Merry Christmas

From my daughter

It’s been a trying year, and despite the HKPF’s best efforts to make it a terrible one, we won’t let them. If anything the events of the year just make family and friends all the more precious, just is our time with them.

There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, and that list of could of, should have builds.. Its tough. In spite of it all I’ve still managed to do my own “out reach” helping kids where I can help with internships, books, food or even a shoulder to cry.

It’s been a trying year. But life, it goes on.

So Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas came early!

Iv’e been in Japan the last 10 days, but upon my return to Hong Kong this little 9kg box was eagerly awaiting me!

I know that ‘unboxing’ donation videos are quite popular, but I thought I’d do the blog equivalent. I don’t want to ‘out’ the sender, although I did email them back a big THANKS, although I didn’t get a reply. Maybe it’s an email thing but I wanted to tell them THANKS again!

To start is a bunch of loose CD’s including old SDK’s, and the infamous Windows 2000 RC1 set including Dec Alpha builds of workstation & server. Also in there is Beta 3 of Windows 98! Cool!

In the box was also Back Office 45, Visual C++ 6.0, a sealed copy of Windows 2000 Server, Visual Studio 2005 Standard and Expression Studio 2.

I’ve always loved this, it’s NT 4.0 and all the good bits of 1997, like Exchange 5.5 & IIS 4.0! Also in there is a copy of Outlook 2000, so this is a much later build/packaging of Back Office 4.5 . I’ve always wondered how many if any Back Office purchasers ever used SNA Server. I’ve seen it something exclusively used in real enterprises that have site licenses anyways.

Visual C 6.0 is the last x86 compiler that was ‘pure’ before the .NET invasion. Although you can with a bit of work get 2003 and onward to build for strict Win32, but who wants to work? This is getting increasingly hard to find, and getting far more expensive. But it’s great to have this in retail in the box again! (I used to have this and Visual Studio 97/6.0).

It almost feels wrong to break the seal on this, although I’ll probably do an active directory deployment eventually now that I have machines running in the USA, Hong Kong, and Japan.

I’m super thankful for all of this, and if anyone else wants to send me their ‘old / obsolete junk’ drop me a line!

Quake 2 for the RTX just got updated

Back when OpenGL accelerated hardware became a thing at the consumer level (and even non OpenGL, like the Rendition Verite v1000E !) games like Quake suddenly took on an entirely new life, with the amazing ‘realism’ that OpenGL could bring. And what an amazing change it was from the software renderer.

I had bought the Diamond Fire GL 1000, and it honestly kinda sucked. It did the OpenGL demo’s okayish under Windows NT, but Quake, not so much. But it was a sign of things to some, as I could run the 3D pipes screensaver without running the CPU at 100% But the Fire was meant more so for ‘adult’ or productive things, not for playing a game.

Oh how times haven’t changed all that much.

new glass!

At any rate, Quake II for the RTX, has been updated on Steam. It’s hard to believe it, but it looks even more so amazing than before. The ‘solid glass’ option looks pretty nice too.

At the moment I don’t have anything else really RTX ready so to speak. But it ssure looks pretty amazing!

It’s crazy how old computer hardware holds no value

But at the same time there is great value in old computer hardware.

In my opinion around 2006-2007 we basically hit peak computing. The biggest restrictions I see on older machines is memory sizes, and disk speeds. And for the most part these can be taken care of with ease, although many chipsets and formfactors of the time seem to have these incredibly tiny 8Gb/16Gb/32Gb limitations that just really are annoying in the distant future of 2019 when you may want to run a few things at once.

Yes, ‘Mouse’ computer is a thing

So I bought this used i640GA6-BDO, an i7 machine oem’d by mouse computer. Yes the name of the business is the same name as the 2nd most popular peripheral of all time. From the blurb:

From the “NEXTGEAR series” with high cooling and excellent maintainability, Intel® Core™ i7-4790K processor, dual channel 16GB memory, 1TB hard disk (7200rpm), DVD super multidrive, NVIDIA ® GeForce® GTX™ .970, 80PLUS® BRONZE certified700W power supply, pre-installed Windows 8.1 Update i640GA6-BDO” is 149,800 yen.

