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Rodney Dawn

Anyone else remember VLB

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Just wondering if anyone else remembers, and actually liked VLB.  dont get me wrong, AGP is much nicer and easier to work with, but for older 486 and early pentium/AM586 machines, VLB was nice.  Its dependencies on outdated memory archetectures were a disadvantage against competing PCI standard, but when it worked, a nice card like an ATI mach64 VLB was a real beast in win 95, and a decent basic card for ME as well (to bring an old ISA/VLB system with no AGP up to ME specs for basic browsing and word processing, etc).  Granted even a AM486dx133 and 64mb of EDO ram was still slow as molasses in winter for ME, it was certainly better than no hardware acceleration at all.  

   Just finished refurbishing an old 48xdx100 which brought this topic to mind.  with a mach64 VLB in it, I can actually run 16 bit color 800x600 on ME without bogging the machine down too much for word processing, while the traditional Trident ISA gpu is stuck at 640x480/256 color mode in the same machine.  granted most ME capabale games need something much beefier than VLB could deliver, but then again those wouldnt run well on a 486 anyway, but for casual use it beats the heck out of standard ISA (and early non accelerated pci too for that matter), with the right card of course.

VLB can be a Pain to get setup on some configurations, but when it works, it was gold--until Rage pro 3d PCI and Rage pro 128AGP came out that is.

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As to why word processing matters, well simply, I do all spreadsheet work on a NON-Networked winME machine, and save to a Zip250 disk which I then use on a Kali Linux machine behind Tor for online transactions.  I dont trust even woindows 7's apparent lack of telemetry (when properly secured) where finances are concerned.  Note the ME machine I do this on has no network connection at all, and the data only goes online via Kali linux, so I get both FAT32/s lack of ADS, and the security of Linux in one go.

Edited by Rodney Dawn

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Should you want a small, simple, no bells and whistles, working worksheet running on *any* windows AND Excel/.xls/.xlsx compatible, check this SPREAD32:

http://www.byedesign.co.uk/

(portable, can run even from within a .zip)

jaclaz

Edited by jaclaz
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Well, my Voodoo2 is collecting dust nearby...

About your Trident card, maybe what limits its maximum resolution is the lack of VRAM? Does it have unpopulated sockets where you can add more?

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Yes, it has several empty sockets. I've also got an identical card with a broken D-sub (VGA) connector which I could pull chips from to populate the empty sockets on the working Trident card.  Hopefully that will bring it up to either 640/480 16 bit, or 800x600 256 color, either of which would be a nice improvement. 

 

Then I could use the VLB slot for a nice (for its time) Ultra ATA33 card (the HDD is a WD32000 caviar SE 3.2gig capable of running ultra ATA33 mode so would definately benefit from running at ATA33 rather than PIO mode. (and could remove the jumper limiting capacity to 850 megs (needed by the motherboard PIO controller) and take advantage of the full drive.   the VLB ATA33 controller supports drives up to 32 gb) and of course windows ME can theoretically handle up to 137 (or more with patches) so the full 3.2 being usbale would be no problem.  Going to use partitionmagic to resize the C: partition to 1.5 gb, then partition the remaining space to hold the swapfile, and expanded data storage, assuming I get the trident ISA gpu sorted out so I can free up the VLB slot to run the ATA33 controller, that is.

Probably going to have to play with the jumper settings to get the ATA controller ''happy'' though.  while the Mach64 gpu runs fine with 40mhz FSB/VLB the HDD controller likely needs the busclock at 33mhz (which is standard for the chip anyway, 33x3. but I was running it at 40x2.5 (still 100mhz cpu clock) for the improved system throughput of 40mhz fsb.  50x2 is also workable, as I have really good EDO dram, but not practical as even the MAch64 VLB card has major issues with the VLB running at 50mhz.   I dont never run the chip above rated 100mhz, but I have tried many combinations of fsb and multi to get to 100 in order to optimize throughput while maintaining full function of all components. 

    The chip originally had no real cooling, so I used some thermal adhesive, and a small northbridge cooler off a junk p4 board (bad caps and toasted mosfets) and a small chipset fan with 3-pin to FDD power addapter (tapped for 5v so it stays silent) just to help keep it cool under the heavy (for a 486) workload of running windows ME.  Granted even this simple mild active cooling is overkill for a 486, but it was free, runs quiet, and will no doubt prolong the life of the system.

   ON the software aspect, the old 486 has only had two real issues with ME.  One being it doesnt like to use the 5.25 and 3.5 floppy together (backing up old 5.25's to 3.5's) or reading from either floppy while writing to the paralell port attached zip drive.  (likely a bug in the old floppy controller and not windows itself)  This happens regardless of busclock. 

The other is a sound glitch, where if I use a regular serial mouse, the startup and shutdown sound plays properly, but if I use a serial to ps/2 adapter to use my optical mouse it sometimes causes crackling in the audio. I'm thinking this is due to the adapter itself, as the same optical mouse in a standard ps/2 port doesn't cause this crackling on K6, pentium, or newer systems also running ME.

