Previous 1.6


For anyone who is interested in classical 680×0 based NeXT emulation, I build the latest snapshot of Previous for Windows.  You can find it here: Previous-1.6_build_767.7z

When I had a cube, I was like everyone else, without a working magnetic optical disc. And I was a (and still am) a diehard 3.3 fan, but it’s still fun loading up version 0.8 under emulation.


The problem was several fold, from the drives turning out to be VERY sensitive to dust, the NeXT’s sucking air through the MO drive, trapping quite a bit of dust in the drives, mechanisms breaking, the optics being sensitive to heat, and of course our old friend, bad capacitors.  The build disk application warns it can take upwards of 3 hours to create a MO of the operating system.  They clearly were not fast either.  I think it took 30 minutes under emulation.


At the end of the day, I guess it didn’t matter.  Optical discs came and went in the 80’s , and re surged with CD’s and re-writable discs up until this decade.  Now we’ve pretty much gone either all solid state, or only large capacity disks with moving parts.

Oh well, I was looking for sample code, to see if there were other driver examples for the driverkit.  I didn’t think there was anything far back when NeXTSTEP was a black box, 68030 thing, but it never hurts to look.


It is cool that TCP/IP won out in the protocol wars.  It’s very convenient to have a current 2017 desktop, being able to communicate with operating systems nearly 30 years old.  Especially when it comes to things like NFS, making it even better for mapping drives, and sharing data.

And much to my surprise, with the bad reputation the SLiRP code has, I’m able to mount my Synology’s NFS share just fine from my virtual cube.

mount -t nfs -o fs,mnttimeout=1,retry=1,rsize=512,wsize=512,retrans=1 /mnt/data

I had just added some parameters to lower retry times, and resize the blocksize to be much smaller than a single packet so I don’t have to worry about any issues with MTU resizing.  Maybe it’s not optimal, but being able to copy data in and out is all I want to do, and it’s been reliable.

Oh yeah, since it was burred in the messages, for people who like old dmesg’s

Remote debugging enabled
msgbuf at 0x73fe000
NeXT Mach/4.3 #5.1(XM13): Thu Dec  1 13:03:37 PST 1988; /sources/projects/mk-0.8.26e0.8/RELEASE (photon)
physical memory = 15.99 megabytes.
available memory = 14.97 megabytes.
using 16 buffers containing 0.12 megabytes of memory
odc0 at 0x2012000
od0 at odc0 slave 0
od1 at odc0 slave 1
SCSI 53C90 Controller, Target 7, as sc0 at 0x2014000
IBM     DORS-32160    !# as sd0 at sc0 target 2 lun 0
       Disk Label: NeXT_0_8
       Disk Capacity 2063MB, Device Block 512 bytes
en0 at 0x2006000
en0: Ethernet address 00:00:0f:00:22:09
dsp0 at 0x20000d0
np0 at 0x200f000
sound0 at 0x200e000
root on sd0
master cpu at slot 0.
setting hostname to NeXT_0_8
network_init.gethostbyname fails, errno=2
network_init failed: no network
Network Server initialised.

Darwin 0.1 + Rhapsody DR 2 booted!

Following up from yesterday, here we go!

Rhapsody 1.0 booting

So I finally got it running, after some inspiration from NCommander over at forums, that the Darwin 0.1 kernel is infact build able, I went ahead and took a stab at it.  While he was trying to start from OPENSTEP, I tried it from something as close as I could to the target, which was Rhapsody DR2.

Back in the days of the NeXT / Apple merger, there was hope that OPENTSTEP could become the next great OS for the Apple Macintosh.  It had been a while since NeXT had the OS running so things had rotten somewhat, as time had passed on.  However the first and most viable platform would of course be the x86.  Back in 1993 while feeling increased pressure in the hardware space, NeXT was forced to start porting away from their black m68k based hardware, and this was an opportunity to get their software running on different platforms.  And sadly in 1993, the NRW aka NeXT RISC Workstation that was in development with dual m88000 processors was killed along with all hardware projects.  In the end it didn’t matter as much as the only processor from the early 90’s that has a vibrant future is the i386.

