8086tiny 1.25 has been out for a while

now, and I figured I should see if I can get it running on NT 4.0…

There was some minor issues with the way it handles for loops, but making them more C89 friendly was trivial.

8086tiny on NT 4.0

8086tiny on NT 4.0

You can download my project (source and binary) here.  The ‘killer’ feature is that it being built with Visual Studio 97 on NT 4, the needed Visual C++ LIBC DLL ought to be in place on anything modern these days.

You can always find the home page for 8086tiny, right here, at megalith.co.uk.  Code is maintained on github.

MSMQ 1.0

Building on my ‘has anyone ever used’ this feature of the NT 4.0 option pack‘, I thought it’d be interesting to build a simple MSMQ deployment.  MSMQ is another technology I never saw deployed, as everyone was instead far more interested in MTS.  So I thought I’d take a stab at MSMQ.

The only deployment guide I can find is here.

And I have to say, that it looks and feels a *LOT* of what became Active Directory.

So let’s look at a few things through the guide.

Top features of MSMQ are:

  • Connectionless messaging. With store-and-forward message queuing, applications are not affected by network fluctuations and do not have to establish sessions. Because MSMQ uses a sessionless model at the application level, the sender and receiver do not need to support the same protocol. MSMQ supports Internet Protocol (IP) and Internet Packet eXchange (IPX).
  • Network traffic prioritization. Message prioritization allows urgent or important traffic to preempt less important traffic so you can guarantee adequate response time for critical applications at the expense of less important applications.
  • Guaranteed delivery. Messages can be logged to a disk-based queue to provide guaranteed delivery.

Which for 1997 technology sounds pretty great!  But obviously what is the cost?  To deploy MSMQ you *NEED* the following:

  • Install a PEC (Primary Enterprise Controller).
  • Install a PSC (Primary Site Controller) at each additional site
  • Define site links and costs
  • Install MSMQ dependent clients and independent clients

Optionally you can install for greater redundancy and speed..

  • Install a BSC (Backup Site Controller) at each site, if required
  • Install MSMQ routing servers, if required
  • Install the connectors and transports, if required

As you may guess MSMQ needs a server infrastructure of it’s own.  I thought for my limited experiment, I would use a simple two site network, comprising of a Windows NT 4.0 PDC, a Windows NT 4.0 BDC and two Windows NT 4.0 workstations.

As MSMQ stores it’s topology database in SQL Server 6.5 service pack 3, I found out the hard way that It will not install correctly with SQL Server 7.  Nor will it work with sp1, and it’ll bomb with 2.  It must be SP3.  I’ve also found it works best with the ‘restricted’ cut down version specifically for MSMQ.  Which is on CD2 of the Enterprise edition of Windows NT 4.0 (I stuck a copy here).  Basically it’s 6.5 slip-streamed to SP3, with no books (don’t’ try to install the books!).  However I found it works best on the PDC, and installing it on a BDC you should set the SQL services to login as local system for the installation, then set them for a domain account.  I also had to change the security model to “Windows NT Integrated”.  I’m not sure if that is 100% a requirement, but the installer demanded it.

xx

Setting SQL’s security to Integrated mode

With that out of the way, I ran setup from the option pack, selecting MSMQ.

Select MSMQ

Select MSMQ

And the install proceeds as normal installing the base components of IIS 4.0.

Select a MSMQ type

Select a MSMQ type

Then we get to decide what kind of Server this Server will become.  The first server I installed this on was the PDC, so I made it the PEC.  It installed without any further incident.

I installed the option pack on the BDC, which was located in a different network, and set it up as the PSC.  I then installed the workstation option pack on both of my workstations making them independent clients, and assigning them to their closest PEC/PSC.

MSMQ Enterprise

MSMQ Enterprise

As you can see the Enterprise view of MSMQ looks a LOT like the AD Sites and Computers view.  No doubt MSMQ was on the way to Cairo.. Although I’ve always thought Exchange would have been better served by SQL, having directory services being hosted on SQL would have made life a bit easier for doing backups and restores, making it less of a black box.  However the prospect of managing all those SQL servers.. I guess there is always trade offs.

MSMQ in action

MSMQ in action

This is a small ‘demo’ application where MSMQ can pass messages between a shared paintbrush application.  Very cool stuff.  And no doubt a missed opportunity to run something fun and subversive.  Although I was always the network admin so I never had to hide my traffic.

