Can you trust a man in a van with your virtual plan?

Once upon a time this was a legitimate ad. Tad from VM-limted.com. Sadly the domain has all but lapsed and finding any reference to this ad is pretty much impossible to search for. You’d think with the ‘glamp’ of vanlife and living in a van that people would love to take notes from the Microsoft VM-limited 70’s style conference van.

Nissan NV350

Instead I was getting crap like this Nissan NV350 which looks so 1960’s SciFi that it’s just unlivable and unusable. Compare that pod living thing to this incredible 1970’s themed van from VM-limited!

So comfortable!

From leather chairs, rolodexes, tube televisions to the mandatory ashtrays, wood paneling and shag carpet how could this not be a ‘work from the road’ thing today? While looking at other solutions for working on the road they seem to be so boring and unlived in that they feel about as legit as that new starwars hotel that looks like a telephone game of ‘space conflict’.

As far as I can tell it started as a print campaign in 2011 to be launched the same time as the big VMware convention (vmworld?!) back then.

2011 print ad

I do have to admire the very Atari-esque look of it. Apparently it was good enough to get some videos shot in the van:

And along with that was a TADTalk. I mirrored it on my site, and with a bit more searching I found some more and put them on archive.org.

It’s too bad the domain lapsed, and Microsoft didn’t hop onto the van-life trend with their future thinking retro 70’s conference van.

Anyways to help me google/bing it in the future Microsoft man in van selling virtualization.

Anyone else living the nomadic life? I guess with wife + kids it’s hard, but I’m sure someone is doing it.

Microsoft OneDrive & SharePoint Library dropdown menu insanity!

I don’t know what is so exciting about this feature but Microsoft has paged me about 2-300 times this morning about this exciting feature.

Microsoft OneDrive & SharePoint Library dropdown menu

As of 10:25 BST/HST it’s still going off. I had to mute the Office 365 Admin application. Talk about either over excited or just plain broken. Over on reddit yeah, it’s everyone else.

Do people even use sharepoint anymore?

Double Agent, WSLv2 and named pipes

So digging around an old SDK I came across an old friend, Microsoft Agent:

This was the bold new strategy of having a digital assistant that you could interact with on the desktop to help you with common tasks, and help with common issues. Oddly enough as popular a Alexa is these days, Microsoft’s attempts didn’t work out so well.

Perhaps it was the infamous Clippy of Microsoft Office infamy that left a bad taste in the world of talking animated agents. circling back to the popular Alexa perhaps Clarke/Kubrick had it right in that people prefer an omnipresent voice rather than some animated animal. Perhaps the need to animate Cortana led to it’s downfall as well.

Agent was at least an open ended platform so 3rd parties could drive the agent. However like so many other innovate things Microsoft made in the late 1990’s like Internet Explorer, Comic Chat, and Active-X, Microsoft Agent is no longer supported on Windows 10 (I didn’t even try Vista or 7). Enter Double Agent, a 32bit/64bit Active-X emulator of the old Microsoft Agent control. Download some characters for end users, and install them as Administrator, and you are in business!

How cool. Now for the fun part I took the sample ‘Hello’ from the Microsoft Agent Web SDK for C, and added a named pipe, so it simply sits on \\.\pipe\agent1 and will speak anything you send it. Pretty simple, right?

Adding WSLv2

Now one of the cool things about WSL(Windows Subsystem for Linux), is that you can run Linux commands from the CMD prompt. For example:

C:\Users\jason>wsl uname -a
Linux remlazar 5.10.16.3-microsoft-standard-WSL2 #1 SMP Fri Apr 2 22:23:49 UTC 2021 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Although there is a mechanism for sharing Unix sockets between WSL & Windows, I opted for something more casual and simpler, stdio redirection and a named pipe. I instead opted for the simple command:

@wsl x=$(fortune %1);echo ${x,,} > \\.\pipe\agent1

I should add, I found the hard way that UPPERCASE words are read letter by letter by agent, so I have to do the ‘,,’ trick to force the output to lowercase. Pipes and redirects appear to be interpreted by CMD, so I opted for environment variables instead.

