Something Random

sedrosken

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These days I bet they'd just laugh and go, "People are still mad about that?"

They do seem to have mellowed out a bit in their old age.
 

sedrosken

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In 486-related news, I've got it assembled and after minimal headdesking got it to play nice with itself. My experience with this class of hardware is really starting to show, for better or worse. For right now at least I can't seem to even get it to POST at a 33MHz bus, much less run, but as I said earlier that's more a nice-to-have than a necessity. I've just about worked out all the kinks with the base "gaming" 98lite build on its SD card, and now I'm moving on to break more stuff in other OSes on their own SD cards. I procured a copy of OS/2 Warp 3 Connect, the networking-capable edition of... OS/2 Warp 3. Wow. Exactly what it says on the tin.

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Just an excerpt of what I'm currently having fun diagnosing. It's Warp 3, so it could really be anything... let's play "what's making OS/2 mad this time?" roulette! Is it my ATAPI CD-ROM drive, as those weren't yet really a thing at time of release; is it my SD to IDE adapter, which seems remarkably finicky outside of gen-u-ine Microsoft-brand DOS® and Windows™; or is my floppy drive perhaps dying? Did I not sacrifice the correct goat, or did I accidentally do it a minute past midnight instead of exactly at?

Remember, I have the "base" SD card safe and sound, tucked away, and properly backed up. So this is more of a fun puzzle than a "why can't I get this to function" post.
 

Handruin

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On a toes-related note: My roommate secured a Media pass for me at Chicago's Lollapalooza festival, which happened over the past weekend. She officially knows the right people. I have another pass for the Smokeout (Country Music) festival this weekend. Neither of these things are really up my alley, but I'm still pretty let down to miss the opportunity to go and take photos at events like that.

I'm especially sad I missed the possibility of getting to tell the Metallica people to eat shit and die for ruining Napster 20 years ago. It'd be worth getting tossed out to do that.

Should your profile tagline be adapted to Fatwah on Western Digital and Metallica? :)
 

Mercutio

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Possibly. I'm sure I've heard Metallica a bunch of times but the reason I know who they are is that they're the dipshits that killed music sharing. I didn't even actually get to do any of it at the time. They just started the vortex of suck that led to $1/track downloads and $15/month streaming services.
 

sedrosken

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More 486 news: the 486BL cannot cache any more than 16MB of RAM, because it inherited its L1 cache line tags from the 486SLC, which had a 24 bit address bus and couldn't address any more than 16MB of RAM period. At the time this made sense because who was going to put more than 8MB in a 486 of any kind?

So I pulled one of the SIMMs (it had 2 16MB modules) and immediately Windows is much, much, MUCH faster -- Windows 9x fills memory top-down, meaning for the first half of memory it's completely uncached. DOS fills bottom-up so you don't notice the performance deficit unless you're playing very demanding games that need more than 16MB which on DOS are few and far between.

Ironically the machine is now faster and better at multitasking with only 16MB of RAM under Windows 98 (albeit 98lite) than it was with 32.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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Long, boring CSB:

My big fancy going-away-to-college PC was a dual 486/50 workstation system. It had come from my father's office, but he made me buy it off him. I remember that it had a Zeos motherboard (about like getting a Supermicro board in the current day; exotic but available) and it'd had a Fujitsu-branded graphics card (which I didn't get in the deal) which was at the time the most serious expansion card I'd ever laid eyes on. His company had been experimenting with that system using OS/2 and Windows NT as an alternative to the HP/Apollo systems they were using.

Anyway, that system had an absolutely mind-boggling amount of RAM, 24MB in total. I think the recommended RAM requirement for NT 3.1 was 16MB, and their first pass at getting NT to not run like ass was to stick more RAM in, which generally worked REALLY well on systems from that era, but NT 3.1 was a special kind of terrible. I'm not sure if it wound up being used for a file server or if it got turned in to someone's CAD system, but it was a couple years old when it came into my life and it held up amazingly well for my first few years of school.

When I was in college, almost no one was any kind of computer hardware enthusiast, but the CS and Engineering guys I knew thought it was a cool machine because it had more RAM than the Sparc 5s they had all over campus, which were for the most part the fastest computers most people got to play with on a day to day basis.

I will also say that Purdue at the time had student systems that hosted shell accounts, which were set up to give everyone on campus at least access to email, but also to run things like gopher sites and FTP repositories for useful things. Those machines were Sequent 2000s, which had 12 386/33s and IIRC 64MB RAM on a computer roughly the size of an apartment fridge. They were super cool computers, too. The whole thing was functionally a giant rack with a high speed backplane so I/O could come and go from each 19" wide CPU node and could share the total RAM. The mind blowing part of that is that those 12 386/33s were usually hosting somewhere between 2000 and 3000 concurrent shell sessions. Those things were overloaded as all hell (top would usually say the load average was over 5, which in computer terms is what we call "a world of hurt.") but they never stopped running.

... and an even more boring postscript

I started college wanting to study Genetics, but that was right after Jurassic Park came out, so I didn't stay in that program, but one other funny thing happened because I had some familiarity with graphics workstations: I saw somebody messing around with a SGI Onyx in one of the Bio labs and clearly struggling with that thing. Onyx machines are the systems that rendered the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and any SGI machine is hard to miss (a lot of them are purple at a time when probably 99% of computers were beige). I walked in to see the pretty computer and it turned out the Grad students just having no idea how to work their very big and expensive computer. For the whole time I was in college I wound up helping with an X-ray Crystallography and computer visualization project. The prof responsible for the research is the person who grabbed me by the ear, walked me to the advising office and made me change my major.
 

sedrosken

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I like stories like this because they help put the hardware I play with into context. I'm looking at it with 25+ years of hindsight and having only ever seen machines this old a handful of times as a child because they were already woefully obsolete and largely out of service. My whole experience with this class of hardware is, "Wow, this is slow" or "Wow, I'm surprised this even runs, much less runs acceptably well." You got to experience these things in reference to what was actually available at the time.

