Project Recycle: Retro Gaming

Discussion in 'PC Build Logs' started by Catweazle, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    It all really started about 5 years back. I was cleaning out the shed out back, looking at a whole corner filled with excess computer junk, and decided "Nope! I'm not gonna throw it out. One of these days I'll build myself a retro gaming box with what's salvagable out of it!"

    There's been a whack of stuff turfed from it since then, and a heap more added to the pile as well, but after procastinating for an interminable amount of time "Project Recycle" is finally underway!

    I haven't been gaming for so long it's a joke! Cracked the shits with PC gaming ages ago, when pretty much all the new titles coming out started to be online multiplayer crap that doesn't interest me in the slightest. Cracked the shits with having loud, hot, power-hungry computers running in the house all the time, when most of the time they were only used for internet and household productivity anyways. The last time I had a gaming graphics card in a PC it was a pair of 7800GTs! And although I have a couple of reasonable PCs in the house, there's no way I'm planning to put a gaming card in even the quad-core rig! I've a nice corner with a solid bench out back in the shed, I've cleaned that corner up and that's where the gaming box(es) are gonna go! I've decided I don't want a power-munching game box even turned on unless I'm sitting down at it working my way through a PC Game!


    Click to view full size!



    The Project Brief

    Stuffing around to get old games running under modern Windows versions gives me the shits!

    If a game runs under 64-bit Windows with no more than a NoCD crack that's fine (coz these Game Console PCs are gonna be running games from hard drive anyway, as far as is possible). But I'd rather do a one-time build job than buggerise around with virtual machines, DosBoxes or whatever else a particular old game might need.

    The original plan was for a Windows 98SE box. That plan still stands, but with so many games unplayed (or that I want to play again) Project Recycle now calls for TWO dedicated gaming boxes built from recycled junk: a Windows 98 box and a Windows 7 box.

    Machine #1

    It's gotta run Windows 98SE. I haven't played Redneck Rampage since Windows Me first arrived, and getting Duke Nukem 3D running under Windows XP irritated the hellout of me.

    It's gotta be rock solid, and powerful enough to double up for any game that's a pain in the arse to get working under 64-bit Windows.

    Project Recycle: Windows 98 Box also has to be endurable. An old fella like me, verging on the edge of Alzheimers, wants to be building something that's gonna last. So it's tried and proven components only, with heaps of spares in reserve :D

    Machine #2

    I've got a choice here between an old X1800XT PCI-E card and my trusty old pair of 7800GT PCI-E cards. When I eventually get through playing (or replaying) anything those will cream I'll move the quad rig out to the shed and bung a more recent gaming card in it.


    The Progress

    I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here, but the Windows 98 box is up and running. I'll revisit the saga of putting it together in later posts, but thus far I've played through most of the original Max Payne game whilst fine-tuning it, and with only one machine crash!


    Click to view full size!


    There it is, thus far. It's about to get stripped down again, coz I've finally found the backplate for it. This is a tad messy:


    Click to view full size!


    While I'm at it, I might use some of this to sheath the cabling and neaten it up a bit:


    Click to view full size!


    And let me not forget the most important part of the prerequisites. This is all supposed to be fun, after all!


    Click to view full size!





    Next post (when I get round to it) will include details of the build and the specs. If you wanna keep listening to a rough-as-guts old bastard rambling on and revisiting an era of computer history, then subscribe to the thread. Or maybe point it out to your forum friends who might enjoy such a saga.


    Cheers 'til laterz :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2013
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  2. OP
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Part 2 : That Windows 98 Box


    Before I get on with talking about the tidying up I did to the machine last night, a bit about the components I've ended up salvaging.


    Case/PSU

    Easiest choice of all, this one. I picked up this weather-beaten old Antec Sonata II case ages ago, basically for nix, when I purchased a secondhand Core2Duo bundle.


    Click to view full size!


    After collecting the Core2Duo bundle I dropped into Scorptec out at Clayton to grab an extra SATA controller card, and there was a brand new Sonata II case, cheap as chips coz it was EOL and ex-Display. When I got home I swapped over the Core2Duo kit into the new case, and bunged the old one out in the shed, to eventually become the home for my Win98 box.

    I thought carefully about giving the case a repaint for this project, but not for long. Bugger it! The thing is gonna sit under the shed bench, pretty much out of sight. It's solid, it's quiet, and that's enough. And hey! It's got a coupla pretty blue lights on the front :D


    Power Supply Unit sorted itself out too. That old Sonata II case came with a perfectly good 650W Antec Smartpower unit that is still running strong and in use in the household internet PC. The new case came with a brand new 450W SmartPower, which has been sitting out back with the old case, waiting for now!


