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Originally encoded on December 6th, 2018 and published on February 8th, 2019
Ryzen?! BUT HOW?!!
Some people will tell me it's fake, but it's absolutely real... I have run Windows 98 on a freshly built X470-based computer with a Ryzen 7 2700 CPU, the very same system that's still powering much of my modern operations. I always wanted to try running Windows 98 on an actually new computer and do things with it, and by sheer coincidence, I went out shopping for parts to build me a more up-to-date computer after riding on the Core i7 3930K build for five whole years. My main concerns with this build, of course, were getting something more efficient, if only slightly faster.
Naturally, getting a newer computer means asking if it can run Windows 98. I set off to find the answer for myself on October 9th, but I didn't simply want to say "it boots" and call it a day! This is Hardcore Windows, remember? I'm not here to play fucking jazz music and giggle about how backwards compatibility stretches "too far", I'm here to push everything to it's absolute limit! GO GO PUMP THAT SHIT UP!!!
In order to really make this count, what I needed to do was get as many drivers as possible working under Windows 98, and this would involve pulling out some expansion cards that have better potential for supporting such an old ass operating system. Since I knew IDE compatbility mode was totally absent from my new Ryzen system, I was gonna have to prepare to fall back on the 16-bit compatibility mode filesystem. I hoped to mitigate this by getting some Adaptec PCI Express SCSI controller to work with an incredibly noisy hard drive spinning at 10,000 RPM... but installing Windows 7 on this computer was so fucking hard even with a PS/2 port that I expected an installation of Windows 98 to fail completely.
Yet... it actually worked! Trying to use ACPI caused Windows 98 to flip out and use some failsafe driver, and practically no devices were listed in the device manager... that just means we've got work to do. All I can say is this: don't trust Windows 98 with ACPI on new computers, because the ACPI specification has changed a lot since its debut. On top of that, new computers such as mine don't support APM at all, making it totally impossible for Windows 98 to power them off itself. Remember to use the /pi switch when installing Windows 98 on such new systems.
After reinstalling Windows 98 with ACPI disabled, I had slightly better results, but the USB mouse kept freaking out and the video output was still garbled, so I ended up plugging in a serial mouse to go with my PS/2 keyboard I've been using. Yes, after all these years, an unbastardized RS-232 serial port is still included on modern computers. It's still useful!
This setup proved to be far less than comfortable for what I wanted... but, there's always some leftover part from some junk tower, right? I took out an ATI Radeon X300 from that crapass 2005 Dell tower being used to control the phone network, slapped it in the Ryzen, and boom, all that video corruption was gone! It even used a PCI Express connector, which was a major plus given my X470 board has no classic PCI slots whatsoever!
Soon enough, I stopped using the SCSI hard drive since I knew I wasn't going to get a driver working with the controller I was using, and opted for something more compact and quiet instead - a 32GB flash drive. Given the hard drive I used was just as slow as the flash drive under that compatibility mode driver, I really wasn't missing out on anything.
Later, I found myself running some 3D games using software rendering. At first I was using the universal VBEMP driver with the Radeon X300, but a little thing struck me: this video card is from 2005, isn't it? Windows 98 was still supported by Microsoft at that time, so major video card vendors should also support that card as well. I loaded a native Radeon X300 driver, and sure enough, I could run those same games using hardware acceleration on DirectX 9 and OpenGL. I gotta say, such technologies like PCI Express really debuted at the right time. Of course, these games are not actually ultra fast as one might expect given the operating system and computer simply aren't in any kind of symbiance, but they're playable. The whole system just has to stall on a fairly regular basis.
