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.

Just made a drunk purchase… Not too mad

NovaGo!!

I’ve been a hidden long time fan of non x86 NT, I’ve owned Alphas and PowerPC (still sadly no MIPS), and when it came to the arm platform, ive since picked up the Surface RT and the Surface 2 RT. YouTube works fine on both, although the 2 is far faster and overall nicer user experience. I use the 1st Gen as a winamp player as it’s easier to jailbreak and cross compile to and mess with. But locked down Windows 8.0 for arm is insanely limited.

Enter Windows 10 and another botched shot at Windows on ARM for the general consumer. These ship with a S limited version of windows, which apparently can be easily unlocked to full 10 pro. I chose the Asus as it’s a laptop, and has more ram than the HP. Both however should be enough for casual day to day usage of office and edge chromium. I’ll have to see how it goes for either cross or native compiling.

Although the arm in these machines is 64bit, is there 32bit user land at all? Is it still possible to maintain a 32bit userland of gcc 1/2 and binutils for legacy compiles? How terrible is x86 qemu on arm emulation? DOSBox native? I guess SDL should be a simple rebuild like NT MIPS?

I’m also curious about WineVDM and MS-DOS player.

Oh well, I’m just waiting for a flight in the airport, going slowly insane.

UPDATE on the ASUS here:

My conclusion is really that the biggest problems with the physical machine is the lack of a backlit keyboard, and the tiny storage. Windows on ARM feels like a solution looking for a problem, but the obtuse problem is non x86 diversity. And in those regards it’s pretty much working fine.

But looking forward to a non x86 usable machine. I even have an unlimited chip for Hong Kong. It’ll be interesting if it can keep up for me, and if I’ve finally hit Ted Smith FORTRAN Maximum usage. Although this has no floppy drives.

WDF_VIOLATION on Apple Macintosh

So I bit the bullet and updated to Windows 10 build 1903. And then the fun started on my glorious 2006 MacPro. It finished the update, and on reboot I get the login screen, and then almost immediately a blue screen.

Naturally the QR code is useless as it doesn’t specify any stop codes, and the minidump… Well that requires gigabytes and gigabytes of crap to download to get a tool to read it. (I still haven’t finished that rabbit hole, like COME ON! why isn’t it included?!).

However after hitting F8 a million times, I found that safe mode & networking work just great. Searching online was basically useless as there was no specific stop code to go with this WDF_VIOLATION. Further looking around I did notice one thing, and that it was all Macintosh machines that crash out to this WDF_VIOLATION error. It must be something specific to the Apple hardware running Windows 10!?

Armed with this (dis)information, I went ahead and disabled all the Apple specific drivers & startup items.

From msconfig.exe:

From MSCONFIG.EXE I disabled the following services:

  • Apple OS Switch Manager
  • Apple Time Service

And in the task manager, I disabled the following startup items:

  • Realtek HD Audio Manager
  • Boot Camp Manager

I had the other VMWare serial & USB hook previously disabled, as I just don’t want them at all on my setup. The big upshot is that after rebooting out of safe mode, I’m now up and running on Windows build 1903.

Considering the BootCamp stuff was so woefully out of date, don’t expect Apple to fix this anytime soon. And since I’m on a MacPro 2006, I certainly won’t be getting any updates from Apple. But at least I can struggle to keep this thing up to date otherwise.

Now I can enjoy that ‘new command prompt’ everyone keeps telling me about.

***UPDATE***

I went through this on another Bootcamp Mac, and what I had to do was uninstall the “Boot Camp Services”. It’s startup component triggers the bluescreen as it’s doing some nonsensical inventory, banging around on the drivers in a not friendly way. I had version 4.0.4033 of the Boot Camp Services installed.

Uninstall Boot Camp Services version 4.0.4033

Removing this kept all the old drivers, which continue to work just fine.

VC6 Ultimate updates

I’ve been trading emails with various people from the project after I had made my post, and helping them integrate more of Visual Studio 2003 into the project and working through a few issues to bring far better compatibility to VS 2003.

And the best part is being able to build projects in parallel!

10.2 seconds in parallel!

