VOGONS


First post, by Hezus

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A while ago I picked up two of these 90's thin clients:

9T0oCHw.jpg

This is a Equiinet Netpilot, which was used as a Linux based network firewall back in the late 90's. To this day, NetPilot is still a company and this was their first machine. However, they did not design the machine itself. It's a repurposed Viewpoint TC-100 from Boundless Technologies and was originally used as a text terminal.

yTDSJmN.jpg

Inside is a AM5x86 running at 133 Mhz, no L2 cache, ALI 1487 chipset, 2 ram slots, onboard VGA by Cirrus Logic, onboard network card. It has a header for IDE and FDD, although no possible spot for a floppy disk drive. There is a slot for a HDD in a bracket you can install. Mine came installed with a ISA riser card which will give you 1 expansion slot, but a PCI riser card is also a possibility.

All in all a pretty unsual and fun form factor to turn into a 90's MSDOS gaming pc! Or so I thought. The PC gave me all kinds of trouble and whatever disk images I tried, jumper settings I changed, it simply would not boot from the HDD or CF card I hooked it on to. I gave the other PC to my younger brother to test, but he was also greeted by a pitch black screen. After a long long time we somehow figured out that the system was actually booting but something was preventing the screen from showing any information. It seemed that the PC had a 4mb flash drive installed on the motherboard and loaded a program called SILENT.COM right on POST to black out the screen. This was probably a safety measure. Luckely the drive also contained the UNSILENT.COM program that gives you back the screen and there it was: a proper dos prompt! I've installed a CF card on a bracket in the PCI slot and a SB 16 CT2770 in the ISA slot and it was ready run some cool dos games! Performance is pretty alright with most early to mid 90's games, although the lack of L2 cache is a bit of a bummer.

However, it's still a bit of a boring yellowed box. I could restore it with some retrobrite but I knew I wanted to try something creative for this case and so I went with an AMD theme to highlight the CPU that makes it tick. I've handpainted the case and the AMD logo with a brush. The plastic front bezel was done with a spray can and I've designed and printed my own case badge for it.

As4DEFx.jpg
G6qpy4i.jpg
cXYvUnP.jpg
WLuxMJg.jpg

It turned into a pretty unique little machine and I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. Painting the case was quite time consuming and tricky. Would probably have been easier to spray paint it and then put a sticker on top but you got to stick to your choices, right? 😉

I'm still looking for a more advanced BIOS for this system. Apparently, there is a very similar motherboard made by (American) DigiCom that also features the Cirrus Logic VGA Bios but I was not able to find any info on such a machine.

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Reply 1 of 21, by Caluser2000

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I like seeing odd setups. You did a nice job there.

I've got a slim line HP system, 32156, and have never found any information about it. It's running an Intel p200MMX.

There's a glitch in the matrix.
A founding member of the 286 appreciation society.
Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.
Of course, as always, I'm open to correction...😉

Reply 6 of 21, by chinny22

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Thats pretty brave blanking out the screen. would of made troubleshooting a nightmare!
So it came with the 5x86? thats pretty impressive, also imagine how many have been thrown away by people that didn't realise it's just a PC inside 🙁

Shame about the cache but even still that makes a great dos machine and added bonus of been so compact.
I admit not a fan of the logo on the top (It's well done just personal taste) but I really like your case badge design

Reply 7 of 21, by Hezus

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Thanks for all the compliments on the case design 😀 I've ran a few DOS benchmarks for those interested.

Symantec System Info: 287,1
TopBench: 117
Superscape VGA Benchmark 1.0C: 37.0 fps
Superscape VGA Benchmark 1.0C: 36.3 fps
PC Player VGA: 17.9
PC Player SVGA: 6.8
Doom full detail: 2134 gametics / 1936 realtics
Quake (320 x 200): 13.3 FPS

chrismeyer6 wrote on 2020-11-22, 22:21:

Great job on that paint job. Does the motherboard have sockets to add L2 cache?

No, and no obvious spots where I could solder on some. It seems they really wanted to cut down on costs with this motherboard, which makes sense seeing what it was originally used for.

