A week with the Microsoft Lumia 950

Lumia 950

I’m a sucker for old / obsolete junk.  I was looking through an electronic market, and was near some used cellphone vendors and I saw this little gem, the Microsoft (Nokia)  Lumia 950.  I used to have a Windows 8 phone back in 2013, I picked it up in China on my accidental trip, the Huawei Ascend W1, which Huawei quickly dropped and distanced itself from Microsoft as a sign of the impending failure of Windows Phone.  It was a barely serviceable phone, the music subscription service would frequently corrupt downloaded audio tracks constantly requiring me to reset the phone, and re-download over and over.  Other than being part of the launch of the NT kernel on a phone it really wasn’t that great of an experience, but it was a budget phone so my expectations were pretty low.

So I found this 950 for $400 Hong Kong, or about $50 USD.  So yeah I thought it’d be a fun toy to play with, even though Microsoft had finally conceded defeat in the mobile space and pulled further development of Windows 10 based Windows Phone platform.  Again this isn’t too surprising, Android simply dominates the world outside of the USA/Western Europe, while Apple IOS is still a profitable and comfortable #2 world wide.  There simply is no room for a #3 mobile platform.

So why would I even care about this obsolete phone? Simple it’s the greatest feature never really touted or pushed, It’s simply called Continuum.  Simply put, docking the phone into a USB + Power + HDMI dock allows the phone to transform into a (limited) desktop.

Lumia 950 with Continuum

I know for most people it’d be “just get a real computer” but I have to say that this is one of those opportunities blown things in the fun world of corporate IT.  You see many of us ‘desktop’ users have been reduced to glorified mainframe users, where our desktops are actually just access ports into products like VMWare VDI, where we no longer have VPN access in this brave new world, and on our local machines all we have if Microsoft Office, all 3rd party installations are blocked by GPOs.  And this is where a corporate phone like the HP x3, Microsoft 950/950xl simply shines, as now we can dock and have that VDI terminal, we still can run office from the phone, and better we can unplug and take the phone with us on the go.  I have no doubt that this was instead targeted to executive users, numbering in the tens instead of the entire back office in the tens of thousands.

Well ok that’s all cool, but how does it function as a phone?  I’ve taken call on it, and yeah it was OK.  Looking at the hardware specs from AnTuTu gives you some idea of the class of hardware for this vintage October 2015 handset.

Lumia 950 Specs

And how does it hold up?  Well as luck has it I managed to scrounge up some other models, and put the numbers together:

From left to right, the Samsung Galaxy S8+, The Microsoft Lumia 950, The Nokia Lumia 1520, and a Microsoft Lumia 535.

Three years is a LONG time in the cellphone market, and comparing a high end model to a mid range at best is just not fare, although if anything it really goes to show how 3D performance has picked up.   One fun thing is that since the AnTuTu benchmark is a Windows Universal application I can run it on my vintage 2010 MacPro and see how it compares!

And in this case a circa 2010 Xeon with a Nvidia 1030 crushes cellphones.  Even though it weighs significantly more.

And then there is the apps.  And the complete lack of.  Since I go between Hong Kong & China the lack of WeChat makes Windows Phone 100% useless and reduces me to a feature phone with a nice camera.  Obviously Microsoft Office works nice on here, but it also runs on Android & IOS just as well.  I used it for work, and it was okay for me, but the lack of anything fun besides Minecraft was well.. sad.

There was an Uber application, however it’s been terminated, and instead redirects you to use a web page instead.  I was lucky in that I already knew where I was, and where I wanted to go, but the web interface to Uber is poor at best.  Looking around the map, or trying to pick locations on the web interface is just an all around terrible experence.

Naturally there are NO Google applications for the Windows Phone.  So you can only view YouTube via Edge, which actually works surprisingly well.  Even on a lowly 535 that really was only hampered by the tiny screen.  Speaking of Google the Mail/Outlook program on the phone reads Gmail just fine.

Another must have application for me is Google translate, which Microsoft certainly had no answer back in 2013, however there is now Microsoft Translator however it does NOT currently support OCR of Asian languages.  Which is a really big disapointment as the quality of text translations felt better with the Microsoft app.  That said, it is now available for Android and IOS, which goes to show that Microsoft really has no choice but to fully commit to abandoning their own platform.