I’ve setup MSMQ in 2000 & 2003 networks, and it is not only far more simpler to deploy, but it relies on Active Directory to figure out it’s topology, and nominated MSMQ servers to forward traffic between sites.  I’m more surprised that AD doesn’t rely on MSMQ, but rather it seems it uses common technology.

Have you ever used the NNTP service that comes with NT 4.0?

and higher?  It was part of the Option Pack, and later incorporated into the OS starting with Windows 2000.

I’ve always seen people mistakenly install it, but I don’t think anyone ever really used it, as it cannot feed from other servers, and is really all around inept.  Then I stumbled onto this post, from 1998, which mentions that you can feed NT’s NNTP with a 3rd party program, and then he gives a simple example written in perl.

Now the program hinges on the NEWNEWS command.  Although I’m sure with a little perl knowhow it could work with the normal user list commands, as it would then need a database of what messages it has already transferred.  I was interested in taking a peek of MS NNTP in action, so I installed a copy of NT 4.0 in Qemu, redirected port 119 (which needs elevated privileges).  The next thing you need is a news server.  Once upon a time netnews was a feature of your ISP, and they would keep local news servers to reduce network loads.  But times have changed, and now Netflix and it’s cache boxes are the bandwidth kings, as people want to turn the internet into VOD.  But whatever.  Finding a news service requires some googling around, and the one I found that is the best deal (free), text groups only (yay!), and it’s online stores go back at least four years is Eternal September. Another contender is Aioe, which doesn’t require a user id.  Since I’m going with eternal september, I had to create a userid, get the password in the mail, and then I was able to do a group listing.

I made a small change to this section of the perl program:

#Open connection to Master and slave
$nntp = Net::NNTP->new($NNTPMASTER, Debug => $opt_debug ? 1 : 0) or die “no connection: $!”;
$nntps = Net::NNTP->new($NNTPSLAVE, Debug => $opt_debug ? 1 : 0) or die “no connection: $!”;

#passwords..?
#$nntp->authinfo($usr,$pw) or die “Could not authenticate $usr”;
$nntp->authinfo(‘myusername’,’automagicpassword’);

This lets me know if there was an error connecting to the servers, and of course inserting in the username/password.  Since we don’t have the newnews command at hand (I don’t see how to pay for it either..) I just did a simple one line change to grab a whole group.  Obviously you wouldn’t set this up on cron.

#Uncomment line 2 for an initial feed… after this, run as an “At” job every 24 hrs.
#$new = $nntp->newnews(time – 86400, lc $group);
#$new = $nntp->newnews(time – 31536000, lc $group); #initial feed – 1 YEAR
$new = $nntp->listgroup($group);
if(ref($new) && scalar(@$new))

But if my perl-fu was stronger I’d whip it up, but I suspect it wouldn’t be too hard to have the script maintain what is the last message it’s posted to NT.

Next create the groups on the NT side, and we are ready to run.  I foolishly tried a massive (well it seemed big) group comp.os.linux.advocacy, and after some 10,000 posts I just aborted it, and set the script to manually updates groups of my choice.  I remembered an ancient article about writing socket software on Windows, and the small group alt.fan.surak, which I figured would make a better test.  There is only one article and it’s spam, but what can you expect..

alt.fan.surak

alt.fan.surak

Even better, it worked!

The next step was to run perl directly from NT.  And to make this difficult, not only do I need an obsolete version of perl, but I need one with the optional network modules, specifically Net::NNTP.  This took a bit longer to find, but thankfully Jeffery Baker kept his build around!

There really wasn’t an install program, but rather adding the perl.exe into the path.  And it works, too!

Perl feeding MS NNTP

Perl feeding MS NNTP

So there we go, after all these years, 100’s of option pack installs later, and I’ve finally used it.

Running Microsoft Exchange from home.

Well thanks to my latest outage, I’ve gone back from having an Exchange server in the “cloud” (well really a server I rented), to a Virtual Server at home.

First my ‘plan’ is to get a VPS that I can run OpenVPN on.  From there I’m going to build a VM at home that will also run OpenVPN, and it will connect to the VPS.  I will then setup routing, so that the Exchange server can then communicate with the VPS’s internal interface, and the VPS can communicate directly with the exchange server.  I’ll then configure postfix to store & forward email to the Exchange server.  This way if the link drops, the VPS will just spool the mail.  Finally I’ll setup SpamAssasin to filter out the SPAM.

