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Keatah

So.. What should I do with my 486?

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So.. What should I do with my 486? No not selling it or trashing it or anything like that. I just want some opinions as to if I should remove the third hard disk and it's BIOS card and revert back to "normal" DOS from DoubleSpace. Here's how it's set-up now.

 

The system has 3 external bays properly populated with a 5.25, 3.5, and CDROM. The internal bays are also properly populated with a 212MB HDD and a 540MB HDD. That's an official valid configuration that's factory approved. Factory approved in that it was possible to order that way. The rig boots DOS 6.22 and goes into Windows 3.1, from the 212MB HDD. Just like from the factory.

 

The 540MB HDD is seen by the BIOS as 528MB, and that's ok. I'm not concerned about the 12MB falling off because of BIOS limitations. It's more or less a data disk holding games and Doom and Duke and Quake.

Again, all that was factory orderable. Good.

 

I also have a 3rd "patched in" drive via an "extended BIOS" card that lets the system see beyond the 528MB barrier of earlier BIOSes. And the 3rd drive is a 1.6GB HDD screwed into the side of an arbitrary bracket in the system. I have Windows 95 on that drive. I can "patch" it in via booting from a floppy that starts Win95.

 

I also have DoubleSpace up the wazzo going here. Got about 10 or 12 drive letters.

 

So the question is:

Should I just remove the 3rd 1.6GB HDD and it's BIOS card? And also go back to conventional storage without DoubleSpace? Revert to DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1?

 

What's prompting this? Nostalgia for the machine's configuration as it was mostly used. Windows95 is likely most suited for the Pentium 60 - 90 era. I only used W95 on it for a short time before getting into the Pentium II in earnest, And that is that!

 

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I would much rather run 95 on a Pentium. No need to now adays. I ran 95 on my 486 BITD because I couldn't afford a Pentium.

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same.  The only reason for it these days is to have drivespace 3 set up.  (and I would not use the GUI, just pretend it is DOS instead.)

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win95 (with pluspack) or win98.  Just pretend it is DOS, but utilize drivespace 3 for its improved compression features.

Edited by wierd_w
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Imma not sure what I'm going to do just yet. I'm kindasorta thinking of decompressing and optimizing drives C & D to the way they were before I went on the compression kick in 1994-1995. Did that because I needed the space. Today that is not an issue.

 

I can always keep a compressed volume file on drive D if I want to experiment around and play with benchmarks and stuff. I think my system's bus is just slow enough to benefit from compression - where the CPU decompresses faster than the data transfer.

 

Perhaps I may do both. It's easy enough to image the drives and go back and forth as desired. I did totally forget about DriveSpace3, so there's that to mull over.

 

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You will claw back a good 100kb of low/upper memory by removing the drvspace/dblspace driver.  If you have some efficient way to get data from a remote source for when you want to move stuff, so that you can get around that 500mb restriction (Or go ahead and use vintage software like ezbios or diskmanager), then it might be worth it.

 

It's your system, your call.

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Tis'a hobby and just playing around. You know how it goes. Next month I'll be into Norton Utilities. Then after that the Snappy Digitizer.

 

Currently I'm most familiar with DiskManager, the WD and Ontrack "editions". Don't think I ever played with EZbios.

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I'd get rid of disk compression.  You have plenty of storage for Windows 3.1.

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What to do next with a 486? Five syllables: MT-32.

 

Also, burn CD-Rs with another computer with game directories on it, allowing you to copy them over to your HDD only when you need them. Problem is that a period-correct CD-ROM drive probably won't be able to read a CD-R.

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MT-32 I would imagine is rather costly. I don't plan on putting any more money into this 486. Just small bits and pieces and fittings perhaps. While not the best - I'm satisfied with the sound I get from a standard SB16 + wavetable daughtercard. In fact I'm nostalgic for that exact tone.

 

What I am still experimenting around with is an easy and "modern looking" way of imaging both drives. Previously I pulled them out and hooked each one to my PIII and used HDD Raw Copy (https://hddguru.com/software/HDD-Raw-Copy-Tool/) to make an image. It flew by in just a few minutes tops. It also restores just as fast.

