Seeking help to preserve WWII database on Windows 98

120 points9
frodowtf9 months ago

Can we agree on not posting anything directly from twitter? It's absolutely useless without an account.

HeckFeck9 months ago

Elon removed that restriction when he first took over, then apparently reintroduced it because of machine learning scraping the site; if you believe that. It is very annoying either way, so many interesting things that belong on their own page or even a blog lost deep in multi-tweet threads.

hedora9 months ago

Twitter's just completely broken for me when logged out (no account, will not get one, unless it is to build a scraper that bypasses the login wall).

In particular, some public safety / emergency response accounts post safety-critical real-time updates. Visiting their pages when not logged in provides data that is years out-of-date.

I'm hoping this causes a rapid exodus and my one use case for twitter goes away.

solardev9 months ago

That's Elon's problem. Let's not make it ours.

delfinom9 months ago

Soon to be more annoying because Elon has started harping about putting all of twitter behind a paywall for everyone. (Obviously cash flow aint looking good) haha

HeckFeck9 months ago

A shame, this will surely tank it. I can't imagine paying unless they also introduced guaranteed privacy (like Mastodon's data permission list - empty!) on their mobile apps. Fat chance.

I'm not sure where to go as an alternative; Mastodon doesn't have the same community or blend of personalities and viewpoints as Twitter. Ah well.

vuln9 months ago

Hahahahah. Quite the knee slapper.

I’m sure getting advertisers a better ROI is the goal. I’m glad someone is doing something about the bots. Jack et all didn’t give two shits and lied to investors and advertisers. This is a welcome change.

If you want a platform full of bots, build your own. Simple as.

HeckFeck9 months ago
ta12439 months ago
rakoo9 months ago doesn't play videos. EDIT: This is false, I made a mistake on my side. Apologies.

Maybe a paywalled website that is actively hostile to non-users shouldn't be considered a source of news ?

zinekeller9 months ago

> doesn't play videos.

Huh? Unless you meant that you can't play without JavaScript (which is unfair considering that the other website can't even load with JavaScript off), this is blatantly false that I even doubt if you have really used it.

TheHappyOddish9 months ago

I assume the new standard will be the top comment is a link similar to how the top link on paywalled news sites is an link.

korantu9 months ago

The link loads correctly for me in an incognito tab. Maybe it was something temporary when you tried? Nitter also does the job.

kawhah9 months ago

do you see all the tweets or just the top one?

kristopolous9 months ago

There should be a communal throwaway account or some proxy site that uses one

therein9 months ago

Replies are retrievable via the API so any Nitter instance does the job for anonymously browsing Twitter.

But yeah, I also don't appreciate the restrictions.

squarefoot9 months ago

Just a reminder that WINE [0] runs a lot of new and old Windows software pretty well, so that anyone wanting to consult the database could either load it either from a desktop Linux machine, a Linux VM, or even have it boot it directly to the database software since it can be easily embedded in a self booting Linux distro contained in a pendrive along the CD's data.


hedora9 months ago

Windows 98 apparently runs fine in dosbox (dosbox-x?). My dosbox install is locked on Win 3.11, since that's a better compatibility sweet spot for me.

Anyway, that should provide much higher-fidelity emulation than Wine, and is also easier to keep off the network, etc. Also, I guess it runs on Arm processors these days (since it's an emulator, and not a hypervisor):

Wine is generally more convenient if it works though.

thelastparadise9 months ago

> it can be easily embedded in a self booting Linux distro contained in a pendrive

Very interesting. Is there a framework or helper for this?

Seems useful for things like games or audio DAWs in particular.

squarefoot9 months ago

Not sure it does exist, but shouldn't be hard to do by hand. One could either modify a live distro to embed the necessary software, or simply run the install process with a USB key as target, then boot from it just like an internal disk and proceed to install WINE and remaining software. Once WINE is installed, which is straightforward using the standard package managers for each distro, it runs automatically once a Windows application is clicked from a desktop windows, or called via "wine <windowsapplicationname>" from command line or a script, so that for example, if the database application in the subject is configured to auto start after the window manager is loaded, it goes straight into the Windows application as if it was part of the system.