First you will need to have a tun0 interface in your VPS.  Almost everyone supports this these days so it shouldn’t be too hard… If you cannot get a tun0 interface, perhaps ppp0 with pptp..?

I followed these instructions on setting up OpenVPN on Debian 6.  Now granted, I’m using Debian 7, but the instructions are pretty much the same.  Basically you have to setup a CA (Certificate Authority), and then you generate a Server certificate, and a client certificate.  For my needs, I’m going to issue single certificates for everything(one) that connects into my VPN.  I also have a network at home that I want routed to the VPS, so this is included (192.168.0.0/24).

A simple server.conf looks like this:

port 1194
proto udp
dev tun
ca ca.crt
cert server.crt
dh dh1024.pem
server 10.8.0.0 255.255.255.0
ifconfig-pool-persist ipp.txt
client-config-dir ccd
route 192.168.0.0 255.255.255.0
keepalive 10 120
comp-lzo
persist-key
persist-tun
status openvpn-status.log
verb 3

And a the client configuration I’m using is this:

client
dev tun
proto udp
remote MYHOST MYPORT
resolv-retry infinite
nobind
persist-key
persist-tun
ca ca.crt
cert hong-kong-home.crt
key hong-kong-home.key
ns-cert-type server
comp-lzo
verb 3

In the directory /etc/openvpn/ccd on the server, I have to ensure that I have a file called ‘homefw’ which is the common name of the client certificate.  It has to contain the following line to ensure that my home network is routed to the VPS.

iroute 192.168.0.0 255.255.255.0

Don’t forget to turn on ip forwarding on both the VPS, and the local ‘tunnel router’.  For Linux based stuff you need to make sure that “/proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward ” is a 1.  You can just do a simple “echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward ” in “/etc/rc.local” or go through your distributions networking documentation to make sure you set it up ‘correctly’.

In OpenBSD I just simply uncomment the following line from /etc/sysctl.conf

net.inet.ip.forwarding=1 # 1=Permit forwarding (routing) of IPv4 packets

If you don’t have routing in place you’ll notice that you can only ping the tunnel interfaces, but not the IP’s on the LAN.  While this may be fine for a p2p or client setup it isn’t good enough if you want to route traffic.

I’m running VMWare ESXi 5 at home, and thankfully it does support Windows NT 4.0 Server out of the box.  I setup a Domain Controller running DNS & WINS.  The VMWare tools won’t work properly with some service pack (4 I think?) but I went all the way to 6, along with the rollup.  Until you load the service pack, the network adapter will *NOT* work.

I’m going with Exchange 5.5, so again I installed another NT 4.0 server, service packed it, and joined it with the domain controller.  Remember to install IIS, and the ASP update, as 5.5 OWA needs asp. Be sure to apply the latest service pack for Exchange, SP4 – in the case of Exchange 5.5 .

Now for routing I could go with dynamic routing, or static routing.  I chose static as I didn’t want to get too involved for this project, as I needed to get email flowing as quickly as possible.

route add 10.8.0.1 mask 255.255.255.255 192.168.0.49 -p

From Windows NT.

It is imperative no matter what version of Exchange you run, that you turn off the open relay “feature”.  A great step by step guide is available here on msexchange.org .

With the basic routing in place you should be able to talk to the Exchange servers’ SMTP engine.  You may want to setup either a local DNS and populate the VPS’s source address or put in some host entries for it.

# telnet 192.168.0.55 25
Trying 192.168.0.55…
Connected to 192.168.0.55.
Escape character is ‘^]’.
220 exchange.superglobalmegacorp.com ESMTP Server (Microsoft Exchange Internet Mail Service 5.5.2653.13) ready
HELO
250 OK

Now it would be insane to place an Exchange server directly onto the internet.  Plus when the VPN link is down, it’d be nice to have the VPS store email and forward it when it can.  So for this task I installed postfix.