So back again to this transitional time before OS X 10, there were developer versions of this OS seeded out that required you to have an intel machine as OPENSTEP was being ported to the PowerPC machines that Apple was selling.

So on May 14, 1998, the last public version for the Intel processor was released, DR2.

However two interesting things happened along the way to what would become OS X Server 1.0 .  The first is that Apple gave up on the ‘yellow box‘ portable API, and to satisfy the GPL requirement to release changes to source code, Apple would go one further and release the source code to many of the internal system utilities, along with the kernel in what was known as Darwin.

This was a big deal for many of us, as the cost of getting the source code to any UNIX was incredibly prohibitive, and OS’s like Linux, NetBSD/OpenBSD/FreeBSD were picking up steam, OPENSTEP being awaken from it’s cryonic hibernation but with the promise of being free and open software was pretty great!  Back in the day it sure looked promising!

Obviously things didn’t work out as everyone had hoped as Apple either straight up ignored anyone on the outside, or they hired people who showed promise, made them sign NDA’s and were basically never heard from again.

So the recently recovered source code to Darwin 0.1 corresponds with the release of the PowerPC only OS X Server 1.0.  However as we all found out, Darwin will still built and maintained on Intel, as it was a very secretive plan B, in case something went wrong with the PowerPC platform.  Being portable had saved NeXT before, and now it would save Apple.

So with this little background, and a lot of stumbling around in the dark, I came up with some steps, that have permitted me to build the Darwin 0.1 kernel under DR2.

However it was not perfect, and the biggest glaring issue was due to the software that was recovered, the layer known as driverkit, (driverkit-139.1-1.tar.gz) turns out to be from another, later release of Darwin, the 0.2 release, which the only thing surviving is the driver kit.  It doesn’t build cleanly, and In order to get it to build I had to break the mach PCI bus.  This means that yes, PCI devices will not load at runtime, only at boottime by sald.

After a lot of fighting I was able to produce a system that could boot into both single user and multiuser mode, although it was unable to load drivers so there was no networking, and no UI.

In a fit of boredrom, I built a bunch of the command line tools for Darwin, and a few libraries, and then went to see why the driverkit had a problem finding the reason why KernBus was undefined, or even with some attempts at helping all the methods were unknown, I stumbled onto the fact that during compilation it will generate new headers, and in those headers are the correct interface for driverkit to call into the KernBus.  So I was able to quickly rebuild driverkit, then re-link into the kernel and now I could load drivers!  Thrilled with this much, I did something more aggressive, I made a dump of my install ‘target’ and then restored it onto an image of my dev VM.  And much to my amazement it booted up to the graphical login.  I now had PCI working correctly.

Darwin 0.1

This kind of thing is not for casual users, but if you install DR2 into a VM, you ought to be able to then use this ISO image, and follow these instructions, and you will then have a DR2 OS from 1998 with the OS X 1.0 kernel from 1999 running.  The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that the newer kernel can use 512MB of RAM, a nice bump up from 192 which was the prior limit.

Obviously there is a lot more work to be done, it’d be nice to find some source to an IDE or other block controller and modify it to work with the massive disks of today, along with the filesystem code to handle partitions larger than 2GB.

Maybe it will be possible to port in the driverkit to XNU, so we can get things like existing drivers, and SMP, massive filesystems etc..  It’s great to see we are going the right way.

For fans, here is a qemu 0.90 image+exe that can run Darwin 0.3 into single user mode.

EDIT and for people still hitting this, here is a multiuser bootable image.  I’ll keep updating on the source forge page.

Previous 1.4 features NeXTdimension emulation!



It’s really cool!  And as an added bonus, it can now run in ‘Variable’ speed, meaning as fast as your machine can emulate the 68040.

OS X version here, and Windows version here.  For me, at least a bunch of DLL’s are missing, so I put together a quick package containing the Windows version with all of the missing DLLs here.

