VOGONS


The Budget 1997 OS/2 Warp PC

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First post, by appiah4

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1997 saw quite possibly one of the largest leaps in computing performance in the history of computers. Pentium II hit the market and the 3D Graphics Acceleration was in full swing. If you invested heavily in a computer mid-1996, it was probably half obsolete by mid-1997. MS-DOS was nearly done and gone, Windows 95 had gained incredible traction and we were finally pushing the limits of the PCI Bus and 66MHz FSB.

I know, because I was riding that obsolescence wagon: I had upgraded to a Pentium 133 in late 1996.

But believe it or not, not everyone needed monster CPUs and 3D accelerators at the time. I was one such user with completely different needs: I needed a reliable multi-tasking OS to run my BBS in the background while I was surfing the internet, experiencing multimedia and playing DOS games. So I soldiered on with a Pentium 133 all the way until mid-1998, and ran an OS that not many were familiar with:

300px-Warp3-Boot.jpg

Of course, the Pentium 133 was ancient by the time I managed to upgrade to a Pentium II 300 with a Voodoo 2 8MB in 1998. At many points I considered an inexpensive upgrade during 1997, but for personal reasons, and for having to replace a rather expensive external modem at some point, it never happened.

This build has its roots in the cheap-o 1997 PC I would have upgraded to if it ever came to that, but it also attempts to do one more thing: build a fast MS-DOS PC that I can easily capture video output from using its S-Video out.

This thread will be my build log as I put together (and change my mind on) the hardware, install the software and troubleshoot all the quirks.

Here are the system specs I am currently planning:

Case: NOS AT Mid Tower (ST)
PSU: NOS Chen Guang 230W AT
Motherboard: ZIDA 5STX
CPU: Cyrix mII-233GP (75MHz)
RAM: 64MB SDRAM PC100
Video Card: Butterfly 6326-TV2I PCI (SiS 6326)
Sound Card: DataExpert MED2000 (OPTi 82C929/OPL3)
NIC: 3Com 3C905 10/00 PCI
Storage: CF-IDE (Kingston 4GB CF)
Optical:
LG 52x CD-ROM
Removable: 1.44MB 3.5" FDD & GOTEK (Flash-Floppy)

Also considering the following alternatives:
- ATI All-In-Wonder Pro PCI as the video card (as it almost certainly has better video out) but it was a premium part that doesn't mix well with the build theme
- Sound Blaster 16 CT2290 as the sound card (as it is what I had at the time) but I want a bug-free MPU-401 this time around.

Here are the parts I am using then..

ZIDA-5-STX.jpg Cyrix-MII-233-75-MHz.jpg

Butterfly-6326-TV2-I.jpg Expert-Media-MED2000.jpg

Stay tuned for more photos and videos of my failures in this endeavor.

Last edited by appiah4 on 2020-02-25, 05:27. Edited 3 times in total.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 2 of 25, by canthearu

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This is a great idea for a build.

I remember trying OS/2 at once stage, but being sorely disappointed in it. Linux was much more captivating at the time.

A lot of it probably had to do with the hardware I was running though. (Cyrix 486DLC-40mhz I think with 8meg ram)

I wonder what it would be like if I gave it "good" hardware instead.

Reply 3 of 25, by appiah4

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The cause I had meant to use for this build is NOS but was stored in a humid (and somewhat mouldy) storage for over a year now, so when I snuck it into the house, it got immediately vetoed for stinking. It has been sitting in a balcony to ventilate for a few days. I will then wipe it down with a perfumed silicon based cleaning spray and some microfiber cloth to see if that completely resolves the issue; otherwise it will have to be taken apart and given a bath, which I am not entirely looking forward to. As such, no real progress on the build or photos of the case so far.

I have, in the meantime, been contemplating some build decisions.

