back to article Windows XP? Pfff! Parts of the Royal Navy are running Win ME

The Royal Navy is running Windows ME – and XP, and even an early version of Apple Macintosh. But all is not as alarmingly obsolete as it may appear. Your correspondent, during a few days embedded aboard seabed survey ship HMS Enterprise, asked the crew what systems were in operation aboard the ship’s networks. The answer was a …

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Devil

Re: Few comments

"new hardware for ME / 95 / 98 / Win 7 etc will become increasingly hard to find"

interestingly enough, a FreeBSD system could run these with virtualbox or its own virtualizer 'bhyve'.

That would assist with the lockdown, allow for newer hardware, and NOT cost an arm and a leg to deploy.

And wouldn't a virtualized disk image of the ME system be VERY easy to back up and restore?

In any case, solutions exist for the hardware compatibility things. And, of course, networking could more easily be firewalled if it's in a VM.

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Re: Few comments

"new hardware for ME / 95 / 98 / Win 7 etc will become increasingly hard to find"

You do realise that the flagship of the Royal Navy is a First Rate Line of Battleship, which was laid down in 1759 and predates the formation of the United States of America?

By comparison, keeping a bit of ten year old equipment in service is not exactly an insurmountable problem. The RN & MOD is not precisely short of warehouse room for spares.

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Re: Few comments

Virtualuzation won't help you if the hardware is custom and/or runs on a deprecated bus like ISA. Remember the story of the XP-controlled six-figure lathe?

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Re: Few comments

Are you sure about that? Isn't the budget the bane of any military?

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Re: Few comments

"new hardware for ME / 95 / 98 / Win 7 etc will become increasingly hard to find"

See the comment above about old hardware the running of which, which might be entire purpose of that particular box.

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Happy

Re: Few comments

Remember the story of the XP-controlled six-figure lathe?

Just last week I hunted high and low for < 32GB IDE hard drives because a customer had one of those 6-figure CNC machines with a DOS controller and the old drive was dying. The 200-500GB drives I had didn't work and didn't have a jumper for 32GB compatibility...

Found a working 6.4GB Quantum Fireball. Phew! Cloning all the 50 megabytes took perhaps 10 seconds.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Few comments

Been in your shoes. I have some old Quantum Fireballs in a cabinet for just that reason.

I also have some spare floppy drives and AT power supplies in the same cabinet. Care and feeding is for machines that run on DOS 6.x, OS2, WIN2K, and one that I think runs Windows 98 (boots right into and shuts down from the control software, never need to work with the underlying OS). All talk to lots of custom hardware, so no kids, I can't "just virtualize them". Sure, we should replace the equipment with something newer, but doing the entire works will be a multi-million dollar price tag.

Been working on trying to PXE boot to a Linux installation that can image the hard drives. Backups via 2.5" floppy drive are painful in so many ways.

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Re: Few comments

IDE to compact flash converters; unless the software does Stupid Controller Tricks with the drive itself, that's the easiest way around that issue. the real trick is finding good quality CF cards that small now...

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Re: Few comments

"one of those 6-figure CNC machines with a DOS controller"

This is the Real World where computers do Real Stuff, not just PowerPoints.

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Thumb Up

Re: Few comments

Digging out salvaged IDE drives (10\20\40Gb) & cloning the still working drive of a emissions tester, got me a free MOT at the garage concerned about 11 years ago.

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Re: Few comments

I also have some spare floppy drives and AT power supplies in the same cabinet.

We were moving to a windows version of some ancient DOS software that the provider had finally got round to updating. At the same time we were taking the opportunity to upgrade the computers of the users of this software by replacing their machines. The new computers have no floppy drives as these are (at the time) going out of fashion being replaced by USB memory sticks etc. The switch is going well one weekend when I discovered that the software was effectively just a lazy arse port of the DOS version.

So the same backup provisions exist i.e. you can use the A: drive and nothing else. The fact that we now had CDR, USB, a fricking load of networked servers that could be used (as they're backed up to tape drive and taken off site every day) was irrelevant. We did a quick check that it wasn't April 1st and then started putting floppy drives into the new machines. Our Head of Technology and myself had a few words with the provider on Monday morning.

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Re: Few comments

Subst?

It seems to work when I try to link the A: drive to mapped network drive in a Win10 machine with no floppy drive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Few comments

MHDD from hddguru.com allows setting the HD to a lower size and the BIOS will detect the size at set by MHDD.

MHDD is slso useful for testing and erasing drives.

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Re: Few comments

Just last week I hunted high and low for < 32GB IDE

Which is exactly why sub-32GB IDE flash modules continue to sell till this day.

