VOGONS


First post, by KoMar

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I'm a volunteer at the Slovenian Computer History Museum. We have a popular DOS gaming setup on multiple Pentium 133 PCs and it works great -
I found the prefect DOS menu system (MOO 3.1 Menu System) which allows for easy game selection and when the user exist a game, it pops up again.
It's all about the user experience - I strive to provide a completely tested setup with few chances for things to go wrong (users getting lost in the DOS prompt, accidentally deleting files, etc...) but the remaining issue is with how to switch games easily -
unfortunately in the DOS gaming era every game has its own combination (Ctrl + Q, F10 then ESC,... you name it!) and currently I have a note next to the CRT monitor showing the possible combinations.

I would like to make this even simpler: is there a TSR task killer program that would reliably kill the foreground program and allow the MOO menu system to resume (it uses a batch file method to stay running) after the hotkey press? Of course MOO should never be able to get killed.

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Reply 1 of 5, by doshea

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It sounds like a nice setup! The DOS shell and Central Point's PC Tools both have task switchers which enable a program to be killed, but these are primarily intended to be used to start more than one program at once, and you probably don't want that if you have clueless users - you'll just end up with multiple programs running at once.

DESQview is something else that comes to mind. Perhaps you could use it as the menu, but somehow configure it so that all games are mutually exclusive so it won't actually let you run more than one at a time. I'm not sure if that is possible but I think it probably allows that level of configuration, perhaps just by assigning all of the base memory to every single game so there isn't enough memory to start more than one. It's not a very clear tool to use as a menu system for someone who doesn't know how to use it, though.

It is possible that any of those solutions might not work with some games, though, due to their memory requirements.

I don't suppose that any of those solutions are any safer (in terms of avoiding corrupting a game's data file if the game was writing at the time that you terminate it) than just having the user hit Ctrl-Alt-Del, so perhaps you should just tell them to do that?

Reply 2 of 5, by Grzyb

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The only reliable task killer for DOS is... the RESET button.

In DOS, there's no memory protection, no hardware virtualisation.
DOS programs - especially games - directly control all the resources.
You may find some TSR to terminate the current process, but if a game takes over full control of the keyboard, the TSR becomes unaccessible.
Even if you get the TSR to terminate the game, the system is very likely to be a mess - reprogrammed timer, reprogrammed DMA to push data to the sound card, etc.
Sometimes even Ctrl-Al-Del is not enough!

Reply 3 of 5, by Pierre32

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In which case maybe the best addition is some solid state storage to reduce the reboot time 😁

That's a great sounding project you have there KoMar. I could use a game quit cheat sheet next to my monitor sometimes...

Reply 4 of 5, by KoMar

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Thanks for the feedback guys! If I won't be able to find a TSR solution, my next idea is to put a little LCD next to the CRT which gets updated with current game's exit instructions 😀
The reset button is certainly an option, but I would prefer it to be used as a last resort - if nothing else, it adds a delay before the next game can be selected - and we're using a real HDD here to be more authentic 😀

Reply 5 of 5, by doshea

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KoMar wrote on 2022-01-14, 14:17:

Thanks for the feedback guys! If I won't be able to find a TSR solution, my next idea is to put a little LCD next to the CRT which gets updated with current game's exit instructions 😀

I was thinking something similar: another system connected via a serial port running a terminal emulator would I think mean that you could have a .BAT file for each game which simply does "ECHO some instructions > COM1" or something (maybe after using the MODE COM1 command to configure serial parameters) before starting the game.

However you display the instructions, if you have a large enough screen it might be useful for displaying other information too, such as cheat codes or something.