VOGONS


First post, by xjas

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No long-form build thread this time, I don't think anyone was reading those anyway. This machine is already done. I'd call it a "quick & dirty" build, but naturally I vacuumed and dusted everything that went inside & it's pretty tidy. "Quick & clean" has a nice ring to it.

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Current hardware loadout: (mostly things I had lying around)
K6-2/500 on an ASUS P5A-B
384MB PC133 (@100) SDRAM
20GB Seagate Barracuda
Zip100 drive
Floppy drive
Voodoo3 3000 AGP
Turtle Beach Montego II
NEC PCI USB2
Win98SE

Special features of this build:
Way oversized ATX case
WAY too new PSU
Wrong-colored DVD drive (was out of beige ones, and I really wanted DVD+/-RW instead of a DVD-ROM or CD-RW)
What cable management?!
Shiny metallic "Powered by ASUS" sticker, just because

So how about that backstory?

In 1998-2000 I did a lot of the 'big' competitive LAN party events that were springing up all around the east coast of North America (Toronto, Atlanta, Windsor, Chicago, Indianapolis, Niagara Falls, etc... honestly I've forgotten all the events I managed to hit.) The config I lugged to those (in a huge full-size AT minitower no less!) varied over those years, but the backbone was always a K6-2/400, overclocked to 450, on an Asus P5A-B. Initially I was using a Rendition Verite but quickly upgraded to a Voodoo Banshee.

(IIRC when I started the "hot" config was already a Celeron 300A @ 450 and TNT2 + Voodoo2 SLI, so I was always a step or two down from the high-end players.)

I never scored all that well in the rankings, and my system went from decently capable to severely underpowered in very short order. I made one attempt to upgrade to a Duron 850 on an ECS K7VMA and keep playing, but my skills got outclassed just as quickly. My once-flagship K6-2 setup (re-housed in a more pedestrian minitower) went to my mum to replace her 386SX/25 & she used that as her word processor and email sender for several years. Eventually it retired altogether and made its way into my storage room of old family PCs.

So what's inside this thing and how does it relate?

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There it is! Earlier this week, I rescued the old PC this was in out of the storage room. I couldn't bring the whole thing home, but I took the board & expansion cards to have some fun with. I have no idea when the 400MHz CPU got upgraded to a 500 (I might have done that myself and just forgot??), but this is my P5A-B, which has probably travelled more than a lot of the humans who live on my current island.

Incidentally I've had this cool case sitting empty for a while (& posted about it a few times.) Neither of the projects I'd planned for it managed to gain any traction, but this seems like a suitable use too. I find it hilarious how much the tiny AT board is dwarfed in there.

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Here's the support hardware. I actually have a specific purpose for this build, and I want Glide & A3D for it, so we have a Voodoo3 3000, Turtle Beach Montego II, and a super-convenient NEC USB2 card (these work great on Win98 with the generic USB Mass Storage driver. The P5A-B actually has onboard USB, but I don't have the header bracket, and USB2 is so much nicer anyway.)

That's all that's going in for now. 😜 No SCSI, no ethernet... well, maybe later.

BTW I could have used my original Banshee; I still have it! But I figured the extra oomph from the V3 would be worth it, and the Banshee is installed in something else. I would've loved a V3 back in the day.

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"Fully built" on the inside. Honestly not too messy. I hate the way the ribbon cables have to stretch all the way across like that though, wish they'd put the IDE/FDD ports on the other side.

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Closed up. Runs great, fairly quiet, fairly quick. Actually I'm pretty impressed how fast Win98SE boots & shuts down on such an early platform. I'm used to running it on things like Athlon XPs and P3s but this one chugs along really well.

Unfortunately I'm having driver trouble with the Montego II, so I stuck an old ESS card in to get sound just to try the thing out. I'll sort that out in good time though.

Anyway that's it for now! I had fun putting this together; it's pretty cool to have my old competitive rig back, at least in a way.

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Reply 2 of 25, by xjas

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Ahaha. So it turns out the swapping the 400@450 to a 500 may have been a significant downgrade on this board. I really have no recollection of when that was done or why, or who was using it at the time. If I was still gaming on it, you'd think I'd have noticed the performance drop. I wish I still had the original CPU to compare. Looks like a resistor mod is in the cards...

Weebob wrote:

Looks great!, what games are you planning to run on it?

I have a special, secret game that will be getting its own thread soon, but for now I'm enjoying some Descent 3 which I haven't played in ages. 😉 Albeit at 10-20 FPS (512x384, highest details.)

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^^ check out that crunchy ordered dithering. I like this look way more than I should.

