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Running vanilla Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


Wunderbar98
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Hi @UCyborg, NetCaptor i've never heard of either. I remember Internet Explorer v6 being quite the upgrade. Versions 5 and 6 were used here, then Netscape Navigator. After leaving Windows 98 it was mostly Firefox and SeaMonkey. SeaMonkey is falling behind so primarily Firefox now for modern, full-featured browsing. For some reason Firefox v3.6 is memorable, hard to believe that was only 12 years ago, now they're on version 101, ugh.

My favourite browsers probably not many use, Dillo (seems abandoned), Links, RetroZilla and personal webscraping scripts. Anything to keep browsing snappy and lean. There's almost always a non-JavaScript website alternative.

A few years ago i coded by own browser in Bash script (bsurf - Bash Surf), including a scratch coded HTML parser and viewer. It doesn't do JavaScript and is text-only, keyboard commands, from a terminal. It has basic features: bookmarks, search engines, history, page search, file downloads, image popups (external viewer, eg. feh). It doesn't do tabs. To avoid new terminal popups for another page, hyperlinks can be preloaded in the background while reading the existing page. Upon page exit, all preloaded pages are listed on the main screen, below the bookmarks, ready to be instantly viewed. Fun but lots of work, still needs bug and speed fixes. The world has changed so much and i'm older, don't work on it anymore but still use it for some sites.

*****

More time was spent in DOS v7 (from Windows 98) this week than any other OS. Most of it online via Links, reading and research, weather and news, some downloads. Also tested packet drivers, tweaked network, set up an image viewer and PDF reader.

EDIT.EXE is a pretty good editor, unfortunately no word wrap. No i don't want another editor, unless Windows 98 has another built-in that works in DOS.

A useful keyboard shortcut in EDIT is Ctrl-PageUp/Down, which warps one screen at a time left/right for reading off-screen sentences. Help -> Commands is informative.

Mentioned before, EDIT can load i believe 9 documents at a time, toggled via View dropdown or Alt-[1-9] key combination.

More than one file can be opened at a time from a command line prompt, just space separate the file names. Recommend running DOSKEY enhanced for tab autocomplete functionality.
EDIT DOC1.TXT DOC2.TXT

Frustrating, there does not appear to be any logical order in file and directory listing when the DIR command is used without argument. It does not appear to sort by name, file size, extension, directories first. Seems a jumbled mess.

So i usually run DIR/W/ON to get everything on one screen, ordered by name, but it's a hassle. There does not appear to be a configuration, like a GNU/Linux .bashrc file, that will always use the '/W/ON' options. DOSKEY may have a configuration for this but it would be nice if there was something native in DOS.

Often MORE is piped to prevent off-screen scrolling, example:
DIR /ON | MORE

The MORE and TYPE commands are useful as a document reader. Longer documents are better in MORE as it will pause each screen, TYPE just dumps everything at once, or just use EDIT.
MORE DOC1.TXT
TYPE DOC1.TXT | MORE
EDIT DOC1.TXT

There does not appear to be a quick method to create a new, empty document like the 'touch' command in GNU/Linux. Minor hassle, run EDIT then select 'Save as', enter document name and the file gets created, empty file okay.

ECHO can, however, be used to create a new file with content, example:
ECHO review_DOS_games > TO_DO.TXT

... and append an existing file:
ECHO get_more_sleep >> TO_DO.TXT
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5 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

So i usually run DIR/W/ON to get everything on one screen, ordered by name, but it's a hassle. There does not appear to be a configuration, like a GNU/Linux .bashrc file, that will always use the '/W/ON' options. DOSKEY may have a configuration for this but it would be nice if there was something native in DOS.

Add this to your AUTOEXEC.BAT:

SET DIRCMD=/W/ON

 

5 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Often MORE is piped to prevent off-screen scrolling, example:
DIR /ON | MORE

Try DIR /ON/P 

I don't remember which version added that option though, so yours may not have it.

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6 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Frustrating, there does not appear to be any logical order in file and directory listing when the DIR command is used without argument. It does not appear to sort by name, file size, extension, directories first. Seems a jumbled mess.

So i usually run DIR/W/ON to get everything on one screen, ordered by name, but it's a hassle. There does not appear to be a configuration, like a GNU/Linux .bashrc file, that will always use the '/W/ON' options. DOSKEY may have a configuration for this but it would be nice if there was something native in DOS.

