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RickNel
September 28th, 2011, 08:38 PM
Sometimes hard to pick the right topic area for something - but here goes...

I have collected a Compaq P133 laptop with missing HDD. I've set it up to boot DOS from floppy, autoexec.bat loading a very small serial terminal emulator (ndrterm.exe). It's for dumb terminal use, accessing s-100 machines in daily use instead of firing up the VT100 every time.

I want to speed up the boot time by using SD card masquerading as HDD in an IDE adapter. The machine will never do anything but load the terminal program. SD card also would eliminate noise and vibration from boot and operation, closer to traditional dumb terminal.

Getting SD card to boot DOS seems a bit quirky, from what I read on various forums. One option seems to be setting the card up to boot in Puppy Linux, then reformatting to FAT12 and DOS from a DOS platform.

Has anyone successfully booted DOS from this kind of setup on a P1-vintage machine?

Rick

Jorg
September 28th, 2011, 10:59 PM
Yes, I had it on my P1 (Asus TXP4) with no problem, and now I installed it on my 386 also.

What makes it easier (and difficult on the 386), is when your machine has a bios that autodetects the harddrive parameters.

On the P1, I formatted the SD card on my main (Core2) machine, FAT or FAT32.
Then it was autodetected and I installed DOS, NetBSD, etc just from floppy or from CD.

On the 386, I had to use Ontrack disk manager to have it detected correctly, and then I can install DOS and boot from it.
The point I think here is to find the right bios HD settings (Cyl/Head/Sec).
Other OS (Xenix, NetBSD) however, I can install them but not boot.

So on a more modern P1, is should work.

Alternatively, you could also look at one of these:
http://www.google.com/products/catalog?q=transcend+ide&hl=en&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1920&bih=939&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=12489727528707677962&sa=X&ei=pBaETrKDBIb0-gaXx8gO&ved=0CGAQ8gIwAQ
as you need no big capacity anyway.

And ofcourse, a CF Card adapter instead of SD - CF might be more expensive than SD, but the adapter will be cheaper.

twolazy
September 30th, 2011, 11:49 AM
I have a machine I use for something extremely similar. A Toshiba 486 dx4 75 laptop. Its current uses are a CoCo emulator and terminal program for my eprom programmer. Currently it has a 44pin (laptop ide) to cf adapter in it, with a 512mb cf card. Works great!

Setting up the cards are fairly easy. First format the card fat 16 on a newer machine, then drag it to the machine its to be used on. Next setup the bios cyl/heads/sec in the bios (my machine autodetected the card fine. If yours does not, grab a copy of ontrack. Boot ontrack on a machine that autodetects your card. Go to maintance options, then disk information I believe. It should show the c/h/s for your cf card, as well if it has DMA support etc ). Next fdisk and make partitions. Reboot. After reboot, format the paritions you just made, using "format C: /s". Next, run "fdisk /mbr". Reboot. Congrats, your card should now boot dos. :)

RickNel
September 30th, 2011, 03:54 PM
Thanks both - glad to hear there are workable solutions.

I think I have made more trouble for myself by choosing SD rather than CF - just because I have several SD cards on hand.

Another complication is that the target machine is a Compaq - Compaq is notorious for trying to keep a semi-proprietary hardware ecosystem by using non-standard BIOS options, and I don't think my machine will allow manual configuration.

I have a 44pin to 50pin IDE converter in the mail, but being from China this could take weeks.

As a fallback, I've also ordered a 128Mb 44pin "Disk on Module" flash unit, similar to the one linked by Jorg.

While waiting for these, I'll see whether Ontrack can help. So far I am reaching the common blockage that the card will format, I can change to flag to "bootable", but it still doesn't boot as an IDE disk on machines I've tried so far...

I'll come back to this thread with results..

