Saturday, August 02, 2008

Kind of a good deal

I've been looking for a vintage computer that I could possibly use for old games, but more importantly, use for ham radio applications. I was hoping for a real DOS machine, but this morning my wife discovered an older Win98 machine at a yard sale down the road. So I got a computer, keyboard, mouse, HP Deskjet printer, speakers and VGA monitor for $5. Yes, five dollars. What's even more amazing is that it actually works.

It's a cast-off from the local school (from 2001), and they didn't bother to unlock the administrator limitations before they cast it off. I can't get to all the system controls that I should be able to. For example, I can't even change the display properties (it's set at 640x480, and should be able to handle at least 800x600) or the wallpaper. Even the system info doesn't tell me everything it should. It tells me that it's a Pentium, but not what speed. It has 16 meg RAM and a 2 gig HD. Also it's a Compaq.

One of the most important things is that this machine has no USB whatsoever, and this is exactly what I was looking for. It's running Win98. It also has a CD-ROM drive, and a 3.5" floppy drive. Perfect.

So...I have a Win98 installation disc that came with another computer from several years ago, and I have the product key so I can use it. From what I've said, does it sound like I can wipe the HD and install the OS from that other disc so I can regain complete control over it? Or would that likely make things even worse? I don't want to lose access to the CD-ROM, and I'm not sure about the drivers.

Or would this be a good time to abandon Windows and install some other OS on it? The main thing that I want to do is be able to still use my KAM Plus TNC with it. Everything else is pretty much secondary. Any ideas?


  1. First download belarc acvisor. Its free and will do a scan of your computer that will tell you exactly what you have in terms of hardware and software.

  2. From what I've said, does it sound like I can wipe the HD and install the OS from that other disc so I can regain complete control over it?

    Yes. I would boot to a win98 boot floppy ( and run F-Disk. Then, after you've reformatted the HD reboot to the floppy, put the CD in, cd to the D: drive, and run setup.exe to begin installation.

  3. Sounds like a bargain! Can you get into the BIOS or is it password protected? Clearing the CMOS jumper always does the trick, but it's good to know if something like that's locked down just in case - before you start with the hard drive zonking.

  4. It's always a good time to abandon Winbloze and install a different OS.

    I do recall some things about HAM using Linux, but that was a long time ago. I got a lot of hits on a web search for "ham radio linux".

    I know there are hams on the CLUE-Tech mailing list. Maybe you could subscribe to that and ask around.

  5. years ago i experimented with Linux and ham radio using the ax25 utils. Back then it was very painful, but I managed to get a dual band ht, and kantronix tnc and my linux box working as a web server over ax.25! It was kinda cool and I demo'd it at an early clue meeting. I could serve up my web site over the air, way before wi fi was a thing. Speeds were something like 9600 baud.

    I sold all my stuff a few years ago and have nod idea what the state of the art is, but I know that it went from being pretty painful kernel hacking and endless config scripts to simply installing the right debian packages and running some pretty gui apps.

    I'll see if I can point you to some web sites, but I'm pretty out of the loop now.

    It's fun stuff and I always think maybe I'll get back into it...when I have time someday.

    73 es CUL,


  6. I've done this before.

    If you can access the CDrom a reinstall should work fine.

  7. If you are just looking to unlock the admin passwd, then check to see in your bios to make sure you can boot via cd. If so, then download and burn the Systemrescue cd, boot from that and see if it will retrieve or change the admin passwd. I've not had to do this yet but I know the utilities are there. You can find a link to the distro at