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Running vanilla Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


Wunderbar98
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19 hours ago, sonyu said:

Will this patch make Windows ME compatible with DOSBOX ?

No, you can try DOSBox-X, but my past experience with DOSBox-X is that chances are that it will be very, very unstable. Get 86Box or PCem for that.

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12 hours ago, Drugwash said:

No idea if recent versions still work in Win9x, with or without KernelEx

Up to version 6.4 works without KernelEx. 6.5 and later need KernelEx enabled to run.

You can still install the program without KernelEx enabled, however.

Edited by mina7601
They still work.
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  • 2 weeks later...
Thanks for all responses.

Gone mobile. Over the years my Windows 98 connected via 56k dial-up [1], probably coaxial [2], DSL and now mobile. My old DSL service provider is force upgrading from DSL to fiber. The fiber 'upgrade' will also do away with traditional landline phone, now requiring a special interface with a battery backup. Sheesh.

To each their own, i'm tired of subsidizing peoples HD video streaming so i voted with my wallet. Here < 10-20 GB of data is consumed monthly when being wasteful. My old DSL plan allowed for 150 GB/month and a minimal new fiber package is 400 GB/month.

Internet is apparently expensive in Canada and i think this is true [3]. The basic DSL/landline phone package was $100/month CDN (grandfathered plan, long distance extra) and fiber will start at $130/month [4].

My mobile phone costs $50/month for unlimited calls, texts, long distance and 10 GB of data. If the data cap is reached, throttled internet remains available. My internet is now truly mobile for vacation or evacuation.

Poorly motivated i couldn't get USB tethering to work directly between the mobile and Windows 98 tower. USB worked (NUSB.EXE), new hardware wizard identified the phone's hardware and tether attempt but the driver would not install. Probably just a configuration issue with the INF file. The URL below is dead but the development kit (rndisusb1-1.exe, 1 MB) can be downloaded from archive[dot]org specifying 2006 era:

---
The RNDIS drivers (RNDISMP.SYS and USB8023.SYS) are in-box for Windows XP and greater. The drivers for Windows 2000 (RNDISMPK/USB8023K), Windows ME (RNDISMPM/USB8023M) and Windows 98 (RNDISMPW/USB8023W) are available in the RNDIS developer's kit. Also included in the kit is a template INF. Just change the device ID and strings, etc...
http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/hwdev/resources/HWservices/rndis.mspx
---

Nevertheless this isn't ideal as i don't want to manually configure tethering for every OS and i prefer a hardware firewall between the tether and my systems. So now tethering is done centrally through router for all connected OS, including real mode DOS web browsing - yeah.

Aside, in GNU/Linux with Android-based phone direct tethering is as simple as running 'ifconfig -a' to identify the tethered interface and commands similar to below to toggle tethering:
sudo ifconfig usb0 up && sudo dhclient usb0
sudo ifconfig usb0 up && sudo dhclient -r usb0

I'm using an inexpensive flip phone running 'Linux' (not Android proper) and it tethers out of the box with both my GNU/Linux towers and Asus router. Asus routers are good for 3G/4G tethering with Android via router's USB port.

[1] Remember when V90 was a thing.
[2] Don't recall if Windows 98 was connected at the time or just Windows 2000/XP.
[3] Not complaining, most Canucks are spoiled, i realize this.
[4] Non-mainstream ISPs are available for less money. The savings are less significant when all items and charges are accounted for. Alternative DSL providers will be forced to fiber here when the copper lines get deactivated. Even coaxial ISPs are caught up in competition here and are going fiber too, probably to the house not just community switchbox.
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3 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Internet is apparently expensive in Canada and i think this is true [3]. The basic DSL/landline phone package was $100/month CDN (grandfathered plan, long distance extra) and fiber will start at $130/month [4].

Quite a step up from prices we pay. The cheapest at our ISP (we've had cable - DOCSIS to be exact since the beginning) is 42€ (57,28 canadian dollars) for 200 Mbps DL / 20 Mbps UL, the same line covers the TV and telephone as well. We started with 2 Mbps / 384 Kbps back in 2004 or so, which was gradually upgraded over the years. Back then, telephone was on a separate line (non-cable), another provider.

