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Running vanilla Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


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Cool, just discovered. Right-click and select properties on a MIDI file (*.MID) from Windows Explorer for an extra 'Preview' tab. Play the MIDI from there if you desire. Probably easier to configure a MIDI player to play them with a single left-click, Windows Media Player v6.4 used here, but still. Windows 98 handles MIDI superbly.

Just tested the original Need For Speed demo (NFS for DOS, 1995). The Dodge Viper is featured, boy do i feel old. Car control isn't realistic, just like my NFS II and NFS III Hot Pursuit games. You kind of get used to the quirky control, though, and then it's fun. First time using my cheap, old-school 8-button controller in DOS (plugs into sound card).

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Finished reading an ~ 70 page PDF entitled 'Why I hate Microsoft - A personal, lengthy but highly articulate outburst' by F.W. van Wensveen. The document covers earlier Microsoft from Windows 9x to NT and Vista. The best summary word is 'scathing'. Of course readers make up their own minds and a rant is just someone's opinion. No document link posted for fear of being lynched :)

Undoubtedly business prioritizes profit, M$FT included. As heard and mentioned before, all software sucks, some may suck less. My main systems run Debian-based stable, oldstable, oldoldstable and long forgotten. I'm glad to see them go oldstable, no more updates and easily get five more years of production.

Updates rarely cause breakage in Debian, remember less than a handful of times in > 15 years, but a recent MuPDF update caused a floating point exception failure when attempting to launch any PDF file. At this point options include:
- Install an alternative PDF viewer (undesirable)
- Patiently wait for an update fix (passive, easy, fix may not happen)
- Submit a bug report (proactive, hassle, hope it gets addressed)
- Compile from source using appropriate options (proactive, hassle, may fix)
- Restore a last known working version (hassle, now using old version)

Since i use multiple systems and lately prefer tinkering with DOS, took the lazy route and thankfully two days later another MuPDF update showed, fixed. Regarding buggy software, open source or proprietary, most active GNU/Linux distributions have bug lists a mile long too, by no means just Microsoft's patch-Tuesday.

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Posted (edited)

The 'Vanilla Windows 98 Web Browsing Summary' was updated, a web browser list for anyone wanting to run with TLS support in vanilla Windows 98.
https://msfn.org/board/topic/177106-running-vanilla-windows-98-in-2020-and-beyond/page/33/?tab=comments#comment-1189203

Added Arachne and Lynx, both for DOS. Updated broken download link for RetroZilla based on Firefox. Marked Windows 9x Web Helper (9xweb) discontinued. I've minor patched 9xweb since last public release and it continues to work well, including most YouTube. It's old Wget still connects so the project link remains if anyone wants the helper software or project ideas.

There are presently seven web browsers that provide TLS support. Three for a DOS boot and four for Windows. None work or work well with JavaScript. The only browser not recommended is Arachne, unless it eventually gets a built-in (not hacked) TLS upgrade.

Two DOS ported browsers (Links and Lynx) may see periodic new compiles from nice people. If you want graphic and/or mouse support in DOS recommend Links, otherwise personal preference is Lynx (text-only). From the Windows end there has been recent activity from the RetroZilla developer, fingers crossed for more improvements.

Another browser recently trialed was ELinks, ported to DOS, that was supposed to provide TLS support but it didn't work here. If anyone knows of any other browsers please notify. Aside from browsers, FreeDOS provides relatively recent Wget and cURL executables with TLS support. Finally, there are too many vanilla Windows 98 clients to mention for good old FTP and the Gopher protocol.

Edited by Wunderbar98
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I'm old(er) and prefer old TV shows. Was watching Relic Hunter Season 3 'All Choked Up' with my better half the other day. Love seeing tech on the screen. Seems shows often use mock ups, presumably to avoid legal issues. Usually some 'custom' corporate software or generic window or terminal, spewing data that exceeds bitcoin mining.

The computer in this Relic Hunter episode is clearly running Microsoft Word. It's uncertain whether the blurry areas (titlebar, Start menu) were intentional or just out of focus to better display the actual Word document.

The quick launch screenshot could be Windows 98 but i think episode production was 2000-2001, so probably Windows 2000. I am not aficionado enough to know. Interestingly there is a wifi icon in quick launch, despite the scene taking place in a 2000 era college administration office running a desktop computer, which almost certainly would have been a hard wired connection back in the day.

