Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on Virtual PC

Although I've never met them personally, I blame Dave Burke and Ben Armstrong for my little jaunt down memory lane this past weekend. It all started when I was cleaning out the basement...I came to a box on one of the shelves that was still sealed up from when we moved in five years ago. Since this box had come from the garage at the old house, it must have really been "useless" stuff. When I opened it, I found two boxed sets of Lotus 1-2-3: 2.0 and 2.01 (still sealed in shrink wrap!) as well as WordStar 6.0. Doing mindless work like sorting and hauling old stuff off to the dump is a great time to let your mind wander. I remembered Dave's post here as well as Ben's here, here, and here. That was my undoing and before I knew it I was rummaging in the attic for some old DOS boot disks. I managed to get DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 up and running (screen shots below). But that wasn't enough - it's as though I couldn't stop myself. I spent a few hours over the course of two days and managed to install:

Some things I left off installing:

  • After Dark for Windows
  • Norton Utilities 6, 7 and 8
  • Norton Desktop for Windows 1.0, 2.1and 3.0
  • Paradox 3.5, 4.5 and 1.0 for Windows
  • Quattro Pro 5 for Windows
  • Turbo Pascal for Windows 1.5
  • WordPerfect 5.1
  • WordStar 6.0

What I found amazing was how "little" everything was. After working with virtual machines for various betas with 512+ meg of memory and 5+ Gb virtual disk sizes it was incredible to see a "whopping" 32 meg of RAM for a machine. I recalled that DOS had an upper limit of 2 Gb for disk size and, since I wanted to see how much I could install, I chose a "safe" 1.5 Gb fixed disk size. I had truly forgotten how little space things took (relatively speaking). Even after choosing "full installations" for everything above, I had barely topped 400 meg of disk space!

Of everything I tried installing Windows gave me the most trouble. I tried going to WfW 3.11 directly but the machine kept hanging at the detect networking stage even after I had disabled the network adapters in VPC - perhaps I was too impatient? I finally installed Win 3.1 from floppies. I then set about trying to tweak it as Ben described here and here. Soundblaster was cute - remember the little "ding" when you did something you shouldn't? I found that the S3/Trio card and the EMM386 settings were difficult. I could get most stuff loaded into high memory using Ben's settings and the suggested replacements for the mouse and MSCDEX - DOS ran just fine. However, after switching Win 3.1 over to the S3/Trio adapter I kept getting GPFs as soon as Program Manager would begin painting the groups and icons. I tried eliminating some of the include regions in EMM386 but Win 3.1 complained of low resources so I finally gave up and switched back to VGA mode. On a whim, I went back and tried upgrading from Windows 3.1 to Windows for WfW 3.11 and managed to get that to work. After that, Ben's instructions for networking and IE 5.01 worked like a charm.

Another thing that surprised me a bit was how much software was on 5 1/4" floppies. I had to pull out my old 386 SX 20 Mhz (woo-hoo) since it was the only machine I had with a 5 1/4" drive. Turbo Pascal 6.0 as well as some utilities were the only things I bothered to copy to 3 1/2" so I could load them into the virtual machine. Even then, I had to hunt around and find the removable floppy drive for my "old" laptop (Inspiron 8200) so I could read the 3 1/2" disks since my new laptop doesn't even come with a floppy drive!

What comes next? I think I'll shrink the fixed disk down to 650 Meg and burn it to a CD.

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