It shouldn't be that different for DAWs. By the way, I experimented a while ago with Alpine Linux and Yabridge to achieve a very small system that works as a host for both native and Windows .vst plugins. The goal would have been a MiniPC configured as synthesizer that boots very quick and does just that, with both studio use and live performance in mind. I got to the point plugins were converted but loading them failed. Probably using a musl based distro was asking too much, but I'll try again in the future (just moved to a new house, everything is packed) as Alpine Linux is so much faster and smaller compared to other distros that to me it makes the best candidate for building appliances where the operating system exists for the sole purpose of loading a dedicated software, therefore must not get in the way with resources consumption, automatic updates etc.

jansommer9 months ago

Buildroot is a good tool to build a custom Linux. Wine is available as a package.

5-9 months ago

the keyword you're looking for might be 'kiosk'.

nowadays seems to be recommended (but i haven't used it).

hulitu9 months ago

Wine runs 32 bits windows binaries on a 32 bits linux system and 64 bits windows binaries on a 64 bits linux system.

Anarch157a9 months ago

You can run 32 bit Windows binaries in 64 bit Linux if you install the appropriate libraries. In Debian, you can enable multiarch[0] for this purpose.


RecycledEle9 months ago

Layers upon layers of emulators lead to lost databases.

It would be better to migrate the data to a very common format.

starttoaster9 months ago

Wine is not an emulator.

RecycledEle9 months ago

WinE = Windows Emulator, unless someone changed the acronym since I was playing with WinE in the 1990's.

starttoaster9 months ago
squarefoot9 months ago

Agreed, but we don't know anything about the engine and formats used in that database. Given the age I would guess something from Borland or Microsoft, but could be encrypted in a way that only their software can access to it. Hard to know without examining the CD.

einr9 months ago

It’s Microsoft Access, ”works only on Windows 98” seems highly doubtful, especially as the screenshot in the post is Windows Vista…

washadjeffmad9 months ago

I've never gotten familiar with the Office suite, but I ported a few graduate research databases built in Access 2003 to LibreOffice Base pretty painlessly around a decade ago.

The department discovered their newer versions of Office weren't backwards compatible, so they just kept the last PC everything worked on. It wasn't a Pentium D-series, but it was pretty close.

Dalewyn9 months ago

It's probably most likely that OP on Mysterious Twitter X simply doesn't know that's Windows Vista.

It's ancient Windows, OP doesn't know Access, UI looks like something from the 90s, Windows 98 is the most famous of the 90s Windowses(?).

As evidenced by how it's seemingly running fine on Windows Vista using whatever version of Access that is, either:

A) Any newer version of Access should be able to at least open that thing fine.

B) Whatever version of ancient Access that will open that should run just fine on Windows 11.

Microsoft's commitment to backwards compatibility shines, especially in these types of circumstances.

einr9 months ago

I think the spanner in the works is that the CD-ROM bundles an MS Access runtime executable that is 16-bit and therefore will not run on 64-bit Windows. If you look in the top left of the window in the screenshot, the icon looks like Access 2.0, which was designed for 16-bit Windows.

Given, as you say, Microsoft's commitment to backwards compatibility, it is very likely in my opinion that a modern computer running 32-bit Windows 10 (not Windows 11, as they dropped the 32-bit version and therefore finally dropped 16-bit software support entirely) would run this software fine. It is also likely, as you say, that modern Access could import the underlying database (does Access 2023/365/whatever import Access 2.0 databases? Who knows! Not I, I don't touch the stuff ;)

gandalfian9 months ago

I think their main computer being a Mac without a CD-ROM drive may be contributing elements as well. Interesting juxtaposition that they are struggling to take the files off a cd but confident they can produce a web database. But seems they found help so nice it's all ending well.

hsbauauvhabzb9 months ago

I vaguely recall bugs where windows OS version prevented access, rather than office version.