First of all, I am no longer so sure about using a CF-IDE for storage in this build, especially as it is not exclusively an MS-DOS PC. As such, I have decided to use this for storage instead:

Seagate_ST38410A.jpg

8.4GB (8.2 in practice) give me enough room to explore installing a third OS which would support networking and USB mass storage devices, thereby making transferring files to and from this system a lot easier. This OS will be Linux. To accomodate these thre OSes, I will partition the hard drive as below:

ST38410A
+- C: Primary FAT16
| [MS-DOS] 1.0GB
+- Extended
.+- D: Logical HPFS
.| [OS/2 Warp] 1.0GB
.+- E: Logical HPFS
.| [OS/2 Warp Storage] 2.0GB
.+- F: Logical FAT16
.| [MS-DOS Storage] 2.0GB
.+- G: Logical ext3
.| [Linux] 2.1GB
.+- H: Logical swap
.. [Linux Swap] 128MB

As for which Linux to go with, I am not sure. I have had experience with installing and using PuppyLinux 4.1.2 Retro on Pentium class hardware with 64MB RAM in the past and it was workable if not a very fluid experience. With this, I am considering doing a genuine retro kernel 2.4 distro install (such as SuSe 7/8, RedHat 7/8) or simply install PuppyLinux 4.1.2 Retro (kernel 2.6) and call it a day. The former would allow me to do create interesting videos about using a less known retro OS, the former would give me peace of mind. Still undecided.

In the meantime, I am still considering the idea of using the ATI All In Wonder Pro PCI instead of the SiS 6326 PCI as the video card in this system as graphics performance will be more important now that Linux is in the equation, but a card that cost $499 upon release in 1998 still feels like a terrible for for this build. But still, look at how funny the SiS card looks next to the AIW 😁

ATI-All-In-Wonder-Pro.jpg Butterfly-6326-TV2-I.jpg

I wish I could find an S3 Virge with S-Video out locally 🙁

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 4 of 25, by amadeus777999

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Always nice to see a system using OS/2.
I had it installed back in 95 on a P60 but used mostly pure DOS as there were no OS/2 applications that I depended upon. I would go for the gfx card with the better output signal.

Reply 5 of 25, by appiah4

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Let me tell you about my (mis)adventures in building this PC.

I set down to put the thing together, and managed to install everything excluding the hard drive. To my amazement it all just went into the case perfectly and smoothly - this almost never happens.

Cyrix-m-II-233-GP-Build-03.jpg

So when I decided to go for the smoke test, I was a bit nervous. I never had a computer actually produce smoke before, but you never know..

And of course, the strangest thing happened. Within seconds of turning the PC on, I could smell something funny. Within a few more seconds I knew it smelled like something burning, so I turned it off, and took it apart. I found nothing to be scorched or burned, and the funny smell was coming from the PSU. Opening the PSU, I saw nothing weird. The case and PSU are NOS and sat in a damp moldy storage for a few years, so for all I know, I was burning some good old mold when I turned it on. Next time I tried to turn it on, the burning smell was gone. But apparently I had already fried something more crucial to the system because I got no VGA signal out of this system, no POST beeps - no nothing.

In hindsight, I may have misunderstood the manual wrong. Here is what it says:

For MMX or other split power plane CPU, JP8 must be fully opened before turning on the system power. Failure to do so may cause damages to your CPU. For Non-MMX or Non split power plane CPU, JP8 must keep closed.

JP9 is used to hold the jumpers when JP8 is fully opened

Well.. this is what JP8 and JP9 look like:

JP8 JP9
+--+-+
+oo+o+
+oo+o+
+oo+o+
+oo+o+
+--+-+

I interpreted the above to mean that I should jumper it this way for a split plane CPU such as the mII:

JP8 JP9
+--+-+
+oX+X+
+oX+X+
+oo+X+
+oX+X+
+--+-+

This was, very probably, very wrong. After trying to power on the system a few times, I moved the jumper one more step to what I think the manual actually tried to mean:

JP8 JP9
+--+-+
+oo+X+X
+oo+X+X
+oo+X+X
+oo+X+X
+--+-+

But this changed nothing. *sigh* Not that I think it matters, if JP9 is for holding jumpers it's probably not connected to anything so shorting the right pins of JP8 to JP9 should have done nothing?

