Finished rebuilding my MS-DOS machine

I managed to score a TEKRAM P6B40-A4X 3 slot ISA mother-board last week, along with a CT-4500 ISA SoundBlaster AWE64 Value Edition at Capital Computer Centre, a second hand computer hardware market in Hong Kong.  I had also scored a cheap Windows 98 machine which I had hoped to use it’s case and peripherals as the basis for this ISA machine.  However that didn’t work out as the floppy drive was not only stuck in the case, but didn’t work.  And it’s CD-ROM drive didn’t work either.  I got the machine for $100 HKD so I really couldn’t complain too much, the memory, disk and P4 board were fine.  So I had to look for a case that had not only external 5 1/4″ bay, which isn’t too hard today, but it’s getting harder and harder as many systems don’t have any optical drives.  The hardest part was finding a case that had an expose 3 1/2″ bay.  After a lot of searching there was only ONE I could find, the DEEPCOOL DUKASE V3.

It was inexpensive enough, costing around $279 HKD, and thankfully had a PC-Speaker, and a bunch of screws.  Gutting out the Windows 98 machine, tossing it’s case, and I put everything in the deep cool case.

The case, installed

Naturally it didn’t work the first time.  I had to download the PDF manual, and do the jumpers over again.  After powering it up, I got the long beep followed by three short beeps.  Turns out my AGP Voodoo 3 wasn’t seated properly, so I re-seat the card and I’m able to DooM from my MS-DOS rig, but now it’s in a case, and not all in the open.

External media, so 1980’s!

The hinge is magnetic, and not too obvious at first.  But it does the job, and hides the ancient removable disks.

my horrible cabling

One thing of note, for a board this old, it required the old 40 pin IDE cables.  I found mine in a junk bin for $10 HKD each.  Not bad, but I literally only saw two.  I had a much easier time finding a NIB PS/2 Mouse & Keyboard.

close-up of the sound card

Like all terrible RGB builds, this case has a plastic window so you can gawk at the cards.  I don’t know who does this, but I guess it’s a thing.

I installed Windows 95, from floppies, and then downloaded the AWE Value drivers from vogons, and a Voodoo 3 driver from driverguide of all places… If you need it, beware of their ads that either want to install some spyware crap, or their insane games to get to the actual driver.  But I did get it to work.

40 pin IDE ribbon vs an 80 pin IDE ribbon cable.

The CPU is a Pentium III running at 450Mhz with 512MB of RAM.  It’s the at the edge of what Windows 95 can support without any modifications.  I may later on want a better sound card, I know I need to find the MIDI cable to hook up my Roland or Yamaha MIDI synthesizers up.  If you want to get into the retro PC thing with physical hardware (Don’t get me wrong, PCem is freaking amazing!), the longer you wait the harder it’s going to be to find things like 40 pin IDE cables.  Let alone ISA motherboards that are not hundreds of dollars.

I had originally 80 pin IDE cables out of the Windows 98 machine, however I never pulled them off to notice that the 80 pin standard are keyed.  This means that one of the pins are blocked off so you cannot put the ribbon in backwards.  This means that if I wanted to no clip pins off the motherboard, I would need to find original 40 pin IDE cables.  I got lucky again, another visit to Capital Computer Center, and I was in business.

Fashion over form aka the lofree keyboard

So as part of the fun for being on the road at the moment, my “disposable” cheap laptop took a dive just after the NS32032 article.  I’m in a town that has a remarkable manufacturing base, however there is nowhere to get anything even slightly computer related.

But no problem you say, we live in the future, and the future is internet delivery.  While there is no Amazon delivery in China, I went ahead and ordered a bluetooth keyboard and mouse on TaoBao for my existing Windows 10 tablet making it into a quick desktop.  I’ve already used Microsoft ARC mice before, but the bluetooth model is great.  Snap to configure, and it’s a real pleasure to use.  The head is more pressure sensitive, like something Apple would have made, making scrolling a breeze.

But that isn’t what we are here for…

So, having to buy a keyboard sight un-seen, I knew I would have to probably go past the super cheap discount stuff that is labeled bluetooth, but probably isn’t, and look at the higher end stuff.  And that is when this thing caught my eye:

Keyboard

The keyboard set me back 599 RMB, which isn’t too bad, and I have to say I had high hopes for this keyboard.  Yuantong Express thought it was OK to just leave it in the building next to where I’m staying, and didn’t bother to notify me, as it should be somehow obvious.  Although they were fast to deliver, not knowing for 2 days that they had delivered kind of sucked.

Looking at the box, I couldn’t tell if it was some artistic minimalist design, or if this was aiming for something higher end.

Opening the box, and taking out the Styrofoam cover reveals the keyboard in one of those soft plastic bags with a quick start guide, and an accessories box.

tThis is the enclosed USB charging cable.  The keyboard itself boasts of a 4000 mAh battery.  I would hope it would last a long time, however I do enjoy the back-lighting so I’m sure that greatly reduces the longevity.

