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Running vanilla Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


Wunderbar98
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Math is too complicated! Let's do this more practical: List some details of all the files in the WIndows folder. We are looking for the date "Last changed" especially. Some files are much older, like the standard background images, dating 1.11.93 (maybe they were present in Windows 3.11 already). But look at the oldest folders. Some folders have undergone changes of course, but most of them should have the exact minute, when your Windows 98 CD was rattling in the disk drive and creating them. In my case, the installation of my machine took place at the 25th February 2015 between exact 16:13 o'clock and 16:30. A fine installation, running as well as on day one. Actually, I still have an original installation of 1999 on my first computer. That one isn't in good shape, it had some viruses when I was too inexperienced with the internet. The junk is gone now of course, but I'm sure it would run better, if I reinstall it. Sometimes radical options have to be taken I suppose.

98install.PNG

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Isn't the Created date when the file actually got created on that specific drive? I think this should be a good indication of install date.

You just have to ignore obvious "fake" dates. That is, if scandisk or another similar program considers a date invalid and tries to repair it, the date would be reset to a specific one like 1980.01.01 or the Modified date would be copied over.

On my ancient Win98 install most dates are 2005.12.31 with the time around 20:40 - 20:50, so this should be when i installed it. Sounds like a typical New Year's Eve for me, lol.

Fun thing - my SYSTEM.DAT file currently don't have a creation date. But the same file in a disk backup shows a date from 2013, so it was blanked at some time. And i remember having to recreate the file during some repairs, so it's not the original one.

Edited by RainyShadow
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20 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

The format of the value is basically DOS date/time format, except that the seconds are always 0 or 1

The article gives a link to the DOS date/time format. But following this link gave me a 403 Forbidden Error.

Luckily the link is stored in the Wayback-machine. First 2004-entry gives information below (and a nice picture, not nice anymore in the quote):

"Number four: The DOS date/time format

The DOS date/time format is a bitmask:

24 16 8 0 +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ |Y|Y|Y|Y|Y|Y|Y|M| |M|M|M|D|D|D|D|D| |h|h|h|h|h|m|m|m| |m|m|m|s|s|s|s|s| +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ \___________/\________/\_________/ \________/\____________/\_________/ year month day hour minute second

The year is stored as an offset from 1980. Seconds are stored in two-second increments. (So if the "second" value is 15, it actually represents 30 seconds.)

These values are recorded in local time.

November 26, 2002 at 7:25p PST = 0x2D7A9B20.

To convert these values to something readable, convert it to a FILETIME via DosDateTimeToFileTime, then convert the FILETIME to something readable."

https://web.archive.org/web/20040614163825/http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2003/09/05/54806.aspx

EDIT: this looks like the 'math' needed (hex-binary-decimal, done with a converter-website). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

MS-DOS DATE/TIME FORMAT
LITTLE ENDIAN: 20 9B 7A 2D
HEX: 0x2D7A9B20
BIN: [0010110]   [1011]   [11010]  [10011]      [011001]      [00000]
DOS: [yyyyyyy] [mmmm] [ddddd]  [hhhhh]  [mmmmmm]   [sssss]
DEC:     [22]           [11]         [26]         [19]            [25]                [0]
DATE+TIME:    2002 / 11 /  26  / 7:25:00 pm

BTW I added the Little Endian bytes.

Excercise in behalf of Wunderbar, no calculator needed: 
Little Endian: 01 a9 82 4e
Hexa-decimal: 0x4E82A901
Decimal => Binairy
        4             0100
 E=14             1110
        8             1000
        2             0010
 A=10             1010
        9             1001
        0             0000
        1             0001

yyyyyy        0100111 = 39
mmmm            0100 = 04
 ddddd            00010 = 02
 hhhhh            10101 = 21
mmmmmm 001000 = 08
 sssss             00001 = 01 = x2
1980+39 => 2019/04/02 9:08:02 pm

Edited by deomsh
Typo & addition & excercise
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On 5/29/2021 at 6:29 AM, Wunderbar98 said:

If someone is a math whiz for the registry entry or knows an easier way to figure this out, such as a freeware utility for Windows 98, please let me know, thanks.

Coded a quick tool to read it, run it from DOS prompt.

win9xinstdate.zip

AIDA64 Extreme isn't free, but there's a trial version that reads it. Currently latest version 6.33.5700 still runs on Windows 98, but you need to download ZIP package.

