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Alpha 4 and Vista: Some Suggestions

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  • Alpha 4 and Vista: Some Suggestions

    I'd like to share some techniques I've used for running Alpha 4 V8 in Windows Vista. This is based on my own experience, is not exhaustive, and may not work for everybody. Also, I have used A4 Version 8. I don't know how earlier versions run in Vista. I'll describe several techniques I tried in the order in which I tried them. My final solution is at the end if you want to get to the bottom line.

    First, so far my A4 applications have run successfully in Vista. The only drawbacks are that it only runs in a window (i.e. not fullscreen) and that it will not print. Others on this board have described a technique for sharing a printer but I didn't have any success. Perhaps I didn't set it up properly.

    When you attempt to run Winagent, Vista warns you that the version of the Amyuni PDF Converter is not compatible with the Windows version. I wonder if Winagent would run properly if it used a more current version of the PDF Converter. We may never know.

    To address the windowed screen problem, I tried DOSBox, available at http://www.dosbox.com/. This program was developed for gamers and, as far as I know, there is no support for printing though this may be added later. I have found this program valuable for running some old DOS programs that I still use on occasion. All my comments relate to version 0.72. When you set up DOSBox, you mount the directory in which your DOS program resides. This then becomes the root directory. The developers advise against mounting an entire C: drive. You'll be working with a Z:\ prompt in DOSBox. So, for A4, I start DOSBox, then type at the following prompts:

    Z:\mount c c:\alpha4v8
    Z:\c:
    C:\a4v8

    And you'll have the old Alpha 4 with its old DOS colors! There are several important notes about this. First, some keyboards will not type the "\" in DOSBox. You can substitute "/" without a problem. Second, because the c:\alpha4v8 directory is now the root directory, all references to the PATH will be inaccurate. For me, the biggest impact was on scripts. I solved this by copying all scripts to the C:\alpha4v8 directory so they would then be available from the root directory in DOSBox. After you Quit from A4, type "exit" to quit DOSBox.

    In DOSBox, you can change to fullscreen mode by hitting Alt+Enter. You can make this permanent by modifying the file "dosbox.conf". There are quite a few comments in the file so you can experiment. You can also set up dosbox.conf to run a program after starting DOSBox. I have used DOSBox in setting up A4 on my wife's laptop so she can work on it when away from home. I gave her an icon on the desktop which, when she clicks on it, opens DOSBox, then starts A4 in fullscreen mode. One click and she's using A4 just like in DOS.

    However, I still couldn't print, so I looked into virtual machines. I looked at Microsoft's VirtualPC http://www.microsoft.com/windows/pro...c/default.mspx but it didn't support USB and thus wouldn't support my printer. I ended up using Innotek's VirtualBox http://www.virtualbox.org/. It can run separate operating systems from within Vista and claims to run everything from MS-DOS up to XP. And it supports USB. I am running version 1.5.2 though I know there's a later version available.

    I had an extra copy of Windows 2000 so that's what I loaded, though XP would probably have been a better choice. I then loaded A4V8 inside VirtualBox and run it just like it was running under W2K. A note of caution with using USB: VirtualBox will recognize it (you have to set it up on the Details tab after loading the operating system) but if you switch to Vista while still using VirtualBox, Vista may recognize the USB device and you may end up with a conflict. I use both a USB printer as well as a flash drive for storing and transferring my A4 files. So, when in VirtualBox, I plug in my flash drive, transfer my files, then always unplug it before going back to Vista. As for the printer, if VirtualBox doesn't see it, I can usually solve this by unplugging it then plugging it back in.

    While you can go to fullscreen mode with A4 as usual, it may not actually fill your screen. The screen display is dependent on the settings for the host (Vista) and the guest (VirtualBox OS). To get true full screen, you must set your Vista screen to a low resolution (I would think 640 x 480 but my screen won't go that small) and then adjust the VirtualBox screen (click "Machine -> Auto-resize Guest Display"). Also, VirtualBox uses the Right Ctrl key to "capture" the keyboard. This means you can't use it as you normally would in A4, so you either have to use just the left Ctrl key or reset this "capture" key. I changed it to the Pause/Break key because it's almost never used anymore.

    I hope all this is helpful to someone. If anyone has questions about these strategies, let me know and I'll see if I can help. I'm no expert and can't address the finer points, but I managed successfully to continue to use A4 in Vista so I might be able to give some suggestions.

    Good luck!

    Doug

  • #2
    Re: Alpha 4 and Vista: Some Suggestions

    UPDATE: I have yet another strategy. Alpha 4 ran just fine under Windows XP. When my XP computer finally died and I replaced it with Windows 7, I pulled the hard drive out of the XP computer and installed it in the new computer. Now, whenever I need to access Alpha 4 or any other DOS-based program, I boot the computer from the XP hard drive. When I'm done, I restart the computer and I'm back in Windows 7.

    Doug

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    • #3
      Re: Alpha 4 and Vista: Some Suggestions

      Originally posted by DougA View Post
      UPDATE: I have yet another strategy. Alpha 4 ran just fine under Windows XP. When my XP computer finally died and I replaced it with Windows 7, I pulled the hard drive out of the XP computer and installed it in the new computer. Now, whenever I need to access Alpha 4 or any other DOS-based program, I boot the computer from the XP hard drive. When I'm done, I restart the computer and I'm back in Windows 7.

      Doug
      Doug,

      Thank you. As a diehard A4 V8 user, I tinkered with some of this. It did work with Vista 64 but the downside and inconvenience overshadowed the upside. In the end, I kept a good XP machine side-by-side with my Vista machine for an immediate A4 V8 reference. Some may not have the room or extra computers to do this as I do.

      Dave

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