I haven’t ordered new processors, so the 2.1Ghz parts are… lacking. However being able to use all available cores makes building DOSBox pretty fast.

Restricting the build to a single process takes 1:13 while the full parallel build on this machine takes a mere 10 seconds!

So absolutely check out VC6Ultimate!

Visual Studio .net Enterprise Architect

I uh, also saw this on archive.org, which may help people looking for this stuff from the future as old tools get harder and harder to find. Especially bigger editions like the Enterprise Architect version.

So I was building a Windows 2019 server

As I got a ‘totally legit’ serial code in my box of cereal.

After the install I thought it’d be fun to install the Linux Subsystem.

While following the powershell instructions here, I thought the list of quick links of distros to download was interesting:

That’s right ARM Linux userland! I still have high hopes for Windows on ARM (I have 2 Windows RT devices now!!) although I’m not holding my breath.

Maybe there will be some ARM boards that are suitable for the desktop that aren’t over 1k USD.. That’d be nice.

Interesting trivia is that the Linux Subsystem started it’s life on ARM as a way to run Android binaries on Windows Phone. And true to everything Microsoft does, it got to the point where it could start to run things (albeit poorly) and was summarily killed. Although it’s found life despite the original false start as a general ‘text mode’ subsystem for Windows.

However running Linux binaries on Windows currently just shows that NTOS isn’t as efficient as the Linux kernel when it comes to emulating the Linux ABI. Although this was the original ‘dream’ of the microkernel, and a POSIX subsystem for NT was always part of the original design, although it really was more of a checkbox for GSA contracts, and outside of being able to use pax & vi it really was handicapped by not having BSD extensions, and especially by not having any access to the TCP/IP stack.

EDIT*

I should add these notes from the future past for the future me, when messing around with Windows Server 2019 build 1809 when they finally brought the Linux Subsystem into the fold. Unpacking the distribution and running the ‘setup’ sets it up DIRECTLY into that directory. So put it where you want it.

When you mess that up, you have to use the wslconfig program!

Of note is:

wslconfig /list /all
Lists all distributions, including ones that aren’t currently usable. They may be in the process of installing, uninstalling, or are in a broken state.

wslconfig /unregister <DistributionName>
Unregisters the distribution from WSL so it can be reinstalled or cleaned up.

This way you can now clean up your mess, and get Linux installed right.

VC6 Ultimate


I saw this the other day, VC6 Ultimate. It’s an interesting ‘update’ on the old Visual C++ 6.0 product with an improved UI, along with updated compiler toolchain taken from later versions of Visual C++. Naturally something like this is 1000000% unofficial.

Features include:

  • Portable and compatible with Win7 / Win10
    bye bye regedit, hello .hjson setting file !
    also meaning it should not mess with your current install
  • More compatible compiler
    multicore version of VC7.1 compiler (It’s fast)
    you can compile with other compilers (64bit), but not debug yet
  • Real-time highlighting and diagnostics
    based on libclang 6.0 and compatible with VisualAssistX
  • Real multicursor editing
    search, sort, number, evaluate, etc. while in multicursor mode
  • Improved UX and UI
    32bit icons, dark skin, lot of visual hints
    multi-monitor friendly
    revamped dialogs (project settings, threads, breakpoints, …)
    searchable command palette
  • It’s free (as in free beer)
    ever had to pay for a birthday present ? ūüėČ
  • Every change has a toggle
    only take what you like, but we can not check each combination
  • It’s an internal spare time project
    don’t expect everything to work in every setup, but feel free to reach out

Included in the bundle is the following compilers:

  • clang version 3.8.0 (branches/release_38)
    Target: i686-pc-windows-msvc
  • Microsoft (R) 32-bit C/C++ Optimizing Compiler Version 13.10.6030 for 80×86
    Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation 1984-2002. All rights reserved.
  • Microsoft (R) C/C++ Optimizing Compiler Version 14.00.40310.41 for AMD64
    Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

It’s an interesting project, although I tried to re-build some Visual C++ 2003 projects and it bombed out. Maybe it’s just more geared towards VC 6 as indicated.