    Click to view full size!



    CPU

    Anyone who's been around for a while would recognise these babies. Along with its Intel rival the P4c 2.4, the Athlon XP2500+ Barton was a favourite of hobbyists pretty much right up until 64-bit CPUs turned up.


    Click to view full size!


    I've got two of them here. One sat in a Leadtek mobo for a bit less than a year, multiplier o/c'd to a 3000+ before being bunged back to stock and used for a while as an internet box. The other sat in an NF7-S mobo, fsb o/c'd to a 3200+, and was the mainstay of my gaming for a LONG time!

    Hot little buggers, but they handle it well, and you pretty much can't kill them unless you pump heaps of voltage in or run the things without heatsink correctly installed. I expect them to outlive ME!


    Graphics card

    After sifting through the junk I found that I was down to only TWO working AGP 8X cards. One was a Leadtek GF4 Ti 4200 VIVO card. Had to ghetto-mod an old CPU cooler fan onto it, coz the proprietary fan on the card was dodgy. The other working card was a GF4 MX thingy. Not the stuff of confidence :/

    So a graphics card became the ONLY actual purchase I've had to make for this machine. Picked up an Asus V9999 GF6800 card in Swap Meet here for 20 bucks, and got an FX5200 card thrown in with it as further backup.


    Click to view full size!


    Even the vanilla GF6800 card is really overkill for this project. Shader Model 2.0 arrived with DirectX 9.0c as a Windows XP and beyond feature, so DirectX 9.0b is best I'm gonna get under Win98. I can't recall ever encountering a game that required DX9.0c or better and that wouldn't run easy enough under 64-bit Windows, so no problem there :)


    Monitor

    An Asus 22" widescreen flat panel has been relegated to the shed for Project Recycle. 1680x1050 @60Hz native.

    I can't, for the life of me, get it to run at native resolution/refresh under Windows 98! Not on the GF4Ti card and not on the 6800 card!

    Best it'll allow me to select, for either desktop or games, is 1600x1024 @60Hz. Funny thing about it, though, is that the vidcard recognises the monitor quite OK, and letterboxes that 1600x1024 display perfectly under Fixed Aspect Ratio! I've got Detonator 81.98 drivers installed though, coz they're the latest version available for Win98. I've heard that some earlier driver versions handle the screen res better, so trying those is a job for later on.




    That's enough for this installment. Motherboard woes for the next chapter of the saga, before I get on with describing the tidying up and tweaking.

    Oh! And you folk reading? How about a comment as feedback? Even if it's to tell me I'm a silly old bastard who should shut the *** up! I'm getting close to that time of life when Alzheimers kicks in, so there's not much chance I'll hold a grudge :D


    Laterz!
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2013
  3. lagmaster

    lagmaster Member

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    Subscribed out of interest...

    I've been doing a similar thing to you although with an old HP P4 machine which has Windows ME COA.

    I'm finding Windows ME's infamous unreliability if sometimes spoiling my experience so I may be installing Windows 98SE on mine too and starting over.

    But not too long ago I picked up an identical looking HP P3 machine so I may just use it instead, we'll see...
     
  4. power

    power Member

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    don't forget RAM limitations if unpatched 98SE guys.
     
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Part 3 : Motherboard and Memory


    The motherboard it couldn't have.


    I was really, really, REALLY hoping to be able to reuse my beloved old NF7-S motherboard for this project. But it wasn't to be.

    Back in its day the NF7-S was about the best SocketA motherboard to be found, for everyday use. Not quite the last word insofaras suitability for 'extreme' overclocking, but nevertheless quite handy for the hobbyist. And a feature set which was ahead of its day, and which included onboard audio of a quality to match all but the best of add-in soundcards.


    Click to view full size!


    With a screaming banshee CoolerMaster Aero clipped down, and a Nexus controller reassuring me that all inside was staying healthy, that board saw me through more hours of gaming than I care to admit to, through 3 generations of graphics cards.

    I struggled with denial, but motherboards just don't match that old XP2500+ CPU for tolerance of power supplies and graphics cards that die with a BANG and a cloud of acrid smoke. It's dead! I haven't yet got around to disposing of it. I'm tossing up whether to give it a cremation or an interment!


    The motherboard it got.

    I did a LOT of swapping motherboards in and out of the case before I finally found one which still worked. It seems that much of the kit in that junk heap was there for good reason!

    I finally found an old Gigabyte 7VM400M board that still worked. Can't, for the life of me, remember what it lived in in its previous life. Maybe it was a rig I'd built for my old Dad, when he was still around.


    Click to view full size!


