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Running vanilla Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


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= Arachne for (some) Encrypted Websites =

Spent too much time on this so sharing notes. If you want to browse the internet using DOS highly recommend Links or Lynx browsers. These browsers are solid, load HTTPS pages without issue and have their own Windows 9x Member Project page on this forum.

By comparison, Arachne hasn't been updated since 2013, remains buggy and by default can not load HTTPS sites, which today is most of the internet.

The easiest way to access encrypted webpages in Arachne is by bookmarking a 3rd party proxy site. It's a man-in-the-middle and not secure but you're probably just using Arachne for hobby or educational purposes anyway.

Alternatively, the steps below allow using Arachne to access (some) encrypted websites. For example, this forum loads fine but Wikipedia fails. So really this is just a learning experience, use the alternative browsers mentioned above for serious DOS browsing :)

1. Install and setup Arachne v1.97 (2013), available at the FreeDOS site or http://www.glennmcc.org. Arachne can be setup by running 'arachne.bat', aferwards just launch with 'arachne -r' (resume). The remainder of the steps below assume the system has a working DOS packet driver and a functional Arachne browser. If you need a DOS mouse driver CuteMouse is good, also available at FreeDOS.

2. Install CWSDPMI, required to Wget HTTPS pages.

3. Subsequent Arachne startups should consist of loading a DOS mouse driver, loading the packet driver, loading CWSDPMI with the permanent switch (CWSDPMI.EXE -p), then launching Arachne (arachne -r). A batch file makes this easy, example below.

C:\DOS\LNE100\LNE100TX.COM 0x60

4. Open Arachne to the Arachne Package Manager packages page. As mentioned, Arachne is buggy. If the browser is setup properly and an HTTP only page fails to load press 'r' to reload (you may be using this a lot).

5. Select (to install) 'wgetssl2.apm' (858345 bytes), exit then restart Arachne.

6. Attempt to load an HTTPS page, such as https://msfn.org/board/forum/8-windows-9xme. An error message will indicate 'Unknown protocol in URL' and 'The requested protocol is not yet supported'.

7. Press F2 (save or send document shortcut), which provides some popup prompts. Click 'Get SSL page or post data via SSL using Wget'. The Arachne browser will exit and Wget will attempt to fetch the page. This (old) Wget may fail with 'Unable to establish an SSL connection'. Hopefully it will, however, succeed and then when prompted 'Press any key to continue...'. Arachne will restart, rational for using CWSDPMI.EXE with the permanent switch, and the web page will display.

Attempts to find a more recent Wget for DOS with SSL support were not successful. The above process is tedious. An Arachne update to seamlessly and reliably load encrypted sites is welcome. Bonus tip upon initial browsing with Arachne, Google search still works with HTTP only (http://www.google.com).

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More Arachne hacking with an updated Wget (2015-12-13, GNU Wget 1.17.1). The browser can now handle TLS v1.2, confirmed via www.ssllabs.com. So this forum and sites like Wikipedia load. Once everything was working well the 'Press any key to continue' pause was disabled to streamline Wget SSL site fetches. Arachne configuration was tweaked for Wget, search page, faster DHCP connection and leaner browsing (text only, no tables).

IMHO Arachne performance and bugs still prevent this from being a go to DOS browser. Obvious limitations include slow page loads, excess drive thrashing, occasional need to refresh HTTP sites that don't load, unable to handle long URL strings, unable to post data via SSL (eg. log into this forum). Some may be PEBCAK but suspect not solely. If someone wants details for the extra steps let me know and i can edit the Arachne post above, otherwise not, peace out.

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Well thought i would be long gone, turns out Windows 98 is still my favourite hobby! Been using DOS' 'EDIT' daily. Discovered up to 9 documents can be opened at a time, toggled via View dropdown. Always thought opening a new document over an old one discarded the other, not the case. Just as good as a tabbed text editor. Before opening a tenth document just close one (File -> Close vs File -> Exit) that's no longer needed, you'll get cued if the document changed. Another reminder there's not much new under the sun, developers often just add overhead, eye candy and features that the majority don't want or need.

Finished reading a ~100 page PDF entitled Using FreeDOS. Very good read, discusses the history of the project, basic installation and usage, some of the major software, etc. Amazing the project has been in active existence since 1994 and provided DOS support and enhancements many more years than Microsoft ever did. Every time i've accessed FreeDOS the project seems top notch - website, documentation, FreeDOS trial, extra software, etc. Thanks FreeDOS for keeping DOS alive and current.

Finished Half-Life (Half-Life, Opposing Force, Blue Shift) months ago using Windows XP with Steam. Finally deleted my Steam account (took some messaging and emails) and threw the game away. It's not like me to throw stuff away but i do not intend to install Steam or play the game again. I also did not want to give the game away, encouraging yet another Steam account, if Steam even allows re-using a game on a different user account. Having grown up old school, Steam and DRM are not my idea of gaming and software ownership. As mentioned sometime before, bought the game in 2005 without realizing it was a Steam release. I know there are work-arounds to extract game data and bypass Steam but that's not what Steam wants so to the trash it went.

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12 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Well thought i would be long gone, turns out Windows 98 is still my favourite hobby! Been using DOS' 'EDIT' daily. Discovered up to 9 documents can be opened at a time, toggled via View dropdown.

That extender from my previous post should be able to run simple Windows programs in DOS - that was my main reason to suggest it.


Yesterday i was looking at some "best Debian-based distros of 2021" list while waiting for my new Debian in a VM to finish upgrading... 

There i found couple interesting distros that caught my eye - PsychOS (it is said to have some sort of DOS software integration via DOSBox) and PsychOS486 (for ancient systems).

