View Full Version : Dual boot or Virtual??

05-21-2011, 11:24 AM
I've a friend who needs to run Win95/98 software for his plotter...uses a dongle.

I'm looking to give him XP and either Win95 or 98 to be able to run the plotter.

With the dongle, am I limited to a dual boot system rather than virtual?

Suggestions would be appreciated both for a dual boot manager or VM.

I'm also looking for the simplest solution right now...least learning curve...as I've a limited amount of time I will be able to set this up for him.

Thanks in advance! ;)

05-21-2011, 12:14 PM
What is the exact device (Brand/model #)...there's a chance that a better 'native' solution may exist.

05-21-2011, 01:50 PM
The dongle, I believe, is actually just for the software...Gerber Graphix Advantage. I cannot remember the version number off the top of my head, but I can get them.

It works off a serial port if I remember correctly...USB was just coming on the horizon back in them days...

05-21-2011, 04:03 PM
Part of the problem is that a virtual machine may not allow the direct hardware access that the security dongle (yeah, it's for the software) probably needs...and modern machines are 'too much' for 9x versions of Windows. Those dongles, from that era, could be very picky and usually demanded full, direct hardware access, sometimes going so far as being hardwired only to work on specific ports or not work at all. Back in those days, the ports were much more configurable than they are now (usually you don't have manual options, just the 'standard' defaults to choose from, if anything...) and they may be virtualized or share IRQs in a way that was never dreamed of back then.

Basically, it's looking like the machine needs to be something without most of the modern 'bells and whistles', has true hardware serial ports and is still capable of running 9x (older chipset...because that's going to be another stumbling block with 9x support...no chipset drivers).

Unfortunately, there comes a point when older specialized hardware/software is no longer practical to continue to use...and it may be beyond that point for this particular combination (I did see that there were updated versions of the software, several years ago, to bring it to XP).

I can't find out if it is really Windows 9x that is needed or the underlying DOS. If it is really DOS, then one of the modern versions of something like FreeDOS, that does have support for more modern hardware may be usable.

Another problem, is going to be finding hardware that actually has serial ports. They are becoming rather scarce.

05-21-2011, 04:16 PM
The price of software upgrades is excruciatingly painful... My friend has said that he has had it running on Win98 without issue...if that makes a difference as far as options.

I seem to remember that the software also has the plotter drivers. I cannot remember if the plotter runs from the LPt port or another serial...

I think Gerber tech-support is a pay-for deal, so I don't know if they'd be willing to help out with any workarounds. I haven't tried to Google this yet,l so perhaps there might be others who have hit the proverbial software/dongle wall... :)

05-21-2011, 06:04 PM
Basically, there are some not quite 'legit' hacks to get around the dongle...but well, we know where that leads.

The supported OS versions were basically 9x, so that would be 95/98 with a possibility of ME(but then again, why bother with ME?).

Yeah, I figured they'd be outrageously expensive...so 98 SE would be the best to shoot for. That said, some of the boards built to be used for 'embedded systems' DO support 98 SE.

A mini-itx board like this one


Does have official Windows 98 drivers...(probably one of the last boards being made that does).

Heck, with a mini-ITX board, you could almost mod the support structure for the plotter itself to hold the board, hard drive and everything, internally...just have a connection for a keyboard, mouse and monitor to the outside...

05-21-2011, 11:49 PM
If you had more time I would say a VM would be worth a try. The VM apps have gotten a lot better at it over the last couple of years, but it's difficult to say if the serial port pass through in a VM would cause any issues with the DRM dongle or not.

Throwing together a machine based on tech that supports win9x is the simplest solution.