Rick
Rick

twolazy
September 30th, 2011, 04:28 PM
BTW, my toshiba does not have any sort of traditional bios as well, autodetection or nothing is all it has, yet it works without a hitch. :)

Compgeke
September 30th, 2011, 06:34 PM
Getting the card bootable is quite easy using the HP utility, I was booting a Dell Mini 10 off a 512 Meg CF card with IBM DOS 5.02 using the DOS shell for a while because I lacked a hard drive. The last place I can find a mirror for the utility is here (http://h50178.www5.hp.com/local_drivers/17550/SP27608.exe) (click on here).

RickNel
October 2nd, 2011, 02:29 AM
@Compgeke - the HP utility link you provided seems to be broken. The file may be available elsewhere.

As it happens, I already had the utility which I have used previously to make a bootable USB stick for a Linux rescue system. If anyone wants to try it, give me a PM on this forum and I'll put up a temporary link. I can't offer a public server address at the moment.

I tried the HP utility for my current issue. It appears to format to MS-DOS system, and the formatted SD card accepts file copies, but it still will not boot on either of the two hardware options I have available at the moment:
a) SD card in USB card reader or
b) SD card in IDE adapter.

My SD card may have a hidden fault in the boot area, since it doesn't work in either USB or IDE adapters.

When I get a CF card and IDE converter, I'll give the HP utility another try along with the other boot utilities recommended. It may only work with certain USB adaptors.

Rick

Compgeke
October 2nd, 2011, 02:16 PM
Strange, the link does seem to be down now. A simple google search of "SP27608.exe" will find it for you though but since you already have it that's not a problem. It's strange that the card isn't booting because I've used the utility with flash drives, CF cards, SD cards and external hard drives.

Agent Orange
October 2nd, 2011, 05:54 PM
Just a note - some SD cards are indeed 'quirky'. I've had the best luck with ULTRA SD cards. If you have one laying around you might want to give it a try.

tikbalang
October 2nd, 2011, 08:45 PM
the only effective way for me to boot DOS (indirectly) from any usbdisk is to use BOOTICE. it can install and boot common bootloaders onto the usbdisk, without reformatting, which can in turn chainload almost any OS. i chose GRUB4DOS on my setups. grub4dos has a sample file on how to boot DOS in its readme.

http://myimg.us/index.php?file=20684.png


copy/paste to your browser:



http://bbs.wuyou.com/viewthread.php?tid=57675

http://bootice.narod.ru/

RickNel
October 10th, 2011, 08:52 PM
OK, I now have working boot. A 44-pin IDE-to-SD adapter arrived from China today. About $1.50 price, but 10 days in the mail. I also got a recycled Compaq HDD caddy (the aluminium box type) from a laptop wreckers' yard in Singapore. $7 + postage. This was necessary to get the Compaq HDD plug to 44-pin IDE/IDC.

My original DOS6.22 system diskettes could not effectively format the 8Mb SanDisk SD card I am using. I ran Fdisk and Format several times, but DOS install always exited claiming the drive was too small. Somehow the install routine could not read the disk capacity properly.

OnTrack 2000 for Maxtor worked, from the floppy drive. I used OnTrack to partition, format and create new a new MBR on the SD card.

DOS install then saw the whole "disk", but still could not measure its capacity. So instead of the DOS auto install, I used SYS.COM from the install disk in A: to SD card as C:. That worked. Then I could just use Copy to move what I needed to the SD card. For this application I only need ANSI.SYS, the serial terminal emulator NRDTERM.EXE, and a CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT to load ANSI.SYS and run NRDTERM on bootup.

Now I'm getting noiseless boot of full-screen ANSI terminal in 15 seconds from power up. Most of that time is Compaq's BIOS doing its minimal startup tests. If I could skip some of the delays in the BIOS it would be nice, but I'm already way better off than hanging around for Windows or DOS to load from HDD or floppy. But still way slower than switching on my VT100.

Another good save from the garbage skip!

When I get the CF and Disk-on-Module hardware options that I have ordered, I can compare them for speed or use them elsewhere. I don't expect more than a few seconds difference between them.

