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Three Windows 98 computers playing videos
Segment 2: Using Windows 98 as a Server

Originally encoded on November 24th, 2018 and published on November 29th

Watch video: Using Windows 98 as a Server

Out of Order Execution

As soon as I got done with the PXE installations, my next task was not to show them connecting to a server running Windows 98, but to go through the grueling process of moving everything out of the room to make way for a setup comprised of six large CRTs. More on that when I get to it... the point is, I wanted to get the hardest and most inconvenient parts of production out of the way first. The recording of this much simpler segment did not begin until October 17th (carrying over into the following day since I was recording late at night, of course).

Even for the easier segments, production was all about getting everything finished ahead of time. I had already recorded some clips demonstrating infrared netplay a few days before getting to work on the six client streaming demo.

Run Back and Forth

My main workstation capturing VGA output from the server with a ton of motion blur

Even though this was not a back-breaking segment like some were, it was still a bit physically involved, regardless. While I could have set up TightVNC, I didn't, so every time I wanted to go from managing the server to the six clients, I had to run back and forth between the two rooms which were separating them. But that was only half the battle; the real challenge was getting the camcorder and OBS recordings in syncrhonization!

Windows 98 System Monitor

I've always had my ways of gettings things worked out, though... as long as you have a non-linear video editor capable of precise frame stepping and multiple layers, all while the whole thing isn't so damn clunky, you can do anything. What I ended up doing was making one long continuous recording in the computer room, and then at the end I went back to the server to carefully record the system monitor shortly before terminating the OBS recording.

From there, it's a matter of lining up the two recordings of the graphs so they continuously match at every frame. That's really all it takes to syncrhonize two completely different recordings taking place in completely different rooms! Sure, I could have filmed the six clients without going through so much trouble, but I really wanted to illustrate how hard the server was working as I was streaming six different videos to six different clients.

If You Want Performance...

Windows 98 has too many toasters get them off of me what the hell

Much as Windows NT is faster at running programs optimized for 32-bit CPUs, it's also much faster at, well, being a server. While Windows 98 is not regarded as a server operating system by any stretch, it has some built-in server capabilities, and third-party programs like XAMPP can also be run on it if you really, REALLY want to make it into a web server for some insane reason. Some people have jokingly referred to Windows 98 as "Windows Server 1998" in this context.

One of the most readily apparent advantages of Windows NT as a server as seen in the second segment is its ability to allow opening multiple resources in parallel for each client, as opposed to just one in Windows 98... at least that's how it seems. That's not to say Windows 98 is an incompetent server, merely that its performance is going to be less than ideal under heavy loads. On a low budget, low scale workgroup network, Windows 98 as a server could make sense. Maybe. If you're too stupid that you won't get a Linux CD-ROM set from Best Buy for like $30 or so... but can you blame those who did use Windows 9x as a server? Samba existed in the 90's for sure, but a lack of real client-side software back then compared to what we have now generally made it something reserved for the most elite users who knew exactly what they were doing.

Either way, while Windows NT was a very powerful server platform, it would surely become more pointless with time, as Linux-based server solutions started to transcend it. Plus, if you intend to run a server completely headless, why the fuck should you need a GUI on it? At that point it's just a waste of precious system resources!

Log On To On Line

If I'm being realistic here, most of the things I showed off in Hardcore Windows 98 could've very easily been done in Windows 95, including setting up file sharing and a dial-up server. Even if you didn't have Microsoft Plus for Windows 95, the Dial-Up Networking 1.3 and 1.4 updates Microsoft respectively offered in 1998 and 2001 included the Dial-Up Server component, anyway.

So, I did end up returning to the idea from Hardcore Memphis regarding modem utilization, after all. Using that same crapass Dell tower from 2005 with an Asterisk clone PCI card, I established a dial-up connection between two computers with real modems. To record two computers with one capture card effectively, I ended up connecting them to one of my KVM switches. Whenever I wanted to focus on the other computer, I'd just tell the KVM switch to move to that, exactly as they are normally used.

I ended up trashing the existing installation controlling the phone network for a certain photoshoot many months after recording this video, but I know it was running some spinoff of CentOS specifically designed for working with phone cards like the one I had installed. A web interface was used to control the server's configuration, similar in nature to something like FreeNAS for storage devices. This phone network controller has been used as early as February 2017 when it was still in a testing phase; thanks to telephone cords often being excessively long, I could get away with making the controller "invisible" by moving it far out of the way of the subject computers while still keeping the modems close by.

Much like using a null modem, using a real modem is slow as balls. Only difference here is that now you have to worry about your phone bill shooting way up if you're trying to download something giant. I have to wonder how Razorback would fare under dial-up? Gonna have to give it a spin one of these days...

Last Minute Revision

Original clip layout for Segment 2's client-side streaming section

That agressive staggering really came in handy... at one point close to the expected release of the second segment, I found myself dissatisfied with how the part showing the six clients looked. There was so much space being wasted bu that Net Watcher window, which got in the way of the camcorder's recording and constrained its size down too much. What was I to do, redo the entire thing and make sure to mind the window sizes? I ended up doing a cheap trick where I cut down the height of the window by duplicating the clip layer and applying different crop filters to each instance, and positioned them neatly together.

With the new change in place, I could also upscale the camcorder clip a bit more. Eventually, I was able to get the revised export uploaded just four days ahead of schedule, but even then I wasn't completely out of the woods.

SFAvndrk whas prominently notorious for setting of the switch. This was a bad thing to do. Not nice.

And yes, it's true... yet another one of those "haha Windows Movie Maker" videos was always meant to be in the last mini Hardcore Windows for Workgroups video Grey Fish contracted someone to make. I forgot to throw that emphasis on said video when I started editing the thing. It's a very 1995 program!