This is my first Windows machine with a (working) 3DFX card in a WHILE so I'm also going through the back catalog of Glide demoscene prods. There aren't that many, but they're fun to watch.

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Reply 4 of 25, by chinny22

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Nice bit of history, sentimental vale always makes the PC's more fun to use.
Also always fun finding out about hardware upgrades you have absolutely NO memory of where/when they happened. had a few systems like that myself

Reply 5 of 25, by Tetrium

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I love your system! 😁

Internal ZIP drive, ss7 that is not K6-3+ but just a plain jane K6-2, 20GB Seagate drive, V3, Turtle Beach, you seem to have picked all the right parts haha! 😁

The only thing I personally don't like is the case, but that's mostly because I have a personal preference for cases that look a bit more sleek and more boring 😜
But the case definitely looks period correct, nice tough!

And the Asus P5A-B, the motherboard that has one of the mounting screws located actually inside the CPU socket, what were they thinking? 🤣!

Last edited by Tetrium on 2018-12-12, 22:27. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 6 of 25, by xjas

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Thanks guys! I've done a few upgrades and changes, so time for an update. Firstly, I sourced a beige DVD-ROM and extra front panel cover, which tidied up the look tons. Couldn't find a DVD+/-RW I liked, but I don't really need to burn anything on this machine anyway, so this'll do. The two panel covers aren't exactly the same, but the color match is extremely good, so not complaining. The new one needed a bit of modding.

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I also moved the DVD drive down so it could be on the same cable as the Zip drive, instead of having the Zip & HDD share.

Secondly, I got the Vortex II working. This was NOT an easy thing to do, and actually involved this:

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...twice.

For the life of me, I could not get the official Turtle Beach drivers to work, either in Dell OEM or native form. They would always BSOD when it tried to install the DOS SB-Pro emulation device. Something about either my hardware or Windows install just will not work with this. There's an apparent solution out there, but I didn't even have the right line in my .inf to change.

Eventually I found a modded reference driver on Phil's website which omits the SBPro compatibility device altogether - fine by me. Even using this, I still got a BSOD once during the install process, but I just rebooted and tried again & it worked. I have yet to see if the software on the Turtle Beach CD will work with the reference driver installed, but I hope it does; there's some neat stuff on there.

Big props to Phil or whoever made that modded driver up.

chinny22 wrote:

Nice bit of history, sentimental vale always makes the PC's more fun to use.
Also always fun finding out about hardware upgrades you have absolutely NO memory of where/when they happened. had a few systems like that myself

The funny thing is it turns out going from the 400@450 to the 500 was a downgrade, as the 500 is a later CPU known to trigger a bug on this specific board. It's hard to tell how much that's affecting overall performance, but I'd think if I were still using it when the CPU was swapped, I'd have noticed.

I can resistor-mod the board to work around the bug, but I'm looking around for a non-bug-triggering 400 or 450 to try first. I tested the current CPU against a Cyrix MII at the same clock speed & the K6-2 was a fair bit slower in just about everything, but at its native 500MHz it seems to go pretty well.

Tetrium wrote:
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I love your system! 😁

Internal ZIP drive, ss7 that is not K6-3+ but just a plain jane K6-2, 20GB Seagate drive, V3, Turtle Beach, you seem to have picked all the right parts haha! 😁

The only thing I personally don't like is the case, but that's mostly because I have a personal preference fro cases that look a bit more sleek and more boring 😜
But the case definitely looks period correct, nice tough!

And the Asus P5A-B, the motherboard that has one of the mounting screws located actually inside the CPU socket, what were they thinking? 🤣!

I actually love this case, it's so weird & such a product of its time. It's also super roomy and easy to work on inside. It came with a 1.7GHz Willamette P4 in it & has a date stamp of 2002, so it's a little newer than a K6-2 setup, but I'm using a pretty late CPU (2000) and I swapped cases a bunch of times along the way with this board, so I figure it's totally suitable. It even has screw holes for baby-AT drilled & marked (including the one in the middle of the CPU socket, which naturally I didn't use. 😜 ) I wish I had an AT I/O shield; there's a big gaping hole back there right now, but not a huge issue.

On this note, I figured out what the top lid and that weird cavity underneath it are for:

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AHAHAHA. Is this the coolest thing ever or what? Well, I'll go with 'or what'. But I still love it. SOMEBODY thought this was just the most genius idea they'd ever had, and didn't shut up until it got built.

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Reply 7 of 25, by xjas

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BTW, here's what this board was in in (probably) late 1999 or so - a cluttered teenager's bedroom, but also the big, somewhat disassembled full-AT tower on the left.