 

Does anyone know of a DOS backup solution that can span a backup of a 540MB HDD across several Zip Disks? Or another solution entirely? I want to work at the sector level, and not the file level.

Edited by Keatah

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I had actually purchased Ghost 2003 back in the day for use with my new laptop. Didn't use it all that much. Still have it. Comes with a comprehensive PDF manual which seemingly mentions every aspect of the program. Except for how to actually implement use a Zip Drive.

 

It doesn't mention the Iomega Guest.EXE program, which I assume needs to be present on the boot floppy. Unless Ghost itself automatically detects the drive straight away without Guest..? Will have to test to see exactly which way to go.

 

From what I've read, versions after the 2003 release don't support making images from the bootable DOS disk. So it seems the 2003 is the latest and greatest DOS version.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_(disk_utility)

 

Ideally I'd like to have two or three solutions because in the future something may change or break. Or just be different. I'm also not opposed to using a CF card. Not sure I want to add yet more stuff to the system. Have a pile of cables and adapters and cards. Last time I messed around with CF in a computer I think I blew something up.

Edited by Keatah

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If you're willing to go the CF route, you can get rid of TWO HDDs. And you can get rid of DoubleSpace and run a clean system. Just buy a handful of 1GB cards and format to 540MB. I use CF with both of my 486 builds (MS-DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1 only), and they work great. (Don't recommend for Windows 9x). You can even have separate CF cards for different DOS and Windows setups (games, drivers, MIDI mapping, etc.) and use them like cartridges.

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His 486 does not have ECHS capabilities in the BIOS, so it has the 502mb max capacity restriction on bare metal.

 

To use a 1gb CF card, he would need diskmanager or ezdrive.

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Oops, meant 504MB, not 540MB. Should probably just go with decimal 528MB.

 

If his stock BIOS recognizes 528 of 540MB, why wouldn't it recognize 528 of 1000MB (on a CF card)? Of course, he could just buy 512MB CF cards or partition the larger cards. 

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If you really like old media, you could have fun with a SCSI setup.

 

I admit that I haven't looked into the prices of these, but I'd image that SCSI control boards and the various hard-drives, cables, and optical drives are still at the point of near-worthless, so depending on what computer graveyards you have access too, you can probably get a good grip of equipment for cheap or free.

 

Just for fun a decade or so ago I made a crazy SCSI chain out of all the equipment that I could get to work on the Adaptec board I had. I remember I had a couple of external 1x CD-Rom units from some defunct production studio on an external chain, and a bunch of stuff inside the tower.

 

The Syquest drive was particularly fun to actually see function again... And even a trained eye would do a double-take seeing a Syquest drive in a tower bay.

 

SCSI fun... Because it's possible!

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19 hours ago, boxpressed said:

If you're willing to go the CF route, you can get rid of TWO HDDs. And you can get rid of DoubleSpace and run a clean system.

I'm sticking with the two drives I got when I originally got the system. It came with a 212MB HDD and that's staying. Some short time later I put in a 540. That's also staying. Both of those are hooked to the original Multi-I/O board. That's staying too.

 

I'm probably going to get rid of DoubleSpace/DriveSpace, whatever is on there now. I figure with file-placement optimization and defragmentation I can get the same performance advantage the compression gave me. I think I had like 10 or 15% faster reads. Not a big deal.

 

But I remember playing around with the compression for fun and as an experiment. A novelty! A 212MB HDD was suddenly able to hold 320MB! Remarkable. Who could pass that up back in the day? Finally some 25 years later the experiment is coming to a close!

 

19 hours ago, boxpressed said:

Just buy a handful of 1GB cards and format to 540MB. I use CF with both of my 486 builds (MS-DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1 only), and they work great. (Don't recommend for Windows 9x). You can even have separate CF cards for different DOS and Windows setups (games, drivers, MIDI mapping, etc.) and use them like cartridges.

I rather want to stick with the original drives. But I do not mind having the ability to use them as auxiliary drives.

 

I have set of cartridges for an i7 I recently built. Swappable SSDs in a 2.5 formfactor. It's a novelty I think. But I can swap out to Linux or put all my emulation stuff on one.

 

4 hours ago, wierd_w said:

His 486 does not have ECHS capabilities in the BIOS, so it has the 502mb max capacity restriction on bare metal.

