Once I started receiving the hardware, I had to decide where to start. The easiest part of the project was really going to be setting up DOS. or at least I thought so. By today's standards DOS is an incredibly simplistic and uncomplicated operating system, but that does not mean it is easy to setup, configure and use.
The first thing I tried was FreeDOS, this was kind of a mistake in retrospect. FreeDOS did not like the 128MB flash drive at all and nothing I could do would fix that. When I tried to use expanded memory, the system would crash before it even finished booting, although extended memory seems to work just fine. I gave up on this and hoped I would have better luck with MS DOS.
The tricky part of MS DOS was the floppy install. Mind you I do have a USB floppy drive and a few disks laying around, but the idea of sitting there for half an hour swapping disks did not appeal to me. So just to get started, I booted to a disk I made from AllBookdisk.com and copied the few files that were there into the c:\dos folder. This gave me a limited set of utilities that was really not very useful. The it dawned on me that I had a full install on a virtual disk, so after a quick run back to my main system, I mounted the virtual machines image and copied all the files and folders from the virtual disk to a USB drive. The problem I had with this was MS DOS did not recognize my USB drive as formatted, even though I formatted it as FAT32. I ran fdisk on the USB drive and then formatted it again. I went back to my system and repeated what I did before and tried again, this time the process worked perfectly. I now had a fully functional install of MS DOS.
The next problem was networking, DOS networking was never good, at best it was barely usable. I spent the next 2 hours scouring the internet for drivers, specifically, I needed DOS Packet Drivers. I did find what I was looking for on a pretty sketchy website that hosted old driver packages. Fortunately this particular network chipset was used on a couple of old motherboards. Next I needed sound, so I repeated my driver quest and came with nothing, the oldest Operating System I could find for the sound was Windows XP. So, no sound. I could not even find Windows 3.1 drivers for either the sound or the video.
Next was to find some programs to run. I of course easily found my two favorite text editors of the time Boxer and Freemacs. But I also wanted something a bit closer to a real word processor. MS Word for DOS is available free from Microsoft, you can download it here is you really want it. I also installed DOOM and some other fun things. I also downloaded Arachne, a DOS based web browser. This worked well enough, but I would not suggest it for anything other than very basic browsing.
That was pretty much that. I might try spending a whole day using nothing but this machine, just for the fun of it. My next project is to take the other Thin Client and try to get it to boot Linux off my network.