There is one thing to be said about having next to no applications which is it is very free of distractions, and gave me more moments to looking around at the world, instead of staring into a tiny screen.  For those who care, here are some pictures from the 950.

It’s always interesting when a major player falters and misses out on a new platform setting themselves up for obsolescence.  And doubling down by not chasing the business market harder instead being happy to fade into irrelevance.  Microsoft has done it’s best to take the success of crushing most midrange to small range UNIX with Windows NT, but the lawsuits against Linux have in the long term set them up to fail on their own island.  Just as they have lost the mindset of generations of developers and even with their purchase of github in an attempt to stay relevent will be any indication if they really are going to long term exit the desktop/server market and become a cloud services company first, and a language developer second.

The desktop is dead, long live mobile.

WinFile comes back from the dead.

WinFile!

Yes, this WinFile.  So Microsoft apparently went through their Windows NT 4.0 source code tree from 2007, and decided to pull this tool out, and send it out into the world.  It’s available in a ‘original’ version, and a ‘v10’ version which includes the following enhancements:

  1. OLE drag/drop support
  2. control characters (e.g., ctrl+C) map to current short cut (e.g., ctrl+c -> copy) instead of changing drives
  3. cut (ctrl+X) followed by paste (ctrl+V) translates into a file move as one would expect
  4. left and right arrows in the tree view expand and collapse folders like in the Explorer
  5. added context menus in both panes
  6. improved the means by which icons are displayed for files
  7. F12 runs notepad or notepad++ on the selected file
  8. moved the ini file location to %AppData%\Roaming\Microsoft\WinFile
  9. File.Search can include a date which limits the files returned to those after the date provided; the output is also sorted by the date instead of by the name
  10. File.Search includes an option as to whether to include sub-directories
  11. ctrl+K starts a command shell (ConEmu if installed) in the current directory; shfit+ctrl+K starts an elevated command shell (cmd.exe only)
  12. File.Goto (ctrl+G) enables one to type a few words of a path and get a list of directories; selecting one changes to that directory. Only drive c: is indexed.
  13. UI shows reparse points (e.g., Junction points) as such
  14. added simple forward / back navigation (probably needs to be improved)
  15. View command has a new option to sort by date forward (oldest on top); normal date sorting is newest on top

Which is quite the list of things to add to the old WinFile.

You can find the source & binaries on github.

Microsoft Editor

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

In a recent blog post Wanted: Console Text Editor for Windows I lamented the lack of a good console/cmd/PowerShell text editor for Windows. During the process I made a rather interesting discovery, that in a fact there IS a “native” Windows, 32bit, console based text editor and it was available since earliest days of NT or even before. But let’s start from…

…in the beginning there was Z editor. Developed by Steve Wood for TOPS20 operating system in 1981. Some time after that, Steve sold the source code to Microsoft, which was then ported to MS-DOS by Mark Zbikowski (aka the MZ guy) to become the M editor.

M editor

The DOS-based M editor was included and sold as part of Microsoft C 5.1 (March 1988), together with the OS/2 variant, the MEP editor (perhaps M Editor Protected-mode). The official name of M/MEP was simply Microsoft Editor. The same editor was also available earlier (mid-1987) as part of the  MS OS/2 SDK under a different name, SDKED. Note that normally SDKED insists in operating in full screen mode. Michal Necasek generously spent his time and patched it up so that it can be run in windowed mode for your viewing pleasure.

SDKED on OS/2

However my primary interest lies with Windows. The NT Design Workbook mentions that an early days self-hosting developer workstation included compiler, some command line tools and a text editor – MEP.  In fact these tools including MEP.EXE can be found on Windows NT pre-release CD-ROMs (late 1991) under MSTOOLS. It was available for both MIPS and 386 as a Win32 native console based application.

MEP on Windows NT Pre-Release

MEP.EXE was later also available for Alpha, i386, MIPS, and PowerPC processors on  various official Windows NT SDKs from 3.1 to 4.0. It survived up to July 2000 to be last included in Windows 2000 Platform SDK. From time perspective it was rather unfortunate that it was buried in the SDK and overshadowed by Visual Studio instead of being included on Windows NT release media.

