VOGONS


First post, by pool7

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Long time lurker, first time posting; hope I'm not breaking any rule or etiquette.

For a while now I've been looking to build a proper retro machine for late DOS and Win9x.
Unfortunately due to lack of availability and excessive prices in my country (and customs being jerks with international packages), I'll have to postpone doing so.
In the meantime, I looked at laptops available around here, and bought the best I could find: Compaq Evo N400c (would have loved N410c or N600c, but couldn't find any locally).
I'm still waiting for it (hopefully it'll arrive by end of week or beginning of next week); however I'm already thinking about expanding and getting the best out of it, so I thought I'd post here some questions.
Note: My focus will be testing and messing around with Operating Systems (DOS, Win, OS2/eCS, BeOS, Linux, etc), boot loaders and applications from that era in general, with some light gaming every now and then (whatever the onboard graphics chip can support).

1-This specific model has a Pentium III @ 700MHz. In the event I wanted to max it out, what's the best/fastest processor I can replace it with that will run stable and not overheat?

2-I've been reading it supports up to 512MB RAM. Is there any way (soft/hard/modding) I could get it to 768MB or 1GB?

3-I want to replace the HDD with either SSD or CF. Keep in mind this is an IDE drive. I've seen many options and I'm kinda worried about compatibility.
Which of the following would be more compatible/stable for this system (if you can also recommend brands, much better):
PATA/IDE SSD (hard to come by around here, but I've seen one or two in the past)
CF to IDE adapter + CF Card
CF to IDE adapter + CF to SD adapter + SD Card
SATA to IDE adapter + SATA SSD (will this even fit?)

4-I'd also like to add a second storage, and was thinking one of the following:
PCMCIA CF card + CF Card
PCMCIA CF card + CF to SD adapter + SD Card
Any recommendations? Anything to be aware of in terms of compatibility (ie. would any CF card work with any PCMCIA card?)
While we are on the subject, I read CF cards can be either Fixed disk or Removable storage. Any easy way to identify these?

5-Should I consider recapping the mobo? I heard one of the main issues with old HW is capacitors leaking, so I'd love to prevent this.

6-While looking for drivers, I found for Windows 95/98 and XP.
Would Windows 3.x, Windows NT4 and Windows 2000 require any drivers?
What about OS2 and BeOS?

Any other suggestion is more than welcome 😀

Thanks in advance!

Reply 1 of 9, by Oetker

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1. A 700MHz mobile processor is probably a mobile Coppermine ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_I ... (180_nm)_2 ). It might be soldered on, making the rest of this discussion moot. As you can see, other Coppermine CPUs have a higher TDP, so it's a gamble whether the laptop's cooling system can take it. I have no idea if a mobile Tualatin P3 can be gotten to work, but even if the socket is compatible these either use a 133MHz FSB or lower voltage. Who knows if the machine supports that...

2. Find out what chipset it uses; find out if large-enough RAM sticks even exist in that format. However you're probably stuck with 512MB, which is fine for the CPU speed.

3. For storage I would recommend an M.2 to 44-pin IDE adapter and a cheap M.2 SSD (must be SATA M.2, not PCIe).

4. -

5. If the motherboard looks fine and you don't have any issues, leave it.

6. All operating systems require drivers, whether any are built-in depends on your specific hardware. What kind of video and sound card does it have?

Reply 2 of 9, by lolo799

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Hi, and welcome to Vogons!
Your username is familiar, I know you from AG/OG, right? I'm using unclejun there.

I'll answer what I can without knowing the model specs:
2)BeOS won't work with over 512MB of RAM unless you use a patch
3) CF to IDE is the simplest as CF card are IDE devices, the CF to IDE is a passive adapter, swap files in OSes will wear CF cards quickly though.
4) same answer here for PCMCIA to CF, it's a passive adapter, it will work straight in most OSes
6) if you have the laptop specs , you can check BeOS 5.0 compatibility list at https://web.archive.org/web/20000510030323/ht … list_intel.html
If there are no drivers for the graphic card available anywhere, here for example http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl, it should still work in high resolutions and colour using VESA modes in the boot menu.

Lots of OSes for you to try here: Retro OSes for retro computers

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 3 of 9, by pool7

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Oetker wrote on 2020-08-05, 13:54:
1. A 700MHz mobile processor is probably a mobile Coppermine ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Pentium_III_microproc […]
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1. A 700MHz mobile processor is probably a mobile Coppermine ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_I ... (180_nm)_2 ). It might be soldered on, making the rest of this discussion moot. As you can see, other Coppermine CPUs have a higher TDP, so it's a gamble whether the laptop's cooling system can take it. I have no idea if a mobile Tualatin P3 can be gotten to work, but even if the socket is compatible these either use a 133MHz FSB or lower voltage. Who knows if the machine supports that...

2. Find out what chipset it uses; find out if large-enough RAM sticks even exist in that format. However you're probably stuck with 512MB, which is fine for the CPU speed.

3. For storage I would recommend an M.2 to 44-pin IDE adapter and a cheap M.2 SSD (must be SATA M.2, not PCIe).

4. -

5. If the motherboard looks fine and you don't have any issues, leave it.

6. All operating systems require drivers, whether any are built-in depends on your specific hardware. What kind of video and sound card does it have?

Thanks for the quick reply.

Chipset seems to be Intel 440ZX; couldn't find it in the manuals I downloaded; however it is mentioned here and here

Video card: ATI Mobility M1 8MB

Sound card: ESS1988S Allegro

lolo799 wrote on 2020-08-05, 14:14:
Hi, and welcome to Vogons! Your username is familiar, I know you from AG/OG, right? I'm using unclejun there. […]
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Hi, and welcome to Vogons!
Your username is familiar, I know you from AG/OG, right? I'm using unclejun there.