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I used to run my cases open for cooling then; can't stand doing that these days because of dust build-up. 😜 I think my Quantum Bigfoot (bottom left) had just failed & was replaced by a full-height, 3.5" 4GB SCA drive on an ISA SCSI card using a bunch of adapters. Hey, this was premium gear so I ran what I could get my hands on! I had a 350W AT PSU in there which was the biggest thing I could afford at the time & the first CD burner of anybody I even remotely knew, which I was exceedingly proud of.

I swapped the case at least one more time after this but I'm about 99% sure I lugged the big tower to Uberfest '98 or '99 in Atlanta. I lived near Toronto then, so you do the math. Sadly the tower got scrapped a few years later when I was moving & desperately trying to make room.

(That said... I just recently went through my storage room where all this stuff ended up; It's amazing how much of the junk in that pic I still have.)

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Reply 9 of 25, by tizzdizz

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Nice post and nice system. That sort of case isn't my usual cup of tea, but I actually really like it in this case. I remember wanting so many different upgrades back then, and really being limited to budget builds, every 2-3 years. Easy to get left in the dust that way.

Reply 10 of 25, by xjas

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Couple updates on this. 😀 With the Montego II working, I can finally check out this Aureal A3D demo CD that I got who-knows-where probably a decade ago. Found it in my storage room in November, so the timing was fortuitous. 😜

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It has some interesting demo stuff & product info. It seems to be all made in Macromedia Director, so it should work on any system (all the A3D effects are "baked in" and independent of hardware.) I'll post a proper rip of this disc if anyone's interested.

The next thing I did was tweak the hell out of the ALi AGP driver in order to get it running up to where it should be. I am now 95% certain my late-May, 2000 (date code 0021) K6-2 is not affected by the WB/WT bug after all, which goes against what people were saying in the other thread. Either I've got a unicorn board that isn't bugged, or a very late CPU with the older instruction set, or this combo works for some other reason; I dunno. Regardless, I'm quite pleased with the performance I managed to get out of it with a couple hours' work.

For reference, here's the AGP settings I ended up using:

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^^ knock on wood, but it's been pretty stable at these optimized settings. Other people have mentioned that GAT Mode 2 in particular is a little problematic & recommend dialling it back, but I haven't run into any trouble yet.

Naturally, here's a bunch of before/after tweaking benchmarks, because you know I did a bunch of benchmarks:

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There's more info and detailed results in the post I linked to up above. My 3DMark2000 score jumped from 790 to 1449, almost a 2x increase, and I saw similar gains in just about everything. There are a couple of hardware changes in there (ISA->PCI sound card, PC100 RAM -> PC133 @ 100 with tighter timings), but I'd estimate 90% of the gain came from switching to the 2.13 unified AGP driver and tweaking all the settings with the pictured util.

Descent 3 runs great now, and it even chugs away in UT99 botmatch pretty well. It's still a K6-2, and will dip down to 12-15 FPS in really intense spots in either game, but I'm fine with that. I learned these games on a system like this & I'm definitely no "locked at 60" snob. 😉

I'll probably try overclocking to 550 or 578 MHz in the future and see how far that gets me (this is a 2.2V chip so it should have some headroom), but enjoying it as-is for the moment.

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Reply 11 of 25, by xjas

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Next up, more 3D! I've had a Matrox M3D sitting around in a DOS machine for ages, but never found much use for it there (even had the box for it at one time, but that's long gone. 🙁 ) I decided to stuff it in here so I can run the odd PowerVR SGL software I come across. I'm not planning to use this card for DirectX, since the V3 will blow it out of the water for that, but it's nice to have a second option. OGL will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Let's get it installed:

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^^ wait, that's not right.

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There we go! I had a network card in here but took it out for this. Every PCI slot is now used for proper purposes. I guess if I need ethernet I can use an ISA one.

Here's good old Tomb Raider 1 in SGL mode. It even puts a little PowerVR logo in the corner to let you know what's doing the heavy lifting. 😀 This is a DOS game, so no sound because of my previous tribulations with the Montego II.

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To be honest, this was a great game but the graphics engine has aged kind of terribly. I don't mind the grid-based design or quads (big Descent fan after all!), but the art direction doesn't do anything to mitigate the engine's limitations & everything just looks thrown together and bad. Runs well enough though.

Let's try something prettier, well arguably. Here's Motorhead:

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First of all, I love this game. The soundtrack is by demoscene legend Blaizer/TBL (also known for Pinball Dreams/Fantasies, by the same studio, and a ton of other stuff) and it's a solid super-'90s-style arcade racer.

Like a lot of demoscene-derived game studios, Digital Illusions were all about using the hardware at the time. The last patch to Motorhead conveniently ticks all three major boxes for this system:

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Glide, SGL, and A3D 2.0. It was made for this thing.