LightStruk wrote on 2020-11-23, 16:04:

That's terrific work. The paint job is both clean and tasteful. Where did you find this thin client, and are there more of them?

Found them on the Dutch equivalent of Ebay. The guy who sold them to me used them as firewalls (running IPCOP), but I'm not sure where he got them from. Boundless Tech had a range of these machines back in the 90's, so there might be more like them out there. Next to the TC100, there were TC125, TC200, TC300, TC320, TC325.

Here is an archived website with their TC catalog:
https://web.archive.org/web/19990219175806/ht … ss.com/network/

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Reply 8 of 21, by Hezus

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I've zipped up the contents of the 4mb flash HDD and attached them here. There are a bunch of networking programs in there that might be of interest to some people.

Attachments

  • Filename
    TC100.zip
    File size
    1.13 MiB
    Downloads
    24 downloads
    File license
    Public domain

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Reply 9 of 21, by his.lordship

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Hi,
Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine that i purchased a couple years ago as i thought it had this kind of pontential. Unfortunatelly it has been cracking my head since then 😀 Mine is a boundless viewpoint TC-200 it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now. Also mine didnt came with the power cable for the "hdd" at this point i have tested voltages on the connector and your picture confirms it's purpose. 😀 Mine when it try to boot a windows 98 boot disk for example, only shows part of the test and "then it seems it doesn apply newlines to the text" also cant input any text. Anyway i was wondering if could explain the part of when you ..." It seemed that the PC had a 4mb flash drive installed on the motherboard and loaded a program called SILENT.COM right on POST to black out the screen. This was probably a safety measure. Luckely the drive also contained the UNSILENT.COM program that gives you back the screen and there it was: a proper dos prompt!..." :p Mine also as someking of rom wich if i press F1 i think, it can do a network boot i guess. I mean did you had to remove and reprogam this flash drive? Could you describe the pocedure or indentify it in you board picture, i mean what did exaclty you do?
Thanks.
Best regards 😀

Reply 10 of 21, by Hezus

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his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:
Hi, Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine tha […]
Show full quote

Hi,
Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine that i purchased a couple years ago as i thought it had this kind of pontential. Unfortunatelly it has been cracking my head since then 😀 Mine is a boundless viewpoint TC-200 it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now. Also mine didnt came with the power cable for the "hdd" at this point i have tested voltages on the connector and your picture confirms it's purpose. 😀 Mine when it try to boot a windows 98 boot disk for example, only shows part of the test and "then it seems it doesn apply newlines to the text" also cant input any text. Anyway i was wondering if could explain the part of when you ..." It seemed that the PC had a 4mb flash drive installed on the motherboard and loaded a program called SILENT.COM right on POST to black out the screen. This was probably a safety measure. Luckely the drive also contained the UNSILENT.COM program that gives you back the screen and there it was: a proper dos prompt!..." :p Mine also as someking of rom wich if i press F1 i think, it can do a network boot i guess. I mean did you had to remove and reprogam this flash drive? Could you describe the pocedure or indentify it in you board picture, i mean what did exaclty you do?
Thanks.
Best regards 😀

Nice to see that someone else is working on these systems as well 😀 I'm glad that forums like Vogons still exist so this information doesn't disappear.

It's been a while since I was troubleshooting this, so I had to dig out the machine and check to see if I remembered correctly. So, this is how it works on the TC-100: There is a bit of code in the BIOS (which you can't access by going into the BIOS using F2) that forces the machine to load the SILENT program. SILENT will just render your screen black. So your boot disk might be working, but you can't see it. If you press keys and type stuff you might see the floppy drive/hdd light blink trying to load stuff. On the motherboard there is a chip with 4mb of flash memory, which contains some networking programs but also the UNSILENT.COM program.

