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Forest fire just kidding it's Drops on Hierma Z:
Segment 7: Networking with Multiple Operating Systems

Originally encoded on April 27th, 2016 and published the following day

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Windows 95

Windows 95 loaded with a forest fire wallpaper

Windows NT is quite capable of reaching far out to other platforms... mostly Microsoft's own, but as not shown here, I did get a machine with OS/2 Warp 3 connected to my server. Getting OS/2 Warp installed has tended to be a pain in the ass for me, not sure if I was missing something there but it doesn't have very large of an offering anyway. So... moving on to Windows 95!

Although Windows 95 is absolutely capable of logging onto a Windows NT domain and accessing its shared resources, it cannot be bound to a domain the way a Windows NT client can. It simply doesn't have the mechanisms to pull it off. Still, if only I had thought to implement such things on the server, Windows 95 can execute domain logon scripts and work with roaming profiles.

Of course, plenty more of Windows 95's networking functionality has already been detailed in Hardcore Windows 95. Here in Hardcore Windows NT, Windows 95 becomes a minor player in the scope of several other operating systems...

Windows NT 3.51

Windows NT 3.51 Ctrl+Alt+Del prompt, CD tray broke off

Now here's another version of Windows NT that's still stuck on the Program Manager! Windows NT actually first hit the market in 1993, but people who say "Windows NT" so often refer to Windows NT 4.0. Windows NT 3.51 is quite different and doesn't have all of the features that let NT4 run much more software... but with some backporting work, you can get quite a significant sum of programs to work, all the kinds you wouldn't expect to see in a Windows 3.x-like environment! In fact, it doesn't even take all that much to get Unreal working with software rendering!

But those are far out of the scope for this video. Here, I'm only concerned about getting a basic installation of Windows NT 3.51 loaded with essential drivers and Service Pack 5. Personally I tend to not bother using this version of Windows at all, but even without all of the extra components hacked into it, it has some distinct advantages: for one, it makes for a very robust Win16 development environment, as can it run Win16 programs with optimal stability and UI accuracy. Not that Windows 95 flunked its compatibility with Win16 applications very much at all, NT 3.51 just makes you think like a Windows 3.1 user. Win16 programs are also allotted their own memory spaces away from each other, up to 16MB per program.

I find Windows NT 3.51 especially charming for how it has that primitive user interface on the surface, yet underneath it is such a powerful kernel that knows how to utilize two or more CPUs at once - something the first version of 3D Studio MAX will thrive on. I've continuously neglected to brush up on my knowledge with that program, but I can say this: Razorback's logo can be rendered in Windows NT 3.51!

And yes, I really did yank out that tray from the CD drive. Hey, don't give me shit, I put it back very nicely : )

Mac OS 9.2.2

Mac OS 9 Chooser

Well, would you believe it... a non-Microsoft platform with a completely different CPU architecture connecting to Windows NT! This damn thing really wants to devour everything! While I clearly remember back at our elementary school, we had to connect directly to Windows NT shares using some client (probably developed by Microsoft themselves?) that used the SMB protocol itself, Windows NT Server does happen to include a network service specifically geared towards AppleTalk, the native networking protocol of classic Mac OS.

Windows NT's implementation of AppleTalk is rather crude; it does not appear to support password encryption, for one. It seems to also take issue with partitions larger than 2GB in size out of concerns for older versions of Mac OS, although I imagine 9.2 has to have gotten well past those limitations. Regardless, Windows NT Server's AppleTalk implementation is generally my preferred method of getting files over from any of my computers to an old Mac, unless I can get away with using a flash drive instead. Or, if the Mac in question is networked and running Mac OS X, I prefer to enable some sharing services on it and upload from my main computer to that.

Like Windows NT 3.51, Mac OS 9 is the last of its kind in a charmingly primitive family of operating systems. It has a dated user interface, cooperative multitasking, and no memory protection. Just as impressive as a 16-bit/32-bit hybrid like Windows 95 is, it's stunning that Mac OS's archaic architecture made it as far as the PowerPC G4 era. How can you not love it? As arrogant as Apple always was, they rolled out a plentiful of neat innovations on their computers during the System 6/7 eras. Many of these did get absorbed in Mac OS X, but kind of lost that old personality along the way. Wait, why do you keep telling me it's called "macOS" now? Fuck off!

Shmay is a newly discovered microscopic letter of the English alphabet.

MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 Program Manager minimized, whale wallpaper

It is by far the most iconic duo, the most hardcore of old school 486 computing. It is that thing where you have to set up an optimal configuration by typing lines in a couple of startup files, and always be mindful of that 640KB conventional memory limit. Damn... PC users really knew how to tolerate a lot of bullshit back then! Backwards compatibility is important, but Windows 95 was a much needed liberation from such a tight constraint. With straight up MS-DOS networking, I had a tough time getting Impulse Tracker to load modules because the network driver was occupying part of the conventional memory space I needed. Kinda just have to, say, keep stopping and starting the network client depending on what it is I want to do...

