First post, by LuckyDay
I guess at this point this is more of an introduction to what I'm trying to accomplish than a request for help since I haven't really done my due diligence in thoroughly looking through the forum, the wiki, or much of the other online resources readily available. Here's what brought me to vogons/dosbox.
My father-in-law has a franchise that he's been running for decades. The accounting software he uses was issued back in the early 90's and has served him and his employees well without issue until a couple weeks ago when the computer itself (Windows 95 OS) died.
I've been able to reinstall the software on a VM, but due to how the program is set to run, I encounter various issues when installed on anything newer than Windows 98 (even using XP's compatibility mode). We are on a time crunch to get him up and running before end of Q2, so we've ordered a "vintage" PC running Windows 95 off of Ebay and hope we plan to buy ourselves some time using that machine.
Thinking more long term, I had initially planned on going the VM route and setting up a Windows 95 VM that he could use to provide a seamless transition for him and his employees. However, the accounting software has a couple interesting quirks about it.
A) It requires the use of a floppy drive to write end-of-day back-up reports to a floppy disk. (I can kind of work around that using a USB floppy drive, but I've tried three different brands of USB floppy drives across multiple machines with different brand floppy disks, and they can pretty darn unreliable).
B.) The bigger headache is that when closing out a day, the software must print out about 14-20 pages of reports to a printer connected via parallel port. For the life of me I couldn't get a "print to file" setup working in Windows 95 with the accounting software. I also couldn't get the VM to recognize a printer connected via parallel port or USB->Parallel port.
Yesterday evening I stumbled across DosBox and spent about a half hour tinkering with it, and with little effort I was able to get the daily back up reports written to floppy image files. I haven't gotten around to trying out one of the DosBox varieties that support parallel port printing, but I'm feeling quite optimistic.
I'm hoping someone might be able to chime in on anything that I should research or prepare for to avoid headaches down the line, but here are my plans:
1.) Install DosBox (with LPT printing support) on a machine newer than that of the Windows 95 era.
2.) Configure DosBox to automatically load up the needed directories, and start the accounting software (via batch file) when the DosBox shortcut is double-clicked, as well as load up the appropriate floppy image file for whatever day it is.
3.) Configure DosBox to print to pdf and/or to a newer printer. If printed to PDF, the user would then have to manually open/print the pdf unless some kind of hotfolder was setup, but I'll iron out the details later.
Ultimately I hope to end up with a long term fix that provides a near seamless transition to the end users.
Things I'm currently worried about:
1.) The floppy disk/image situation. It may end up being easier for the end user to just use a USB Floppy drive than to worry about any confusion with floppy image files. I think the image files would be far more reliable, but the accounting software allows users to recover to previous days by loading up a floppy disk from a previous backup. If a user wanted to do that, then they'd need to know how to mount a different image file instead of just inserting a different labeled disk. I need to think of a way to quickly/easily let the user select an image file using a GUI to load it into an A:\ recognized by DosBox (think Virtual CloneDrive but for Floppies). I think asking them to use commands within the terminal just wouldn't work.
2.) Printer -- yeah, it's just been a constant hurdle so I'll have to cross that bridge when I get there. Any tips/suggestions are welcome.
3.) Anything in the program that might post compatibility issues outside of the Windows 95 OS. A lot of the batch files make use of batchfiles that used commands like DELTREE which posed a problem for the Windows XP VM.
Not worried about:
1.) Sound -- don't need it.
2.) Frame rate or graphics quality.
Thanks for taking the time to read!