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Running vanilla Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


Wunderbar98
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Torvald's Linux is now 30 years old though i've only used it for a bit more than half this time. Operating systems from Windows i owned for about 7 years before switching over, aside from Windows usage earlier in the workplace. So to this day Windows is still more of a mystery to me.

In GNU/Linux the cat command piped to less is sometimes useful to quickly determine what a binary may be about. I just realized that in Windows this is also easily possible, duh. In DOS just use MORE or EDIT to 'view' a COM, EXE, DAT, DLL file. In Windows just open the file in Notepad or WordPad. The head or tail end of the file will usually contain helpful embedded comments.

My Windows 98 hardware (800 MHz AMD) grossly exceeds DOS gaming requirements and some older CPU sensitive games still don't run well despite slowdown software. Mo'Slo and Slowdown have been used here with limited success. One older game seemed to run a bit better when System Cache was disabled in the BIOS, on my system Advanced Chipset -> System Cache -> Disable. I think Slowdown can also do this via software. Though lots of DOS resources are still available i can see why most DOS gamers now just use DOSBox.

Memory management for DOS gaming is still 'a thing'. One game i recently tested crashed with a memory error when attempting to view the in-game map. Removing DOSKEY from startup was enough to run the game properly. Loading high and all the other tricks help as 640 kilobytes sometimes doesn't go very far.

My seasoned Windows XP install was recently used to repair a FAT filesystem. It struck me how similarly i've configured it to look like Windows 98. This wasn't intentional but must be my preference to keep it simple. The shinier appearance of Windows XP never impressed me. In Windows XP the Display Properties are set to a 'modified theme' with simple options. Appearance is set to 'Windows Classic Style' and Color Scheme is set to 'Windows Classic'. Under System Properties -> Advanced -> Performance almost all visual effects have been disabled. I kept Windows XP's default Start menu, to me it is very nice.
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17 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

My Windows 98 hardware (800 MHz AMD) grossly exceeds DOS gaming requirements and some older CPU sensitive games still don't run well despite slowdown software. Mo'Slo and Slowdown have been used here with limited success.

There are late DOS games that are quite demanding for its time. And in at least some cases also to play in DOSBox because emulating a slow CPU is still a PITA, perhaps less with a Core i7.

I don't have experience hacking DOS executables, though for Win32 stuff, it's possible to bake in the precise frame limiter. For the end user and the case when patched executable isn't available, RTSS is the easiest solution, though the game must use supported rendering API, so it leaves out earlier software rendered stuff and games using DirectDraw interface version earlier than 7. At least the last time I checked, DDraw7 was the earliest for which RTSS implements hooks.

17 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

The shinier appearance of Windows XP never impressed me.

Was the opposite for me. I considered it a breath of fresh air as the grayness of classic 9x appearance has depressive effect on me. Might as well go to the cemetery.

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@UCyborg

Pr3.PNG.aa8ad0914598c43be1e1f6df41a9eb94.PNG

Colours! Colours! More colours! But Windows 98 had them hidden in the settings menu. But you could paint everything to your wishes.

Windows XP had only three themes by default (Blue, Green and White) for the more complex interface. The classic mode had more customiseability.

@Wunderbar98 I've had problems with some games in DOSBox, especially F1GP, the old racing simulation. That game from 1992 however run perfectly on a Windows 98 computer, even on a Windows XP machine. Maybe some games aren't made for emulation.

 

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@Gansangriff
I figured that out much later. I don't remember tinkering much with Win9x settings back then. A family computer ran Windows 95 at the time, that period seems to have passed rather quickly. Then we went straight from Windows 95 to Windows XP (on a new computer). A whole new world of possibilities opened then.

I only dug deeper into appearance when Windows 8 came about.

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The color of Windows Me/2000 dialog panels is noticeably lighter and slightly pink. It seemed to me fresh compared to Windows 98. I didn't like to tweak colors in display properties because they automatically calculated and reduced the contrast of the highlight color on scrollbars and disabled/embossed items.

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Thanks for all responses. Wishing happy thoughts to you @UCyborg, i won't post a depressing shades of grey screenshot :)

I don't know much about DOS and Windows hacking, manipulating hex values, reverse engineering binaries. Fortunately some kind soul hacked the problematic 1990 DOS game for more recent hardware. Now i can thankfully play the game without any tweaks or slowdown software, including mouse support and the ever great Sound Blaster. It now appears to play as originally intended. The oldest DOS game i'm currently playing is a children's exploration game from 1986, it is not CPU sensitive and plays well.

I remember back when games like Myst were popular and heavily marketed. Just reviewed this game and don't think i could play it today. Fictional storylines were never my thing, just take me to the action please. So for me it would probably turn into a rushed Where's Waldo point-and-click exercise, skimming important details that may later be needed to properly finish the game.