I'll answer what I can without knowing the model specs:
2)BeOS won't work with over 512MB of RAM unless you use a patch
3) CF to IDE is the simplest as CF card are IDE devices, the CF to IDE is a passive adapter, swap files in OSes will wear CF cards quickly though.
4) same answer here for PCMCIA to CF, it's a passive adapter, it will work straight in most OSes
6) if you have the laptop specs , you can check BeOS 5.0 compatibility list at https://web.archive.org/web/20000510030323/ht … list_intel.html
If there are no drivers for the graphic card available anywhere, here for example http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl, it should still work in high resolutions and colour using VESA modes in the boot menu.

Lots of OSes for you to try here: Retro OSes for retro computers

Hey, nice to see a familiar face 😀

Thanks for the BeOS info and link; I'll be checking the compatibility and testing once it arrives.
I'll probably stick to CF to IDE then; seems like the more compatible option.

Reply 4 of 9, by chinny22

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My first IT job was given a N600, thant thing got carted around everywhere had all 3 of the multbay options (Floppy/HDD/DVD) and never let me down. Loved that thing 😀
Your's have the Wifi or bluetooth module that fits on top "multiport"? Always thought that was a very tidy way for an expansion slot. wifi is stuck at 802.11b though.

Client had a few 400's although they were in rough shape as they were assigned to a depatrment rather then a specif user. They had a hard life traveling round exabitions then chucked in rest of the luggage to get sent back to head office.
Anyway enough reminissing. 😉

Know from 1st hand exeperance that the 400 can take Win2k. Below guide also says Win98 and NT4
http://h10032.www1.hp.com/ctg/Manual/c01131049

I had Win98 installed on HDD multibay my 600 for testing, from memory (were talking 2002/03 here) everything used generic drivers
Looking at this video the CPU is fixed to the system board
https://youtu.be/qzXc5TlOOiU?t=216

Looking at the maintance guide you can get a system board with a 850Mhz CPU P/N 253104-001
http://tim.id.au/laptops/hp/compaq%20evo%20n400c%20n410c.pdf

Reply 7 of 9, by lolo799

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BeOS drivers for the graphics card http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl?search=mobility
and the soundchip http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl?search=maestro3
Maestro3.zip is newer and may work for you.

Otherwise your options are, from best to worst quality, an USB Audio device such as the Roland UA-100, an Onkyo SE-U33 (or later SE-U55 model), USB speakers, a LPT DAC/Covox clone on the parallel port or the good old PC speaker...
http://oweb1.osakac.ac.jp/ecip/old/be/technics/Be_sound.html
http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl?search=ua100
http://hp.vector.co.jp/authors/VA022515/index_en.html
http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl?se … -speaker.zip%22
http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl?se … l_port_audio%22
http://pulkomandy.tk/~beosarchive/index.pl?se … =%22pcsp.zip%22

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 8 of 9, by pool7

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Thank you everyone for your responses and suggestions/information 😀
I received the machine and it seems to be in pretty good condition; still need to do some disassembly+cleaning.
While I wait for my CF card to arrive (could only get a 32GB for now, but plan to go with at least 64GB in the near future), I've been testing some of the hardware and so far so good.
I'm also testing multiboot with BootIt Bare Metal and it works as expected so far (I wish it supported virtual floppy/cd/hdd).

My concerns at the moment are in terms of parts:
-according to this, the RAM must be 16-chip which unfortunately I can't find locally. Currently talking to some import company to see how much it would cost me.
-I took it apart just enough to look at the HDD and there's rust in the metal bracket that holds it firmly in. I need to check and make sure it hasn't spread elsewhere and see how I can remove it.

Once I get the CF card and all the OSs installed, I'll probably open a separate thread for showing and to detail the journey 😀

Reply 9 of 9, by pool7

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Update...

Good news: I bought some stuff to improve the experience, such as PCMCIA adapters/cards (CF reader, USB2.0+FireWire, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS) as well as an extra 16GB CF card that I'll be using as a 2nd drive with the PCMCIA adapter.
Due to the amount of OSes I wanted to install, I spent some time creating AIO CDs (one for DOS/Win3x/Win9x; another one for WinNT3.51/NT4/2k/XP) which, a couple of issues aside, work better than I thought they would. I was able to install all these OSes.
I then made a "pause" to look into drivers and basic utilities for the above. Plan was once I got these, I'd resume installing other OSes. Unfortunately...

Bad news: After getting all the basic drivers/software I wanted ready; I turned on the machine today and was greeted with it not recognizing the drive (32GB CF with CF-IDE44pin adapter).
The machine was not left plugged in and has no battery, so I can't blame a power surge or similar event. It just died. I tried another CF card; same result.
I then tried the CF-IDE44pin adapter with a USB caddy I have; not recognized.
I don't have another adapter, or a USB CF Card Reader to try the card (which I plan to buy next week anyway); however in a moment of light I tried the card in the PCMCIA CF reader, booting a Windows XP install CD and it was able to see the "disk".
Unfortunately the machine won't boot from PCMCIA; also, I can't find replacement adapters. I only found some overpriced alternatives (SD to IDE44pin adapter and SATA to IDE44pin adapter) that I can't afford (and wouldn't pay the asking price due to being ridiculously high).
To make matters worse, buying stuff internationally in my country is almost impossible.

So I guess I'm in a hiatus for at least some months until I can find a way to get things working.
I'll make sure to come back with future updates.

In the meantime, I'll happily listen to ideas.
Also, considering the CF to IDE44pin is pretty straightforward (ie. no chips/controllers involved) would it be possible to "repair" it somewhow? How would I go about identifying the possible root cause?

Thanks for reading 😀