VOGONS


First post, by shawnhell

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I recently finished a one year building trek I had originally slated as a replacement to a Atari Jaguar I no longer use and a failing DVD player that have been housed in my bedroom's TV and VCR style stand I have had for many years. I had originally intended on one build to do this, but ended up with two...the second of which I have posted here.

The concept started with the idea of something I could run Playstation 1 era games (Resident Evil, Tomb Raider...) as a focus as well as a platform I could reasonably use my collection of emulators of my favorite systems (Atari 2600 to Playstation 1). The trick to me was finding the proper system with the size restrictions on the cab as a parameter. I briefly considered one of the many decommissioned clients available on eBay, even some of the fine custom client builds by inspired builders with very clever build ideas, however I felt I was just too picky about the specs and modifiability of these. I started with what I knew... an Intel 440BX Slot 1 & Windows 98SE.

Gateway GP7 (Intel 440BX Slot 1) (BIOS Updated Direct)
Intel Pentium 3 850MHz Processor
512 MB Micron Ram
Seagate Barracuda 120GB Hard Drive
Elsa Synergy Force AGP Video Card (FELS-8436) (NVIDIA GeForce 256 SDR)
Creative Sound Blaster AWE64 CT4380 Standard Edition
Linksys WMP54G ver4.1 (Driver Vitals Driver In This Build Thank You Michael von Lehe!)
SIIG 4 +1 PCI USB Port (Inside port to SIIG front panel 4 port)
3Com 3C905B-TX Ethernet Network Adapter
Sigma Designs REALmagic NetStream 2

I had been seeking a better solution to the Fosman VGA to Composite adapter I had been using. My experience with it had been increasingly disappointing. Often when starting a DOS game, the game would continuously flip. This accompanied by unstable shutdown screens forced a reconsideration. After quite a few searches I noticed a card that had a chip I was able to purpose appropriately for this, and it works so much better...

The Sigma Designs REALmagic NetStream 2 has been released with different variations, one has an Aitech AIT2138 chip onboard. This chip was actually sold on a card dedicated to this type of video conversion (known as a scan convertor, or in this case an internal scan convertor). With this card all my video issues ceased, and the picture remains delightfully stable! The one thing I don't like about these cards is the proprietary VGA to Mini-DIN 9 cable that these absolutely need to function, primarily I hate I cannot appropriate a better length. They are about 1 foot long, and since this and the video card are very close together I had an idea to apply a CTG #09565 to the unused VGA port on the Netstream 2 card and wind the unneeded length around it like a spool, cleaning up the back of the computer space and stabilizing the cord to avoid cord wiggling. I installed the NetStream 2 drivers to eliminate the driver needed issue in Device Manager even though I didn't need it to just use this chip. To anybody interested in one it is important to note the AIT2138 chip always appears to be hidden by a passive heatsink when I have found it on the market.
This listing on eBay has a picture of this card chip covered.

The Elsa Synergy Force was a card I had originally intended to be the card for the first console build. It comes with removable DVI-D (Dual Link) connector board which I removed to adapt it to NLX form the first build needed. Instead of reapplying however I simply added a VGA conversion bracket (removed from an Elsa GLoria Synergy). The Elsa Synergy Force appears to be very similar to the Elsa Erazor X, with the one true notable difference in the card BIOS (shows Elsa Synergy Force on boot). This allowed for some options on drivers, which I'm sure we can all agree is a good thing. I optioned drivers from NVIDIA but only as a last resort feeling more comfortable with Elsa drivers, this as long as I could indeed still find them. The background on this card shows it was a DELL OEM for a period of time, this was clearly an option. I had spent a little time looking around for drivers issued through Elsa that might also be an option. This arrived at a site with a variety of card drivers from Elsa I could try. I first tried the DELL driver which worked without issue. I then tried, in skepticism, the Elsa Erazor X driver...but it didn't install. I then tried an install that seems to be a driver pack from Elsa which, to my surprise, installed the driver for the Elsa Erazor X. I decided to keep it after testing fine.
Dell tested nVIDIA version (Elsa Synergy Force, v. 1.0, A01)

Driver pack from servodata.lublin.pl - Index of /ftp/ELSA/GRAPHICS/ELSA_CH/W9X

-DELL FLASH BIOS- Fixes a no video after soft reboot issue with Windows 98 SE.

I also felt this needed better airflow, one fan just wouldn't cut it. I had a fan I had previously decommissioned from a dismantled PSU still in great condition complete with wire grill which was quiet and the same size. The front of the case came with cutouts and I felt the flow was acceptable but I needed an adapter to properly mount it. I then added a processor fan I removed from a replacement heatsink kit.
This 80mm to 92mm Fan Adapter worked well to install the front case fan.

