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Originally encoded on December 12th, 2021 and published on December 31st
I was surprised that the real Hardcore Windows XP performed as well as it did. Seriously, with how overrun the entire retro tech scene has become with ignorant 18 year olds who pretend that nothing ever surpassed Windows XP while refusing to acknowledge the roots of why Windows 10 and 11 are as bad as they are, I was bracing myself for a giant dislike bombing and a mob of comments living in denial of the truth.
That's not to say I didn't get some idiots writing here; hell, one boomer was using fucking ugly emoji to tell me to stop bashing Windows 11 because it's somehow better than Linux. He acted like a kicked puppy and a creepy pervert at the same time. But how do you say that while praising GEOS in the same breath? What a strange take... I've used neither, but I can safely tell you that GEOS is miles better than Windows 11 ever will be. Though Commodore products are more so cult computers at this point, overly glorified particularly by old men...
Nonetheless, it seems those four months of work really paid off, at least compared to how my channel was doing for pretty much all of this year. A few of the comments I've received were phenomenal, the kind of stuff I actually like to read, coming from people who actually understand what I'm talking about. One of them is so good that I feel I should immortalize it here should YouTube end up going super draconian and retroactively delete any negative opinions towards anything at all (the next logical step after crippling the dislike button for no reason). This one's from Yung Ish:
It's so true. Windows 11 is a fucking disaster because Windows XP is dogshit. You can't just state how terrible Windows 11 is without acknowledging how Microsoft's past decisions led up to that point. It's been going on since the late era of Windows 95 with the introduction of Internet Explorer 4's web-based desktop shell. It's about as bad of an idea as basing the general desktop interface on the PDF format... oh shit! Entire generations of Macs go out the window, unless you run XPostFacto! Wait... what's with the people saying Steve Jobs wouldn't let Apple get away with half of the shit they do nowadays? Would he have prevented this from happening? It depends on if it happened, and who was in charge at the time. Oh, never mind, Satya Nadella was the CEO of Apple in 2001 and he carried his philosophy over to Microsoft in 2014.
It's a shame that Windows has crashed so hard over the last 25 years, because Microsoft was going so well with Windows 95 and NT 4.0. All they needed was to keep improving on it, but I suppose it was only inevitable that Windows would begin to take the direction it's going now. Microsoft was run by the then richest man in the world, so why would a guy like that be in touch with the needs of everyday users? Yes, please do make Windows more interoperative with the internet, but not in a way that strangles users into requiring it for every little thing! We were lucky enough to jump to broadband as early as 2003, and I'm sure plenty more people still weren't online by that year!
Go put Windows 95 and Windows 11 beside each other and tell me the latter's so much better, I dare you. You can't... assuming you haven't already sold your soul to Microsoft. Windows 95 may look bland if you just glance at a few screenshots of it, but it doesn't need such flair; it has a cleverly designed user interface, one that was so good that modern Linux GUIs started copying it - KDE, GNOME (before the highly controversial version 3), IceWM, and my DE of choice, XFCE (which pairs up nicely with the Chicago95 theme).
Oh, how the tables have turned. Now the mighty giant Microsoft is so dry on ideas that they've ripped off KDE 5. Hey, that's what happens when you run automated layoffs, right? Microsoft was so infatuated with merging the internet together with an operating system for so long that it's led to the home version of Windows 11 disallowing the use of offline local accounts. So remember, if you don't have any kind of internet access, you're not a real person! And now there's yet another version of Windows 11 coming up called Windows 11 SE. "SE" is supposed to indicate itself as an emerging enemy of Chromebooks, but... you know why Windows 98 SE exists, right? History repeats itself as it always does.
I've said this before, but Windows is a sinking ship. It has been since Windows XP permanently destroyed any and all integrity Windows used to have, but now we're right at the point where it's going to be fully submerged soon. What if it does not concern you because you are a fish? It will when you find out what lurks below is the filthy sludge Microsoft left behind, making the water unbreathable.
The Beginning of the End
Regardless, it is impossible for me to completely avoid using Windows. I've been running Linux on my computer for several months now, and have no regrets about it nor will I ever main Windows again, but my channel was built on... to some extent, honoring classic Windows for its unexpected capabilities, as was my hobby built on experimenting with old computers and trying to see how far I could push them.
When I do get around to programming a lot more in a post-YouTube future, I would very much like to write my software to work on classic DOS and Windows wherever possible. It's already happening to some small degree, but my work on this front hadn't been finished just yet. I had been making avalanches of weird videos since 2005, and I couldn't leave it all behind so abruptly, even as much as I wanted to.
