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FMA7600 and booting from PCMCIA

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First post, by bjwil1991

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Heller, I'm attempting to boot from a PCMCIA CF adapter with a 2GB CF card on my FMA7600 laptops. Both are Pentium laptops (one is 90, the other is 120) and only 1 has a hard drive caddy.

Unfortunately, I cannot get the CF card to boot from it on my laptops. I have the PCMCIA boot enabled and I copied the files from the diskette to the CF card since the diskette can access it no problem with the PCMCIA drivers and UNATA (14-day trial).

Not sure how I can get the drive to boot successfully and I don't see any place to do that. Would I need to reformat the drive and start fresh and see if that does anything?

This is the card I'm using:

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Reply 1 of 20, by Thermalwrong

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Try a smaller drive to start with, a 256MB just to see if that makes a difference. Perhaps it doesn't like drives over 504mb over PCMCIA. Your adapter should be fine as-is, a CF card is just IDE / PCMCIA ATA in slightly different packaging, pretty much.

Also, from the Thinkpads forum where they've been getting their thinkpads to boot from PCMCIA, sometimes it requires disabling an IDE interface: https://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=132765
And possibly ensure that the CF card is bootable directly.

What does the PCMCIA boot option look like?

Reply 2 of 20, by bjwil1991

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This is what it looks like:

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Also tried a 64MB CF card from my Compaq Portable XT and no dice with that either unless I boot from the diskette and access it that way.

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Reply 3 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Also, the option ROM is not active and no program to activate it in DOS. I'm scratching my head on this one.

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Reply 4 of 20, by bjwil1991

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And divide overflow errors. Fuck.

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Reply 5 of 20, by Bondi

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It also matters which tool you use to make a partition on the CF card. Note posts 10-13 in that very thread on Thinkpads forum that Thermalwrong posted the link to.

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart
archive.org: PCMCIA software, manuals, drivers

Reply 6 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Found out the diskette died.

Made a new one after archiving the contents from that diskette. Hope it works this time.

Nope. Still nothing. Even the Phoenix Card Management 3.01 says cannot read PCM.INI or cannot find PCM.INI, even though it's on the diskette.

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Reply 7 of 20, by Bondi

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bjwil1991 wrote on 2023-09-28, 06:59:

Found out the diskette died.

Made a new one after archiving the contents from that diskette. Hope it works this time.

Nope. Still nothing. Even the Phoenix Card Management 3.01 says cannot read PCM.INI or cannot find PCM.INI, even though it's on the diskette.

That Phoenix installer doesn't run from a diskette for some reason. Erros "cannot find pcmss.exe" or pcm.ini. But it runs fine from a directory on C drive.

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart
archive.org: PCMCIA software, manuals, drivers

Reply 8 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Man. I was hoping I'd get the thing to work off of a diskette so I can access the CF card. Would this make the CF card bootable on a caddi-less/hard drive-less laptop?

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Reply 9 of 20, by Bondi

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You can add the lines to your config.sys on the diskete manually, and change the path to A:\ (obviously) + add pcmfdisk.exe to the diskette. The only nuance is that pcmss.exe is created upon installation and depends on your controller.
DEVICE=C:\PCM3\CNFIGNAM.EXE /DEFAULT
DEVICE=C:\PCM3\PCMSS.EXE
DEVICE=C:\PCM3\PCMCS.EXE
DEVICE=C:\PCM3\PCMRMAN.SYS
DEVICE=C:\PCM3\PCMSCD.EXE
DEVICE=C:\PCM3\PCMATA.SYS

PCMCIA Sound Cards chart
archive.org: PCMCIA software, manuals, drivers

Reply 10 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Shit. That's what I did wrong.

I put it as DEVICE=PCMSS.EXE, which might've or did cause confusion.

Going to redo the config file once I get done cloning the main HDD to the CF card.

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Reply 11 of 20, by Thermalwrong

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I searched for the string of text from the BIOS screenshot that you posted and it's not great news: https://swarmik.tumblr.com/post/6342218843131 … mcia-i-recently
Looks like this type of PCMCIA boot requires the older / more difficult to attain linear flash PCMCIA cards and doesn't know what to do with ATA flash disks.