I paid just over 20,000 yen for this machine. So losing some 120,000 yen, or about 80% of it’s value over 5 years is certainly not a good investment proposition. It seemed like a good bargain.

Finding the corporate website was NOT easy, but thankfully they own mouse-jp.co.jp so one of those wild guesses turned out being right. They seem highly influenced by the ‘idol group’ thing that is popular and japan, and they have an extensive YouTube channel over at MouseComputer2010. And an extensive ad gallery.

They even have the making of videos. I could find so much about the advertising and various talent, but the machines… that was much more difficult than I could imagine.

The build quality however left a bit to be desired, when I turned it on and jumped into the BIOS the first thing that I noticed was that it ran HOT.

75c in under a minute!

So yeah 75c in under a minute is not a good thing. The water pump was making a weird noise as the bearings were clearly shot, and it’s just not circulating anywhere near fast enough.

Although I didn’t take a picture I was able to find one online, that shows that despite the bottom of the case has a big slot for the PSU fan, but the fan was pointing up into the case, not venting to the bottom.

I guess that the original owner got rid of the machine as it was overheating, and/or thermal throttling. I ended up going back out looking for a new cooling solution, and I was torn between a cheap fan thing for $10 or another all-in-one liquid cooler for $50. I decided to go with the all-in-one, as this machine was originally liquid cooled anyways.

I’m not sure why everything needs a cartoon..

The machine also had no storage, so I also picked up a M.2 drive, and a spinning rust disk. I have to say that even for this ancient machine, it’s great it had a M.2 slot, and WOW I thought SSD was fast, but this positively blows it away!

While I was out I see this former holy grail of GPU’s a Nvidia GTX 980 for ¥12,000. Now granted the machine I picked up has a GTX 970, a nice touch as I wasn’t expecting anything, but I can always use another DVI capable card back at home, so I’m probably taking that along with the i5 back to my HK office.

Now the real killer is that the card is a ASUS GTX, and looking around online it’s the STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5 model.

I look around and find it on Amazon, and if the ad thing is to be believed the new price on this thing was ¥70,900! Looking around on that part number also shows kakaku.com with a list price of ¥73,480!

So granted the card is 5 years old now, but wow what a drop in price! It’s one more stop away from the junk piles that the other 9xx’s currently are (I’ve seen boxes of Zotac 750’s and up).

Naturally of course, like the i7, this card also had issues the moment I put it into my PC. The screen was flashing with garbage, and it’d eventually lead to a system freeze after a few minutes. What a pain, bad memory I suppose. And like the PC, I took the card apart, cleaned up the old thermal compound, and added some new generic stuff, put it together, and left it running The Outer Worlds at ultra high settings just fine. Who knows, maybe it’ll break later on, I don’t know, but I now have a ‘high end 5 year old’ gaming system for about the same or slightly more than a PS4. And I could be wrong but i’d like to think an i7/980 would crush a PS4. Although I could be wrong.

Naturally running cinebench 14, basically shows that the 970 & the 980 perform so close to each-other it makes no real difference. Although the fan setup on the 980 is far more aggressive, and it runs much more quieter. So that’s a nice bonus.

And if userbenchmark.com can be trusted, the performance difference from the 980 to the 1080, isn’t all that bad. It’s unreal that now even with 2nd generation RTX 2080’s out there, the 1080 is still an expensive GPU.

So, sometimes it may be worth looking at the junk piles. Although at the same time if you have nothing, the new/lowend stuff like the 1030’s/1050’s really aren’t so bad either. But for some reason I always seem to like yesterdays powerhouse.

The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long…

Maybe I was just a strange kid, maybe it’s just an artifact of growing up in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), where Citytv would put the film on immediately after Auld Lang Syne would finish. A great way to start the new year. (Incidentally in a weird way many stores in Japan will play Auld Lang Syne when they are closing)

2019 seemed such a long far off date, and yet here we are.