Rick

Ole Juul
October 10th, 2011, 09:36 PM
I also wanted some silence, but decided that the CF was likely to cause less troubles than SD. (post (http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?27563-Compact-Flash-on-DOS-PC)) Well, it worked like any HDD except that neither the MS nor FreeDOS fsisk would partition properly. Apart from that little glitch (which was solved by using ranish part) it does indeed look like a CF card is the same as any other drive to DOS.

So far I like it, but was surprised that the bootup time was not improved noticeably. It does seem like the BIOS delays are the main holdup. Also, my network card takes a couple of seconds to recognize despite being the fastest "booter" I could find for PCI. Anyway, I'll be looking forward to seeing how the CF experience goes for you.

RickNel
December 12th, 2011, 08:45 PM
There's been a long silence on this thread because I waited 2 months for a CF to 44-pin IDE converter to come from mainland China, then finally gave up and got a refund. Then ordered one from Hong Kong that arrived after another 3 weeks.

Here's the comparison of the three I tried - SD card, CF card and "Disk on Module" ("HyperDisk" 44pin flash disk module)

1. The 128Mb Disk on Module cost about $25 including postage but has never been recognised by the BIOS on the old Pentium1 machines I have tried it in. The Compaq laptop shows a HDD present in its little LED status display, but BIOS shows nothing. Can't figure out whether the unit is DOA, fake, or carries some format not recognised by older OS and BIOS.

2. The SanDisk 1 Gb SD card cold boots consistently to DOS prompt at 29 seconds

3. The SandDisk 1 Gb CF card cold boots to DOS prompt at 25 seconds

As Ole has noted, most of the cold boot time is taken up with BIOS loading, checks and unconfigurable timeouts.
I could strip about 8 seconds out of that by removing the DOS extended memory test from CONFIG.SYS, but I'm letting it stay there for the time being.

I would estimate the CF card solution to run about 30% faster in disk access time, and therefore will keep that as my working unit.

The SD card solution was a few dollars cheaper and is quite reliable, but would be slower for any application using frequent disk access.

Since my application for this boot setup is to load a dumb DOS-based ascii terminal into RAM, the difference in boot times is barely significant. If you were running a much bigger OS like Windows or Linux with GUI, the card access speed difference might well be noticeable and CF would be a better choice.

The Disk On Module solution is most expensive - around $50 for more reputable brands at a few Gb. I can't recommend it from my own experience, but it might be a preferred solution for people who want the simplest plug-and-play replacement for a HDD.

Rick

Ole Juul
December 12th, 2011, 10:48 PM
There's been a long silence on this thread because I waited 2 months for a CF to 44-pin IDE converter to come from mainland China, then finally gave up and got a refund. Then ordered one from Hong Kong that arrived after another 3 weeks.

Hi Rick. I'm surprised you could find the thread again - I always have trouble here. :) Thanks for posting the info though. I have a feeling that more people are going to be interested in this as time goes by.


As Ole has noted, most of the cold boot time is taken up with BIOS loading, checks and unconfigurable timeouts.
I could strip about 8 seconds out of that by removing the DOS extended memory test from CONFIG.SYS, but I'm letting it stay there for the time being.

I'm personally a bit neurotic about DOS boot times since the ability to turn the power switch on and off as well as run buggy or broken software with immunity is a desirable feature. Still, even with loading a pile of TSRs it is pretty trivial in reality. With big OSs it doesn't matter to me because I don't reboot for months on end.


I would estimate the CF card solution to run about 30% faster in disk access time, and therefore will keep that as my working unit.
The SD card solution was a few dollars cheaper and is quite reliable, but would be slower for any application using frequent disk access.


My 8GB CF is holding up well and I haven't had a single glitch. The concept obviously works. I also feel it runs a bit faster than a HDD, but that's just a feeling. As you suggest, the limits might be felt if one was to do a lot of writes - such as done automatically by less discriminating OSs. :) Not counting shipping, I spent about $30, but now that I've been using it, I think that the slower CF card might be usable, which would put the price at $20.