Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Getting old software/games running on older hardware.

Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-10 @ 21:31

This thread is all about ways to make retro PCs and other computers more useful in the modern world, by doing things such as:

  • New software/drivers to add functionality that either was proprietary/licensed or never existed to begin with
  • Resurrection of old internet-based services that went defunct
  • Ways to add hardware functionality that was either very expensive or didn't exist yet back in the day (e.g. WiFi cards, high-capacity solid state storage, all those super-cool newly made parallel port devices, etc.
  • Modern peripherals interfacing with older systems
  • Patches for old OS's to make them more stable/secure or add modern functionality (A/V codecs, security protocols, etc.)
  • Maybe even someday new OS's for old systems, made with tools and luxuries developers could only have dreamed of back in the day, to breathe new life into old machines. This does not include projects such as FreeDOS and ReactOS, which, although great, are just clones of existing OS's.

The list goes on - you get the idea.

It's stuff like new servers for MSN Messenger (https://escargot.log1p.xyz), or making a new public directory server for MS Netmeeting (https://web.archive.org/web/20180830115 ... inmac.html), or patches to run new web browsers on Windows 98, or an online A/V streaming service for retro PC's (doesn't exist but it should, and I'll do it someday if nobody beats me to it!) --- that really gets me excited because it's great to see old computers fulfilling their purpose in the modern world.

Maybe I will make a Google Sheets page to list all of the examples of these things that I've found so far, and stuff that could happen in the future.

Edit: Google sheets document - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

I really want to someday have a server of my own in which I can run VM's with services for retro computers.

Anyone have anything to add to this discussion?
Last edited by keenmaster486 on 2019-4-17 @ 03:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby .legaCy » 2019-4-10 @ 23:19

Well for using Escargot MSN Server i already made a thread on how to viewtopic.php?f=61&t=62635
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-10 @ 23:34

.legaCy wrote:Well for using Escargot MSN Server i already made a thread on how to viewtopic.php?f=61&t=62635

A good resource to link to in my Google Sheets page if I get that going!

Stuff like this is why I made this thread.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mrau » 2019-4-11 @ 01:31

keenmaster486 wrote:This thread is all about ways to make retro PCs and other computers more useful in the modern world,

i personally think we could have used some old machines much longer - main issue seems to be the prograssion in the software develoment which just omits - often needlessly - older machines;
one would have to cut away bloat to make this possible and most devs go the other direction..
how retro can we go with this for stuff to stay useful and practical;

keenmaster486 wrote:[*]New software/drivers to add functionality that either was proprietary/licensed or never existed to begin with

as for drivers - i always liked it the other way - make new hardware compatible with old drivers so stuff could work out of the box; for software the above applies - i would love to see some proxy to make browsing less of a pain and some office/system software without the modern bloat

keenmaster486 wrote:[*]Resurrection of old internet-based services that went defunct

what do You mean? irc is the only one i see good use for and even that would be slow with ssl but that is not defunct at all

keenmaster486 wrote:[*]Ways to add hardware functionality that was either very expensive or didn't exist yet back in the day (e.g. WiFi cards, high-capacity solid state storage, all those super-cool newly made parallel port devices, etc.

theres plenty of connectivity and multimedia hardware projects already; i would love better sound and graphics

keenmaster486 wrote:[*]Modern peripherals interfacing with older systems

driver develoment might be a pain - do You have specific stuff in mind? even usb is a huge strain on an old machine;

keenmaster486 wrote:[*]Patches for old OS's to make them more stable/secure or add modern functionality (A/V codecs, security protocols, etc.)

is there anything in this category that wouldnt run slow as close to backwards

keenmaster486 wrote:[*]Maybe even someday new OS's for old systems, made with tools and luxuries developers could only have dreamed of back in the day, to breathe new life into old machines. This does not include projects such as FreeDOS and ReactOS, which, although great, are just clones of existing OS's.

interesting especially with good hardware, but lack of software might be a huge issue, theres little practical motivation

keenmaster486 wrote:I really want to someday have a server of my own in which I can run VM's with services for retro computers.

why from a VM? no interest in retro servers?

i know im a bit negative here, but i just cannot see much practical use although the idea is really nice;
for example - for me this would make sense if i could in parallel listen to good music, browse some docs/web, use connectivity and productivity software in real scenarios (i need to handle multiple documents of millions of records with the flexibility of excel or better)
i want for this to be doable, but thats all :(
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-11 @ 02:18

mrau wrote:why from a VM? no interest in retro servers?

Ideally retro servers, yes. But that's way too expensive. Having a single server running a bunch of VMs is a lot more cost-effective. I think I would have to build some kind of a business model around it in order to be able to afford running a bunch of retro servers.

mrau wrote:i know im a bit negative here, but i just cannot see much practical use although the idea is really nice;
for example - for me this would make sense if i could in parallel listen to good music, browse some docs/web, use connectivity and productivity software in real scenarios (i need to handle multiple documents of millions of records with the flexibility of excel or better)
i want for this to be doable, but thats all

I agree with you. Ultimately, this is just all about having fun - no real need for total practicality. Vintage computers really aren't practical to begin with for modern tasks, and maybe with all of these things they could be - but yes, ultimately it's about having fun and more importantly, not having retro computers only to watch them sit and do nothing unless you're playing games on them.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-11 @ 17:52

