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My ongoing 386DX/40 build

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First post, by keropi

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Hiya!

I decided to finally build a decent 386DX/40 pc after I dismantled a p1 machine and have a nice BabyAT tower free 😊

For the mobo I chose the Biostar MB-1333/40UCQ-A v1.1 (LINK) , soldered 386DX/40 and modded with CR2032 battery.
TheLastByte UMB driver works with the chipset so I also get hassle-free UMBs to use 😊

IMG02153-20130515-1426_zps3aae11f3.jpg

For VGA I had a choise of two 1MB cirus cards, a 5424 and a 5428. So I used the SPEA V7-VEGA CL-GD5428 one:

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... and a 1320C with the CMS chips:

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... and a SW-60XG for GM support (which btw I tested on the 8bit ISA slot and it works fine in games)

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... and the much needed NIC for easy transfers with mTCP

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for I/O I will be using this standard one, nothing special:

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plus the usual storage devices, a 1.44MB floppy - 20GB HDD (with DiskManager ofcourse) and a DVD-ROM all installed happily together:

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For sound I will keep those cards for now, I am planning though to get a series of external modules and connect them via a Roland MPU: a CM-32L , a SC-55 MK1 and a MU-80 (or MU-50).
Most likely when I get these modules I'll use them on my p1 build and install the LAPC-I it has on the 386DX build.
Maybe I'll also keep the SW-60XG on the 386DX so it has a GM synth too.
I am very satisfied with the 1320C but I'll try the 1350B with the CMS upgrade and see how that goes.

The only thing I found trouble with is Scitech Display Doctor and UNIVBE (same thing , just trying out versions)
The latest 6.53 version just freezes the machine.
The 5.3a version works but it freezes the machine in VBETEST -> quick compatibility test. Testing manually modes work.
I have gone to 5.1a but I still get this erratic behavior.
Changing VGAs does not help (tried the 2 CL ones and a WDC one) and I also left the machine to do a 16hrs memtest:

IMG02168-20130517-0912_zps3b968aa3.jpg

What I found is that changing the I/O card (had a different one installed before, now using the one pictured above) improved the univbe stuff but still not perfect. I also made tests with only vga/io installed and no memory managers at all, didn't made any difference in behavior.

I also found that the VGAs 0WS support was OFF, when I enabled 0WS the bandwidth in SpeedSYS went from 3892kb/s to 5604kb/s which improved things in games like Wolfenstein3D 😊 (tried disabling 0WS again in case it made a difference in univbe but no)

Is there a suggestion of the order the cards are installed? The ISA slots are numbered from top to bottom, does the order of the cards make a difference? I usually install the VGA and I/O in the first slots.

Other than this SDD/UNIVBE problem I had no other issues until now, I have been testing this combo on the bench for some time (with games 😁 ) and all seems fine...

As always any suggestions will be highly appreciated 😊

Last edited by keropi on 2016-04-03, 13:27. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 1 of 23, by Mau1wurf1977

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Wow very nice! What a nice machine.

Could you please talk more about the NIC and mTCP and how this works under DOS?

PS: I do have some spare Roland modules but shipping cost from Australia simply make it not worth it 🙁

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Reply 2 of 23, by keropi

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first of all I am sending a PM to discuss some module stuff 😉

about mTCP: you grab it here -> http://code.google.com/p/mtcp/
then you *need* to get the DOS packet driver for your NIC, depending on what chipset it has it could be a generic RTL driver or a specific one. It can be a 1-minute job or 1-hour to locate the proper driver though....
Once you have the driver you load it (all I've seen can be unloaded) with specifying a software interrupt (most common is 0x60) like this: C:\blah blah\<some driver name>.com 0x60
then you edit sample.cfg from mtcp package to suit your needs (saving it with a better name , everything is explained in setup.txt and ftp.txt) and fire up the ftp server executable 😉 You go to your main pc, use a ftp server and just do your file transfers easily, this 386DX gets ~500kb/sec transfer rate .
When you are finished you unload the nic_driver and continue as normal 😀

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Reply 3 of 23, by Mau1wurf1977

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Ah that's very neat...