For me the big changes in main.cf were:

mydestination = nodedeploy.superglobalmegacorp.com, localhost.superglobalmegacorp.com, , localhost
relayhost =
mynetworks = 127.0.0.0/8 [::ffff:127.0.0.0]/104 [::1]/128 10.8.0.0/24 192.168.0.0/24
mailbox_size_limit = 0
recipient_delimiter = +
inet_interfaces = all
relay_domains = superglobalmegacorp.com work.com
transport_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/transport
virtual_alias_domains = virtuallyfun.com
virtual_alias_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual

This will permit my exchange server to relay out my VPS, and tell postfix that it’s OK to accept email for the various domains I have.

My transport database is very simple.  For the email accounts I’m using two domains, so I simply instruct postfix to forward emails destined to these domains to the exchange server

superglobalmegacorp.com smtp:192.168.0.55
work.com smtp:192.168.0.55

And for domains I couldn’t be bothered to create mailboxes for, instead I have their email setup to forward to an existing box using a virtual domain in the ‘virtual’ file.

abuse@virtuallyfun.com abuse@work.com
postmaster@virtuallyfun.com postmaster@work.com

Now due to the nature of postfix you need to generate database hashes for it to work, so my script to kick this off is:

postmap hash:/etc/postfix/transport
postmap /etc/postfix/virtual
newaliases
postfix reload

Which isn’t too involved once you get the bits in the right place.

Assuming you’ve got your MX records setup on the outside, with any luck you should start seeing some mail flow through.  If not telnet to port 25 and start talking to your mail server.

One problem I have is that superglobalmegacorp.com is an old domain, and it’s lapsed a few times to different idiots who not only added to the ridiculous spam lists I’m on, but also spammed from it as well.  So to deal with SPAM, I went ahead and installed spamassassin, as described in this page.

As mentioned adding the two lines to master.cf got it going

smtp inet n – – – – smtpd -o content_filter=spamassassin -o syslog_name=postfix/submission
spamassassin unix – n n – – pipe
user=spamd argv=/usr/bin/spamc -f -e /usr/sbin/sendmail -oi -f ${sender} ${recipient}

And I did change the spamassasin local.cf

use_razor2 1
use_dcc 1
use_pyzor 1

As I do get a lot of spam.

I don’t think most people will care, but this is more so for me keeping my notes straight.  So yeah I run Exchange 5.5 at home (which I got on ebay for $25!) with Outlook 2003 on Windows XP x64.  It works well enough for me.

Restoring the MIPS Magnum in Qemu 1.6.0

As many of you Windows NT MIPS fans may know (apparently there are more than 3 of us now!) the MIPS Magnum target is broken in the current build of Qemu.  The problem lies in the firmware as it accesses unassigned memory.  Luckily I just received an email from Hervé that details how to fix this!

The good news is that the fix is VERY easy, all you need to do is comment out a single line in target-mips/op_helper.c

In the function mips_cpu_unassigned_access:

void mips_cpu_unassigned_access(CPUState *cs, hwaddr addr,
bool is_write, bool is_exec, int unused,
unsigned size)
{
MIPSCPU *cpu = MIPS_CPU(cs);
CPUMIPSState *env = &cpu->env;

if (is_exec) {
helper_raise_exception(env, EXCP_IBE);
} else {
helper_raise_exception(env, EXCP_DBE);
}
}

Simply comment out the line

helper_raise_exception(env, EXCP_DBE);

And you’ll be able to boot up the NT PROM.

MIPS Firmware

MIPS Firmware

Remember you’ll want to run it something like this:

qemu-system-mips64el -L /tmp -M magnum -m 64 -cdrom WindowsNT4.0-MIPS.iso -hda MIPS.disk -net nic -net user -global ds1225y.filename=nvram  -global ds1225y.size=8200

Where I’m keeping my NT PROM is /tmp (although that is probably a bad idea…)  But you’ll need the NVRam stuff to add extra space for the ethernet MAC address.  The clock is always trashed but at least it is doing something this time!

For the uninitiated, some installation notes can be found here.

Installing Windows NT 4.0 on Proxmox/VE

Proxmox/VE

Proxmox/VE

Ok, Ok I know 99% of the world won’t care, but here we go.  I just setup a Proxmox/VE server on a friends PC, and felt like installing a NT 4.0 Terminal server.. So after getting the ISO onto the server, I went through the setup to get a quick blue screen.  Much like Qemu, KVM won’t work out of the box, you have to first nudge the CPU level down to ‘pentium’ or 486, and for the install you have to disable the KVM (accelerated) version, and use the generic Qemu installer.

