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Thread: DEC/Compaq DS-SWXRA-HC

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by bqt View Post
    The documentation states that it is standard PCMCIA cards. Reading such memory cards are standard. Could you point me some documentation to where it states that they are something else?
    Like I said - I have not tried reading them. I just note that the documentation says they are standard PCMCIA cards.
    I don't have any StorageWorks HSOF flash cards to physically examine myself. Going by this picture of an HSZ50 V5.4 card that card appears to be a Mitsubishi MELCARD, possibly a 2MB MF82M1-77DAT01, or a very similar model

    SWKS-HSZ50.jpg

    MF82M1-77DAT01.jpg

    This is a PCMCIA Linear Flash card, which only provides raw access to the flash memory array. It does not provide an ATA storage interface as a CompactFlash card does. In particular as far as I can tell from the example of an MF82M1-77DAT01 card that I have with Manufacturer and Device Codes of 89h / A6h it is just a couple of Intel 28F008S5 8-Mbit FlashFile™ chips and some simple glue logic in the PCMCIA form factor.

    If you plug a PCMCIA Linear Flash card into a Windows PC it won't know what to do with the card. As far as I know Windows has never included drivers for raw interface memory cards. In theory the generic process of reading a PCMCIA Linear Flash card shouldn't be too hard to implement. The PCMCIA socket controller provides a memory range in the PC address space which is mapped as a sliding window into the PCMCIA linear address space. A chunk of the PCMCIA linear address space would be read through the window in the PC address space, then to read the next chunk the base address of the sliding window in the PCMCIA linear address space would be bumped up by the size of the sliding window. Programming a PCMCIA Linear Flash card would be a different story. The programming algorithms depend on the exact flash chips inside the card. There was 3rd party software which could be used to read and write PCMCIA Linear Flash cards. I have seen references to Memory Card Explorer (MCE) from Elan, which wasn't cheap and may no longer be available for sale.

    There might be more driver support on Linux for raw PCMCIA memory cards, at least on older distributions. I haven't looked into that.

  2. #32
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    FWIW, one of the programmers we used in the late 90's was made by Adtron. It mounted in a standard 5-1/4" drive bay in a PC (running Windows 95??), and had two slots. There was a software package that had to be used - as you (gslick) said, Windows didn't recognize a file system on our cards. It had various features for Read, Write, and Copy. The 'burner' PC, located in our lab, was on the internal network, with a drive mapped to a shared server. So we could build an image in the comfort of our cube, then walk to the lab to burn a card to test...

    Pete

  3. #33
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    Well, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Windows had no clue if you plugged such a card in, since I would not expect them to use a FAT or NTFS filesystem, or possibly any other file system that a Windows box would recognize. But that is a different story than actually reading out the contents of the card.

    I should most emphatically point out that I am not a Windows person, and would never go there to do any work. Under Unix, I would just dd the content out from the raw device, and then start analyzing if there is a file system at all, or if it's just the firmware image stuck directly on there.

    And yes, PCMCIA is not ATA. There was an extension to the standard to get an ATA-like interface to them, but originally it didn't look like that, and I would assume that any computer with a PCMCIA slot (especially on older equipment) would not necessarily try to talk ATA. If the equipment just talk PCMCIA, then you should be good. Dump the content out. Depending on the card, it would be equally simple to write to the card. However, if there is some kind of file system, then you want some tool that can handle this file system, obviously.

    PCMCIA is pretty much the same electrical interface as Compact Flash, by the way. To the point that you just need a simple adapter to use one in the other.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by bqt View Post
    Under Unix, I would just dd the content out from the raw device, and then start analyzing if there is a file system at all, or if it's just the firmware image stuck directly on there.
    Which device under /dev on a Unix system would use use as the source device for dd? How does that device under /dev magically appear? Looks like there was a pcmcia-cs package for Linux that would make PCMCIA memory cards appear as /dev/mtd* devices, or maybe it was replaced by a pcmciamtd package?

    It's not obvious to me whether or not this is still supported in current Linux kernels and distributions. Maybe it actually is trivial to get setup to read the raw contents of a PCMCIA linear flash card and write that back out to another PCMCIA linear flash card on a current Linux distribution. Simply saying that it must be trivial doesn't necessarily make it so.

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by gslick View Post
    Which device under /dev on a Unix system would use use as the source device for dd? How does that device under /dev magically appear? Looks like there was a pcmcia-cs package for Linux that would make PCMCIA memory cards appear as /dev/mtd* devices, or maybe it was replaced by a pcmciamtd package?