For the Phoenix card manager problems, perhaps you could try out my boot disk that initialises PCMCIA using Card Soft: PCMCIA CF Cards on an old 486 Laptop

Reply 12 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Well, I'm screwed. Is there a way to update the BIOS to support ATA/CF on the fly? I'm unable to find a caddy for the one laptop and no easy way of making a converter adapter from 44-pin IDE to edge connector.

...Or I can desolder that POS edge connector off of the laptop with a 44-pin IDE connector (female pins) and get a long enough 44-pin IDE male to male cable so I can install the CF2IDE adapter and tape the side where the drive resides, which might be a bad idea. If that won't do anything (not going to touch anything until I do more research) or if I don't touch that, I might see if PLoP Boot Manager will make it work.

But, with the CF2PCMCIA card installed, I can transfer files from my MacBook Air M1 or my phone to the formatted CF card (formatted from the system, that is and not the MacBook since it formats it as FAT32) to the drives or as a secondary storage (well, for the OS files and stuff).

Another thing I might do is fabricate a PCMCIA ATA/SD and GamePort/MIDI card so it'll have the best of both worlds. Now that would be amazeballs.

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Reply 13 of 20, by bjwil1991

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And the boot diskette never worked anyway. Keeps crashing.

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Reply 14 of 20, by Thermalwrong

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That's unfortunate 😒 The bootdisk I've made is set up specifically for my NEC laptop and it just happened to work for that other person's laptop. It probably needs the socket services changed out to standard 82365sl or your laptops specific one. I wonder if it'd be worth me making a PCMCIA in DOS boot-files pack or bootdisk. Assuming the resources thing isn't a problem and just switching socket services would help.
Or maybe the belt's going bad on your floppy drive? Looks like a Mitsumi D353F2 which is a really horrid belt driven floppy drive (so hard to replace) - good news there though, the connector pinout on that drive is completely standard 26-pin floppy so you can put a direct-drive FDD in like the Teac FD05HG or NEC FD3238, or Mitsumi D353F3 if you can find one.

There probably is not a way to update the BIOS to support ATA flash booting 🙁

You're in a good position though, you've got a good working example of the connector you need to derive the pinout if it's not 1-to-1 with the caddy connector - takes a while but when it works it works 😁 Finding pinout for Compaq 50-pin HDD connector on Armada 7300 series

Reply 15 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Huh. So Compaq used the same thing, eh?

I'm actually using a multimeter and a small bit of wire to stick in 1 pin of the IDE side, place one probe on one end and the other on the wire to see which pin goes where. Lots of ground and +5VDC to cover, but at least the +5V one and ground is a piece of cake to determine.

Here's what mine looks like so far. It's a temporary hackjob, but I don't trust it, so my plan is to buy a 44-pin IDE cable and cut one end off, splice the ends off, and solder directly to the board.

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Systems from the Compaq Portable 1 to Ryzen 9 5950X
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Reply 16 of 20, by lolo799

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Thermalwrong wrote on 2023-09-28, 10:10:

I searched for the string of text from the BIOS screenshot that you posted and it's not great news: https://swarmik.tumblr.com/post/6342218843131 … mcia-i-recently
Looks like this type of PCMCIA boot requires the older / more difficult to attain linear flash PCMCIA cards and doesn't know what to do with ATA flash disks.

For the Phoenix card manager problems, perhaps you could try out my boot disk that initialises PCMCIA using Card Soft: PCMCIA CF Cards on an old 486 Laptop

It's still possible to find linear flash cards, some decently priced on ebay.

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 17 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Quick dirty redneck IDE connection. Got power and ground connected to test a hard drive and it powers on.

Going to connect the rest of the wires and hot glue the connector so they won't touch each other.

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Reply 18 of 20, by bjwil1991

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Got it soldered on and it works.

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Reply 19 of 20, by Thermalwrong

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Wow that turned out looking great - very tidy soldering! I was worried the wires look big compared to the enamel wire I used but the extra insulation is probably better, I've ended up with shorts before now, where enamel wires rubbed against each other.

Congratulations on getting both your FMA7600s operational at the same time 😀