3 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

The RNDIS drivers (RNDISMP.SYS and USB8023.SYS) are in-box for Windows XP and greater. The drivers for Windows 2000 (RNDISMPK/USB8023K), Windows ME (RNDISMPM/USB8023M) and Windows 98 (RNDISMPW/USB8023W) are available in the RNDIS developer's kit. Also included in the kit is a template INF. Just change the device ID and strings, etc...
http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/hwdev/resources/HWservices/rndis.mspx

Interesting, didn't know such driver exists for Windows 98. I posted the INF from Vista, usable on XP as it is: https://msfn.org/board/topic/178016-android-rndis-driver

It picks up the device by the compatible, universal ID.

3 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Aside, in GNU/Linux with Android-based phone direct tethering is as simple as running 'ifconfig -a' to identify the tethered interface and commands similar to below to toggle tethering:
sudo ifconfig usb0 up && sudo dhclient usb0
sudo ifconfig usb0 up && sudo dhclient -r usb0

I wonder how many users do these things manually. Network Manager sets it up automagically.

Edited by UCyborg
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Thanks for the response and tethering link @UCyborg. Quick search, Canada seems about top 10 for most expensive internet. Canada search, my province is one of the most expensive. Since it's now an essential service, it is beyond me why there isn't a government mandated minimal internet package for those on low income or with simple needs.

As mentioned there are cheaper plans, usually 2 year introductory price, some customers just swap every couple years. I think the cheapest here is about $50/month CDN with no phone or television, need to purchase or rent one of their modems, sometimes activation fees, most of these providers are unknown to me (non-mainstream).

Surely not many use manual methods, probably just a few grey beards. I'm a minimalist who likes learning how things work. If something needs a 'front-end' often an alias or small script is adequate. One drawback, tethering is noticeably slower, good excuse to learn more tweaks.
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  • 3 weeks later...
First month of tethered mobile done. Keeping household data consumption under 10 GB per month is no big here, adequate for news, weather, comics, research, logins, general browsing, music, lower definition video and updating several GNU/Linux systems and browsers. The current network is only 3G so speed is relatively slow but functional.

Though 10 GB of monthly data consumption isn't much by modern standards, in the Windows 9x era it would fill more than 7000 floppy disks (1.4 MB capacity). Windows 98 seems good at resolving a network connection during runtime if the router isn't available at boot.

*****

Reviewed Windows 98's 'Automatic Skip Driver Agent (ASD)'. Running C:\WINDOWS\ASD.EXE provides a GUI popup listing any issues. Here 'MSTCP' and 'USB Hub' are flagged. Not sure why TCP was flagged on this seasoned system, probably when deciding whether to put it online or swapping network adapters, don't recall. Re-checking MSTCP and rebooting removed this ASD flag, ethernet works fine here. The USB flag is being ignored, intentionally disabled for this Windows 98 build.

What is ASD (Automatic Skip Driver Agent)?
ASD stands for Automatic Skip Driver Agent, is a Microsoft Windows 98 built-in utility that allows you to bypass troublesome devices so that Windows 98 can successfully boot.

How it works
The Automatic Skip Driver Agent (ASD) identifies device failures that caused Windows 98 to stop responding on previous attempts to boot the system and marks these devices so that the boot process skips them on subsequent boot attempts. Once you have finished troubleshooting a device problem, you can use ASD to enable the device to see whether the device has begun to function properly. If the device fails again, ASD will again disable it. Disabled devices can be viewed and reenabled by running ASD again from the command line with the command asd.exe or from the System Information utility in the System Tools program group. Device Manager shows disabled devices with a yellow exclamation point.

During startup, Windows 98 tries to load device drivers for installed hardware. ASD keeps track of device driver failures by identifying which devices cannot be enumerated during startup. If attempts to load the device driver for a device fail two times, ASD disables the device so that Windows 98 can start properly.

*****

FreeDOS formally released v1.3 recently after five Release Candidates, long live DOS.
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On 4/7/2022 at 10:23 PM, Bruninho said:

No, you can try DOSBox-X, but my past experience with DOSBox-X is that chances are that it will be very, very unstable. Get 86Box or PCem for that.