    Only does 333MHz fsb, and no SATA support, but what the hell? That caters to the 2500+ chip at stock, and if using IDE drives makes level loads more slow and clunky, that just adds to the nostalgia of a retro box.


    (By the way: If anyone reading still has a working socket A mobo around, with DDR400 memory support, give me a hoy.)


    Memory

    I've been mucking about with this 1Gb kit of OCZ Performance PC3200 DDR. They're excess to my needs, so I was hoping to use them in this machine.


    Click to view full size!


    After all manner of system file edits, though, and getting Windows 98 to run happily in 1Gb RAM for Desktop usage, it's 'Game Over' as soon as 3D graphics get added to the mix, with all manner of lockups and 'Illegal operation' crashes.

    Windows 98 just doesn't want to do gaming under any more than 512Mb RAM, so this pair of KingMax 256Mb DDR400 modules will have to fill the bill for now. I'll try again with the 1Gb RAM after I eventually get around to playing with some of the 'Unofficial Service Pack' downloads to be still found on the net for download.


    Click to view full size!





    The wiring tidy-up to come in the next installment :D
     
  6. Jimmyb53

    Jimmyb53 Member

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    Subscribed, just for old times sake.

    I used to have a collection close to yours (6 30L boxes worth of EVERYTHING), but after the continuous upgrading, modifications, and general debauchery that went with keeping it maintained, I upgraded to modern parts, and threw out the old. Drivers with new games and programs became a PITA. Hell, I didn't even upgrade from WinXP until Win7 had been out for nearly a year, maybe more.

    It brings back memories of building a computer 10 years ago, with a 12Gb HDD, Floppy, IDE CD drive, and installing Linux RedHat on it, for an experiment.

    Any problems getting older games to run on the parts? And how does one manage to even install Win98 these days? :lol:
     
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Thanks for subscribing. Please feel free to share your own experiences if you wish :thumbup:

    Like this fella I always thought the WinMe hatred was over the top and largely undeserved. I've known plenty of people who ran it without issue for ages after its release. Its rudimentary System Restore was basically non-functional, and some of its other introduced features a tad clunky, but I've always suspected that those who had the most trouble with it were, just like those who have the most trouble with other new OS versions, the inveterate fiddlers who try make it something that it's not and try have it operate just like its predecessor :0

    That said, I wouldn't try use Windows Me for a retro gaming box. Lack of Real Mode DOS support makes it basically incompatible with many old Classic games.

    I'm not finding it all that difficult to render 98SE unstable either, by the way, especially on a machine that's far in advance of what was envisaged when the Windows 9x kernel was first written . Fair bit of trial and error involved in relearning lessons long forgotten. I imaged the system drive after doing a vanilla install and getting device drivers working correctly, to make starting over again less painful.

    I'm finding sites like this one a godsend, but if you have any more specific advice to offer please do so. As intimated already, it's been a long time and there's much forgotten :D
     
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Currently having an issue trying to get Clive Barker's Undying running on this box. For some bizarre reason it just jumps to a blackscreen as soon as the game fires up from the menu screen. Dunno why - might be just some peculiarity of the hardware combination in the rig :confused: Not really a problem though, coz that game runs perfectly fine under 64-bit Windows 7 - it'll end up on the second machine.


    Just like the Windows 98 startup diskette, the install CD allows you to boot into a DOS environment with generic CD support, so you can run Setup from there. Even modern hardware is stil x86-based, and I suspect Win98 would successfully install on just about anything. The problem is getting the machine to use the newer hardware capabilities, rather than running with generic drivers just like a virtual environment. So you gotta stick to using hardware which has Windows 98 device drivers available for it.

    Main problem with installing, of course, is that the bootable install CD doesn't provide the additional tools found on the startup diskette. Hard drive needs to be already prepared for FAT32 file system before you start, if you're not using a floppy drive. Older versions of bootable Partition Management tools can be useful for that. Plus, the version of FDisk shipped with Windows 98 can have issues with drives >32Gb. Using a Windows Me startup diskette is a better option, coz it includes a later version of FDisk that handles large drives better.

    I ended up installing a floppy drive and installing from there onto an old 20Gb IDE hard drive. Got an 80Gb drive in the rig too, as secondary storage. There's no way known I'll ever need more than that for the games that'll end up on it. And I wanted the floppy drive anyway, coz there's a small box here filled with floppy disks which have my late Dad's writings and records on them.
     
  9. OP
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Part 4 : Tidying up

    It happened a coupla nights or three back now, before I started typing up any of this, but the cabling tidy-up got done. Didn't take much, coz ya just DON'T have to be anal about finish and professionalism for a rig that's gonna be closed case and bunged under a shed bench.