The basic redirector takes up less conventional memory than the full redirector, but the former does not execute logon scripts. You may not have much of a reason to use anything but the basic redirector; after all, less conventional memory occupied means more programs to run. But who am I talking to here? Everyone seems to ignore the great potential for networking on old computers... am I just that long overdue to write a proper guide, or are they really stuck on the idea that you can only use floppy disks, CD-ROMs, flash drives, or whatever else isn't one of those possible solutions that I've gone through painstaking efforts to establish?

Like Windows NT 3.51 and Mac OS 9, MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 are the last of their kind in a charmingly primitive lineup of operating systems and graphical environments. While they suffer from severe inherent limitations, it is fun to take them beyond what they're meant for. You could get away with installing these two programs to a computer based on the 440BX chipset with a complete set of drivers if you really wanted to. I've written a couple of programs so far that run in MS-DOS, most notably Infsect, and I fully intend to go much farther with it.

It's interesting to note that when you install Windows for Workgroups 3.11 with its own network driver, it overrides the NDIS2 driver in MS-DOS and essentially makes you log into the network from Windows if you want to access network resources. While it's an effective way to save on conventional memory as well as better leverage the 386's capabilities, it tends to get really clunky if you happen to switch between pure MS-DOS and Windows on a regular basis. You may be able to get around this with a customized boot menu with separate options for using either MS-DOS networking or Windows networking... but then you're getting into frequent reboot territory! All this really shows how great of a job Windows 95 did at unifying everything into a more straightforward solution - run all your DOS and Windows programs together seamlessly while utilizing all the 32-bit networking capabilities of Windows 95. Shit, that came straight off one of its setup billboards, didn't it?

Something Else...?

Toshiba T3100 gas plasma portable computer running MS-DOS 5.0

I intended to use this 286-based Toshiba T3100 I then recently thrifted for less than $5 on the network... but figuring out how to connect it via Remote Access Service using some MS-DOS program that was not as straightforward proved to be too much for me to try working out at that time, so I ended up going "fuck it, let's just hook these up with terminal emulators" at the last minute. Hence, the operator went to hell.

The Toshiba T3100 was a nice computer, but I realistically didn't have much I could do with it, so I ended up selling it for big profit. Bad idea? Well, the T3100 really doesn't offer much in the way of expansion; there's no standard ISA slots, and adding memory requires some obscure proprietary module that I simply couldn't be bothered to acquire. I suppose I could have used a Xircom Pocket Ethernet adapter, but those damn things are way overpriced!

What for? I don't really use very much XT-compatible software at all, let alone anything that could run on a 286, which is a glorified XT in itself. It was clear early on that the 286 was a dead end, especially as the 386 was already available by the time the 286 was starting to gain a stronghold in the home market. It's just... well, it's definitely not worthless, but it's not anything I'm eager to pursue. I already have one IBM XT that I feel I'd rather do a total recap on before I bother using it regularly, given how crapass power supplies used to be, and who knows how often I'll end up using it... maybe when I go to test my own software designed for it!

The Verdict

So, what do I think of Windows NT 4.0? It's great, lightweight, really simple to grasp, and has a nice, clean interface. Creating a domain controller in NT4 is a lot snappier compared to Windows 2000. Even so, it's not really up to par with Windows 95. Getting all the drivers loaded can be more of a pain in the ass than I'd like it to be, so I end up not installing Windows NT 4.0 very often, as much as I'd like to.

It's kind of strange how my outlook on other versions of Windows changed so drastically in the last two years since figuring out how to automate a well-refined installation of Windows 95. As soon as a solution that makes everything much easier is put in place, it puts you in a situation where you really don't want to go back... still, for dual CPU systems, I tend to favor NT4 over 2000 as long as all the hardware I plan to use is supported in the former, except for the fact that Windows NT happens to be so stubborn about installing over the network to a dual CPU system. It just doesn't even want to do it, yet single CPU systems are perfectly fine... wrong HAL being loaded, maybe? I don't have the time to find out...

Another annoyance of Windows NT 4.0 is inconsistent latencies across some audio-driven programs, mostly games. GLQuake tends to work all fine, but compare how something like BGB runs under Windows 95 and NT4... the audio lags painfully in NT4, to a point where you're better off just not running the program there. Is it the complexity in accurately emulating the Game Boy's sound hardware? Possibly, but I think Windows NT 4.0's failure to open up more layers of abstraction to better work with hardware that expects the lowest possible latency ultimately doomed it to be nothing more than a transitional operating system on the way to an IE-riddled Windows 2000.

Windows NT 4.0 is a very powerful operating system that won't let you down on professional applications, but what it lacks really only makes it a hardcore Windows for hardcore users.