When I first teased Project Cisco right at the end of Bigeye, I initially envisioned there would be many more ambitious video projects like those, but 2021 was largely comprised of reality striking me hard; not only was any alternate video platform nothing but a futile battle, but I'm getting too old to be spending so much time on videos that have next to no chance of getting out there.
With Cisco's scope growing far too large, I canned it outright in September, and immediately began work on a more attainable project codenamed Sunfish. Rather than being its own standalone video, I designed Sunfish as an epilogue to the Hardcore Windows series, running through all of classic Windows one last time. That concept alone was pretty simple, but I knew it wouldn't mean much unless I tried to make it just a little more than that.
I wanted to pull off some kind of stunt in regards to how Sunfish would be produced - that is, edit it in Windows NT 4.0. It seemed plausible; certainly, conventional computers were quite capable of producing professional videos with supplemental CGI in 1996. The very first thing I worked on was the intro cutscene in 3D Studio MAX, after taking a crash course through my Fundamentals book.
I was hoping to demonstrate Windows NT 3.51 in Sunfish; it's capable of running the first version of 3ds MAX, and that program sure makes damn good use of dual CPU systems. There was an especially cool feature I wanted to try setting up there, in which multiple installations of 3ds MAX could cluster together into a rendering farm. Unfortunately, 3ds MAX 1.x hadn't been quite optimized for Windows NT 4.0, which my internal domain controller currently runs, so I had to scrap the idea of going 32-bit Program Manager and settle on version R2.5 with Windows NT 4.0 systems only. There, I managed to get the render farm working, and boy, was it something else.
Back then, computers were very slow to render 3D images, especially at high resolutions. That's why it was necessary to cluster them together to speed up the process; each computer with however many CPUs it had installed would request a frame number from a queue manager, render that frame, and store the result on a networked drive. The process occurs asymmetrically, so to make it easy to ensure all frames will play in the correct order when the animation is encoded, a frame number is appended to every filename.
Encoding an asymmetrically rendered animation is easy with modern free software; using FFmpeg, you can just do this at a command line wherever your frames are located:
ffmpeg -i output%04d.bmp output.mp4
The intro cutscene was designed on a Pentium Pro workstation and rendered on five dual CPU servers from 1998 to 2000. One server was my domain controller with two 800MHz Pentium III CPUs, another with two 450MHz Pentium II CPUs, another with two 450MHz Pentium II Xeon CPUs, and yet another with two 1GHz Pentium III CPUs running on a 133MHz chipset from VIA. All quite hard to come across these days, but my real proudest node in the bunch is a pair of 533MHz Mendocino Celerons on an Abit BP6 that finally got recapped and is running 100% stable now. It was recapped before, but locked up and stopped powering on several times before. I ended up getting real Nichicon capacitors from Mouser Electronics, but at the same time I deducted that it was really the memory which somehow caused the lockup issues. Nonetheless, I have a lot of confidence in the BP6's future now.
While that all went very well in spite of its sloppiness, I still had yet to answer the question of whether I could actually sequence the entire resulting video how I wanted in old software. Of course I would have to call upon the aid of FFmpeg on my main workstation once again to get everything done in a timely fashion while not straining a dual Pentium III machine too hard with giant 1 hour clips. Even with that covered, the entire deal was pretty much broken when I found it all too difficult to feasibly implement the annotations Hardcore Windows became known for in Premiere 5.1c. An attempt was made to edit it in Olive instead, but while version 0.1 is quite capable, 0.2 still has a long way to go, and as of now it doesn't let me change the audio output device. I was left with no choice but to return to my Windows 7 VM and use the Adobe software I was really starting to dread for all its activation shenanigans.
Off It Goes...
Windows NT 4.0 didn't get much of a spotlight in Sunfish, but what it produced did end up proving far more important to the video than I originally envisioned. I wanted to tell some other perspective of the channel lore, and 3D animation was an exciting opportunity to approximate my vision of what that would be like. There had always been a strange aquatic theme going with much of my channel's lifespan, but for the most part, it could only be conveyed in desktop wallpapers and subtle jokes, save for a few skits.
Over the course of October, I conducted several test runs trying to determine how I would demonstrate MS-DOS 6.22, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95D Lite, and an unreleased Redtoast build. Originally, I wanted to display multiple separate computers, but I had thought much about the fourth segment of Hardcore Windows 98. A disproportionately fast CPU like a 1.4GHz Celeron running one of the last commercially available operating systems to work on an IBM XT sounds absurd, but does it not sound fun?