Since I’m tagged as a game site, back in the late 90’s there was even a Blade Runner game! You can find it over on archive.org, patched and ‘fixed’ for modern systems (I had to run the bladexp on my Fujitsu machine running Windows 10), although considering the PII 233 I had back then, and this thing clocking in at 2.9Ghz the game play is very pokey. At the time it was an amazing game, with so much CGI, interwoven animations, and all the voice acting. Set in scenes reminisce of the film, it starts down a very familiar path, then goes off the rails during the predictable plot twist, but opens up enough paths to lead to a few moral choices and thusly different outcomes.

I dare say in 1997 that it really was ground breaking technology to give the look, feel and aesthetic of Blade Runner, and they even got the rights to use hints of the Vangelis score here & there, leaning on the old and trying to go in a new direction.

But compared to modern pacing it may be awfully slow, totally on rails, and one of those point & click, and find the hidden thing in the scene, along with click the person 100x to get different answers. While not as dire as ‘I have no mouth,and I must scream’ where you are hoping for the least worst ending, Blade Runner does have that optimistic style ending that was pushed onto the film’s original ambiguous ending where Deckard holds the unicorn and hears Gaf’s message implying that even if Rachel isn’t retired, that she doesn’t have very long to live. Just as he very well might not have long to live.

The game is almost maditory for real fanatics of scifi fans of the 1980’s, but odds are if you are, you’d have played this game back when it released.

As for the kids of today… I imagine that Blade Runner would be pretty much like 2001. Slow, confusing and messy. As Harrison Ford put it, it’s a detective who doesn’t detect. Just as both films feature legendary Directors who establish amazing worlds, and atmospheres they deliberately remove the humanity from the humans, and entrust it to the machines, the real torch barres of the future. Sometimes I wonder if Riddly Scott grasped the human angle of the final confrontation, and why there was so many misfirings with Prometheus and Covenant…. But that disappointment is for another time.

One thing that really established the aesthetic of Cyberpunk was Sir Run Run Shaw’s involvement in producing the film, as the Hong Kong Ladie’s Market, Shum Shai Po, and Mong Kong give that impression for the November 2019 that isn’t quite reality. Just as that ancient novel Neuromancer, established forever the vibe of Chiba having the sky that felt like a TV set to a dead channel (I’m currently across the bay in Tokyo, and it’s a nice blue.. How future prophetic), where that feeling of old tube televisions displaying the noise of the electromagnetic storm of the stars & the solar wind, would give us the old gray snow. Now forever replaced with the clear blue skies.

Despite the Orwellian nature of the wonderful internet, the brave new world feeling of the ‘licensed’ clinics of Shenzhen in many ways the future is brighter today, than it would have been in the 1980’s version of today.

December 14th, the end of Yahoo! groups

Oddly enough these things have been going on since 2001, and have been curated gardens instead of the mess that is usenet (which is still operational!), or private mailing lists.

The 2 that Im on are the Hercules 390 group which moved to group.io. While other groups like H390-music (MUSIC/SP the Canadian mainframe OS with internet hooks) that sadly died along with it’s author, is probably going to be purged from the internet.

Along with other things like pdos, or even the board game Supremacy.

I don’t know what the answer is, other than to always have downloadable mailing list archives, and never trust a single place. So much stuff is deleted to save trivial amounts of space, and neither corporations nor government institutions can be trusted to maintain anything.

Thankfully there is archive.org, but who backs them up?

RSS update?

So RSS on wordpress has been broken for ages now. Every time I add a video or audio sample to the page it’ll break. Also many times I’m using a NON US keyboard/OS/layout or something that’ll break the encoding apparently.

So I added some plugin to create yet another feed with bare minimum content, as again images/media and meta data break RSS.

https://virtuallyfun.com/wordpress/?call_custom_simple_rss=1

Otherwise yeah, the whole ‘The internet is only a single program provided by a single company’ really sucks. As much as Id like to move to my own blog platform thing, I don’t have the time to watch it 24x7x365 for security issues, nor do I have enough money to hire a full time team to deal with it.

Sucks man.