So with some pipes, and a simple example I now have one of those annoying desktop agents reading jokes to me from Linux. It’s not a terribly complicated or involved program, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be. I do like how reading from a pipe is a great LCD, as anything that can open a file can send data to a named pipe, so this makes it ubiquitious.

I guess if I was more involved, I’d add timers, and have the agent walk around, sleep disappear etc etc. But I’m happy enough for it to be acting as a text to speech. The only downside is once kids see it, it’ll be the greatest thing ever. Perhaps Microsoft wasn’t wrong it’s just that the magic of an animated bird reading ‘zippy the pinhead‘ fortunes appeals more to children than to adults.

I’m sure there is books written about user interfaces, and the rise and fall, and rise again of the PDA, but I wonder what they have to say about Microsoft Agent?

Citrix South Beach: aka the missing link from text to graphics

A long long time ago, in a distant continent I once interviewed at this small company called Citrix. It was some QA position, they didn’t need programmers. I’d passed the interviews easily as I’d been programming serial TSR’s so I was hip to the 8250/16450. Citrix was an interesting but troubled company. They had incredible contacts and more importantly a deal from Microsoft that gave them access to OS/2. Sadly OS/2 1.0 had been a dud, and by the time OS/2 2.00 saw even a limited release, Microsoft had pulled out of OS/2. Citrix was a company that had lost twice in what should be a big market. -Multi user commodity systems.

Citrix Multiuser 1.0 was based on OS/2 1.21, and was limited to 16bit protected mode apps. Citrix Multiuser 2.0 was based on the Limited Availability version which means that it cannot run “GA” or General Availability programs. So no 32bit programs here. Instead it can run the same 16bit protected mode applications, however it can also run MS-DOS based programs. DOS4/GW programs run so oddly enough the only real commercial stuff that can be run is MS-DOS.

So here we were 1994. Citrix had struck out twice, but this time it was going to be different, but the deal had to be re-struck again. I have no idea how they managed to secure this lucrative deal again, but Citrix was able to get access to the source access Windows NT, after the 3.1 release to 3rd parties (when they got DEC involved). By now the world had gone Windows, Office 4.2 was a thing, and on the high end side, NT had SQL & SNA, and there was most defiantly a market for multiuser systems as there had been from the old days of Unix, with the old mix of ASCII and network graphical terminals.

The CD looks like a normal-ish NT 3.5 Server CD although there is no MIPS or Alpha builds, as expected everyone at Citrix would be working and targeting the larger established i386 market.

As you can see this is Beta build 101.

In the text mode setup it looks like a normal setup program. No doubt they had better things to do than skins, wallpapers and themes. HOWEVER there is a silent IDE bug that many people will no doubt run into:

Although it works okay in short bursts, the IDE driver will send a command 28 zero byte and then shut down the controller. From this point it hangs. So that means we either need to generate all the floppy disk images (not going to happen!) or do the MS-DOS cross install. Yeah I’m doing that instead.

When setting up under Qemu, use the AMD PCNET card. It’s much easier. I set it to Twisted Pair, and PCI bus. I’m not sure if those matter all that much, but it works for me!

If you are going to use Hyper-V, you’ll need the GF100 NIC driver, but use the Windows NT 3.1 driver, as this is technically a beta of NT 3.5 and the production 3.5 driver will blue screen.

I set the driver to autosense.

I also had both Qemu and Hyper-V bluescreen when doing DHCP. I don’t know what the issue is, and I’m too old to care as I don’t have source code to South Beach, and even if I did I’d probably regret posting fixes. So static IP address it is!

Ready to login

Honestly again the air in the office when I was there is that everyone was running around like crazy to QA the product, and get ready to expand client support. While I was too much of an OS/2 fan boy, they certainly knew that from now on everything was going to be about Windows NT.

Logging into the Citrix the first fun thing to do is to define some remote terminals, using the WinStation app.