Also I would alter the config file, along with a global config to turn on the AMD PCNet network adapter.

In the  /usr/share/pve-manager/ext4/pvemanagerlib.js file, just go ahead and add in your NIC’s entries:

[‘rtl8139’, ‘Realtec RTL8139’],
[‘e1000’, ‘Intel E1000’],
[‘pcnet’, ‘AMD PcNet’],
[‘ne2k_pci’, ‘NE2k PCI’],
[‘virtio’, ‘VirtIO (paravirtualized)’]

And in the /etc/pve/nodes/proxmox/qemu-server directory, you will see stuff like 100.conf, and look for a line like this:

net0: rtl8139=56:65:DB:52:7F:F2,bridge=vmbr0

And change it to the AMD PCNet ..

net0: pcnet=56:65:DB:52:7F:F2,bridge=vmbr0

See, easy right?  Then you can mount up your ISO, and install!

Once you’ve installed, and applied service pack 6, you can then turn on KVM acceleration, although I’d leave the CPU level knocked down to a Pentium.

 

NT 4.0 Terminal Server on Proxmox/VE

NT 4.0 Terminal Server on Proxmox/VE

So far, so good, yay!

Aclock BSOD

This is a guest post by Tenox.

Do you remember the famous Windows NT Blue Screen Of Death? For years it was a source of jokes and bad reputation of Windows reliability.
There even was a Blue Screen Saver. Today we fortunately see much less of it, but it still is there, reminding us that Windows internally is in fact a text mode operating system. The 1989 NT Design Workbook tells us that in the early days of development there was an ANSI terminal emulator and bunch of command line utilities running in the text mode. Sadly all were removed in the retail version. The only true text mode application left around was autochk. Since the day Aclock was conceived I always wanted to run it on the NT text mode boot screen. In it’s twisted logic it actually makes a perfect sense.

So how do you actually output to the BSOD screen? Initially there was a lot hope in Windows NT Native Application, which can use NtDisplayString() function to display text before GUI takes over. Mark Russinovitch has written a sample Native Application with source code. Unfortunately I soon realized that NtDisplayString()does not allow for any control characters that would let me position the cursor or clear the screen. It doesn’t let much more than to display “Hello World” during Windows boot. This unfortunately wasn’t what I was hoping for. Out of lack of further ideas the project was shelved for nearly 10 years until I recently got some help from a real windows insider.

The new hope came from a HalDisplayString() and it’s helper functions HalQueryDisplayParameters() and HalSetDisplayParameters()which return screen resolution in characters and allow to position the text cursor. Exactly what I needed! However these functions are part of the NT Kernel and there was absolutely no hope of calling them from user mode, even a Native application.

So a device driver version of Aclock was conceived. Err WHAT? Yes a Windows Kernel Mode Device Driver version of Aclock. It sounds like craziest idea and most ridiculous waste of time ever. Worse than that, it definitely is! Despite that, development of the driver was actually surprisingly straight forward and the most difficulties I had was to do with setting up the right environment. It required Windows NT 4.0 SP6, an old version of NTDDK, SDK and Visual Studio. Once I had the project set up correctly, the only thing left to do was to figure out the kernel mode equivalents of some of the things I was getting for granted, for instance sleep(). My last surprise was rather unexpectedly difficult access to floating point in the driver. I was advised to avoid, so I have generated a pre computed tables of sin and cos values for every minute on the clock dial.

Aclock

 

I must say that VMware Workstation Snapshots came very handy for launching and testing of the driver. It spared me from constant rebooting and re-launching the whole environment. I could load aclock and literarily click “back” like in a web browser.

Here is a link to the binary, source and project files.

Since running the driver on your own system will render it unbootable (you can always do a snapshot or use last known good configuration) I have build a minimal Windows NT Embedded (NTe) image that loads the driver on startup. It’s available as VMware machine, and a Qemu image.

Windows NT Embedded project

 

The next steps may involve porting AA-Lib to NTHAL. From there the possibilities are unlimited aalib-quake? 😉

Update:  Video

Aclock Windows NT BSOD Driver from Antoni Sawicki on Vimeo.