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Yeah, it's best to use system's own APIs to perform the conversions.
I built an AHK script that basically does what UCyborg's exe does. Only difference is that the output format can be tweaked by editing the dFormat and tFormat strings in the beginning of the script, or leaving them blank for using system default date/time formats (uncomment subsequent line by removing the semicolon).

An interesting thing is that Wine (my version 5.14 devel) has the 9x binary value wrong, showing 1997.11.28, 16.09.02 - which most likely is the release date of Windows98, not the date Wine has first been installed on this system. But considering how they screwed up the memory retrieval as well it's no wonder.

Anyway, here's the script, hope it serves some purpose.
(minor doc error: functions mention LOCALE_SYSTEM_DEFAULT - which is 0x800 - but actually they use LOCALE_USER_DEFAULT - 0x400)

WinInstDate.ahk

Edited by Drugwash
added clarification on doc error
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Thanks for all responses, sorry for late reply. Your expertise @Deomsh is always appreciated, thank-you for the edit and for showing your work, wonderful, helps me understand better. Yes @Gansangriff and @RainyShadow the folder dates are by far the easiest method to quick glance determine install date. My C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.DAT file (hidden) also indicates created date unknown. Nothing wrong with installing Windows 98 on New Years Eve, a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Thank-you very much for your custom executable @UCyborg and script @Drugwash, they both work great. AIDA64 Extreme software wasn't trialed, download too big just for this purpose. If anyone's interested AutoHotkey was discussed on this thread before and is useful for lots of different stuff.

The Windows 98 installation timestamp correlates with the creation of the C:\WINDOWS subfolders. If anyone cares my data below.

Registry:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion
01 a9 82 4e

Oldest files:
C:\MSDOS.--- (hidden file) April 02, 2019 9:05:20 PM
C:\SYSTEM.1ST (hidden file) April 02, 2019 9:12:04 PM

Oldest folders:
C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND|CURSORS|HELP|INF|JAVA|SYSTEM32 April 02, 2019 9:08 PM

@UCyborg executable (4kb) output:
Win9x installation timestamp: 4/2/2019 9:08:02 PM

@Drugwash AutoHotkey script (4kb) output:
Your windows 9x system was installed on 2019.04.02, 21:08:02 (manual formatting)
Tuesday 2 April 2019, 21:08:02

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Enjoying some computing history. Seems appropriate to honour Gary Kildall in June, as his birthday was in May and he died in a July. Never knew much about him, aside from a Computer Chronicles co-host who knew lots about the 'DOS' days. Don't mean this negatively, i remember watching Computer Chronicles when they were excited about next generation Windows operating systems (1995-2000 era), to me Gary was a sort of 'DOS era' has-been. Makes one wonder how computing history may have changed if CP/M became the mainstream instead of MS-DOS. Nonetheless he sure contributed a lot. Sad he died so young under questionable circumstance. If the Wikipedia article is accurate, alcohol has ruined countless lives.

Gary's 'Recognition' section from Wikipedia:

Following the announcement of Kildall's death, Bill Gates commented that he was "one of the original pioneers of the PC revolution" and "a very creative computer scientist who did excellent work. Although we were competitors, I always had tremendous respect for his contributions to the PC industry. His untimely death was very unfortunate and his work will be missed."

In March 1995, Kildall was posthumously honored by the Software Publishers Association (SPA) for his contributions to the microcomputer industry:
* The first programming language and first compiler specifically for microprocessors: PL/M. (1973)
* The first microprocessor disk operating system, which eventually sold a quarter of a million copies: CP/M. (1974)
* The first successful open system architecture by segregating system-specific hardware interfaces in a set of BIOS routines. (1975)
* Creation of the first diskette track buffering schemes, read-ahead algorithms, file directory caches, and RAM drive emulators.
* Introduction of operating systems with preemptive multitasking and windowing capabilities and menu-driven user interfaces (with Digital Research): MP/M, Concurrent CP/M, Concurrent DOS, DOS Plus, GEM.
* Introduction of a binary recompiler: XLT86. (1981)
* The first computer interface for video disks to allow automatic nonlinear playback, presaging today's interactive multimedia. (1984, with Activenture)
* The file system and data structures for the first consumer CD-ROM. (1985, with KnowledgeSet)

In April 2014, the city of Pacific Grove installed a commemorative plaque outside Kildall's former residence, which also served as the early headquarters of Digital Research.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Kildall

Gary Kildall honoured:
https://web.archive.org/web/20140508030700/http://www.montereyherald.com/News/Local/ci_25645008/Computer-pioneer-honored-in-Pacific-Grove Edited by Wunderbar98
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The 'Quick and Dirty YouTube' script on page 41 of this thread was re-tested. Still works fine and gets a decent 640x360 resolution video that should work well on most Windows 9x systems.