What you need to do is add a drive (like a floppy drive, a HDD or a compact flash card) and put the UNSILENT.COM program into the first line of your AUTOEXEC.BAT. This will then bring back your screen and you can use the system. You can grab UNSILENT.COM from the zip in my post above. I suspect the SILENT program is somewhere embedded in the BIOS ROM, so you would probably have to read out the ROM chip with an EEPROM programmer and see if you can disable it with a HEX editor or something. If you can manage that, you should also be able to see the system boot info. I haven't tried any of that with my TC-100, though.

If you use a HDD/CF card, the 4mb flash drive on the motherboard will be assigned to D:\ and you can poke around there. If you do, please consider zipping everything up and post it here. I'm curious to see if the TC-200 has different software 😀 Good luck!

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Reply 11 of 21, by his.lordship

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Hi,
Thank your very much for your help 😀 I appologise for the late response must have notifications disabled and only now i rembered to check the post again 😀 Once again thanks. I will try some more tests and promise to give some feedback 😀
regards

Hezus wrote on 2022-01-11, 12:59:
Nice to see that someone else is working on these systems as well :) I'm glad that forums like Vogons still exist so this inform […]
Show full quote
his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:
Hi, Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine tha […]
Show full quote

Hi,
Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine that i purchased a couple years ago as i thought it had this kind of pontential. Unfortunatelly it has been cracking my head since then 😀 Mine is a boundless viewpoint TC-200 it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now. Also mine didnt came with the power cable for the "hdd" at this point i have tested voltages on the connector and your picture confirms it's purpose. 😀 Mine when it try to boot a windows 98 boot disk for example, only shows part of the test and "then it seems it doesn apply newlines to the text" also cant input any text. Anyway i was wondering if could explain the part of when you ..." It seemed that the PC had a 4mb flash drive installed on the motherboard and loaded a program called SILENT.COM right on POST to black out the screen. This was probably a safety measure. Luckely the drive also contained the UNSILENT.COM program that gives you back the screen and there it was: a proper dos prompt!..." :p Mine also as someking of rom wich if i press F1 i think, it can do a network boot i guess. I mean did you had to remove and reprogam this flash drive? Could you describe the pocedure or indentify it in you board picture, i mean what did exaclty you do?
Thanks.
Best regards 😀

Nice to see that someone else is working on these systems as well 😀 I'm glad that forums like Vogons still exist so this information doesn't disappear.

It's been a while since I was troubleshooting this, so I had to dig out the machine and check to see if I remembered correctly. So, this is how it works on the TC-100: There is a bit of code in the BIOS (which you can't access by going into the BIOS using F2) that forces the machine to load the SILENT program. SILENT will just render your screen black. So your boot disk might be working, but you can't see it. If you press keys and type stuff you might see the floppy drive/hdd light blink trying to load stuff. On the motherboard there is a chip with 4mb of flash memory, which contains some networking programs but also the UNSILENT.COM program.

What you need to do is add a drive (like a floppy drive, a HDD or a compact flash card) and put the UNSILENT.COM program into the first line of your AUTOEXEC.BAT. This will then bring back your screen and you can use the system. You can grab UNSILENT.COM from the zip in my post above. I suspect the SILENT program is somewhere embedded in the BIOS ROM, so you would probably have to read out the ROM chip with an EEPROM programmer and see if you can disable it with a HEX editor or something. If you can manage that, you should also be able to see the system boot info. I haven't tried any of that with my TC-100, though.

If you use a HDD/CF card, the 4mb flash drive on the motherboard will be assigned to D:\ and you can poke around there. If you do, please consider zipping everything up and post it here. I'm curious to see if the TC-200 has different software 😀 Good luck!

Reply 12 of 21, by his.lordship

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Hezus wrote on 2022-01-11, 12:59:
Nice to see that someone else is working on these systems as well :) I'm glad that forums like Vogons still exist so this inform […]
Show full quote
his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:
Hi, Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine tha […]
Show full quote