Using a trusty PowerLeap adapter, I assembled one of the strangest computers I have now - a 1.4GHz Tualatin-based Celeron going into an Asus P2B-B (which uses the AT form factor), a Matrox G400 AGP video card, and a Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold. Yep, this was going to be my DOS machine! Oh, did I forget to mention a network card...? That's because I didn't bother throwing one in there for most of the video. Although this stems from some troubles I've had getting 95D Lite to complete Setup with an Intel PRO/100 card installed, I found myself really wanting to return to that "offline" experience here. Normally, if a computer didn't have a network card installed, I didn't want to use it, since I've found networking much more reliable and convenient than CD-ROMs. Using Windows 95 totally offline without any logon prompt felt a bit strange, but it was cool to go back to that point in 2012 where I hadn't gotten retro networking down to a science just yet.
By the early morning of October 28th, I was ready to begin recording some actual footage to be edited. Little did I know that later the same day, something rather disturbing would happen that would permanently alter the course of Project Sunfish...
What the fuck is a metaverse?
So, it was brought to my attention that Facebook's company renamed itself to Meta Platforms, Inc. And... what's that supposed to be for? Well, after I got done with most of those recordings of that computer and its in-place software upgrades, I found myself thinking a lot more about a plot where some organization builds a supercomputer to run a water-based simulation to accurately replicate life as we know it down to the molecule. If such a thing were to come into fruition, I imagine it would be seized by powerful men only hungry for more wealth and warfare, given the kind of modern feudal environment we live in now.
What about the more dire implications of it, where one could 3D print an organism generated in an Earth-accurate simulation into reality? By then, new slaves could be created, leaving no further use for humanity, or an army could brute force its way to victory if it's the only one to have such tools. What happens once that army wins against the entire world, though? If their prized organism figured out it's nothing but a disposable servant cursed with sentience, it may very well overthrow its masters, and the future of the planet would look more uncertain. What if it remains loyal? I assume it's been designed well enough to survive in outer space and extraterrestial environments without the need for any aiding equipment... so begins the expeditions of these many to take otherworldly civilizations for themselves.
When I got word of the company renaming, that really kicked my questions into overdrive. Most people I've seen speculate a Wall-E-esque future where we're all stuck in our VR headsets doing jack shit while being subjected to constant advertising and the occasional Pool's Closed prank. That is something I only see as one early step in our inevitable self-destruction. When everyone gets sick of the metaverse as they figure out it is just nothing more than fake 3D illusions programmed to appease short-sighted minds, something truly organic must take its place, as that is what it takes to reach our level.
Imagine this... the old Alexa is nothing but an arbitrary program designed to contextually respond to voice commands, which usually involves such basic tasks you could just perform with a keyboard and mouse but don't because you are a lazy fuck. You know, printing a Nesquik brownie recipe or receiving the bad joke of the day: "A penguin walks into a grocery store. The clerk says, hey, you look like you have Pringles in your mouth." END OF JOKE
The new Alexa is a real person, much like as portrayed in South Park Post-COVID. This is accomplished by creating an accurate replication of the human brain, tweaking it a bit for greater efficiency in data mining, and duplicating it millions of times, one for each customer dumb enough to buy a fucking Echo. This brain does not have to be tangible, it can exist purely in a supercomputer, just like how you'd emulate a Pentium MMX machine or a nostalgia bait Nintendo console.
Even though Alexa is branded as your digital assistant, you're really just enslaved to it should you decide to use such a thing. Many people are already being enslaved to software as it is now, so to think of how they would kneel to organic software is unspeakable...
I only watched one of the clips from Meta talking about "social in the metaverse", where a poker night with a robot in outer space gets interrupted by a phone call about the brand new flying koi fish we just found, bro. Wow, it's so amazing and totally not just some arbitrary curve paths set up in Blender! It was fuckin' corny, but it told me everything I needed to know about the direction I would be taking this video. Much like how the slightly revised Hardcore Windows XP turned into an opportunistic weapon against the tides of Windows 11, this video would be dedicated against not just the metaverse, but what lies beyond it.
Unfortunately, ever since Mark Zuckerberg started making incoherent babbles about a so-called metaverse, other tech giants have been rushing in on the idea, including Nvidia, the most evil company. Nvidia absolutely would create nuclear warheads or construct a filthy dolphin tank for public exhibition given the opportunity! As these companies have been spouting nonsense about the "need" for a metaverse or whatever, so too have those goofy little community college tech bros got in on the action, making it another crapware to stockpile on their existing garbage ideas - Web 3.0, NFTs, and what have you.
