Windows 2000 64-bit for Alpha AXP

(this is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka tenox)

Recently, hinted by friends on Discord, Neozeed “discovered” a Win64 compiler for AXP64 / ALPHA64, that came in as part of Windows Platform SDK from 1999. This was released by Microsoft to allow developers test-compile their programs to see if they are “64bit ready”, ahead the 64bit hardware being available. However, this was just a cross-compiler and there was no actual way of running any of the binaries. Until Itanium finally came out, after infamously long delays. The Win64 project for AXP64 and IA64 was code name “Sundown”. Sadly, 64-bit Alpha AXP Windows was never released outside of Redmond.

Trying the compiler, just for fun, I compiled Alpha64 version of Aclock – with zero hopes of ever being able to run it. There are some surviving machines with AXP64 stored at Microsoft Archives. In fact I saw one with my own eyes, last time I visited there some 10 years ago:

DEC Alpha with AXP64 Windows at Microsoft Archives.
DEC Alpha with AXP64 Windows codename “Sundown”, at Microsoft Archives, 2014

The machine in picture above was featured in a blog post by Raymond Chen, which is a must read. It will give you background info on the whole Alpha 64bit situation. Unfortunately nothing ever leaves Microsoft Archives, unless you have a court order or SVP approval.

And that would be the end of the story… if not for one generous reader, who contacted Neozeed after his previous post, and shared a disk image… containing a 64bit build of Windows 2000 for Alpha AXP! The reader got it from a lot of random lot of hard disks bought from an e-waste, years ago, and completely forgot about it until they saw the blog post!

Having a PWS500 with ZuluSCSI handy, I was able to slap the image on an SD card and boot it up:

Windows 2000 Alpha64 Splash Screen

The system BSOD shortly after. Turns out, this is a checked (debug) build of Windows and requires a permanently attached kernel debugger to even boot up. Initially WinDbg and kd.exe refused to work, as the target CPU did not match the host (the exact error code is: KD Version has unknown processor architecture). After some deliberation and help from friends, I learned that alphakd.exe can be run on x86 machine to cross debug an Alpha target. Most importantly it works with AXP64!

Another problem was that the system came up with “Found New Hardware” wizard and there was no functioning keyboard and mouse to click through it. Yes I tried safe mode, VGA mode, etc., but nothing worked. The system was completely stuck on this dialog:

Fortunately, the network card worked. Neozeed and I built and hacked in to the registry an rlogin daemon. Finally solved the PNP fuckup by remotely executing a VBScript that clicked through 20+ “found new hardware” and “install unsigned driver” dialogs. Eventually, a PCI to ISA bridge was found and keyboard and mouse came up!

Aclock running on 64bit Windows on Alpha AXP

Unfortunately there are no identifying marks that would definitely prove that this is a 64bit Alpha AXP build. The only way to tell is because there is no WOW, even for AXP32. You can’t run any 32bit Alpha binaries. It will only run executables produced with the ALPHA64 compiler. This also means in practice, there is no native compiler for this. You have to cross compile on 32bit NT4 or 2KRC. However if you going to build anything for AXP64 I can run and test it for you 🙂

Update: Build Label from the Registry

For sake of search engines the build number is 2210, the full string 2210.main.000302-1934.

Update: So what else is in the image?

First of all, everyone is asking about Pinball… Yes, it’s there, but it won’t start:

In addition, I can’t open the event details. Maybe one day we can debug it with NTSD.

Other than that it has just basic stuff the every other Windows would have. Internet Explorer 5.5, agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.0). Sadly msinfo32 doesn’t work unable to connect to a service. As mentioned before, SysWOW64 and Sys32x86 are empty directories, so you can’t run anything that isn’t compiled for Alpha64.

The image, similar to other private builds, comes with IDW which is Internal Developer Workstation. It’s a set of developer tools, that most of, but not all, were released in Platform SDK and/or Windows Resource Kit.