Hi,
Congrats! Awesome work! I was really happy to find your post! It just gave me some hope, since i have a similiar machine that i purchased a couple years ago as i thought it had this kind of pontential. Unfortunatelly it has been cracking my head since then 😀 Mine is a boundless viewpoint TC-200 it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now. Also mine didnt came with the power cable for the "hdd" at this point i have tested voltages on the connector and your picture confirms it's purpose. 😀 Mine when it try to boot a windows 98 boot disk for example, only shows part of the test and "then it seems it doesn apply newlines to the text" also cant input any text. Anyway i was wondering if could explain the part of when you ..." It seemed that the PC had a 4mb flash drive installed on the motherboard and loaded a program called SILENT.COM right on POST to black out the screen. This was probably a safety measure. Luckely the drive also contained the UNSILENT.COM program that gives you back the screen and there it was: a proper dos prompt!..." :p Mine also as someking of rom wich if i press F1 i think, it can do a network boot i guess. I mean did you had to remove and reprogam this flash drive? Could you describe the pocedure or indentify it in you board picture, i mean what did exaclty you do?
Thanks.
Best regards 😀

Nice to see that someone else is working on these systems as well 😀 I'm glad that forums like Vogons still exist so this information doesn't disappear.

It's been a while since I was troubleshooting this, so I had to dig out the machine and check to see if I remembered correctly. So, this is how it works on the TC-100: There is a bit of code in the BIOS (which you can't access by going into the BIOS using F2) that forces the machine to load the SILENT program. SILENT will just render your screen black. So your boot disk might be working, but you can't see it. If you press keys and type stuff you might see the floppy drive/hdd light blink trying to load stuff. On the motherboard there is a chip with 4mb of flash memory, which contains some networking programs but also the UNSILENT.COM program.

What you need to do is add a drive (like a floppy drive, a HDD or a compact flash card) and put the UNSILENT.COM program into the first line of your AUTOEXEC.BAT. This will then bring back your screen and you can use the system. You can grab UNSILENT.COM from the zip in my post above. I suspect the SILENT program is somewhere embedded in the BIOS ROM, so you would probably have to read out the ROM chip with an EEPROM programmer and see if you can disable it with a HEX editor or something. If you can manage that, you should also be able to see the system boot info. I haven't tried any of that with my TC-100, though.

If you use a HDD/CF card, the 4mb flash drive on the motherboard will be assigned to D:\ and you can poke around there. If you do, please consider zipping everything up and post it here. I'm curious to see if the TC-200 has different software 😀 Good luck!

Hi,

I am attaching the contents of my flash in case you want to take a look. My machine has however a strange behavior, i mean, i cannot boot anymore from floppy whether be a real drive or a gotek. The only way the system boots is if i insert a cf or hdd with a preinstalled windows 98. like a Disk on chip when a hdd is installed the 4mb flash becomes drive d. As you can see by my autoexec.bat my machine was already loading the unsilent.com. As i figured, when it booted with no hdd it would do its thing and when a hdd with a preinstalled copy of win98 was installed i just needed to give it its time, it gives some beeps, sometimes one, sometimes two and then it loads windows. Only in windows i could see the 4mb flash and floppy/gotek, if for example i went to command line only by pressing F8 on windows boot, the floppy became unacessible and there was no drive D. Unfortunately at the moment i think i might have broken my unit after i wipped the partions on D with fdisk. FDISK sees the disk but with incorrect size and fails to create a new partition. again if i insert an hdd with 98 it will boot into it, but not from floppys like windows 98 boot disk or ms-dos disks wont work. Indeed when i had my 4mb flash working and bootable, a clear autoexec.bat would not show the c:\ prompt, just a bliking cursor as you mentioned, after adding the unsilent line, the prompt would appear. Iam not giving up on it just yet 😀

Attachments

  • Filename
    TC200.zip
    File size
    1.54 MiB
    Downloads
    8 downloads
    File license
    Public domain

Reply 13 of 21, by digger

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There is just something about the "pizza box" form factor that aesthetically pleases me. Whether it's an Amiga 1000, Macintosh LC II, IBM PS/2 Model 30, or Tulip Vision Line DC, the slim look just looks nice. 🙂

Strangely enough, the higher beige desktop form factors such as the Amiga 2000 and the IBM PS/2 Model 70 never did it for me. Those just looked clunky in comparison, even if they were often more upgradable.

