First post, by zerodiagonal
Hi all! First post here, been reading about but decided to register so I could get advise from you. I'm a long time member of a wellknown retro gaming tracker, whose members pointed me out to your forums.
This is what brought me to you: I have an old pc tower which I found near the dumpster. Despiste it's age, it's in a great condition with almost no dust at all on it's insides. From the HDD scavenging, I found out the pc's purpose was only to serve a small xls fileand a few htmls in an intranet. Well, cut this story short, I immediately though on making a retro gaming box out of it.
[SKIP THIS IF IT'S TL;DR TO YOU]
These are the specs as of now:
- Motherboard: AOPEN AX6BC (updated to the latest bios firmware)
CPU: PENTIUM II 350 Mhz (overclocked stably to 466,59; I can push it a bit more but I started to get freezes after a given time or no boot at all. The bios reads it's manufacturer speed at 233 Mhz but cpu box inscription points me to this component part).
RAM: 160 MB (32 MB originally + 128 MB I had laying around. I don't have the details right now but I think the 32 MB module works at 133 while the 128 mem sticks at 100 Mhz. Need to confirm it.)
LAN: NETGEAR FA310TX C6.1
Power Supply: AOPEN something-something (iirc, it outputs ~600w; again, needs confirmation but for now I suppose it's irrelevant)
HDD: 6GB IDE noisy little monster, which sucks a pretty voltage (had to power it using the power cable from the PSU; it's in a mint state as far as bad sectors and r/w access times goes (accordingly to the official specs)
After formating, re-sitting all the cables and stuff, I installed Win98SE and also a couple of unofficial updates, because I was having trouble with USB flash/hdd disc and also with the 16:10 widescreen monitor. Couldn't fix the stretching but at least gave it some higher resolution which was confortable to use with). It felt very fast, even without oc'ing the cpu. But the outdated OS gave me some troubles and soon I tried Win XP and some flavoured linuxes, which worked pretty well. XP is kinda slow and needs a bit of oc'd cpu to be reasonably fast.
[OK, RESUME READING HERE, PLEASE! :P]
As of now, my main concern is to choose which Operating System to go with.
What I want of it: mainly, be able to play all the DOS/Windows games it supports. I presume I wouldn't go further than 2001-03 if that much (I know it really depends on the game, it's just so I/you have an idea). Also, it'd be cool if I could emulate some basic systems, maybe up to the 8bit consoles, maybe pushing it a bit to some 16bit ones. In the long run, I intend to have this just as a pc retro gaming box, moving all the emulation to another yet-to-come system connected to a tv.
What I've tried:
- Windows 98 SE: works great, except I couldn't find support for the videocard nor for the usb ports. Some unnoficial patches and a compatibility layer for XP applications rendered the system unstable and buggy.
Windows XP Home: Not that fast but had no major issues finding drivers and updated software. I'm afraid it'd consume many resources, leaving few for gaming.
CrungBang Linux & a couple of other small distros for old computers: great support and speed right out of the box but I'm afraid it'd be only viable for some emulators and compatibility with Dos/Windows games
- A stripped down [hacked] version of Windows XP Pro, for hw & drivers support while also not eating much sysresources as possible. I have no experience with this kind of mods, I've seen them around for years, even versions that claimed to be gaming specialized. I'm not sure what's the offer nowadays.
An embedded operating system: maybe based on Win2000 or even XP. The same reason as above: low footprint and higher hw support. I've considered this option more than the rest but I feel like it can't be that simple, othewise I'd probably have seen more of these copies floating aroung and maybe pre-configured. Anyways, another advantage was to keep the system "closed". I imagine that with a proper frontend I'd only need to access the HDD to add/remove games and for minimum configurations. This very idea excites me but I'm totally clueless, since I haven't seen a setup like this before (you may argue I haven't bothered searching. And you are right!)
A proper linux flavour: compatibility with DOS/Win would be the major issue. As for emulation, there's linux ports of it. Or at least the source code. Dosbox could be an alternative, but honestly I prefer to play the games as they were meant to be (not that Dosbox changes them significantly, but still. Also, I'm not sure how much more resources would it require for that extra layer on top of the OS.)
And this is where I'm at. I'm a great supporter of preservation & collecting, so most of my stuff would require Daemon Tools or so (GOG releases I presume, would require way more resources than the game originally asked for (taking in account the sys specs on their webpage!). I haven't a sound card yet (feeling altruist? :P) but intend to add one later (maybe a A3D as I've been reading some bits about it and it's technology).