Living with Windows 95
Or How to use Windows 95 today? (Working title: "Living with a small penis" for geeks)
Recently I grabbed a nice notebook PC (HP Omnibook 2000ct) with
Pentium 133MHz processor and 32MB of RAM. It was in good condition, and I fixed
all problems with it. I got an extra battery for it, and the batteries were
still good, one gave 5-6 hours of operation!. It means: 2 batteries and you're
power-independent all day, this time with a keyboard. The only problem is: What
to set up on this computer?
I stopped experimenting with Linux. It is good for computers which have 2-3 years old. Some lightweight GUIs may work on 5 year old machine, but not all machines will be compatible. You probably won't get 3D acceleration on any machine older than 4 years. There are some very lightweight Linux distributions, such as DSL or DeLi Linux (now ConnochaetOS and much more heavy - try to get an old DeLi distro if you like experimenting with it), but they're useless - they're much slower, they swap on clean desktop and they don't support localization! DeLi can be forced to work with X.org, which gives Polish character set and keyboard, but all tiny distros like DSL, TinyCore or a whole "Cats family" (SilverCat, GreyCat, etc.) are working on xvesa display routines - they just don't support different fonts than English, so even if you make Polish keyboard work, you'll get strange symbols, not proper characters.
I decided to install Windows 95, which was the original operating system for this computer. In this test I'm going to share my thoughts about programs used best in this limited environment.
|First of all, the installation. Before installation on a notebook computer check in its manual about hibernation routines. Some of them have very handy BIOS-based hibernation algorithm activated by Fn-... key combination press. If you don't have a hibernation partition, you should make one before OS installation. It's very hard to find a tool suitable for Your notebook, mine used SystemSoft BIOS Extension. This extension has at least 5 different versions of tools which create different hibernation partitions incompatible with other BIOSes. The name of these tools is the same: 0vmakfil. I'm giving You the tool version 2.01.00(R17) here, it's suitable for HP Omnibook 2000ct and probably 5500ct computer. It must be copied to a DOS bootdisk and then run on|
|COMPLETELY EMPTY hard drive. EMPTY means no partitions at all. I remember there was some problem with its parameters, but I don't remember exactly what. Probably command line was something like 0vmakfil -P37 where 37 was partition size - 32MB of RAM + video memory + memory for registers and buffers. You should add about 5-8MB to system RAM to get partition size, more if you have more video memory.|
After installation, decide if you want to have a classical interface or Win98-like interface with IE integrated. Some people likes classic, some not, so if you don't want it, just don't install newest IE.
|The newest IE for Windows 95 (which works
well on 32MB of RAM) is 5.5SP2. English version is for example in
oldversion.com but, make sure that you have Win95 GUI integration file
called IE4SHL95.CAB. Version in OldVersion.com HAS this file, I checked.
Because all Polish IE I downloaded came without it (versions for Win98),
I had to install version 5.5, not 5.5SP2.
Next, you should get latest patches :). There's a good piece of software called WinSPatcher 95 (I downloaded it from here in April 2012), it's Polish and is for Polish OS, but it has everything Win95 needs. It's not available on its creator site.
Let's install the following add-ons (mirrored locally because websites with Win95 tools nearly extincted):
HTML help update - makes user able to view HTML-compatible help files.
Windows 95 SP1 - only if you're using the first version of Win95.
Winsock 2 with Y2K patch - if you want to connect to network it may become useful
Now let's take a software tour:
|1. Internet: Opera 8.0 (build 7561 exactly)
Using Internet Explorer, especially version 5.5, is not a good idea. Opera 8.0 works well under Win95, yet it's quite slow on 32MB of RAM. You shouldn't open many cards in it, nor try to enable Flash :). Modern flash won't work as it's not supported in Win95 and won't work with Pentium CPU. Don't expect complex web applications to work. It's good for reading news and visiting simple webpages, not for serious web experience. You can download it for free: http://arc.opera.com/pub/opera/win/800/ .
|2. Productivity: Microsoft Office 97 or OpenOffice
Let's start with Office 97. Later we will discuss OO and some other alternatives. First: Why not 2000? Because it will slow a whole computer down too much. 2000 is good for computers with Windows 98, in Windows 95 it'll load a bunch of libraries slowing the computer down. If you don't use your 32MB of RAM extensively (running more than 5 bigger programs in parallel) you can safely use Office's shortcut bar, as shown on screenshot. Office 97 is a commercial product, today available on Internet auctions (if you have luck you can get a nice collector's item with a big box, bunch of manuals and CD in a rough case - nice thing for a collector) or (not legally) some abandonware sites.