In about 2000 when a colleague and i needed to eat lunch at our workstations, we would sometimes have FreeCell competitions. We would each start a new game using the same preseed number (1-32000) and see who could win first. She usually won, still a fond memory. Windows 98 SE (Sucksless Edition) has some decent pre-installed coffee break games (FreeCell, Hearts, Ninesweeper, Solitaire).

Being not much of a colour guy @i7u, i never noticed your finer points on Windows 2000 appearance, other than it always looked very pleasant, polished and professional. Makes me want to install it again, also wish i owned Millenium Edition for comparison. Unfortunately there's never enough free time, i would create more partitions and go installation crazy.

Hi @Gansangriff, agreed Windows 98 can easily become very colourful. The grass is greener on the other side, i think i was just depressed about getting an old DOS game to run on sub-optimal (too fast) hardware. Thanks for reminding that emulation isn't perfect either and needs a lot of horsepower. Forums like Vogons have lots of information regarding DOSBox woes. I am very thankful for my older hardware but need to upgrade one system soon, as it can no longer log into a bank site. Wish my KVM switch, equipped with PS2 and VGA cables, could handle more than two computers.

Windows 98 SE runs well as long as the same stable software, setup and routines are utilized. It does, however, hiccup on occasion when trying new things. Doubtful it would surprise anyone that it isn't exactly the most stable OS. This system needed a forced shutdown the other day and ScanDisk auto-ran next boot. During a later boot to Windows this most recent ScanDisk run wasn't recognized (Properties -> Tools -> Error Checking Status -> Last checked drive for errors xxx days ago). What the heck? Then remembered Windows 98 uses C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\SCANDISK.EXE (141 KB) for DOS and C:\WINDOWS\Scandskw.exe (5 KB) while in Windows.

Despite it's instabilities DOS and Windows 9x have by far the fastest boot and shutdown times of any other system in this household. In DOS mode, SMARTDRV.EXE was loaded the other day to complete some file management. Upon finishing i wanted to unload it from memory without rebooting but this doesn't seem possible, unless i misunderstand the user options. DOS only takes seconds to reboot but still would have been nice just to continue the session.
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PCM (the "M" stands for "Magazine") had a free 9x utility called "DisplaySet" that would allow one to set all settable system colors, set font and size of all available categories, and import/export schemes. It was basically a GUI that modified appearance settings in the Registry and updated the screen immediately as you played around with it.

Unfortunately, i don't know where to get it nowadays, but the latest was v1.1 if i remember correctly. Like all of their utilities, source code was included, as well as an in-depth discussion of its inner workings in the accompanying ReadMe file.

- Doug B.
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Yes, v1.1 of DisplaySet was first listed for download at PCMag on August 1, 2001. You can read the write up here - https://web.archive.org/web/20020602105227/http://www.pcmag.com/article/0,,s=1478&a=7388,00.asp, and the download page was here - https://web.archive.org/web/20020409051959/http://www.pcmag.com/article/0,2997,s=1478&a=7361,00.asp, but it doesn't work now.

Quote

DisplaySet:

Publication Date: August 1, 2001 (v20n14)
Version: 1.1
Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4, Windows 2000

License Information:
The programs presented in PC Magazine are copyrighted and cannot be copied or distributed or modified for any purpose, except that a single copy may be made for archival purposes only. Use of the programs is subject to the terms and conditions of the license agreement distributed with the programs.

Description:
The Appearance tab of Windows's Display Properties dialog has hardly changed since the original Windows 95. It still uses a cramped preview pane that shows only a limited subset of the effects of your changes. It still treats some settings as different when they're actually the same, for example, the typeface and size used for "Active title bar" and "Inactive title bar". And it doesn't include the ability to modify all the settings that are included in its own appearance schemes. DisplaySet remedies all of these limitations, while remaining compatible with the existing Appearance tab. DisplaySet was written by Neil J. Rubenking, and first appeared in PC Magazine August 1, 2001 (v20n14). Source code is included.
 

 

I couldn't find it available on the web, but someone else's Google-Fu is probably better than mine. Between 2001 and 2014 DisplaySet has been mentioned here at MSFN by several others including @jaclaz, @xpclient, and @cannie, so hopefully one of them might still have access to the file.

Cheers and Regards

Edited by bphlpt
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Sorry @cannie, but when I just tried that link I got this as a response via email:

Quote

Thank you for using Software Informer.

The download link for the requested software cannot be found. We will update our database soon and let you know when DisplaySet is available for download.

Have you actually downloaded DisplaySet? If you have it, can you put it up somewhere like MediaFire?

Cheers and Regards

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18 hours ago, jaclaz said:

https://web.archive.org/web/20051227075035/http://wittswallpapers.com/Oldies/displayset.zip

This is actually the Wayback Machine of a link originally posted by cannie.

jaclaz

I never thought that this new link were a trap.

Thank you, jaclaz!

With my excuses for bphlpt.

Greetings

Cannie

Edited by cannie
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