A short interlude for blasphemy

This might hurt you to hear it, so if you have a weak constitution, you might want to look away: I installed Windows 2000 on the Sharp Mebius and I am happy to say, performance was pretty crappy.

Let me repeat that, in case you think it’s a mistake: I put Windows 2000 on a 150Mhz Pentium with 32Mb of memory, and it ran like a dog. And I was glad to see that.

No doubt you think that’s some sort of twisted Microsoft-hate thing, but really it’s not. I don’t normally laugh at unfortunate situations, and poor computer performance — aside from BSODs in airport lounges, or something like that — aren’t particularly humorous. No more than putting the wrong fuel in your car.

Let me give you a little hint: Counter to popular opinion, I don’t hate Windows. I just prefer not to use it. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that some versions were actually passable. There’s nothing out there now that I would ever consider paying money for, but 10 years ago, I was quite happy with Windows 2000.

In fact, that’s probably the last version of Windows I hold any endearment to. It might just be the way things were in the world a decade ago, and it might be some sort of rose-colored-glasses effect. Regardless, I hold no animosity — but no love either — for any particular Redmond product. Except that Win2K happened to work quite well for me.

At the same time I’m well aware that most of the machines I work with have a strong attachment to turn-of-the-century technology. I expect them to perform at certain levels because they date back to that era. So no, I don’t expect to run Compiz on a Pentium, even if I do make that joke at times.

But a lot of what I anticipate, in terms of performance from Linux, et al., is tied to what those machines can do, given the software and hardware of that era. If I get crappy performance from a GTK desktop running kernel 2.6.34, I expect crappy performance from a modern version of a proprietary OS on that same machine. By the same token, I expect to see decent performance from an operating system that is a contemporary of that hardware.

Does that even make sense?

Anyway, for a year or two now I have had a sneaking suspicion that my efforts to minimize bloat and keep obsolete machines afloat was running aground, mostly because the graphical systems I was building on very, very slow machines were so sluggish as to be unusable. Now and again I was reassured that it could be done on even the slowest of hardware, but as a generalization, it was never very satisfying.

So when a friend lent me a Windows 2000 CD (which barely booted, it was so old and scratched up), I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the results. In my mind, I was going to be disappointed by the speed and quickness of an operating system that was more or less appropriate to the machine.

But I was pleased to be disappointed. Windows 2000 took two or three minutes to reach a usable desktop (like some Linux systems I have built), cached endlessly (like some Linux systems I have built), and failed to identify a lot of the hardware in the machine — most notably, the network card. It was slow to start programs, useless on the Internet (with IE or Firefox), and grumbled a lot when I wanted to set up the unconfigured parts of the machine. And I was happy at that.

There were some good sides to the encounter though, such as …

That would be the shareware version of Diablo, a game that predates even the computer it’s running on. After I finally got everything set up, I racked my brains trying to remember freeware or demo versions of games and applications I used 14 years ago, and see if they were still downloadable.

Most of them were — things like SimCity 2000, the demo version of Microsoft’s Age of Empires, Descent 2, the Quake demo or even Duke Nukem 3D. And some of them I was half horrified, and half shocked to remember the system requirements. AoE, just for an example, will supposedly run on a 90Mhz Pentium with only 16Mb of memory in it. And miracle of miracles, the original Descent demo needs only 4Mb and DOS 3.1 to work! Has it been that long?

Windows 2000 barged through most of them without an issue, and the bulk of them performed rather admirably, given their age. I am ashamed to admit it, but I think I actually played out an entire scenario of AoE, before succumbing to nostalgia.

In any case, Windows 2000 was in both ways a disappointment and a surprise on that machine. I was startled and then pleased that it performed and set up so poorly, but at the same time I was pleased that it reintroduced me to some of those games. I know I mentioned it myself a long time ago — that there’s no shame in using an old computer to run old games — but perhaps I should occasionally take my own advice. :D

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10 Responses to “A short interlude for blasphemy”

  1. 1 gullars 2010/06/25 at 12:15 PM

    I don’t think visiting windows is such a big thing of blasphemy, it’s like buying a high end brand of clothes and you see that it gets tired just as fast as the old ones did, and it doesn’t really look better either ;)
    That being said, I love playing retro and old games, and I have to say that there is something really charming and nice about what people are able to do under the constraints that they had at the times, and now to I prefer the more low powered hand held systems, because I think the limits that they set up enable the people to concentrate more about game-play than fancy graphics and physics. And to bind it all together with the old machines, I think that is something that you do with your machines too, you can do better things, because you know what limits you are under, you are able to do great things under the limitations that you have, and that is the most important isn’t it ;)

    Well time for me to get some coffee and breakfast it seems, because I’m not sure that I make sense on the reread ;)

  2. 2 Adrian 2010/06/25 at 6:52 PM

    The plus point of playing old games is that they can be almost always played in Wine! But, ymmv of course.


  3. 4 cthulhu 2010/06/25 at 10:30 PM

    But why not just download the full (legal) versions of the games (such as sc2000), from http://www.abandonia.com.
    I’m currently playing Doom, transport tychoon, and a lot of other games. Never played a game larger than 100 Mb.

  1. 1 I heard the news today, oh boy « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/07/15 at 8:42 PM

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Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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