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Windows 98 installing on three computers
Segment 1: Automated Installation to Six Computers over PXE

Originally encoded on October 22nd, 2018 and published on November 15th

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But Before We Start...

At the end of Hardcore Memphis, I confirmed a release date for Hardcore Windows 98 in November 2018. Seeing that this series was a promised inevitability, it became clear that I would have to start thinking about what I was going to do in there. To really live up to the "hardcore" name the last two series earned, I'd have to try doing things NOBODY thinks of doing when they fire up a Windows 98 computer. I needed ideas so fucking insane and inconceivable that they would grapple the attention of everyone, in the hopes of cleanly settling a burden that's been creeping on my back for the last two years.

In the time between the creation of Hardcore Windows 95 and the tail end of 2017, I had accumulated tons more knowledge on old computers and yet more beige boxes to work with. Moreover, I managed to accomplish far more than I ever would've expected to in the way of video creation. Subscribers count for nothing; it's about how deep I've gone in the way of making things: establishing some mysterious characters, figuring out how to capture all the VGA output I could ask for, creating a political news show that manages to piss off only three people, educating the world on the advantages of 32-bit computing in a VHS tape, pulling out a conventional pond fish to venture into the digital horizons, create a classic style YouTube Poop with a program from 1998, and give Kerbe the employment opportunity he deserved.

Fresh off of making some monochrome bitmap cutscenes for another person (and learning how to do pushups in the process) as well, I was ready to take on the fucking world. I immediately began writing down some ideas for Hardcore Windows 98, and already had some things down:

  • PXE installation and/or batch setup
  • Multiplayer games over infrared
  • Eight monitors on four video adapters
  • Hardcore Windows CE (connectivity with Windows 98)
  • KernelEx, DirectX 9 games, HTML5 browsers
  • Windows 98 on a very modern computer with some compatible hardware
  • Dial-Up Server
  • Video Capture
  • Network Logon Script
  • Cross-Computer Network Script (musical finale of sorts, based on the Dell that pleads for life)
  • Windows Update
  • Group Policy
  • Boot from Network Drive
  • Install from Floppy Disks
  • Backup
  • Hibernation
  • FAT16 vs. FAT32
  • Six-seat LAN party

There was such an excessive sum of ideas I wrote down in a plain text file that I'm honestly stunned that so many of them actually ended up in the resulting series. Inevitably, some did get scrapped, particularly KernelEx because I found myself preferring to show what Windows 98 can do without it.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 display settings for S3 Trio64V+

With 11 months on my hands to come up with some results, it was only inevitable that I would find myself turning to other things as well, like 8086 assembly programming, the creation of two "mini hardcore" series focused on Windows NT (again) and Windows for Workgroups 3.11, and the introduction of another mysterious character who is a squid that always manages to get the most powerful desktop computers in the world before anyone else. Why does a squid have what I don't???

Squeezy has built a strange computer in an industrial rackmount chassis

At the same time, I had also secretly been trying to create a very strange computer of some kind. It was always meant to manifest into the most absurd Windows 95 Gold setup possible, with its strangeness being a device for some channel I've secretly been running since the Soy King TakeoverTM of 2017. Exactly how was this going to tie in with the mainline channel? While I dropped a few hints some time before Hardcore Windows 98's debut, I never really figured it out. Now that I'm quitting making videos in the near future, I can go ahead and show you what that all was going to be like.

Full tower computer with Pentium III, 3dfx Voodoo5, Adaptec SCSI RAID controller, Asus P3B-F motherboard

This computer was going to have absolutely EVERYTHING, seriously. A hardware RAID controller set up with a striped volume, a late 80's SCSI hard drive on the side, the fastest Pentium III CPU I could possibly get to work, and a 3dfx Voodoo5 to top it all off. I had plans to go even further, you know, use a server motherboard with PCI-X to install a gigabit network card (that actually worked in Windows 95 with a PowerEdge server I used to have, trust me), as well as an external SCSI tower. But doesn't Windows 95 Gold have a 2GB partition limit? That's the idea.

While efforts to build such a bizarre Windows 95 computer continued up until mid 2019, it eventually proved too futile to continue turning my attention to, largely due to how YouTube has gone so far off the rails and is basically afraid of innovation now, and, well, this was all for a joke, anyway. Going back to late 2018, though, I had just finished recording most of Arowana and got plenty of other side projects uploaded. This time for sure, I knew I had to start busting my ass off to deliver on the upcoming series I promised a couple years back.

With the firm release date in place, I took a much different approach to producing Hardcore Windows 98 compared to its predecessors. Rather than record, edit, and upload on the spot, I would do all the production far ahead of time, and release each segment on a staggered schedule of one video every two weeks. This was mainly so I could get this shit all behind me sooner, but it also gave me ample time to correct any mistakes later on. Production would enter full force on September 17th, and I made sure to release the first segment on a fan's birthday.

Let's PXE Boot!

Windows Batch 98 user information dialog

Returning to the idea of a network-based installation of Windows was the most intriguing by far. As mentioned in the history of Windows 95D Lite's development, I started messing with the idea of conducting an installation over PXE on January 2nd, 2018, and found Windows 98's INF installer program soon after, which let me integrate brand new drivers for the 3dfx Voodoo3 and other such devices. More of how I went about that is detailed on the aforementioned page, but I can say this upfront: as soon as you've got a solution like that working, you really won't want to go back to the old way of doing things. Maybe someday I'll have an actual guide published regarding how I did all of it; now that I've programmed Infsect to accomplish the same thing as PUTINENV and INITOOL, I'm sure I can get away with it.

Of course, Windows NT was never left behind in any bit of Hardcore Windows; even when it wasn't front and center, it was doing a bountiful of work for all the client machines behind the scenes. Whether it was to install software or replicate a consistent configuration across multiple machines, it was always there. Hardcore Windows 98 is no exception; in fact, a large portion of the first segment is entirely focused on Windows NT!

Windows 98 installing on many computers

As I said earlier, I had already made several full-blown attempts to create this segment, with each growing more elaborate in succession. After recording some clips showing Windows NT Server getting all prepared to serve a Windows 98 installer to six computers over a local area network, I began the make-or-break mass deployment on September 19th. Not everything ended up going according to plan, as some of the drivers I integrated ended up failing to load upon logging into the dekstop, but I decided to run with it in any case.

I created two separate boot images, one for 3Com network cards, and another for the Intel kind. As my network installation methodology developed, the 3Com 3C905C-TXM became my preferred 100 megabit network card for pretty much all systems ranging from the Pentium 1 to the Pentium 4. While this card is still quite affordable to purchase in bulk online, sometimes I need to use an Intel-based PXE booting network card due to supply issues. For slow Pentiums and 486 computers, I'd prefer to use an ISA network card, though in that case an actual floppy disk will most likely need to come into play.

I thought I pretty much had the art mastered at this point, and was prepared to settle on Windows 98 for most of my future installations. However, several months and an excruciating self-teaching of writing INFs by hand later, my outlook on Windows 98 changed completely. That whole time I favored Windows 98, it was all because it came with so many conveniences preloaded, but later on I would create those conveniences myself in Windows 95.