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A Gigantic Update about Stuff

November 23rd, 2022 at 6:45 PM by Kugee
Category: Site Related

So, it's been nearly five months since my last article... a lot of it has to do with running dry on ideas for what to write, but believe me, I had been making A LOT of preparations over that time, and now I'm ready to spill the beans.

Before I get started with that, it's necessary to catch up on a number of things. You may have already seen them earlier; I just need to catalog them, and now should be an ideal opportunity to do so.

The Small Changes

I added a couple of new game servers a few months back, but hadn't really made any full announcements regarding them. Since they appear to be going well for all the time I had been using them, which was... not very often, I've merged the Razorback QuakeWorld hub into a new page that encompasses all the games I'm covering, now including Unreal and Jedi Outcast.

I can't say there's gonna be anything huge coming from me regarding these servers. I don't intend to host any of my own events on them, as I've effectively handed off that organizational effort to the people at DOSBox Deathmatch Club. If they end up running an event some week using one of the games I've listed on my page, chances are they'll be using my server for it.

I've also made a number of important enhancements to the gallery and video catalog. A user can now select a different resolution to view some image or video inline with the web page. In the case of images, this is incredibly important for older computers that may be using browsers not capable of displaying PNGs inline, as well as being constrained to small screens. If we're dealing with really large images, especially, this means less bandwidth to waste when one is just browsing through the gallery.

Video quality selection is useless in old browsers since they don't support inline video players via HTML5, to which the browser has to fall back to a download link for an MP4 or other clip using an older codec.

More recently, you may have noticed that I added a search form in the left sidebar - something that's become a necessity to more easily weave through the ever growing index of content being published here. This search form operates entirely internally, doesn't pull any shenanigans with connecting to third-party search engines. Consequently, due to the way things are laid out here right now, this tool only finds images and videos. In the future, I'm looking to streamline some of the pages more so as to allow the internal search engine to cover a lot more ground. And since some people have asked, no, it doesn't support quote marks or Boolean operators. The search function is very dumb as it stands, and it's probably going to stay that way for the time being.

What happened to the Discord server???

Short answer: it's gone. I'm really late to address this, but it's not coming back. If there is any other server out there I'm not aware of trying to sport the name "Razorback", it's fake.

In the olden days when I was not even running a website, operating a Discord server was a sort of necessity. It was a supplemental tool for me to get some important updates pushed out, as well as maintain a strong enough following, since a lot of people happen to use it. For most of its run, it had done good in getting me through some snags, and it was usually a leveled out discussion field. One of the members not only helped me take the plunge into using Linux full-time, but also gave me the pointers I needed to get The First Cell released on time.

But it also had some serious drawbacks - perhaps many in its last months. From the beginning, it had been laced with a number of problematic individuals, as well as that simple, yet widespread tendency for things to get blown out of proportion. This happens on all Discord servers, I guarantee it. For that alone, it was for the better that my Discord server was deleted.

I think it was some time around the debut of Sunfish that the server entered a freefall. It was losing grip of its original vision to be a sane, lax community platform. I sure wasn't believing in it as much later on. Some of the original staff members left to move on to other endeavors, and the server looked as if it was starting to be taken over by people who didn't really care much about old computers. It became a dumping ground for bad memes, phone tropes, and stock politics - red flag!

After The First Cell launched, my Discord server no longer served a practical function. My site allows for taking comments in a good chunk of places now, making it a sufficient replacement for public discourse pertaining to all things here, perfectly in tandem with email. Hell, it even manages to avoid cookies and JavaScript outright. There's not much more I could really ask for.

Looking back on it, it was completely inevitable that I was to shut down the Discord server. Operating something like that was completely antithetical to my desire to untether myself from giant platforms, and since I had made a ton of progress on that front this year, such a server became completely worthless to me, only a strain on my spine. It's also worth noting that I had operated another Discord server from 2017 to 2019. The older one suffered a much worse fate, but some of the patterns leading to its collapse align with that of the later one. I now have a pretty concrete figure to tell anyone considering starting up their own Discord server: don't. At best, you'll have it last for around two years before it becomes totally consumed by something else you really don't want to be carrying the burden of.

A few times over the course of two years, I had floated the idea of programming a forum from scratch, but given how the Discord server played out, I'm really not compelled to make any such forum at this point. My only real reason to do so would be for the exhilarating experience of programming one rather than using a conventional engine, but I imagine it would just go to waste. I have much larger priorities to get sorted out - programming a much larger game, for starters.

I've seen some people associate the shutdown of my Discord server with the death of Razorback. Do they think something can only hold grounds for existence if it's on a large platform? Don't kid yourself. Razorback lives on in its natural habitat, right here. If anything, the Discord server that was simply is not Razorback. It was an entirely different thing. I'm sure there will be plenty more to come on this website in the future. Some of it is already on its way.

