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FAQ 14

14. Stuff that doesn't belong in the other categories 

14.1. Why did Microsoft change Windows so much?

Let's face it; Microsoft Windows was a lame DOS extender with fancy CPU-draining graphics. Even with all the good apps written for it, the base was shaky. Too many app writers also hacked and patched Windows so much that nothing worked right together. Win95 turned the lame DOS extender into as much of a full fledged OS as possible, without removing DOS altogether.

The Win95 designers tried to take the best ideas, best patches, best hacks, and integrate them "nicely" into the OS. For example, you can have virtual desktops with any video card now. The COM port drivers take advantage of new hardware by design. It still uses fancy CPU-draining graphics, but it's not just a DOS extender anymore.

They supposedly got a bunch of "average" people in to rate the OS and user interface as it stood. They took suggestions from many people of different walks of life, then totally ignored them. Supposedly, Win95 is now the OS that anyone can use. Yeah right. You have to give them credit for a good effort though.

Not to mention all the features they pirated from Apple, Xerox, Amiga Tech, and IBM, do make it a bit easier to get along with.

MS also wants to bury DOS for good. I believe this, because of the penultimate Designed for Win95 requirement: The product must run in Windows NT Workstation too. Besides... too many people out there are ignoring Win95 in favor of NT. R.I.P. D.O.S.

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A base need to tell all the Win95 newcomers out there to Please read the manual... and since many of these weirdities come up in my work every day, it was about time I put it all in one place and use my favorite answer to all of these questions: RTFM.

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I admit, as hard as I try to make all this as simple as possible to read, there are still concepts that are very unclear to new users. I draw on many of these concepts to write the FAQ.

So, to make best use of it:

  1. Read the small booklet that came with your PC. Learn a bit about its special features (especially features that Win95 might have troubles with, like your new voice modem)
  2. Run the Win95 Tour. 10 minutes will save you several hours of searching through this FAQ for the simple answers. You can start the tour by hitting the Start button, then hitting "Help". The very first topic on the very top of the Help window is "Tour: 10 minutes to using Windows".
  3. Read the slightly larger book that Microsoft supplied with Win95 (the book with the license certificate pasted on the front, or the one that says, "Getting started"). Here you can learn about how to start up Win95, how to use Windows Explorer, the simple applets, and everything else the tour didn't show you.
  4. Then get your questions in mind and browse the headers of each of these pages to find them here, and then see the answers they link to.
  5. Ask other people if you're in doubt of the answers, or ask me.
  6. Ask questions that aren't in the FAQ so I can add them to it.

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14.2. How come (this old Win 3.1 driver) doesn't work?

It probably replaced some core Win95 system file, then Win95 replaced its version back. This happens with communication programs that replace COMM.DRV with their own.

Win 3.1 video drivers tend to hack USER.EXE and GDI.EXE these days, to provide virtual desktops and such nonsense. Printer drivers often have their own versions of UNIDRV.DLL or whatever.

Ask the maker of the hardware if they tested their Win 3.1 driver with Win95. If not, they probably have a Win95 driver for you. If no Win95 driver, do yourself a favor and dump the hardware for a Win95 compatible equivalent.

Net card drivers for Windows for Workgroups won't work for sure, which is too bad, because those things got decent performance.

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14.3. How come (this old Win 3.1 driver) works? I thought it wasn't supposed to work!

Then again, "nicely" written drivers that don't replace system components will work. Most of these include sound card drivers, though Win95 ignores any MIDIMAP.CFG files; it treats single MIDI devices as whole patch sets now. You can get MIDI Mapper functionality with Multimedia properties/MIDI and select "Custom instrument".

These classes of Win 3.1 drivers could work smoothly with Win95, if you install them from Add New Hardware/Have Disk:

  • Sound card (Including the PC Speaker driver)
  • Printer (Except those that replace core system files or install dumb "Printing Systems")
  • DOS CD-ROM (Don't forget MSCDEX if you have to use these)
  • Net card (NDIS 2 and ODI drivers work with NDIS 3.1 protocols and clients)
  • Media Control (MCI) drivers and video CODECs

Notice I wrote "Drivers". Don't install whole programs if they come with the drivers if you can avoid it; use Add New Hardware and have it point to the disk with the OEMSETUP.INF file.

All other classes of Win 3.1 drivers you should avoid completely!

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14.4. Why shouldn't I run (this old Windows 3.1 program)?