Should note that, To install DOSBox-X on 98/Me, You must select SDL2 as the bulid.

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Huge enlightenment, C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI [vcache] entries can make a big difference. Without specifying [vcache], Windows Explorer ate my 384+ MB RAM and PageFile during the biggest data project ever attempted here in Windows 98 (100s of large and small files, zipped and loose, copy/move/paste/trash). As a session progressed RAM was quickly consumed (and not returned) [1].

Symptoms included unreal RAM and PageFile consumption, severe system slowdown, 100% CPU use navigating directories, > 10 seconds delay opening even empty directories in Windows Explorer, system freeze and forced reboot [2]. Garbage, freak-out, thought my beloved Windows 98 was borked.

Problem fixed, if life were so easy. RAM use is now negligible during file management and the system is snappier then ever. May test more later but this is what's currently entered into C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI. A ChunkSize=4096 entry didn't seem to make any difference so it's disabled for the time being.

[vcache]
MinFileCache=8192
MaxFileCache=8192

Seems odd Microsoft never included a 'safe' default entry for [vcache], probably me just misunderstanding the default setup. I don't know how to benchmark these settings, nor do i feel like spending a lot of time on the issue. It seems solved and performance is good. Suggestions and feedback welcome. There are lots of old threads and discussions on this topic here worthy of re-review.

[1] TinyResMeter v0.95a configured to monitor UpTime, RAM and PageFile on desktop (like Conky).
[2] Process Explorer v8.52, minimized to system tray, monitors CPU use.
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3 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

[1] TinyResMeter v0.95a configured to monitor UpTime, RAM and PageFile on desktop (like Conky).
[2] Process Explorer v8.52, minimized to system tray, monitors CPU use.

Or there's MemPanel in my package that displays RAM, swap, total system load, and CPU usage. ;)

There was a utility for freeing memory, I think it was called Free RAM XP Pro or something like that. On occasion it did clip some of the used memory as well leading to problems but most of the times it did its job well.

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Posted (edited)
Thanks for responses. Had another long data session. The [vcache] entries fix out-of-RAM but after moving a few hundred files the bug i believe you indicated @MrMateczko appears.

Thanks to [vcache] the system now has lots of available RAM but Windows Explorer responsiveness, for example, slows considerably during intensive file management. The system has 384 MB RAM with Internet Explorer v5.00.2614.3500, so it's not just an Internet Explorer 6 related issue.

Slowdown bug tests:
Excluding limited hardware all these tasks should respond instantly:
- Open Start menu
- Create new text document
- Move Up a directory in Windows Explorer

Workarounds:
- Reboot resets everything.
- Three finger salute without reboot. Close applications including Windows Explorer then issue Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Select 'Explorer' then click End Task. Patiently ignore shutdown/restart popup then click End Task when 'Explorer is not responding' shows. Explorer restarts itself, resume session.

Either way the system is then snappy again until several hundred more files are handled. On this system the slowdown is gradual. First snappy, then sluggish, then really slow, eventually non-functional. Use the workarounds above before feeling perturbed.

As mentioned i've never done this much file management before in Windows 98, hence never noticed the issue in over 20 years. Most users probably don't handle hundreds or thousands of files in a session but me thinks we've become more demanding of our hardware and OS' over the years.

Hot Tip:
- Don't set up Windows 98 SE as a file server :)

The @MDGx SHELL32.DLL patch link no longer works but if this is correct it can be obtained from below:
http://web.archive.org/web/20210506070430/http://www.mdgx.com/files/SHELL98.EXE
SHELL98.EXE
6.00.2800.1168
528,896 bytes

---
Unofficial Windows 98/98 SP1/98 SE Explorer Lockups With Internet Explorer 5.xx/6.xx SHELL32.DLL 4.72.3812.634 Fix:

* SHELL32.DLL Fix [517 KB, English].
* SHELL32.DLL Fix [520 KB, French].
* SHELL32.DLL Fix [522 KB, German].
* SHELL32.DLL Fix [520 KB, Italian].
* SHELL32.DLL Fix [521 KB, Polish].

