MIDI Mayhem on Windows 10

So I know it’s ‘probably’ the super cheap generic USB to MIDI dongal I got on the cheap, but it just doesn’t work on Windows 10.

Using DOSBox, I get the following output when cycling between devices on the console:

MIDI:Opened device:win32
MIDI:win32 selected Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth
MIDI:Opened device:win32
MIDI:win32 selected USB2.0-MIDI
MIDI:Opened device:none
MIDI:win32 selected MIDIOUT2 (USB2.0-MIDI)
MIDI:Opened device:none

As you can see it clearly can see the USB device, but when it opens the device it fails. And yes I’ve tried Administrator.  And for the hell of it, I fire up Windows XP on VMWare, connect the USB dongal, and amazingly:

MIDI:Opened device:win32
MIDI:win32 selected USB Audio Device
MIDI:Opened device:win32
MIDI:win32 selected USB Audio Device [2]
MIDI:Opened device:win32
MIDI:win32 selected Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth
MIDI:Opened device:win32

Yes, I can open the out port just fine.  So now I run a virtualizer to run my emulator to drive a physical peripheral… Ugh.  Has MIDI been this messed up all along and I never noticed?

Oh yeah, the GS Wavetable Synth works fine, as did MUNT before I uninstalled it, thinking it was somehow interfering with anything.

I know I’m using this fine device, the QinHeng USB MIDI adapter, which apparently is notorious crap, but my recently acquired Yamaha MU 80, works fine with it on Windows XP.

QinHeng USB MIDI adapter

QinHeng USB MIDI adapter


Retro computing for $99

So I was cruising around New Capital Computer Plaza, looking for some cisco console cables, and I saw a bunch of old Xeon desktop computers for sale.  Prices were in the 250-500 USD range, which seemed pricey to me.  And keeping in mind that my desktop is already a Xeon E3-1230, it did seem kind of pointless.  But then I saw this Dell Precision 490 for about $99 USD.

Dell Precision 490

Dell Precision 490

Great, so what are the general specs?

Well the ‘nice’ thing about Dell is that they keep all their old stuff online, so looking at the specsheet we can see It’s not a bad machine for something circa 2006.  Even archive.org has the old pricing online too!

Mine came with a Xeon 5160, 8GB of ram, 250 GB disk, and an ATI HD 4850

By my calculations this machine was about $4,863 USD, and that isn’t including the after market video card, which would be about $180 USD when it was new in 2008, bringing the total MSRP on this thing to $5,043 USD!

Of course it is now 2016, and this machine is 10 years old, with an 8 year old video card.  Also of interest is that it came licensed for Windows XP x64, which was the first publicly available AMD64 OS from Microsoft.  Unlike traditional Windows XP, this 64bit version is actually built around Windows server 2003.

The computer came with a pirated copy of Windows 7, which I wanted to promptly remove.  I have an old MSDN copy of Windows XP x64 that I wanted to install, however the optical drive is broken, and I needed to install from USB.  Thankfully even though this machine is old, it can boot from USB devices.  The first step was to download WinSetupFromUSB 1.2 to get XP onto a USB stick.  Naturally once I had booted from USB, the disk controller wasn’t supported.  The BIOS screen revealed that it was a:

Serial ATA AHCI BIOS, Version iSrc 1.02.25 07222007. Copyright (c) 2003-2006 Intel Corporation. Copyright (c) 2003-2006 Dell, Inc. Controller …

This translated into the Intel iaStor product, and I was able to slipstream in the last version from 2009, into the USB by using nlite.

I have to say that once I had removed the gratuitous pirated Chinese Windows 7, and installed XP that this machine was pretty damned snappy!  As always I updated to service pack 2.

The onboard NIC is a Broadcom NetXtreme 57xx gigabit NIC, which unlike the ‘gigabit’ nic on my newer desktop, this one actually works at 1Gb.

With Windows XP installed, I went to the AMD/ATI site, and found the download for the HD 4xxx series, and went ahead and installed Steam.

I have to say that Half-Life 2 runs GREAT.  According to it’s onboard FPS counter I was getting anywhere around 60-180 FPS.  Pretty awesome.  Fallout 3 runs pretty snappy too.  I tried Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and much to my surprise this vintage 2011 game runs on my 2006 Windows XP x64 setup.

What about the overall internet experience?  Well this being Windows XP, You are pretty limited by the traditional browsers.  Internet Explorer 6 is the default browser which to say it’s dated is an understatement.  I prefer Internet Explorer 7 over 6, but they are both so old it doesn’t matter. Internet Explorer 8 is also an option.  The last version of Google Chrome to support Windows XP was 49.0.2623.75.  Chrome 49 plays youtube just fine, Scripted Amiga is a little pokey, but does run.