You can download it here

https://gitlab.com/VC6Ultimate/VC6Ultimate

Installing Windows 10 pro onto an older Mac Pro

So I have this 2006 Mac Pro 1,1 that I’ve had laying around and I wanted to put my old Nvidia 1030 into it, along with Windows 10 for a newer (stronger?) home machine.

So I burnt the downloadable ISO from Microsoft onto a DVD, tried to boot it up and got this:

Ignore the microwave…

I got stuck at this “Select CD-ROM Boot Type : ” prompt, which you can’t type anything into. Apparently it’s a common and known issue with 64bit boot code, as the older Intel Apple Mac’s are of course 32bit only. So there is a fix, you have to use something called “oscdimg” to rebuild the ISO with a 32bit friendly loader.

So first I just used 7zip to extract the downloaded ISO, and then create the new 32bit ISO with the following:

oscdimg -n -m -bc:\temp\Windows10\boot\etfsboot.com c:\temp\Windows10 c:\temp\LegacyBootWindows10dvd.iso

And yes, it boots!

Brigadier

Now what about those special ‘bootcamp’ drivers? Obviously under Windows 10 there is no nice way to get the ones you want. And what about which model/download package to get?

Then I found Brigadier!

It’ll probe your hardware type and grab the drivers for you!

https://github.com/timsutton/brigadier/releases

Wanted: Console Text Editor for Windows

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

Since 2012 or so Microsoft is pushing concept of running Windows Server headless without GUI and administering everything through PowerShell. I remember sitting through countless TechEd / Ignite sessions year after year and all I could see were blue PowerShell command prompts everywhere. No more wizards and forms, MMC and GUI based administration is suddenly thing of a past. Just take a look at Server Core, WinPE, Nano, PS Remoting, Windows SSH server, Recovery Console and Emergency Management Services. Even System Center is a front end for PowerShell. Nowadays everything seems to be text mode.

This overall is good news and great improvement since previous generations of Windows, but what if you need to create or edit a PowerShell, CMD script or some config file?

Oooops, looks like you are screwed. Seems that Redmond forgot to include most crucial tool in sysadmin‚Äôs job ‚Äď a simple text mode editor. WTF Microsoft?

So, are there any 3rd party alternatives? Yes, and there are and quite a lot of them! Unfortunately none are perfect and most are old and unmaintained. This article aims to be a grand tour of whatever is available out there.

Note that throughout the article I will be repeatedly referring to a ‚Äúportable‚ÄĚ editor, that for me means single .exe file that can be carried around on a USB pen drive or network share. I also cry a lot about 64-bit Windows builds because I work a lot in WinPE and other environments where¬†syswow64 is not available.¬†

First lets start with most obvious choices well known through intertubes. If you search for a Windows Console Editor VIM and Emacs will naturally pop up first.These editors don’t need any introduction or praising. I use VIM every day and Emacs every now and then. These two had ports to Windows for as long as I can remember and in terms of quality and stability definitely up top. The problem is that both are completely foreign and just plain unusable to a typical Windows user and learning curve is pretty steep. Also portability suffers a lot at least for Emacs. Both editors come with hundreds of supporting files and are massive in size. Emacs.exe binary is whopping 83 MB in size and the zip file contains two of them just in case. Whole unpacked folder is 400 MB.

Emacs on Windows Console

VIM is fortunately much much better you can extract single vim.exe binary from the package and use it without much complaints.

VIM on Windows Console

When talking about about VI and Emacs hard not to mention some more historical versions. Emacs’ little brother MicroEmacs has been available for Windows since earliest days. I’m not going to attempt to link to any particular one since there are so many flavors.

MicroEmacs

VIM little brother VI also comes in different shapes and forms. Lets take look at a few.

Elvis

Elvis on Windows

XVI

XVI on Windows

Stevie is a very special case. Rumor has it, this editor played crucial role in development of Windows NT itself or has been used since earliest days of NT as part of the private SDK. If you could ever look at Windows source code I’d bet you could probably find it buried inside. Because it was ported by folks at Redmond the quality should be pretty good. Unfortunately README states “this is an incomplete VI that has not been fully tested. Use at your own risk.”.¬†For a historical note according to Wikipedia, Stevie port to Amiga has been used by¬†Bram Moolenaar as a base source code for VIM.

