IIRC, they recommend defragging the
NTFS partition first, resizing, then let XP run CHKDSK (or whatever)
to do any minor fixups needed. Then it "should" work.

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