Avoid running these classes of Win 3.1 apps in Win95 for these reasons:

  • Communication (Tend to replace Win95 COMM.DRV and defeat TAPI)
  • Printing Systems (Waste of memory)
  • Virus checkers (Can misinterpret 32-bit components)
  • Disk utilities (Particularly undeleters and such that rely on real mode disk access)
  • Back up programs (No long filename support)

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14.5. Can I run Win95 on my '286 with 2 MB of RAM? (joke)

Oh sure you can. Just get one of those Cyrix 486 processors for '286 system boards (hah hah)

Seriously, Win95 will run on one of these things I suppose, with the 486 hack, about as well as it could on a 16-bit bus system with 4 MB memory...

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14.6. Can I run Win95 on my '386-SX with 4 MB of RAM? (a bit of a joke, but it does run)

The same here I'm afraid. I tried it once. Never again.

Win95 will display a "suggestion" in the System Performance tab if you only have 4 MB memory. Personally, they should've extended that suggestion for 8 MB machines too.

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14.7. Why do 32-bit programs seem slower than the original 16-bit ones?

Microsoft's excuse to this is app writers are just learning how to write Win32 programs. This is probably right; you can't just take a C program optimized for Win 3.1 and throw a compiler switch. You have to make Win32 calls, switch your DOS calls to Win32 disk calls, use built in libraries and requesters instead of the home-made ones, and trim off the extra memory you'd allocate just to over-compensate. There's a lot of bad programming practice out there. I personally believe that all the ex-Amiga coders out there will take to Win95 the easiest, because we already know how to write tight code.

Another good excuse is that programmers don't trust the OS and try to access hardware directly. Wrong. This not only forces a lot of excess bulk in the code, it has to fight with the OS to get to the hardware. Some really untrusting software houses (like Novell) will even include their own whole subsystems into the OS, rather than use what's already there. Bad move. Result: 4 MB network clients (compressed) compared to oh, 200 KB.

Yet another excuse? Intel. The Pentium and '486 class processors were really optimized for 16-bit code. As much as Intel and Microsoft wanted to push programmers into using the extended instruction set of 32-bit processors, the programmers had a 16-bit OS to contend with, except for a privileged few coding for NetWare, OS/2, or NT. (OK maybe some UNIX people too) Hence the Pentium Pro's optimization towards 32-bit code. Of course all the cheap clone processors had to be fast running 16-bit code too.

I also read something about Windows NT, where you can do something called "Working set tuning". This lets you re-organize the executable so the most frequently used code sits near the beginning of the executable, and the least used stuff goes near the end. This way, you don't need to have as much memory to run your app. Unfortunately, Win32s (and probably Win95) don't take advantage of this and they'll load all of the app in memory anyway, wasting it. The same 32-bit app running under NT will probably run faster than it would under Win95 because of this. Case in point: MS Word 7.0. This app runs much faster in NT 4.0 than in Win95.

The new companies coming out tend to write cleaner and faster code that use the OS. Check out the shareware on www.windows95.com or any major FTP site. The old established firms will take a long time to switch over. Even in FEB 97 they haven't quite got it right yet.

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14.8. Why didn't Novell/WordPerfect/Corel (TM) release a 32-bit version of PerfectOffice (TM) yet?

WordPerfect corp has a history of re-writing everything from scratch. WordPerfect 6.1 hardly used any built in calls in Win 3.1; they don't use the Common Dialog for file operations (which is why Norton's LFN enabler for Win95 doesn't work in it), they don't use Win 3.1 print functions (causing screwups if you leave EMF spooling enabled sometimes), and it becomes a monster in the process, with two patches so far for working in Win95.

Corel just released their own versions of the WordPerfect Office programs for Win95. I haven't had a chance to look at it beyond the readme file, but that already scared me because of a notice that "This program does not run under Windows NT." I understand that Microsoft included a lot of the Win95 sub-system with MS Office 95 for NT users, but why could not Corel do the same? Other users told me the same thing... they can't even fool it into running. Sorry, Corel. For a Canadian software house I expected better.

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14.9. I want to get a Pentium Pro (TM) system, but isn't it slower running Win95 than a Pentium?

I don't have the details on this, but the noise out there suggests a Pentium Pro runs 16 bit code slower than a Pentium does. Intel's optimized the 'Pro for 32-bit code, just like Microsoft's pushing 32-bit apps for the "Designed for Win95" logo. This is another sign that these two giants are trying to kill DOS.

Yes, the 'Pro will run Win95's 16 bit components slower than a Pentium can. According to KB article Q122869, these components use 16-bit code:

  • Disk utilities (ScanDisk, Defrag, DriveSpace 2)
  • Games (The built in time-wasters, even Freecell is a 16-bit version here)
  • Win 3.1 compatibility stubs (like KRNL386, USER, GDI, all the .DRV files)
  • Win 3.1 components (WinChat, SYSEDIT, Program Manager, File Manager, WinVer)
  • The Win95 tour
  • DOS programs and COMMAND.COM, and the start up code which uses DOS

If you use only Win32 programs, you won't touch the 16-bit code once Win95 is up. If you avoid DOS programs you won't use DOS for any hardware access.

