• Sat. Sep 30th, 2023

Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer Part 32: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer Part 32: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

Continued from Part 31: The Fear of Loss

Over the past few months I have been making a number of upgrades and changes to Dianoga, and the time has come to lay them all out. The first upgrade I purchased at the start of the year was a simple one, and is one I have already made an allusion to in passing. German peripheral manufacturer Perixx still makes optical mice sporting a PS/2 connector, letting me experience the best of both worlds with their PERIMICE-209 WP model.

A cranky old ball mouse would indeed be more period accurate, but there are still some limits to what I am willing to go through for the sake of nostalgia. The only problem I encountered was not having the scroll wheel work on Linux, but this was resolved by using the mouseconfig utility and identifying the mouse as an MS Intellimouse, which is actually suggested in the official Red Hat Linux 7.3 documentation. Besides, my next upgrade would bring Dianoga more in line with the late 1990s.

While perusing the wares at the Barrhead Thrift Shoppe on 46th Street my brother found an AcerView 34T UVGA 13″ CRT monitor selling for just $2 Canadian Dollars, allowing me to retire the LEN L151p LCD I had been using. As well as not being in keeping with the aesthetic, the LCD also had the annoying habit of showing a warning about being out of range on top of what otherwise looked to be a workable display, especially when playing games that utilized SVGAlib for graphics.

I could get around this by launching certain more pliant SVGAlib games such as the final build of LinCity before starting up the offending applications, as for whatever reason this would seem to soothe the nerves of the display, but I was more than happy to leave those headaches behind. Things were not all clear sailing with the AcerView CRT, however; Windows 98 would always default to shifting the image to the far right, beyond the bounds of the screen.

Compensating for this in the ATI control panel helped somewhat, but it was never perfect, and would not stay persistent upon changing screen resolutions. Linux under XFree86 also showed similar problems, but by using the xvidtune application I was able to produce workable modelines I could then add to my XF86Config-4 file to keep them preserved. I resolved that fiddling with the sizing knobs was just part of the experience, but a solution would come after something else went wrong.


It was then that the inevitable happened, and the Fujitsu 10.25 GB IDE hard drive the computer came with started to show disk failures in ScanDisk. While the Hitachi 6.01 GB 9.5MM PATA hard drive I had installed Red Hat Linux 7.3 on was still working, albiet with a few quirks of its own, it was becoming clear that I was reaching the end of the road with my older platter media, and would need to go with either an SD or Compact Flash solution instead.

I already had in my possession a Syba 2.5″ IDE to Dual Compact Flash Drive intended for use in laptops, and since I already had a PATA to IDE converter in place for the Hitachi, this proved to be no barrier to using it in Dianoga. I also had a set of two cheap Onefavor 8 GB compact flash cards on hand. Before installing Windows 98 I found I had to first format the card as fat32 with the LBA file system flag set, but it otherwise installed fine, and actually sorted my issues with the CRT display.

When moving on to installing Red Hat Linux 7.3 I would get a warning about the partition table being inconsistent if I had more than one compact flash card installed. The simplest solution was just to pull the other compact flash card for the install, which at least gives the benefit of ensuring Windows 98 would be unharmed while partitioning. While the performance was acceptable under Windows 98, the slow read speeds of the Onefavor card would cause the system to stall at times under Linux.

My QDI Advance 5/133 motherboard places a strict limit on the size of hard drive I can use, but I figured I would chance buying another cheap Cloudisk 16 GB 133x compact flash card in the hopes that I could at least make it work by flashing a later BIOS. This proved to be a mistake, but not because of the BIOS, which actually had no complaints. Red Hat Linux 7.3 literally took all night to install, and was crawling worse than it had with the Onefavor card, giving me a rude awakening.

In this case the problem was really on me, as the read and write speeds are displayed on the Cloudisk card label, showing off my lack of due diligence. In the end I bit the bullet and bought a more expensive but far faster Transcend 16 GB compact flash card running at 1066x speeds, which brought down the install time in Anaconda to just shy of half an hour. I now had more than doubled the amount of hard drive space Linux had available, and could enjoy more games with my CRT monitor.

Carrying on in Part 33: I Hate Mondays

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving 

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.

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