The metaverse is nowhere near a new concept, the public just received an order that this is the new buzzword to scream out in a library, much like "cloud" and "smart" were before. Way back in 2004, I played a certain Habbo-like game that was designed to advertise Coca-Cola, called MyCoke. Or was it Coke Studios earlier? I don't remember... the point is, it had that same concept; you'd go and hang out with others in a virtual environment, design your own room, make music out of sample loops, perform it, and beg everyone to vote green to get big money. I don't know why the fuck I was playing it, because I always despised soda... guess MyCoke was just one of those things I had to use to keep up with a higher tier in coolness.
But even back then, the concept of a metaverse was infused with nefariousness, and this can be attributed to the beginning of a certain game that's got the minds of kids tethered. No, it's not Minecraft, it's worse... Roblox. Though I do not have any experience with the latter, I know someone who really has a thing for seeing through the bullshit of that game for what it truly is.
All I can do at this point is hope to shit that this Web 3.0 bullshit they're talking about doesn't fully manifest, but given the entire tech industry seems to be so frantically driven by dumb fads and buzzwords, I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time before we're permanently stuck in that upcoming techno-dystopia.
I've always wanted to write some kind of a grappling story involving some greater power that's not fully comprehensible. It could be anything, really - a giant mythical beast, an intangible creator, or maybe something else... in the case of the channel I've been running, it's everyone's favorite sentient computer virus Death Ibex. What is it, and how does it survive the latest McAfee database updates?
As dumb as most of them are, I got my inspiration for Death Ibex from a few creepypastas and cryptic ARGs. I didn't take them seriously at all, I just laughed my ass off at things like "Ben Drowned" and Mr. Slender or whatever popping up in front of the screen behind TV static. They're the kinds of things that are better taken as spooky humor, but some people try way too hard to be scary...
It hasn't been uncommon for me to sit on some ideas for years without executing them. Death Ibex was first conceived in 2013 as nothing more than one gag for a YouTube Poop that never got finished. That same year, I secured a copy of Adobe Production Premium CS6 months before it went off the shelves in favor of Adobe's new, much shittier subscription-only product Creative Cloud. It was a major step up from Final Cut in my experience, and that's made clear by how wild I was going with experimental editing on a secret channel.
The evolution of Death Ibex has taken a number of strange turns since it was first introduced in 2014 with the inconspicuous video "My 486 Computer in Action". Hell, at this point I don't really understand it myself; I've mainly just used it as a medium for experimenting with writing. Back then, whales weren't even factored into the story; I made it all up as I went along. I briefed on this before in the prologue, but everything that most people know my channel for now is all being taken for granted - dumb fish whacking keyboards, a story about saving the maroon whales, and, well, old computers. I could've very easily turned out to be that fucking crazy YTPing Latios above all else, though I would've almost certainly enjoyed that far less in the long run.
So, was Death Ibex good or evil? Who can say at this point... if it's in charge of managing some water-based life simulation program for its own ends, it may be too powerful to be good, too chaotic to serve evil. At some point, it would have to grow so large that it's impossible to be controlled, nor is it capable of controlling itself - much like a real virus... and it seems everyone now has first-hand experience of what that's like. The only realistic solution at this point would be to attempt to eradicate Death Ibex, but that's something which would be out of the scope of this story. The idea behind Sunfish is to warn people about the implications of future technological developments, after all.
Nonetheless, Sunfish tells a large chunk of the story of Death Ibex in a very nonlinear fashion, and even vaguely presents a time disparity, so it is very much possible that Death Ibex could have been vanquished within the covered timeline with the introduction of external interference by the counteractive force Ice Chimera. The log of a makeshift site called Twin Razorback may explain some of the more confusing parts of what Sunfish was trying to convey. Huh... so I got to make a website that directly tied in with a video, meaning Project Cisco never really died... it merely evolved.
Some people may know of the freaky robotic voice which appears in a few of my videos. This voice is produced by an old DOS program called Tran, but the idea behind Death Ibex starting with a robotic voice and ending with something completely different is to illustrate the virus growing more human as the program evolves, eventually reaching a point where it sees itself as a god.
In the next page, I'll cover an avalanche of materials that ended up never getting used, some which are directly related to Death Ibex and/or this video. There, you can even download some lost scripts and voice recordings which would have made it into complete videos if not for some small things that ended up making me forget about them completely.