Networking FreeDOS - DOS networking today

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Overview

In this chapter we will learn more about the network drivers, protocols and networking software that can be used with a FreeDOS PC in the 21st century. For deeper information about networking try Eugene Blanchard's "Introduction to Data Communications" (GNU GPL, a more recent but non free version can be found here).

Drivers

Ethernet is today's dominant network hardware technology. For this type of network adapters generally three sorts of drivers can be used under DOS (and you should be able to find at least one of them for your card):

  • Packet drivers, invented by FTP Software Inc. Many of them were written and distributed by Crynwr.
  • Open Datalink Interface (ODI) drivers, developed by Novell and Apple and the
  • Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS) drivers, developed by Microsoft and 3Com.

All three are multiprotocol network drivers, what means that they are able to support multiple protocols over the same card. Earlier drivers did support only a single protocol. Multiprotocol drivers communicate directly with the network interface card and provide a published interface specification, to which applications can be written.

For a good general introduction into this topic see "Implementing Multi-Protocol Network Drivers in a DOS Environment" by the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia (U.S.).

Protocols

The following protocols are supported by these three drivers:

  • Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol ( TCP/IP ) used for instance by UNIX, GNU/Linux, Windows Vista, OS X and the Internet,
  • Internetwork Packet Exchange / Sequenced Packet Exchange ( IPX/SPX ) protocols, used for instance by Novell NetWare,
  • Network Basic Input Output System (NetBIOS) Extended User Interface (NetBEUI a.k.a. CIFS ) protocol used for instance by OS/2, Windows 9x, ME and 2000.

TCP/IP is the standard for basic internet services as http, smtp or ftp and it also became the default protocol for connecting Local Area Networks (LAN).

NetBEUI was the default protocol for LANs in Microsoft systems until Windows 2000. It was replaced by NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NBT) and then by TCP/IP. The application level network protocol SMB for instance can run directly atop of TCP since Windows XP.

Novell's IPX was used in Novell NetWare, which has been the default networking solution for personal computers running DOS or Windows 3.x. Since 1998 NetWare is able to run on TCP/IP, more recent versions use it per default.

Conclusion: TCP/IP is the "lingua franca" of modern networks. It is still possible to use other protocols, but support may come to an end.

Networking software

In general we can distinguish the following three ways of networking that still can be used with DOS. Learn more about them in the following chapters:

  • Novell Netware - ODI driver based Novell NetWare programs for accessing a NetWare network and using TCP/IP services.
  • MS Client - NDIS driver based Microsoft "LAN Manager Client" or "MS Client 3.0" to integrate DOS machines into a Windows / SMB workgroup.
  • TCP/IP applications - Packet driver based "UNIX-like" TCP/IP applications to access or provide network services like http, smtp, ftp, ssh or NFS.



Index

History of DOS networking <--- DOS networking today ---> Novell Netware