And how does this thing compare to my normal desktop?  Running Geekbench 2, I get a score of 3396 vs 10864.  Now keep in mind this $99 machine only has a dual core processor, while my newer machine has a quad core + hyper threading CPU.  An interesting comparison is with the Xeon E5320 CPU, with the Dell eking out a victory.

Installing additional software was possible via Virtual Clone Drive, while I did have ISO images of stuff I’ve had physical media of in the past, a broken drive wasn’t going to help me read anything.

I didn’t activate it, but Windows 10 will run on this machine as well.  I’ll probably upgrade by getting a second JD210 heat sink (I already found another 5160 processor for $10)

It’s a great machine for sub $100.  I’d hate to have spent over $5,000 on this thing, but it’s kind of cool to see that a 10 year old machine like this can still be sort of usable.  Of course updating the software will certainly go a long way in making it really usable.

I don’t use Windows XP very often, but when I do…

(this is a guest post by Tenox)

I recently needed to install Windows XP. Because I don’t do that very often nowadays I decided to document the “pro way” of doing it.

First you should consider getting a volume license copy of Windows XP CD because it doesn’t require activation over the internet. The process below will work with any version, but it will require activation.

Then you need to download and install nLite which lets you add SATA/AHCI, network, display, audio, drivers and customize a fully unattended installation, including the product keys, and some tweaks like autologin, themes or show extensions/hidden files in explorer. Create your own bootable XP .iso file. You should probably test it in VMware/Vbox/Qemu first to see that all the settings are to your liking and the setup prompt screens are gone.

Second you need WSUS Offline Update, version 9.2.1 (which is the LAST version supporting Windows XP). It will let you roll out your own Service Pack 4 for Windows XP, including all the updates and goodies like .NET framework, Silverlight and DirectX updates. Create your own SP4 .iso file.

Booting Windows XP from a regular USB pen drive is notoriously difficult, so this is where ISOSTICK comes handy. Put both of the iso files on to the stick, insert to the PC and watch the magic happen.

It’s quite easy to integrate the SP4 in to the boot cd itself, but then it outgrows size of a physical CD, which is not a big deal with ISOSTICK, but I don’t mind installing the updates in a second step.

Finally if you need to install apps automatically you can consider something like Ninite.


Upgrading through Windows NT; Windows XP Pro

No more NetBEUI

While without fail Windows XP may have been the most popular version of Windows ever, it did remove the OS/2 subsystem, something I had grown used to having around.

But without fail the MS-DOS and DPMI environments were still in place.

Windows XP of course also entered the home market with the aptly named Windows XP Home edition, which was limited to a single processor and couldn’t join any domains.  For the sake of my upgrade path, the ‘workstation’ versions became PRO with Windows 2000 & XP, so that is what I’ve upgraded to is XP Pro, without the slipstreamed SP1/2/3.

Faster, more reliable!


Unfortuanatly right now this is the end of the road, XP doesn’t upgrade correctly from Windows 2000 and it leaves me with a black screen at best, or a BSOD related to Bug Check 0x19: BAD_POOL_HEADER … Error code was 20 so … there you go.


This isn’t virtual, but rather the real deal. I scored an HP zx2000.

HP Itanium

My HP zx2000

Just got it out of the box, I had to remove the funky sides to get it under my desk… And I’ve just installed Windows XP onto it now. My first observation is that the included DVD drive from HP, the HL-DT-ST GDR8160B has got to be one of the slowest drives I’ve dealt with in a while. And kinda finicky as the first attempt at installing XP failed with all kinds of errors, while a swift kick and a power cycle got the thing running. And let’s see it in action..

This thing likes to tell you over and over that it’s the 64bit version. It may look like XP but it’s not the 32bit version. It is however much like the x86_64 version with no NTVDM, no WOW. But worse, no Virtual PC. It can run i386 win32 exe’s but at a performance penalty. I saw mention that the Itanium C compiler can be found in the November 2001 Platform SDK, so I downloaded that, and installed it.

It’s slow.

It’s annoyingly slow.

All that talk of EPIC, and moving the complexity to the compiler isn’t a joke. Did I mention, it is *SLOW*? I thought it was running an i386 version of the compiler but the taskman didn’t show any stars next to the processes so I’m assuming not, but I’m not sure. I also am assuming that the November 2001 SDK is timed with the “Windows 2000 Advanced Server Limited Edition” for the Itanium. So I figured for a quick test, I’d build some dungeon… Except the f2c interpreter broke in some strange manner. I’d first think it’s something to do with integer sizes, but it worked on x86_64.. So I cheated, used the i386 version of f2c, and built the library and dungeon. Also I found out about this flag, /As32 which builds exe’s in the 32bit address space. f2c will run once it’s built like that. And although compiling f2c takes forever, once built it is FAST.

It worked. The exe is over 900kb! Without at doubt when they called it EPIC they meant the compiler speed, and exe size. For the crazy, you too can play zork on your Itanium here.

And yes my attempt at building SDL bombed too. But I’ll have to spend more time with the box.