There IS an order, order of read-out of directory-entries. Before any file-deletion: historical order.

You can use SET DIRCMD=/W, in a session, ready after boot if set in AUTOEXEC.BAT. Remove in a session with SET DIRCMD= and so on.

Screenshot_20220617-183254.thumb.png.f959ff653d8769c52624ba476be06068.png

Edited by deomsh
Typo
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Posted (edited)
Internet Explorer tombstone popped up, in case link dies:

Internet Explorer
1995.8.17 - 2022.6.15
He was a good tool to download other browsers
https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/06/internet-explorer-grave-01.jpg?quality=75&strip=all&w=744

*****

Thanks @RainyShadow and @deomsh. The SET commands in AUTOEXEC.BAT work great. Other custom commands may be added if they are useful or repetitively used. Pause switch is good too.

Maybe a DOSKEY enhanced bug regarding XCOPY. Once XCOPY gets installed it seems tab autocomplete stops working for the original COPY command. The COPY command still works, just without autocomplete, no big. Autocomplete for XCOPY command works fine.

Still don't understand the seemingly random order, 'historical order'. Forgive format, didn't want to attach screenshot. Below is DIR /V (verbose) of a DOS software directory on this system. To the end user, what exactly is the pattern of the default sort order?

Volume_in_drive_C_has_no_label
Volume_Serial_Number_is_3040-1CE7
Directory_of_C:\DOS
File_Name_________Size________Allocated______Modified______Accessed__Attrib
.______________[DIR]______________________10-08-19_10:04p__10-08-19______D_
.._____________[DIR]______________________10-08-19_10:04p__10-08-19______D_
VIDECDD__SYS________11,294________12,288__10-08-19__1:12a__06-16-22_______A
PICTVIEW_______[DIR]______________________10-20-19__9:17p__10-20-19______D_
MUPDF__________[DIR]______________________08-30-21__3:30p__08-30-21______D_
CWSDPMI________[DIR]______________________09-01-20__3:35p__09-01-20______D_
LINKS__________[DIR]______________________06-11-22_11:09a__06-11-22______D_
LNE100_________[DIR]______________________06-11-22__1:06a__06-11-22______D_
MTCP___________[DIR]______________________08-26-20__2:47a__08-26-20______D_
LIVEDOS________[DIR]______________________10-17-19_12:07a__10-17-19______D_
DOS_HELP_______[DIR]______________________10-08-19_12:31a__10-08-19______D_
GOPHERUS_______[DIR]______________________03-14-21__1:30a__03-14-21______D_
LYNX___________[DIR]______________________03-09-21__7:16a__03-09-21______D_
CTMOUSE__EXE_________6,120_________8,192__06-01-03__2:00a__06-17-22_______A
ARACHNE________[DIR]______________________03-15-21_12:42p__03-15-21______D_
PKUNZIP__EXE________29,656________32,768__03-14-21__6:51p__06-13-22_______A
CMOS___________[DIR]______________________09-17-21__3:16p__09-17-21______D_
ROGUE__________[DIR]______________________06-14-22__1:45a__06-14-22______D_
DCRAWL_________[DIR]______________________06-11-22__1:51a__06-11-22______D_
DIR_DOS__TXT_____________0_____________0__06-17-22__3:29p__06-17-22_______A
_________4_file(s)_________47,070_bytes
________16_dir(s)__________53,248_bytes_allocated
_________________________4,114.51_MB_free
_________________________6,137.84_MB_total_disk_space,__32%_in_use Edited by Wunderbar98
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11 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Still don't understand the seemingly random order, 'historical order'.

It is the order those entries physically appear in the directory. You can check it with a disk editor. 

Norton SpeedDisk had an option to sort directory entries when optimizing, this also moved entries for deleted files to be last. 

 

QY3BB57.png

https://i.imgur.com/QY3BB57.png

Edited by RainyShadow
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Posted (edited)
Thanks again for the AUTOEXEC.BAT tips, very nice, and the follow-up explanation and screenshot @RainyShadow.

Disabled custom DIR entries in AUTOEXEC.BAT, rebooted for testing.

In same C:\DOS directory pasted in earlier post. First created a file named BBB, then DIR added the file BBB to the bottom of the list. Good, historic order on disk.

