Sometimes I wonder if computers are symbiotic.
If you’re familiar with me at all then it should come as no surprise that I’m not big on change. I’m not totally against it, but change in general seems like one of those things where things get worse before they get better if you catch my meaning. Constantly having to get used to new things doesn’t help.
Apparently, Mazinkaiser feels the same way.
Mazinkaiser, as long-time readers will be aware, is my Windows 98 gaming PC. And one constant in my life is every time I get back into PC gaming tends to come with thoughts of “upgrading” Mazinkaiser somehow. These almost always end with me learning that its fine the way it is.
This time, it was the sound card.
A year or two ago, I had asked on VOGONS what the best soundcard that was Windows 98 compatible was. They said the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZX (though the non-ZX was fine too). I wound up buying two of them on ebay–I didn’t seek out two, just I saw a cheap listing (like twenty bucks or something) that happened to be for two of them, and I scooped it up.
At the time my plan was to use them for a Mazinkaiser pseudo-successor that would be more suited for games from circa 2006-ish, but then last night it occured to me that I might as well put one of them in Mazinkaiser, not strictly as a replacement for the Soundblaster 16 that is in there (that one would probably still be necessary for DOS compatibility) but just as something for the more later-ish games like Half-Life to use.
Turns out its not possible.
Not because of IRQ conflicts or anything like that… the motherboard itself seems to just not like the Audigy 2.
Admittedly, I sometimes wonder if getting a more powerful power supply would change anything (I think I have like 500 watts coming out of this one?) because what’s happening and the symptoms kinda lead me to think there’s just not enough juice going into the machine. But here’s the deal: Any time the Audigy 2 was plugged in, no data would be sent to the monitor–it was on, but blank. The comp never made any distressed noises or anything, just no video signal was being sent.
This was with just a Voodoo 3 and the Audigy 2 in there, by the by. I had figured it made the most sense to go ahead and test the Aud by itself before worrying about making two soundcards work in tandem. The only other thing I had in there was a PCI card that provided extra ps/2 ports (which are read as USB ports and basically just there to allow me to use an optical mouse, though I’ve thought of ditching this since I can only use it in windows and I have one of those oldstyle optical mice in a DOS-compatible serial port as well. The reason I’m not just using the ps/2 ports on the motherboard, by the way, is because they for some reason stopped working and I’m not tech guru enough to be able to fix them without worrying that I’ll mess something else up).
My motherboard is an Epox-8KTA (I believe its either a plus or a 2 at the end), and if anyone has a spare one and is willing to reinforce the onboard ps/2 ports so they’re not quite so fragile (mine went bad essentially because I kept unplugging the mouse and keyboard whenever I opened the case up) I might be willing to buy it from you. Onboard ps/2 ports allow me to use a modern-ish optical mouse in DOS and I quite prefer that over either old wheel mice (I never liked wheel mice) or old kinds of optical mice which all require special pads.
Anyway, back to the sound card.
So I tested, at a point where nothing but the Vood and the Aud were plugged in… if I took out the Aud, then the monitor would get data just fine. It was only when I plugged in the Aud that I had problems.
My next thought, since the Voodoo and the Aud were the only things in there, was that maybe the Voodoo doesn’t play nice with the Aud, so I took it out and replaced it with a Geforce I happened to have (a Geforce 4 ti4200, AGP whereas the Voodoo is PCI).
Unfortunately, it was exactly the same story there: No video output unless I took out the Aud.
I will mention here that what I forgot to try was the Aud by itself with only the onboard video drivers. Mostly because I’m not even sure if I had those enabled or anything, and by this point I was too frustrated to deal with anything that might involve a trip to the BIOS. Besides, I also reasoned, even if it worked, so what? I’d have improved sound… and no ability to play any game that required more than EGA graphics (which would eliminate the point of better sound anyway). I suppose its an option to look into, but I tend to always get frustrated with this stuff so ultimately I just wanted it done.
That’s actually kind of why I’m writing this entry really: because like I said, I always return to this “wanting to tweak” point, and it always results in me finding out that the changes are impossible (or not really worth it) and so I wind up going back to what I know works. My PC is basically a console now in that sense–at this point, I might as well build a second gaming PC and put the Audigy and Geforce in THAT rather than upgrade Mazinkaiser, and leave good old Maz to its intended purpose–computer games from the dawn of time up until 2001 or so.
I’m writing this largely to remind myself of that.
The only thing I really want changed or fixed now is regaining the ability to use ps/2-port optical mice in MS-DOS, which like I said was possible before the onboard ps/2 ports went kaput for unknown reasons. Even that tho isn’t exactly something that I’m scrambling to fix since I’ve got a workaround solution in the meantime.