There are a bunch of unix like utilities, cp, mv, ls, kill, etc.:

build.exe version 4.03.2209

It can build for AXP32 and IA64:

There also are two famous text editors, Microsoft Editor aka MEP / Z and Stevie, VI clone:

Lastly, lets explore 64bit Alpha AXP gaming situation! While Pinball doesn’t work, IDW comes with an impressive amount of games. Microsoft engineers must have been playing these while waiting for builds to complete…

64-bit gaming on Alpha AXP

We have 4 different card games, FreeCell, Solitaire, Gold and Cruel. Also Taipei game, TicTactics, Reversi, Minesweeper and Snake.

AXP64 NT also has fully working OpenGL Screensavers:

If you want to see this live in action. We going to be exhibiting on VCF West 2023 in August, alongside other NT RISC machines. Come and see us!

OpenVMS x86 hobbyist finally here!

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

After years of waiting, VMS Software finally released OpenVMS x86 for hobbyist use. Luckily I was able to download the install media and a hobbyist license pack from the Service Platform portal. So lets have some fun with virtualization!

OpenVMS x86 has pretty strict hardware requirements. It only works as a VM (no physical hardware support). It wants a recent CPU. The VM must have EFI BIOS and E1000 NIC. As for storage controller – both HDD and CDROM must be on the same SATA controller.

The ISO image boots to a fancy new loader screen:

OpenVMS x86 on VMware ESXi

However as cute as it looks, don’t have your hopes up for a real GUI. That’s as far as it goes:

Once the OS boots up, it switches to a serial console for the rest of installation and operation. Being a VM and having no access to physical serial port, I hooked it up via named pipe to another VM’s serial port.

Just for fun let’s use a recent build of C-Kermit by David Goodwin!

The installation is pretty straightforward. I picked all the defaults and off you go.

The system installs under couple of minutes. A boot takes just couple of seconds and it’s extremely fast end responsive. This is somewhat expected as the VMS dates back to 1977 and hasn’t grown in bloat much like more “modern” OSes.

One of first things to do after installation, is to register the license packs and configure TCP/IP.

For license pack I added the “BOE” pak by hand and transferred the rest as a `.com` file after TCP/IP was setup.

To configure IP you simply run @sys$manager:tcpip$config and go through the steps. Networking doesn’t start by default, so you need to edit sys$ file and uncomment line saying @sys$startup:tcpip$ After that you should be able to telnet to the VM at every boot. Also note that OpenVMS comes with some unix commands for the tcpip subsystem, you can find them in help under TCPIP_Services -> UNIX_Commands

You can setup auto boot in the graphical console by typing “auto boot”, this way you never have to open the graphical console to type boot.

Browsing through software packages on the VMS service portal you can find a C compiler, Fortran, as well as some typical OSS packages like OpenSSH, SSL, Samba, Git and many more.

Apparently there also is a WebUI for VMS?

I’m hoping that in future OpenVMS will be available on some public clouds like AWS, Azure and GCP. This would open some interesting possibilities.

I’m going to go and port some apps to x86 VMS!

SimCity for Unix Liberated

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

A long long time ago SimCity classic was ported to UNIX by DUX Software. They provided downloadable demo versions for SunOS, Solaris, HP-UX, IRIX, OSF/1, OpenDesktop, UnixWare, Linux and BSD.

SimCity SGI IRIX screenshot from DUX website

In the winter break wave of nostalgia I wanted to play SimCity on my HPUX workstation. The 5 minute demo just wouldn’t cut it. Back in 1993 you could simply purchase a license key and unlock the demo to a full version. However even if I could find an old license code, these keys were “Host ID” locked, so you could not easily use it on a different machine.

In 2008 SimCity Classic has been open sourced under a new name Micropolis for the OLPC project. This was truly epic endeavor, many thanks to everyone involved. Unfortunately for vintage computer enthusiasts, the source code been “patched up” to compile on a modern Linux, before it was released to the public. The updated code will no longer build on any old Unix system. Typically when a developer decides to free up their obsolete version they just toss out some licenses codes. Sadly this time no one bothered.