The 'Quick and Dirty MSN Video' script was updated, bottom of page 41. MSN has made changes, including only higher resolution video, that may not play back well on lesser hardware. On this system (800 MHz, 384 MB RAM, 32 MB NVIDIA) playback is often choppy. I use this script to gather news and entertainment then transfer the videos to a faster system for playback. The script provides a good excuse to boot my favourite Windows 98 daily!

Changes to 'msn' script:
- Higher resolution video (hard on older hardware).
- CNBC and Reuters no longer provide MP4 links (now fail).
- Videos now auto-titled (proper video name, no more timestamp).
- To save bandwidth Wget won't re-download a video if already present.
- Data file 'mp4' instances grepped to terminal to help with troubleshooting, if an MP4 is available and the download fails it may be a fixable issue.
- MSN URLs with non-existant MP4s will no longer create an empty MP4 file but now indicate 'No MP4 file available. Note CNBC and Reuters don't work.'

As the forum software formats pasted code crazy both scripts were replaced with download links (forum login required).

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Just personal preference, the Recycle Bin was removed from the 'Desktop' and added as an Explorer file manager Favorite. It's cool that the Favorites dropdown 'RECYCLED' icon even changes when the trash is not empty, just like the Desktop icon. Microsoft thought of everything with their greatest creation - Windows 98 SE (Stupendous Edition).

I was recently working in Windows XP. When Explorer auto-selects files with mouse hover (as it likes to do) in the Recycle Bin view then File -> Empty Recycle Bin is not available. Whose silly idea was that? So the user needs to do a little mouse cursor dance just to empty the bin, from File dropdown anyway. Hmm, restore file or empty trash, restore file or empty trash - imagine Homer Simpson thinking. Maybe a minor example of the software trend to take control and dumb down the user interface.

In all fairness, Windows 98's Explorer does not provide a Recycle Bin File -> Restore option until a file is selected, not even greyed out. So new (back then) users may not even be aware of the Restore feature. Of course, the right-click context menu reveals these options.

Computer Chronicles aired an informative tribute episode to Gary Kildall if anyone's interested, titled 'The Computer Chronicles - Gary Kildall Special 1995' (runtime 28 minutes). It was very good, is on YouTube and probably at archive[dot]org.

To me maybe the most important but lesser known contributors to Microsoft's success is Tim Paterson, programmer of QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) in 1980, which became 86-DOS and was acquired by Microsoft the same year, quickly re-branded as MS-DOS. He went on to work for Microsoft too. To me Bill Gates' biggest success was his ability to leverage people and take advantage of opportunities.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Paterson

Tim's (old) blog 'DosMan Drivel - From the original author of DOS' can be found below. Although there are only a few entries, his experiences and insights are fascinating.
http://dosmandrivel.blogspot.com/

Xenix is interesting, never knew at one point Microsoft was working on a Unix-based OS, snippet from MS-DOS Wikpedia pasted below. So much rich computing history in the 1980-1990s. I always thought of these old DOS' to be really basic, like okay i can boot my computer and read/write to disk, now what. Just my ignorance, not uncommon. Cool to have some limited insight into computing history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-DOS

Microsoft omitted multi-user support from MS-DOS because Microsoft's Unix-based operating system, Xenix, was fully multi-user. The company planned, over time, to improve MS-DOS so it would be almost indistinguishable from single-user Xenix, or XEDOS, which would also run on the Motorola 68000, Zilog Z8000, and the LSI-11; they would be upwardly compatible with Xenix, which Byte in 1983 described as "the multi-user MS-DOS of the future". Microsoft advertised MS-DOS and Xenix together, listing the shared features of its "single-user OS" and "the multi-user, multi-tasking, UNIX-derived operating system", and promising easy porting between them. After the breakup of the Bell System, however, AT&T Computer Systems started selling UNIX System V. Believing that it could not compete with AT&T in the Unix market, Microsoft abandoned Xenix, and in 1987 transferred ownership of Xenix to the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

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Found a quirk in Slovenian version of Windows 98 SE; in registry, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\MediaPath is set to C:\WINDOWS\Medij - but the actual folder is still called MEDIA. So when you go to Control Panel to set sounds for events and click the Browse button, it opens My Documents folder while it normally opens the media folder set in registry.

