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Running Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


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Thanks for the post RainyShadow, hope you eventually finish the game. Make time gosh darn it, life is short. For me it's been fun to finish some games i've waited too long to play. Some are more fun that others, of course. Some anti-climactic, my life would not have been any less complete without them, did that make sense :)

Recently rebuilt and thoroughly cleaned an old tower that sweetly runs Windows XP and Devuan Ascii (Debian 9). The hardware is a circa 2001 Giga-Byte motherboard, 800 MHz Intel Celeron Coppermine processor, 512 MB RAM, Intel i810 graphics, AC'97 sound, D-Link ethernet. If the Windows XP install dies hope to convert it to Windows 98. IIRC the system requirements for Windows XP were decent for older hardware. Huge jump in minimum system requirements with Vista onward, don't have the hardware for any of these more modern Windows OS'.

Probably been over two years since this hardware was rebuilt. Want to do it every year but never enough time, guess it depends on the computing environment and runtime. If possible try to complete a rebuild in one session, makes it much easier to remember screws and connections, etc when re-assembling. With a decent work area and basic tools a thorough job takes 1-2 hours, especially if the power supply is opened and the processor is re-seated.

The system has performed well for many years, nothing special with the rebuild. Highly recommend anyone with old hardware always clean out the power supply unit. Quite simple, don't need to worry about voiding a warranty. Just four screws to remove the power supply unit from the tower, another two screws usually opens up the actual power supply. Vacuum brush or blow out the dust to restore air flow and proper cooling. Dust is the enemy as it restricts airflow and acts as an insulator which contributes to overheating, hardware death and is a fire hazard. Ensure the fan blades are clean and turn freely, occasionally a half-drop of bearing oil if the fan is noisy or problematic.

One of the main board capacitors is beginning to leak, will keep an eye on it. Two of the 4 pin peripheral power cable connectors from the power supply no longer fit tightly when connected to hard drives. This can lead to problems if the drive loses power during runtime due to thermal expansion, including data loss. This was improved by inserting a small jewelers screwdriver shaft between the plastic plug and the metal prong to re-crimp the prong tighter. Now it fits more snuggly when plugged into a hard drive.

Everything was disconnected, inspected, cleaned and re-seated. Noticed one data cable had a cockeyed connection to a hard drive, the pins were inspected and nothing was bent, oopsy now fixed. There was some corrosion on one of the two RAM module contacts, cleaned with a cotton cloth and Isopropyl alcohol. New thermal paste for the processor's heat sink. The laser on the CD drive was cleaned last time and does not have issues so it was left alone. To jog my memory a sticky was placed on the tower with the rebuild date.

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Haha! Makes me remember, how carelessly I flipped the power switch on a terribly dusty computer, resulting in a bright light coming loudly out of the power supply, followed by the smell of burned electronics. The dust must have produced a short circuit somewhere in the power supply! In fact, it was the only ruined part, the mainboard was fine. Must have left me deeply traumatised, as I always wait for my computers to blow up when I flip the switch at the back of a power supply...

I have a good Windows XP installation on a Celeron from 1998 with 400 MHz. It's quite useable, but it also uses a newer IDE hard drive. It looks like the hard drive is much more important than the CPU power to improve the computer's speed at daily use. Your P3 is probably well set up for WinXP.

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3 hours ago, Gansangriff said:

Makes me remember, how carelessly I flipped the power switch on a terribly dusty computer, resulting in a bright light coming loudly out of the power supply, followed by the smell of burned electronics.

This reminds me of a batch of HP d530 desktops we had at work few years ago.

For 90% of these the first power on resulted in a lound bang from an IC exploding in the power suppply. Turns out HP had used some gum-like glue to fix various parts in place - that glue had started conducting over time.

Our auditor guys had nightmares for weeks, lol.

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Thank-you for your response @Gansangriff. Ah the sinking feeling of failed hardware, knowing it will never run again. I've never been traumatized by hardware but did receive a give-away Pentium 4 motherboard/CPU combo once that lost a power supply after brief usage. Replaced the power supply and the replacement died shortly after. Lost faith in the board/CPU so it was sent to recycling. To me the first power up is a little stressful after a 'new' Frankenstein build, usually works out okay though. Sad about the dead HPs @RainyShadow and strange how old glue can become conductive. I've seen the glue inside my power supplies, looks like hot glue.

As an aside, purged unenhanced Firefox_2.0.0.20.exe and dillo-win32-3.0p9.exe from my hoard. To me any browser that can't connect to most sites is no longer useful. For anyone new running vanilla Windows 98, see 'Vanilla Windows 98 Web Browsing Summary' for several browsers that still work quite well.