...Well, sort of. I can't get the Glide mode to work at all; it always hangs when loading the track. Maybe a V3 vs V1/2 incompatibility; I haven't looked too far into it yet. SGL mode works, and looks good in that crunchy PowerVR way, but isn't going to win any speed records.

That said, I think I'd still rather play this on my PS2, because the damn cheat codes work and I can unlock all the cars and tracks without grinding through the whole career mode. I hate that. 😜

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Reply 13 of 25, by melbar

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xjas wrote:

Naturally, here's a bunch of before/after tweaking benchmarks, because you know I did a bunch of benchmarks

Thanks for sharing your K6-2 results. It's very interesting. I also have a K6-2 system but it is not finished until now, maybe up to 95% 😊
My system has the VIA apollo MVP3 and the nvidia solution (Riva128 or TNT2), so it's slightly different 🤣

xjas wrote:

I'll probably try overclocking to 550 or 578 MHz in the future and see how far that gets me (this is a 2.2V chip so it should have some headroom), but enjoying it as-is for the moment.

Would be interesting your benchmarks with the OC values. But personally i would not go to the cpu limit. If i need really much more power, i would run a further build with PIII / Athlon.

Reply 14 of 25, by GordonFreeman

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xjas wrote:

Here's good old Tomb Raider 1 in SGL mode. It even puts a little PowerVR logo in the corner to let you know what's doing the heavy lifting. 😀 This is a DOS game, so no sound because of my previous tribulations with the Montego II.

What resolution did you play Tomb Raider at? According to the site linked in this thread: https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=64397 , Tomb Raider has lagging with a PowerVR PCX2 + Voodoo 3. That doesn't make sense to me though, because I thought the host card basically just displays the output of the PCX2 - so why would the host card itself be a factor, other than maybe the memory? The Voodoo 3 3000 has 16MB, which should be more than enough for Tomb Raider.

Reply 15 of 25, by xjas

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I think the game only supports 640x480? It does slow down a bit, but the PCX2 is absolutely bottlenecking at that resolution. I would expect the same from other of these very-early 3D cards. That said, I didn't notice anything that seemed out-of-order... The V3 is just acting as a framebuffer, so shouldn't really have any impact (a slow 2D card might, but the V3 should be fine.)

If Gona tested it in pure DOS, it's possible that write combining or some other "fast bus transfer" feature was disabled. There are utilities like FastVid to enable those, which I imagine he was using, but maybe the PCX2 doesn't work with them. It's a bit of an esoteric case.

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Reply 16 of 25, by GordonFreeman

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xjas wrote:

I think the game only supports 640x480? It does slow down a bit, but the PCX2 is absolutely bottlenecking at that resolution. I would expect the same from other of these very-early 3D cards. That said, I didn't notice anything that seemed out-of-order... The V3 is just acting as a framebuffer, so shouldn't really have any impact (a slow 2D card might, but the V3 should be fine.)

From what I understand, it supports up to 1024x768. Gona states that the results were independent of the CPU used, but I've also heard that the CPU can have an effect on the PCX2's performance. The fastest CPU Gona used was 500MHz, but I wonder if using a faster one would make any difference.

btw, my m3D should be arriving in a couple days. I had a custom sticker made for my PC with the PowerVR logo; it looks pretty cool, I think.

Reply 17 of 25, by Zero_sugar

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Were you able to resolve the sound card issue? I am having the same exact problem with my i815 Tualatin computer and I'm 99% certain we have the same Dell OEM version of the Vortex 2. I was going to try to put the card in my P5A-b system, but seeing as you were having the same problem with that motherboard, I won't bother trying. The only solution I have found is to have no DOS support on this computer.

Anyway, nice rig. Your benchmarks allowed me to make apples to apples comparisons to my P5A-b/K6-III/Voodoo3 1000 computer.

Reply 18 of 25, by xjas

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I used a modded driver from Phil's Computer Lab which excludes SB support. I can't remember if it was the 2041 or 2048 version, but either should work fine for most things. (Downside: no DOS game compatibility.) The Turtle Beach package has some goodies which it's a shame to miss out on, but AFAIK most of them can be installed manually.

There's also a solution for editing the driver inf yourself, but I didn't spend too long on it after finding the pre-modded ones.

How do your benchmarks compare to mine, out of curiosity?

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Reply 19 of 25, by Zero_sugar

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Ok. You did the same as me. Not being able to have dos support was what motivated me to build my k6-3 system.

I was thinking that my TUSL2-c has issues with some sound cards because the 2 YAMAHA YMF724 cards I have will not work with it and work perfectly on other boards. Creative cards work just fine.