MEP from NT SDK on Windows NT 4.0

The Win32 version of MEP also comes with an icon and a file description which calls it Microsoft Extensible Editor.

Z editor Icon

But that’s not the end of the story. The editor of many names survives to this day, at least unofficially. If you dig hard enough you can find it on OpenNT 4.5 build. For convenience, this and other builds including DOS M, OS/2 MEP and SDKED, NT SDK MEP can be downloaded here.

Digging in through the archive I found not one but two copies of the editor code are lurking in the source tree. One under the name MEP inside \private\utils\mep\ folder and a second copy under name Z (which was the original editor for TOPS) in \private\sdktools\z folder. Doing a few diffs I was able to get some insight on he differences. Looks like MEP was initially ported from OS/2 to NT and bears some signs of being an OS/2 app. The Z editor on the other hands is a few years newer and has many improvements and bug fixes over MEP. It also uses some specific NT features.

Sadly it looks like the Z editor for Win32 was never released anywhere outside of Redmond. All the versions outlined so far had copyrights only up to 1990, while Z clearly has copyright from 1995. Being a few years newer and more native to NT I wanted to see if a build could be made. With some effort I was able to separate it from the original source tree and compile stand alone. Being a pretty clean source code I was able to compile it for all NT hardware platforms, including x64, which runs comfortably on Windows 10. You can download Z editor for Windows here.

Z editor on flashy Windows 7 x64

Last but not least there is a modern open source re-implementation of Z editor named K editor. It’s written from scratch in C++ and LUA and has nothing to do with the original MEP source code. K is built only for x64 using Mingw. There are no ready to run binaries so I made a fork and build.

K editor on Windows 10 x64

The author Kevin Goodwin has kindly included copies of original documentation if you actually want to learn how to use this editor.

What is a VLAN (part 5)

With the textmode setup complete, it’s time to do the graphical setup of Windows NT 4.0

Next

You can use any name/org

Select how many licenses you have for your NT Server.

Give the server a name

I’m not going to build a domain, so a stand alone server is fine.

You can give the Administrator account a password if you so desire.

I don’t need any emergency repair disk, as this server is the epitome of disposable.

I added all the components.  Again for this test it really doesn’t matter.

Configure the networking

Now for the fun part, we are going to configure the networking.

I’m sticking to ‘wired’ networking.  I’ll save RAS for another lifetime.

Everyone wants to be a webserver.  Sure why not.

You can either manually select a NIC, or just let it auto-detect.  We are going to auto-detect it though.

And it’ll correctly identify the AMD PCNet card.

I selected all the protocols available.  I didn’t bother adding other ones like AppleTalk.

Next..

Next

It’ll prompt for the media type and duplex.  The card isn’t real and it’ll work fine no matter what.  I just leave the options alone.

Our network doesn’t have any DHCP server.  Since we are plugged into a simple hub.  DHCP requests will fail.  Let’s give it a static address.  For Advanced people, yes you could wireshark on the wire to observe the DHCP.  We will touch on how to do that later, as I just want to get NT installed .

There is no need for a gateway.

We don’t have any bindings that need adjusting, so you can just hit Next

And Next again

Again, no domain, so run in workgroup mode.

Finish, although it’s far from over.

IIS components to install.  I just hit OK for the defaults.

Confirm the creation of the directory

And the child directories

And creating the IIS child directories

Gopher isn’t happy without a domain name, but I don’t care.

Select your timezone.  Or don’t.  This is from 1996, so many of the timezones are no-longer correct.  Just as DST has changed so many times.  But it really doesn’t matter yet again.

The display adapter is SVGA compatible.

Move the resolution slider to 800×600

Then hit OK.  It’ll want to test the resolution

Everything looks good

YES I saw the bitmap

OK

OK to accept the display at 800×600

Files will finally start to copy

And now we can finally restart are computer.

By default the NT Loader will wait for 30 seconds.  You can hit enter to get it to load right away or wait.

But we have now completed installing Windows NT, so we can now move on to capturing some traffic, aka part 6..

What is a VLAN (part 4)

In this post we are going to install Windows NT 4.0 Server into our VM.

