User Experiences

User experience: Microsoft Operating Systems

Having discovered Great Cow Basic only a few days ago, I duly signed-up to the User Forum and there revealed my preference to use old computers for programming micro-controllers. Some of the Forum members have machines with Dual or Quad-Core processors running at the speed of light, and with oodles of fast memory to draw upon, and since February 2017 have been using GLCD_Touch_Simple_Demonstration_ATmega2560_SSD1289.gcb as a test program to compare performances - with most having achieved compile times of around 10-25 secs - with a few even achieving sub-10seconds !

And so there was an understandable curiosity expressed as to how Great Cow Basic would run on a computer dating from the last century, or from the first few years of this one - the reduced performance of which invariably results in so many of these machines ending-up as landfill.

First obstacles:

The first problem I encountered was fairly trivial, in that example source listings within the 8Mb help file 'gcbasic.pdf' weren't visible when using Adobe Acrobat 5 or Foxit Reader 2.3 , these being the latest versions of .PDF readers available for Win98SE, which is my preferred OS for the programming of micro-controllers.
The cure for this was to simply convert the .PDF to .PDF (no, that's not a typo) using which returns a modified .PDF file correctly viewable within either of these Readers.

I was advised that I'd need a copy of .NET Framework 2.0 which ought to be downloadable directly from Microsoft, but I found that in practice it couldn't - but was able to downloaded .NET 2 from without any problems.

Perhaps this is an appropriate moment to point out that - as I was to shortly discover - Great Cow Basic comes in 3 separate 'flavours': firstly, there is the basic compiler itself, which will run under any version of Windows from Win98 onwards. Should anyone intend running GCB under Win98, then you'll need to write your source code using a separate text editor - my preference being Ultra-Edit 8.
Secondly, there is the Great Cow Basic IDE (Integrated Development Environment) which requires a minimum of Windows XP.
Lastly, there is a Graphical version of Great Cow Basic (which uses flow chart symbols and so forth) and this will require a minimum of WinXP along with .NET Framework 2 or higher.

My plan had been to download 'the lot', install everything, and then figure out afterwards what was wanted and what was not - but it didn't quite work out like this, as the installer.exe refused to run under Windows 98. I was able to fool the installer by the use of a program called KernelEx into thinking that my OS was XP, but KernelEx cannot solve such problems as missing .dlls or incorrectly registered files - and so although I was able to install the Great Cow Basic suite into it's default GCB@Syn directory and run the compiler gcbasic.exe without any problems, I was unable to run anything at all from the IDE.

Time to read the manual:

Having then learned that XP was required for a functioning IDE, I then installed Great Cow Basic on a drive containing XP-Pro SP3, following which everything ran perfectly - including the Graphical version of GCB, once .NET Framework 2 had been installed.

I had observed that the Basic Compiler gcbasic.exe runs inside a DOS box under Windows XP or '98 and so wondered whether it might then be possible to run the compiler under a stand-alone MS-DOS ? But I soon discovered that this isn't possible - it'll run within a DOS-Box under Windows - but not under DOS on it's own.

So the Minimum System Requirements for Great Cow Basic 0.98 were determined to be: Win98 for running just the base compiler, with source code written on your favourite text editor; WinXP if you want to run the IDE; and XP with .NET 2 should you want to enjoy the full graphical experience ...

Performance on an early Pentium 3 computer:

Earlier in this write-up I mentioned guys that were running a test program on modern computers with multi-core processors - however, the machine I used during this test installation of Great Cow Basic 0.98 was a Dell GX110 of 1999 vintage, with a 1.0Ghz Pentium 3 processor, 133Mhz FSB and 512 Mb of ram.
In contrast to compiler speeds of 10-25 seconds for that test program - with a 5400 rpm drive this Dell GX110 managed 85 secs for compilation, and approx 95 seconds to finally produce a .HEX file. This was reduced to 75 seconds when a .HEX file was produced on a 7200 rpm hard drive.


The Great Cow Basic suite of programs - by offering a common easy to learn language for both PIC and AVR devices - promises to eclipse existing commercial programming software for both of these families of 8-bit micro-controllers. A huge bonus presents itself by the ability to run this suite of programs on systems with a wide range of performances, including those of an increasing number of ageing and frequently unwanted computers.

Author: electrosys @ Great Cow BASIC Forum


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