Gaming on the cheap. Geo Dell
So it is Friday and I thought I would share yesterday’s project. I used to do a lot of selling on eBay before all the changes killed off many of us who had been around for a while, or forced us into a position where we had to pay too much for the privilege of selling on that service: So when I pulled the plug I had a lot of stuff left over that I had to re-purpose.
I had a Dell USFF 745 machine, an HP monitor, about fifty hard drives, memory modules, hundreds of games from the 80s and 90s. A dozen keyboards, mice, and the list goes on and on.
The Dell USFF 745 was one of a half dozen I had bought, the only one remaining. I had done nothing with it myself because it was old, under-powered, and I had a few other projects that came first. But yesterday I took another look at it.
First, all the files to rebuild this as it was from the factory and even better, are right on the Dell website. I decided to see what it would do. I downloaded the bios upgrade and flashed it. Sounds hard but it isn’t, it’s an executable and does the work for you, not like the old days of working from a command prompt and hoping you didn’t trash your machine for good when you flashed the BIOS.
It has built in video, built in sound, no room for a second hard drive, no card slots either. A purpose built machine that wasn’t going to be much in the upgrade department. But, that said, I wanted to see what it would do.
I bumped the memory up to the max of 2 gig (Newer USFF machines allow 4 gig). I left the 160 gig HD alone, flashed the bios as I mentioned, downloaded every driver Dell offered and installed them one by one.
Before I did all of that I had tested it with some old games and other software. That configuration was 1 gig ram, the same 160 gig HD with a new XP install and, of course none of the original drivers at all.
I installed and tried: GTA 3, Track Mania Sunrise, 3D Rad version 6.50, 7.19, 7.22. Track Mania the first version. Test Drive Off Road three. Midnight Club (Another Rock Star game that is highly addictive). Open Office 4 and the Spelling and Language add ons’. Photoscape, Gimp, Audacity, AIMP 3, D-Fend Reloaded (The Dos Box front end to play the old DOS games. Open FX (An open Source 3D Modeler). I tried a few other things too, but I’ll stick to those because for me those are my basic programs to test a machine.
All of them installed, none of them fully worked. The 3D Rad programs failed to start. Test drive off road worked but crashed, neither Rock Star game worked. Open Office installed but could not load the language module. The newest version of Audacity would not load, and the list went on like that. All programs that are advertised to work with XP but would not work correctly.
The key was the drivers. It’s a straight forward process. Enter your model number and search for the drivers. It will warn you that they will not work on the machine you are downloading them too, or will not work with Windows 10, in my case.
I downloaded them, burned them to a DVD and then installed them on the USFF machine. The video drivers were key in getting the video games working, and 3D Rad too. The sound drivers fixed some problems with Audacity, and some games too. I also downloaded and burned to DVD the latest JAVA, DirectX and Chrome, because XP does not like you to use Chrome for some reason, so I downloaded the full version and installed it from DVD, there by by-passing Explorer and XP.
Before I had installed the drivers, I had wiped the drive once more and re-installed XP. I have dozens of OS discs, XP, Win 7, even Win 98, DOS, Geos, Ubuntu, more. The point is that I was once again leveling the playing field and starting with a clean slate. I installed all the drivers and files, even flashed the DVD bios, and then installed software piece by piece.
3D Rad shocked me. It not only ran 6.5 but also 7.19 and 7.22. Granted, large renders dragged it down fast. It is totally unsuitable for that, but even a small racing game demo played flawlessly and rendered well. I ran my own model in 7.22 with my own lkandscape, textures, and it played fairly well. It did lag a few times, but this is a piece I am designing on a machine with 16 gig of RAM and Win 10. No way did I expect it to even load on XP on the little USFF machine.
Open Office loaded and the language tool and the spelling dictionaries as well. I loaded one of my novels and ran through it, no problems at all. I loaded a working novel that had not been proofed and the language tool began finding all on the mistakes that are common to me immediately. Worked flawlessly even with very large files.
Audacity worked perfectly too, I went ahead and installed LAME for Audacity (To save to and read from MP3 files), no problem. Jack (Software that connects other bits of your recording software together), no problem, my Midi keyboard and my USB guitar input. No problem.
Gimp and Photoscape (Photo editors and more) worked well. Photoscape and gimp did well opening 4 and 5 mg photos to edit and save. I use the pair to do Book Cover and Ad illustrations.
Then I moved on to the games. Both RockStar games, Midnight Club and GTA 3 worked perfectly. I had a blast and had to force myself to stop playing. Test Drive Off Road, also perfect. Track Main Sunrise and the original version were also perfect. So, I went ahead and installed DOS BOX with the D-Fend Reloaded front end. NASCAR Racing, Need For Speed, Stunts and a few other games went in and played f;lawlessly. By then it was four AM and so I quit for the day.
Prognosis: This is an excellent machine, once set-up, to play all those great games from the 80’s and 90’s that are so cheap now or even public domain in many cases. It is also fine for 3D RAD with a light duty game build. I also tested assembling and making an executable, no problem. I had thirty bucks in the USFF Dell 745. Memory, a keyboard and mouse and the monitor kicked it up a couple bucks, all used stuff I picked up online, except the keyboard which I had new. The games and software were Open Source, Public Domain or original DVD or CD that I picked up on-line for cheap, like a buck or less per game. All in all I have a back up writing machine that I can also work on my games with, and play old games on too. It’s stable, I have CLAM Anti Virus on-board to protect it, and I have about $60.00 bucks in it and a few hours of downloading files. I see a future for this machine all set up to do everything I do as my backup and a gaming machine on the cheap filled with all those cool games from the 80’s and 90’s, and even some newer software too.
I hope you got something from this. Enjoy your Sunday, Geo…
- Open Office: https://www.openoffice.org/ Free Open Source. I have written ten novels with it. Get the Language add on for it.
- 3D RAD: http://www.3drad.org/ I love this program. I have been playing around with it since about 2001. I paid for it back then, before it became freeware. Worth your time.
- D-Fend Reloaded: http://dfendreloaded.sourceforge.net/ Open Source and a must have for setting up those old DOS games that are mostly Public Domain now.
- Audacity: http://audacityteam.org/ If you want to record music, tracks, check this out. It works great. Free, Open Source.
- PhotoScape: http://www.photoscape.org/ps/main/index.php A great editor, viewer, and more. I use it constantly.
- GIMP: http://www.gimp.org/ This is a fantastic Photo manipulation tool. Filters, too much to list. Between This and PhotoScape I need to use nothing else.
- Old DOS Games: http://www.bestoldgames.net/eng/ That is one link. I would say be careful what you download. This site is safe, but I have noticed many are not. So think, check the link first, make sure you are getting what is advertised. I spend much more time searching than downloading. I never use a site that offers a download tool. I don’t need it, and nine times out of ten it is a way for them to sneak crap in that will end up in your browser or worse. I hover over the link if it says anything other than the file name I skip it. On to the next place that is playing straight.
That’s it for me. Hope you got something out of this. I enjoyed it and writing the article too. I’m going to go play GTA 3, Geo Dell…