From the announcement:

Hello all,

I am happy to annouce the release of Previous v1.4! Simon did lots of work on emulating the NeXTdimension and he considerably improved timings and efficiency of Previous. Furthermore there is now a mode to accelerate the emulation beyond the performance of real systems. Other improvements and bugfixes are listed in the readme.

Emulating the NeXTdimension board was something i thought would not be feasible. But thanks to the i860 emulator from Jason Eckhardt and the work of Simon, who improved and completed parts of it, it finally came true. I hope you enjoy it!

NeXTSTEP in your browser!

Well, kind of.



It’s a Docker containers running Previous, that you connect to with noVNC in your browser.  So it’s a legacy system thing on demand!  I had tried to do something like this ages ago with SIMH on demand, but I broke it all when I installed apache on OS/2 to make the bbs url self hosting.

The mouse control is insanely offtrack, but this does present an interesting possibility of bringing back an OS museum / zoo thing.

Also worth mentioning that they do offer MacOS!

Quake on HPPA (Gecko) NeXTSTEP

So forever ago I had done a super bare port of Quake to NeXTSTEP.  It was based on a copy of UAE 0.6.0 source code that included hooks for NeXTSTEP.  So seizing on this I built a shaky framework and amazingly got it to work.  Well work enough I had trouble with the mouse part, and never did get around to fixing it, but I kicked it out into the world.  And amazingly the HPPA cross compiled version that I compiled but never tested runs!

My whole misadventure is on, and blakespot has a blog about finding the gecko and it’s 32bit video modes here.




The NeXT community has been about this old Mac emulator, daydream making a comeback onto NeXT hardware.  Branded as darkmatter it runs on the bare metal of the NeXT cube/stations and can run MacOS in much the same way that Basilisk II does.

System 7.0 running on a NeXT cube!

System 7.1 running on a NeXT cube!

What makes this interesting is that the 68040 is cycle set, and uses a much more mature CPU emulation core than Basilisk II, so it should give more accurate emulation. However it will run at 68040 25Mhz speeds, so it won’t win any speed records.

Naturally programs (Space Quest I) that blit directly to the display probably expect Mac/Plus/Se dimensions so the NeXT display won’t be ideal.  But good old SoftPC for MacOS runs great!

SoftPC 3.1 for MacOS

SoftPC 3.1 for MacOS

And again, being set to 68040 speeds, it’s nowhere near as turbo as Basilisk II/SheepShaver.

For anyone interested, you’ll want Previous, the latest build and a test disk.  Set the emulation for either a NeXT Computer (68030), or NeXTcube (68040), add the test disk as SCSI disk 0, and either type in ‘bsd’ at the firmware prompt, or have it automatically boot in the options.

Previous 0.52 (trunk 391) + slirp

So I got this request to add in some SLiRP to Previous, the NeXT computer emulator.  Sadly work got in the way, and I trashed my windows dev machine.  To make it worse I also trashed my MacBook Air, but with a bit of screwing around I got X-code removed, and re-installed.

So Here is my wonderful work, some 50 lines of code + the SLiRP from Cockatrice all hacked up.

ICMP to seems to work fine, UDP seems to not work, so no DNS.  I don’t know why either.  I can telnet to my BBS just fine, which is about all the testing I’ve done.

Previous to the BBS

Previous to the BBS

Inbound TCP seems to be broken too, but I could be initializing slirp_redirect incorrectly too.

In case you want to follow up on this the NeXT computer forums is the place to be.  Networking with NeXTSTEP is involved.

And for anyone who want’s my files, the source is here, and an OS X 10.10.3 binary is here.  Be sure to install the SDL2 framework ahead of time!

I just played with NeXTSTEP 0.8



And I have to say, it’s pretty impressive!  Previous flies on my system, having owned a cube, I can say that the 68030 on this is WAY faster.  And I’ve always read about 0.8, and kind of figured it was basically lost to the winds of time.  It’s really cool to see it boot up!  And the emulated disks are so much faster than the magnetic optical drives of the day.

It’s amazing to think that in 1988, the current world of iThings had just started.