There is also a PsychDOS in planning - no releases yet, but if you press [8] at that page it goes to a list of various free Linux and DOS software. And if you dig further, there are plenty of interesting retro links.

Edited by RainyShadow
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Thanks again for your input @RainyShadow. Without realizing it i've used DOS extenders quite a bit lately for games and web browsers (CWSDPMI, DOS/4G). HX DOS is interesting too, read up on it and played around. If anyone's interested, some of the software it may support depending on your use case:

Regarding distros, Devuan minimal installs with Openbox and Fluxbox have been used here on a couple systems since their first stable releases (Jessie, Ascii). They run well, no major issues.

The PsychDOS stuff you linked is interesting, dug into the DOS links (theouterlinux). There's still a crazy amount of stuff available out there if you know how to dig. I don't, usually just use the first 20 DDG hits, so thank-you. DOS development tools, like Adventure Game Studio and AsciiQuest, look crazy interesting. There's never enough time to fully enjoy this good stuff.

Good to hear from you @Bruninho, nice to see you're still a little active with Windows 98 :)

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Sometimes i print news stories from the web browser to PDF for offline viewing with my better half. This has been failing more frequently (missing parts of pages, text cut off, etc). After troubleshooting, it wasn't the PDF printer but the web browser. These old browsers are no longer capable of processing and displaying many web pages properly which also affects 'print' to PDF.

For whatever reason, in RetroZilla changing View -> Use Style -> None does not usually help. However, in K-Meleon v1.5.4 using the StyleKILL script from @Siria does properly format the page for PDF printing! Can't have enough tools in the box, K-Meleon appears to technically be the best graphic browser for vanilla Windows 98 at this time. The StyleKILL script needs to be activated frequently and is easy to access from the browser's toolbar (requires manual configuration).

On this system CutePDF Writer v2.7 is usually used to 'print' to PDF. PDFCreator v0.8.0 was also installed for trial. Can't say one is better than the other, i'm just used to CutePDF. An alternative is to copy/paste web page information to a text document but it's tedious.

Wikipedia has a 'Computer rage' entry so it's official. Glad to see i'm not the only one frustrated with modern computing. Change for the sake of change, keep churning garbage, add more telemetry, make it more complicated (less reliable) and force the world to update.

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Thanks for the information @RainyShadow. Fortunately for now my PDF printer works, provided K-Meleon is used with the StyleKILL script from @Siria.

Correction to my earlier post, PDFCreator appears to work better than CutePDF Writer. A site viewed frequently here fails with CutePDF regarding margins and page alignment but works well with PDFCreator. Easy to install, configure via Start menu -> Settings -> Printers. Now set here as the default printer.

For my needs, PDFCreator properties -> Graphics tab -> Resolution of 300 DPI maximum otherwise the system bogs down during conversion. Also Device Options tab -> Available printer memory was increased significantly to 32768 KB (32 MB) to allow for any larger PDF conversions.

PDFCreator-0_8_0_GNUGhostscript.exe (7.6 MB).

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Finally finished converting over 50 custom jukebox packs, up to 10 tracks per pack, for Theme Hospital (better half's favourite game). Jeopardy (game show) should add a category for MIDI music - guess original artist and song title - then incorporate the MIDI into that episode's closing credits :)

Did my annual review of government approved tax software vendors (hard drive install not web based). Thankfully found a vendor that still provides updated tax software for Windows 98 - joking. Actually found two that still work with Windows XP (didn't official XP support end in 2014). One of them only requires .NET Framework v2 and i think Windows XP SP3 provides TLS v1.2. Most tax vendors indicated Windows 7 is being phased out and none even mentioned Windows Vista support.

A footnote from one of the vendors provided a chuckle, quoted below. My household doesn't even have the computing horsepower for Vista. Regardless, upgrading to Windows 10 would not make me feel safe or secure.

Microsoft ended support and no longer provides security updates for systems running Windows 7. Upgrade to Windows 10 is strongly recommended to help keep your PC and data safe.

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== Gopherus ==

Gopherus is a client for the Gopher protocol, tested here in DOS.

Last commented on the Gopher protocol here using RetroZilla as a client.

Recently read this article which got me curious again - Gopherspace in the Year 2020. The article mentions Lynx, which works well in DOS (see member project page). In vanilla Windows 98 other browsers, like RetroZilla v2.2 and K-Meleon v1.5.4, support the Gopher protocol too if you don't want to work from DOS.

Since my DOS packet driver is on fire, finally tested the dedicated client Gopherus v1.2.1, released in January 2020. It has been in development since about 2013 and comes with useful documentation (gopherus-1.2.1-dos16.zip, 98 KB, no JavaScript needed to download).

Similar to most DOS software, installation is as easy as extracting the ZIP file into the desired directory. Boot into DOS, load packet driver and run GOPHERUS.EXE. No special DOS configuration, mouse or memory management needed.

A GOPHERUS.BAT file was created to automate the launch:

C:\DOS\LNE100\LNE100TX.COM 0x60

If you connect through DHCP then creating a simple WATTCP.CFG in the Gopherus directory provides a quicker connect. Note a blank line is expected at the end of this one line document.

my_ip = dhcp

The Gopherus interface is straightforward, text only. Keyboard shortcuts are intuitive. The F1 key provides help and the F2 key returns to the main screen, which links your bookmarks (Gopher holes), Gopherpedia (modified Wikipedia) and the Veronica-2 search engine (through floodgap.com), which apparently searches > 80% of Gopherspace.

Files, such as software or images, can be downloaded. Downloads default to the Gopherus directory, then just use applicable tools to manage files (ie. DOS commands, PictView image viewer, PKUNZIP.EXE).

For anyone who's interested, Gopherpedia and Veronica-2:

Edited by Wunderbar98
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