So yeah, this one looks nice!

Reply 14 of 21, by kvanderlaag

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his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:

it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now.

I have a TC -- I think -- 300 here, marked "TCII" or model 2990 here; its BIOS is also locked, and appears to be a PhoenixPICO 4.05, which I'm discovering does *not* use the same password checksum locations in the CMOS, so nothing I've found to try to reset the BIOS password has worked. I'm betting it's similar; mind sharing how you figured it out?

Reply 15 of 21, by Hezus

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kvanderlaag wrote on 2022-01-23, 01:15:
his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:

it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now.

I have a TC -- I think -- 300 here, marked "TCII" or model 2990 here; its BIOS is also locked, and appears to be a PhoenixPICO 4.05, which I'm discovering does *not* use the same password checksum locations in the CMOS, so nothing I've found to try to reset the BIOS password has worked. I'm betting it's similar; mind sharing how you figured it out?

If I recall correctly there was a jumper setting on my motherboard that wiped the cmos password. Might be the same for yours?

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Reply 16 of 21, by his.lordship

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kvanderlaag wrote on 2022-01-23, 01:15:
his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:

it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now.

I have a TC -- I think -- 300 here, marked "TCII" or model 2990 here; its BIOS is also locked, and appears to be a PhoenixPICO 4.05, which I'm discovering does *not* use the same password checksum locations in the CMOS, so nothing I've found to try to reset the BIOS password has worked. I'm betting it's similar; mind sharing how you figured it out?

Hi,
The password that i found only and used to access the bios was lambkeoghs it worked and since i unlocked it, it has been working ever since, one thing i wonder how does this machine keep track of bios settings, there is no cr2032 and when the power cord its connected its keeps settings, i suspect the blue cap. I also remember reading in the post where i found the password something about it being universal, anyway hope it works. regards.

Reply 17 of 21, by kvanderlaag

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his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-24, 21:16:
kvanderlaag wrote on 2022-01-23, 01:15:
his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-10, 16:09:

it came with a locked bios but i managed to found the password online i have passed that now.

I have a TC -- I think -- 300 here, marked "TCII" or model 2990 here; its BIOS is also locked, and appears to be a PhoenixPICO 4.05, which I'm discovering does *not* use the same password checksum locations in the CMOS, so nothing I've found to try to reset the BIOS password has worked. I'm betting it's similar; mind sharing how you figured it out?

Hi,
The password that i found only and used to access the bios was lambkeoghs it worked and since i unlocked it, it has been working ever since, one thing i wonder how does this machine keep track of bios settings, there is no cr2032 and when the power cord its connected its keeps settings, i suspect the blue cap. I also remember reading in the post where i found the password something about it being universal, anyway hope it works. regards.

Thank you! I can confirm that this did in fact work on the TC-II, and results in a four-byte diff in the dump of the BIOS ROM. This has saved me a huge headache, I really appreciate it.

Reply 18 of 21, by Hezus

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his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-24, 21:16:

Hi,
The password that i found only and used to access the bios was lambkeoghs it worked and since i unlocked it, it has been working ever since, one thing i wonder how does this machine keep track of bios settings, there is no cr2032 and when the power cord its connected its keeps settings, i suspect the blue cap. I also remember reading in the post where i found the password something about it being universal, anyway hope it works. regards.

In the TC100 the cmos battery is inside the Dallas clock chip. When I first got the PC I had to replace it to get the system to work at all.

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Reply 19 of 21, by his.lordship

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Hezus wrote on 2022-01-25, 07:09:
his.lordship wrote on 2022-01-24, 21:16:

Hi,
The password that i found only and used to access the bios was lambkeoghs it worked and since i unlocked it, it has been working ever since, one thing i wonder how does this machine keep track of bios settings, there is no cr2032 and when the power cord its connected its keeps settings, i suspect the blue cap. I also remember reading in the post where i found the password something about it being universal, anyway hope it works. regards.

In the TC100 the cmos battery is inside the Dallas clock chip. When I first got the PC I had to replace it to get the system to work at all.

Great 😀