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Windows 98 Legacy Application

pau1scott
pau1scott asked
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Last Modified: 2013-01-06
Hi Experts,

I am looking at replacing a Windows 98 PC, for a specialised application, but I don't want to buy ageing hardware.

Is it possible to run something like a VMWare emulation to do this on say a Windows 7 machine?  And if so, specifically what products could do it?

WARNING:
The application is running as a real-mode DOS application and requires the following hardware to work as if it is natively available:
COM1 serial port for communications
Parallel port for software protection key, along the lines of the old Rainbow Sentinel products.
EGA display is expected for the drivers.

If you are interested, the product is Simatic APT v1.8 for programming various PLCs.

Thanks
Paul
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Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
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Commented:
Most Windows 7 or newer machines do not have COM ports or Parallel ports.  They have been 'replaced' by USB ports.  But the USB hardware interface is of course not compatible with the old hardware and software.

Your chances of finding new hardware that will support your application are slim.  I keep old but barely used hardware for just these reasons because I still make money off my old software.

Some of the newer PLC software is finally moving to a modern Windows format.  A friend has both new and old Siemens software.  The old versions require the old hardware like yours does.
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Commented:
Have you checked whether the software runs under Windows XP? In most cases you can get things that run under w9x to run under XP too. If that is the case you should also be able to run it under Windows 7 using XP mode or another, better hypervisor like VMware player, as you can use the physical com and lpt ports of a PC inside a VM (at least with the player you can. There are still PC's available that come with those ports, particularly industry standard machines (not the general user PC), or you can look on ebay for used PC's.

A further option if it is a DOS and not Windows program, could be to try it using DOSBox, a very good DOS emulator:

http://www.dosbox.com/

And a probably even better option could be to have a Linux Distro as the main OS on your PC, and then run the tool using wine (a windows emulator), or also Dosbox, which is available for Linux too.

Author

Commented:
Thanks for your suggestions,

This software version is only supposed to run under DOS and Win 95.  There is a newer version that will run under Win NT (APT 1.9), which means it may be portable or run-able on something later (more likely than a DOS App I would think).  The main issue with the new version is that the whole program has to be recompiled, re-downloaded and re-proven which is time consuming and possibly dangerous.  So we are preferring to look at the option of maintaining the current version.

I think the COM port will not be an issue, and emulating a real LPT port so that the copy protection dongle can operate will be the main problem.  

dosbox I think is a good suggestion.  I had looked briefly at it before, but it was unclear about LPT ports.  

Any other inspirations or experiences would be welcome.

Paul
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Gary CaseRetired
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Commented:
As I noted above, the issue here isn't virtualization => clearly the application will run fine in a virtualized OS ... the question is whether the hardware dependencies can be satisfied.    Some older systems use dedicated hardware controller cards -- in those cases there's nothing that can be done except use old hardware that supports those cards, or move to another system without the dependencies.    But in this case, the system only needs a serial port and a parallel port => both of these are still available on some systems;  so the "trick" is to be sure you use a system that has these available.

r.e. the comment above that "... most computer manufacturer (for sure HP) allow you to add a real parallel port as an option ..."  is simply wrong.     NONE of the systems on HP's web site list that as an option -- I downloaded the detailed PDF specs for several of them, and most show "No" for both serial and parallel ports;  although a few show "Optional" for the serial port -- but still "No" for a parallel port.     As I noted above, however, as long as you have a PCI slot, an add-in card should be able to provide a parallel port that will work with the security dongle.
I do not want to start any augments here so lets clear this up with a link to HP 6300 Pro desktop quick specs. Please search for Parallel and or Serial. This is a commercial desktop you may have been looking at consumer models.  

http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/quickspecs/14269_na/14269_na.HTML


I/O Ports – Optional
1 – Serial RS-232 compatible
1 – Parallel
1 – eSATA
Gary CaseRetired
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No, I actually had a look at a few samples from every category on the HP web site.    Their generic "I/O Ports - Optional" section is still included in their quickspecs packages on several systems;  but it's simply out-of-date.    If you look at the detailed manual for the systems, you'll find none of their current systems have parallel port headers.

In fact, if you follow the quick-spec link to the "optional" parallel port, you'll find that it's HP part #KD061AA -- shown here:   http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF06c/A10-51210-332469-332462-332469-3665998-3665999-3666001.html

This is a simple back bracket providing a parallel port from an on-board parallel header -- clearly it only works IF there is such a header.   If you click on the "view all compatible products" link for that bracket, you'll find that it lists two systems:  the DC5800 and the DC7900 => both of which are discontinued systems.    They ARE, however, both available from various resellers in remanufatured form or "off-lease" systems  ...  and they would in fact be good choices for this specific problem => while not new, they're "new enough" technology that they use Core 2 Duo CPU's instead of the older NetBurst architecture Pentiums ... so a virtualized Windows 98 would work well and would have access to the serial and parallel ports the system needs.

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3420522&SRCCODE=WEBGOOPA&cm_mmc_o=mH4CjC7BBTkwCjCV1-CjCE&gclid=CK7Vvqqh1LQCFUWnPAodNmkAzA

http://www.walmart.com/ip/21550817?adid=22222222227015595184&wmlspartner=wlpa&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=&wl3=18161268310&wl4=&wl5=pla&veh=sem
I just did this on a 6300 Pro system a few weeks ago. I believe this quick spec is out of date.

http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF06c/A10-51210-332469-332462-332469-3665998-3665999-3666001.html

The customer purchased these two parts and it worked perfectly.
B5N11UT
KD061AA
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Commented:
Good to know.   It's unfortunate they don't make it clearer what headers are available on the motherboard that aren't brought out to the ATX panel -- or at least update the specification for the parallel port backplate (KD061AA) to reflect the newer systems it supports.

... Intel is almost as bad, however => although they DO have manuals you can download that show the exact configuration details.
I agree they should have updated information. That is not the only thing wrong with HP these days however they make good servers.

Author

Commented:
Thank you experts, this gives us options that we can discuss and proceed with confidence.  The preferred solution is virtualisation as then this old App can be run on a new machine which will be doing other jobs.  In summary, the most valuable comments and the 3 options I see for us are:

A VMWare trial on the right hardware sounds like the best shot, supported by your experience.
Dosbox Megabuild also seems worth trying as it supports parallel ports which can be customised.
Final fallback is the old suggested Dell models [Dell 2350, 2400, 3000, 4500, and 4600's] (we could buy a spare as well) that we can simply load and use as per the existing system.

I will now try to allocate points accordingly.

All the best
Paul
Gary CaseRetired
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Commented:
Agree a virtualization option is the best choice -- not only because you can use the machine for other purposes at the same time;  but also because if you ever need to move it again, the only thing involved is finding a machine with serial and parallel ports ==> the actual "move" would be nothing more than copying the .VHD and .VMX files and installing VMWare :-)

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