The first interesting thing is that async terminals are supported. Along with using either NetBIOS or Winsock protocols for connecting clients. Isn’t that great! TCP/IP built in!

Now for the crazy part. The only client that works is MS-DOS based. Yes there is no Win16, no Win32, no Java, no protected mode DOS, no Linux, SunOS, Solaris, DG/UX, AIX, HPUX, Xenix, UnixWare or SYSV i386ABI. ONLY Real Mode MS-DOS. Despite the connections being able to be ICA version 2 or 3, they are incompatible with newer Windows based clients from Win Frame.

This it the following list of supported protocols. Although I had Novell Lan WorkPlace and used it before for Desqview X, I can’t find it at the moment. good luck finding FTP TCP/IP, in retrospect it’s a terrible name, and for all intents and purposes it’s disappeared from the earth. So that leaves Microsoft TCP/IP. Now all the LANMAN clients have it, although this isn’t what it wants. It wants the MSCLIENT found in the “\CLIENTS\MSCLIENT\NETSETUP” path from a retail version of NT Server 3.5

The DOS client is.. very touchy. Deleting profiles can lead to a corrupted profile. Altering existing profiles well yeah can lead to a corrupted profile. I thought it was EMM386 causing issues but it locks up on it’s own.

Revenge of text mode UI

One interesting thing I found is that the text mode UI didn’t die. It’s still very much alive. As mentioned above you can connect async terminals, or even connect over the network!

Text mode does bring up a Program Manage analogue, but all my programs are graphical so it’s kind of moot. But rest assured text mode stuff works great.

PowerStation Oregon Trail

So 32bit Fortran stuff works great, what about MS-DOS?

Here is MS-DOS / Qbasic editor. Running on Citrix South Beach! Great, what about OS/2?

OS/2 F2C Dungeon

And here we go running the f2c translator through Dungeon to get an OS/2 text mode app. As you can see forcedos reveals that this isn’t a bound executable, instead it only runs on the OS/2 subsystem.

As you can see the os2.exe/os2srv components of the OS/2 subsystem

And of course it looks better on the graphical client to mix and match them all.

Win32/Win16/OS/2 all at once!

Indeed Word & Excel for NT work great alongside everything else.

Obviously somewhere post South Beach the text mode stuff dropped off. I’ll have have to dig for more, but it’s kind of neat the idea of a real text mode NT. Sadly South Beach doesn’t seem to like VMware. I haven’t dug too far, as I like WSLv2 so I’m stuck with Hyper-V. It may work fine on ESX I haven’t tested. Obviously you need the appropriate drivers, ill try to update links later, if anyone cares.

No doubt that finally Citrix was no positioned to realize the dream of multiuser commodity based hardware along with commodity applications. Of course it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows, and no doubt there was a toll needing to be paid between Windows NT 4.0 and on the way to Windows 2000. But back in 1994, things were looking good!

Interesting? Maybe. October 1991 NT SDK uses the OS/2 toolchain

The linker is from an older MS SDK, the compiler from October 1991 preview of NT

So back in the day I wrote something vague about the October 1991 preview version of Windows NT, and after messing with the tools and building f2c & dungeon (among some other stuff) one that that stuck out to me is that the object files had to be converted for NT.

cvtomf!

The interesting thing is of course that it doesn’t support the cl386 direct compile and link (hence CL). Instead you have to compile, convert and then link. A fun thing about the October 1991 version is that there is a cl386 cross compiler for OS/2. So while looking around for OMF linkers (and assemblers that either understand GAS but output OMF, or some translator) I ran across this, and well yeah, it turns out that the OS/2 tool chain is the toolchain. I guess it makes sense in that the NT team was using OS/2 to build NT, but objects and exe’s were not solidified.

I think 6.00.080 was the last version of Microsoft C 386 for OS/2. I need to start collecting more of the SDK/DDK’s of the mixed era, I think the LX/OMF stuff was a bit more widespread hiding in plain sight.