    There's only two real reasons you do a tidy-up in a closed case rig:

    • To improve access for easy cleaning once in a while.
    • To improve airflow inside the case.

    Oooops. Better make that three reasons:


    Click to view full size!


    • Coz closing the side panel on a mess like this is FARKEN SHAMEFUL!!!


    A PSU with its leads already sheathed only means a few cable ties to tie the leads back out of the way, down the side of drive cages or behind the motherboard tray, but this Antec unit provides stability/reliability without such added niceties, and the Sonata case doesn't even provide access to behind the motherboard tray. I could have just wrapped it all with electrical tape, but instead just opted to use some stuff from that collection of old cable tidies and spiral wraps pictured in an earlier post. Nice easy job to accompany a few glasses of wine.


    ATX power cable only needs to be 20-pin for this motherboard. Unclipped the extra 4-pin section and tied it back, then encased the lead in a bit of 25mm plastic cable tidy. It's a wee tad bulky, but it loops nicely away over under the optical drive.


    Click to view full size!


    PCI-e cable, P4 cable, and all of the SATA power cables are not needed for the rig. No need to wrap those. Just cable-tied them together in a bundle, and jammed them over across top and behind the PSU.


    Click to view full size!


    One of the molex cables is dedicated to the graphics card. It had three molex connectors on it, so it was concertina'd to length and then wrapped with some spiral wrap.

    The second molex cable was equipped with only two molex connectors and floppy connector. That'n had to do all the drives and fans, so a coupla y-connectors got added. Another bit of spiral wrap and some 16mm cable tidy and that was all snugged away too.

    Rounded IDE cables were a great idea, but the rubber 'boots' over the connectors had/have a tendency to ride up the cable and away from the connector, leaving the wiring exposed anyways. A bit of electrical tape sorts that out!


    Click to view full size!


    That really just leaves the power cables for the fans, and guess what's best for keeping THOSE tucked away along the inner case chassis? Yep. Good ole BlueTack!!!


    Click to view full size!


    A couple of hours after starting (most of it spent sipping on cold, white wine and listening to music on the shed stero) and there's a nice, neat, efficient and easily maintained rig. One which probably nobody is going to see the insides of again, except you coz you're reading about it :D


    Click to view full size!




    Time to put the Win98 box aside for a while now, anyways. It still needs a Soundblaster card, for the DOS drivers and compatibility with old DOS-based games, but I'm pretty confident that it's gonna handle pretty much anything that proves to be an irritation to get running under 64-bit Windows. I put Max Payne 2 on it (a DirectX 9 title) and it absolutely creamed it at 1600x1024 with all details enabled and turned high, and with decent levels of AntiAliasing and Texture Filtering forced as well.

    I'm also planning to start over again with the install, to eradicate the driver install debris that's accumulated during my trials and errors.

    But I want to get the Windows 7 box up and running first. It's kinda arse-about backwards to decide what the 'leftover' games are gonna be before I've got the main course dealt with, isn't it? Here's a sneak peek at what I'm starting from with that box. All I've done thus far is confirmed a core set of components which will successfully POST.


    Click to view full size!
     
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Interlude (coz it was hot today and I couldn't be arsed doing anything!)


    I suppose it really doesn't even make any sense, from a personal perspective, to be even bothering with the Socket 939 rebuild. I'm typing this out on an i5 960 rig which, if I bunged in a current video card, would be a perfectly adequate machine for single monitor gaming with even current games. And to be honest, it mainly only gets used as a media machine. I could connect up a screen to my laptop via HDMI for that, if I wanted.

    But I'll do that later on, I reckon. I plan to rebuild the Socket 939 rig primarily for fun and for bloody-mindedness. It'll come in handy, keeping the grandkids entertained. I got 15 of those, and some of 'em old enough and hairy-arsed enough that they'll doubtless be soon serving me up GREAT-grandchildren!



    The old rig died about three years back. I returned home from summer break and tried to turn it on, and the thing was dead. Never even looked to see why, back then. Just bunged it out in the shed with the intention to one day have a look at it and get it going again. I had another old shitheap to watch videos on, so I wasn't at all worried about it.

    But I'm *NOT* going to be getting that old SLI board up and running again. Now that I've finally getten around to having a looksee, I know why it wouldn't turn on.


    Click to view full size!


    That's what I found when I tried removing it from the case. Chipset heatsink had come adrift, and cooked the chipset. Nice, huh?


