Friday, February 15, 2008

DOS 6.2 Windows 3.11 Bridgeport CNC Software BXX

The title of this blog contains few of the legacy software that I had to configure to solve a problem faced by one of my friend. Let me explain my interesting experience with all these old softwares below.

The Requirement:
  • My friend(Fazni Aziz) has bought a CNC machine for his newly established company and it is working fine with a computer which is running DOS 6.2. The only interface that computer has is the floppy disk driver and he has to transfer all his design files in floppies in order to use them with the CNC machine. If he did any changes then the files have to be copied again using floppies. The process is really painstaking.
  • The only copy of the Bridgeport software that he has is the installed copy.
  • He wanted something like file sharing so that he can simply transfer files between this legacy machine and his laptop. (This was his goal)
  • He also suggested that we setup a different computer so that he can use the old computer till I get a new one setup.


First I had to find the requirements for the Bridgeport software.
I decided to give it a try in my computer running windows XP.
I copied the required files as they were in the original computer and try running it in my computer. It did not work.

In the mean time a friend of my friend has suggested him using a virtual machine running DOS. So I setup VMWare and installed DOS6.22. Then I setup the Bridgeport software in the virtual machine. It did not work as well.

Then I decided to try the exact DOS version that the original computer has. That is DOS 6.2.
I got a copy of the hard disk of the original computer and an old computer(let's call this computer X).
I formatted the computer X for FAT16 file system. (Although I could not find any confirmation, this is one of the requirement for the Bridgeport software)
Then I copied all the files in the hard disk copy that I got to the hard disk of computer X.
Next, I use a DOS 6.2 boot disc to setup DOS 6.2 in the computer X.
This time for my amazement I was able to see the blue screen (The initial screen of Bridgeport software). Needless to say that it is working now!!!

One barrier is over, but now I have to setup file sharing.

One of my friend (Eran Chinthaka) gave me a valuable piece of information. That is Windows 3.1 can be installed on top of DOS 6.2 and it won't update the DOS version.

After searching on ebay, amazon etc... we were able to find a Windows for Workgroups( WFW) installation diskettes in ebay.

I installed WFW in the computer X on top of the DOS6.2. I have used WFW about 12 years back and that time it was really a big thing with the windows and mouse. This time it is the rescuer.
WFW supports file sharing for work group computers and hence we were nearing our goal.

Next hurdle is configuring a network card. (Computer X had a Realteck PCI network card but I could not find a driver for that for WFW)

From all the NIC's supported by WFW I found that SMC Elite 16 Combo card on ebay which supports 10 BaseT connections.

The disk came with the NIC card contained a software named EZStart.exe which supposed to help configuring the network card. However it did not work in our computer X. It simply could not identify the network card.

Luckily the disk contained another sofware named SMCA70.exe which extracts all the configuration files in it to different location. I use this and copied the configuration files to another floppy disk.

After several attempts I was able to configure the NIC card with WFW. However, still the network (TCP/IP) was not working and WFW does not support TCP/IP by default.
A Google search pointed me to this site where they have a TCP/IP version for WFW.

I installed it in the computer X and WOW!!! The computer X running WFW was able to connect to the network using DHCP.

Now the file sharing is just matter of enabling it using WFW and accessing them using any other machine in the same workgroup.

After a long battle the goal is now not a dream any more.

Bottom line:

The version of the Bridgeport software that we have: BOSS DX/32
So far we were only able to run this software on DOS6.2
Windows for Workgroups can be installed on top of DOS 6.2 without changing it.
With WFW we can configure file sharing.

This enabled my friend to do the following:

Design the parts(machine parts) on his laptop
Transfer those files to the computer X
Drive the CNC using computer X
If he notice any changes to be made to the design:
Stop the CNC
Access the file using his laptop (using file sharing) and modify the design
Start the CNC process.

I tried to explain some of the challenges that I faced during setting up the above computer and the software for my friend. Hope this helps someone trying to reach the same goal as him.