Single Status Update
I'm writing this post on a 1996 Pentium 166-MMX with 64 MB of RAM, a 4MB PCI Ati Rage Pro, 20 GB HD(!) and a sweet Sound Blaster AWE 64. OK, no big deal, there are people surfing on XTs and C64s out there.
But...can they do it while using Windows XP, IE6, and listening to a (wavetable) MIDI of Cheri Cheri Lady (and Cybie...err...Pachelbel's Canon ;-) in the background with Winamp, at 1024*768x32 resolution? I don't think so :-p
(CPU usage while doing the above is about 20%.)
Yup, this is my oldschool boox which I normally run with Windows 98 and DOS for oldschool games, but since I managed to find an extra 16 MB 72-pin DIMM module, I got to a whooping 64 MB of RAM, which is the minimum to perform an XP installation.
The experience? Well...it self-scales down quite a bit by not even installing a background pic (but it did activate the XP Luna theme, which I disabled). I removed quite a lot of non-essential services and it works quite fine. All hardware, including an USB 2.0 expansion card was detected just fine, and on the AWE64 I can choose either FM or Wavetable synthesis.
Window movement and scrolling is fast and unexpectedly smooth, if there's no HD trashing. Free physical memory is typically in the 10-20 MB zone. It can connect to the internet just fine via a router, although it works best to use just IE6 or something equally lightweight. Mozilla is just too much :-p
It can play Flash animations in pages, and MPEG-I/II videos if the resolution is low enough (the Ati Rage helps a bit), but anything with MPEG4/Xvid etc. is just too much, it's just like watching a slideshow :-p Surprisingly, a few simple Flash games are playable.
The advantage compared to a Damn Small Linux installation? I can access way more software this way, with a more familiar interface. It can even download torrents with CPU usage way below 30% (using uTorrent). And ofc it networks just fine with my other boxes, allowing for transferring files. It can even be used with Office XP to edit average size documents, and it can view PDFs quickly and smoothly with Foxit Reader.
Just for kicks, I compared the 7-zip benchmark with my Athlon 3200+:
71 MIPS vs 1800+ MIPS when compressing. Surprisingly, it's not "100s of times slower" ;-)
Now just imagine what I could do with a Pentium II/III ;-)
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Yeah, it's an ISA/PCI mobo, and the video card is PCI too. Assuming I had a credit card to order stuff from the USA, and the drivers for it would fit in 64 MB of RAM while leaving enough room for the games to run, why not, it would be worth a shot.
Unfortunately, this is about the most powerful "oldskool" PCI card one can easily lay hands on. It *has* a VRAM upgrade slot, but I have no idea what fits in there. Here's a pic of it:
The bad thing is that Tom's hardware says that it wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer regarding OpenGL performance, even back in the day :-/
My DOS box is a PII400 with SB16. It has an AGP slot so I've got a collection of shit-tastic 4Mb cards rocking around, plus a PCI S3 or two if I need it. I actually wish I could find an i740, I had one back in the day and I loved it.
I should try plugging in something more modern for lulz. My HD3850 wouldn't work but an MX400 might have a chance :P
Since the time of that thread, that particular Pentium 166MMx received an upgrade to 200 MHz (first I simply overclocked it to 200 MHz, it's incredible how much abuse Pentium I's could take!) but since its DIMM slots were FUBAR and couldn't go beyond 64 MB with just 72-pin EDO modules I replaced it with this (although you followed that story, here's a photo gallery of it) which was more capable (currently running on 256 MB of RAM, XP SP3, AMD K6-233 MHz) and the PC of this thread has been relegated to a purely DOS role :-p