    I've got another SLI board here, but I'm not even gonna bother trying to get it going. It's a Gigabyte board, and I no longer seem to have an SLI bridge to fit the thing. At first I thought it was dead too, but I've later realised that the power button in the case I was using was a tad dodgy. I've fixed that, and in the meantime I've also picked up a working DFI Infinity Ultra mobo. Enough bits 'n' pieces here to get a working machine going, so I'll get onto it soon as I stop being lazy.

    I've kinda decided I'm gonna chase up a more recent graphics card too.

    Like I said, it's been a while! For the past few years my gaming has primarily consisted in occasional dabbles at point-and-click adventure titles and other such nonsenses. Nothing that wasn't perfectly playable on a machine with just a desktop graphics card in it. I haven't even looked closely at recent games on offer, because I simply didn't have the hardware to even THINK about running them.


    My personal 'passion' in videogames revolves around immersive, story-driven singleplayer titles. Where other people use terms like "cinematic" or "linear" as criticisms of a game, I consider those to be accolades of the highest order. And it's a rather rare thing, nowadays, to see a title released which fills that particular bill.

    But I've had a toddle off down to EB Games and had a look, and I've got to admit. That X1800XT just isn't going to cut it even for the 'budget' titles which fit my wants and needs, and tickle my fantasies.



    I see quite a lot of people on this board hatin' on Thermaltake kit, but I plan to ignore them and reuse that Xaser V case and the modular PurePower PSU. Despite what the haters might think, there's absolutely nothing wrong with them. Except, maybe, those noisy 80mm and 92mm fans the case came equipped with. But I've had a looksee about that, to, and I reckon I can fit it up with quieter fans for around 50 bucks or less all up.


    Oh! And before I go? That PC User coverdisk you saw in an earlier picture in this thread? I hunted high and low for that thing. It's got a full coppy of "Slave Zero" on it. For some bewildering reason that title used to be a favourite of my grandkids when they were a bit younger. It'll be a nostalgia kick for THEM, too, to see a machine up and running with that game on it again :D
     
  11. Byte.exe

    Byte.exe New Member

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    thanks

    Would just like to say that I really enjoy reading your comments and I appreciate the time and effort that you put into this. On a side note, today was a bloody hot one!
    Looking forward to hearing more.
     
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Part 5 : DAMN! BUGGER!! %$#*&^!!!!

    This update was intended to be a parts listing and description of the initial sagas setting up "Retro New Age", that Socket 939 rig.

    But it's not to be. I just KILLED it! The only *working* 939 motherboard I had here. Drove all the way down to Geelong to pick the thing up, and now it's dead pretty much before I've gotten started.

    I HAD the bloody thing going. Even fiddled about to get my Corsair XMS low latency 400Mhz RAM running happily alongside the Mushkin Enhanced 500Mhz stuff. Mucked about getting drives hooked up and ran a Windows install out on it. Stuffed THAT up, coz I forget to alter the date in BIOS first, and the Windows install blew out as "expired" as soon as I changed it in Windows.

    I was just about to wipe it and do another install properly, when the machine began to act erratic. Restarted it a time or three, but it got worse. And then I noticed what was going on.


    Amidst all that testing of bits 'n' pieces the '+4' part of the power supply's ATX connector had come adrift. One of the wee little clips had broken off, and I hadn't noticed. Instead of 24 securely seated pins in the ATX socket I had only 20. And the other 4 weren't pressed home securely - they were just sitting there making contact by fluke. For a while!


    That, right there, is when I prolly shoulda gone to bed! It was late, I was tired and I was coming off the back of a few very late nights. But no! Silly old bastard had to be a stubborn dickhead, didn't he?

    I'll never know if it was resolvable or not. All I know is that amidst my stubborn determination to sort it out right then and there I ended up fiddling about on a mobo that had residual power still going to it. N00B ERROR NUMBER FARKIN' ONE AND I ENDED UP GUILTY OF IT!



    Sad Panda right here. Unless some kind soul tells me they've got a Socket 939 mobo in working order and gathering dust, I'll prolly have to rethink this project :upset:


    I guess it's back to the Windows 98 Box in a day or two, once the grief has settled a bit!
     
  13. Datsun 1600

    Datsun 1600 Member

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  14. OP
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Thanks for the linky, Datson 1600, but it'd be hard to justify a hundred bucks plus shipping for a mobo for a project that's really just a 'for fun' exercise. I've kinda already spent way too much of a non-existant budget with driving around collecting bits 'n' pieces cheap.