Windows 95D Lite 1.6

Windows 95D Lite 1.6 prerelease screenshot showing a secret tab in Add/Remove Programs

I've written about this earlier in the Redtoast miniblog, but I had been working on a new version of Windows 95D Lite. I had hoped to get this released on August 24th, but a number of unexpected circumstances prevented me from landing on that date. In short, it was originally planned to be denoted as 1.5b, but a number of groundbreaking revelations regarding Windows 95, particularly the full publication of the launch event by Blue Horizon, have prompted me to make this release more significant than it would have been otherwise.

Version 1.6 will include a number of additional drivers covering computers from 1999 to 2001, including one for AC'97. While the inclusion of this driver should make Windows 95D Lite ideal for many, many more computers without needing to install a separate sound card, it is entirely possible that the driver will not work on motherboards from 2003 and later, even with INF tweaking. A number of additional cool, or otherwise useful things will also be included in the full CD. I'm hoping to get this out the door by next week.

After this, I really do not see there being another major release of Windows 95D Lite any longer, unless a USB HID driver for it can be whipped up somehow. But you can only go so far with Microsoft just sitting on the source code to Windows 95 and its successors all day long. Will they release it at some point? I highly doubt it. But if they ever do, well, the entire 1.x lineup of Windows 95D Lite will become obsolete. The source release of 3D Movie Maker gives some shred of hope, but it is only a multimedia program, not an operating system.

Hardcore Windows

A frame from the second segment of Hardcore Windows 95 showing a computer booting up and Network Client Administrator at work

At long last, the entire Hardcore Windows series is coming to Razorback! Now, I could've just gotten this out there as early as July, but then it would've just been an unremarkable sort of copy/paste job. For a series like this that basically defined much of six years in regards to classic Windows, I knew I was gonna have to go much further.

My first consideration was changing the aspect ratio. The thing is, most video cards from the 90's didn't support 16:9 resolutions very well, nor did monitors. Whenever I used a capture card to record VGA output, 99% of the time I'd use a 4:3 resolution. But since YouTube heavily favored 16:9 videos for the longest time (prior to creating a player that dynamically adapts to the video resolution, one of the better changes they made), I had stuck with formatting my videos to use that. It didn't seem like they would go elsewhere, so why not?

Ever since I introduced the video catalog to Razorback, I've been learning a lot more just how flawed my previous approaches to publishing videos were. It became readily apparent that letterboxing so much square footage in a rectangle was a pure waste of space. Moreover, I gained something else from self-hosting videos that proved to be incredibly important. This may come as a shock, but broadcasting 480p video at 60 FPS is trivial! All you do is plop a video in the page as you would.

In theory, YouTube reducing 480p videos to 30 FPS regardless of their previous frame rate is supposed to save space, but for videos that don't actually need the higher resolution (NTSC TV recordings, old console gameplay), it creates the arbitrary requirement to upscale videos to 720p or even 1080p to get 60 FPS, thereby wasting far more space than they could have. This is the exact problem which Blue Horizon has been faced with as he was getting his VHS goldmines uploaded to both YouTube and Internet Archive. It's easy to post an MKV to the latter with the exact specifications desired without consuming so many resources, but when it comes to YouTube... oh dear. With the hardware I've got now, I could upscale a two hour tape in a matter of hours, but for him, it can take as much as close to two days, I think!

I've already proven to myself and others that the self-hosted route offers tremendous benefits over doing things the YouTube way, or even some different site trying to encompass everyone. It's readily evident in the Razorback uploads of Bigeye. Every individual machine being tested is in its own video file, and is of the exact resolution it needs to be at the highest frame rate possible. Moreover, there's not even any annotations getting in the way anymore; all the descriptiveness is moved further down each web page, allowing viewers to be fully immersed in the gameplay and reading up the details afterwards. This is exactly what Bigeye should have been in the first place; hell, this is the direction I should've taken way back around late 2019.

But adapting Hardcore Windows to this site isn't as easy as taking the raw recordings and trimming them like so. The videos in this series are at least a little bit more complex and depend on a lot of video editing to carry out their function. So, if I was to convert the entire series to a 4:3 aspect ratio, I was gonna have to dive back into the project files and rework everything by hand. That alone would be beneficial for reducing waste, but some may just call it a downgrade.

It is necessary to have this version offer something new, something that will make it better than the previous incarnation for everyone. That's why the Razorback uploads of Hardcore Windows will not only include some deleted scenes in most of the segments, but also some brand new footage as well! I'm surprised to realize how much I had been holding back previously in Hardcore Windows.

