So I’ve been trying to install and use old Linux distros, mainly to look at the possibility to get older Linux games to work, like Simcity 3000 and Unreal Tournament 2004, all of which run into issues when attempting to play on modern Linux operating systems. First thing I tried was to use a virtual machine to run install the OS into.
Not sure if this is an error or if it’s just because the hard disk just uninitialised
Why would I enable hard drive optimisations when it could cause data corruption?
So far so good, were at the login screen
Might be because we don’t have any graphics drivers for the virtual graphics card. At least you would expect a failsafe graphics driver
Like on Virtualbox we are able to install as normal, but when it comes to booting the OS,
It seems to have issues detecting the hard disk. Since by default VMWare uses an IDE drive for these old Linux operating systems I though we could try SCSI instead. Unfortunately I was unable to get the installer to detect the SCSI controller.
I had better luck using Pcem v17, which actually emulates older PC hardware, rather than using a virtual environment. This has its benefits regarding compatibility but at the expense of performance. Not only must you emulate a slower x86 CPU (In our case an AMD K6 or Pentium, but your host CPU must be able to emulate that older CPU in addition to the video card, chipset and any other peripherals Pcem is emulating. Since Pcem is a single threaded application, having a CPU with a high IPC is beneficial, which is something my AMD FX processor is not well known for. Also depending on the motherboard you emulate in Pcem you may not be able to boot off the CD-ROM directly. Thankfully there was a Linux boot floppy that could be used instead.
The first install went by without a hitch, but when it came to booting the OS it would immediately reboot and would continue to reboot by getting stuck in a boot loop. I fixed this by changing the CPU from a Cyrix to an AMD K6.
The next issue I ran into was with this screen, where it would get stuck at a terminal looking screen with that penguin, where the screen would blink every second. I wasn’t sure what was causing this initially however after changing graphics card in PCem (from a Cirrus Logic 5432? to an ATI Mach, this triggered the Kudzu utility which is used to install system drivers, kind of like the add new hardware wizard in Windows.
Once I selected the correct graphics card, the system rebooted and loaded up the login screen. This helped me understand what was going on previously, either Mandrake did not have the correct driver support for the cirrus logic or PCem is not able to emulate the VGA card properly in Linux. Either way Mandrake was trying to load the X Window system but was failing each time, hence why it was ‘blinking’, the X window system was loading and then crashing.
Unfortunately the speed issues caused a problem with this approach, since PCem would frequently go under 100%, which is the percentage of the speed being emulated by it. Anytime it goes under 100% means the emulator has to slow down in order to catch up. I ended up changing the CPU from an AMD K6 166Mhz to a Pentium 75Mhz, which is below the specification needed for Simcity 3000 and way below what’s needed for Unreal Tournament 2004.
Still at least I was able to boot into a desktop, I guess it’s time for a host CPU upgrade.