The VIA ITX DOS Computer

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The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby DECtape » 2015-12-28 @ 03:08

My old DOS computer shat itself, obviously that would not do and I needed a new DOS computer, because DOS Box is for boring people. I wanted to have a new DOS system that would be easy to move around to take to friend's places, and mostly I wanted an excuse to do a project using a VIA processor. Of the VIA boards I found on ebay the M1000 was the only one that had S-Video and RCA output, which I liked since it meant I could have the DOS computer with my classic game systems and run it on just about any TV, plus it came with ram, for a total of about $30s. The M1000 comes with a VIA C3 and S3 Unichrome AGP graphics, which presents some issues later on.

So when the board finally came I set it up on some hardboard, I had to use the power supply from my XP box since my normal test PSU only has 24 pin ATX power and the M1000 takes 20 pin ATX and no CPU power, and the CPU heat sink was in the way of the 24 pin connector.
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When I first came up with the idea for this project I was worried that the board wouldn't support the right IRQs for the PCI sound card I had to use, an Aureal Vortex 8830, in some ways the board is strange about doing things but thankfully the sound card turned out to be fine.

Initially I had the system plugged into my normal LCD test monitor, but with EGA and a number of VGA modes the S3 graphics does some strange things with timing so anything that isn't an old school CRT monitor just panics, I found a very old CRT in my parts pile (1991!) and used that temporarily. I need to find a better monitor though for it since due to its age that CTX monitor has gone dim and some games like Doom and Quake are unplayably dark.

Some games like Lucas Arts adventure games and most later DOS games (Doom, Quake, Daggerfall, RCR 486) run fine with an LCD monitor, but games like the actually gameplay of lemmings (not the menu) trip up anything that isn't multiscan.
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Once I figured out that everything worked I moved the hardboarded computer over to where I keep my retro games and changed it to be using the RCA out.
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Here you can see it installing daggerfall, the resolution on the TV its plugged into is a lot lower than the monitor, this is a big reason why I want to get it a proper monitor, not only so I can play things like SRSE and Lemmings on it but so that it will look decent doing it.
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I managed to find an ITX case with a 3.25 inch bay on the front, the Apex MI-008, and I ordered it from newegg for about $40, it came with a 250w power supply too which was nice, I was thinking I might use one of those tiny Thin ITX PSU's where the entire board is on the ATX connector since the whole system draws under 100 watts but this case came with a PSU so I used it instead, I'm not to worried about the quality of the unit since the system doesn't even draw half the PSU's rated power.


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Heres the finished system, it's a pretty tight case and it was obviously designed with SATA in mind. Because of how the hard drive and the disk drive mount I had to run two seperate PATA cables for each, which were hard to route. I was able to find some nice folded jacketed pata and floppy cables which made things a bit easier at least.

Heres the system in its current home.
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It runs Quake great, even when I run the game at 800x600, it doesn't seem to drop below 30, and at 480p or 360p it keeps a solid 60.
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So the ITX DOS system isn't without issues, some games like Dune 2 refuse to see extended memory and won't even run unless I physically un-plug the disk drive, and even then without any speech. But most newer titles run just fine. Also some demos like Machines refuse to recognize the Aureal Vortex 8830, and games that don't like soundblaster compatibles don't like it either, of course. Also any games written in turbo pascal like Tyrian and Jazz Jackrabbit just flat out make the system reset. No matter what speed the processor is it or what tool is used to slow it down, it just restarts.

Overall I would say it was a fun project, its neat having a DOS computer I can use like a retro game system and for later games and things that don't use CGA, which the S3 graphics just refuses to do, or EGA it works just fine and it was a fun project.
May your frames be high and your temps be low.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby Qbix » 2015-12-28 @ 08:41

*moved to Marvin*
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby PCBONEZ » 2015-12-28 @ 14:53

Looks like a fun project.
.
I have occasionally come across ITX boards that use a laptop Pentium-M on an i855 chipset.
Those -might- handle DOS a little better but you would have to research it.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby gdjacobs » 2015-12-28 @ 15:00

Makes me wish there was a PCI to ISA riser with a bridge chip for these applications.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby matze79 » 2015-12-28 @ 16:27

The EPIA 533 and 800 and earlier had Soundcards OnBoard which have DOS Drivers and Legacy Emulation through BIOS and viaaudio.com.
Working very well. I Once had a EPIA800 as Main Computer, with a V2 for 3D Graphics.
Played RTCW and Quake 3 a lot on it.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby Snayperskaya » 2015-12-28 @ 16:42

There are patches for those TP games with runtime crashes. I've had the reboot problem, but in my case I pinned it to EMM386. Dropped it in favor of UMBPCI, which worked pretty well and uses less RAM. I had it documented (not throughly, though) here: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=36222

and here (viewtopic.php?f=13&t=93&p=495) is a topic dedicated to the TP fix.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby DECtape » 2015-12-28 @ 17:40

matze79 wrote:The EPIA 533 and 800 and earlier had Soundcards OnBoard which have DOS Drivers and Legacy Emulation through BIOS and viaaudio.com.
Working very well. I Once had a EPIA800 as Main Computer, with a V2 for 3D Graphics.
Played RTCW and Quake 3 a lot on it.