How not to store optical media

Or how I finally broke down and bought that MkLinux book after all these decades. When I did own a PowerPC Mac as my daily driver it was an iMac back in 1999 and I ran OS X Server. I later bought a G4 to only find out that OS X didn’t support the G4. Linux had issues too and I ended up running OpenBSD on the G4. Which was fun, although for the ‘work at home’ bit, I ended up needing Windows NT 4.0, so I ran that in OS 8 on SoftPC. Yay.

I didn’t have any luck with Linux on Power as MkLinux wanted the beige hardware, and by the time I felt like digging in again to Linux, OS X had finally been ported to the G4 Sawtooth’s so it really didn’t matter.

What secrets lie inside?

I’d seen this book in a store but it was pretty expensive, and geared to such a tiny market. Although Mach does compile on the i386, why they didn’t include it was well to push Mach/Linux as a platform well that’s beyond me. Then again looking at the stunning success of Darwin on i386/x86_64 I guess the reality is, why bother.

I ordered this on Ebay, for the usual $5 plus $10 to ship, and it just showed up today! What mysteries lie on the CD-ROMs? I know others have posted stuff, but I wanted to hold them in my hands myself.

Uh-oh

I didn’t know if the CD-ROM’s were included, and I first thought I got lucky: not only were they included, neither had been opened up before! These CD’s had been packed way like this for the last 22.5 years! Now for the bad part.

Ink transfer

See that stupid leaflet in the back? Yeah well it turns out that it was a really stupid idea. No doubt this thing sat in the bottom of a stack for decades where the ink had been pressed for so long against the disk that it has transferred to the surface.

HOW ANNOYING.

Gag me with a spoon…

So yes, they actually advertise the book, namely the one that I had bought with some crap ink leaflet in the CD-ROM pouch and it’s transferred to the disc.

Sigh.

I tried rubbing alcohol but that had no effect. I tried rubbing with a credit card, and it got a little off, but I fear I’m just going to damage the surface more.

I can only imagine what other CD-ROM’s out there that haven’t been archived are sitting under hundreds or thousands of pounds of book weight having nonsense imprinted onto them.

At least the second CD-ROM doesn’t suffer this defect and I’ll be uploading it later.

No book review yet, I’m just sitting here with this impacted CD.

UPDATE

Thanks to Shawn Novak for uploading the R3 images so I can at least pull up the compatible machines:

The latest Qemu can pull it the image fine, however trying to boot up looks like the Mach kernel just isn’t compatible enough with the emulated Mac99 machine (which isn’t surprising).

I’ll need to mess with stuff to see if the G3beige can boot Linux on Qemu, and if the BootX (I think it’s bootx?) can load the mach kernel.

I’m not dead

It’s just been really busy with this move, unpacking and the usual losing things, finding things and breaking things.

In the middle of it all, I found something online, that I want to at least do some proper article thing about… As it’s been really exciting, and goes back to the first month I started this blog.

Outside of NeXTSTEP, the other i386 commercial version of Mach 2.5 surfaced, the Mt Xinu version!

Even better, a few years ago, I had stumbled onto the source code for 2.5 buried on the 4th disc of the CSRG set, and with a LOT of luck and persistence I can confirm that the sources are complete enough to build.

loading vmunix.sys
rearranging symbols
text	data	bss	dec	hex
389088	45564	101364	536016	82dd0
ln vmunix.sys vmunix; ln vmunix vmunix.I386x.STD+WS-afs-nfs

However, as luck always has it, start.s in the i386 code does something weird at the 3GB mark causing a triple fault on any kind of modern emulation/virtualization setup.

    / Fix up the 1st, 3 giga and last entries in the page directory
    mov     $EXT(kpde), %ebx
    and     $MASK, %ebx

    mov     $EXT(kpte), %eax
    and     $0xffff000, %eax
    or      $0x1, %eax

    mov     %eax, (%ebx)
    mov     %eax, 3072(%ebx)        / 3 giga -- C0000000

    mov     $EXT(kpde), %edx
    and     $MASK, %edx

Not all that sure why, but at least on Bochs, I can see the triple fault.

