Microsoft has had a long tradition of wanting to be cool and edgy, and copying what is popular to make themselves a metwo company. And it’s really random, some things become wildly popular, while others crash and burn so hard that almost all existence of it happening is destroyed. Back before the commercialization of the internet, if you wanted to do real-time conversations you used IRC, and before then it was just talk/ytalk on any UNIX host.
However once the internet opened up, companies were free to invent their own protocols, and let the users choose if they wanted something more rich than a simple text based protocol, it may seem obvious today, but users wanted to do things like share files, and more importantly be able to minimize the program and only get an alert if someone was actually messaging them. Out of the gates of commercialization the big hit was ICQ. And Microsoft being Microsoft, first created Comic Chat, a simplified IRC client back in 1996 as part of it’s push with Internet Explorer 3, which brought many internet programs to Windows, including a NNTP client, and a simple SMTP/POP email client. Then in 1999 the MSN group brought out their MSN messenger.
With the later massive misstep of buying Skype from Ebay, Microsoft shuttered the MSN messaging product, and has been trying very hard to shoehorn Skype as not only a communication tool for users, but also for businesses. Apparently they are going to try to copy slack now for us business users.
Back around 2002, when MSN was integrated in with things like ME and XP, I found some server implementation on one of our internal servers. I think it was written in either Perl or python, and I just recall it definitely ran on one of our Linux boxes with a MySQL back end. At the time we wanted a private server to keep internal communications internal, and MSN was convenient as everyone had it, and all they needed was a registry change to tell MSN to use the internal server. Oh how times have changed.
The VMWare VM’s run fine on Windows even though they are named for OSX, although I did have to add in a NIC to the VMX. It’s a great way to use a quick & disposable Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10 machines. Although there isn’t a IE 7 for Windows XP, it’s trivial to upgrade XP / IE 6 to IE 7.
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.
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, 18.104.22.168 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.
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.
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.
Ran across this curiosity today: Microsoft Edge Dev Center provides a bunch of ready made virtual machines with different versions of IE web browser. But they can be used for different purposes if you need to quickly spin up a specific version of Windows quickly.
Back in the day, if you were ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ and had a UNIX shell account back in 1993 there was this cool way of getting around various computer systems around the world called gopher. What was really cool, is that it offered search services, indexing and even gateways into various libraries (where they kept physical books) where you could search their card catalogs for various tomes you were looking for.
Some colleges even had various services that you could connect to, offering things like news, weather and whatnot. It was pretty neat, however there was one stumbling block, which is gopher was a VERY controlled environment, where most universities locked their client to only starting at one particular gopher server, and to get anywhere else you had to memorize an insane number of keystrokes that would make 1800 operators go crazy. Also there was nothing like virtual hosting, so the idea of having your own gophersite was most likely out of the question. The other issue is that the University of Minnesota, where boombox resided (the master gopherserver) saw they had something good going, and unlike UCB’s CSRG which gave BSD away for free, they were going to license the server for $100 for a educational institution, and $500 for a commercial institution.
Needless to say, this CERN thing called HTTP which they were trying to distance themselves from, which wanted no money for became the next big thing, and with the freedom and ease of setting up website, gopher became a ghost of the past.
But as the world was starting to build web clients, many understood gopher, including Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Although starting with version 7 (gopher was also disabled with some updates in IE6), gopher has since been removed. But thanks to the Utilu IE Collection, and this quick registry setting you too can surf gopher space with IE 4.0 (or 5,5.5..) like it’s the mid 1990s.
So needless to say with a client in hand, I wanted to setup my own server. And keeping with it being old, I decided to use the old 2.3.1 gopher server. I also compiled it with freeWAIS support, although I haven’t quite worked out how to get that fully working right now. Compiling this stuff on 32bit i386 Linux was trivial to say the least, but if you need binaries or anything they are here.
the next thing was to get both wais, and gopherd running from xinetd, which was easy once I knew how. These are the service files I created:
socket_type = stream
protocol = tcp
wait = no
user = gopher
server = /usr/local/etc/gopherd
server_args = -I -l /var/log/gopherd.log -u gopher /gopher-data 70
instances = 20
And for wais:
socket_type = stream
protocol = tcp
wait = no
user = root
server = /usr/local/bin/waisserver
server_args = -d /gopher-data/wais /gopher-data/wais.log -l 10 -p 210
instances = 20
Gopher likes to be a named service, so I went with my virtuallyfun.com domain, as it is easier to type. I guess I could have gone with gopher.superglobalmegacorp.com but that is… LONG. Another cool thing is that there are several gopher proxies out there for HTTP only people, so you can also get to my gopher page here (via gopher.floodgap.com).