I’m glad the access mess is over, I do wish you hadn’t triggered that memory though :P

acomjean9 months ago

My boss uses aceess on windows 10. It still works.

tokai9 months ago

The Air Force Historical Research Agency should be contacted to figure out if it is actually important data. I would be very surprised if that old cd is the only source of this information.

edit: Reading the third paragraph here[0] it seems that all of this data is definitely stored at different museums and libraries.


WarOnPrivacy9 months ago

"works only on Windows 98"

Pic is of Vista running on a HP DV6000.

Perhaps Vista was the last OS to have a 98 application mode.

He could do a Vista (or earlier) VM running on Hyper-V in Win 10/11 Pro (or hacked Home). If the WWII CD is ripped to an ISO, it'll mount like a CD.

Vista install ISO:

Windows 98 install ISO:

tommek40779 months ago

I don't see the discussion on Twitter as I have no account and do not see.the answers on Twitter, but don't you just need virtualbox?

CD-Roms are still there and the the underlying tech is also still the same.

notpushkin9 months ago

Looks like it's an Access database. Perhaps convert it to SQLite and publish with something like

I think the problem is, thread author doesn't know how to rip an ISO of the CD or move the database out; looks like they are getting help already though.

dmurray9 months ago

Yes, if the author was technical enough to rip an ISO and host (or seed) it somewhere, there would already be 3 Github projects linked in this thread extracting and visualising the data.

bilekas9 months ago

If they manage to get the ISO available can someone please share here ? I really don't want to sign up to Twitter just to follow along.

LeoPanthera9 months ago

VirtualBox dropped support for 9x versions of Windows some time ago, and although it's "possible" to get it working, it works very badly.

speps9 months ago

Just use it's updated regularly and works wonders!

noobermin9 months ago

How is it possible to do this? Isn't all you need is to emulate is at least a 386 or 486? They removed emulation of that cpu target?????

LeoPanthera9 months ago

Not just the CPU, but also the older chipsets that Windows 9x thinks is current. It only supports emulation of chipsets much newer than those versions of Windows.

deaddodo9 months ago
inferiorhuman9 months ago

VirtualBox defaults to emulating a PIIX3 chipset which is absolutely Windows 95 vintage.

AshamedCaptain9 months ago

It actually works very well, and there was an HN top post a couple weeks ago about how someone had even written a 3D capable video driver for 98 and VirtualBox.

Narishma9 months ago

I agree but you don't need to run Windows 9x. NT 4 or 2000 should work fine and are well supported in VirtualBox.

ilamont9 months ago

Glad to hear people have reached out to help, but the sad thing is for every project like this there are a hundred more that die a quiet death every year. There's a universe of important and unique data tied to history and genealogy blogs, web databases, 20th-century software programs, and hard drive archives maintained by a single person.

One of my favorites: (click on the "Go and Search My Archive" link). Tom has done an amazing job of scanning and posting old historical photos and newspaper archives, but will it last once he's no longer able to maintain it?

I often hear suggestions like "let Ancestry take them over" or "the Internet Archive is the solution." I have to ask: Will either be operational in 20 years, or the data on them as easily accessible as they are now?

Ancestry is currently operated by Blackstone, the third or fourth PE firm to do so in the past 15 years. Blackstone has no qualms with deleting services that no longer meet its needs ( or paywalling records and then jacking up the price every few years (

IA's web archive is a great resource, but it always seems to be begging for money and its founder's futile campaign against book publishers isn't helping.

Spooky239 months ago

Fulton History is particularly frustrating as it’s a passion project and amazing resource, but the owner is a little… mercurial.

It will absolutely die with him. Its unfortunate that when the NYS Legislature appropriated money to scan thousands (millions) of newspapers to microfiche, they did not provide any funding for digitization.

Fnoord9 months ago

> Glad to hear people have reached out to help, but the sad thing is for every project like this there are a hundred more that die a quiet death every year.