 

Windows NT 4.0 MIPS on Qemu 1.1.1 (OS X)

I’ve got to find a way to build Qemu for Win64, it looks like the only way for it to produce anything other than trivial hello world applications is to cross compile on linux.. which no doubt will need a billion dependancies…

But in the interim the MIPS emulator in Qemu 1.1.1 has made a bunch of progress, and can install & run NT 4.0 without any issues!

There is a few things to look out for, the first is that you have to specify a NVRAM image file to keep it persistant across instances.  And you need to ‘expand’ it beyond the definition size to get things like the MAC address to be stored.

./qemu-system-mips64el  -L . -M magnum -hda MIPS.disk -net nic -net user  -global ds1225y.filename=nvram  -global ds1225y.size=8200

And by default the Qemu MAC address to configure within the Magnum BIOS is 525400123456 ..

Windows NT 4.0 MIPS on Qemu 1.1.1 on OS X

I’ve been able to download & install Internet Explorer 3, and Quake World.. And even connect up to quake.xs4all.nl and it worked!

One thing I’d advise is to copy the directory OS\WINNT40 on the system partition to OS\NT to make it that much easier to re-add the boot statement, if you have to go down that road.

ARC boot statement

 

As always, special thanks to Hervé Poussineau for making all of this possible.

Upgrading through Windows NT; Windows NT 4.0

Windows 95 Interface – Windows NT Power

Windows NT 4.0 was without a doubt the smash through success that Microsoft had been hoping for with Windows NT.  There is no doubt that NT 4.0 was at the right time, right place for all of this to happen.

First corporate computers were finally out of the 386/486 class machines, for people to have at least a Pentium class computer in 1996 with 32MB of ram, computers had effectively caught up to something capable of running Windows NT.

The other big tipping point was that the internet was starting to gain mainstream acceptance, this meant that NetBEUI and IPX/SPX were starting to face their decline in corporate networks and being replace by TCP/IP based systems. This was a big win for Windows NT as not only did it include TCP/IP  but it could network over TCP/IP out of the box, unlike Netware. In addition Internet Explorer 2.0 shipped with NT 4.0, although even back then I don’t think anyone seriously used it, Netscape was still the king back then.  Another interesting feature was PPTP, the ability to setup VPNs, although at launch time I was still dialing directly into work with IPX/SPX.  The final ‘big’ thing was the inclusion of IIS in both Workstation & Server versions. Now it was a trivial thing to setup & deploy a web server.

Windows NT 4.0 shipped with support for the Dec Alpha, i486, MIPS and PowerPC CPU’s. The discs are super rare to find, but the original shipment of NT 4.0 had a catastrophic SMP bug that wasn’t addressed until SP1.  Almost all NT 4.0 media you will encounter has SP1 slip streamed in.  Shortly after SP1, the MIPS platform was dropped.  Before SP3 the PowerPC had been dropped as well.  The Dec Alpha survived all the way to SP6, being dropped between NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 as Compaq who had bought DEC saw the AlphaNT product cannibalizing sales of its high end Pentium systems, and sinking too much R&D money into the product.

The most obvious change from NT 3.51 to 4.0 was the user interface.  Gone was the program manager, and in was explorer.  Another big change was that the video subsystem was moved into the kernel space which resulted in significantly faster video performance.  Windows NT also included DirectX support (2.0 in the box, 3.0 with SP3) and even hardware OpenGL support for cards like the Diamond Fire GL 1000 (which was a big letdown as it couldn’t run GLQuake correctly…)

Also around the time of NT 4.0’s launch SMP capable motherboards were now starting to appear that didn’t cost an insane amount of money.  I had a Tyan Tomcat dual Pentium 100 board at the time, which was fantastic IMHO… While two CPUs don’t make things run twice as fast, they certainly are more responsive had handling a larger workload of various processes.

Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit.

With the release of Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, the Resource kit was an excellent resource to have (OK I Know that sounds horrible… but nothing like built on NT Technology).  The number one thing was the desktop themes which were copied from the Windows 95 Plus! Pack.  This made Windows NT 4.0 feel far more like something that would be acceptable to an end user.  My personal favorite was the ‘Tropical Interlude’

Windows Desktop Update

With the release of Internet Explorer 4.0, the full downloadable version also included an option to install a Windows 98 like shell, AKA the Active Desktop.  Oddly this was left out of IE 5, 5.5 & 6.0 . Internet Explorer 3 added things like POP support to the mail client, 4.0 expanded on this with Outlook Express, Netmeeting, FrontPage express, and Microsoft Chat, the ‘comic chat’ IRC client.