This SHELL32.DLL Fix corrects Windows Explorer (and similar tools that use SHELL32.DLL APIs) lockups while trying to copy/create/move/delete/rename large number of files/folders with Internet Explorer 5.xx/6.xx already installed.
---

Since this system is vanilla the SHELL32.DLL patch won't be used, an unofficial hack from an anonymous donor that affects a critical system file. I'm sure it's probably good but for me the workarounds mentioned above are adequate. The discussion linked by @MrMateczko, thank-you again, is convoluted. Although it appears replacing C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\BROWSELC.DLL and BROWSEUI.DLL from Internet Explorer v5.5 may also be helpful.

Thanks for the suggestions @Drugwash. FreeRAM XP Pro v1.52 by YourWare Solutions (framxpro.zip, 605 Kb, March 2006) was downloaded from MajorGeeks but not installed. My systems used similar software a lifetime ago, query Cacheman. If possible i will avoid resorting to this type of software, time will tell. Edited by Wunderbar98
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15 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

If possible i will avoid resorting to this type of software, time will tell.

Can be useful in an emergency situation. If set to only act manually there would be no interference with running applications at possibly unwanted time.

For most available operations - including copy/move files and/or folders - I have only ever used Total Commander. For the copy operations the large files option was enabled in its settings. I really can't remember how Explorer looks like. :lol:

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Cacheman is not similar to Freeram. Tweakall can do both.

Go to FileSystemProperties->Hard Disk and set role to Network server (or Cacheman/Tweakall Settings for me).

I used a ram auto-free app to successfully prevent Netscape 3.76 from locking up way back when.

 

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On 5/21/2022 at 7:22 PM, Wunderbar98 said:

[vcache]
MinFileCache=8192
MaxFileCache=8192

Do not forget that restricting vcache to 8MB will not allow all programs to work so if an error occurs that says that it is not working due to restrictions placed on this machine, it will be because of lack of available vcache. Maximum Cache size should be at least 32MB as 16MB is not enough from using that amount as done by accidental experience.

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Multiple thanks. I like many file managers @Drugwash, preferably split pane, but for me it's got to be Windows Explorer in Windows 98 SE :)

Thanks for the software tip @jumper, this system is already set as a 'Network server' with ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1.

Although no issues were experienced with the lower setting @Goodmaneuver, based on your feedback FileCache was just increased. Will test and adjust as necessary once most system software has been utilized.

C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI:
[vcache]
MinFileCache=32768
MaxFileCache=32768

Took another look at SHELL32.EXE patch and decided against it. Replaced BROWSELC.DLL and BROWSEUI.DLL with Internet Explorer v5.5 release. This resulted in a non-booting system, obviously not compatible with this current setup.

Regardless, memory management is better now. RAM no longer maxes out and system slowness is less during long sessions. Did a 3+ hour heavy file management session without needing to reboot or even restart EXPLORER.EXE.

Query whether 'My Documents' has a capacity limit or bug that cripples file management performance. Two Windows Explorer windows were utilized during the long session [1]. One was accessing 'Program Files' (3-5 directories deep) and the other 'My Documents' (7 directories deep).

'My Documents' sub-directory access was noticeably slower than 'Program Files' as the session progressed. So a new C:\WORK directory was used with good result.

Issues with 'My Documents' was noted before:
https://msfn.org/board/topic/45565-mydocuments-opening-slow/

To test whether the issue is with 'My Documents' proper or the number of nested sub-directories, some files were copied and unzipped in the directories below after a fresh boot with no problems:

1. C:\My Documents\one\two\three\four\five\six\seven\eight\nine\ten\test.zip
2. C:\one\two\three\four\five\six\seven\eight\nine\ten\test.zip

Current hunch, a bug that involves handling a certain large number of files, affecting 'My Documents' moreso than other directories. Seems to be supported, may try the DESKTOP.INI 'fix' later:
http://web.archive.org/web/20030121213054/http://the-it-mercenary.com/forums/Help/posts/8929.html

Simple test would probably be to move all content from hard-coded 'C:\My Documents' into a newly created 'C:\DOCUMENTS' directory to see if the issue resolves. Never liked directory names with spaces anyway.

[1] Opening two Windows Explorer windows then right-click taskbar for 'Tile Windows Horizontally' makes a decent twin file manager.
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