   Speaking of paralell port drives, I also have several tape drives, a good working 8" floppy, and a few hdds in the 80 to 130 meg range which I have been trying to get working with ME. 

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Check this https://msfn.org/board/topic/180643-how-to-make-5-14-3-12-floppy-drives-work-on-a-single-cable/?do=findComment&comment=1172919 

The 137 GB is a BIOS restriction, I run 320GB drives and 470GB IDE/SCSI should be possible on ME. 500GB is just out of driver range. USB has driver updates and up to 2TB is possible. I like to think of the VLB as a VESA card as I did not know about it. Adding extra RAM did not work for me and it seemed like a BIOS update on the graphics card was necessary. 16 bit color : - the Mack64 must be the best card available in the VESA and ISA format.

Near the end of the old hard drive might be impossible to write to anymore. If you format using Fdisk the drives with the smallest cluster size of 512 bytes it will allow 1 write and subsequent writes may still fail. If so a format again with 512 is done. I am not suggesting to re-partition the drive as this will probably make things worse. The speed of the drive is inversely proportional to is age and proportionally to the number of platters/heads. The access timing once going past the drives capability does not make it any faster. Do not have recycle bin configured have delete instantaneous. Once the drive section that is faulty is writable then a re-partition with Fdisk fixes the drive. Have to be writable five times at least. I am rusty about this though.

Edited by Goodmaneuver

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4 hours ago, Rodney Dawn said:

Yes, it has several empty sockets. I've also got an identical card with a broken D-sub (VGA) connector which I could pull chips from to populate the empty sockets on the working Trident card.  Hopefully that will bring it up to either 640/480 16 bit, or 800x600 256 color, either of which would be a nice improvement. 

Be careful to not put them backwards. These chips can melt a socket before you realize what's going on :D

4 hours ago, Rodney Dawn said:

The other is a sound glitch, where if I use a regular serial mouse, the startup and shutdown sound plays properly, but if I use a serial to ps/2 adapter to use my optical mouse it sometimes causes crackling in the audio. I'm thinking this is due to the adapter itself, as the same optical mouse in a standard ps/2 port doesn't cause this crackling on K6, pentium, or newer systems also running ME.

Try to change the IRQ for the sound card. Win9x usually doesn't play well with IRQ sharing.

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Some Serial to PS2 converters are just wired. This may not be acceptable. You will be able to check. Check this web page https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2Fpy9QuBnTWds%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dpy9QuBnTWds&tbnid=BOFb4-SLuq8AJM&vet=12ahUKEwi75vOm__zqAhVuELcAHfrXBmoQMygSegUIARC4Ag..i&docid=9ITymedw2fc5mM&w=1280&h=720&q=serial to ps2 adapter&client=opera&ved=2ahUKEwi75vOm__zqAhVuELcAHfrXBmoQMygSegUIARC4Ag I hope this link works. If the serial to PS2 adapter is causing clicking through to the sound it is not good for the mother board and I would avoid this arrangement. Make sure mouse cable is not too long if an extender is used as this too can stop inputs toggling properly.

Wired.png

Edited by Goodmaneuver

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jaclaz said:

Should you want a small, simple, no bells and whistles, working worksheet running on *any* windows AND Excel/.xls/.xlsx compatible, check this SPREAD32:


http://www.byedesign.co.uk/
(portable, can run even from within a .zip)


That's insane. Completely incredible - a quite powerful EXCEL on Win98, as a teeny 3.5MB proggie (half the size being only language packs), free unlimited shareware with just a little nag, and portable! *dropdead*
It actually works. Of course, a few actions a bit awkward, e.g. editing multiline cells only glued together in the top input line, and sorting columns not quite as intuitive 1-click (finally found it in the menu), but for my very rare use that's still incredibly powerful. Thanks for the tip :-)

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15 hours ago, Goodmaneuver said:

Check this https://msfn.org/board/topic/180643-how-to-make-5-14-3-12-floppy-drives-work-on-a-single-cable/?do=findComment&comment=1172919 

The 137 GB is a BIOS restriction, I run 320GB drives and 470GB IDE/SCSI should be possible on ME. 500GB is just out of driver range. USB has driver updates and up to 2TB is possible. I like to think of the VLB as a VESA card as I did not know about it. Adding extra RAM did not work for me and it seemed like a BIOS update on the graphics card was necessary. 16 bit color : - the Mack64 must be the best card available in the VESA and ISA format.

Near the end of the old hard drive might be impossible to write to anymore. If you format using Fdisk the drives with the smallest cluster size of 512 bytes it will allow 1 write and subsequent writes may still fail. If so a format again with 512 is done. I am not suggesting to re-partition the drive as this will probably make things worse. The speed of the drive is inversely proportional to is age and proportionally to the number of platters/heads. The access timing once going past the drives capability does not make it any faster. Do not have recycle bin configured have delete instantaneous. Once the drive section that is faulty is writable then a re-partition with Fdisk fixes the drive. Have to be writable five times at least. I am rusty about this though.