|3. Text editor: EditPad 3.2
What to say more, this is the most simple usable editor on Earth. It offers tabbed interface and not much more, yet it is fast and ergonomic. The best thing is that it just works, right out of the box, what can't be said about more complex editors or later releases of EditPad itself. You can download working win Win95 version in Polish here .
|4. PDF printer: PDFCreator 0.9.3
As you use poductivity applications, you should be able to make PDF of results. There are many commercial PDF printers which advertise that they work with Windows 95. That's not true. I tested many of them, none of them worked: installation failed or printing process ended with "DLL not found" error. The only printer which works is open source PDFCreator in its 0.9.3 version (later won't work). Get it here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/files/PDFCreator/PDFCreator 0.9.3/ - take the file PDFCreator-0_9_3_GPLGhostscript.exe Don't try with 0.95 - it'll install, but with incompatible Postscript engine
|5. PDF viewer: Foxit reader 1.3
Among rumors, Foxit 2.0 won't work with Windows 95's GDIPlus library, at least not in Polish version. The lst version which works it 1.3. It works better than Acrobat 4.0, installing later versions of Acrobat in Win95 is a suicide. It does its job: reads PDF files well. You can get this one in oldversion.com or locally here.
|6. Desktops: JSPager
Linux shown us that having 4 virtual desktops requires at least twice RAM needed for one. That's true in Linux where all code which is not security important becomes patch of patches, but in old systems it was quite easy to emulate virtual desktops with API. I recommend 2 freeware programs, one, JSPager 2.5 (archived website), is smaller and more stable, the second (Desktop Manager) has more features, but may terminate or throw some errors. Both allow to customize desktop wallpapers. Desktop Manager allows to specify "transfer zones" for objects to move between desktops. JSPager has some skinning capability.
- Desktop Manager
|7. Image editing: Paint Shop Pro 4.
Simple yet powerful shareware image editing program, has some good capabilities for picture correction, simple drawing and enhancing images. Quite useful in areas which are not well implemented in Windows Paint. Works wery well with 32MB of RAM.
You can download an original shareware version here: Disk 1 Disk 2/3.
|8. Image browser: IrfanView
Today browsing images is a normal thing. In Windows 95 it became easier and easier, but not all techniques were fully developed. Browsing with opening IE windows is not good, as it's slow and resource-hungry. IrfanView is a small image browser which looks more or less like browser known today. Winth Windows 95 version 2.98 works well, you can download one on OldApps.com or locally. Remember that it's freeware for personal use.
9. Archiving: WinRAR 3.51.
Unfortunately, not 7-zip. Why? Because its file manager doesn't work nicely with Win95. In fact, 7Zip FM has lots of "features" which makes users choose commercial programs such as WinRAR to handle 7z files. One of these "features" is deleting viewed file right after extraction - the viewer won't even start when there will be no file. But of course that's programmers' fault and 2 generations of programmers should rewrite their software. WinRAR is a shareware product which in version 3.51 (from 2005 - 10 years after Windows 95) still works well under Windows 95. No screenshot - I think you know how it looks. You can still downlod shareware version on oldApps.com or locally.
|10. MP3 Music: Winamp 2.79
First, check if you have a good CPU, as it does much work during MP3 playback. You won't play MP3s on 386, on 486DX4/66MHz you'll get a short piece every 2-3 seconds of silence. With Pentium processors, it depends on MMX used, you have to try, but don't expect playing music in background and doing something other without any breaks in playback. OGG and other high-quality high-compression formats won't work as CPU is too slow. In my Pentium 133MHz MMX playing MP3 files mostly works if nothing heavy is running in parallel (moving image in Paint or fast moving in Explorer IS heavy enough, if not in CPU then in HDD load).
Winamp 2.8 has some problems with Windows 95 and likes to crash there. I'm using 2.79. You can download it here, with Polish locale here. Install, copy locale to program's directory, Preferences->Language and you're in.
|During installation you should DISABLE Advanced Visualisation Studio and during Setup answer "No internet connection available" - this gives the smallest load on CPU. During first playback slowly click twice on animated bar graph to turn it off. Now you have a good quality.|
- http://95isalive.com - lots of tips&tricks to Win95.