Oh wow, I wasn't aware of that. I'll keep an eye out for EPIA 800/533s, the only one on ebay right now doesn't have audio unfortunately. I went with the M1000 because of the TV outs and the fact that it came with ram.

Qbix wrote:*moved to Marvin*

Oh thanks, I submitted it to DOS since I figured most of my issues were the kind of thing I was going to have to live with since I went with more out there hardware but I suppose never underestimate the power of this community.

Snayperskaya wrote:There are patches for those TP games with runtime crashes. I've had the reboot problem, but in my case I pinned it to EMM386. Dropped it in favor of UMBPCI, which worked pretty well and uses less RAM. I had it documented (not throughly, though) here: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=36222

and here (viewtopic.php?f=13&t=93&p=495) is a topic dedicated to the TP fix.

Thats very helpful, thanks, I figured I was going to have to live with it and that it was just some oddity of the way VIA implemented x86.


PCBONEZ wrote:Looks like a fun project.
.
I have occasionally come across ITX boards that use a laptop Pentium-M on an i855 chipset.
Those -might- handle DOS a little better but you would have to research it.
.

Yeah, if I had gone with Intel compatibility would probably have been way better but I wanted to do something using VIA.
May your frames be high and your temps be low.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby gdjacobs » 2015-12-28 @ 21:33

The VIA DOS drivers work for everything up to the VT8231 south bridge, so care must be taken in choosing boards. I've used the driver on a KT133 board with decent success, but I still prefer ISA cards for maximum compatibility.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby swaaye » 2015-12-29 @ 06:10

Moved to System Specs. ;)
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby matze79 » 2015-12-30 @ 16:30

The EPIA 800 has TVOut too, and most others have also, in some cases you just need to wire a composite video jack to a pinheader.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby bhtooefr » 2016-2-08 @ 13:44

Just be careful to not get an EPIA-5000A or EPIA-800A - those are missing the TV output, as well as the hardware necessary to drive it. (I just got a Wyse Winterm 9450XE, which has an EPIA-5000AW (which also adds a Wyse BIOS - my recommendation for anyone who gets one of those is to flash VIA's BIOS and then change the FSB to 133 MHz (that order is important), because Wyse dropped the FSB to 100 MHz and in their BIOS changed the multiplier to 5.5x), but for my application, I didn't care about the TV output.) It's also worth noting, however, that the EPIA-5000 and 800 don't have a floppy connector. For that, you'd want a VE5000 or V8000, which replaces the secondary IDE channel with the floppy interface. (Caveat: this, of course, means that you only get one IDE channel.)
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby betamax80 » 2017-12-03 @ 03:15

I'm very excited, I've just got an EPIA-800 boxed on ebay. Cost a fair bit due to shipping from USA to UK. I do have some nice STB Voodoo 2's at mums house, but it's hard to know what to do with a single PCI slot. I'm wanting to use it as a DOS / Win98 system (probably dual-boot Win2k and would like a BeOS flavour), but my current thoughts are to install a USB 2.0 card so that I can have flash memory storage + connect my XBox360 controller in win98. I know the 3D will be terrible.... it always is, but hoping the soundcard will be adequate in it's DOS emulation.

Finding 512mb sticks of PC133 is pretty tricky isn't it!
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby matze79 » 2017-12-03 @ 15:00

at least NOLF runs fine with the Trident Blade 3D :D
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby sprcorreia » 2017-12-07 @ 02:10

I've been through this. I have the same motherboard and I also have a DFI Celeron-M motherboard. Having only one PCI is really limiting. You have to rely on the integrated gpu if you want a better soundcard, or vice versa. The DFI translates to better DOS experience but it has its flaws... Using an ESS SOLO1 soundcard it works nicely with several games despite the 1200MHz clock speed. But others reboot the machine or just hang it...

If you want a good DOS machine nothing like old hardware.
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby mrau » 2017-12-07 @ 13:05

but i remember there was at least 1 popular product with more or less competent 3d and basic sound... - something 5d or so;
also there were pci riser things - if You're ready to swap the case;
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Re: The VIA ITX DOS Computer

Postby Richo » 2017-12-09 @ 18:52

looking good :cool:
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