Flat panel monitors are already used on the show and in 2021 i'm still rocking out with my crippled 19" CRT. Interestingly, it appears the same ViewSonic flat monitor is used both in the adminstration office scene and again at the bad lady's remote volcanic island.

Sydney (protagonist) also takes out a Dell Inspiron laptop showing off some cool, generic 3D modelling software. So generic can't even tell the operating system, window manager or 3D software utilized.

01_QuickLaunch.png
https://i.postimg.cc/BQmp3ghy/01-Quick-Launch.png

02_MicrosoftWord.png
https://i.postimg.cc/1XJG9mK6/02-Microsoft-Word.png

03_ViewSonicCollegeAdminOffice.png
https://i.postimg.cc/gjkhB9P0/03-View-Sonic-College-Admin-Office.png

04_ScaryVolcanicIsland.png
https://i.postimg.cc/L5Xq3zzY/04-Scary-Volcanic-Island.png

05_InspironCase.png
https://i.postimg.cc/zfFVmd7H/05-Inspiron-Case.png

06_Inspiron_3D_Modelling.png
https://i.postimg.cc/VvxY0M4c/06-Inspiron-3-D-Modelling.png

07_ViewSonicOnScaryLadysIsland.png
https://i.postimg.cc/pVwhFnmT/07-View-Sonic-On-Scary-Ladys-Island.png

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22 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Interestingly there is a wifi icon in quick launch,

That's not a wifi icon, that's the View Channels button linked to the Channel Bar and channels in general, heavily promoted with IE4 that came with 98 First Edition, 95 OSR2.5 and as a free download for 95.
It was removed in 98 Second Edition from the Quick Launch, as the focus on the channels and channel bar seems to largely disappear once IE5 came. 98 SE does not show Channel Bar at the desktop by default for example.

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Thanks for your expert feedback MrMateczko. So the show was then using either Windows 95 or an earlier Windows 98 system - cool. It's probably been over 20 years since i installed Windows 95, viewing contents of the CD's CHL99.CAB or any of the CH*.CAB files reveals the channel icon.

Upon closer inspection of the CD's win95 directory, most of the directory is bloat such as corporate partners, AOL, channels, Internet Explorer 4, MSN, Microsoft Wallet, Flash, etc. There are 25 Internet Explorer cab files amounting to 26 MB, which presumably have integrated system components. The 27 win95*.cab files amount to 42 MB, not including a separate extracted 'drivers' directory containing another 46 MB of data.

It would be a fun experiment to one day install the most barebones Windows 95 system possible and then build it up with favourite software from there - never enough time for all this good stuff.

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I think one day the Microsoft development team found out that the CDs have massive amounts disk space (700 Megabytes!) and then they filled the Windows 98 installation CD with videos. One video was for Encarta 98, the enzeclopedia. Another video was the realistic flight simulator, showing the use of a Microsoft joystick.

Speaking of bloat, Windows 98 definetly was accused of being a bloated system. A lot of commercial options being presented to the new user... look at a fresh install screen:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Windows98.png

Thankfully, one click on the "X", and everything is gone (forever). The channel bar even asks to not show up again at the next start. Now that's a service! Like they knew, people would be angered about a slow-loading blinking bar on screen. Performance really was an issue on older hardware, Pentium 1 and 2 for example. It looked... unpleasant. With the channel bar needing to pop up, it really needs significantly more time to start up the computer. I know people who stayed with Windows 3.1 because they were presented with a new installation of Windows 98 (of course they didn't configure anything), and it performed and looked terrible with this channel bar! "Well, if the old block is faster, I'll rather keep it", they said. And some stayed until now with Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.

Probably it is a little bit like nowadys. Like a Windows 10 telling you plenty of things, you didn't ask for and didn't want to know.
----

Anyways, speaking of bloat: You'll like this. A search engine that shows up minimalist web sites for your old computers: wiby.me
Works on Windows 98 with a HTTPS browser properly.

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Thanks for your insights Gansangriff. The search engine is nifty, definitely provides some old school hits and information, very nice. For anyone who wants to test drive:
https://wiby.me/

Thanks also for the Wikipedia image link, shows off all that channel stuff nicely. Windows 95 was installed briefly here many years ago but i don't recall the channel bar, must not have been memorable. Seems there are always going to be users who don't want to 'upgrade' (bloat, extra effort, don't fix what ain't broke, run old hardware/software, increased telemetry, less tweakable). This is also evident in non-Windows environments where software tends to get dumbed-down, more bloated and less configurable.