 

The Option Pack

Later in   NT 4.0’s life saw the release of the “Option Pack” which was a bunch of Windows 2000 technology that was ready for release while ‘NT 5.0’ was stalling for release. This included things like the MMC (Microsoft Management Console), a SMTP Server, Transaction Server, and a stronger platform for hosting DCOM components (oh the horror!).

Besides IIS, NT 4.0 was the platform for Exchange 5.0/5.5 which pretty much gutted the old email systems that corporations relied on.  SQL Server 6.5 & 7.0 also gained quite a bit of ground for people wanting to move off expensive mainframes or midranges, heck you could even run it on your own workstation!

taskman!

One of my favorite and small addition to NT 4.0 was the new task manager. Gone was the simple list of programs running but now you could quickly view the CPU level, see who the hog was without resorting to perfmon, but you could easily kill processes, change their priority and affinity.

It is hard to imagine (impossible really) to imagine Windows NT without this great feature.

 

During Windows NT 4.0’s lifetime patching had started to become somewhat of a problem.  While there were 6 major service packs, and one security rollup, there were tonnes of vulnerabilities that were found while NT 4.0 / IIS 4.0 were actively supported, and needed to be corrected via hotfixes. Starting with IE 5.0 there was a ‘windows update’ feature which could then scan the OS, and determine what fixes needed to be applied.  While on the one hand there were constant updates, and no real good automated way to push them, there was at least a way to finally get updates onto NT 4.0 systems. Even later with SUS/WSUS this is something that IT shops still struggle with.

As far as application compatability goes, much to my amazement ALL of my applications are continuing to work, this includes Excel 3.0, MS-Word 5.5, SQL Server 4.21 and Doom 1.1 . I should also add that NT 4.0 added something really cool, pinball! Although all I ever did see is people addicted to solitaire. And of course WinDoom works GREAT as well!  One thing to point out is though NT 4.0 can still run OS/2 16bit text based exe’s there was an addon pack to run 16bit PM applications for 4.0.  Also by this point the HPFS filesystem had been removed from Windows NT.  While it was possible to put 3.51’s pinball.sys driver into a 4.0 system, and restore HPFS functionality, even us diehard OS/2 fans had given up at this point and either went Linux or NT.

Pinball!

Another great thing that was added into NT 4.0 was Hyperterminal.  While the old Windows 3.0 terminal had been ported to the Win32 subsystem, and was present in NT 3.1-3.51 it was finally nice to get something in the box that supported ANSI & Zmodem.. even if it was frankly too little too late, as everything was going internet.

And speaking of the internet in late 1996 we saw the release of Office 97 and it’s “internet centric” thinking.  One interesting thing is that Office 97 leaves my Excel 3.0a install alone. And much to everyone’s enjoyment Office 97 came with clippy! .. Who’s removal in Office 2003 was a selling feature.  Also included in Office 97 was Outlook 97, the first real email client for Windows. Much like the ancient Office 4.2 for Windows NT, there were versions of Write 97 & Excel 97 for the Dec Alpha… Although for the ‘full’ office suite I just ended up running !FX32 to run i386 Win32 binaries on the Dec Alpha.

Windows NT 4.0 ended up being available in a Terminal Server edition which would support multiple users on special Windows Terminal appliances, or old workstations.  There also was an enterprise version which could use eight physical processors, and allow programs to access 3GB of ram directly, and page memory out to more ram to allow bigger working sets.  It was like LIM EMS it didn’t get around that arrays couldn’t directly be larger than 3GB.  Already in 1998 we were starting to actually hit the physical limitations of 32bit computing.

Though 4.0 was a major release there were several things lacking in Windows NT 4.0, such as good PCMCIA support (it came from many 3rd parties) USB support, power management, and multiple displays.  All of this was addressed in Windows 2000.

Internet Explorer 3.0 for the MIPS.

I got a tip that there actually was a version of Internet Explorer 3.0 for the MIPS. I was thinking there was no way, as there was no mention of this thing as IE 3.0 came out after the MIPS had been dropped from the roster.

Well luckily it turns out to be true.

The original download link is here, and I’ve mirrored it here.

Who knows what other things are out there for the MIPS?