 

To use a 1gb CF card, he would need diskmanager or ezdrive.

 

The mobo BIOS supports up to 504MB IIRC. I also have a 2nd IDE-only card that supports 2 more drives. It's the EIDE-MAX from Promise Technologies. I don't know the max size it supports offhand, but it makes a 1.6GB HDD totally visible to DOS. It has the option of using an enhanced BIOS (or BIOS extension), or not. When I first got the card I set it up with Ontrack's Disk Manager and never turned on the BIOS extension. Ontrack's drive overlay software seemed to work fine.

 

Yes.. Yes.. Everything isn't totally optimized or anything, it's just how I did stuff as a pot-smoking post-teen chasing women and farting around with cars and stuff. Boy that was a money-sink alright.

 

 

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What would I need to get in order to set up a CF card safely? I know DOS 6.22 will handle up to 2GB partitions. I always used to think it was 8GB. But, anyhow, 2GB is more than sufficient.

 

I don't know if I want to be able to boot from CF. More like use it as a removable drive with drive letter. You know.

 

I don't want to modernize the machine too much I want to keep it period correct and all that. If I want to experiment with old software on new hardware I'll just do virtualization with VirtualBox and emulation and all that. The bulk of my classic gaming and vintage software adventures will always take place using that.

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DiskManager can set up drives larger than 2gb-- even on dos 6.22.  It just needs to load a special driver in config.sys to do it, which will burn up a little dos memory.

 

The question is how important that is for your gaming needs.

 

IIRC, DiskManager has more features, but EZDrive uses less memory.

 

 

Personally, I would use the promise IDE controller, and enable its option rom with the jumper.  I am familiar with those cards-- If you enable the option rom, then the controller becomes bootable. You just set the bios' entries to none, and let the promise IDE controller option rom detect the drives on the other controllers. That will give you ECHS capabilities without either EzDrive or DiskManager, and just losing a small slice of adapter rom area for the trouble.

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So you're saying the BIOS ROM on the Promise controller will detect and use the full capacity of a drive on a totally different card, like the original Multi-I/O board that came with the system?

 

I understand the reasoning and theory behind the card, just not the hands-on practical specifics. Have to pull out the manual.

Edited by Keatah

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5 minutes ago, Keatah said:

So you're saying the BIOS ROM on the Promise controller will detect and use the full capacity of a drive on a totally different card, like the original Multi-I/O board that came with the system?

Here's a Vogons thread where your question is asked but not answered at the very end. But it does have more info about your Promise card.

 

https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?t=47421

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the tularc archive has jumper data for the promise eidepro.

 

https://stason.org/TULARC/pc/hard-disk-floppy-controllers/P-R/PROMISE-TECHNOLOGY-INC-Four-EIDE-drives-EIDEPRO.html

 

Turn on the option rom, and it will do disk detection.  Since it is a dual channel IDE, there is no reason to use the integrated IDE on the motherboard, so just disable it and use the promise card.  You intend to use DOS anyway, so questions about windows is moot.  You will lose a chunk of adapter rom area (wherever you enable the option rom address space), but that's a small price to pay for LBA support.

 

My memory is getting crappy as I get older, but I seem to remember that the bios was actually pretty dumb, and that it could work with other controllers as long as they were in the right address spaces.  (eg, disable the IDE controllers on the promise card, but enable the option rom, then the built in controllers should respond to the option rom's probing routines.)

 

Don't quote me on that though.  It's worth a shot at least.  If nothing else, you can have a large boot drive on the promise controller if you enable the option rom, since the BIOS boot sequence starts option roms first before loading the boot sector, and that option rom takes over the boot process.

 

 

Edited by wierd_w

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On 2/25/2020 at 11:11 PM, wierd_w said:

His 486 does not have ECHS capabilities in the BIOS, so it has the 502mb max capacity restriction on bare metal.

 

To use a 1gb CF card, he would need diskmanager or ezdrive.

Let's hope he doesn't run into my problems with those programs. :D

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I should get into the CF stuff next week or week after. I want to test GHOST out and see if it's an easy to use and viable backup solution. I'll see about posting pics of the hardware you guys are "virtually working on"..

 

 

Edited by Keatah

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