Proof of concept: Microsoft NetMeeting directory server running on a Windows 2000 Server VM. I'd love to make this public.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mrau » 2019-4-11 @ 18:55

it is my understanding one needs ms apps to use this? no other way? this is an im, with voice functionality and shared tools like whiteboard and others?
i do wonder how low powerwise one can go to be able to still use this? drawing/writing is a lesser issue i believe as the human input limits amount of data to handle, harder are voice comms (depends on how well hardware can assist) and even harder is video/screenspace sharing i would think?
back when i was on 32bit hardware(1.6ghz athlon i believe) i connected to the desktop of the server machine with vnc and rdp - all compresssion was a major distaster - i needed to go fully uncompressed vnc with desktop bit depth (16 bit i think) and size (1024x768) for this to be fast; of course it then ate almost all of the bandwidth of the 100mbit local link;
makes me ponder why everything has to be 32bit color today..
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-11 @ 19:12

The "desktop sharing" feature of MS NetMeeting defaults to 256 colors - you can use true color but it's slower. Otherwise, speeds over the WiFi local LAN (limited to 11mbps, in reality about 8 mbps) are totally acceptable. This is with a PMMX/233 machine running Win98SE, connecting to a WinXP VM.

There are other clients that are compatible with NetMeeting but I am not sure what they are or whether they are still maintained.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mrau » 2019-4-12 @ 02:49

with things like rdp (and i believe this is quite similar) i see that windows will not show the load on the task manager that this causes, but the load is there (the big load is on the presenters station) - if You run some app that test free cpu cycles You can observe it; conversion to 256 lower bandwidth reqs but certainly must take a toll on cpu time and that is actually the one that is preciuos (imho); also conversion from 24/32 bit to 8 bit will take much longer i guess than changing from 16 to 8 bit - or am i wrong here? and this needs to happen for some substantial part of the screen at least some 8-10 times a second; the best i can think of is that maybe the gpu might do such a conversion for the cpu? i believe this might be the case for newer gpus like gf2/gf3 and up
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby dkarguth » 2019-4-16 @ 15:14

The one piece of software I have found most useful is mTCP by Michael Brutman. It gives DOS DCHP, FTP, Telnet, and other utilities that are hard to get to work now. It has very good documentation, and all you need besides the program is any network card, as long as you have the packet driver for it.

http://www.brutman.com/mTCP/
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mbbrutman » 2019-4-17 @ 02:46

dkarguth wrote:The one piece of software I have found most useful is mTCP by Michael Brutman. It gives DOS DCHP, FTP, Telnet, and other utilities that are hard to get to work now. It has very good documentation, and all you need besides the program is any network card, as long as you have the packet driver for it.

http://www.brutman.com/mTCP/


Thanks for the plug ...

And the best part - it runs on anything from a 4.77Mhz PCjr to DOS in a modern virtual machine. And you missed the IRC client, which is particularly fun.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-17 @ 03:05

Google Sheets document - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

Agreed on the usefulness of mTCP. I've found it indispensable.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-4-20 @ 05:30

You can encode MPEG-1 video with VLC Media Player, and play it back using Windows Media Player 6.4 in Windows 98. A Pentium MMX/233 will just barely keep up with a 640x360 video running at 800kbps, with 128kbps 2-channel 44.1K audio.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby Jo22 » 2019-4-20 @ 17:59

mTCP

No IP v6 ? We're close to 2020 now.

Edit: Never mind. Found a fork that's interesting.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mbbrutman » 2019-4-20 @ 20:59

Wrong mTCP ...

If IPv6 is something people need they really should be letting me know; I can't read minds.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mrau » 2019-4-21 @ 01:19

i do not believe people really need ipv6 on a dos box - anyt translating network device should do, no?
i would love to know to what extent mtcp can use offloading with for example a killer NIC; old pc are kinda slow so they can use it;
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby oeuvre » 2019-4-21 @ 12:57

hail our networking savior mbbrutman
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby jheronimus » 2019-4-22 @ 11:22

I wish there was an easy Wayback Machine proxy so I could just open Netscape on my 90s machine, type in an URL and browse the archived version of the site. I mean, http://oldweb.today exists, so this should really be doable, but I don't have the skills to make it happen.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby dionb » 2019-4-22 @ 11:34

mrau wrote:i do not believe people really need ipv6 on a dos box - anyt translating network device should do, no?
i would love to know to what extent mtcp can use offloading with for example a killer NIC; old pc are kinda slow so they can use it;

mTCP itself is light enough to work flawlessly on an XT or indeed PCjr, so I don't really see the use case. Moreover "Killer" NICs are driver nightmares on all supported platforms, which doesn't include DOS. Also note that Killers are PCI devices - how are you going to run that on a pre-1990 system?

The whole beauty of mTCP is to keep it as simple as possible, which is the exact opposite of the Killer design. I don't see how - or why - you could or should mix the two.
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Re: Retro machines usefulness/connectivity thread

Postby mbbrutman » 2019-4-22 @ 14:29

The "killer NIC" thing is fun but it's not going to happen anytime soon. However, keep reading - there is a funny story here.

First, the problem - the packet driver spec. The packet driver spec is ancient and doesn't have a mechanism for communicating fancy things like TCP offload or ring buffers to the card. You can work around this, but it's very hardware specific. There would be other things that I would fix first, like requiring two software interrupts for every received packet - that's a drag on performance.

Now the story ...

I test using DOSBox on Windows 7 before moving to real hardware. I turned on the fancy features of my on-board NIC and forgot about it while trying to speed test my internet connection. Everything worked as expected when going from DOSBox to another machine on the network. Buy months later I discovered nothing worked going from DOSBox to an FTP server on the same machine. WTF?

Turned out to be that the TCP and IP checksums were not being set because they were not getting to the fancy hardware, as this was all on the same box. I turned all of that crap off. ;-0 Clearly it's not implemented correctly.

mTCP can fill the entire memory of a DOS machine in seconds. That's probably fast enough.
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