Yeah, the Mach64 was one of the better graphics cards for the 486, and even came standard as integrated graphics on some socket 7 boards (no ''real'' VLB slot, but had the VESA bus internally connected as part of the chipset, essentially emulating the 486 memory subsystem as part of the northbridge on those boards.)   This was an early attempt at decent integrated graphics which was later superceded by the Rage II which internally connected to the PCI bus on later socket 7 and eventually Rage Pro which internally used a 1x agp bus on Super 7 boards.

Good to know its just a bios limitation, as I've got some sizeable PATA drives that would work great with ATA133 controllers (on machines with PCI slots)  Unfortunately the fastest bus on the 486 machine is the VLB, and the best card I have found is an ATA33 controller that supports a max of 32gb.

I got the Trident working in 256 color 800x600 by installing the vram from the broken card, and put the ATA33 card in the VLB, the 3.2 caviar SE is working perfectly with two partitions of roughly 1.5gb (minus a bit for formatted capacity) and is noticeably faster than using the old PIO controller.

Yeah the 3.2 is a replacement for the original 400 meg drive as I needed more room to install ME to begin with.  the original drive actually formatted fine, but was just under the minimum size (583mb according to setup) by a couple hundred mb so I had substituted the wd and configured with jumpers to limit capacity to 850 megs for the old pio controller (no longer necessary with the VESA ata33 card.

The 3.2 was pulled from an old socket 7 machine, and fully supports ATA33 speeds. I may end up swapping it for a 10 gig MAXTOR ATA66 drive (which would downclock to ata33 of course, but because of the larger cache the Maxtor gives slightly better throughput (about 450kb/s better read/write) when downclocked to ata33 than what the wd (a true ata33 drive) gets.

      The old paralell port drives are mostly MFM, with a couple early PIO models (the larger ones).  The trouble I am having, is using a bootdisk, I can get DOS to see them, and format with FAT, but in windows they either dont show at all or just show as a generic ''removable disk'' which locks up Explorer when I try to open it.  I think its likely a driver issue, and need to find a modded driver from win95 tweaked to work with ME, assuming such is possible.  I know it can be done with printer/scanner drivers, also using LPT1 so theoretically it should be possible with HDDs as well.  I assume these were probably win3.11 or early win95 drives, and maybe even older than that.

   I would think they would work using ''msdos compatibility mode'' since the DOS bootdisk sees and can write to them, same for the 8" floppy (I have 1 good disk for it, and one which is magnetically degraded to the point of being unusable), but for whatever reason windows doesn't.  LPT1 is set to allow bi-directional data of course, and my paralell port zip drive works flawlessly.

        

Thanks for the tip about the orientation of the floppy cable, now I have both the 3.5 and 5.25 working as they should.

 

    That's what I was afraid of with the serial ps/2 adapter. I'll just stick with the serial mouse for now, though I miss the scroll wheel, and the ball is nowhere near as precise as the ps2 optical.  Eventually I hope to find an ISA card with PS/2 connectors to solve the problem properly.

 

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I can write to the old drives in DOS fine.  I tested them afoter formatting, by using the bootdisk to ''start computer with cd rom support'' and then copying a 50 meg .zip archive from a cd  by changing to cd directory and then  "copy test.zip F:\test

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12 hours ago, siria said:

That's insane. Completely incredible - a quite powerful EXCEL on Win98, as a teeny 3.5MB proggie (half the size being only language packs), free unlimited shareware with just a little nag, and portable! *dropdead*
It actually works. Of course, a few actions a bit awkward, e.g. editing multiline cells only glued together in the top input line, and sorting columns not quite as intuitive 1-click (finally found it in the menu), but for my very rare use that's still incredibly powerful. Thanks for the tip :-)

Yep. :yes:

I often use it to show kids ;

https://tinyapps.org/blog/200702250700_why_in_my_day.html

how programs should be written.

Of course it has some (if you get used to it, very little) limitations, but nothing actually worth mentioning.

For the record, anecdotally, in my (good ol') MS Excel XP/2002 I couldn't input a very long formula, that I could write just fine in Spread32:

https://msfn.org/board/topic/152097-on-superfloppies-and-their-images/page/6/?tab=comments#comment-980297

jaclaz

 

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The larger drives need an ATA-6 controller. A must read is https://www.seagate.com/support/kb/disc/tp/137gb.pdf search for 137GB.pdf if link does not work. I am not 100% sure of the maximum IDE/SCSI size though I do know when accessing the 500GB size drive with Paragon Partition Manager it did not show size properly so I assumed that 500GB was just beyond driver capabilities. No trouble with 320GB as I mentioned.

Edited by Goodmaneuver

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