Number of user folders' names are translated, not the same way as on today's Windows where Explorer displays translated name, but the folder on the file system still has the english name. Also interesting to note, known command line utilities and commands such as ipconfig, tracert, dir, del, copy are all translated. None of the NT systems are that thouroughly translated.

I guess updating non-English versions of these systems is practically impossible today if you don't have the updates for specific language yourself or someone else has archived them and made them available.

Also, didn't I have Slovenian keybaord layout in the DOS prompt all those years ago? I don't have it now. Any ideas if it can be changed and how? It's English despite being Slovenian everywhere else. I tried deleting US English layout, just in case, even though Slovenian was already default, but no change.

Edited by UCyborg
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1 hour ago, UCyborg said:

Also, didn't I have Slovenian keybaord layout in the DOS prompt all those years ago? I don't have it now. Any ideas if it can be changed and how? It's English despite being Slovenian everywhere else. I tried deleting US English layout, just in case, even though Slovenian was already default, but no change.

Probably start here: https://en.m.wikibooks.org/wiki/First_steps_towards_system_programming_under_MS-DOS_7/The_PC_keyboard

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sounds like you hopefully got your language issue sorted @UCyborg, at least the cause identified. Sorry i can't help. English wasn't my first language but i've been fortunate in that an alternative language OS was never needed or desired.

***

Nice to see the forum is back up and running. Haven't seen a cause for the outage although country flags now appear better in the browser. Maybe forum software update or update difficulties, don't know. Don't remember seeing a post from forum admins regarding the issue. In case of undesired tampering my user passphrase was modified.

***

John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison after his extradition to the US was approved

By Clare Duffy and Alan Goodman, CNN Business
Updated: Wed, 23 Jun 2021 22:29:55 GMT

http://lite.cnn.com/en/article/h_c3f80e869076d38b2c430cc28d1c3b0b

I remember seeing McAfee products a lot when Windows 98 and XP were my go to operating systems. Not sure if 'proud' is the right word but i'm happy to say i never spent money on an anti-virus product. There always seemed to be a free alternative for Windows operating systems, whether anti-virus, malware scanning, etc.

The two anti-virus programs used here back in the day were AVG and later ClamWin. Don't recall ever having issues with these free alternatives but IIRC AVG utilized more system resources that ran as a daemon so then i switched to ClamWin, occasionally scanning the system and moreso just downloaded files. My oldest Windows XP system still has ClamWin installed but i never use it. My Windows 98 systems run naked and exposed. Don't think targeting an old Windows 98 OS with a virus is a high priority for black hats these days. Haven't noticed any issues running my present Windows 98 system online almost daily for the last couple years.

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From a humane point of view dying in prison at 75 is just sad. Politics and money unfortunately complicate things up to an (almost) incomprehensible level for us regular people.

Back in my 9x days I used to run a few free standalone/on-demand virus scanners: a NOD32, a McAfee (possibly niche targeted) and TrendMicro's sysclean. The latter was the most used although downloading and matching all different definitions was kind of a pain. There were two versions of sysclean, one of them being specially crafted to fight against a very nasty bug that wouldn't let the regular executable run. I did save a lot of systems using that combination of tools. My system was kinda shielded by my... let's say intuition of where to navigate and where not to, what to run (blindly) and what not to.

After gathering a list of trusted applications and finding AHK which allowed me to freely build my own tools the need of an anti-virus dissapeared almost completely, keeping those AV tools only for occasionally helping friends.

As a fun fact I still keep a nice assortment of old "bugs" - found on various systems - on a hardware write-protected USB stick. Back then I had the intention of studying them in the idea of better understanding the operating system with its weak points so that I could design my own warning/protection tool. As always life got in the way and the intention remained an intention.

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On 6/24/2021 at 2:39 AM, Drugwash said:

From a humane point of view dying in prison at 75 is just sad.

It's said he got more and more paranoid, with time passing. Then again, he faced all but certain 30y prison time, if extradicted to the USA. IMO, under the circumstances, practicing autothanasia does seem a very racional way of escaping a lot of potential pain. May he RIP! I used his software back in the 90's... at that time it rocked.

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