The harder part was figuring out how the directory mapping works, but luckily there was enough in the test directory to get something working, changing this
About decode-n-scripts install mspl tmp
bin ftp-horrors lib pids
The secret is all in the .names and .Links files. The .names file will map a directory name to something more pleasing, such as changing mspl to the “Microsoft Programmer’s Libary”.
Name=Microsoft Programmer’s Library
And the .Links file creates links to various content, from a telnet example (to my bbs….)
Name=QemuOS/2 BBS (My BBS!)
Abstract=My Synchronet BBS running on OS/2 inside of Qemu! #100
To another gopher system
Name=My lame SDF.org site
Abstract=My personal SDF gopherspace (itsucks) #-11
So yes, to be difficult, all the links in this post are gopher:// links. I don’t know if that’ll deter the likes of Gerhard W. Recher, but I’d like to think that his poorly constructed automated tests will be unable to connect to gopher resources.
Now if I can figure out how to setup my own jughead or veronica to search my own wais of information, that’d be excellent.
If I had the virtual space I’d host the whole thing on a virtual VAX…. or something equally insane. Word is Shoebill just got ethernet support, so running my gopher space on A/UX would be cool.
I’ve been meaning to write something about the whole Microsoft foray into the Java language, and where we are today as a result. I know in 2012 it is hard to imagine a world where Java wasn’t just ignored or marginalized (don’t even pretend that Oracle buying out SUN didn’t drive people away) but rather there was a lot of excitement built around Java, and all the language companies were getting behind Java. Yes this included Borland, and of course Microsoft. And not to be left out of making a compiler, but Microsoft also wrote their own JVM, or Java virtual machine runtime. Even more un Microsoft like, is that they provided Internet Explorer and their java on the Macintosh!
“Microsoft is offering a real Mac program at an incredibly attractive price: free. Plus, it comes with a few nifty tools you won’t find at http://www.netscape.com/: A good Java virtual machine and just-in-time compiler, which allows you to run Java applets anywhere, not just in your browser, and even a small but robust Web server.”MacWEEK “Microsoft may have won the browser war”
Joanna Pearlstein February 28, 1997
So on the weekend I came across this book on “Web programming” which I’d usually laugh at for being obsolete and ignore, but it proudly mentions that the included CD includes the ‘publishers’ version of J++ 1.0! So I checked the book, and yes the CD is still there! So for the 2-3 people that care, I even packaged this fifteen year old oddity. It’s demanding requirements are NT 4.0, or Windows 95 with sixteen (Yes sixteen!) megabytes of ram, and 100MB of free disk space. Personally I just installed it in a blank NT 4.0 unpatched VM. It’ll install IE 3 along with it, and version 1.00.6211 of the Microsoft JVM.
Naturally even emulated, on a 3Ghz CPU with a gigabytes worth of RAM it runs and compiles quite quickly.
I know it isn’t much to look at, and the download is small it is quite neat for the age/size… But yes, even ‘modern’ java can run “well behaved” J++ apps..
As part of the trial though Microsoft had to pull everything with the JVM in it, and that included IE 3.0 “full”, 4.0 and 5.0/5.5 .. Even Windows 2000 sp3, and prior had to go. Yes this is also why Office 97 & SQL 7 are gone from the MSDN downloads. Maybe its my nostalgia but I really did like the 1997-1998 era and their applications. The only reason I “upgraded” out of Outlook 98 was that 2003 can connect to Exchange 2003/2007 servers with a built in HTTP connection so I don’t have to VPN to send/receive email.
I nearly forgot about this ancient page with some applettes. Amazingly they still run.. Since my experience with Java has been largely write once, debug everywhere…
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?