Regardless, removing the RAM and reseating the CPU did not help either. So now I either burned my Cyrix mII CPU, or hopefully it's something a lot simpler. According to zida-bios.com this board actually requires BIOS version 1.30 to recognize Cyrix mII CPUs:

BIOS File name: 5stx130e.zip BIOS ID: Award 2A59IZ1DC […]
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BIOS File name: 5stx130e.zip
BIOS ID: Award 2A59IZ1DC

Add support for AMD K6-2 (I detect myself as K6-3D).
Add support for Cyrix MII.
IDT WinChip 2 is not supported by this version.

So tomorrow I will try to make this PC POST with a Pentium MMX 166 CPU and see if I can get that to work. If I can, I will just prepare a BIOS flash floppy and get that done, then move back to the Cyrix mII. If not, well.. I'll come back here and cry to you some more and let you know I had to proceed with this project using an AMD K5-PR166 I suppose 😁

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 7 of 25, by appiah4

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Well, so do I! I'm ready for the challenge tonight:

Cyrix-m-II-233-GP-ZIDA-BIOS-Update-Disks.jpg

Intel-Pentium-MMX-200-B.jpg
It looks like a Pentium Overdrive but it's actually an MMX with integrated cooler

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 9 of 25, by appiah4

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canthearu wrote on 2020-01-30, 12:35:

Thats the same CPU package and fan as my 233mhz Pentium MMX system has!

This one is a 200MHz part, but it's only temporary. It was just the first S7 CPU I got my hands on.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 10 of 25, by appiah4

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I come bearing news, good and bad. First the good. The mII is probably good because a working MMX-200 did not help POST either. Ultimately I realized the PC speaker was connected wrong so once I fixed that I got continuous beeping, meaning RAM trouble. No <=64MB DIMM I tried in this PC actually got around the issue, so I said "Fuck it" and installed a pair of 32MB 72-pin EDO SIMMs in Bank 0 hoping it would POST.

It did not, but the beeping stopped. Now it just starts up and hangs before POST with nothing on screen and no beeping.

I removed all other expansion cards and dropped in a POST Analyzer card into an ISA slot, and I got this:

Cyrix-m-II-233-GP-POST-Card-01.jpg

So bF, the last completed step is: Program the chipset. Chipset initialization; Program chipset registers with setup values.

And 0d, the step it hangs at is: Program some of the chipset's value. Measure CPU speed for display. Video initialization including MDA, CGA, EGA/VGA. Initialize video interface; Detect CPU clock; Read CMOS location 14b to find out type of video in usei Detect and initialize video adapter. OEM specific-Initialize matherboard specific chipset as required by OEM; initialize each controller early when cache is seperate from chiset, 8254 timer, channel 2 test.

So yeah, that's a mouthful, but I am kind of thinking maybe this SiS 6326 PCI card I have in there is not playing ball with the 430TX chipset, somehow.. Any other ideas? I will try a few other PCI video cards in this PC tomorrow.

EDIT: Yes, I was right. I thought I would re-seat the graphics card just in case, so when I removed it to visually check it, I realised a capacitor (CB15) was missing between the chip and the edge connector:

Cyrix-m-II-233-Si-S6326-Damage.jpg

Any ideas what value this CB15 may be? I'm not feeling great about my prospects of blindly replacing it 😒

ATI All-In-Wonder Pro is going into this system tomorrow, and the SiS 6326 is going back to storage to await being repaired when I know what to replace CB15 with. At least this fault means I don't have to decide between the more thematic and the objectively better card, eh..