Agree Microsoft loaded install CDs as much as possible, already apparent in Windows 95. I reviewed my Windows 95 install CD in some detail a while back.
https://msfn.org/board/topic/177106-running-vanilla-windows-98-in-2020-and-beyond/page/31/?tab=comments#comment-1186323

Unrelated to computing but in the spirit of keeping electronics alive, wanted to share. Buttons on cordless phones, calculators and remote controls often fail to work properly after a period of time. It can usually be fixed by taking the item apart (pry plastic if no screws) and using Isopropyl alcohol to clean both the circuit board and underside of the 'silicone' (whatever it is) button contacts. If the black conductive material on the silicone pad is too worn then conductive paint can be applied. I'm too cheap and just apply aluminum foil with double-sided tape to the underside of the silicone pad buttons. Depending on the size required a hole punch gets a nice round button contact. There are lots of alternative materials available, such as copper tape or a conductive pen. Whatever you have around the house is usually easiest. The fix lasts quite a while before repeating. Almost all of my 20+ year old calculators and remote controls have required some of this maintenance and continue to perform well.

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Thanks again for the Wiby tip @Gansangriff, it was added to the RetroZilla Search Engine Collection. That awesome search engine confirmed DOS never dies, wanna play some newly developed games, pretty cool.
http://www.doshaven.eu/

Finally got MPLayer's on screen display (OSD) working properly when launching videos via Cygwin-Lite (9xweb script or whatever script you create). This is using old MPlayer from SMPlayer v0.6.7 install. When launching videos via Windows the default MPlayer 'config' file pathway is C:\Program Files\SMPlayer\mplayer\mplayer\. When a Cygwin-Lite script launches MPlayer it creates a configuration directory in C:\cygwin\home\your_computer_name\mplayer\.

In order to get the OSD to work (toggle letter 'o' key), copy the 'subfont.ttf' file from the SMPlayer install into Cygwin-Lite's MPlayer configuration directory. Also copy over any custom 'config' file. The configuration below is used here with both Windows and Cygwin-Lite. It is efficient, opens videos top left corner with nice OSD output (for my eyes and monitor).

MPlayer 'config' file:

really-quiet=TRUE
framedrop=TRUE
hardframedrop=TRUE
geometry=0%:0%
osdlevel=3
subfont-osd-scale=2.5

Performance tip: never launch SMPlayer, configure videos to use mplayer.exe directly.

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Picked up a free CRT monitor recently. The ad provided little information other than a picture of it sitting on the ground of a dirty patio. I requested more information and the response was terse, only that it could be found in the front yard by his plow. True, he had a nice antique plow. I'm no spring chicken so yes the seller was hiding something. Well it was free, sort of on my way doing errands and my annual spring cleaning run to the recycle centre is coming up soon. So i picked it up, it was dark, the monitor was sitting on the edge of a flowerbed, it felt light. Took it home, it's only 15". Disappointed, was hoping for at least a 17" CRT.

Gave the monitor a nice exterior clean and let it sit for a couple days (die COVID die). It has several scuffs on the case but the screen is immaculate. Finally tested it today, runs nice, all buttons and controls work, extremely crisp image, very good colour, no flicker. Samsung SyncMaster 550s, the default Windows 98 driver provides max resolution of 1024x768, not too shabby. Ran it in Windows and DOS. Running DOS applications in 80x25 and 80x50 is superb with Gopherus and Lynx web browser.

If i live long enough this monitor will eventually sit on my desk with a new (old) PC build - my slowest hardware available running Windows 95 primarily for DOS use. I'm spoiled and have a large corner desk (back desk edges 6' x 6') with a two tiered monitor stand (6" tall central stand, two 5" tall side stands). Will set this small monitor up beside my main CRT.

Will open up this monitor case later in the week and clean out the inside. Was on a real hardware cleaning kick this summer and went through all of my monitors, televisions, etc. Of note from this experience, old CRT monitors and tube televisions are definitely worth cleaning out, the deep horizontal cases and cooling slots collect a lot of dust over the years. Don't bother taking apart and cleaning more modern flat screen monitors, they are sealed quite well and do not collect dust in the same fashion.

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Well, i currently have in my room three CRT monitors collecting dust for a few years already. And some more in the shack.