Anyways, interesting?! sure. useful? Maybe 30 years ago. Although I’d probably say just use Watcom C/C++ instead of Microsoft C 6.00

Microsoft to buy Bethesda

In the world of “If you can’t encourage an exclusive, buy it” here we are at this crossroad again. With the new MS console getting ready to be pushed out into the world, there is no doubt that we are not only in for a new deluge of Skyrim ports, but the much anticipated Starfield should be appearing on nextgen consoles, the best way to keep it exclusive is to just buy the beleaguered studio, and push onwards.

No doubt the fallout from … Fallout 76 has burnt a lot of people, so this may just further isolate their diminishing fan base, only time will tell. Or normies just don’t care about FO76 as it was some MMMMOOOORPG thing that normal people don’t care about, and all they want to do is kill dragons, and shoot lazzer beams from their hands.

One thing that is kind of fitting is that the culture of ‘release it and patch it in the field’ is in safe hands at Microsoft!

Praise be Todd!

It was 25 years ago today

32bit computing arrived to the masses. Although it’s incredibly frail by modern standards, Windows 95 did deliver on the promises of OS/2. Depending on your apps, and drivers of course. Although OS/2 did have int13.sys to pass disk calls to a special v86 machine which then used the disk BIOS to make disk access possible, Microsoft and IBM stopped short there, not going all the way letting OS/2 use MS-DOS device drivers. Windows 95, however could.

This was always the winning strategy of Windows, is that it relied on the incredible OEM driver support for MS-DOS. Of course this would also be a catastrophic weakness. From my personal experience being able to leverage ancient MS-DOS drivers also helped squeeze as much as possible out of existing hardware. Case in point, the NDIS2 drivers for the AT&T Starlan 1mbit cards worked fine under Windows 95, additionally you could lost just the lower level drivers, and 95 could then load it’s protocols on top of that stack allowing you to have a TCP/IP network over that 1mbit Starlan stack letting you telnet into your 3b2 (or setup SAMBA, and doing file/print sharing).

If anything the biggest flaw of Windows 95 was not installing TCP/IP by default. However unlike many OS’s of the time, Windows 95 did include LAN and dialup stacks. There was plenty great about OS/2, but it’s refusal to integrate networking into the operating system hamstrung things like named pipes, peer, and larger apps, as you would have to buy and license a stack of stuff to bring OS/2 up to where it should be, while NT and 95 were complete out of the box.

Windows 95 was an excellent bridge OS for the era, until OEMs finally got around to writing drivers for Windows NT. Once the mainstream could finally take that leap, and leave MS-DOS far behind. But that didn’t really happen until Windows XP.

That being said, the favorite thing is to run Windows 95 in a browser. I found https://copy.sh/v86/ the fastest and best, as it loads a short 6MB compressed core image, and you are instantly teleported to the 95 desktop.

Try it out, play some solitaire and enjoy!

Found a mirror of the old MS Ftp site

http://ftpmirror.your.org/pub/misc/ftp.microsoft.com/

The part that is interesting to me is the old OEM test directory, specifically the stress test, and the MS-DOS apps/games!

http://ftpmirror.your.org/pub/misc/ftp.microsoft.com/Products/Oemtest/v1.1/Winstress/stress/i386/stress/dos/fs4/

That’s right it’s Flight Simulator 4! .. Although it was more fun downloading it directly from Microsoft back in the day. That said you may find this one, from archive.org more interesting as it’s got a patched exe giving et4000 support!

Naturally you need to configure dosbox, or pcem to use an ET4000 compatible adapter to play this, but the driver does support 800×600 gameplay!

Yes, everyone is going nuts about the new Microsoft Flight Simulator, but I still have X and have barely touched it.

I should be all over this, but I’m not.

Going back to the FTP site, you’ll find various test builds of Excel & Word for Win16, Win32, and Windows 95! This could be the thing you need if you have to work with old documents and don’t want to go through the conversion fun. It’s a treasure trove of testing apps for mucking around on a typhoon kind of day.