Stevie for Windows aka NT VI

One particularly interesting case is VI editor from Watcom compiler suite. It has very nice TUI known from MS-DOS editors, syntax highlighting and online help. One of nicest versions of VI available for Windows. Small portable and just all around handy editor. This is probably my main to go text editor when working on WinPE or Server Core. Unfortunately not very well known. I hope it can gain some popularity it deserves.

OpenWatcom VI Editor

Thanks to Federico Bianchi just learned that there is a BusbyBox port to Windows having both 32bit and 64bit builds, 100% portable as just a single exe file! Most importantly it contains a working vi editor that understands window resizing and Win32 paths. I’m going to be keeping this one around. Awesome job Busybox! As a last thought I wish they also included Nano.

BusyBox Win32 VI Editor

I don’t want this article to be all about VI and Emacs clones. Let this nice color menus be a segue to more native Windows / DOS editors at least departing from hardcore keystrokes and Unix.

For a change in theme lets look at¬†SemWare TSE Pro, the editor that originally started as QEDIT for DOS and OS/2. It has most advanced features one could ever imagine for a text mode editor. Including resizable windows, hex editor, macros and spell checker. I really wish I could use it in everyday’s life. Unfortunately TSE has some drawbacks, it lacks portable version and install is little cumbersome. Currently no x64 build but the author is working on it. TSE is not free, the license is $45 but it allows to install on as many machines as you need.

SemWare TSE Pro

Next one up is Brief. It used to be very popular in it’s own time and sparked quite bit of following as there are numerous of editors being “brief style”. It’s a nice and small console based text editor. It comes in two versions basic (free) and professional (paid). The pro version supports splitting in to multiple windows regexp and unicode. Unfortunately it runs at $120 per user and there is no 64bit build or a portable edition.

Brief

There also is an open source clone of Brief called GRIEF. Flipping through the manual it has very impressive set of features including $120 windowing feature and macros. Unfortunately it’s rather unportable due to large amount of dll and other files. 64bit build could probably be made if someone wanted.

GRIEF free Brief Clone

As we talk about less costly options there is Kinesics Text Editor aka KIT.¬†It’s more well known if you search on google, completely free and after installing you can find and a x64 binary file! This makes it somewhat portable and able to run in WinPE for instance. Until recently the editor did not have 64bit version so I did not have chance to use it much in practice but the TUI appears to have a well rounded easy to use (F1 or right mouse click brings menus). It does’t seem to have any advanced features but it’s very¬†stable and actively maintained. And frankly this is what matters for editing on the console. It may actually be the right missing Windows console editor.

Kinesics aka KIT

Another one is Minimum Profit. It’s fully open source and it supports a lot of platforms in both windowing and text mode. It has a lot of interesting features such as syntax highlighting, spell checked and menus. It can’t be easily made portable as it needs a lot of files of it’s own scripting language. There is no Win64 build by default but one could probably make it with Mingw64. I also find that screen refresh is somewhat funky.

Minimum Profit

Lets look at somewhat well known¬†FTE. It’s a very nice text editor available on many platforms such QNX, OS/2 and of course Windows. It has nice TUI, split windows, syntax highlighting, folding, bookmarks and tools for HTML authoring etc. Overall awesome editor falling short only to TSE. Support for NT console has been available since 1997. I have recently fixed couple of bugs and built a 64bit portable version.

FTE Editor

One could also not forget Borland Turbo C IDE. Apparently there is an open source clone of the IDE as a regular editor called SETEdit. It’s multi platform editor with MS-DOS style windows and menus. Syntax highlighting macros and all regular amenities. Looks like DOS version can play MP3 songs while you code. There is a native WinNT build made with BCPP. To run on Windows you install the DOS version then overwrite dos exe file win NT exe. The editor is absolutely awesome, unfortunately currently doesn’t work in a portable manner and there is no x64 binary. However as it’s open source it could be probably made.