So, that's a hell of a something, right? Well, I could take it even further... is it possible to get sound working in here? HD Audio is a complete no-go. Any such PCI Express sound cards that work with Windows 98 are too few, and likely of abysmal quality. I had a better idea in mind... just get a generic PCI Express to PCI slot adapter. That way, you can really brute force your way into a workable Ryzen-based Windows 98 computer! This adapter has a bracket that's designed to fit a low-profile PCI card perfectly, but none of the PCI sound cards I knew would work with Windows 98 were low-profile. I just opted for the smallest, lightest one I had, one that also had to have its line out port sticking through the case's slot opening. The Aureal Vortex AU8810 was a perfect match.
Was the adapter even going to work, though? I looked at a couple of videos showing it in action prior to getting mine; it seemed to happily take an S3 Trio64, but the point was more about Windows 98 even being able to detect such an adapter. My Ryzen computer was already in the other room at this point, which made it kind of hard to sleep on some nights since it ended up getting pretty cold in my bedroom. I had to dual boot Windows 98 and Windows 7, and since the AU8810 very likely wasn't going to work in the latter, I was gonna have to set up separate audio connections for each operating system. At least I could use the Radeon X300 without any real compromises... except for a 1920x1080 resolution cap.
After my adapter came in the mail, I popped it in my computer with the AU8810 plugged in... and miraculously, Windows 98 detected the PCI controller on there! Was this a controller that already existed in the 90's and was just adapted to the PCI Express converter, or is there some generic pattern Windows 98 recognizes (perhaps a device ID)? Either way, I was still holding doubts on if I could actually install the Vortex driver, but once I heard the Windows 98 startup sound kick in after a reboot, oh man... I knew I had something truly special in my hands. This is THAT thing nobody knew they wanted to see!
I spent maybe a couple extra days rehearsing what I was going to do with this installation, and on October 21st, it began... come on, Windows 98 on a Ryzen, show me what you're made of! Play that god damn startup sound that ooooh hits me in the nostalgia~! and show me those AAAH RETRO VINTAGE VIDEO GAMES BRINGS BACK HIGH SCHOOL TOTALLY NOT A SHITFUCK AAAAAAAAA!!!! Afterwards I'm turning off your fucking stupid RGB lighting.
Even for how surprising well that all went, not everything was guaranteed to go according to plan, either. Sometimes, Quake III Arena would cause the video output to flip the fuck out until I quit the program via a console command. Just one of those things you have to expect when you've got such insane disparities, I guess...
This time around, I made more efficient use of the existing ports I had: I used a PS/2 mouse and a USB keyboard. This combination is less likely to freak out here. The serial port would be delegated to other external devices like the HotSync cradle for my Palm Vx... I guess that's a sort of compromise to a full-blown Hardcore Windows CE. I had trouble getting the PDA to synchronize, but the modem worked, at least. Wait... a modem??? Yeah, because I want to see this thing go online. I probably should've tried to use the Intel PRO/1000 DOS driver in Windows 98, since it was still being maintained all the way up until 2019. Yes, Windows 98 is quite capable of using NDIS2 drivers.
There was one extra scene I ultimately had to cut out before publication, where I played Quake II on Tastyspleen. Being on such a low baud, of course it was going to be unplayable for me. "Had to", because the server was just plagued with idiots that couldn't stop talking about politics. I didn't want to get caught in the fire of it all at that time. It's not just the names they frequently burn through...
I have a question: who the fuck are these people that keep trying to antagonize the server for normal people who just want to quake? Who do they think they are? You'd think Quake II netplay would be a thing to turn to for getting away from the maddening political climate that was in full swing for those five recent years, but nope, it all has to creep right back up! I oughta tell you something here... regardless of whether you're left or right wing, or maybe somewhere in the center, stop paying attention to politics so damn much. It will do you much good in the long run. Stop using Twitter, too.
As soon as I was done with the bulk of that last segment, all that was left was to quickly explain how to set up a USB drive to boot to MS-DOS 7.10, throw the Windows 98 setup files in there, boot to the USB device on the target computer, and install Windows 98 onto that same drive. It's actually really simple; all you need is the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool and a Windows 98 boot disk, then you can extract the boot floppy contents in some way. You don't even need WinImage; you can use 7-Zip, or, if you're on Linux, mount the floppy image somewhere using the loop option. By the morning of December 6th after getting everything else done, I got the clips I needed all recorded and edited. There it was... by nightfall, the encoding completed, I uploaded the video to YouTube, and I finally had Hardcore Windows 98 all behind me, two months ahead of schedule no less. The third segment hadn't even gone live at that point.