The only option left was to bypass the license checking code. Fortunately, modern binary analysis tools like IDA Pro make patching old apps relatively straightforward. In just minutes I was able to get the game started in a full multiplayer mode. A few hours later I got it patched on all the vintage Unix platforms!

SimCity on Solaris 7 (also works on 8 and 9)
SimCity on HP-UX 9 (doesn’t work on 10 or 11 due to TCL/TK issues)
SimCity on OSF/1 aka Dec Unix aka Tru64
SimCity on IRIX 5.3 on MAME (doesn’t work on never IRIX due to COFF binary)
SimCity on SunOS 4.1.4 on QEMU
SimCity on SCO OpenServer / OpenDesktop (ODT)

UPDATE: patched IRIX as well! Special thanks to Mr^Burns for providing a preinstalled IRIX 5.3 MAME image!

UPDATE: patched SunOS version as well. Special thanks to Daghdha for preinstalled SunOS 4.1.4 QEMU image!

UPDATE: patched SCO Unix/ODT version as well.

You can download the demo versions and patches here. Happy gaming on your vintage Unix Workstation!

If you just want to try the game without bothering with an ancient unix, you can simply sudo apt install micropolis && micropolis on a modern Linux – it’s identical except for multiplayer

Web Rendering Proxy v4.6 released

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

Pleased to announce WRP version 4.6! After almost two years of no updates due to dependency issues I finally resolved everything. More frequent work should resume now.

The main improvement visible to users is the new GIF encoding. I have been struggling with poor GIF performance for quite a while. This was mostly manifested on lower end machines running WRP such as Raspberry PI or these micro instances in the cloud.

Thanks to invaluable work of Hill Ma we now have blazing fast GIFs. Probably order of 100x improvements! This comes at a cost of quality, especially of color palette and dithering. However worse quality of imagery has a surprise improvement of font/text quality which is what a lot of people wanted.

WRP 4.6 with default 216 color GIF

Note that by default WRP uses GIF with 216 “web safe” colors. We choose this not so much for number of colors but rather activation of the super fast GIF encoding.

WRP 4.6 in 256 color mode GIF

When switching to 256 color mode the image look much better, however it takes around 25x longer to encode (7ms vs 170ms).

When using PNG this is of course not a problem.

0 height mode, which renders tall images of full page length has also been improved and is now more stable. Be careful when using very old machines with little memory as the images can be pretty big.

I hope that WRP will help you use your vintage computers more 🙂

Please report bugs and issues on github!

Downloads here.

IBM AIX for IA64 (Itanium) aka Project Monterey runs again!

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

Project Monterey was an attempt to unify the fragmented Unix market of the 90s in to a single, cross vendor Unix OS that would run on the upcoming Intel Itanium (and others) CPU. The main collaborators were: IBM, who brought its AIX, SCO brought UnixWare, HP was supposed to bring parts of HP-UX and Sequent DYNIX/ptx. Ironically the project shared fate of the Itanium CPU—it totally failed. In the end Linux took spot of the “single Unix OS”. IBM donated AIX pieces to Linux instead and the main legacy of Project Monterey was the famous SCO vs IBM lawsuit.

IBM did however produce AIX version for the Itanium architecture! According to Wikipedia, some 30+ licenses were sold in 2001-2002. For years a dedicated group of individuals was trying to locate a copy of the legendary OS. It seemed that the OS was lost forever…

…until some 21 years later friends of NCommander checked in with a set of AIX5L IA64 CDROMS! The CDs have now been dumped and you can download them here. Unfortunately downloading will not get you much closer to actually running this. As of today no publicly available virtualization or emulation platform can boot this. Yes we tried Simics, looked at QEMU IA64 and XEN/KVM for IA64, etc. The OS will not boot on modern Itanium 2 (McKinley) CPUs, only the early “pre-release” Itanium 1 aka Merced. The only emulator allegedly capable of doing so was the super elusive unobtanium called Intel SoftSDV.