The first step is to turn the VM on.  Simply right click on the VM, and choose Start. The red dot will then turn green.  Although it may appear that nothing is happening we just can’t see it yet.

Right click again, and choose the console, and VNC will then connect to the Qemu VM, and we can now interact with it.

And here is where we start installing Windows NT 4.0.  I’ll just put the keys in parenthesis of what I’m doing. In this case just hit:

(enter)

(enter)

(c)

(page down) until you get to the end, then hit (f8) to agree to the license

The default options are OK.  (enter)

(c)

(enter)

I chose NTFS for my server.  Although I’m not interested in creating a domain, so FAT will work too.  It really doesn’t matter.

(enter)

(enter)

(enter)

Waiting for the files to copy

(enter)

On reboot if you have selected NTFS it’ll convert the filesystem like this:

converting FAT to NTFS

After the conversion, NT will reboot again, then it’ll continue the setup process.

Otherwise you’ll just reboot directly into the graphical setup of Windows NT, and we can continue in part 5.

What is a VLAN (part 3)

In our previous post, we configured a Qemu template for Windows NT.

With the NT template ready we will be prompted to give this project a name.

So I called this one ‘what-is-a-vlan’ sticking with the theme.

Now we can drag components out.  I selected the NT template that I’ve created, and dragged it out to the design pane.  Now we have a computer!

I then selected a simple Ethernet hub, to begin verifying that our configuration is working.  Just drag it out to the toplogy pane.

Now for the fun part, we are going to connect the Windows NT VM to the Hub.  Right click on the Qemu VM, and it’s available Ethernet interfaces will pop up.  It only has one, so select Ethernet 0.

Now you can select the Hub to complete the connection.  Hubs repeat every packet they receive, and don’t change anything.  They offer zero intelligence, and have no way to save you from yourself, if you do anything stupid (see creating a loop).  Every packet that comes into a hub is sent to every port going out.  They don’t care about protocols, or anything they just simply repeat.

 

So this will be our simple network.  The next thing to do is to turn on our PC, and install Windows NT 4.0.  I’ll save that for the next step which you can follow here.  If you don’t care about installing Windows, then you can skip to the following step where we will do a simple packet capture of the NT machine connected to the hub so we can observe how it’s packets look.

What is a VLAN (part 2)

In the last post, we quickly went over the default install of GNS3.

We are now going to configure a QEMU template for Windows NT.  I’m going with Windows NT as its pretty resource low, has TCP/IP and other protocols like IPX/SPX which can be routed and NetBEUI which has to be bridged.

We are going to use the Qemu option

Although we do get this warning, it really doesn’t matter.  NT runs fine.

Give the machine a name

The default 256MB of RAM is more than enough.

Set the console to VNC, as NT is graphical

I set it to use the included qemu-2.4.0’s Qcow2 image format for the virtual hard disk

The default options are fine.

I’m not going to try to build anything that sophisticated, so 500MB is more than enough for NT 4.0 .  If you do want something more involved 2GB is the effective limit for a boot disk for NT 4.0 SP1

The default name is fine too.

We do however need to make some changes.  The network card needs to be the AMD PCnet version, and we need to add an additional flag to Qemu to restrict the CPU functionality to a 486 so that NT will install without any issues.

So the networking tab will let you change the type.  AMD PCNet is the one that is supported out of the box, and verified working!

On the Advanced settings tab, is where you can add the -cpu 486 flag, as indicated above.

On the CD/DVD tab, you will want to point it to an ISO of Windows NT.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Workstation, Server, Enterprise, Terminal Server.  They all install the same.

It will prompt you if you want to copy the ISO into the default images directory.  It really doesn’t matter one way or the other.

Qemu image configured for NT

Now the image is configured for NT.

Now we can continue to building our first topology (AKA Part 3).

 

Tyne RISC PC Deskstation

Wow, another MIPS running Windows NT appears in the wild!

This is a great tear down, and look at a MIPS desktop from back in the day, sold to run Windows NT.  It’s hardware shares a lot from PC’s of the era, from the AT keyboard, serial mouse, ISA slots, with a VL S3 video card.  One day I hope to get a MIPS NT machine, although they are incredibly rare to find.