Yes it's slower than a Pentium for old crap, but it's faster than a Pentium for the new crap.

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14.10. Top ten reasons why Microsoft created Windows 95

(I can use some jokes here)

10. Microsoft had too many programmers doing nothing

9. Bill Gates had a vision from God

8. "Mac on PC! Mac on PC!"

7. Bill Gates wanted to celebrate their latest court victory over Apple with a bang

6. To sell more NT servers

5. To sell more NT workstations (Hence the Designed for Win95 requirements)

4. MS couldn't buy the source code to the Amiga OS (Though I bet they tried real hard)

3. OS/2 flopped, NT originally flopped, maybe third time lucky?

2. To bring PCs and users up to speed

1. To kill DOS dead

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14.11. Top ten things missing from Windows 95

10. A better performance monitor (the NT PerfMon is excellent compared to this P.O.S.)

9. A warning label not to install DOS drivers

8. Working set tuning capability (a'la Windows NT)

7. MS Plus

6. All the service updates in ONE PLACE (I haven't seen a Service Pack 2 yet!)

5. A voice mail client for Exchange

4. The Win 3.1 Macro Recorder!

3. More development time

2. More co-operation from beta-testers and developers!

1. More user understanding! OK? In other words, READ THE FAQ.

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14.12. Top ten answers to Microsoft's question: "Where do you want to go today?"

10) Work.

9) Hell.

8) The Win95NetBugs page to see where else Microsoft screwed up.

7) www.windows95.com for cool Win95 shareware

6) Disneyland. (TM)

5) The MS Knowledge Base because Win95 tech support's too busy

4) netwire.novell.com to get Client32 (I don't know why...)

3) Redmond, Washington, to assassinate William H. Gates.

2) The Jones's. They have a Mac.

1) Home.

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Rantings from yours truly:

Back in 1985 I went ga-ga over the newly released Amiga by Commodore. All this cool hardware that was light-years beyond the faintest hopes of DOS box users with their 8-bit XTs and 16-bit '286 machines. The first true 32-bit system (Ok so it used a 16-bit 68000, but that 68000 was designed for 32-bit operation from day one, and the software was ALL 32-bit). I still have an Amiga with all the latest hardware and enjoy the old stuff (which still runs) and the new stuff I download from Aminet every other day.

Now ten years later the DOS box industry finally catches up (while Commodore slept for ten years and eventually went bankrupt) and Microsoft, the undisputed industry leader, releases their answer. Of course they had to keep ten years of 8-bit compatibility (and DOS boxes will suck forever because of this) but the excitement was there; one I haven't felt really since 1985. Ok it was there for about two months with OS/2 2.0 but if you're visiting this page chances are you aren't using OS/2. I feel the excitement when I find a cool piece of shareware or some new software that really takes advantage.

So it was a lame story, OK? But for the first time here's a computer system that is Mainstream and also Cool. Probably my next system will run NT when everyone writes cool 32-bit software, but until then Win95's here, and it's my job to support my boss's customers who use it.

Hence the FAQ. I read too many stupid and lame questions on the newsgroups, and the same people insist on running CorelSCSI or some other old DOS crap because their hardware sucks without it. Well guess what? Your hardware just sucks even WITH CorelSCSI or whatever the old DOS software is. Replace it and get Win95 compatible stuff. That's the answer I keep telling everyone on the newsgroups, and I know it works because In-Line's customers do that and everything works. I also figure that if the stupid questions get answered quickly, In-Line's customers can call with more intelligent questions, which will usually take longer, and earn us more, and won't bore us to tears.

Oh yes... regarding my blatant cross-posting of the FAQ. Like I explained in the very first page and in fact the very first question, FAQs are supposed to answer frequently asked questions, in order to reduce traffic on USENET. A minor surge of a 350 KB of text (which is what my FAQ totals to, incidentally) should prevent about 4 MB a day of useless questions. FAQs have nothing to do with the World Wide Web (with the exception of FAQs about the WWW itself) nor is it mandatory to post a FAQ on a web or FTP site.

I was asked to post the FAQ to the standard FAQ repositories (being the archive at rtfm.mit.edu and news.answers and comp.answers) so anyone without WWW or FTP access could get them. So I have. And all I get is sh*t from a couple of salesmen telling me not to pollute USENET. Yeah right; they probably just don't want me taking what little business they have. Poor them; they must go crazy answering stupid questions. I know I do.

And yeah... how about those advertisers and their fakeware?

I hope everyone out there reading this FAQ are as excited about this new stuff as I am. Despite all the hype, hoopla, and bullsh*t, this has finally turned Personal Computers upside-down.

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