Second used MKDIR to create a directory named A1. Running DIR again and A1 was listed above BBB, even though it was created afterwards. Hmm.

Kept the newly created BBB file and A1 directory in place (no DELete).

Third created a new file 222. Running DIR placed this file in the middle of the entire printout, well above the other two new entries. Hmm.

Just a 'computer' thing then only sensible to a disk controller, not a humanoid. I'll keep custom SET DIR presets in AUTOEXEC.BAT for sane sort orders.

Long live the mysteries of DOS.
Edited by Wunderbar98
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About your experiment: I am not satisfied. You better make a fresh, new directory and ONLY use MKDIR on it, or copy files to that directory. I do not know how the FAT-driver behaves with your method of creating files.

The FAT-driver can look for the first empty directory-entry (starting with 00h) to write a new entry, or re-use a deleted entry (starting with E5h). Both not included in @RainyShadow's picture.

I doubt if 'vanilla'-DIR will 'make' any 'decisions'...

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Thanks again for your input @deomsh. When i do as you say with a fresh directory everything seems created in historic order of creation, even when trying to trick the filesystem with different name and number schemes.

There is, however, an issue that may be related to existing directories. For example, yesterday a new sub-directory C:\DOS\GAMES\ was created, C:\DOS\ was pre-existing. I don't recall for certain whether this GAMES directory was created via DOS boot (MKDIR) or Windows boot, i think using Windows Explorer.

Now when plain DIR command is used in C:\DOS\, the GAMES directory is not listed at the bottom. It's listed about 7/8 way down, even though the two directories and one file below it have not recently been created or manipulated.

So there's an issue present, not sure why. Maybe DOS vs Windows boot, maybe Windows Explorer related. ScanDisk was run today without error, regardless of how new files and directories were created (Explorer, EDIT, ECHO, MKDIR).

Anyway it's okay, i believe you regarding directory and name creation, it's just that during day to day computing the DIR command without argument does not consistently seem to work as expected and benefits from a more human friendly sorting argument.

*****

This probably only interests me, roguelikes are some of the most replayable, strategic and satisfying games ever created. Played around a bit with DND and Telengard, there are so many roguelikes. If you were raised on basic Dungeons and Dragons, some of these older games are the best. The oldest 'last modified' files on this entire system [1]:

TELENGARD.BIN -> 02FEB1984
ROGUE.EXE -> 24FEB1984

[1] Windows -> Find -> Date parameters can't be set before 1/1/1980.
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18 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Now when plain DIR command is used in C:\DOS\, the GAMES directory is not listed at the bottom. It's listed about 7/8 way down, even though the two directories and one file below it have not recently been created or manipulated.

So there's an issue present, not sure why.

How many entries are in your directory C:\DOS, and what is  clustersize in the C-partition? You can read-out clustersize with CHKDSK.

Judging from your post of 'Saturday 6:28 AM' you are using FAT32.

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Thanks for the information @jumper, that date range has me well covered :)

Hi @deomsh, FAT32, 4096 bytes per allocation unit. FDISK indicates PRI DOS, partition C: 1, status active, 6150 Mbytes, 100% usage, enable large disk support yes.

Windows Explorer properties for C:\DOS\ :
762 files
54 folders
41.4 MB (43,421,437 bytes)

Thanks @Goodmaneuver, a reboot confirms it, SystemTray was re-enabled via MSCONFIG. Didn't even notice volume slider was missing (using AutoHotkey for volume) but yes to me this is part of the essential Windows 9x experience.

Slow learner, in DOS 'CD \' goes to root directory, no more wasted time with 'CD C:\'. DOS is efficient, the space can be ignored, 'CD\'. This i do remember, switching to a different partition or drive is easy, example 'D:' to access CD-ROM. Going back to C:\ drive with 'C:', automatically returns prompt to the most recent sub-directory accessed on the C:\ drive.

Discovered an interesting DOS and earlier Windows game, query 1994 titled 'WINDOZE'. Common falling block type game using Microsoft icons for blocks, query Windows 3.1. Seems pretty good, briefly play tested and deleted.

---
WINDOZE
by Lenny Boreal
WINDOZE is for sophisticated audiences who are less than pleased with Microsoft's effort to take over the world with a similar program called "Windows" (TM). WINDOZE is a hacked version of Loren Blaney's FLAKES game (sorry) that uses only the finest quality, environmentally-safe 1's and 0's.