BackOffice Server 4.5 aka how to get the best of 1990’s Microsoft Server Tech!

Stylized logo!

Every so often, I’ll get either emails or messages from various people wanting to run their own exchange server setup in a similar method that I have setup, except that they are lacking either Windows NT Server discs, or even the Exchange server disc.  I always end up pointing people to eBay, although contrary to the last few years, prices of old Exchange Server have gotten expensive.  However there is a different SKU, and way to get them both, plus a lot more, enter the late 1990’s server craze of product consolidation, Microsoft Back office.

Back Office media kit

In all version 4.5 comes on 7 CD’s containing:

  • Windows NT Server 4.0/IE 5.0/MMC 1.0
  • SQL Server 7.0
  • Proxy Server 2.0/Option Pack
  • Exchange Server 5.5
  • Site Server 1.0
  • Systems Management Server 2.0
  • SNA Server 4.0

Before server virtualization took off, the trend for small branch offices and small organizations was to get a single server and try to run everything all at once.  Of course this leads to an incredible amount of inter-tangled dependencies, and possible collisions when involving 3rd party software, along with possible performance issues for stacking so much onto one box.  How times have changed!  Where today we may run all the same services on a single physical box, however with each server component getting its own VM, it lends to far better stability as you don’t have so many applications with possible DLL/system versioning issues, and better resource management as you can easily prioritize VM’s or even suspended ones that are infrequently needed.  Having lived through it, there was nothing like having a needed service pack for one issue on one component, which then broke something else.  Needless to say this is why we have virtualization, and things like docker to deal with DLL hell.

CD’s

There is no real difference between these Back office versions of the server apps, which is why I would recommend this over a standalone package as you get so much more.

SMTP along with POP and IMAP, are largely unchanged.  While Outlook 2016 may not support Exchange 5.5 directly, you can configure it as an IMAP server, and connect just fine.  I’d highly recommend something like stunnel to wrap it with modern encryption, something that Windows NT 4.0 is lacking.  Combined with an external relay to do “modern” features like DKIM, spam filtering and obscuring your server’s direct connection on the internet, there is nothing wrong with using it as a backed, even in 2017.

SQL 7 is the first version in the “rewrite” of Sybase SQL, supporting the new client libraries, which .Net 4.5 on Windows 10 can still happily connect to, unlike SQL 6.5 and below.  I use it occasionally to quickly prototype stuff as needed or load up datasets to transform them.  I also like the SQL scheduler to do jobs in steps, as it can catch error codes, and you can setup elaborate processes.

I can’t imagine having a use for SNA Server anymore as IBM had shifted all their mainframes from SNA, to TCP/IP.  I would imagine with a current software contract that is what people would be using, but somehow I’d like to imagine some large organization still using 3270’s on people’s desks, and a SNA gateway to bring sessions to people’s desks.  But that is highly unlikely.  Back in the day COM/TI was a big deal to take COBOL transactions and package them up as Microsoft COM objects to later be called either directly, or middleware via DCOM.  Although who knows, when it comes to legacy stuff, Im sure somewhere has type 1 token ring MAU’s, and SDLC links.

Packages like Back Office is what basically pushed out Novel from the market as they didn’t develop their own solutions in time, and deploying server software to Novel Netware proved to not only be very precarious, but along with it’s single application process space, proved to be extremely unreliable.  Not to mention that older protocol companies like DEC, IBM or Novel were entrenched in their own proprietary network stacks, and TCP/IP was frequently seen as something to be purchased separately both for the OS, and the application.  Microsoft certainly did the right thing by having a free TCP/IP for Windows for Workgroups, and including it in Windows NT, and Windows 95.

As always the option Pack for Windows NT 4.0 nearly brings it up to the functional level of Windows 2000, and is a great way to build that virtual corporation for testing.

 

Personal AltaVista + UTZOO reloaded

Introduction

Long before websites, during the dark ages of the BBS, on the internet there was (well it’s still there!) a distributed messaging system called usenet.  There are countless topics on just about everything that was full of all kinds of incredible conversations.  Before the walled gardens, and the ease of running individual bulletin boards, the internet had prided itself on having one big global distributed messaging system.  It was a big system, and one thing that was always taken for granted was that it was too big to save, and that whatever you put out there would probably be erased as all sites had a finite amount of very expensive disk space, and they would only keep recent articles.