So... what was I to do now? Obviously sit around and wait to see how those things go, but actually, there was something else I was hoping to do for the series... yes, I wanted to create an eighth segment for Hardcore Windows 98 to properly conclude the series; Segment 7 ended on a BSOD cliffhanger.
So... what was this eighth segment going to be about? To put it in short, I wanted to host a six-seat LAN party centered around Windows 98. I already had all the computers well prepared for some time with all the games anyone could ask for - Doom 95, Quake, Quake II, Quake III Arena, Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Jedi Knight, Half-Life, and even Counter-Strike 1.5. This wasn't a throwaway idea, I knew it had to happen. When? It was difficult to know for sure.
Besides being a good ol' LAN party, I also wanted the eight segment to tell a story, one that would really shed a lot more light on the channel's ongoing lore. I already had some ending script written on December 30th, 2018; keep in mind that the text in the following box is not canon, and was written when I was undecided on what to do with the maroon whale (he was nowhere to be found in the channel's branding for over one and a half years), what his relationship with Grey Fish was, or how to go about reestablishing the unnamed character from the really early videos where creepy videos kept appearing in his kitchen oven.
Looking back at this, I'm glad I decided to make the maroon whale and Grey Fish best buddies rather than having Grey Fish look back with such cynical disdain, as the two really make for such a great duo. If things went the way they did as described above, I'd probably end up leaving this story as a wreckage that once had a bountiful of potential buried underneath the rubble. I've still got some crazy plot ideas for Project Cisco in mind, but sheesh, this was too much. Why would you not want to see a giant whale eagerly accompanying a much smaller fish? It's only natural that they should go together, like Bulk and Skull, Banjo and Kazooie. 
Anyway, in the downtime, I was still on the move in other ways. I created a few other videos, one being a high quality recreation of all the cool 1995 computing videos Grey Fish contracted someone to make. A lot of people seemed to get a laugh out of the intentionally low resolution of the original videos created in Premiere 5.0, but after seeing them all in much higher quality, I really think they work better that way. At least you can actually see what's going on in 480p as opposed to Lego Stack. To think the bottom line of those complete, short videos was specifically to fill up Arowana's intro...
I was also using my time to brush up on 8086 assembly programming, using the exact same computers I had loaded up with those games for the LAN party. I bought an old book for cheap around the start of 2018, called "Mastering Turbo Assmebler, Second Edition". While I've always had difficulty reading through long books and keeping myself steady so I can focus on programming, I was getting somewhere. When my place was getting hit by a polar vortex, I held a stream showing myself doing some assmebly programming according to the book just to kind of get by the whole thing.
After the stream was finished, I though I could make it through all fine, and I did in the end, but something went very wrong on the other end. Demand for heat spiked so hard as a result of the vortex that a gas plant exploded, and furnaces were relying on an auxiliary plant. An order was issued for us to turn our thermostats down to 65 degrees or lower, direct from those in their very comfy and obviously hot rooms. I did my part, of course, and stayed close to my computer as a source of lesser warmth.
I had multiple layers of clothing handy for this emergency, but was I just going to sit around miserably as I waited for this whole thing to blow over? Hah, no way! I put my mind to creating another quick video showing how USB mice can technically work in Windows 95 Gold. Thing is, there aren't even any HID-compliant drivers for Windows 95... USB support was all focused on Windows 98, and Windows 95's USB support was nothing but a placebo if not for a couple of mass storage drivers out there.