SETEdit a Borland Turbo C IDE Clone

When talking about MS-DOS style windows, Norton Commander like file managers come to mind. There is one particular built specifically for Windows –¬†FAR Manager. Written by author of WinRAR, originally shareware, but since 2007 it has been released under BSD license. FAR does come with a built in text editor hence it’s featured here. It’s actively supported and developed, and because it’s designed from ground up for Windows, it’s probably most stable and trustworthy of all applications in this post. I normally don’t use it that much, but I do keep a copy of it lying around when I need to do some more heavy lifting from Windows console. There is a 64bit binary by default but unfortunately FAR can be hardly made portable as it comes with 400 files.

FAR Manager Text Editor

When talking about Norton Commander clones lets not forget Midnight Commander, which does have an unofficial native Windows console build called mcwin32. Similar to FAR, MC has a very nice built-in text editor. MC overall seems far nicer than FAR but because it’s multi platform rather than WIndows specific and not officially supported I don’t trust it as much for day to day use.

GNU Midnight Commander

When on topic of Unix, lets talk about¬†GNU Nano. In it’s native habitat, it’s very popular and stable editor making it a perfect choice for a text mode console. Unfortunately Windows port is lacking quite a lot, especially for things like resizing Window or handling file names. The official build looks like a fusion of cygwin, mingw, pdcurses and other horrible stuff. Version that comes with Mingw/MSYS is not portable and so far I failed in attempts to build a static windows binary by hand. Nano predecessor UW Pico unfortunately never did have console terminal Windows port. Authors of Pine decided to make it semi graphical application with it’s own window, menus and buttons. Sad story for both Pico and Nano. Hopefully one day someone will make a 100% native Windows port.

Another non-vi and non-emacs Unix editor with Windows console port is JED. Frankly I have not used JED that much in the past although I did play with it in the 90s. This is the original web page of Jed editor. It does seem to have menus and multi windows. Unfortunately doesn’t look like it can be easily made in to a portable image.

JED Win32 Port

Yet another more obscure editor is ED-NT which is DEC EDT clone. Unfortunately seems to be completely dead an unmaintained. Sources are still available through archive.org so perhaps it could be still looked after if someone wanted EDT editor on Windows.

ED-NT

When going through obscurities via archive.org one can also mention ZABED and more specifically Z95 which is a 32bit console version. I don’t know anything about the editor and I’m little too lazy to play with it extensively although pdf manual is available. Probably little too old and too obscure for every day use.

Z95

Perhaps even more obscure to a mere mortal is¬†The Hessling Editor aka THE. It’s based on VM/CMS editor XEDIT. I did briefly use VM/CMS and XEDIT in early ’90 but I never liked it so much. THE comes in as a native Win32 binary. Not easily portable as it requires some additional files. Also no 64bit binary but source code is available.

THE aka The Hessling Editor

Thanks to Andreas Kohl I have learned about X2 Programmers Editor which also has NT console version. The editor seems very nice and has extensive help, syntax highlighting, etc. Unfortunately I have never used this editor before. Last version has been released in 2008 which is not loo long ago but sadly there has been no update since. I hope the author will continue to maintain it.

X2 Programmers Editor

Andreas also brought up Personal Editor, which comes as PE32 and PE64. Looks like really well maintained and stable editor designed and developed specifically for Windows. 64bit bit version is really cool however the editor doesn’t seem to be portable and $40 license will probably prevent me from using it professionally in environments where I would need it. Never the less looks like a very fine editor!

Another find is e3 editor. Pretty interesting stuff. It’s written in assembler and available on many operating systems including DOS and Windows. Looks like it’s still maintained as last version was released in 2016. It supports multiple modes, Wordstar, Emacs, Vi, Pico and Nedit by renaming or linking the main executable. It’s definitely portable as it doesn’t need any extra files and the exe is just 20KB (take that emacs!). Unfortunately because of assembler I don’t think there will be a 64bit release any time soon. Overall seem to be really cool to keep this one around.

e3 editor

A really cool last minute find is public domain TDE –¬†Thomson-Davis Editor. Released not so long ago in 2007 it has 16, 32bit DOS and 32bit Windows console executable. It has DOS style menus,syntax highlighting, resizable windows and bunch of other features. Looks like a very handy editor. I don’t know how did I miss it. Since source code was available so I was able to make a x64 build. This is really untested so use at your own risk!