CDROM is a terrible way to store data. Any frontend to dd could back the CDROM up 1:1. That should be the first and primary focus. After that and an upload of however long (depending on internet connection), the wisdom of the crowd could be utilized. Even if the requirement of Windows 98 is correct, any VM (perhaps even ReactOS) could access it.

pbhjpbhj9 months ago

IIRC, there used to be a dd-like tool, maybe cdrescue? (a Linux command-line tool), that would recheck the data extracted, and then do a "best of n" check on any spurious sectors of the disc.

It's been at least 10 years since I had a CD/DVD drive though, so it might have been a mode of one of the dd_rescue/ddrescue/dd-rescue programs??

Fnoord9 months ago

Probably just ddrescue by GNU, which can also be used on CD drives.

For audio CDs, I've always used EAC [1] with secure mode. I believe I even used it within Wine. It yielded better results than cdrecord.

Morgoth, FlashFXP, Preee, hkSFV, DCPP, and all that beautiful Windows software also worked in Wine.


Karrot_Kream9 months ago

> I often hear suggestions like "let Ancestry take them over" or "the Internet Archive is the solution." I have to ask: Will either be operational in 20 years, or the data on them as easily accessible as they are now?

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Cthulhu_9 months ago

I think any resource of data like this - assuming it's a noncommercial project - should have an export functionality available at all times, and an ask to any visitor to download the file, archive it, and clearly label it.

I like to believe that the best data repositories are the ones that are forgotten.

That said, I hope someone comes up with a consumer-affordable, long-term storage medium soon.

forgotmypw179 months ago

It a lesson in how important it is to choose the most open/free and widely supported formats when creating information you want to share with the world.

binary1329 months ago

I find myself thinking about the conundrum of long-term digital archiving pretty often. It's a very interesting question.

bbarnett9 months ago

I think the first biggie is non decaying storage. Outside of some paper, everything seems to decay fast, and even if stored correctly. Film goes bad in climate controlled vaults at times.

Those DVDs made of rock supposedly last a long time, but it would be nice to have something that lasts 1000s of years.

binary1329 months ago

If you're talking about analog archival that is a whole other ball of yarn, but in terms of digital then I would think that the thing to do is use only lossless compression, bit-level fidelity error correction, and multiply-redundant, multi-region storage. You must plan on storage media, providers, and entire networks partitioning, disappearing, and failing.

Spooky239 months ago

You have to actively have an archive, with archivists. The geek stuff is secondary.

binary1329 months ago

Something that can only survive if it has long-term funding is not really a solution to long-term archival.

oddmiral9 months ago

Why not to donate this data to a nearest library?

bitwize9 months ago

1) Boot Access inside Wine and use it to export the tables into csv or similar. From there it's a relative doddle to import them into SQLite, Postgres, etc.

2) Use one of the open source Access file readers (e.g., Jackcess) to do the same. Make a backup first!

PaulHoule9 months ago

It looks like an application based on Microsoft Access.

Where I work we still occasionally use Office 97 with all the strange things it does to take over your desktop and that paperclip. It works just fine in Windows 10 and could probably open that database and see the SQL tables, it would probably not be hard at all to load the SQL tables in Postgres. I did a data import project for that kind of database and I am waiting for the QA people to tell me I did it right.

I do know I was unable to open the database w/ the current Office 365 and was told to go back and get the old Office.

politician9 months ago

One option: Photographs or Screenshots -> Tesseract OCR -> ChatGPT cleanup -> CSV -> Human validation -> public GitHub repo

leed25d9 months ago

My (late) uncle Ralph is probably in that database. Can I get a copy of the ISO? I'll help in any way that I can.

jdthedisciple9 months ago

I think you may wanna reply on Twitter.

leed25d9 months ago

I don't have an account there and I am not going to create one

lovasoa9 months ago

This looks like the perfect usecase to extract the data to sqlite, and slap a quick SQLPage UI on it !