Microsoft to delete legacy updates in the great SHA-1 purge

Get ready to see this quite often.

From the article here, on August 3rd, (aka yesterday) the purge will be complete. Instead of introducing an update to verify SHA-2 into legacy systems, and re-signing old updates, instead MS has taken the path of obsolesce and pulled the downloads instead.

And we’ve been here before.

Microsoft movie maker was a popular download for Windows XP, and MS removed the download, as hosting it was apparently encouraging people to keep on using XP. Naturally this wasn’t taken as a message that people wanted this kind of product, and why fill a void when you can remove a product? So now the majority of downloads that you will find are infected, corrupted and just going to cause further problems.

And here we go again.

Office 2003 SP1 is no more

A quick search on BING for MS Office 2003 updates still shows links, but they are simply no more. The purge is in full force, and search pages haven’t caught up. And as you can see cnet is already in the top downloads, and will become the authoritative download by fiat.

Also the early .NET’s deployment packages are no longer for download, while .NET 1.1 SP1 is still online surprisingly. For reference:

$ shasum -a 512256 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
7b44095feff471dee9366a2153dfe2654d70754c21b7e5204ed950cdf4a3f15a  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe

For what it’s worth.

Calculating with shasum offers a few algorighims as this isn’t a simple one shot deal.

-a, --algorithm   1 (default), 224, 256, 384, 512, 512224, 512256

Naturally to add further confusion. Like everything with crypto, it’s so easy to mess it up.

$ shasum -a 1 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
74a5b25d65a70b8ecd6a9c301a0aea10d8483a23  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 224 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
18507f80722780ca477d7f10528ae28dd176f8d36cbce05a50cc7be0  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 256 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
2c0a35409ff0873cfa28b70b8224e9aca2362241c1f0ed6f622fef8d4722fd9a  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 384 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
c2372c71f93b5dc2a1c21c804bc74e27d82bfa45ee50fbc9037e713c156f1c591ffbe5e87f94022157906098916403b4  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 512 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
bbe643f447f49636732b12d23a052d02681ad41f6920dc1038b073fa600f7589b378ed8e7de97e811543d93ae89ce52871a85ee58aa3b6aeaddc01bc1617ad85  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 512224 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
63b2ffb0c5f1cd68abafba23997482b2087d486dcf60bec6fef7446d  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe
$ shasum -a 512256 NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe 
7b44095feff471dee9366a2153dfe2654d70754c21b7e5204ed950cdf4a3f15a  NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe

Oddly enough a quick search for these checksums isn’t coming up with anything so I guess I’m first. Which of course is a further problem, is that there is no authoritative source from MS. I get the contract obsolescence thing, after-all the strongest competition to NEW MS products is OLD MS products. I still use Excel 3 & MS Word 2, despite having an Office 365 subscription, and various newer versions retail.

The sad thing is that many people will get screwed over from this action, and the only “solution” is of course move to Windows 10, embrace the new, and hope that you don’t have applications that actually require .NET 1.1 (or 1.0!).

Living with ARM for a week

So after the crazed purchase I made a few weeks ago, I returned from Japan, and was able to unbox and use the machine I’d been wanting for a while, a non x86 Windows laptop!

The NovaGo has a Snapdragon 835, and my phone, the ASUS ROG phone has the 845. Yes for this week, my cellphone actually has the stronger processor than my computer. Honestly this is almost an unthinkable situation! Although I haven’t been using my phone as a desktop substitute this week. It’s amazing how MS screwed up 10 on the phones, and Continium.

By default it comes crippled with this ‘S’ mode Windows, which hearkens back to the Windows RT launch, with the difference that it’s a quick trip to the application store to unlock Windows 10 Professional. It’s a free download as it should be, and it doesn’t even require a reboot!