Unfortunately youtube-dl does not work in vanilla Windows 98 but i see some advanced users got it to run with the help of kernel extensions. If anyone's interested, youtube-dl recently experienced a lot of drama. Been chipping away on a new 9xweb release, probably within the next couple weeks.

Since playing DOS oldies even my (slow) 800 MHz system greatly exceeds system requirements. Having experimented with a couple slow down programs recently (MoSlo and SLOWDOWN), seems your mileage will vary and there are lots of variables related to hardware and system configuration. Wish i had an old 386 or 486 kicking around to play the speed sensitive games as intended. A nice summary of slowdown utilities some may find useful.

As expected MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat installed perfectly from CD, both the DOS and Windows 95 versions. The DOS install allows gameplay resolution up to 1024x768 while the Windows 95 version only up to 640x480. Yes there are tons of patches out there, just want to play it vanilla if possible. Dumb luck, i apparently purchased one of the desirable releases years ago (see screenshot link below). Hope to play it through around Christmas time, read the back story, etc. This DOS/Windows 95 release is a real hassle to get running in Windows XP, all hail DOS!

For me operating giant mechs never gets old. If anyone's interested 'The entire Tribes series, including its predecessors Earthsiege and Starsiege, are free to download from the series' official website, Tribes Universe, thanks to Hi-Rez Studios.'

Below is the official Tribes Universe link. In RetroZilla change View -> Use Style -> None to properly access the site and download links. I couldn't get Earthsiege (1994) running in DOS but did find a way to run Earthsiege II (1995) in Windows without having to burn Earthsiege2.iso to CD. It's pretty basic but if anyone's interested in my notes just send a PM.

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I didn't play MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, but I played Interstate '76, which is built on the modified MW2 engine. Had no idea how to get it running on XP years ago, so ran it in Microsoft VirtualPC 2004 on Windows 98 then.

Had better results on the current PC, at least on Windows 7 and newer, it still crashed randomly on XP. Of course, external frame rate limiter was mandatory to work around physics problems. Reading tons of advice on forums about using CPU cycle burning slowdown utilities made me cringe.

Eventually got around patching it and solved or worked around most of critical issues. It runs even on Windows NT 4.0 now, which was never supported and never worked. Reason for all its problems? None other than sloppy coding.

There are significantly worse examples of crappy coding out there. The Windows version of The Need for Speed: Special Edition is an absolute joke.

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Thanks for your input @UCyborg. Watched a couple gameplay videos, Interstate '76 looks and sounds pretty groovy! Those 1970s cars always make a great scene, lots of bounce and body roll. Gaming is an industry, pushing products fast for maximum dollar. Sounds like most operating systems, endless bugs and patches, all software sucks and all that.

To me PC gaming has always trumped consoles, wish i never spent any money on consoles over the years. The best games are usually the ones with lots of fan support and involvement. Never played Need for Speed Special Edition but i do own Need for Speed II (Windows 95 CD-ROM) and Need for Speed III Hot Pursuit (1998-2000). The car physics weren't the best but very entertaining.

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== AutoHotkey for Custom Keyboard Shortcuts and Other Stuff ==

= Overview =

AutoHotkey (GPL v2 license) was used to create keyboard shortcuts for volume control. Modern systems and most GNU/Linux window managers have this functionality built-in. AutoHotkey can be used for more, this is all that is presently needed on this system. The software has extensive built-in help and is user friendly. It does not require formal install and uses minimal resources as a background process. Thanks to @Drugwash for mentioning the software some time ago.

Pasting some AutoHotkey documentation, a free, open-source utility:
- Automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks.
- Create hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
- Expand abbreviations as you type them.
- Create custom data-entry forms, user interfaces, and menu bars.
- Remap keys and buttons on your keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
- Respond to signals from hand-held remote controls via the WinLIRC client script.
- Run existing AutoIt v2 scripts and enhance them with new capabilities.
- Convert any script into an EXE file that can be run on computers without AutoHotkey installed.

= Download =

No idea if this is the last version that works in vanilla Windows 98, good enough (AutoHotkey104805.zip, 2 MB, no JavaScript needed).

= Setup =

Extract AutoHotkey104805.zip using 7-Zip or similar. Rename extracted directory something like 'AutoHotkey' and move into C:\Program Files. Drag and drop a shortcut from C:\Program Files\AutoHotkey\AutoHotkey.exe to the desktop. To run AutoHotkey as a background process on every boot, move the shortcut to C:\WINDOWS\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp\.

