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 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.

OpenWatcom v2

I know what you are thinking, wouldn’t it be great if you could create MS-DOS executables directly from a Win64 desktop with no MS-DOS needed?

Well, I just found out about this unofficial Open Watcom v2 project that targets the usual suspects, allows you to compile from Win64!

Hello World!

Hello World!

Some of the features of this fork include:

  • New 2-phase build system, OW can be build by platform native C/C++ compiler or by itself
  • Code generator properly initialize pointers by DLL symbol addresses
  • DOS version of tools now support long file names (LFN) if appropriate LFN driver is loaded by DOS
  • OW is ported to 64-bit hosts (WIN64, Linux X64)
  • Librarian support X64 CPU object modules and libraries
  • RDOS 32-bit C run-time compact memory model libraries are fixed
  • Resource compiler and Resource editors support WIN64 executables
  • OW text editor is now self containing, it can be used as standalone tool without any requirements for any additional files or configuration
  • Broken C++ compiler pre-compiled header template support is fixed
  • Many C++ compiler crashes are fixed
  • Debugger has no length limit for any used environment variable

Binaries are available on sourceforge.

So how does it fare?  I thought I’d take the old Wolf4GW, and compile it with this toolset.  The first hurdle I hit was this fun feature:

  • The C++ compiler now treats warning W737, implicit conversion of pointers to integral types of same size, as an error.

Which is an integral part of wl_menu.cpp .  So this was somewhat problematic, until I just commented out that block, and while I was expecting no working keyboard, I’m able to play, and load/save games…. Even the boss key works.



So with the W737 taken care of, I have to say this thing compiles FAST.  Incredibly FAST.  If for some reason you have to build 16bit or 32bit anything, you should look at a 64bit tool chain, well assuming you have a 64bit computer by now.

If anyone want’s to build their own Wolf4GW with the newer OpenWatcom, my source drop is here.

Now this reminds me of “turning the engine off and then back on again at 55 mph.”

the v86-64 patch, Allows you to enter v86 mode from long mode on a 64bit linux kernel.

Basically it works just like an old school DOS Extender, where it’ll switch from long mode, to 32bit compatible mode, then enter v86 mode run some code, then re-enter 32bit mode, to jump back into 64bit long mode.

From an old mailing list:

This 64-bit DOSEMU compile runs substantially slower than the 32-bit compile
that I used previously on this computer.  I have several rather large
<a href="">PowerBASIC/DOS</a> programs that are, in fact, the main reason why I use DOSEMU.

Up until a couple of days ago, I had Fedora 7/i386 on this computer.  I just
happen to still have the numbers when compiling one of those programs with

With F7/i386:  1686600 lines per minute -- total time to compile the program:
0.2 seconds

With F8/x86_64:  230400 lines per minute -- total time to compile the program:
1.6 seconds.

The F8/x86_64 DOSEMU is running approximately 13 times slower.

Which I bet runs a bit faster than an old 386.

Qemu 1.7.0 released!

The main qemu page hasn’t been updated yet, but the download page has the source to the new version of Qemu.

I’ve gone ahead and built binaries for OS X, both a full version, and  a i386 minimal version.

As always testing is very minimal, all I’ve done is installed MS-DOS 6.22 & Doom 1.1, and tested the SoundBlaster 16 emulation.  And as with the pre-release versions, the adlib code is still broken.  And Ive done the ‘better’ fix in this code regarding that.

I haven’t run anything else, including fun things like the PowerPC & OS X emulation, MIPS with Windows NT, or even trying anything x64 based as I’m sure it is still broken from back in the Qemu 0.90 days.

Solaris 11 came out today

They blew the 11/11/11 launch date.  I guess Oracle really just doesn’t care about magical numbers or whatever.

I guess for the two or three people who even run this stuff (no doubt to run Oralce and it’s draconian licensing) you can find out all about it here.

It appears they still keep the Fortran stuff around for it…  Oh and this release is x86_64 only.  Sorry 32bit users.

Installing gcc (and I imagine everything else) revolves around the pkg command… In this case ‘pkg install gcc-3’ will download and install gcc 3.  While ‘pkg install gcc-45’ will install GCC 4!.  Don’t forget to install system/header or you won’t have things like stdio.h!!

Another GCC tidbit, is that you can build 64bit binaries with GCC 4.5 by supplying the -m64 flag!

While Solaris 11 installs somewhat quickly in VirtualBox (but wow does it take forever to boot), it is bare minimum…

Also for those who want it, here is lynx & ircII for Solaris Oh and a Quake World Server.  At least wget is in the base, but I don’t see why lynx isn’t.

Qemu and 64bit windows…

It’s been a while since I’ve tried to run some 64bit versions of windows so I downloaded some from MSDN, and tried to run some under the latest 0.14.0 build

First up is Windows XP x64 sp2 (en_win_xp_pro_x64_with_sp2_vl_x13-41611.iso)

I launched it like this:

qemu-system-x86_64.exe -m 1024 -hda six64.disk -L pc-bios -cdrom en_win_xp_pro_x64_with_sp2_vl_x13-41611.iso

And the bootloader loads up, but it hangs transitioning to the kernel. Nothing is logged to the serial port.

qemu 0.14.0 windows xp sp6 x64

Next up is Windows 2003 server, with no service pack.

I’m loading up Qemu like this:

qemu-system-x86_64.exe -m 1024 -hda six64.disk -L pc-bios -cdrom \install\en_ws_2003_std_x64_vl.iso

And again being met with a hung state booting the kernel.

qemu 0.14.0 windows 2003 x64

I guess this isn’t surprising as booth 2003 & XP x86_64 both use the same kernel.

Next up, I thought I’d try a longhorn beta…

qemu-system-x86_64.exe -m 1024 -hda six64.disk -L pc-bios -cdrom longhorn-some-random-beta-x86_64.iso

qemu 0.14.0 longhorn 3016

And I get a nice black screen, again transitioning to the kernel…

So let’s try Windows 2008r2 (It’s the same thing as Windows 7).

qemu 0.14.0 windows 2008 r2 x86_64 crash

So this is different, so googling around for the Stop: 0x0000005D (0x0000000078BFBF9,0x0000000000000000,0x0000000000000000,0x0000000000000000 code, led me to some config file for the x86_64 for additional CPU types. It appears that in the arch_init.c file I modified the following line:

const char arch_config_name[] = CONFIG_QEMU_CONFDIR “/target-” TARGET_ARCH “.conf”;


const char arch_config_name[] = “./target-” TARGET_ARCH “.conf”;

So that way I could pick up the ” -cpu Nehalem ” flag. Sadly it produced…

qemu 0.14.0 windows 2008 r2 x86_64 crash nehelam


Meanwhile, much like Novell Netware, it really only works on Qemu 0.9.0

qemu 0.9.0 widnows xp x64 sp2 boot

qemu 0.9.0 windows 2008 r2 x86_64

But not so hot for Windows 2008 r2 (AKA Windows 7).