Screenshot:
https://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/690894-windoze-dos-screenshot-a-column-and-a-diagonal-even-better.png
---
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13 hours ago, Wunderbar98 said:

Hi @deomsh, FAT32, 4096 bytes per allocation unit. FDISK indicates PRI DOS, partition C: 1, status active, 6150 Mbytes, 100% usage, enable large disk support yes.

Windows Explorer properties for C:\DOS\ :
762 files
54 folders
41.4 MB (43,421,437 bytes)

This means 128 entries in each cluster (each entry is 32 bytes). So your cluster-chain is already quite long in C:\DOS, deleted entries and Long File Names not counted about 7 clusters.

I watched the 'behavior' of the Windows 10 FAT-driver. It seems first free entries are used, so historical order is maintained. If last cluster in the cluster-chain has no free entries anymore, the driver will recycle deleted entries first. Historical order is broken.

At some point (not sure if whole cluster-chain is searched for deleted entries) a new cluster is added to the cluster-chain. Historical order again.

Be aware I am talking about impressions in case of Windows 10 FAT-driver, not solid 'facts'!

So do not worry about your directory C:\DOS\GAMES is not last, it should be first!

The longer the cluster-chain, the longer the search-times. And: the FAT lookup-table is searched only if the first directory-cluster is full and a second is added (reading files is same: if filesize exceeds clustersize).

I remember my most responsive Window-system EVER was Win95 OSR1A on Asrock A59-pro, with slightly overclocked PCI-bus. That time I owed a 20GB IDE-disk, on FAT16 I could only make 2GB partitons, but with 32KB clusters! So instead of main directories like 'My Documents' I used a new 2GB partition instead, with volume-name 'Documenten' (Dutch).

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Thanks for your feedback and research @deomsh. I may move most DOS games to a newly created C:\GAMES\, then C:\DOS\ will only contain drivers, utilities and web browsers. Probably negligible performance improvement, more to separate game fluff from system stuff.

It is surprising Windows 10 still has a FAT-driver. A 20 GB drive was probably unheard of when Windows 95 launched. The Windows 98 SE value system i built in 1999 had only a 6 GB Quantum Fireball IDE drive. There's an appreciable performance boost using a 7200 RPM drive vs 5400, can't imagine those running these snappy old operating systems with SSD.

Feeling old, my Windows 95 install CD contains a bonus music video from Edie Brickell. Her song Good Times was released in ~ 1994 when she was in her prime, now she's approaching 60 years of age. Where does the time go, enjoy as much as possible.

Microsoft Windows 95 with USB Support (copyright 1997):

D:\funstuff\videos\goodtime.avi

---
Good Times songfacts:

After two albums with Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, Brickell married Paul Simon and started a family. In 1994, she released her first solo album, Picture Perfect Morning. "Good Times" was released as a single and became a her only chart entry outside of New Bohemians, going to #60 in the US. Over the next decades, Brickell continued to record both as a solo artist and with New Bohemians, and embarked on many other projects as well, including collaborations with Steve Martin and Willie Nelson.

Many know this song from the Microsoft Windows 95 installation CD-ROM that included the video as part of some multimedia samples. It seems quaint now, but being able to watch a music video on a computer was a big deal in 1995, even if it was confined to a tiny box on the screen.
https://www.songfacts.com/facts/edie-brickell/good-times
---
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== VCACHE ==

= Overview =

C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\VMM32\VCACHE.VXD is a disk cache driver for Windows 9x. By default VCACHE dynamically changes depending on the available disk space and memory an application requires. This 'virtual' cache is used during hard drive activity (read/write), resides in system RAM and is configurable.

By default there is no VCACHE limit. The amount of cache used grows during the session and is not readily released. Although acceptable for most use cases (light work, frequent reboots), developers should have probably set a MaxFileCache upper limit based on the amount of system RAM detected at boot.

Setting no VCACHE limit combined with heavy hard drive activity may cause the system to exhaust all RAM then the PageFile [1] (if present). From a performance perspective PageFile access is slow, causes hard drive thrashing, and the system may lock up and crash if it becomes exhausted. This is not a sane configuration, essentially caching the cache [2].

