Memory management

Lyn David Thomas posted this note to the FreeDOS mailing list asking for suggestions on memory management for FreeDOS:

Hello there, it has been suggested to me that this might be a good forum for asking for help with Freedos. This slightly revised post first appeared on

My name is Lyn David Thomas and I am a trainee based at a recycling charity in Wales. Amongst other things we recycle computers. We find ourselves in possession of a large number of low end 486 machines and a fair number of 386s. Ideally we would like to enable the unemployed and low waged to have these machines - in exchange for a small donation. We think that a donation of about 25pounds sterling should cover our costs (cleaning, upgrading, petrol, admin and the costs of employing someone to run the project) - for that the people would get a machine with monitor, mouse and keyboard and some documentation (a printer would probably be about 5pounds extra).

On discovering freedos it seemed that a major obstacle could be over come. We can turn out the machines for a donation of about 25 quid as outlined above, but if we install an operating system or software on the machine the costs go up appreciably. We have determined that our target recipients would not realistically be interested if we had to ask for a much larger donation. So a free operating system seemed the perfect solution (there is plenty of decent freeware out there that could make these machines worthwhile to have - with the possible exception of a simple wordprocessor that can cope with spell checking, emboldening, underlining and italicising text - any ideas on that?).

We have tried Freedos, which looks like it does the job reasonably well - with one major problem. Memory management.

Our intended recipients are going to be people who have never had a computer before and know nothing of operating systems. Ideally we would teach them to use the systems, but other than a quick introduction and some simple documentation we don't have the resources or people to do this. So ideally we would want a simple to use GUI or menuing system to "hide" the actual workings of Freedos. For our clients running an application should be a matter of a simple mouse click. Now Freedos comes with a number of GUIs (well the beta 5 distribution does). Unfortunately due to our memory management problem we can't get these to work properly. We have conflicts when you load a mouse driver, or you get reports that there is not enough memory to run an application under a gui. I know from discussions elsewhere that memory management is a bit of a problem at the moment, but as GUIs are included within the distribution I can't help feel that we are missing something obvious.

Even simple menuing systems seem to cause us problems - for example quikmenu. I intend over the next few weeks to try a large number of menuing systems and let you know what seem to work and what don't.

Bart posted this reply:

Yes, that's one of the reasons it's still in beta. You could look at drdos as an alternative; it's free for non-commercial use, but not free as in speech: probably not a problem for your users, but more so for freedos developers: see, or, it's all downloadable at

As for gui's (apart from those included with freedos): GEM at is GPL'ed and very mature. GeOS is an alternative from but costs money.

Owen Rudge also wrote:

If you want FreeGEM, you can download my FreeGEM Distribution 1.2. It's the latest distribution, and contains the latest system components. I've also created an MP3 player for GEM, GEMP3. You can find the whole lot at