The keyboard itself feels really solidly constructed.  It doesn’t suffer from being made out of weak or inferior plastic.  The keys feel nice to the touch, kind of reminding me of the older Italian keyboards with their nice rounded and indented keys that fit nice on your fingertips.   The backlight makes looking at it, and looking for keys pretty easy to spot.. which brings me to the bad spot.

Being a reduced form-factor keyboard, this isn’t built as something you can just pick up and touch-type with ease.  While I do know how to touch type, the big gotchas are the right shit being incredibly small, and the number row is literally one off.  I find myself drifting to the up arrow half of the time I want to shift, and always a number off.  It can be a bit irritating, but the keyboard looks so nice it’s almost forgivable.

I would worry about shoving this thing into a bag, and traveling with it, as the keys sit high, and I’d hate to break it.

When I started to write this, I went to look it iup, and it turns out it was actually on indiegogo.com.  Interestingly enough that means I paid $90 for this keyboard, that is currently $125+shipping.  Although me being in China means I win out in shipping.

In all it’s not the worst keyboard I’ve used, and will end up taking a little getting used to.  But when compared to something like the Microsoft Surface Pro type cover, this is about a billion times better.

As a bonus they threw in a simple tablet stand.  I’d overlooked the need for one, so having it included with the keyboard was a nice bonus.

For anyone who cares, this is where I bought it.

RETROTECHTACULAR: ASCII ART IN THE 19TH CENTURY

I saw this post on hack a day, and oddly enough my old Fortran Snoopy calendar was on there.

And as  a bonus in the comments was a talk on RTTY porn.  Obviously NFSW….  But kind of interesting & funny regarding the preservation of old things.  If the thought of ascii art port from the 1960s, along with some nude pictures from the 1920’s scare you, obviously don’t click.

To me what is crazy is that I can download an entire GIF CD faster today than I could download an image back when this stuff was new and exciting.  But I did have a 2400 baud modem.

Sometimes the 80’s never end.

Here is one of the dockets, along with this one that includes images of the complaint.

The age old battle of owning right to SDF Macros redistribution outside of Japan.  It’s a shame that this is dragging on, as Battletech has been seemingly crushed every moment in it’s life, from originally going by Battledroids and having to be renamed care of Lucas co, then buying art assets it turns out that had been sold prior to New harmony gold.

Rumor is that it’s over the robotech movie stuck in development hell.  Which is a double shame as I don’t see it having mass appeal, and the latest Harebrained Schemes game was moving along quite well.

It’s bizzare in a world where making things with Japanese assets is less money than doing realestate and it’s more profitable to go to litigation rather than licensing them.

I wonder if it’s even possible to discuss BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception, using the included drawings, and media in this litigious age.

Hsiao & Hunter, Inc.’s GIF News

While trolling through the internet archive I stumbled onto this ‘zine from back in the day, ‘gif news’.  I think it’s kind of interesting in a way, back from the time of dialup BBSes, although later in 1991 it did become available over the internet, but It’s original issue as below was availbale over dialup.  The early collection is here.

Domo Arigato! Thank-You! Gracias! Merci! Sheh-Sheh!

For taking the time to download the first 1990 issue of GIF News. I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year/decade! May the 90’s bring good fortune to everyone who reads GIF News. This issue has articles on: The Eighties, The Colonel’s Bequest, VGA Games, sound cards, and more!

And behold.

 

Of course it is reminiscent of web pages.  Back in the day, various online services wanted this kind of look and feel for news, and in some ways this news paper folio design carries on today.  Although this kind of thing may not have caught on, much like offline readers, everyone wants a live feed.  And we are so lucky living in the iPhone world, when we went from shitty annotated, and cut down websites, to having hand held computers that rival some desktops, but also a significantly fast enough internet connection.

I don’t think I would have bothered trying to setup something like this back in the day, but the barrier for random posts, much like this thanks to things like wordpress sure lowers that barrier, and a random thought can become a post, as easy as 1-2-3!

Summer Steam Sales…..

I almost wish I could get this into games…

If you’ve never played Fallout, I’d highly recommend it.  No not that fallout, the old one. The original one.  Although not currently on sale, it is on GOG as well.  As the video mentions though, Fallout 3 was ‘ok’ but kind of un-remarkable.  New Vegas was head and shoulders above, and 4.. well.. it’s best to pretend it never happened.

I guess whatever drama was behind selling the original version has been finally cleared up and it’s everywhere now.

I also thought it was somewhat worth mentioning that You can browse Moby games by system requirements, so you can easily find all the ‘Direct X 3‘, and ‘Direct X 5‘ games.  There never was a Direct X 4.  I did kind of enjoy ‘The Hive‘, although I never had enough time to finish it.  I guess in that sense though it is significant as it is one of the handful of early first Direct X games.

