VOGONS


Reply 20 of 35, by Half-Saint

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appiah4 wrote:

Minor update. The EPIA MB did not fit in the slim modern mITX case I had so I will have to try it in a mATX case which I was going to use for an AM3 build. That means it will be temporary but I can now use a PCI video or sound card in the build.

So.. Which do you think is the better idea? Drop in a high end PCI VGA like the Radeon 9250 or a nice PCI sound card with Legacy SB support such as a Solo-1 or an FM-801?

Actually, you can do both but you'll need a better case! If you use a PCI riser, you can use a sound card and a video card at the same time 😉

I got me this case years ago for about 70€ used: http://www.travla.com/business/index.php?id_p … troller=product

Oh and I wouldn't go as far as to call Radeon 9250 high-end 😉

Last edited by Half-Saint on 2018-03-01, 13:23. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 21 of 35, by appiah4

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Half-Saint wrote:
appiah4 wrote:

Minor update. The EPIA MB did not fit in the slim modern mITX case I had so I will have to try it in a mATX case which I was going to use for an AM3 build. That means it will be temporary but I can now use a PCI video or sound card in the build.

So.. Which do you think is the better idea? Drop in a high end PCI VGA like the Radeon 9250 or a nice PCI sound card with Legacy SB support such as a Solo-1 or an FM-801?

Actually, you can do both but you'll need a better case! If you use a PCI riser, you can use a sound card and a video card at the same time 😉

Oh and I wouldn't go as far as to call Radeon 9250 high-end 😉

It's not a case that can handle a Riser I'm afraid, so it's either a VGA or a Sound Card for me.

9250 is kind of high end for PCI, it's a decent DX8 part.. At least it's the fastest PCI card I have. I'm actually thinking of building this thing up and using it to behcnmark and compare the speed of various PCI video cards I have - I'm particularly interested in seeing where the Radoen 9250 PCI, GF2MX400 PCI, Radeon 7000 PCI and Matrox G450 PCI land with respect to each other.

Now, that sounds like a fun project..

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

Reply 22 of 35, by Half-Saint

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Got me thinking and I found this:
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/PCI-32bits-to … /481838031.html

You should be able to easily mount this inside an mATX case. Bet you could get it cheaper too...

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Reply 23 of 35, by Lazaros

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Not all risers will work with 2 ports. The only one that has worked on my MB is the via specific one. Here is a link if you are interested : http://www.itxcanada.com/index.php?p=product& … 1340&parent=195

Reply 24 of 35, by dionb

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appiah4 wrote:

[...]

So.. Which do you think is the better idea? Drop in a high end PCI VGA like the Radeon 9250 or a nice PCI sound card with Legacy SB support such as a Solo-1 or an FM-801?

Depends on whether you want to prioritise DOS (sound card) or Win9x/ME (GPU)

Lazaros wrote:

Not all risers will work with 2 ports. The only one that has worked on my MB is the via specific one. Here is a link if you are interested : http://www.itxcanada.com/index.php?p=product& … 1340&parent=195

The issue isn't just the riser but how the interrupt lines are wired on the board/slot. As the documentation for that is probably not available it's a matter of trial and error. YMMV.

Reply 25 of 35, by appiah4

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Well, I managed to grab a charming and small mITX case for very little..

sapphire-sp206-222485-223226.jpg

It's very compact and slim, and can't take any PCI cards whatsoever so I am stuck with whatever the EPIA has on board, which is Unichrome Pro graphics and AC97 Sound. Now that means no SB compatibility, so it kills most DOS game compatibility outright. Or does it? I have a few questions here.

1. I believe Windows 98 has some level of SB Pro compatibility for ALL sound cards as long as they work with WSS, this is handled through SBEMUL.SYS and by default emulates an SB Pro - is this reliable under Windows 98? Could I, if I install Windows 98 on this thing, get Legacy DOS sound with Win98 emulation (I realize that won't work with everything, but covering most things would be fine in my book).

2. As far as I can tell using VDMSound under Windows XP is another way to get Legacy sound here, and this does not sound like a terrible prospect - I can easily up the RAM on this thing to 1 GB and in a pinch it would be a usable Windows XP mITX build. Would using VDMSound under Windows XP be more friendly for DOS games than using SBEMUL.SYS under Windows 98?

3. Would using DOSBOX under Windows 98 or Windows XP be a solution? I have no idea just how fast a VIA C3-1000A is exactly, but a 1GHz P3 can emulate a DX2-66 according to DOSBOX so this thing can probably emulate something around a DX2-50.. This could be just fine for me, the most demanding games I will want to run in DOSBOX would be DOOM 1 and 2 - maybe this is just the way I should go?

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

Reply 26 of 35, by Byrd

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Slow performance aside, EPIA motherboards have been the most rugged, reliable pieces of hardware I ever used. I owned multiple EPIA 800 and EPIA-M (both used in various ways as HTPCs, gaming, emulators, outdoors under a deck) - and they never crashed, never got hot and just kept going. For years I wanted a PICO-ITX EPIA board, but they always went for too much.

Reply 27 of 35, by appiah4

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Nobody's responding to my question I see.. *sadface* I guess I will have to try them one by one. The prospect of Windows XP on 512MB RAM isn't exactly very enticing so I may consider starting with Win98 and SBEMUL.SYS (something I can't find much resource on..)

In other news, I've started building the system.. I was planning to use a 2.5" SATA HDD I had lying about, but the board has no SATA ports.. I wonder if it would be worth adding a slim DVD-ROM to this PC at all, as the case can accomodate it.