    I might just put "Retro New Age" on the backburner for a bit, and put up a "Wanted to Buy" thread here, to see if anyone else has a board laying about gathering dust that they've forgotten about, and that they'd be happy to donate or sell really cheaply. I'd be more than happy to cover postage and packing costs, but it's hard to economically justify much more than that. Especially not for a board with only one graphics card slot and only SATA150 capability :(



    Part 6 : Back to Windows 98 Box


    Did a bit of fiddling around today trying to get a Soundblaster card working in the rig. I've got a couple of Live! 5.1 cards here. Thought they were both the same, but they're actually a tad different. One is stamped as Model SB0060 (chip is EMU10K1-SEF) and the other is SB0100 (chip is EMU10K1-SFF). Maybe they're both duds, or maybe I've just been trying the wrong drivers so far, coz no success as yet. Closest to success I've had so far was with a couple of old SB Live! 5.1 Platinum install disks I found amongst the junk heap.

    I kinda suspect the SB0060 card is dead. Drivers install OK and the machine boots into Windows fine without 'New Hardware found' messages showing up, but the card just doesn't show up in Device Manager. The SB0100 card gets detected on Windows boot, but doesn't seem to accept the installed driver. It shows up in Device Manager as 'Unknown Multimedia' and 'Unknown Controller'. I'm rather confident that it's just a matter of finding the right driver for the card, but if not I can get hold of another 'known working' one anyway :)


    That Soundblaster card is the last bit of internal hardware I need to get up and running for this project. Once it's sorted I've only got to get the case ventilation finished and I can close up the box and get busy organising its permanent 'home' under the bench. More on that coming in a later post.




    I've a couple of 'peripherals' to get installed and going too. What's a retro gaming box without retro plug-in controllers, hey huh?

    Saitek P-750


    Click to view full size!


    Yeah, yeah, I know. Heaps of folks hated them! But I was weaned long, long before PS2 and Xbox came along, and I always found it to be a damned good controller.

    It's hardly been used since Windows XP came along. Been pretty much sitting in storage since then, because the accompanying software was Windows 9x-only. That software allows the user to set up individual game 'profiles', with customised controls for each installed game. (Awfully important feature, that'n, for an old bloke with only a couple of fingers left on one of his hands! :D )

    Some of those old games amongst the collection are DEFINITELY better played with a controller than with keyboard. WASD-mouselook might rule, but not for clunky old 3rd-person jobbies with retarded camera controls!


    Logitech Wingman Formula GP


    Click to view full size!


    Had one of these sitting in a box out in the shed for YEARS! Bought it secondhand on a whim ages and ages ago, and never got around to hooking it up and using it. That's agonna change!



    Plan of action

    Restored the drive from a disk image earlier today, but it's really time to confront a fresh install and start over completely with Windows 98 from scratch. The earliest drive image I had already had the onboard audio drivers installed. Plan of action is to:

    1. Try some older Nvidia Detonator drivers to see if monitor native resolution/refresh can be sorted.
    2. Wipe and clean install vanilla Windows 98SE, with only 'known working' hardware configuration physically present or enabled in BIOS.
    3. Do a drive image (Image01)
    4. Apply 'Unofficial Service Pack'.
    5. Do another drive image (Image02)
    6. Get SoundBlaster card working under Windows, and repeat the above process (Replacement Image01 and Image02)

    That'll give me a sensible baseline from which I can get the peripherals going, install, patch, crack and configure all the games, and then run a final drive image when it's all done with!


    Oh! And this turned up today. Found it in Swap Meet here:


    KVM Switch


    Click to view full size!


    It'll be a godsend when both machines are up and running. Amongst other things it auto-detects which machine is turned on and switches accordingly.

    Only does 2-channel audio, but that's no problem at all. This whole setup had better be headphones-only anyways. It's bad enough blasting a shed stereo in a steel shed through the day. Rocking out loud gaming at night there would have the cops knocking at my door quicksmart! :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2013
  15. OP
    OP
    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Thought I responded to this in an earlier post, but my comment must've got lost to a post edit.


    Thanks heaps for that, Byte.exe. It's an awfully nice compliment to see someone put forward as their first post on the board here. Appreciated :D
     
  16. Datsun 1600

    Datsun 1600 Member

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    Maybe, but where are you going to get 12 months warranty for something so old?

    If you were after a 754, I could send you a Gibabyte GA-K8N51GMF-RH and a 3000+, for postage.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2013
  17. OP
    OP
    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Nice offer, Datsun 1600, and appreciated. I'm sure though that sooner or later, somewhere down the track, I'll come across a mobo to make use of that nice A64 X2 chip, and be able to put together a rig that can find another home after I'm done playing with it. For now, I'll just continue on with the Windows 98 box, and maybe look around for a DX10 graphics card for the Quad rig. :)



    Part 7 : Ventilation


    Seems kinda weird to be thinking about system ventilation for an old Windows 98 shitbox, but hey!