TDE

Also a recent find – shareware editor called Aurora. I never had a chance to use it in the past but after taking it for a quick spin I fell in love. The text mode UI it feels like it’s own windowing operating system! Originally for DOS, Unix and OS/2, Win32 port is relatively new. Unfortunately it’s no longer maintained or even sold. This is very sad because the editor is extremely cool. I hope the author may be willing to release the source code so it could be maintained.

Aurora

Thanks to¬†Richard Wells I have learned about OSPlus Text Editor. It’s a really cool little editor with Borland style TUI and multi windows. It doesn’t seem to have any advanced features but it does have a built in calculator and allows background play of WAV and MID. Also allows format conversion of various formats like Word, Write or RTF in to text using Microsoft Office converters. Pretty cool if you need to read Word based documentation on the text console. Sadly looks like the application is no longer maintained. I guess with little bit of luck a 64bit version could be compiled using Mingw64 or MSVC.

OSPlus Text Editor

Also recently learned about HT. This is more intended as a binary/exe/hex editor and analyzer. However it seems to have an excellent plain text editor with HTML and C syntax highlighting. It doesn’t have very advanced features but one that stands out is a very detailed change log, much like Photoshop History. It shows you what exactly has been changed and in what order. This is pretty cool when doing heavy editing of some important files. The latest version is from 2015 and it’s 100% portable single exe. Unfortunately no x64 but I guess it should be easy enough to build one with Mingw64.

HT

Just in freshly “re-discovered” – Microsoft Editor. This editor is a Win32 port of Mark Zbikowski’s port of Z editor to MS-DOS. It has been widely used with Microsoft C¬†as M, MEP and and OS/2 SDK as SDKED. Shockingly looks like Windows NT did actually have a console mode text editor since it’s earliest days or even earlier. Included in Windows NT pre-release CDs and later on the official Windows NT/2000 SDKs, hiding in plain sight, was a Win32 console mode MEP.EXE. Only if Microsoft included this editor with Windows itself the world would be a different place. I have recently dug it out of SDK and made available here. There also are additional builds (including x64) here. There is a dedicated blog post about it.

Microsoft Editor aka MEP aka Z

As with many commercial editors there is an open source edition of Z named K_Edit. It is a modern re-implementation from scratch written in C++ and LUA. It builds only on 64bit Windows and there probably is no chance for any other version. As of today author of K doesn’t provide ready binaries but I was able to make one myself.

K editor on Windows 10 x64

Reader¬†brdlph¬†pointed me to a pretty fresh editor named Textadept. It’s a cross platform, both GUI and TUI editor. Windows console version uses Curses, but it performs remarkably well. It has a look and feel of a modern programmer’s text editor with syntax highlighting, line numbers, etc.¬† The zip archive comes with over 400 files so it’s rather not portable. Also there seem to be no Windows 64bit build although there is one for Linux. The application seem to be very well maintained and the latest release is from January 2018!

Textadept

Reader Andreas Kohl mentioned SlickEdit, which was a text mode editor for DOS, OS/2 and Windows console (before Visual SlickEdit stole it’s name). According to the company’s employee an OS/2 version of the editor was used by some Windows NT team members to develop their operating system. In early days, SlickEdit CTO traveled to Redmond to port the application to a barely yet functioning NT console system so that the developers could use native dev environment. SlickEdit was most likely the very fist commercial application for Windows NT. It was available in 386, Alpha, MIPS and PowerPC editions. I’m hoping to obtain old evaluation copies. So far I was able to get this screenshot:

SlickEdit on Windows 10

Last but not least, a new kid on the block, is Micro. It’s a modern times editor for all platforms including Windows. It looks really cool and seem to have all recent amenities from editors such as Sublime Text or Atom. Multi windows, syntax highlighting and even it’s own built in terminal emulator for running a subshell. Micro is 100% portable and comes in as a single x64 exe file. It’s 10 MB size but I think well worth keeping around. Unfortunately it doesn’t have built-in file browser. Yes, there is a plugin for it but I don’t know how to use it. Also seems to have issues with Windows style path names. However I’m really happy that a new editor has been developed in recent times. It has a great chance of becoming the missing Windows text mode editor for the future! Definitely worth keeping an eye on it.

