Good Use For Gopher

24 December 2020

For some reason when I woke up this morning I felt like messing aroung in Virtualbox and attempting to get Windows 95/98/ME running. I looked in my old discs binder and only found ME edition.

I had no real reason to do so other than seeing if I could get it to install and get on the Internet. I wanted to see how my gopher and web sites might render on the old OS and old browsers.

I got Virtualbox configured for the 20 year old operating system and ripped the install CD to an ISO. Then I mounted the ISO for Virtualbox to use and started it up. I had a time trying to figure out why it wouldn't boot and then it dawned on me that I needed the old floppy boot disk for this installation. It's been a real long time since I've had to use one of those and not just a disc by itself.

I was able to quickly find the boot disk software online and then reconfigured Virtualbox to use it along with the CD. Windows ME installed just fine. Using the NAT protocol with Virtualbox I was easily able to get ME online with IE 4 or 5, I fogot which version it shipped with.

Of course once I was online almost no websites worked at all. The biggest reason was, and it was a good reason, is that most sites are using TLS encryption these days. The old browsers don't support it since it since current TLS standards weren't around back then.

So that presented a problem for me. How was I going to get a slightly newer browser onto ME? Gopher is the answer. I tried to navigate to my gopher hole in IE4 and it worked. Gopher was supported natively in the browsers back then.

I switched over to my host machine, ArcoLinux, and uploaded all the software I wanted to my Gopher hole. Then I went back to ME and used IE4 on my gopher hole to download the files I wanted. I brought over Firefox 2.0, Netscape Navigator 9 and IE6 SP1 along with some video drivers to get it out of 16 colors and up to 32.

Everything installed and I was able to bring up my own web site on a couple of browsers, but not all of them due to the encryption. But overall it was a success and kind of fun to do for a slow morning at home.

I never saw any BSOD's, but there were plenty of kernel panics which is basically the same thing. Windows ME is considered to be one of the buggiest OS's they ever released. It's performace is just as I remember it was, crappy.

Thinking back to when I first bought it, I had BSOD's right away after installing it. I believe I reverted back to Windows 98 SE fairly quickly.

But, the point of the story is that Gopher was quite useful for me today to get some software downloaded to this old OS where the modern web (http) just wouldn't work.