    It's not obvious to me whether or not this is still supported in current Linux kernels and distributions. Maybe it actually is trivial to get setup to read the raw contents of a PCMCIA linear flash card and write that back out to another PCMCIA linear flash card on a current Linux distribution. Simply saying that it must be trivial doesn't necessarily make it so.
    What does a compact flash device appear as? Basically, it probably depends on the hardware as well as on the version of OS. I first need a machine with the hardware before we can sort that out. But it's still a fact that this is a standard PCMCIA card memory card. Claiming that this is something of an odd thing, for which you need very special hardware and software is, in my opinion, not correct. But again, I guess there is no point arguing. Whenever I'm next to the HSJs next, I'll try to locate a PCMCIA interface and try to dump the information out.

  6. #36
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    After looking around a bit more it looks like on Linux distributions there is an mtd-utils package which is being actively maintained.

    The mtd-utils-2.1.1 version was released on 21 Jul 2019.

    http://www.linux-mtd.infradead.org/index.html

    From a quick look at the source code it does appear that it has all of the vendor and device specific knowledge necessary to read, erase, and program raw block erase linear flash PCMCIA cards.

    I'll have to get set up with a current Linux distribution on a system and see if I can get the mtd-utils package installed and working with some of the PCMCIA linear flash cards that I have. I have a PCI board CardBus controller on the way to install in a test system that I can try using for these experiments.

  7. #37

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    I was looking around and there doesn't seem to be much still available for doing USB to PCMIA/CardBus. At least I haven't see much. Maybe I need to build an x86 machine to boot Linux and/or DOS that has PCI/PCI-e slots for firmware downloading and messing with things like this.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by reinhardtjh View Post
    I was looking around and there doesn't seem to be much still available for doing USB to PCMIA/CardBus.
    There was probably never much available for USB connected PCMCIA Linear Flash reader / writer devices. Those would never have been a mainstream consumer item the way that USB CompactFlash / SD card readers were and still are.

    One of the few devices that might still be available from looking around online is the OMNIDrive USB2 LF, but that seems to go for around $500.

  9. #39
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    A quick update on trying to read and write PCMCIA Linear Flash cards on a PC. I received a PCI add-in card Cardbus adapter today, based on the one of the earlier TI chips, the PCI1131 PCI Cardbus controller.

    I'm not a Linux user and don't know whether any distribution would be better suited for this that any other distribution. I just went with Ubuntu 20.04 desktop amd64 and installed that on a PC with the PCI Cardbus controller installed, then installed the mtd-utils package.

    I have some Intel Series 2+ 8MB and 16MB Linear Flash cards which appeared as /dev/mtd0 when inserted into the Cardbus socket. The lsmtd and mtd_debug commands would show information about them.

    I have some other Linear Flash cards that did not appear as /dev/mtd0 when inserted. I believe this is because these cards do not have a valid PCMCIA CIS written to them. Looking at the source code in /drivers/pcmcia/ds.c it appears that rebuilding with CONFIG_MTD_PCMCIA_ANONYMOUS might work around that issue. I'll have to figure out how to go about rebuilding the kernel to give that a try.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by gslick View Post
    A quick update on trying to read and write PCMCIA Linear Flash cards on a PC. I received a PCI add-in card Cardbus adapter today, based on the one of the earlier TI chips, the PCI1131 PCI Cardbus controller.

    I'm not a Linux user and don't know whether any distribution would be better suited for this that any other distribution. I just went with Ubuntu 20.04 desktop amd64 and installed that on a PC with the PCI Cardbus controller installed, then installed the mtd-utils package.

    I have some Intel Series 2+ 8MB and 16MB Linear Flash cards which appeared as /dev/mtd0 when inserted into the Cardbus socket. The lsmtd and mtd_debug commands would show information about them.

    I have some other Linear Flash cards that did not appear as /dev/mtd0 when inserted. I believe this is because these cards do not have a valid PCMCIA CIS written to them. Looking at the source code in /drivers/pcmcia/ds.c it appears that rebuilding with CONFIG_MTD_PCMCIA_ANONYMOUS might work around that issue. I'll have to figure out how to go about rebuilding the kernel to give that a try.
    Sounds like you're almost there. Do you happen to have any program cards for some DEC controller, so that you can test and read it as well?

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