= First Run =

Running AutoHotkey.exe creates a background process with a system tray icon. On first run there is a user prompt similar to 'create a sample script?' and of course answer yes. A sample script named AutoHotkey.ahk is created in C:\My Documents\. Use this as the template for customization.

= Customize =

Modify C:\My Documents\AutoHotkey.ahk as desired. Delete or comment out undesired lines by prepending a semi-colon. Personally all sample 'code' was removed and only the volume controls below were added. In the sample below '#' is the 'Windows' key so '#Up' is the keyboard combination Windows key plus Up Arrow. When working from the desktop the Windows 98 volume control icon in the system tray animates to muted with key combination '#Left'. The '#Right' entry just plays notify.wav for quick sound volume reference. It's trivial to change this to whatever is desired.

#Up::SoundSet +5
#Down::SoundSet -5
#Left::SoundSet, +1, , mute
#Right::Soundplay, %A_WinDir%\Media\notify.wav

Whenever the script is modified save AutoHotkey.ahk then right-click the AutoHotkey system tray icon and select 'Reload this script'. It will notify about any script errors. If in doubt refer to built-in help or online.

This has been helpful as the baseline volume on multimedia files varies considerably and 'mplayer.exe' has no GUI. Now multimedia can truly be played full-screen without GUI interference or returning to the system tray to adjust volume.

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Thank you for mentioning me. I have been working with AutoHotkey for many years and managed to realize its awesome potential. Yes, there are simple ways for creating hotkeys, hotstrings and automation, but AHK (as a shorthand) can do MUCH more than that. One can actually write full-blown applications in this language, provided there is no need for multi-threading, because that is its major weakness: it's single-threaded.

In time I've written quite a host of scripts for myself and even though I'm running Linux now I still run some of my own scripts using Wine, because there is no replacement for those in either Windows or Linux world.

For those even remotely attracted to programming, AHK is a gem. One can call any and every Windows API through a simple DllCall() command, retrieve a result and so on. Amazing things can be achieved through AHK, if only you set your mind to do it. Admittedly, their forum board may not welcome Win9x questions or requests in this day and age but maybe some answer could be found there some way.


Hope you can get my work from this link:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/fi2iuxaqy3o713n/public_work.7z?dl=1

Edited by Drugwash
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Good to hear from you Drugwash, thanks, will dig through it. You've archived the same AutoHotkey release, good to know. Lots of stuff to use, study or as a template. Remember some of this from an earlier download, more meaningful now with some AutoHotkey experience. My favourite application thus far is HotkeyCD.

For whatever reason the Dropbox link reverted to dl=0 when attempting to fetch via RetroZilla. Manually changed it back to dl=1 in the URL bar and the download proceeded. Just mentioning in case it affects others. File public_work.7z (~ 118 MB), no JavaScript needed.

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Yes, there is the last 9x-compatible AHK version ( in the package, just in case it gets taken off from the official repository someday.

The package is the same as earlier, wasn't sure if the link was still around or working. Whoever downloaded it the first time shouldn't download it again.

HotkeyCD is a nice helper tool, most useful if the physical Eject button of the optical unit is defective or hard to reach.

One that I worked quite a lot on back then is VolOSD. Not sure if it works correctly under vanilla 98, it's using a few tricks. Actually all my scripts have been developed under Win98SE heavily enhanced with newer system libraries plus KernelEx 4.5.2, so if anything doesn't quite work as intended that might be the reason.

Anybody is free to use and/or modify the scripts as they see fit, but please do not use any of them - or anything else built in AHK, for that matter - for malicious purposes.

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Hi Drugwash. Yes it looks like you put a lot of work into VolOSD, most of them actually. So much brain energy utilized. Some didn't work in vanilla with 'Windows expects a newer version of ...', many did work. Sharing scripts is nice, to me the truest sense of open source. Nothing hiding behind binaries without providing source code.

For now keeping my AutoHotkey simple, limit modifications to a single script. Added it's eject command so now Windows key plus 'o' opens the CD-ROM drive and Windows plus 'c' closes the tray. This system only has a single optical drive. Will probably add additional shortcuts as the need or desire arises. Thanks again for recommending it.
#Up::SoundSet +5
#Down::SoundSet -5
#Left::SoundSet, +1, , mute
#Right::Soundplay, %A_WinDir%\Media\notify.wav
#o::Drive, Eject
#c::Drive, Eject,, 1

Found a notepad bug, someone please let Bill know we need a hotfix. Open a document, toggle word wrap but don't change any text. Close Notepad and it will ask to save changes. Doesn't request saving changes when changing font settings.