    • Those AthlonXP chips really did run warmish!
    • The GF6800 card isn't ultr-hot, but ANY vid card which requires extra power deserves extra attention.
    • It's gonna live in a steel shed, not in an air-conditioned house.
    • It's gonna be sitting in a compartment under the bench, rather than out in the open.

    All fair reason, IMO, to be mindful of system ventilation.

    Sonata 2 case uses the tried and tested (and still the best) airflow system of in through front/bottom and out through top/rear. Front intake is filtered (which is a good idea) and can be boosted up by adding a second 120mm fan (which isn't a good idea, coz the mounting point is other side of the drive cage and too far from the intake vents to direct airflow efficiently). Rear 120mm case fan and of course the PSU fan handles exhaust. Rear case fan isn't filtered, and that's dopey in basic configuration. Coz, in a case with all exhaust fans and no intake fans, you get negative pressure rather than positive pressure inside the case. Soon as you switch the system off, the fans stop and air rushes in to balance air pressure, sucking in any dist along with it!


    Anyhoo...

    That Sonata case also comes with an optional extra "Advanced Chassis Duct" system. Read about and look at it here, in this Review.


    Fella who write that review slagged the ducting system, but I'm gonna use it coz I reckon he's a dill. He didn't try setting up a system in that case, he made half that stuff up, and he doesn't know what he's talking about anyway! The duct system *DOESN'T* impede airflow to the rear exhaust fan, coz there's heaps of airspace between duct and fan. The bulk of the duct system *DOESN'T* stop airflow to other components - it helps concentrate the airflow past the graphics card and CPU heatsink, where it's most needed.

    In addition, I don't think the bloke realised that cover can be removed and another fan fitted to blow air onto GPU as well as onto CPU!

    The bloke is right about that ducting system being unfiltered, though. Not a problem if you don't USE the optional duct, coz the rear intake grille for it is covered with a removable metal plate, but in place an operating (especially if intake fans are used in the shroud) the thing is sucking in all the dust in creation!


    I had a spare Xaser V case here, which I'm never gonna use coz it's one of the crappier aluminium LAN jobbies. So I had a few spare fan filters.


    Click to view full size!


    Had to trim a bit off the tabs on those, to fit the duct fan mount spaces, but after a careful few snips with the shears here's the shroud filtered, fanned and ready to fit back in the case!


    Click to view full size!



    As soon as I can confirm that the Soundblaster card is OK (or fit a working one if it's not) I'll be ready to close up the case and not open it again unless it's for an internal clean or else something in it blows up!



    Okeys, then, but what about the fact that the duct is sucking air in from the back, where the case also exhausts?

    If the OC is sitting out in the open, of course, it shouldn't matter one tiny little bit. Warmer air is lighter and moves upwards; cooler air is heavier and moves downwards.Something which that review writing fella either didn't know or forgot about! But this case is gonna sit in a semi-enclosed space, where that consideration goes out the window.


    The bench I've been talking about, where this project is destined to live, is made out of an old solid-wood seven-foot by four-foot door, a 2-drawer file cabinet, and part of an old kitchen bench. Over 6 inches of airspace behind the rear wall of it, so I'm gonna make up a duct to go there and shroud this section of the case rear:


    Click to view full size!


    A little bit of fiddling about with scrap materials and the bench will have a nice little duct on the back wall, for the rig to sit against and have an exhaust hole where warmer exhaust air gets expelled away from the machine.



    Next installment I'll probably put up a list of useful resources, downloads and tips for the benefit of anyone reading who might also be thinking about a similar project.
     
  18. OP
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    Go me!

    Backed up a bit by re-imaging with an earlier image, and then tried installing stuff in a different order. Result is a fully working system with even that SB card working OK.

    Just gotta check/confirm that DOS drivers got installed with the package, and maybe try a later 'unofficial' display driver to see if it gives me full native monitor resolution, and I can close the case and be done with it. Later on I'll need to get USB keyboard/mouse working under Win98 to work with that KVM switch, but for now I'm using some PS/2 jobbies with it.



    Amazing how much you find that you've forgotten, when you start mucking about with older stuff like this that you haven't touched in years. I've (re)learnt a helluva lot! That Tips and Resources post will be coming sometime over the next few days :D
     
  19. OP
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    Catweazle

    Catweazle Member

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    'Retro98' is done and dusted, case closed up and in operation. As you can see, there really IS plenty enough room around that internal duct for airflow, and the internals ended up reasonably neat.


    Click to view full size!


    Click to view full size!


    I could not, for the life of me, get it displaying 1680x1050 on that monitor, but I eventually DID get it running stable in 1Gb RAM.