Setting too low a VCACHE limit can cause severe system slowdown during periods of heavy hard drive activity, as inadequate fast RAM is dedicated to caching the slower hard drive data.

Setting too high an upper VCACHE limit, especially using fixed VCACHE size, may reserve too much precious RAM for hard drive activity, not allowing large applications to access this system RAM.

= VCACHE Configuration =

By default there is no [vcache] section or entries in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI. The user will need to determine what settings are best based on the hardware setup and intended use of the system.

Fixed-size VCACHE example, set to 32 MB RAM, add [vcache] section after [386Enh] section in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI.

[vcache]
MinFileCache=32768
MaxFileCache=32768
ChunkSize=512

Ranged VCACHE example loosely based on the recommendation from 'Computer Hope', which suggests 10% - 25% of total memory size. Note the recommendation also indicates MaxFileCache size should not exceed 524288, even if the computer has more than 512 MB of RAM.

[vcache]
MinFileCache=38912
MaxFileCache=98304
ChunkSize=512

Setting the same 'Min' and 'Max' value prevents unnecessary VCACHE re-sizing during runtime. However, setting a Min/Max range may be better if the system will be used for varied applications, such as heavy file management and large applications.

In general a higher MaxFileCache is best for systems that perform a lot of file management while a lower MaxFileCache is best for systems that need RAM for large applications.

VCACHE can be disabled by checking System Properties -> Performance tab -> File System -> Troubleshooting -> 'Disable write-behind caching for all drives'. As this will likely cause perceived hard drive read/write slow down, it is probably only suitable for troubleshooting, to reserve as much system RAM as possible for a very large application or to prevent data synchronization errors (eg. database work, drive sharing across network).

Monitor RAM used by VCACHE and applications with a system monitor, such as built-in System Monitor or TinyResMeter v0.95a. If the system approaches full RAM use, ensure a PageFile [3] is configured or the system may lock up (default system managed) via System Properties -> Performance tab -> Virtual Memory. As utilizing PageFile is slow, ensure MaxFileCache is set below a level that triggers PageFile use.

= ChunkSize =

A ChunkSize entry can be added, as exampled above, to specify the chunk of memory allocated to each entry residing in VCACHE. An application can use more than one chunk, similar to FAT file format for hard drives, but if it doesn't divide equally into the chunk the residual RAM in the chunk is unused (wasted). Apparently default is 512 and a formal entry is not necessary but may be useful for performance experimentation. Setting a smaller ChunkSize increases overhead (more chunks to manage) while setting a larger ChunkSize will waste more RAM (more chunks not fully filled).

Examples of ChunkSize values are 512, 1024, 4096. In theory a system with 'RAM to spare', based on Windows 98's meager system requirements [4], that often handles 'larger' files may benefit from a larger chunksize. Unfortunately, there seems to be little definitive performance evidence for ChunkSize configuration.

= Links =

http://www.broge.com/geek/win9x_systemini.shtml
https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/v/vcache.htm
http://help.perfectfit.net/knowledgebase/disable-write-behind-caching/

= Footnotes =

[1] PageFile aka Paging File aka Virtual Memory aka SwapFile (ie. swap RAM data to hard drive). The filename in Windows 98 is WIN386.SWP.

[2] Actually Windows 98's default configuration is fairly sane, though sub-optimal for tweakers. By default Windows 98 activates both VCACHE and PageFile with auto-resizing and no size limits. Aside from periods of disk thrashing and gnashing of teeth, in most use cases these defaults should not freeze up a system from exhausted resources. The probable exception is an unfortunate system with too little RAM and hard drive freespace.

[3] PageFile (SwapFile) is another topic, caching data to hard drive when RAM gets full. Often allowing a system managed PageFile (default) is less efficient as CPU cycles are used to re-size the PageFile during runtime. Disabling PageFile altogether is only recommended for systems with adequate RAM, as the system may freeze if all RAM gets utilized. Recommend monitoring RAM use over several sessions to determine if a PageFile is necessary. If so, recommend setting a fixed size PageFile (same upper/lower limit). PageFile creation tip: 'Disable virtual memory' (disable existing PageFile), reboot, defrag hard drive, create new fixed size PageFile.

[4] Minimum system requirements from the official 'setuptip.txt' for Windows 98 SE: 486DX or 66 MHz processor, 24 MB of RAM, 205 - 400 MB hard disk space.

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