I attempted to apply a Retr0bright technique to this as well, it was towards the end of Summer last year on my vacation. The beige was so ugly from age that I felt with everything else I'm doing, I might as well give it a try. I used "Clairol Professional Pure White Creme Developer 40", chemically it seemed to fit the bill. Applied by brush (spare antistatic) although it's thin. I tried with and without zip bags, zip bags kept it from drying off. After a few tries it made a very noticeable improvement, especially on the side panels. The front panel could still be brightened, mainly an issue from its contour being extremely difficult to get proper coating and sun exposure angle. Summer was ending and the UV rays were evening out, so I decided to end it, but maybe later...
Zip bags I used.

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Last edited by shawnhell on 2022-02-21, 18:33. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 8, by shawnhell

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Video cards mentioned removed for display photos below.

I also renamed post from "Gaming" to "Entertainment" to better define build.

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    Elsa Synergy Force (Front)
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    Sigma Designs REALmagic NetStream 2 (w/Aitech AIT2138)
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Reply 2 of 8, by bZbZbZ

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Wow, what an incredible project! What it like using Windows 98 on a 240p television? What kind of keyboard / mouse do you use with this setup?

I use a jailbroken Nintendo Wii (running Retroarch) to emulate most consoles up to SNES / Genesis; the Wii outputs native 240p to my CRT television (I have component but after some back and forth I went back to composite, it looks more... authentic). Obviously that's nowhere near as elaborate as what you've put together here!

Reply 3 of 8, by shawnhell

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bZbZbZ wrote on 2022-02-21, 05:59:

Wow, what an incredible project!

Thank you so much!

bZbZbZ wrote on 2022-02-21, 05:59:

What kind of keyboard / mouse do you use with this setup?

I use an IBM SK-8840 Keyboard (PS/2) and a Logitech USB mouse additionally on occasion (cleaning up, organizing, or say playing a game of Night Trap!). I'm a big Logitech fan ...durable, reliable and available! The keyboard was purchased during the first build I mentioned only briefly above, an IBM IntelliStation E Pro 6893.

bZbZbZ wrote on 2022-02-21, 05:59:

I use a jailbroken Nintendo Wii (running Retroarch) to emulate most consoles up to SNES / Genesis; the Wii outputs native 240p to my CRT television (I have component but after some back and forth I went back to composite, it looks more... authentic).

That's interesting, I had not even thought of something like that. Retroarch sounds great! All my emulators are older, I stored them and a bunch of ROMs just in case the laws suddenly changed making them illegal, and unavailable or something. Emulation sounds like it's still going strong though!

bZbZbZ wrote on 2022-02-21, 05:59:

What it like using Windows 98 on a 240p television?

I really couldn't imagine better output considering what I'm using for a display. Its been years since I played these games, and I honestly can't say I'm presently aware of how these used to look like. The only time I truly miss a better display is when viewing a desktop, icons and names are difficult to properly view ...but not impossible. 😉
The things I am very picky about is screen alignment, flicker and scrolling (endless flipping), and those problems seem to have been completely eliminated.
Funny how an old chip from back in the 90s works better than all these newer convertor boxes of today...

Reply 4 of 8, by PcBytes

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You really made me want to pull up my old GP6-400 (it's the desktop version, same case as yours but mine has a P2 400) and try to pimp out the hell outta it.

IIRC, I have a ASUS P2B sitting and doing nothing that I suppose I could use, but seriously, has ANYONE else than me had the issue where no matter what BIOS you use, it won't detect any drive bigger than 32GB?
I mean seriously, I have the latest BIOS which is supposed to support 40GB drives, yet trying to install any 40GB drive results in the classic BIOS lockup when it tries to access a drive beyond 32GB.

Other than that, that Win98 Plus! logo reminds me of the Gericom Supersonic M6-T I have on which I overhauled the Plus logo on.
I basically fused in the Plus! bootscreen with the Beta 2.1 (yes, 98 Beta 2.1 and 3 had a different bootscreen that still mentioned IE as well, similar to how 95 had Microsoft Internet Explorer underneath its name) logo and got something rather cool.

"Enter at your own peril, past the bolted door..."
Main PC: i5 3470, GB B75M-D3H, 16GB RAM, 2x1TB
98SE : P3 650, Soyo SY-6BA+IV, 384MB RAM, 80GB

Reply 5 of 8, by shawnhell

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PcBytes wrote on 2022-02-21, 22:29:

that Win98 Plus! logo reminds me of the Gericom Supersonic M6-T I have on which I overhauled the Plus logo on.
I basically fused in the Plus! bootscreen with the Beta 2.1 (yes, 98 Beta 2.1 and 3 had a different bootscreen that still mentioned IE as well, similar to how 95 had Microsoft Internet Explorer underneath its name) logo and got something rather cool.