I'd like to get ahold of a SPARCstation sometime, and maybe an Itanium machine just to laugh at as it tries to run Windows XP 64-bit edition poorly. I think a lot of the soul of the computer industry died with the homogenization of everything onto the x86 platform -- ARM's making that more interesting now, and RISC-V shows promise, and we even still occasionally see MIPS in routers and such, but by and large the diversity of the computing sector is gone.

OS/2 of any stripe right now appears to be a non-starter. Windows NT 3.x has turned into more trouble than it's worth -- after rewriting the boot disks several times, to different disks, from different sources -- it'll boot disk 1 and proceed with disk 2, but refuses to recognize disk 3 at all. I attempted to run WINNT /B from a DOS install, and that got further, but on its first boot to get into NT setup, it gives me an INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE BSOD, and I'm almost wondering if that's not because the XT-IDE 386+ ROM I put in my network card technically turns my IDE bus into an int13h device that Windows NT has no driver for. You'd think that as long as it's able to find the drive at 1F0h, it'd be fine, but nooooo... Can you tell I spent literal hours yesterday trying to prod that into working? I might try one more time later, unshadowing the ROM at D000h, as I feel that might have caused an issue, but if that doesn't work I'm done trying for now. For those curious, I'm using the XT-IDE ROM to give myself LBA support as the BIOS doesn't have it and tops out at 528MB.
 
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jtr1962

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Ah, the good old days. My first PC was a 386-33 with 4MB of RAM. I got it in late 1998 after my friend upgraded the PC at his business. Needless to say it was slow even for the time, but it was better than having no PC. Anyway, that machine had a 1.2GB HDD which was using drive overlay software in order to access the entire capacity. Drive overly software was one of the worst ideas going. Sure, it let you access drives larger than 528MB without changing hardware. However, if you needed wipe the drive and restore everything from backup you were screwed if you didn't happen to have the floppy with the drive overlay software. Happened to me. I kept wondering why I got errors writing files, and the machine kept crashing. Then I talked to the guy in my friend's shop who set up the PC and he mentioned drive overlay software. He gave me a copy of the floppy. All was well.

Not too long after this same person, who was seriously into PCs, upgraded his home machine and gave me his old 386-40. The nice thing about this machine was that it could use the 4MB SIMMs. My 386-33 maxed out at 4MB. This machine could have 32MB. Since old memory was relatively inexpensive, I upgraded the machine to 32MB for about $100. Not long after I bought one of those Promise IDE expansion cards so I would never have to be bothered with drive overlay software again. The CompUSA had 8.4GB HDDs on sale for about $100, so I upgraded. I literally had the largest drive the Promise card could deal with. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of FAT16 at 2GB per partition I had to make 4 or 5 partitions on the drive.

Ever since then upgraded with mostly second hand stuff. I was always a few generations behind but I learned the gamut of hardware from 386s all the way to what we have now.

BTW, two things happened since then. One, PCs got fast enough for what I do that I haven't found myself wanting more speed in a long time. I'm using an A10-7870K APU (integrated graphics) with 32GB. The newest APUs have more than twice the graphics power, and 8 cores instead of 4, with each core being at least twice as fast as mine. Would it be nice to upgrade? Sure, but I find no compelling reason. I'm still blown away by the fact I have 1,000 times as much RAM as I did in my 386-40.

The second thing is storage has been more than adequate for a long time. I remember the 1.2GB drive was pretty limiting, to the point I sometimes had to be selective about what I keep. Those days have been over for a long time. I have two 960GB and one 500GB SSD on my machine, plus an 11-year old 2TB HDD.

Oh, and integrated graphics has been more than fast enough for my needs for a long time, so I'm not seeing any more graphics cards in my future.

So no more upgrade fever for me. Sure, computers in some ways have become sterile, boring appliances that mostly just work but that's fine for most people. I don't miss the days of jumpers on expansion cards and playing with IRQs and addresses. Yeah, the old PCs were dog slow but then again the software they ran was designed for them.
 
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Mercutio

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OS/2 of any stripe right now appears to be a non-starter. Windows NT 3.x has turned into more trouble than it's worth

OS/2 4.0 wasn't terrible. I liked it at the time but I actually got my first Microsoft certification on NT 3.51 and I can just tell you that yes, it was kind of terrible and crashy. Early NT was extremely picky about what drivers would work since it supporting it often wasn't considered a must-have, but in part, the janky nature of the system was just the exotic amount of hardware that had to be in place to even use it. It need a lot of RAM, only shipped with eight or 10 video drivers and support for only a very small number of storage controllers. If you weren't expecting and planning to work in NT, what you had probably wouldn't work.

I MIGHT still have NT 3.51 install media on a CD somewhere. I usually keep OS installers, no matter how obsolete they are.
 

sedrosken

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Heck, even NT4 doesn't especially like my hardware here, and I'd not really wanted to use that as I consider NT4 to be the domain of a Pentium with more RAM anyway.

I can't get OS/2 past the point where it would be detecting the CD-ROM -- I really do think it's just angry I'm using an ATAPI drive. That and it likely has no idea what to make of an IDE bus with an external BIOS loaded, since the XT-IDE 386+ ROM makes it into an int13h device and has no real "drivers".
 

Mercutio

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Warp definitely worked with standard SCSI and ATAPI drives. I can't speak to what you're using right now, but I IIRC OS/2 was the first OS I installed off a CD-ROM. Maybe your could copy your OS install media to a secondary drive and try installing from that?
 
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