Got up really early thanks to the time change. I went over to work around 9 a.m. to pick up the Win98 startup floppy from my office. I was in a hurry, so I didn't check it to make sure it would work. (Note the use of foreshadowing in the narrative.) This being Sunday in Rhody, no useful stores open until noon, so I put off getting another proper IDE cable until tomorrow night. No matter. The system is ready to accept an OS. The question is, which one, Windows 98, or Windows XP?
Windows 98 is ancient and no longer supported. It is increasingly difficult to find Win98 drivers for current hardware. Windows XP is shiny and new, but can be terribly annoying in its insistence that it act like a both server and client in the same machine. It is also unlikely to be able to run a lot of my older games, and I know for sure that it has problems with Access 97, which I still use a lot. There is no application that I currently need to run that won't run on 98. Still, this may be academic. I'm not even sure yet that the chipset drivers for the motherboard will work under 98.
Doesn't mean I can't try, and it won't take all that long to discover whether they will or won't work. So I popped the startup disk in the floppy drive, and fired her up.
Well, the drive light on the floppy was stuck on, and nothing else was going on, no noises from the drive head moving around, nothing. I turned off the machine and took a look at the drive. Then I remembered that the cable connector on the floppy drive isn't keyed, not does it show the pin numbers, both things that would prevent some moron from putting the cable on backwards. I had a fifty-fifty shot, and put the cable on wrong. I detached the cable, flipped it over, put it back on, and flipped the switch. Drive noises, hurrah!
Except, still there was nothing happening. So I popped the disk out of the drive, stuck it into Flash, and called up Explorer. It was either blank (except that it was labeled), or it was corrupt. I'm not here to play the blame game. It wasn't working, and the Win98 CD isn't bootable, so there was no way to install 98.
So, just for laughs, I stuck a spare copy of XP Pro we had lying around into the CD drive, and restarted the machine. At last it booted, and then it asked me if I wanted to install XP. Sure, why not? So I sat there as XP installed itself with virtually no help from me. In fact, it seemd like it was installing more like XP Home than Pro. It also had to skip loading three files that it couldn't find on the disk. They weren't anything critical, but still. I wonder if the disk is scratched.
Anyway, it did successfully install, so that works. I'm still likely to scrub it down tomorrow night, and try 98. At least, once I find a frelling startup disk.