But it turns out that in the University of Toronto, in the zoology department they had a tape budget, and were in fact archiving everything they could.  In all they had amassed 141 tapes spanning from  February 1981 (though these are not Usenet posts, just internal netnews University stuff) all the way up to about midnight of July 01, 1991!

While the archive was made available to a few people in 2001, it was made generally available in 2009, and then in 2011 on archive.org where I downloaded a copy of it.  There is some interesting backstory over on Dogcow land, as it took quite a bit of effort to get the data from the tapes, and then slowly released out into the wild.

As mentioned on the archive.org site:

This is a collection of .TGZ files of very early USENET posted data provided by a number of driven and brave individuals, including David Wiseman, Henry Spencer, Lance Bailey, Bruce Jones, Bob Webber, Brewster Kahle, and Sue Thielen.

OK, so back a few months ago, I had setup AltaVista personal desktop search along with the UTZOO usenet archive for the purpose of using something more sophisticated than grep, but maintaining that legacy/retro feel us using outdated technology.  To recap the first challenge is that the desktop search product, is only meant to be used from the desktop of a Windows 98/NT 4.0 workstation.  It uses a super ancient version of JAVA as the webserver, and they chose to bind it to 127.0.0.1:6688 .  So the first thing to get around that was to build a stunnel tunnel allowing me to effectively connect to the webserver remotely.  And since the server assumes it’s locally I had to use Apache with mod_rewrite to setup some simple regex expressions to massage the pages into something that would be usable from a non local machine.

So with that word salad up, let’s have a brief picture!

Flow diagram

Stepping it up

On my ‘general’ hosting machine, I use haproxy to reverse proxy out multiple sites out the single address.  This is a super simple solution that allows me to have all kinds of different backends using various hosting platforms, such as Apache 1.3 on Windows NT 3.1.  So for this to work I just needed to create an altavista.superglobalmegacorp.com DNS record, and then the following in the haproxy config:

frontend named-hosts
bind 172.86.179.14:80
acl is_altavista hdr_end(host) -i altavista.superglobalmegacorp.com
use_backend altavista if is_altavista

backend altavista
balance roundrobin
option httpclose
option forwardfor
server debian8 10.0.0.18:80 check maxconn 10

So as you can see it’s really simple it looks for the string ‘altavista.superglobalmegacorp.com’ in the host header, and then sends it to the backend that has a single web server, in this case a lone Debian server, aptly named debian8 that throttles after 10 concurrent connections.

The next thing to do was generate a SSL self signed cert, which wasn’t too hard.  The stunnel installer has a profile ready to go, so it was only a matter of finding a version of OpenSSL that’ll run on NT 4.  As this isn’t public encryption I really don’t care about it using crap certs.

On the Debian server is where all the regex magic, is along with the stunnel client to connect to the NT 4.0 Workstation.

client = yes
debug = 0
cert = /etc/stunnel/stunnel.pem

[altavista]
accept = 127.0.0.1:8080
connect = 10.0.0.19:8443

Likewise on NT stunnel will need a config like this:

cert = c:\stunnel\stunnel.pem

; Some performance tunings
socket = l:TCP_NODELAY=1
socket = r:TCP_NODELAY=1

; Some debugging stuff useful for troubleshooting
debug = 0
output = c:\stunnel\stunnel.log.txt

[altavista]
accept = 8443
connect = 127.0.0.1:6688

With the ability for the Debian box to talk to the AltaVista web server, it was now time to configure Apache.  This is the most involved part, as the html formatting by AltaVista personal search is hard coded into the java binary.  However thanks to mod_rewrite we can modify the page on the fly!  So the first thing is that I setup to virtual directories, the first one /altavista maps to the search engine, and then I added /usenet which then talks to IIS 4.0 on the Windows NT 4.0 workstation, which is just allowing read & browse to the usenet files that will need to be indexed.