I have currently settled on "eject-able" HDDs 😀 Will definitely make a video about it soon.

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Reply 5 of 23, by keropi

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@Mau1wurf1977
you mean those 5.25" HDD cases? most cheap ones I've seen on other people's pcs are somewhat crap... and I've also seen dead hdds because of these cases... just be sure yours are good made ones 😀

@Markk:
thanks! you know what took the most time to find? the babyAT case! 🤣

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Reply 6 of 23, by Mau1wurf1977

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They come in many shapes and forms. The 5.25" SATA are really good. I just ordered another one which is the same but has LED lights. There are also 3.5" ones for notebook drives. And CF cards of course 😀

I think I will settle for the 5.25" as it's the most robust and replace the 3.5" one with a 3.5" SATA CF card reader.

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Reply 7 of 23, by keropi

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ah, Mau1wurf1977 you are talking about new enclosures... the old IDE ones I saw were crappy, these seem well built

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Reply 8 of 23, by Mau1wurf1977

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There are still crappy ones 😀

The most expensive one with dual 3.5" and 2.5" slots basically fell apart. The handles at the front just snapped 😀

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Reply 9 of 23, by keropi

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It appears 0WS in vga is causing problems for me...
In simcity2000 I can see pixel errors and freeze on demo city load... disable 0WS and it works fine...
Also tried playing with mobo ram/cache waitstates, made no difference at all.

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Reply 10 of 23, by keropi

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Could it be that both CL cards I have are "too new" for the build? They are 1MB 5428 and 5429 ones. Different makers and both have the same problem with 0WS enabled.
It appears I am having more luck with this card (bracket removed due to cleaning in the pic) :

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It's a WD90C30-LR based one with a 8bit RAMDAC (so only 256 colors). I have not determined yet how much memory it actually has, SpeedSYS reports 768kb and UNIVBE reports 1MB.
As-is it scores ~5700kb/sec in SpeedSYS (same as CL cards with 0WS enabled) and it does not show the gfx corruption/lockups in SimCity2000.
Anyone knows what the 4 jumpers on the block and on the card do? I haven't been able to identify it completelly yet... At first I did not pay attention to this vga, but seeing it works OK and being fast as well I have no real issues of not using it... it's not like a 386DX will run stuff with more than 256 colors 😉

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Reply 11 of 23, by Mau1wurf1977

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Does it make much difference? For speed a 386 won't cut it anyway (Doom or Descent). I'd just get a stable system and be happy with it.

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Reply 12 of 23, by keropi

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Well, the CL cards without 0WS have choppy framerate even in Wolfenstein3D ... IMHO it does not worth having them if you can't have 0WS.
That WD card is OK and has the same speed, seems almost unbelievable....

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Reply 13 of 23, by Mau1wurf1977

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Oh I see. What difference is there in 3DBench?

Hmm this is the thing, as a kid we had a 386 and I didn't have a clue about any of this. Who knows how much the machine could have been tweaked...

My current understanding is that you want all the memory and cache chips to be as fast as possible for low WS settings.

If the WD card does the job and has an ok video output just go with that!

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Reply 15 of 23, by keropi

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^ thanks for that, will give a shot with the interlace settings and see if we have a match

I also found a UMC UM85C408AF vga, will give it a test... who knows 😉

th_IMG02180-20130517-2345_zps2502f968.jpg th_IMG02182-20130517-2346_zps0cc107bb.jpg

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Reply 16 of 23, by mbbrutman

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Keropi is obviously a fan, but I think it is even simpler than what he wrote.