I had to look up screenshots of the Beta bootscreens on the web after you mentioned this, never seen them before until now. I was also wondering to myself "Why do I install the Plus pack?". Its become so automatic I don't even think about it. Then I remembered, the Organic Art screensavers! Even though today I have the purchased versions, I still want the Plus versions too. Theming is cool as well, its all worth the install!

PcBytes wrote on 2022-02-21, 22:29:

You really made me want to pull up my old GP6-400 (it's the desktop version, same case as yours but mine has a P2 400) and try to pimp out the hell outta it.

Looking back to when I bought this Gateway unit I remember how surprised I was to see one of these Desktop "Horizontal" rather than "Tower" builds with all the usual card slots available. I mean, I usually see an NLX form factor housed in a case this size (less card slots on a riser). Instead this has what seems to be a Tower motherboard inside a accommodated compact case. To give perspective, I was able to use the same BIOS update for both this build and a Gateway Tower build I had already. BIOS numbers matched! This form factor I had not seen before, and seems to be relatively rare... anyway, at least to me.
This was a tight build, though. Examine the distance between the AGP Video slot and the DVD, larger cards like an ATI 9800 Pro would be very close! Or how about a Voodoo 5? Probably not. The Sound Blaster here came right to the very top, and almost touches the slide-on metal cover, I had to use a "white-ended" MPC audio cable to the CD-in otherwise the black connector would have been rubbing against the lid.
Very tight and compact.

Reply 6 of 8, by PcBytes

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NLX were usually IBM and Compaq territory AFAIK.

Same goes for my GP6-400. It's almost the same mainboard as yours (WS440BX with an Creative branded Ensoniq ES1373) except mine seems to have shipped with a 400MHz Pentium II instead of Pentium III as yours did.

The only reason I'd want to replace it is because a RAM slot got burnt already and I cannot use it, which limits my RAM expansion rather greatly. I found the ASUS P2B to be a good candidate except for the stupid fact that I can't install 40GB drives on it no matter what (and I'd rather not go around using a SIL0680 card on it just to bypass that).

Failing to get the P2B to work, I could either go with a Soyo 6BA +IV, or go all in with a Soltek SL-65ME on the i815 chipset.

"Enter at your own peril, past the bolted door..."
Main PC: i5 3470, GB B75M-D3H, 16GB RAM, 2x1TB
98SE : P3 650, Soyo SY-6BA+IV, 384MB RAM, 80GB

Reply 7 of 8, by shawnhell

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PcBytes wrote on 2022-02-24, 08:24:

Failing to get the P2B to work, I could either go with a Soyo 6BA +IV, or go all in with a Soltek SL-65ME on the i815 chipset.

I do love Asus, but I usually have my limits. If you have tried it without success, I'd move on. Mainly because you have some beautiful mobo choices there. If I were deciding I would consider if I wanted an ISA slot, and let that be the decider. Both are sweet though!

PcBytes wrote on 2022-02-24, 08:24:

NLX were usually IBM and Compaq territory AFAIK.

Same goes for my GP6-400. It's almost the same mainboard as yours (WS440BX with an Creative branded Ensoniq ES1373) except mine seems to have shipped with a 400MHz Pentium II instead of Pentium III as yours did.

I don't disagree, I personally am aware of IBM. The IBM IntelliStation E Pro 6893 I first attempted to build on is an NLX form. I had such an issue getting it to play nicely I had to come to a decision: try to switch out the mainboard, or lose my mind. I chose the former 😉 . I looked around for NLX mobo options and seen a few Jabil Maverick 440BX NLX boards that felt right. Mine is basically a Gateway branded Intel board removed from a E-3200 Desktop. I slid this into the IBM riser and cab and issues were finally resolved. Gateway has a few NLX models available ("E class"), and very available now on eBay, they're usually the only compact ones I run into.

Reply 8 of 8, by shawnhell

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While I was going through the pile of parts and devices I've accumulated during this building process, I happened across a few sticks of RAM I set aside and somehow misplaced during the process. Like the sticks I previously chose, they are also Micron... however these are all 256MB ECC sticks. I switched the others for these and everything seems to still be running smoothly. I'm strongly leaning toward keeping these installed as more RAM is something I had previously considered anyway. I currently have the BIOS setting at NON-ECC, and vcache in the System.ini file set appropriately. I welcome viewpoints on my decision...

I also replaced the CMOS battery after running into some locally and remembering the one I had installed was quite old. I had collected so many over the years from dismantled builds that I had previously always used from a small zip bag of batteries I had stored so I never had to purchase one although the one I used before was the weakest and unfit for a new build.

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