20170507

Rainbow Venix with BSW Enhancements

I've taken some time to look at the Venix disks. I've managed to read them all after retrying the read errors enough. I've created new disks and installed it on my system. I'll go through all that in a forthcoming post since there's lots of fiddly bits.

This post I'll expose what BSW is. It's the Boston Software Works. It was a company that was run by Larry Campbell from 1985 until 1995. They had a number of different products over the years. Through about 1988 they offered their enhanced version of Venix for $800 a copy (not their choice on the price).  It was normal Venix, only better. Larry posted the following to mod.newprod on Usenet back in December1986 describing what it was. I've edited the formatting a bit, and trimmed the headers:
The Boston Software Works (BSW) is now distributing an improved version of VENIX/Rainbow.  VENIX/Rainbow is a complete UNIX(tm) system for the DEC Rainbow 100, developed by VenturCom, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. It is a V7-based system, with extensions such as plot(3) drivers for the Rainbow color graphics board and DEC LA50 printer, semaphores, and shared memory.
Standard VENIX/Rainbow requires and supports the DEC RD51 winchester disk (10MB) only.
The Boston Software Works enhancements to VENIX/Rainbow include:
  1. Support for any disk physically connectible to the Rainbow. Our development system runs a 70MB Micropolis disk.
  2. Virtual consoles, as found in VENIX on IBM-compatible machines, and also in XENIX and Microport System V/AT.
  3. Support for the NEC V20 chip, which replaces the Intel 8088 for a 10-15% performance gain.
  4. Support for simultaneous use of a monochrome display (for terminal/console use) and a color graphics display (for graphics).
  5. Ports (on an as-is basis) of several public domain programs, such as the Usenet news software, rn, smail, and Jove, an excellent EMACS subset.
  6. Support for the CHS dual-winchester controller.
The price (single copy) for VENIX/Rainbow is $795 and includes a complete manual set.
I've installed both the original Venix/Rainbow and this enhanced version. The enhanced version is the way to go. It knows how to cope with the larger disk I installed in my Rainbow, and the installation process was much less painful (though there were some up-front gotchas that I wound up having to re-run WUTIL to get through).
These are all cool things. The only issue that I've seen is that the .o's aren't included so it's impossible to rebuild the kernel with these neat, new features without significant hassle. The other problem is that while I can get stable file transfer on MS-DOS with LCTERM at 9600 baud, I can't with Venix. 4800 is error prone even. Messing with the serial chip seems to also trigger the dreaded Interrupts Off message, so I've not messed with it too much. Still don't know if that's my Rainbow going bad, or other issues (have some spare parts arriving soonish). The maximum throughput is only 240-300 CPS anyway with LCTERM, so maybe I'll just run at 2400 or 3600 baud.
Not listed above: it kinda seems like it is reading my clikclok. I did have to fix the 'date' command to grok Y2k though (well, since I don't have the sources, I used the Unix v7 sources from TUHS). If this keeps up, I'll put together a distribution of useful things from V7 :).
I'll blog more when I've run through another install and worked out how to boot in MESS (it has a bug when booting directly off the hard drive, but maybe the BOOT program will fix that).

[[ Edited May 8, 2017 to supply link to original mod.newprod article on google groups ]]

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