Two are colour 17" - AOC and Daewoo. At least one should have worked properly when i last used them, don't remember which one though :P

The third one is a 12" monochrome black/green ВММ-3111 sitting on top of my broken Apple2 clone. Been there for about a decade... In the past i also used it with an old NEC VCR when analogue FTA television was still a thing here, lol.

Gotta fix that Apple (actually Pravetz8C) soon... someday... got a box of floppy disks, which i still haven't transferred to the PC, rotting under the bed...

 

About the case of your new CRT, you can try mixing some RetroBright. I have read, that it does miracles to old plastics. 

Never tried it myself, though :D

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Thanks for your input RainyShadow. Yes too much stuff and not enough time here too. Your BMM-3111 looks very retro. FTA television is long gone here too. Shame, it helped bring the country together, especially the oldest generation. RetroBright is fascinating, never used it either. Floppy disks under the bed in 2021 - you have my nomination as geek of the year :)

Just cleaned up my new (old) 15" SyncMaster CRT. The inside was clean for it's age, unlike my high use monitors. So either stored well or wasn't used much, probably explains the crisp colour and image quality.

There was corrosion on the three-pronged electrical plug, carefully scraped with a utility knife and cleaned with lighter fluid, similar to cleaning the flame sensor of a gas furnace. Much better electrical contact now, previously there was an electrical arc when plugging in to a live socket. Took a minute to clean the VGA contacts too.

Vacuum and dry paint brush to clean the inside, minimal dust. Remember one of my old high use televisions, which was very dusty inside, had paper manufacturer's stickers that dried up and fell to the bottom of the inside case. Thankfully they fell to the side of any heated electrical components.

Interestingly there were no screws to remove the plastic cover, most monitors have four screws. Just pinch two-pronged plastic clips so the main tabs can be pushed down for the cover to slide off. I had to pry more than desired with a screwdriver on the plastic upper case tabs. This caused some plastic damage, gently filed down with a fine wood file. Just hold the file at the proper angle so the visible horizontal case surfaces don't get scratched. Plastic model maker tools or an emery stick would probably work better. Nonetheless i got a decent result, no burrs and the damage is barely visible.

Quick monitor retest, still runs like new. Now i don't need to worry about excess overheating or fire hazard. Will probably never need to take it apart or clean it for the rest of my life.

Switching between 15" and 19" monitors is a shock on the eyes. Makes me realize how spoiled my eyes have become. Will go back to my vision exercises. Chores around the house without glasses helps, get back to the monitor with glasses on and everything looks crisp (and large) again. Avoid using larger fonts as you age as much as possible. Most of us are now addicted to screens, remember the 20-20-20 rule.

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Finally got fed up with the failing power switch on the case of my primary Windows 98 system. It was dismantled and cleaned numerous times with little benefit. Lately it's been taking 5-20 attempts to get the system to power on. Getting the switch to fire electricity for one second is hard enough, when the system locks up requiring holding down the switch for 4 seconds, it's now easier to toggle the power bar.

Probably not the correct name, i call these 'micro-switches', they are very small. This electical component behind the fancy plastic power on button is just a simple spring loaded switch with some cheap electrical contacts that eventually wear out. The plastic tabs of the actual switch can be pried apart using a jewelers screwdriver, then the contacts can be inspected and cleaned. The electrical leads are 'springy' and can also be gently pried out so they rub against the electrical contact a little firmer. For anyone who likes to salvage parts, most VCRs have lots of these spring loaded switches on the main board, mechanically linked to the front facing 'Play', 'Stop', 'Rewind' type buttons.

The broken switch wires were cut, leaving as much wire as possible. A salvaged electrical switch from a dead popcorn maker we owned forever was re-used. This switch was stamped 'Made in Mexico' and 'May 1982'. The switch was wired together, quick solder, electrical tape. There was no appropriate screw hole for mounting to the case so precision duct tape was used. Eventually i may fabricate a proper mounting bracket. Since this is a toggle on/off switch, not a spring loaded switch, just turn the switch on for a second while the system powers up, then turn it off again manually (your finger action minimcs the spring action).

This particular case was nicknamed 'skeletal' long ago. It's pretty ugly. The covers were discarded years ago. Everything is open and it breathes and cools really nice. It would be a shame to get rid of the tower just because of a broken switch. Even the power on and hard drive activity lights still work.

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