00036527018d[CPU0  ] page walk for address 0x0000000000101122
00036527018d[CPU0  ] page walk for address 0x00000000e0000011
00036527018d[CPU0  ] PDE: entry not present
00036527018d[CPU0  ] page fault for address 00000000e0000011 @ 0000000000101124
00036527018d[CPU0  ] exception(0x0e): error_code=0002
00036527018d[CPU0  ] interrupt(): vector = 0e, TYPE = 3, EXT = 1
00036527018d[CPU0  ] page walk for address 0x00000000c0161370
00036527018d[CPU0  ] PDE: entry not present
00036527018d[CPU0  ] page fault for address 00000000c0161370 @ 0000000000101122
00036527018d[CPU0  ] exception(0x0e): error_code=0000
00036527018d[CPU0  ] exception(0x08): error_code=0000
00036527018d[CPU0  ] interrupt(): vector = 08, TYPE = 3, EXT = 1
00036527018d[CPU0  ] page walk for address 0x00000000c0161340
00036527018d[CPU0  ] PDE: entry not present
00036527018d[CPU0  ] page fault for address 00000000c0161340 @ 0000000000101122
00036527018d[CPU0  ] exception(0x0e): error_code=0000
00036527018i[CPU0  ] CPU is in protected mode (active)
00036527018i[CPU0  ] CS.mode = 32 bit
00036527018i[CPU0  ] SS.mode = 32 bit
00036527018i[CPU0  ] EFER   = 0x00000000
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | EAX=e0000011  EBX=0015f000  ECX=00161dc1  EDX=0015f000
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | ESP=0000efbc  EBP=0000efbc  ESI=00193fb8  EDI=00009d84
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | IOPL=0 id vip vif ac vm RF nt of df if tf SF zf af PF cf
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | SEG sltr(index|ti|rpl)     base    limit G D
00036527018i[CPU0  ] |  CS:0028( 0005| 0|  0) 00000000 ffffffff 1 1
00036527018i[CPU0  ] |  DS:0020( 0004| 0|  0) 00000000 ffffffff 1 1
00036527018i[CPU0  ] |  SS:0010( 0002| 0|  0) 00001000 0000ffff 0 1
00036527018i[CPU0  ] |  ES:0020( 0004| 0|  0) 00000000 ffffffff 1 1
00036527018i[CPU0  ] |  FS:0000( 0005| 0|  0) 00000000 0000ffff 0 0
00036527018i[CPU0  ] |  GS:0000( 0005| 0|  0) 00000000 0000ffff 0 0
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | EIP=00101122 (00101122)
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | CR0=0xe0000011 CR2=0xc0161340
00036527018i[CPU0  ] | CR3=0x00000000 CR4=0x00000000
00036527018i[CPU0  ] 0x0000000000101122>> add byte ptr ds:[eax], al : 0000
00036527018d[SIM   ] searching for component 'cpu' in list 'bochs'
00036527018d[SIM   ] searching for component 'reset_on_triple_fault' in list 'cpu'
00036527018e[CPU0  ] exception(): 3rd (14) exception with no resolution, shutdown status is 00h, resetting

Mach 3.0 doesn’t do this, so I’ll have to dig far deeper into start.s which is kind of really beyond me.

Building a boot disk … is involved. 😐

rm -rf /usr/src/mach25-i386/obj
mkdir /usr/src/mach25-i386/obj
cd /usr/src/mach25-i386/standi386at/boot
make fdboot
/home/user/mkfs /dev/rfloppy 2880 18 2 4096 512 32 1
dd if=/usr/src/mach25-i386/obj/standi386at/boot/boot.fd of=/dev/rfd0d
/home/user/fsck -y /dev/rfloppy
cd /usr/src/mach25-i386/
make
mount /dev/floppy /mnt
cp /usr/src/mach25-i386/obj/STD+WS-afs-nfs/vmunix /mnt
sync
umount /mnt
/home/user/fsck -y /dev/rfloppy

So, I’m not all that dead. For anyone super impatient, you can download my VMDK here, which runs on Qemu & VMware, it includes a serial terminal on COM1 so you can use a real terminal, and if you are like me, uuencode/uudecode files in & out of the system. As always read the 404 page for the current username/password.