Fallout MS-DOS over Windows 95

There was an MS-DOS version, along with MacOS 7 version, albeit for the PowerPC.  The MacOS version doesn’t run under emulation.  It was later carbonized for early OS X, which again is PowerPC only.  I haven’t tried it on OS X 10.6, the last version of OS X that included Rosetta.

You can find the MS-DOS exe / patches on kaneoheboy.com The GOG version for Mac OS X used to the MS-DOS version in DOSBox, however it’s been updated to the Windows version to use WINE.  On my machine the default launcher for STEAM and GOG don’t work, however the ‘classic’ launcher works fine.  If you get the black screen, then you too have to run the low resolution version.

For whatever reason, my Windows 95 + Direct X 7.0a won’t run Fallout.  Very strange, but the helpful message:

Oh well.

10 years later…

I can’t believe it either.  It’s been 10 years since my first ambitious post.

And off to a crazy start, I tackled installing NetWare 3.12, Running Xenix under emulation, and getting Mach 3.0+Lites running, among others in the first month.

As far as posts go, some months are obviously better than others, and so much has happened in the last 10 years, I’ve moved cities, states, countries and continents.  I’ve been though breakups, marriages, children, deaths, losing jobs, losing money, starting companies, renting houses, buying a house… It’s been incredible.

Looking back, in some places, I wish I’d written more, as this blog has been really technical which isn’t so bad, but even then it’s exceptionally terse.  Lots of stuff doesn’t format correctly, and the one thing I don’t like at all is that it doesn’t render on older browers.  But I have so much going on during the day, I don’t have time to write a CMS.  I had tried a few people to spec out something to read the wordpress DB, and generate pages + gopher pages, but they always go running for the hills.

I hope to keep on trying to modernize Darwin 0.3 .  I know that the world at large really doesn’t care, and I have a feeling that Rhapsody DR2 has some fundamental flaws that really prevent it from being anything useful, although it can’t be re-sold so it’s dead anyways.

So where will I be in 10 more years? I really don’t know.  I know one project I’ve been constantly putting off will have to come to light sooner or later, but I do want to move to virtuallyfun.com .  I know my blog is hard to find, it’s a custom name, on a really really long DNS zone.  10 years ago, I was hosted on wordpress, back at blogspot.com, but after their nearly 2 week outage, I moved out onto my own machine.  I’d almost move back to someone managed, as I have so much other stuff going on, running a site isn’t worth my time, but I haven’t had time. When I do make the move though, most people won’t notice I plan to do a 302 + a refresh to bounce to the new domain, and all being well it’ll preserve the same schema so other than a shorter domain in the titlebar most people won’t notice.  Right now it’s doing it, but backwards.  But rest assured, I’m still keeping superglobalmegacorp.com ..

I hope to at least keep this thing up, keep it slightly interesting.    Over the last year, the #1 page is Darwin 0.1 + Rhapsody DR 2 booted!  I honestly didn’t think that would be anywhere near as popular as it is, but even after OSNews locked the topic, I still get over 100 hits a day.  The #2 spot is Dunc’s Algomusic MkIIIb, after being linked to from [Vinesauce] Vinny – Text to MIDI.  Which just goes to show, I really can never tell what is going to be popular..

Laters!

CTI Keynote, Cliff Stoll – (Still) Stalking the Wily Hacker

In the off chance you’ve never read it, the book The Cuckoo’s Egg is an incredible read.  However what is more interesting with the passage of time, and with the revelations of various 3 letter agencies is understanding why they were so slow to react, and why they were ultimately dismayed with Stolls’ work to alert others is that they too were no doubt actively exploiting the same exploits that the Russian sponsored German hackers were using.  Much in the way that some vendor holes have remained pretty much during the products entire lifespan (Cisco PIX being one…).

2013-2017 Aclock Binary Contributions

(this is a guest post from Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

I was little busy and I didn’t process new binary submissions for over three years. Here they are, more or less in order of appearance.While not a lot for 3 years they are very important historically! Also almost all contributed, thank you all!

AmigaOS bootable floppy disk by Jason Stevens.

Aclock on Amiga

Android port by Adam Gutman. See below, it also runs on a watch!

aclock-android

MVME PowerPC Linux by Plamen Mihaylov.

ELKS by Lorenzo Gatti. This also includes a boot image! It’s hard to believe I somehow missed ELKS in my own efforts. Also there is a boot image available.

MVME M68k NetBSD by Plamen Mihaylov. Thank you for collecting all these beautiful and rare Motorola MVME machines!