Build quality isn’t so bad, the screen folds all the way back to make the machine into a ‘tablet’ although I don’t like that mode so much, it just feels wrong to wrap a keyboard around a monitor. However if you have rambunctious young kids, it’s great as when someone went running by me flailing their arms around like a while animal, when they struck the laptop the screen could easily fold back 180 degrees. Yay.

My first thing to do after setting up Office and VMWare VDI was to install the Linux subsystem, and Ubuntu. it’s exactly the same as it is on x86_64, which is great. And this let’s me have the best of both worlds, just like x86_64. As much as I dislike stumbling around with that aborted child of Pascal & Fortran (Python) at least I can run it under (mostly) Linux to get something close to like the production environment.

The C/C++ compiler is actually all cross tools. I wanted CLI only stuff because I like torturing myself, and it required a few GB of downloads. The good news is that the latest Windows 10 SDK does support GDI/CLI apps, so no crazy SDK hacking required, unlike back in the Windows RT days. Oddly enough the Taskforce 87 interpreter runs fine, but nothing else does.

I did a horrible job at hacking up SDL 1.2 to at least run (kind of, the audio doesn’t work, and it’s all WinDB *EDIT I got it fixed!!!) I got a few things up and running, including DOSBox and FrontVM. One thing that greatly helps is that i386 binaries ‘just work’. Honestly you wouldn’t even know you are running them when you are. Which made hunting down the ARM64 version of Chromium Edge kind of difficult to find. There really needs to be a more apparent way to tell them apart, if anything for battery efficiency.

As pictured, SQL Server 4.21a runs just fine, again you wouldn’t even notice. Same for Visual C++ 1.0 & FORTRAN PowerStation 1.0.

Again the audio in my crap SDL build doesn’t work, so DOSBox is silent, and without Direct X, the text mode is tiny. Oh also, there is no OpenGL in this version of Windows dev kit for some reason. Running ssystem is ungodly slow. Also the default optimizations seems to be Os, optimize for space, and on this ASUS I have to say /Ox is way way faster. DooM is quite playable on DOSBox when build with /Ox, unlike /Os.

For me, I spend most of my day to day in Office, and VMWare VDI, connecting to secure networks. So I’m just one step above a terminal. Which I guess is kind of sad, but this machine more than fills that roll for me. The 120GB of storage is tight. This isn’t a development machine persay, nor is it something to download tonnes of data to, it’s a lightweight machine where it’s strength is the built in 4G modem, and when running ARM software the longer battery life. To me the biggest drawback is that the keyboard isn’t backlit. Even though I touch type, I didn’t realize how much I’d grown used to it for casual use.

I guess it’s a hard toss up from this and a PINEBOOK Pro, I think most readers here would prefer the Pinebook, for all it’s openness, although I still like the idea of being able to copy over the Win32s version of Lemmings, and it just running. For me I kind of like this thing, although once I switch back to an x86_64 with more memory, better GPU and disk options, maybe this just feels like some kids toy.

Neko98 ARM!

I don’t know how I didn’t think of this, but I also ported Neko98! Although the STL is having an issue with the ‘control panel’ so Neko is on autopilot.

This app can’t run on your PC

As for the emulation, it is 32bit only, so expect to see this stupid message quite a bit. The neckbeard is a nice touch though.

Also built into the thing is a cell modem. I guess it’s really not a surprise as the 835 really is a cellphone SOC. I have a ‘wifi egg’ as they are called here, a WiFi hotspot with unlimited internet from CLS, which is on the old 4G network. I popped the SIM in, and it picked up the APN settings on it’s own and I was connected in under a minute. I have to say that it’s about time that SIM cards have this stuff programmed into them for a plug & play experience. And thankfully the ASUS is unlocked, although from what I understand these were sold in the USA bundled with some cell service plans.

For anyone with one of these rare machines that cares to play along you can find my built stuff on my ‘vpsland’ archive:

https://vpsland.superglobalmegacorp.com/install/Windows10-ARM/

And the f2c/dungeon build along with the C/C++ compiler is in the aptly named dungeon-2.5.6-ARM(32bit)-win32.zip file.