It’s currently speculated that AIX5L IA64 will work on and only on so called “Intel Software Development Vehicle (SDV)” sometimes referred to as “Intel Engineering Sample”. It was an Intel made machine, later sold in several OEM branded version: IBM IntelliStation Z Pro 6894, HP i2000 Workstation, SGI 750, Dell Precision Workstation 730 and Fujitsu-Siemens Celsius 880.

Intel Itanium Software Development Vehicle Lineup

…yes, they all look alike because all of them were in fact produced by Intel with custom case badges and paints.

Luckily I was able to score a working HP i2000. AIX booted up and installed on a first try:

AIX 5L IA64 on HP i2000 Workstation – boot loader
AIX 5L IA64 on HP i2000 Workstation – logged in

Initially I was not able to get the onboard NIC working. Upon short investigation AIX5L IA64 supports only two network cards:

adapter 23100020 IBM 10/100 Mbps Ethernet PCI Adapter (23100020)
adapter ae120200 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet PCI Adapter (ae120200)

The AIX Itanium Early Adopters Release Notes mentions a few other cards but I do not see drivers for these in the OS. The doc mentions “Extended Hardware Drivers CD” which we don’t have.

Luckily again I was able to find a working NIC on eBay!

The system comes with X11 and CDE but so far I was not able to get any GPU working beyond basic text mode. I tried many different video cards from that era but there simply doesn’t appear to be any driver in the OS except for basic VGA / LFT. I think the key to getting video working is the previously mentioned extended hardware drivers cd.

Finally, if you want to read more I have found some interesting pieces on ibmfiles and various mirrors here and here.

Update: Thanks to efforts of TRN we now have a working GCC and ports of lots of apps!

Update 2: After going through a pile of video cards I now have local X11 and CDE!

AIX IA64 local X11 with CDE

This was the lucky winner:

How to fix rsync slowing down over time (SOLVED)

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

I often make copies of large data archives, typically many TB in size. I found that rsync transfer speed slows down over time, typically after a few GB, especially when copying large files. Eventually reaching crawl speeds of just few KB/s. The internet is littered with people asking the same question or why rsync is slow in general. There really isn’t a good answer out there, so I hope this may help.

After doing some quick profiling I found out that the main culprit was rsync's advanced delta transfer algorithm. The algorithm is super awesome for incremental updates as it will only transfer changed parts of a file instead of the whole thing. However when performing initial copy it’s not only unnecessary but gets in the way and the CPU is spinning calculating CRC on chunks that never could have changed. As such…

Initial rsync copies should be performed with -W option, for example:

$ rsync -avPW <src> <dst>

The -W or --whole-file option instructs rsync to perform full file copies and do not use delta transfer algorithm. In result there is no CRC calculation involved and maximum transfer speeds can be easily achieved.

Long term, rsync could be patched to do a full file transfer if the file doesn’t exist in destination.

Also while copying jumbo archives of many TB I don’t want to see every individual file being copied. Instead I want a percentage of the total archive size and current transfer speed in MB/s. After some experiments I arrived at this weird combo:

$ rsync -aW --no-i-r --info=progress2 --info=name0 <src> <dst>

Ready to run OpenVMS VM – Student Kit from VSI

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

I was recently registering a new OpenVMS Community License. In the process I learned that there is a ready to run, pre-installed and pre-configured VM with OpenVMS 8.4. Completely free for non-commercial purposes. You don’t even need to register or leave your details (WOW). Just download and run! Thank you VSI!

The student kit runs only on Windows as contains FreeAXP emulator. However it’s super easy to download, install and run.

VSI OpenVMS Student Kit

I’m hoping that in near future once x86 OpenVMS port is ready there will be images for x64 hypervisors like VMware, VirtualBox, Hyper-v and QEMU/KVM hopefully.

