The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Category Archives: Windows

Useless Information

audio-jack

Yes, I know. I’m not that senile.

Drag-n-Drop to the Command Prompt

In Windows XP, you can drag and drop a file or folder to the Command Prompt. The complete path will then appear in the command line. I suppose it will work in newer versions of Windows as well.

I’ve been using XP for seven years, and only noticed just now.

Cello, the first web browser for Windows

I just noticed that the original homepage for the Cello WWW browser is no longer online. So I put it up for download and brushed up a mirror of the Cello website that I had created years ago. Some images still were linked with absolute URLs and one page was missing. That’s fixed now.

Cello was the first browser for Windows. It was developed by Thomas R. Bruce of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. Lawyers typically had PCs with Windows in their offices, but no version of Mosaic for Windows was released until September 1993. Cello beat it by three months. Actually Cello was more than just a web browser. It supported other protocols like FTP, Telnet, and the then still rather important Gopher. It could send emails and read newsgroups.

Nowadays it is not of much practical use any more. It won’t start unless it finds Winsock software, so it is not fit for an HTML reader on an unconnected old PC or on a Windows installation on DOSBox. It runs well under XP (better than Mosaic, which tends to crash quickly) but often will be unable to connect to a given server, and of course it could only display very old or very simple websites correct anyway.

One thing that has always fascinated me about it is its very uncommon style sheet. It uses larger fonts than other browsers, and it uses lots of colors. Lists are displayed in red, headers are maroon, navy, or blue depending on rank. Links, on the other hand, have no separate color, and have a dashed border instead of being underlined. Unordered lists have custom bitmaps for bullets. Horizontal rules are black, solid and rather thick. The cursors are uncommon too, cross hair is the default, over links it changes to an up arrow, and the busy cursor is a square with three borders and the word “NET” within.

I have created a style sheet that reproduces the way Cello displayed web pages fairly well. I had to compromise a bit with the cursors, but the colors and fonts should all be correct, it even ignores the center tag and leaves a lot of space at the bottom of the page just like the original. I used it as an alternate style sheet on Astoria (the computer and DOS sections still have it), and I took the liberty to add it to my mirror of the Cello website, so that it looks as if it were viewed in the browser it presents.

Palette on Windows 2.0 with 256 colors

Palette is a small program that runs on everything from Windows 2.0 to XP and does nothing but show 125 colors, dithered or solid, depending on the environment. I’ve taken screenshots on various Windows versions under different settings and posted them in The Colors of Windows. Here’s a new one, on Windows 2.0 with Paradise 256 colors drivers:

Note again that Windows 2.0 can take advantage of the full 256-color palette. Under 3.x, you need a desktop setting of at least 32k colors for undithered display.

Windows 2.0 with 256 colors

For Paradise SVGA cards, which are emulated in DOSBox, there are drivers that allow running Windows 2.0 either at 640×400×256 or at 800×600×16. You can find them here, download PVGA16-2.ZIP. Here are two screenshots of Windows 2.0 running with 256 colors:

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The Duff Software about screen

A speciality of the Duff Software games (I don’t think the label was ever used for anything else) was the about screen. It was accessed through the button in the top left corner of the window (under 32-bit Windows, that’s the small icon). It always looked like the one above: Icon, name of the game, the handles of the developers, Duff Software copyright notice, and three buttons labels Help, Preferences, and OK. The last one would simply close the screen.

This made a menu bar unnecessary. None of the original games have one, only their later Entertainment Pack instances. Obviously this type of interface was too non-standard for Microsoft. The only function not covered by the about screen, New Game, is usually handled by a button on the playing field, sometimes simply by clicking anywhere on the playing field.

Windows 95 on DOSBox

A couple of days ago I did it: I installed Windows 95 on DOSBox. There’s a very good guide how to do it, to which I have nothing to add. Just a few personal notes on my experiences.

In short: It works, and it can be useful, but it doesn’t work very well. Windows 3.1 runs nearly perfect meanwhile, it doesn’t need a boot disk but can run on DOSBox’s DOS, and only very rarely there is a game that won’t run on such an installation (Runner is an example).

Windows 95 on the other hand gives a nice gallery of error messages. I can’t even open the Control Panel. Every time I try to I get this:

Another drawback is that it’s impossible to mount a folder as an additional hard drive, since Windows has to boot from the image file and the mount command is not available. It’s not a real problem, but you’ll have to use WinImage or a similar program to move files to and from the image file. Just make sure it’s large enough for everything (mine is 400MB).

Nevertheless it does come in useful. K/oS Othello 97 for example came as an installer that wouldn’t run on XP, but ran on the DOSBox installation. With YA-zee, the same is true for the game itself. So it’s a useful thing to have, but not a replacement for an actual computer running Windows 95 or 98.

Bypassing Windows installers

Many installers from the second half of the 90s on are just self-extracting archives with a setup utility and a cab file. Usually you can open the archive and the cab file in WinRAR. Do not start a program directly out of the cab file if it contains Visual Basic 5 or 6 runtimes. Some of these files need to be registered, and having them accessed in a temporary location will screw up the registration.

Many games of the Windows 3.x era come as a setup utility and all the necessary files in compressed format, with the last letter of the extension replaced by an underscore. These can be expanded with Microsoft’s EXPAND utility, which has been part of every Windows distribution at least since 3.1. EXPAND is somewhere in the path, usually in the Windows directory I think, so you can access it from anywhere. But you have to know what the missing letter is, which is in some cases not obvious. There is usually a SETUP.INI or similar file with a complete file list.

As for the InstallShield installers, I know of no way to bypass them and don’t know if it’s possible at all.

A word about installers

Personally, I hate installers. Installers for DOS games are usually quite harmless, and I don’t mind them much. Their main function tends to be compression, some sort of proprietary compression that often actually makes the download smaller than the RARed game directory would be. The only thing that can be annoying about DOS installers is when they won’t run under DOSBox when the game itself would.

But with Windows they really get annoying. You never know what they do, they might modify something you might not want to be modified. They come with DLLs you already have, sometimes overwriting newer versions with older ones. I like to play Windows games directly out of the archive, something WinRAR allows. In some extreme case the installer is 32-bit only while the game itself is 16-bit!

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Windows 3.1: So many card games, so few Tetris clones

I uploaded lots of card games to the Windows 3.1 section in the last days, and there are now more than Tetris clones—even though I’ve uploaded nearly every Tetris clone I know and have, and just a fraction of the card games. It’s strange. As far as I can tell, it’s a complete anomaly.

I’ve written about possible reasons for the popularity of card games on Windows. But what reasons could there be for this astonishing lack of Tetris clones? It can hardly have been technical problems, since Tetris only requires a single sprite, while simple arcade games with several (Pac-Man, for example, has five) were no problem either. Tetris was highly popular in the era, its first commercial release coincides approximately with the release of Windows 2.0. Actually Tetris is less underrepresented in the pre-3.0 era.

I really don’t know. It’s strange.