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I had something similar. The tills in the restaurant were DOS machines, all worked ok even had touch screens. The provider came in and told the managers a costly upgrade to Windows 2000 was required, many improvements, including supporting two card readers etc. I did my bit and watched them install the kit, then came the testing where they promptly fired up the SAME DOS application just running in a DOS-emulating window.

The best part though was the two card readers part - ‘twice as many customers!’ they puffed - ‘still only one till operator!’ I retorted - as experience went on to show, nothing improved but the frequency of windows crashes and patching accelerated.

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Re: Few comments

"You do realise that the flagship of the Royal Navy is a First Rate Line of Battleship, which was laid down in 1759 and predates the formation of the United States of America?"

You forgot to mention it has no headroom and it leaks like a sieve. It's possibly not a great example to wave around.

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Re: Few comments

"The 200-500GB drives I had didn't work and didn't have a jumper for 32GB compatibility..."

For future reference, we had similar problems in the past. It's possible to get CF Card to ATA connectors, which means you can use a 32GB CF card or add another layer of kludge by using a CF card to SD card adapter. Possibly a good idea to get some of the adapters now while they are still available. They cost all of £2 to £4 for the adapters and they are available for 2.5" and 3.5" pin configurations.

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Re: Few comments

"Been working on trying to PXE boot to a Linux installation that can image the hard drives. Backups via 2.5" floppy drive are painful in so many ways."

Same advice as before, buy an appropriate adapter card and sidegrade to CF or SD card. You can get adapters designed either to use inside the case or fitted into an ISA card to give external access to the socket, allowing you to backup to a CF card.

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Re: Few comments

But that's ok, as it's never going to float again anyway. Might as well stop calling it a flag-ship. More of a very elaborate flagpole at this point.

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Re: Few comments

> interestingly enough, a FreeBSD system could run these with virtualbox or its own virtualizer 'bhyve'.

Yes, but - that's far too sensible and doesn't cost enough to keep consultants in their jobs.

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Re: Few comments

"Just last week I hunted high and low for < 32GB IDE hard drives because a customer had one of those 6-figure CNC machines with a DOS controller and the old drive was dying. The 200-500GB drives I had didn't work and didn't have a jumper for 32GB compatibility..."

I can (and HAVE) solved _that_ problem with any modern SSD (or other SATA drive) and a £6 IDE-SATA adaptor and so can you if you bothered to RTFM (if the interface is a PATA 2.5" then use a MSATA drive and a 2.5" PATA carrier)

The fact that you don't know how to do it shows you haven't done your homework and the fact that you're attempting to do this with old mechanical hardware is simply buying more trouble a few months down the line.

SSDs solve the vibration problem permanently and end up with so many spare blocks that wear levelling essentially means even the smallest one you can lay your hands on will last forever (don't use HDD to SD adaptors. These will die eventually unless readonly and you can't make them report as 32GB)

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Re: Few comments

"IDE to compact flash converters"

NO, just NO.

CF and other small stuff don't do wear levelling unless you want pay stupid money for specialist units.

SATA and later PATA (ATA-5 onwards) drives have commands to change their reported size AND available parameters, which is why the jumper went away. (DCO and HPA commands)

Learn to use them and stop trying to fuck around with old drives that are likely to die when you least want them to. Those old bastards park the heads on the platters and tend to stick if left for years - sometimes to the point of breaking loose from the arms when you try to "unstick" them.

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Re: Few comments

"Digging out salvaged IDE drives (10\20\40Gb) & cloning the still working drive of a emissions tester, got me a free MOT at the garage concerned about 11 years ago."

Considering how much you saved the garage, you should have got free MOTs for life.

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Jesus

Every time I so much as read the words "Wicrosoft ME" I gag a little.

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I&I

Re: Jesus

Classic Ella Fitzgerald song?

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Re: Jesus

> Every time I so much as read the words "Wicrosoft ME" I gag a little.

ME is a nasty lingering disease. WIndows ME is even worse.

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Pirate

ME is not an Operating System...

it's a medical condition!

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Re: ME is not an Operating System...

"it's a medical condition!"

And MS is also a medical condition. I don't want any of them.

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TRT
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Shurely...

That should be Portholes ME?

Macintoshes are also compulsory on-board gear; those mid-Atlantic storms can be real doozies.

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Coat

Re: Shurely...

Macintoshes are also compulsory on-board gear

I believe this one is yours, sir.

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Every Navy around the world is the same. A friend of mine works sourcing obsolete IT for various countries. He asked me last year to help find him Spanish language Win98 First Edition. On floppy disk.

