I’ve had a great time today playing with the precursor to Mac OS X, the NeXT OS. For many Mac geeks, the NeXTSTEP/OpenStep is an object of curiosity, and what better way to learn about it than by getting your hands dirty and having a play around.
As far as I can gather, the NeXTSTEP OS originally only ran on ‘Black’ hardware – hardware produced by the NeXT company, using Motorola 68K CPUs. While the OS and the machines were both technically brilliant, the hardware was, for most, prohibitively expensive. In the early/mid 90s, NeXT uncoupled OPENSTEP – the advanced and easy-to-use object-oriented software development environment – from its hardware and operating system, eventually porting to several software platforms (including Windows NT!). They updated their own NeXTSTEP operating system, in the form of OpenStep/Mach, which coupled the dev environment with a Mach kernel based OS designed to run on common (Intel x86 and other) hardware.
This is a guide on how to get OpenStep up and running on VMWare Fusion for Mac – I suspect it’s mostly Mac aficionados who are curious about this stuff, and most of the guides I found were either for Linux or didn’t ‘finish the job (i.e. ending up with a black & white OS with no sound!)
- OpenStep 4.2 software installation discs
- OpenStep Boot Floppy
- OpenStep Custom Drivers Floppy
- SVGA Driver
- Sound Driver
- Mouse Driver
- OS4.2 Update
Disclaimer: none of the above files are my own creations, I am merely placing their links in a single location to facilitate their easy retrieval. The boot floppy and 4.2 update are hosted by Apple, while the SVGA driver and custom drivers floppy image were obtained from Laurent Julliard’s site. The remaining drivers were linked to from this nextcomputers.org forum thread. I also take no responsibility for any equipment damage or loss of any kind (data or financial) as a result of using this guide. Onwards…
Preparing the Virtual Machine
For this guide, I’ll be using VMWare Fusion 3 for Macintosh (OS X 10.6.5).
- Open the ‘New Virtual Machine Assistant’ and press ‘Continue without disc’
- Select ‘Create a custom virtual machine’
- Some people recommend creating a virtual BSD machine – I used OS: Other & Version: Other, so select these now.
- Hit ‘Customise Settings’ to open the machine configuration panel. There are a number of custom options required to get OpenStep running smoothly.
- CPU and RAM: Set the VM to single core with 128MB of RAM. (Remember how dreamy 128MB of RAM was back in 1995? It’ll be plenty for this application)
- Hard drive: You’ll need to create a new hard drive (I called mine ‘OS4.2.vmdk’), of bus type IDE – OS4.2 VMWare SCSI drivers not available to my knowledge – and of disk size 3GB. The only rule here is that the drive has to be between 800MB to install the OS and 4GB to remain compatible. Uncheck ‘Split into 2GB files’ and check ‘Pre-allocate disk space’. Hit apply.
- You will need to create a new Floppy drive to get those boot and driver disks working. First, you will need to configure those weird .floppyimage files. Under Mac OS X, I simply changed their extension to .img. Do this for all the images in advance.
- Return to VMWare: Click ‘Other Devices’ and then ‘+’, then hit ‘Add Floppy’ in the context menu. When it asks you to select an image file, point it to the Install Disk image.
- Finally, attach the OpenStep install disc to your virtual CD drive – hit ‘Virtual Machine’ and select ‘CD/DVD’ and either select the drive you have the OpenStep disc or locate the .iso file of the disc image.
- You are now ready to power on the machine for the first time. After OPENSTEP has checked the RAM memory, you will be presented with some boot options (interestingly, anyone who’s seen an OSx86 bootloader will recognise this screen). Hit enter to progress to the next screen. (Fig 1)
- At this stage, the Device Drivers floppy disk will be requested. Click the floppy disk icon on your VMWare window and select ‘Choose Floppy image’. Point this window to the ‘Custom Drivers’ floppy .img and hit return. (more…)