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Maybe sometimes I make a fool out of myself typing nonsense or using strong language (usually when I'm drunk), but I would never embarass myself offering malicious software. That's why I chose to stick with open-source - no need to blindly trust the author, just check the code and run it as is or compile it yourself. 100% transparency.

It's possible that some of the scripts may have been compiled with a more recent, Unicode version of AHK, that's why you get that message. As a rule, names that end in W are Unicode-compiled. An example would be SiBT (StartIsBack Translator) which I built for Tihiy and which requires Unicode in order to create and process language files in various languages. There are many others that have both ANSI and Unicode versions in the same package, because at some point I started using XP increasingly more often, and also tried to keep up with the development and other users at the AHK forums. But wherever there's both versions in a package the script code should be compatible with last 9x ANSI AHK because I always coded on the 98SE machine, and only tested and made corrections when necessary under XP (and sometimes later under 7 for extended compatibility). And yeah, I did put a lot of work in some of them, especially when for whatever reason the outcome in XP/7 was very different than in 98SE, as was the case with CueBanner which in itself is just a proof of concept (have you tried it, does it work for you?)

As for Notepad, I always hated it with a passion, for a tiny detail: no toolbar. I needed a handy Save button due to very frequent blackouts in the area. Even though it's about typing, I feel much more comfortable clicking a button than matching a hotkey (such as Ctrl+S) - too many times I hit the wrong combination and something very bad happened. So, very long time ago I found Metapad and stuck with it to this day. Even under Linux I still use it for some of my files. It has its quirks (UTF-8 implementation is incomplete) but I'm too used to it. For true UTF-8/Unicode operations and others that Metapad can't do I use Notepad2 v4.2.25 by Florian Balmer.

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Hi Drugwash. Yes i did notice Unicode releases documented in the name and/or README. CueBanner had no executable. I tried simply moving all the CueBanner2.6.1 *.ahk files to My Documents, reloaded AutoHotkey and even rebooted, didn't appear to recognize the scripts at all, only the default AutoHotkey.ahk script.

Next used AutoHotkey compiler to compile 'func_CueBanner 2.6.1.ahk', just keeping the default file and directory structure, which contained an 'extra' directory. An executable was produced but attempting to run the executable nothing happened. Then moved all files in the 'extra' directory up to the same root directory as 'func_CueBanner 2.6.1.ahk' and re-compiled, still no success. I've never compiled with AutoHotkey, maybe did something wrong or not compatible.

Thanks for the Metapad and Notepad2 tips, may check them out but i'm very happy with Notepad. Does everything needed, don't even care that it doesn't have a toolbar, count lines of code, etc. Lately for me leaner is better, enjoying it very much. Even 9xweb, which has several hundred lines, is good with Notepad.

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Oh, my bad for not explaining in detail. CueBanner is a function, a utility that can be included in other scripts. func_CueBanner 2.6.1.ahk is the main function script.
updates.ahk is an extension that allows certain variable types implemented in AHK v1.1+ to be recognized by AHK 1.0.
All the scripts in the extra folder are subscript modules that act as helpers for the main function script.
The folder structure has to be kept as is, no files should be moved.
To observe the effect of the CueBanner function there is an example script called example_CueBanner2.6.1.ahk right next to the first two scripts mentioned above. That is the only script that has to be launched. It can be compiled if you want.
Unfortunately the effects don't work under Wine, I just tested it. That may be my fault, the Wine installation is kinda broken. The screenshots in the package show a few older versions run under different Windows versions.

The idea is that Win9x does not have any kind of cue banners implemented natively, neither in Edit controls nor in ComboBoxes. And it doesn't have the ability to display shadowed text either. With the help of this function one can create AHK scripts/applications that display such elements in their GUIs, just like the provided example script shows.

What is a cue banner? It is a string of text displayed in an Edit or ComboBox control when it's empty, providing a hint to its function. You can see an example of fake cue banners in AddTags, the two single-line Edit controls. But that script does not have the CueBanner function implemented, it's just a very early and limited version of it.

The shadow/blur part was ripped from Tihiy's Revolutions Pack and includes two machine code subroutines generated at run-time. It's pretty complex stuff. But somehow I knew I could do it. And I did.

About Metapad... I find it extremely light, just with a few more useful options available. That's the only editor I used for all of my coding. You may fall in love with it without knowing. :)

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