Cloud Functions Bucket File Editor

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

The title is little complicated so let me explain! Ever since dawn of the web I been running some web server to host various websites. In the beginning it was a physical machine under my desk, then a colocated server, then a VPS Virtual Machine, then a container. Eventually all the websites that I look after or host for friends/family ended up in “the cloud”. Storage buckets to be precise, as they offer a super cheap and simple way of hosting static websites. I no longer have to maintain machines, look after updates, security or configuration. Just upload HTML and done.

However here lies a problem. You can’t just “edit” a file in a bucket, you can only download it, edit locally and re-upload. This typically is done via Storage Browser UI or gsutil cli utility (in case of GCP). Or some sophisticated IDE with storage API support or sometimes a FUSE client. In any case it’s hard and cumbersome. Why can’t there be a simple Edit function in the UI?

Why isn’t there a File Edit Option????

I have recently discovered that there even is a brand new Cloud Shell Editor which is a VScode instance bound to your “cloud shell instance”. It allows you to virtually edit files “in the cloud” but of course not in storage buckets! WHY NOT?

While this been bothering me for a while I also got interested in so called “cloud functions” which are small pieces of code that you can run “in the cloud” without need for a VM or even a container (although surely they run in one behind the scenes). Just paste the code and run… somewhere. Cloud Functions or AWS Lambdas have been notoriously abused by crypto miners. I wanted to play with these for legitimate reasons and finally decided to create a simple web based text editor that would allow to edit text files in storage buckets. So CFEdit was born.

The editor is super simple, no frills, just a file selector and textarea for editing files. You deploy it by creating a new function, either via the UI or CLI. You can restrict it just to a single bucket or allow editing in any bucket within a project. It doesn’t use IAM and thus doesn’t require Google accounts. I specifically wanted to avoid complexity of that and just went with own user database and HTTP Basic Auth.

Now I can create account for family members or friends and allow them to edit their web pages via simple web based editor rather than asking for uploading files or resorting to ftp/sftp GCS gateways or stuff like that.

In future I’m planning to add other function like create blank file, directory, upload/download etc. Let me know what’s needed.

CFEdit can be downloaded from, the readme describes in steps on how to deploy it.

Revisiting Windows NT 4.0 MIPS on QEMU

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

This was previously well covered by Gunkies and Neozeed, however as almost a decade passed, some improvements could be made and annoyances fixed.

Firstly NT MIPS now works in 1280×1024 resolution under QEMU. It previously had issues with mouse tracking, but this is now fixed. So the new image has a higher resolution.

Secondly the old images were made with FAT filesystem which I didn’t like too much. The reason for that is the infamous RISC NT osloader needs to be placed on a FAT partition. Then, if NT is installed on a second NTFS partition the default drive will be D:\, C:\ being the just the osloader drive. This was super annoying in practice. So a common procedure was to just have one FAT partition for both osloader and winnt. I have fixed it by supplying a pre-partitioned disk and specified the second partition for osloader and the first for NT.

Also I only had just a bare/vanilla image with no additional software installed. The new image includes most of the available apps, including IE3, some editors, Reskit and Visual Studio.

Lastly I wanted to figure out all the right settings and flags for qemu as they were discrepancies between different sources and nothing seem to work smoothly. The correct flags seem to be:

qemu-system-mips64el -hda nt4.qcow2 -M magnum -global ds1225y.filename=nvram -L . -rtc "base=1995-07-08T11:12:13,clock=vm" -nic user,model=dp83932

The -rtc flag is not really needed if you are ok with having the current date in the guest.

Thanks to Neozeed for figuring out the network settings! Unfortunately the old/legacy -net nic -net user is no longer working while the new -device doesn’t like dp83932. The documentation was quite helpful.

Thanks to reader Mark for pointing out the correct NVRAM settings! See comments below.

The new image with all the apps preinstalled is here and a plain “vanilla” here.

Curiously this now works right out of the box on QEMU 6.1 and is pretty smooth and stable compared to what it was before. Good job QEMU team and thank you! Just in case I still keep the old binaries for Windows made by Neozeed here.

Update: I built Yori for NT MIPS! You can download here!