The Joy of Windows 98 SE (part 1)

Okay, I’m 15 years late in celebrating this operating system.  And I think I can only celebrate anything Microsoft or Windows at all because it fills a particular niche for me.

This is odd for me to like Windows 98 so much, because it was Windows 95 and Windows 98 that taught me to hate Microsoft and proprietary software so much.  Does anyone remember the Browser Wars of the late 90s?

That was when I learned that some software companies think it’s okay to completely control the behaviour of your computer in order to stop you from using software made by their competitors.  Microsoft did this in spades, which is why I switched to using free open source software and eventually Linux.

But now that I’m no longer susceptible to Microsoft’s vendor lock-in, I can sit back and comfortably enjoy what’s actually pretty good about their products.  I still use Windows XP every day.  I have it installed natively as the OS on my gaming computer that runs my video game console emulators and most of my games.  And I run it daily as a virtual OS on my Linux desktop because I prefer some Windows applications over their Linux counterparts.

All this having been said, I need to mention that I’ve dug through my CD-R archived software and found the Unofficial Windows 98 SE Service Pack 2.1a that someone had compiled.  This contains all of the security updates and hotfixes that Microsoft released as part of Windows Update.  One of those updates fixes the “512MB” RAM bug that stopped more than that amount from being used without causing errors.  The service pack also contains the latest version of Tweak UI for Windows 98 and some other OS enhancements.

Since installing it, I’ve been able to up my RAM memory on that virtual OS to 768.  That seems to be the max that both Windows 98 and all my installed apps are happy with.

So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll talk about the games I run on my snazzy new Windows 98 gaming laptop.

Anno 1602
This is a city-building and resource-managing strategy game from Germany.  The graphics are absolutely lovely for its time, and its gameplay is engrossing.  It has spawned 3 sequels and is still quite a popular series.

But the original 1602 just won’t run on Windows XP.  I remember having to play it on my very first computer with its slow 266 MHz Pentium 2 and (at the time) 160MB of RAM.  Not a good gaming experience, especially when factoring in the very dark and faded CRT monitor I was still using at the time.  On the new laptop, everything is crisp, bright and responsive.

Caesar II
Another city-building game.  This one will technically run on Windows XP, but there are some glitches and bugs when it does.  It also is restricted to a rather small-sized window, so it’s a better fit for the Windows 98 laptop anyway.

Settlers II
Another city-building strategy game.  This one is DOS-based, so I suppose I could run it in DOSBox.  I actually haven’t figured out how to do that yet though, and believe me, I have way more fun with installing an entire operating system anyway.  Yes, I’m weird.

A hotel-building simulation game that is actually way more fun than the concept sounds.  This one runs just fine on XP actually.  But because of the tiny window (like Caesar II above) it’s a better fit on the laptop.

I’ve also installed Age of Empires, Civilization II, SimCity, SimCity 2000, and SimCity 3000 on this thing.  All of those actually work better on my Windows XP computer because they require MIDI support.  My virtual Win98 computer doesn’t emulate a hardware MIDI device, so I won’t ever hear MIDI music playing from it.  Also, a higher resolution and much larger monitor make for a better gaming experience on the XP computer.

That leaves a few more old games that I will talk about in the next post.  Some I had success with, some I did not.