Running Windows 98 safely inside a playpen in Linux, where I can pat it on its widdle head.
This is a fresh installation of Windows NT 4.0 for Workstations (1996) with the default 16 color 800×600 pixel VGA display.
This version is basically the same as NT 3.51 but uses the Windows 95 “Taskbar/Desktop-as-Folder” paradigm that has become ubiquitous ever since. As such, it has the same annoyances as Windows 95, such as creating a shortcut to an executable by default when you drag its icon to the desktop. Also, you have to change the settings so it doesn’t open a new window for every folder you enter.
This is NT after a driver was installed for 24 bit color 1024×768 pixels, and I have Internet Explorer 2.0 running. It’s like being in the middle of the freeway with a tricycle. Only very primitive websites (such as my own) will render at all.
Opera version 8.53 is the last version to work with Windows NT4 and pretty much the only option as browsers go. Google looks like shit, but Bing seems to render okay. This is oldest operating system I can drive out onto the World Wide Web, since Windows 95 keeps kicking my ass.
Windows 2000 Pro SP 4 installed on VirtualBox under Linux. Installing a display driver is even more of a pain in the ass than under NT4, but after I do that Win2K already looks the way I want all my operating systems to look. Opera 9.60 is the last version that runs on this OS.
Windows XP is fairly painless to install, but the default is the Fisher-Price “Luna” theme, with annoying balloons that pop up.
The first thing I do is set it to look like Windows 2000, and then take care of the popups in RegEdit by making a zeroed-out keyword “EnableBalloonTips” in HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Explorer/Advanced
With Calmira you can squint your eyes and pretend you’re running Windows 95 instead of just Windows 3.1.
WINDOWS IN LINUX
Friends on Twitter tell me they don’t run Linux because they use Microsoft Access, and that only runs under Windows, and the Windows emulator WINE isn’t ready for prime time. Well, VirtualBox to the rescue. Shown here is Debian Linux running XP in a window, along with other DOSbox windows running Windows 3.1 and Wordstar for good measure. With VirtualBox you can even take a snapshot of the machine state and return to exactly where you left off, as though you could freeze time. After booting once you need never boot again. You can even clone a snapshot, grow new branches, and take snapshots down those side trails as well.
Word processors and spreadsheets are one thing, but let’s face it, the most efficient way to waste time at work is with MS Windows Solitaire. But Micro$loth programs don’t run on Linux unless you help them along with a program called WINE. It officially stands for “WINE Is Not an Emulator” and I guess that’s true, it’s a “compatibility layer”. Whatever. I’m a practical person. For me, WINE is an acronym that stands for WINdows Emulator.
WINE is not perfect. I can’t get it to run any of my software from Magix except the one I use for authoring DVDs. I can install my beloved Cakewalk Kinetic but I can’t get it to see my sound card (yet). I can run a classic DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) called Acid 2.0. I can run ReBirth, which emulates the TB-303 bassline synthesizer. I can run Audacity, plus my map software from National Geographic, CDEX for ripping CD’s, and Terragen for making virtual landscapes. It runs MS Office. And I have zillions of other Windows apps left over from the old days that work under Wine too. Like Hacky Linux itself, WINE is a work in progress. Over time, all the issues will be worked out and it will simply work, with everything.
Wine is also mankind’s ancient and sacred beverage, made from fermented grapes.
There are countries, for example those bordering the Mediterranean Sea which have a sacramental world-view, which says that an infinite God comes to meet finite man using the things of creation: water, oil, bread, wine, the touch of a hand. People of those countries believe that all creation is good. They tend to be connected with the earth, with hard work, with simple pleasures. They appreciate sex as a gift of God not only for procreation but for physical and emotional joy. In those countries, wine is just another gift of the Creator to be accepted in moderation and with thanksgiving.
Then there are other countries, for example those to the north of Europe, which have almost a gnostic world-view, which says that all flesh and matter is weak and sinful, and only intellectual things are pure and godly. They hold that God meets man only in the mental realm, and approach the bible as a set of doctrines which need to be properly decoded. They say man is saved by knowledge and assent to key doctrines. People in those countries tend to believe that creation is fallen. They tend to be connected to business, to the power of investment capital, and they hold a man’s financial success as a sign of his election. They accept sex as a necessary evil for the procreation of more tithe-paying foot soldiers for God. In those countries, wine is evil, based on their dictum that “if it feels good don’t do it.
One of my hobbies is vintage computing. I greatly enjoy using Windows 3.1 despite the fact that it is over twenty years old. All the creativity that goes into making Android apps today was used to make 16 bit Windows software back in the early 90’s and there’s nothing wrong with any of it. I’ve got Windows 3.1 cookbooks and Windows 3.1 Middle-earth elvish fonts.
The crowd may have passed all this stuff by in the eternal rush for the next thing, the newer thing, but it’s my essential nature to turn back and take a close look at what’s being overlooked. You can probably count the number of people still using Windows 3.1 on the fingers of one hand. I don’t care. This is my thing.
From 1990 to 1994 the default front end for Windows was the Program Manager, which was a pinboard of icons that could be double-clicked to launch programs, but when Windows 95 hit the street in August of that year, it introduced a User eXperience (UX) so intuitive that it’s used even today, with everything from Linux to Apple to Windows 7, and any attempt to change it (Gnome Unity, Windows 8) meets fierce resistance. When I install Linux on hardware I generally go with Ubuntu 10.04, since that was the last Ubuntu to stick with the Windows 95 look and feel.
Calmira is a free program that backports the Windows 95 desktop paradigm to Windows 3.1, and it is almost 100% successful. Squint your eyes and it’s Windows 95. The only major difference (other than the fact that you still can’t run most 32 bit software) is that the desktop is still not, in itself, a folder.
You might be wondering why I don’t just bite the bullet and install the actual Windows 95 rather than something that simulates it. And that’s a curious thing. On a system with 512 megabytes of memory, Windows 3.1 chooses to believe I only have 64 megabytes, and it’s happy as a clam. But Windows 95 sees that whole 512 megabytes (which really isn’t all that much by today’s standard), goes into future shock and refuses to boot.