To be fair, this site’s been around for quite some time- and we’ve covered it at one point in the past. Still, it merits something of a revisit now that Chromebooks have hit the market; don’t you think?
What Is It?
How many of you remember Dosbox? For those who don’t; it’s an x86 DOS emulator, designed to allow modern-day users to play DOS games on Windows. While that might not sound particularly impressive- or noteworthy-to play any of those games without DosBox involved a great deal of overly complicated mucking around in the Windows system files, or searching out a version of whatever game you wanted to play that would be compatible with the software of modern-day systems.
Either way, too much trouble. For anyone with an itch to jump back into the old days, Dosbox was a godsend. Now, you’re probably wondering what the point of this history lesson is, right? You’re trying to figure out exactly why I’m sitting here babbling to you about DosBox. Software emulation ahoy! DosBox has come to Chrome, via Chrome’s Native Client.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet NAClBox.
DOSBox and Native Client
The anonymous programmer behind NaClBox might not have much to say about themselves, but they certainly have plenty to say about their creation. “When I first read about Native Client,” they write, “I was struck by the possibilities. The more I thought about Native Client, the more I started to talk to my coworkers about [it] as “The Plugin to Rule Them All.”
“I have read a lot of stories in the media regarding Native Client,” they continue, “Some commentators seem to get it, but I am struck mostly by the lack of imagination. When I hear people talking about Chrome OS and complaining that they will be stuck in a browser I want to shout: Native Client! I am disappointed to see commentators compare it to ActiveX rather than a (naively) more appropriate comparison- an in-browser VMWare. I don’t blame these people, though. There have been very few examples of Native Client in action.”
This is, obviously, something our anonymous friend wishes to remedy. “A little earlier in the year, I had the idea of trying to learn more about Native Client by actually trying to bring an existing application online.” Regarding why they decided emulation would be the best choice for a first-time project, they go on to explain “when you choose an emulator, you get tremendous bang for your buck. DOSbox runs literally hundreds of games and applications. Go check out their website and install it on your machine. It really is a great piece of software.”
So, while this software’s a novelty at best on a PC, on a Chromebook…yeah, you get the idea. Gaming on the Chromebook actually seems somewhat more viable now, doesn’t it?
How Do I Get Started?
Unfortunately, NaClBox currently only supports Chrome 12 and 13- the latter is recommended “for performance reasons.” So it basically only supports the stable build at the moment, given that both the beta and developer channels now run Chrome 14. That kinda sucks- I was myself hoping to give the software a whirl. Thankfully, there might be an update that adds support for Chrome 13 some time in the next few days, but until then, No NaClBox for us.
Those of you who run Chrome 13 are going to have to turn on the Chrome Native Client. There are two ways you can do this:
Option 1: Type about:flags into the omnibox, and enable Native Client from the list.
Option 2: Start Chrome with the –enable-nacl flag in the shortcut.
What Games Can I Play?
Currently NaClBox offers support for Adlib Tracker II, Round 42, Epic Pinball, Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem II, Jazz Jackrabbit and Star Wars: TIE Fighter. In addition, it offers demos of The Secret of Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis, Masters of Magic, Falcon 3.0, Sam and Max Hit The Road, Alone In The Dark, and Simcity 2000. Not exactly the hundreds-strong library of DOSbox, but not a poor selection, either. I’d imagine more games will come in the future as the developer updates software- although the fact that it hasn’t been updated since June is of some concern.
Anyway, I just thought this a cool piece of software, and one that was worth revisiting.
Image Credits: NaClBox Blog