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I've windows 3.11 workgroups on floppy if you ever need it. All 8 of them :-)

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I have DOS 6, Win 3.x, Win 98, Win 98 SE, WinMe, Win NT4, W2K, and WinXP available in multiple languages in ISOs. The DOS and Win 3 ISOs can be used to create floppies, if you have a floppy drive around. The Win 98 and NT4 ISOs can create both floppies and CD/DVDs. The others can create CD/DVDs only.

I can even supply activation keys, if required. (Note: I suspect that none of them will actually work any more, as Microsoft probably turned off the activation servers years or even decades ago, but they're actual legit activation keys...)

Microsoft hates me.

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Go

I think you'll find that everything up to WinXP didn't use an activation server. The product key was simply checked to see if it was legitimate. I don't know for sure, but expect, that there was some way to transform the key and see if it belonged to the group of allowable keys for that product. I remember that keygens were available for many bits of software, once the valid-key-generating algorithm was reverse-engineered.

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Happy

Spanish language Win98 First Edition? Diskette images? I might be able to do that...

My old MSDN subscription CDs are still around. I've got piles of them. Upon one of those I'd probably have Win '98 First Edition, Spanish Language even. I'm pretty sure I had all of the language packs.

And most likely other ancient computer geeks like myself would have a similar pile of old CDs

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I tried to use an old but bought and paid for XP key to set up a VM to run an old game (also paid for, Sid Meier's Pirates). I couldn't get the XP install to authnticate because MS had turned off the servers. The easiest fix appeared to be to get a cracked copy of the OS.

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It's been a really long time since I've installed anything prior to WinXP, so you could be right. What I have is a PDF containing a very long list of activation keys for various Microsoft, Adobe, Quark, Apple, other vendors' products going back to the early 1990s. There's a stack of old CDs and DVDs and floppies, most of which were converted into ISOs or similar for archiving purposes. We have some ancient hardware, including a (still working!) Apple PowerMac beige G3, complete with (still working!) floppy drive and (very, very, very dead) Iomega Zip drive, 192 MB of RAM, and an amazing 4 GB of hard drive, plus some old Apple B&W G3s, and several (still working, by some minor miracle!) Dell DeskPros (with 425 MB hard drive, 64 MB RAM, and 66 incredible megahertz of 486DX2!) (There's a reason why we still have DOS, Win 3 and NT4!) The ancient computers are attached to just as ancient hardware of various types, some of which cost upwards of $150,000 when new (one cost over $350,000!) and management insists that we get all our money's worth out of them. Tech support? What's that? No-one at Apple knows anything about G3s running OS 9.x and 10.2.x, no-one at Dell knows anything about a 'DeskPro', and some of the companies which made the hardware are dead, dead, dead!

You youngsters, have respect, those computers are older than you are!

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I don't know for sure, but expect, that there was some way to transform the key and see if it belonged to the group of allowable keys for that product.

Back in the day it used to be a 3-digit country code followed by 7 digits which just had to add up to a multiple of 7. 040 was the UK country code.

My understanding is that a shop in Edinburgh got hauled through the courts by Microsoft for selling hooky Windows on their machines. Turns out they were including valid licenses, but just entering 1111111 (or something) during installation. Still had to pay a fine for license violation.

Ah - them were the days... Then Windows 2000 came along with proper keys.

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software assurance probably means you can happily install 98SE instead of 10.

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Anonymous Coward

"He asked me last year to help find him Spanish language Win98 First Edition. On floppy disk."

Check with Mr Dabbs, sounds like something that could be in his collection.

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Who remembers the universal keys for early windows products.

Three digits (which I no longer recall) and a string of "1"s

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Joke

At Bombastic Bob, re: MS software.

For a guy that hates MS so vociferously you sure do have a lot of their software...

Should we call you Microsoft Bombastic Bob instead?

=-D

*Runs like hell*

Just kidding Bob, we know you loathe them with the fires of a thousand Suns... and Debians & Fedoras & BSDs & Unixs &... =-)p

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Re: At Bombastic Bob, re: MS software.

"For a guy that hates MS so vociferously you sure do have a lot of their software..."

That's likely why he hates them so much, coz he has to put up with them. Dunno about Bob, but the only reason I have any Microsoft software on any of my computers is coz people paid me to.

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I just did a reinstall of XP Pro and had no problem activating, however I'm having trouble getting the updates. MS changed the update URL.

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Pint

I'm not really sure why but this article put me in mind of Lester. Still Missed.

I'll raise a glass to him tonight.

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*Raises a tankard in silent honour*

Don't hog all the munchies.

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The next time you go into a Post Office and see them using the touch screen behind the counter be advised that under the counter is a Pentium 4 with 256Mb of memory running NT4...

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NT4? I thought it was CE...

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Last time I worked for the post office, about 10 years ago, the PCs were Pentium 2!

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" I thought it was CE..."

There's a reason it was called "Wince"

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