Micro Editor

With this positive news it’s time to wrap up. To summarize there currently is no perfect text mode editor for Windows. I hope that Microsoft can one day step up and provide one. In the mean time I usually stick around to OpenWatcom VI and FAR Manager. For people who do not wish to learn VI, Kinesics KIT may probably be the most perfect editor in short term and Micro in the future. I also hope someone can make a good GNU Nano port using native Win32 APIs without going to pdcurses and cygwin.

Thank you for all suggestions! Have I forgotten or missed any editor? Please let me know and I will promptly add it to the list! Note: please do not include editors that work under Cygwin.

SQL Server 6.5 on Windows 10 x64

SQL Server 6.5 running on Windows 10

In the same effort as getting SQL Server 4.21a running on Windows 10, I found that SQL Server 6.5 will run as well. ¬†For what it’s worth, SQL Server 6.0 runs, but the enterprise manger will not run, giving this fun error:

sdf

The SQLOLE OLE object could not be registered.

And SQL 7.0 just bombs out with this:

x

Your SQL Server installation is either corrupt or has been tampered with (unknown package id).

Which clearly means I’m missing something in trying to transplant settings. ¬†However for some reason SQL 6.5 I can register the SQLOLE type, and boom!

SQL 6.5 in action

SQL Server 6.5 running on Windows 10

SQL Server 6.5 running on Windows 10

On Win64 vs Win32 and COM objects

I should mention that when registering a COM object you typically run something like this:

regsvr32.exe \mssql\binn\SQLOLE65.DLL

Which picks up the one in the default path.  What about system32?

%SYSTEMROOT%\system32\regsvr32.exe \mssql\binn\SQLOLE65.DLL

Well it turns out that this ‘system32’ directory is actually the 64bit system directory! ¬†And attempting to do this will just result in the error:

64bit regsvr32 on a 32bit COM object

64bit regsvr32 on a 32bit COM object

The module was loaded but the call to DllRegisterServer failed with the code 0x80040005. Well great.  This typically goes back to a permissions issue, or the wrong regsvr32.exe being called.

However on a Win64 based OS, you actually need to specify the Win32 version of regsvr32 which actually lives in the SysWOW64 directory, and run the command prompt at administrator!  So you would run it like this:

%SYSTEMROOT%\SysWOW64\regsvr32.exe \mssql\binn\SQLOLE65.DLL

And you should get:

adf

32bit regsvr32 working

With this COM object registered, you can now launch the Enterprise manager!

Also I found a semi fun way to rename the SQL server:

sp_configure ‘allow updates’, 1
go
reconfigure with override
go
delete sysservers
go
sp_addserver YOURSERVERNAME,local
go
shutdown
go

Running this and it renamed the local SQL instance, and shut it down.  Restarting and it connected to itself just fine.  Naturally change YOURSERVERNAME to whatever your hostname is.  SQL server always wants to be called whatever the actual hostname is, otherwise things break in strange and confusing ways.

Thoughts

Is this terribly useful? ¬†Probably not. ¬†But I think it’s kind of interesting to run 90’s era server software in the 21st century. ¬†Sure I wouldn’t want to run any of it in any type of production environment, but it shows at it’s core how Win32 has not drifted. ¬†However looking at the Microsoft Management console of SQL Server 7.0, and how it will not either run on Windows 10, nor will the snapin run show just how fragile the house of COM turned out to be, and meanwhile good old fashioned Sybase/Win32 ¬†code still runs from 1993 onward.

I suppose the next thing to do is to try it on Wine, or a fun enough debugger/syscall trace to see what on earth SQL 7.0’s problem is. ¬†I don’t have any doubt that it’s nothing that can’t be fixed, although back to the root point, would you really want SQL 7.0 in 2016… or even SQL 2000 for that matter.