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 12 of 25, by appiah4

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canthearu wrote on 2020-01-30, 22:05:

I don't think that capacitor is particularly important for this card. Try it another computer.

I will do that, eventually but I am fairly certain it is this card that is at fault. Out of curiosity I removed the SiS 6326 card from the PC completely, and powered it on. This time the POST process actually proceeded beyond 0d and after the computer beeped to let me know that no VGA was found, the process went smoothly all the way up to 4F (which is "Ask Password Security" - so maybe another hurdle to jump through will be that this motherboard's BIOS has a password set 😒 We will see.)

As such, I will first try this build with another PCI card tomorrow.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 13 of 25, by canthearu

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Yep, you could be right -- the SiS card is probably faulty. That missing capacitor probably isn't enough by itself though.

I'd be on the lookout for an S3 Virge or similar card, as would be typical in a computer of that vintage. I'm pretty sure OS/2 has drivers for that.

Edit: It doesn't have a dallas realtime clock, so I don't think there is a password set still, just that it is sitting on the error screen (Press F1 to contrinue) or something like that

Reply 14 of 25, by appiah4

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canthearu wrote on 2020-01-31, 00:47:

Yep, you could be right -- the SiS card is probably faulty. That missing capacitor probably isn't enough by itself though.

I'd be on the lookout for an S3 Virge or similar card, as would be typical in a computer of that vintage. I'm pretty sure OS/2 has drivers for that.

Edit: It doesn't have a dallas realtime clock, so I don't think there is a password set still, just that it is sitting on the error screen (Press F1 to contrinue) or something like that

The main purpose of this PC is getting quality S-Video out of a DOS environment and I have no S3 Trio or Virge cards with S-Video out let alone even Composite out.. 🙁

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 15 of 25, by appiah4

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More progress. We have POST.

Intep-Pentium-MMX-200-POST.jpg

And as you may have noticed, it's with a Pentium MMX CPU. Even with the 1.30 BIOS, the mII does not POST. I guess I now know what it was that smelled like burnt cable when I did the initial smoke test. Farewell, Cyrix mII - I barely knew thee.

images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcQ-BenxI4tseEvTcQNIIKPE36u7v3fVHq-aq90cAI0rEtFyZEDj

My woes do not end here, though. Everything works but the hard drive - the system does not detect the 8GB Hard Drive. Either the drive is dead or the BIOS has some really bullshit low max drive size limitation. Too tired to investigate tonight though.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.

Reply 16 of 25, by gdjacobs

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You can try manually setting the geometry. A CHS of 1024:256:63 would put you at the Int13h limit. An LBA drive won't care as it just translates CHS data into linear addressing.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 18 of 25, by gdjacobs

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Only if 1024:255:63 doesn't work first.

If it works, you can easily implement a firmware limit for most drive brands (pretty much all but WD) using their disk utilities. That way disk probing will function properly.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder

Reply 19 of 25, by appiah4

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Neither 1024/255/63 nor 1023/255/63 seem to work, both hang at POST after a very suspiciously long Primary Slave detection step (there is no Slave connected on the Primary chain). It's not a hard lockup, however, I can hit DEL and go into BIOS at this point. It's almost as if it's trying to communicate with the Hard Drive and failing.

AMD-K5-PR133-POST.jpg

I took the Hard Drive out of the case and I don't seem to get any sound or vibration from it when powered up, it feels absolutely dead as a doorknob so the control card may have failed completely or whatever - I will try a 20GB hard drive with the system tomorrow and we will see what that does.

Oh, in case you missed it, we have a new CPU. After a thorough investigation of CPU pricing in late 1997 I swapped out the MMX-200 for a K5-PR166, though I plan to eventually replace that with a 6x86MX-200 or K6-200. For now, the K5 seems like a great DOS & OS/2 chip. I could even play some 300x200 Quake on it, if I am a bit modest about my expectations I feel.

Retronautics: A digital gallery of my retro computers, hardware and projects.