USB Mouse in Windows 95A (YouTube)
I guess I went a bit off the rails there, but a plentiful of things were happening at once. Regarding the LAN party I hoped to host, some efforts were made to invite people; a little bit after the release of the seventh segment, I went to an electronic waste shop a couple of times and met some great guys there, one who happens to have a conventional arcade cabinet in his house. We established some plans for contacting each other later...
Meanwhile back at home, all seven segments were online, of course. Few people who make videos ever say something like this, but part of the motivation for pulling off such insane stunts with old computers was rooted in an unrelenting desire to fight my most popular video - one that had been a giant source of headaches for three years. I wanted something, ANYTHING to outrank it. I was internally doubting that I could ever pull it off, but something amazing happened...
For the first time, real, exhaustive effort I put into a legitimate video pushing hardware and software beyond expectations was starting to pay off. The algorithm bots were playing fair for once; my brand new video was getting pushed to so many viewers on such short notice, I was starting to receive a larger volume of actually intelligent comments, and my video even got featured in an article from a Russian tech journal. That's when I thought "holy shit, this is it, this is the moment where I finally get that curse settled once and for all..."
Yet as suddenly as it boomed, it withered. Around the 200,000 view mark, my dreams of dethroning an unspeakable video with possibly two million views were crushed. It didn't help that my previous Discord server was already such a wreck that I had to destroy it in the midst of January, or that VidLii, a platform I was previously using to post secondary uploads of Hardcore Windows 98 to, was going up in flames. I pretty much had to totally withdraw from my own community and keep public interactions down to a level of smalltalk.
Still, I waited around to see if anyone would be coming for the LAN party... I guess having some kind of safe middleman strategy where the shop would be called and the owner would let me know what's going down next time I arrive was probably self-defeating. I know those guys said they were interested in the idea, and some other folks were being asked on my behalf about joining in as well. It seemed like it was going to happen... yet, following some weeks after the seventh segment's release, I never really heard back much at all, and basically knew this whole idea would have to be scrapped.
So, with much regret, I dismantled all those Windows 98 installations I worked so hard to prepare, just to make room for experimenting with Windows 95 Setup. The hardcore era ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
Even so, I was working on some other YouTube-related endeavor outside of my own channel, partly having to do with that insane Windows 95 computer I was building, but nothing ever came to light. Alongside heavy stomach pressure I was getting in later months, I was getting all unsteady just from not having made any videos in a long time. It was that YouTube drug; I didn't know why I needed it, but I needed to see more activity. I ended up making a long series of "pc movies" on behalf of Grey Fish... videos which, at first, did not try to be hardcore, only simple, silent, laid back computing sessions. While gaming was prevalent in such videos, I tried not to make it the primary subject. All I wanted to do was make the kind of video I'd want to watch, something involving oddly specific hardware and software.
Somehow, yet another brief spike occurred when I posted a video of myself upgrading from a Voodoo1 to a Voodoo2. It wasn't anything special and took nowhere near the effort of Hardcore Windows 98, but people loved it anyway. Should they have? YouTube has been so bland for the last four years that everyone's expectations have fallen to a point where they'll practically be impressed by anything...
Eventually, I started putting out more impressive videos showing the results of the work I had done behind the scenes to further refine my art of automating legacy Windows installations as established by the first Hardcore Windows 98 segment. That work I put into integrating drivers into an installation file share was basically the majority of the effort behind the Voodoo upgrade video.
Eventually, I did feel I was ready to release Arowana, a video I worked on for months and held back for much longer, hoping it would appeal to a much wider audience. It was that blend of organic and professional I wanted to see in a video, but it may have been too late to save the channel at that point. Arowana flopped in raw numbers despite being well received, and even the brief time Vlare got me making more quality videos wasn't filling in any holes. Things just haven't been the same after Hardcore Windows was "finished", partly because I haven't ever made such a diverse concentration of such a wide variety of ideas for old computers since then.
But I guess that's just how it has to be. It's been fun, but those days of pumping out such an abundance of innovative videos are long gone.