In particular, there was this part of the fourth segment of Hardcore Windows 98 I had fallen in love with. You know, it was a demonstration of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 at an insanely high resolution... but because it wasn't Windows 98 like the title said, I felt I had to abruptly cut it short to appease what I could expect to be some horribly impatient viewers. Here, though, I can pretty much make videos exactly how I want without very many concerns at all!

Hardcore Windows will start being rolled out to Razorback on November 25th, and I expect all of the videos will be available to watch before the end of this year. This will be the definitive way to watch Hardcore Windows!

Quacker

Quacker blip test featuring Piranha Kerbe and random garbage

The last thing I'd like to share here is a side project I've been working on, under the working name Quacker. I've taken notice of Twitter basically going up in flames following a recent acquisition. It's sad that it took some bad guy for a lot more people to notice that website is basically the gutter of the internet, but I'll take it. I think it's about time I offer something better.

Quacker basically adapts a few of Razorback's essential functions, being blips and an image gallery, into a more easily manageable set of scripts for novice website operators to implement. It won't give you something super expansive; it's more of an intentionally barebones, "some assembly required" thing.

Quacker will use SQLite, which delivers the benefits of easily organizing data through SQL while being self-contained in a single file, thereby eliminating complications of a client-server architecture. I do not know when I'll end up releasing this, as it's not fully fleshed out yet. When it does go live, though, hopefully it will be of great use to other people that have already taken the initiative. Make websites, not accounts.

Good luck!


Comments

flatrute - December 03, 2022 at 12:05 AM

I forgot to mention that the "One of the members" Kugee typed about is mintsuki, one of the main developer of Limine, a bootloader for Linux distros and hobby OSes. Shoutout to her self and works!

https://github.com/mintsuki
https://limine-bootloader.org

flatrute - November 26, 2022 at 04:39 AM

ricky: Greeting from Vietnam! While the Internet network here is quite good, such websites is critical to my life as a reminder for a world where there are people who still live with slow and/or unreliable connection and knowledge and creativity does not need to be online all the time.

flatrute - November 26, 2022 at 04:24 AM

(lastly)
- yet another static site generator :space_mop: Joke aside, it is always nice when someone create a new piece of software. I would like to see the code of Quacker avaiable under 0BSD (BSD Zero Clause License) for TRUE PUBLIC DOMAIN FOSS. (I do not know why software licensing has to be this hard.)

Overall, keep it up our beloved maroon whale! :kugee16:

flatrute - November 26, 2022 at 03:52 AM

(continue)
- Since I only use your 95D Lite in VMware VM format for testing my (WIP-as-of-the-time-of-typing-this) website I am not the one who benefit much from the update. Still, the update would (hopefully) make 95D Lite more useful and convenient to some folk out there. I would like to see your method of rebuilding installation of Windows, IE, etc. so that I might be able to build something like "Windows 95D Lite for DOS/V"* sometime in the future.
* DOS/V is the term used for PC compatibles in Japan. Basically, "Windows 95D Lite Japanese".
- Hardcore Windows is what I have been wanting to see after you shifted to self-hosting. I have never watched the series in full since I first discovered you so once I have free time to binge it should be a comfy experience with extra contents and FOUR BY THREE SIXTY FPS BABY :bugfix:

flatrute - November 26, 2022 at 03:26 AM

Well, I browse this website without any orders so I missed out this news on time. Not that I had free time during the time anyway.

That aside:
- Those QOL changes on Razorback are nice to have. The search bar is already useful as it is at the time of typing these since Wiby is not a real search engine which crawls through sites.
- Discord has been terrible since the beginning. It is like Gmail but much worse with its terrible lockdown nature and the fact that they use "servers" as a misnomer to groups on their service. Now while I still want to see if the IRC server (preferably updated to be an IRCv3 one for backward compatibility to old clients while having modern features such as chat history) would come back to life ever again, you made a good point about this comment section being a good replacement for discussing on-topic things. Perhaps I am a bit too crawing on almost constant stream of messages on chat platforms.

ricky - November 25, 2022 at 11:01 AM

Since I met your website through some Discord friends I've been following you since then, since I like the way you do stuff, disconnected from this crap called modern Internet. And I like the fact I can load your website everywhere I want just to keep updated! Greetings from Latin America btw

realjame - November 24, 2022 at 09:12 PM

All in all, cool!

Xnmcv - November 24, 2022 at 08:01 PM

3:4

closedgl - November 24, 2022 at 10:33 AM

Now that I think about it, the it in killing it may very well be referring to a very awful and bland web experience.

Kugee (real) - November 24, 2022 at 10:31 AM

closedgl: I'm hoping to get a newer set of source files up there when I get the code more polished up.

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