    Tried out quite a few games on it, and experienced odd graphical glitches or crashes with a small number of them. I suspect both problems are display driver related. The latest available Win98 compatible driver from Nvidia is a rather early revision for the graphics card I'm using. And it doesn't seem to be affecting any games which really NEED to run under Win98 anyway, so no real drama :)

    Rig runs cool enough too, although I might fit an aftermarket CPU cooler when it gets its next service cleanout. CPU currently runs low 40s on a warmish day, and the hottest I got it to was 60c, running with the sun beaming straight through the window onto it and the black case surface so hot it'd blister your fingertips to touch it!


    Anyway, time for those tips I mentioned earlier, for the benefit of anyone thinking of doing a similar project.


    Part 8 : Tips and resources

    Prepping the hard drive(s)

    For starters, avoid using an ATA hard drive of greater than 137Gb capacity with Windows 98. Unless you can find suitable drivers to add 48-bit LBA support for your hardware, even if you partition a larger physical hard drive any data above the 137Gb physical barrier will still be vulnerable to corruption.


    If you are re-using old drives they're likely to be formatted to NTFS, which Windows 98 doesn't support. So you'll need to repartition and format your drives to FAT32 ready for use. I'm using a floppy drive in this rig, so I just booted from a Startup Diskette and used FDisk, but you might prefer to use a 3rd Party Partition Management tool. If you do, check to see if it rewrites the MBR when you partition, or if that needs to be done as a separate procedure. The DOS tool FDisk writes a new MBR when you nuke and repartition a drive, but some other Boot CD Partition tools don't. It's a pain to fire up a rig with a newly partitioned drive in it and find it trying to still boot to a nonexistant XP install or somesuch :)


    I'd strongly urge you to use a smallish partition for the System install, and a larger one for all your game installs and other stuff. (Or use two drives. I'm using a 20Gb drive for Win98 and an 80Gb drive for other stuff.) A 5Gb - 10Gb partition should be more than enough for the Win98 install , the various unpackings of driver files etc, and any old DOS-based games which insist on being on the C: drive.

    Have a Boot CD Drive Imaging tool ready before you go any further, coz you WILL stuff up a time or three getting it all working. Restoring a drive image is WAAYYY quicker then reinstalling the OS yet again. And you can make periodic images at each stage of the configuration, so you don't have to go back and repeat it all if/when you add something that stuffs it all up!


    Installing Windows 98 from CD

    It's highly unlikely that you'll want to use a floppy drive to start the process like I did, so go here and grab a suitable ISO image to make a Bootable 'Startup' CD from. I suggest you grab the '98SE_norambootdisk' image, coz it contains some additional DOS tools.

    The CD image only contains the floppy disk contents, so:

    • Use a suitable software tool to edit the ISO.
    • Make a folder on it called \INSTALL or somesuch. (Remember to keep the Folder name to 8 characters or less, for DOS compatibility.)
    • Copy the contents of your Windows 98 SE install disk to that folder.
    • Burn the altered image to CD.


    Okeys, now time to fire up and install. Boot the machine from the CD you made, and:

    • If you are gonna use FDisk to prepare the drive, do so now. You can format the drive from the Command Line too, if you want.
    • When you're done, log into the CD drive. At the A:> prompt, type (using the appropriate drive letter, dimwit!) [CD drive letter]: and hit <ENTER> (On my rig the CD drive was changed to R: - I suspect that bootCD would do that on all machines.)
    • Type CD \INSTALL and press <ENTER> to log into the install directory on the CD. (Use the appropriate Folder name you used when editing the ISO.)
    • Type SETUP and press <ENTER>

    (Note: If you're comfortable with the command line and DOS, it'd be best to use XCOPY to copy the contents of the \INSTALL folder to your second hard drive or partition, and then run SETUP from there instead of from the CD.)


    If you've lost the install code for your Windows 98 disk, you'll find a working one here. (Okeys, so that's a bit naughty! But the only interest Microsoft has in Win98 nowadays is wanting you to not use it!)


    If you didn't copy the install files to your hard drive and run SETUP from there, the first thing you should do when you arrive at Desktop is:

    • Copy the \INSTALL folder to your hard drive.
    • Start -> Run -> Regedit
    • Locate the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup
    • Double-click on SourcePath and change its value to D:\INSTALL\WIN98 (or whatever other Folder path you've ended up with, if you used a different folder name and hard drive.)

    Exit the Registry Editor, and you won't get prompted for the Windows Install CD every time Windows 98 tries to install another driver.




    Setting up and some resource linkys in the next installment. :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  20. Optimus.

    Optimus. Member

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    Very cool Catters! :)
     

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