HeliOS on Transputer by Michael Bruestle. Oh boy I have been looking for this for quite some time! Unless you started 30 years ago, transputters are rather hard to get into from scratch. This port should also work on Atari ATW800. I wish I had one to test 🙂

BSDI 1.1 by Dima Naumov. This is very cool because of all the flavors of BSD I somehow missed this one! I’m still trying to figure out BSDi, BSD/OS and BSD/386 naming convention. Someone please help.

VxWorks by myself. While VxWorks port existed before it was only compiled for a simulated Pentium (SIMPENTIUM) rather than actual target CPUs. I have came across a set of compilers and built it for ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, SH and Xscale. I still don’t have SPARC. See this post about how to run your own target on VMware.

ReactOS by Dima Naumov. While it’s expected that native Win32 aclock will run on ReactOS, this is a build targeting the OS specifically. Sharp X68000 running Human68k OS, by Jason Stevens. That’s a nice surprise! I’ve been looking for this one for a while. No screenshot for but hopefully Jason will be able to produce one. Human68k has a very cool looking GUI!

Microsoft XENIX 1.0 running on AT/286 by Michal Necasek. This was possible thanks for Michal’s huge efforts to patch this historical os to run on VirtualBox.

I happen to own the original set of floppy disks that Microsoft produced and shipped to various OEMs such as IBM, Radio Shack, Intel, SCO, etc.

The set comes with a development kit which now you can run on a VM. You can read some more about efforts to virtualize Microsoft/IBM Xenix on Michal’s Blog.

Venix/86 on AT/286 by Jim Carpenter. This port was delivered as part of a virtualization challenge, which was won by Jim. Thank you and congratulations again! There also is a runner up entry by Mihai Gaitos which has some fascinating details including about Aurora software that came with the system.

Wyse UNIX for 386 by Mihai Gaitos. This port was delivered as part of a similar virtualization challenge, which was won by Michai. Congrats!

Cisco 1700 (PPC) emulated via Dynamips by Jason Stevens. This one is also very close to my heart because of my networking past and present. I will definitely want to try load it on a physical device! Jason is also working on MIPS version so hopefully this will run on Cisco 2500 and up.

Android Wear. Parker Reed send me this photo of Aclock Android by Adam Gutman running on an actual watch! Wow this is so cool!

BSD/OS 4.1 aka BSDI for SPARC by Plamen Mihaylov. Also thanks to Cory Smelosky for releasing the images!

EFI firmware on various platforms, such as x86, x64, ia64, arm32 and 64 by Natalia Portillo aka Claunia. This aclock can be launched from UEFI Shell or by running EFI standalone application if EFI shell is not available.

This is a screenshot of aclock EFI x64 running on HP DL380 via iLO remote console.

Linux and FreeBSD builds for ARM and PowerPC by Natalia Portillo. Claunia sent me a Christmas package with a aclock builds lot of missing CPUs for Linux and FreeBSD, both 32bit and 64bit PPC and ARM for both OSes. Total 8 binaries!

Singularity on x86 by Natalia Portillo. SingularityOS is a research operating system from Microsoft. Rumor has it Microsoft wanted for it to eventually replace NTOS line with managed code OS. Fortunately it didn’t perform too well and with doom of Windows Vista the project was eventually scrapped. Singularity development kit has been released to the public on CodePlex. Since the OS is text mode only, it was a natural target for Aclock. A port in C# (OMG) has been created and the binary integrated in to the iso boot image.

RISC iX running on Acorn R260 by Raymond Stricklin aka Bear. I was scorching the earth looking for a working copy of RISC iX and there he had it. Thank you. It’s beautiful.

Minix 3 for ARM by Natalia Portillo. Latest release of Minix adds experimental support for ARM architecture. No network and framebuffer but aclock works over a serial console!

Again thank you for all your contributions!

If you want to to help contribute to aclock, there is a wanted list. Some of them come with a monetary reward. Please contact me before undergoing any major work as some of them are under way.

Also, aclock now lives on GitHub, for easier.. everything.

Python command line network speed test

Not bragging..

So you know all the old speedtest.net stuff.  They have their old flash based client, and a html5 client, but what if you are on a bare VPS, and you don’t want to install X and the gigs of desktop to run a simple bandwidth test?

Well install python, and then run this:

curl -s  https://raw.githubusercontent.com/sivel/speedtest-cli/master/speedtest.py | python –

And away it goes!

# curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/sivel/speedtest-cli/master/speedtest.py | python –
Retrieving speedtest.net configuration…
Testing from Joe’s Datacenter (172.86.179.14)…
Retrieving speedtest.net server list…
Selecting best server based on ping…
Hosted by Packet Layer Consulting LLC (Kansas City, KS) [5.37 km]: 5.394 ms
Testing download speed……………………………………………………………………..
Download: 53.06 Mbit/s
Testing upload speed……………………………………………………………………………………….
Upload: 110.83 Mbit/s

Nice!