#This part connect to a stunnel connection to the Altavista server
ProxyPass “/altavista” “http://localhost:8080”
ProxyPassReverse “/altavista” “http://localhost:8080”
#This connects to IIS 4.0 on the NT 4.0 machine
ProxyPass “/usenet” “http://10.0.0.19/usenet”
ProxyPassReverse “/usenet” “http://10.0.0.19/usenet”
ProxyRequests Off
RewriteEngine On

Because we mounted it on a sub directory we need to redirect the root to /altavista so I simply add:

#Redirect the root to the /altavista path.
#
RedirectMatch 301 ^/$ /altavista

To get the images to work, along with fixing the 127.0.0.1 hardcoding,  I copied them from the NT workstation onto the Apache server, then added this regex statement:

#clean up urls
Substitute “s|Copyright 1997|Copyright 2017|n”
Substitute “s|127.0.0.1:6688|altavista.superglobalmegacorp.com/altavista|n”
Substitute “s|file:///c:\Program Files\DIGITAL\AltaVista Search\My Computer\images\|/images/|n”

And now the site is starting to work.  The most involved regex is to change the links from local text files, into a path to point to the usenet shares.  This changes the text for u:\usenet\a333\comp\33.txt into a workable URL.

Substitute “s|>u:\\\\usenet.([a-z]{1,}[0-9]{3,})\\\([0-9a-z\+\-]{1,})\\\([0-9]{1,})|—><a href=\”http://utzoo.superglobalmegacorp.com/usenet/$1/$2/$3.txt\”>[$2\] Click for article|

Naturally there is a LOT of these type of statements to match various depths, and pattern types as there is A news, B news and C news archives, plus scavenged bits.

Additionally I disabled a bunch of URL’s that would either try to alter the way the engine works, or allow the search location to change, just giving you empty results, along with altering some of the branding, as digital.com doesn’t exist anymore, and various tweeks.  The finished config file for Apache is here.

Now with that in place, I can hit my personal AltaVista search.  The next insane thing was to rename all the files from the UTZOO dump adding a .txt extension, and then re-encoding them in MS-DOS CR/LF format.  I found using ‘find -type f’ to find files, and then a simple exec to rename them into a .txt extension.  Then it was only a matter of using ZIP to compress the archives, and then transferring them to Windows NT, and running UNZIP on them with the -a flag to convert them into CR/LF ASCII files on Windows.  This took a tremendous amount of time as there are about 2.1 million files in the archive.

Now with the files on Windows, now I had to run the indexer.

Indexed in under 7 hours!

While I had originally had an IIS 4.0 instance on the same NT 4.0 Workstation serving up the result files, I thought it may make more sense to just serve them from the UTZOO mirror server I have in the same collocation so it’d be much faster, so that way only the queries are relying on servers in Hong Kong, instead of being 100% located in the United States.

So here we go, my search portal for all that ancient usenet goodness:

altavista.superglobalmegacorp.com

If you are hoping for the wealth of knowledge to be gained from people posting on usenet from 1981 to 1991 then this is your ticket.  Keep in mind that usenet being usenet, there is discussions on everyone and everything, and like all other forums before you know it it’ll end with calling people Hitler, and how the Amiga is the greatest computer ever (well it was!).  A tip when searching by year, is that people commonly wrote the year as 2 digits.  However when looking for numbers like, say Battletech 3025, it will pull up files named 3025.txt.  To prevent this just add -3025.txt to stop names like 3025.txt, or if you want to find out about the movie Bladerunner from 1982, try searching for bladrunner 82 -82.txt +review +movie.  If you have any questions, there is of course the manual with a guid on how to search.

While the story of AltaVista is somewhat interesting, but much like how Digitial screwed up the Alpha market by trying to hoard high end designs, they also didn’t set the search people free to focus on search.  And the intranet stuff was crazy expensive, look at this ad from 1996 which translate to a minimum of $10,000 USD a year to run a single search engine!  But as we all know, the distributed model of google won search and AltaVista never had a chance as it was caught up in the Compaq/HP mess then spun out to be quickly absorbed by Yahoo.

Meanwhile it appears the original owners of altavista.com, AltaVista Technology, Inc. of California, are actually still in business.  If anyone cares I’ll put the installation files, and some of the config’s in this directory.