Take a look here for an overview of what mTCP does:

http://www.brutman.com/mTCP/

And then download it from Google Code:

http://code.google.com/p/mtcp/

The short story is that mTCP gives you a small fast FTP client, FTP server, Telnet client, IRC client, etc. It doesn't take a lot of storage, it doesn't require a lot of RAM, and it runs very fast even on an 8088 class machine. It has a DHCP client for use on modern network. You can preview it using the HAL 9000 megabuild of DOSBox or a virtual machine.

You can use the MS LANMAN package for simple drive letter access. But for everything else, there is mTCP.

Mike

Reply 17 of 23, by keropi

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^ yes, yes I am! 😁

Regarding the build, I have improved stability when using "The Last Byte" umb driver by DISABLING in BIOS/ADVANCED OPTIONS the Memory Remapping option.
With it enabled Jazz Jackrabbit would crash on startup. By disabling it all is good again but you do lose some ~192kb from above the 640kb... with a 8MB 386DX this is hardly an issue and a good trade off 😀

I tried using other UMB drivers like HiRam, DOSMAX, URAM and RDOSUMB but none could work with the mobo's 82C3491 chipset... it's either TLB or nothing 😒

edit: meh, don't know what's up with the mobo but win3.11 won't run with EMM386 or himem+tlb ... you only need to have himem loaded else they dump you back to dos after the boot logo. I can see TLB causing problems but EMM386? 😵
starting to think it's not that great motherboard, looking to get another

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Reply 18 of 23, by keropi

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I am reviving this topic because in the last couple of days I started working again on this 386DX40 build 🤣 , this time starting from scratch. I installed PC-DOS 6.3 (old habits don't die) and WfW3.11 .

I installed a 10GB HDD with the help of OnTrack Disk Manager, so I have 8GB of usable space in 4x FAT16 partitions. Not sure if I will keep all 4 of them, maybe I remove a couple with FDISK so I don't have a bazillion drives showing up.

Currently in use is the same WD90C30-LR based vga pictured above, it's proven to be fast and with a really nice output quality, no problems whatsoever with LCD monitors. I stated above that it does not support more than 8bit color - even if the card has 1MB of vram installed, I find that a little strange and rendering the 1mb vram useless 😵
At first I used the easily found Paradise VGA 90C30 driver, it installed the usual resolutions of the era with various color depths: 16/256/32K colors. Ofcourse the 32K color depth did not work at all in WfW3.11 . Going to DOS and UniVBE I also discovered that only 16 and 256 color modes were enabled. Further investigation suggests that only "Paradise branded" cards can display more than 256 colors - no idea who made them , the card I use is a Peacock one.
So I stumbled on this page on driverzone.com and grabbed "90c3031.exe" which has this note:

Generic Windows 3.1 drivers for non-Paradise products using the Paradise WD90C30 chipset

Installed and and behold: no modes with more than 256 colors :

eNvvDX5.jpg

(needless to say I did try 3 more different WD90C30 drivers, nothing with more than 256colors worked...) .
I still find it strange , maybe there was a specific Peacock driver available but I could not find one....

As for the system's sound needs I decided to install my SW20-PC and take a bunch of pics of the Yamaha software for windows since it's quite interesting 🤣

First of all some Voyetra software in included, not gonna bother with it unless someone wants more info:

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then the good stuff: the Yamaha programs specific to the card 😎

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VoiceMorph , a fun application that applies preset DSP effects on mic/line inputs :

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EffectGear, a tool to quickly load dsp presets you have created:

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EffectEdit, that's the main toy IMHO: lets you create dsp presets from scratch - has options that I don't know how to use 🤣
You get to chose from 4 types of dsp setups and adjust them to your needs:

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SampleEdit, a tool that I suppose lets you create *.OPL sample files to upload to the card's sram:

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lastly, the card's drivers , it works as a "Windows Sound System" compatible in a windows environment:

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That's all for now , gonna continue install software to the machine and see how things progress with it... for now it has been a great experience 😊

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Reply 19 of 23, by Cyrix200+

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Man, that is one cool machine! Keep it up! I have a similar motherboard, without a CPU though. I'll have to see if I can find parts...

1982 to 2001