Sharp NetWalker caught running Windows 95


While the rest of us are content with using Ubuntu on our Sharp NetWalker PC-Z1 MIDs, Pocketables reader Gary wanted to see how well Windows 95 could run on the ARM Cortex A8-powered device.

His interests in such shenanigans started way back when he got DOS running on an iPAQ Pocket PC and have recently been fueled by waiting for the arrival of his Pandora handheld, which some would like to see running QEMU or Wine to emulate Windows on its ARM architecture. Rather than sit around and wait for the Pandora to start shipping, Gary fired up bochs (an x86 PC emulator) on his NetWalker and got Windows 95 up and running in no time.

The process isn't exactly for the uninitiated (i.e., me), so I'll let Gary explain what's involved and how everything is done:

All you have to do is open a terminal window and type: sudo apt-get install bochs ("sudo" means super user and will require your password). You then need to type: sudo apt-get install bochs-x to install the graphical user interface for bochs in Windows. It's all in the ubuntu repositories.

Then it gets a bit trickier. Bochs has no friendly front end. Instead, you have to configure it manually in file called bochsrc. You also have to create a disk image using bximage (which comes with bochs), fdisk the image to partition it, format it, and then copy all of the windows install files onto it by mounting it to the file system (which is quite easy in linux). You then have to boot into bochs from a bootable cd image and then run the setup file that you have previously copied onto the hard disk image. Finally, you can run it.

The main apps I launched in the video [see below] were Notepad, Paint, and Calculator. Anything should work provided it is compatible with the Windows 95 version I have. Some things may be very slow though, and I doubt anything requiring graphics acceleration would work because bochs does not emulate a 3D graphics card. I can run Internet Explorer but I'd need to configure networking to surf to the net and I haven't tried that yet. Bochs is not like parallels or vmware – it doesn't come with drivers to detect the host network device – not in so far as I am aware. Everything pretty much has to be done manually.

Gary hasn't tried anything other than Windows 95 but says that Win98, various x86 Linux distros, and DOS should all work fine. Windows XP, he says, will likely be much too slow to be of any use since it would require 128-256MB of memory (Win95, in comparison, only needed 32MB), but getting it to run could probably be done.

Pretty cool, huh?

Thanks, Gary!

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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8 thoughts on “Sharp NetWalker caught running Windows 95

  • Avatar of christopher

    Yeah, good job, now try OS/2 with the 64-disk distro next.

  • Avatar of Joseph G. Mitzen

    Forget the Sharp… I want to see someone try this on the N900! I also wonder if there was a reason for using bochs over qemu… maybe qemu doesn’t run on ARM?

  • qemu does run on the Netwalker and I can run windows 95 on qemu. Problem is that I installed windows 95 in Bochs and a driver windows 95 used isn’t compatible with the qemu emulated machine so windows got to a point and then refused to boot giving a driver error message. Therefore I used bochs for the demonstration. Also qemu didn’t seem to be much faster than bochs.

  • Avatar of Joseph G. Mitzen

    Thank you very much for your reply. After reading this I did a web search on the difference between the two and some articles said qemu was faster but they were not recent. It’s also possible that QEMU is faster when emulating an x86 on x86 when code can be run natively but that advantage is gone when emulating X86 on an ARM. Your work gives me hope for being able to play some old Windows adventure games and other low-CPU games on one of the slew of ARM-based portables that will be arriving on the market. Another thing I’m wondering is if a Linux and WINE would be less resource-demanding than Windows 95 for old Windows apps? Of course, that’s something I can test out myself, at least on the x86 platform. You’re inspiring me to keep saving my pennies… :-) Great tech work by the way.

  • No problem Joseph. I think you are right that qemu loses its advantage emulating x86 on arm without being optimised for arm. I believe that someone is working on an arm optimised version of qemu for pandora over at the pandora forums. I’m no an assembly coder so I just installed qemu from the ubuntu repositories.

    In relation to games, I’m having trouble getting more than 16 colours with Bochs’ vga emulation in windows and you need at least 256 to run some games (I’ve been trying age of empires, for example). I’ll keep trying to get it to work.

    It’s a good thing you mentioned wine as my next project is to try to get wine running with qemu’s user mode to see if it’s any faster.


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