C3-1000_A_WIP_01.jpg

I'm kind of proud of the I/O backplate I cut out of cardboard for this build.

C3-1000_A_WIP_02.jpg

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

Reply 28 of 35, by BinaryDemon

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It might be worth it to try the VDMSound for Win9.x - Win9x + VDMSound **ALPHA** I have no experience with this.

DOSBox is definitely an option. I have some Wyse V90LE thin clients with Via C7 Eden 1.2ghz cpu's and the performance is very similar to DX4-100. I would guess your estimate for DX2-50 is probably accurate.

IDE to Sata adapters are pretty cheap, although personally I've never used one for an OS drive just for additional storage.

Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 29 of 35, by appiah4

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I have managed to find, among my pile of IDE carp, two drives with slim profiles that the hard drive can accomodate, one Seagate 20GB and one Samsung 20GB. I wen twith the Samsung as it was 3 years newer (2003) and most likely significantly faster and more silent. And yes, the case closed!

Now it can go to my backlog and wait in line for an OS install - I will start out by trying Win98SE and SBEMU.SYS, and see what results that yields. As the onboard sound has a WDM driver I believe I ought to have good results. If that fails, I will try VDMSound Win98 Alpha.

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

Reply 30 of 35, by betamax80

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A very important note is that on the EPIA-800 (and V6000 etc), the C3-Ezra process does NOT have PAE or CMOV support. From what I read this makes it strictly a 586 class CPU.
This restricts a lot of what you can do - for example even if you install Windows XP, you are limited to Firefox / Thunderbird v12.x browser, and as for Linux from what I read the latest mainstream release that can be used is Lubuntu 12.04, which dates from 2010. I love EPIA's and I like discovering and working around their quirks.

Reply 31 of 35, by betamax80

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Having just build (re-build) into it, my current (early 2020) case recommendation for an early EPIA build is the Novatech-branded mITX case: https://www.novatech.co.uk/products/novatech- … -c401black.html
I recommend a change of the case fan (80mm) to a noctua model, and use of an SFX power supply in order to give you somewhere to stash the excess IDE cable length - I used a 250w "Azza" SFX PSU from Ebay - it has 4-pin Molex connectors and fits the bill nicely.
By the way I had no idea how loud the supplied AVC CPU 40mm fan was, until I changed it for a Noctua 40mm --- this is a MUST DO in my opinion from now on.
The case takes a normal 5.25" internal optical drive behind that cover, and a 3.5" desktop HDD drive can also be installed if desired (I used one as already had one in previous build). 2.5" holes are there too.

Last edited by Stiletto on 2020-03-11, 06:20. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 32 of 35, by SirNickity

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betamax80 wrote on 2020-03-10, 13:22:

A very important note is that on the EPIA-800 (and V6000 etc), the C3-Ezra process does NOT have PAE or CMOV support. From what I read this makes it strictly a 586 class CPU.

Just ran into that a couple weeks ago trying to boot any of my recent (very liberal use of the term 'recent' here) Linux live CDs. I still had a 2009-ish Gentoo image that was compiled for i486, which worked, but unfortunately was too old of a kernel to chroot into newly extracted stage3 tarball, so I had to compile everything on a donor box running kernel 3.x.

I used to use a couple of Via EPIA boards for my appliance builds -- a Linux router and a NAS. They worked great. I regret throwing out one of them when it finally outlived its capacitors, running 24/7 in a warm laundry room for y-e-a-r-s. Dumb move, but at the time it was just a tool, and the replacement Supermicro board was better in every way.

Speaking of both replacement fans, and dumb moves, I picked up a couple 40mm Gelid fans from eBay. Super quiet little guys. Tried to solder the existing fan's short 3-pin cable onto the hub instead of the way-too-long cable it comes with. Not sure what exactly happened, but it never worked after that. Maybe the motor's windings came loose. So that was $15 down the drain...

Reply 33 of 35, by betamax80

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... @SirNickity - this sounds like the fun trials of mITX living 100%!
The noctua also has a cable which arches up and down, way too long but I have a feeling there's perhaps a resistive tolerance etc built into fans at this precision level.
I can't really believe how crippling the lack of CMOV support is - it restricts the version of all kinds of apps: Gimp is limited to v2.2, Firefox to v12 - no matter what you do to the Kernal, the CPU is the hard-limit.

Reply 34 of 35, by SirNickity

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I haven't used any of those older boards as desktops, but could you recompile Firefox and Gimp with the target architecture set to the C3? GCC has march codes for that. As a Gentoo user, I'm a little out of touch with how "most" Linux users live. Everything I have on any of my Linux boxen (except Chrome) is compiled from source by the package manager, using the environment variables defined in /etc/portage/make.conf. In theory, you could build a desktop install that would run on a 386, if you could shoe-horn enough RAM into it. haha

Reply 35 of 35, by betamax80

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Ideally for Win9x / DOS era that original EPIA-5000 / 800 or EPIA-V 800 / 10000 are the strongest choices due to the aforementioned VT8231 chipset with the older audio chip (and actually the onboard Trident graphics are handy in Win9x / DOS too). They struggle a lot with Windows XP sadly.
I found out that these boards were basically designed around the very expensive Mini-Box M200 / M300 cases originally.
I have found a case at Novatech (an old-time UK parts supplier) that is £28 shippped and really fits the bill for these boards. In my 2nd build using an EPIA-800 I am using a £23 CiT 300w PSU (and even that is overkill really).