Mar 4, 2021

HP T5710 Thin Client (Died during testing)

 


I bought an HP t5710 off eBay recently. I had seen a couple of videos and read multiple forum posts about the t5710's ability to serve as a cool, compact DOS gaming rig. In addition to DOS, I thought I'd see what else we could throw at it. First up, the specs for the one I bought:

CPU -  Transmeta Crusoe 800MHz

GPU - Radeon 7000M

RAM - 1xDDR SODIMM Socket

Sound - Via AC97 Compatible (Use VIASBCFG for sound, see below)

Storage - 44-pin DOM (Disk on Module) 2.5-inch 44-pin IDE PATA Interface

RJ45 - 10/100 VIA Rhine Family Networking

USB Ports - 4x USB 2.0 (all located on back)

Video Port - VGA Connector

Power Requirements - 12V, 3.33A AC Adapter

Other Ports - Internal PCI slot (requires 90-degree angle adapter), Audio Out (Headphone), Mic in, PS/2 Keyboard, Parallel, 9-pin Serial, Kensington

OS - Windows XP Embedded (WinXPE) with various programs, VERY limited access rights

BIOS - F10 to enter BIOS. Phoenix AwardBIOS installed (Version 786R1 v1.04) - Options included just about everything you would expect from a computer built circa 2004 (as this one was). You can set time/date, boot device, passwords, enable/disable various onboard devices, etc. You can also enable USB mouse in BIOS so that it works in DOS!

You can boot from USB flash drives, USB CD drive, or USB Floppy.


 DISASSEMBLY
- There are two screws on the back of the unit. Once removed, the cover comes off after a bit of manipulation. There are a couple of plastic clips that keep the cover in place. I clipped them off to make future removal much easier. Once the outside cover is removed, there is a metal shield with two screws that must be removed. Once done, the metal cover lifts off easily. There is a speaker screwed into the metal lid, so USE CAUTION when lifting the cover, as the lead wires from the speaker plug into the motherboard. The connector for the speak is easily removed for unabated access to the system.

NOTE: You can replace the DOM with a ribbon/sd card adapter to provide more storage/flexibility. Or, you can buy larger capacity DOMs. I suggest at least a 4GB, though I have seen them as large as 32GB.

OPERATING SYSTEMS ([works] [limited] [non-working])

DOS 6.22 (512MB RAM, 256MB DOM) [works] - Booted from a DOS USB stick that had various games, VIASBCFG, MOSLO, and other software installers. I then installed from USB without issue. Ran FDISK, formatted drive, copied relevant files. Set the AUTOEXEC.BAT with the following Sound Blaster environment: SET BLASTER=A220 I7 D1 P330 J0 then added VIASBCFG /v50 (to set volume at 50%) and VIAFMTSR (for FM synth). I had to use MoSlo in order to install games like Duke3d and Wolf3d, but once installed, the games ran fine without MoSlo. Some games would not run at all (Monkey Island Demo, for example), so be aware of that.

NOTE: The Network Adapter uses IRQ 5, which will conflict with VIASBCFG Sound drivers for DOS. Be sure to set the sound IRQ to 7.

Windows for Workgroups (WFW 3.11) (512MB RAM, 256 DOM) [works] - During my DOS install, I had copied the WFW installation files to the USB stick then copied those to the DOM after DOS was installed. The WFW setup ran without issue. I did NOT install network drivers during install. After reboot, added Sound Blaster 1.5 from the Control Panel. Selected A220 and IRQ 7. After Windows restarted, I had sound. I found Rhine-II drivers for the VT6102 networking and installed those.

Windows 95 (512MB RAM, 256 DOM) [limited] - This was a bit more involved. I created a VirtualBox MSDOS installation and converted that to an IMG file (Details in footnotes below).  I then Copied the Win95 install files to a Win95 folder on the SD card. Be sure to deleted the CONTENT folder if there is one. Booted the t5710 with the SD card. I formatted the D drive (which is the DOM card). Copied DOS and Win95 setup to D drive. Shut down device, removed SD card, rebooted. Delete CHL*.* and AOL*.* from the Win95 directory. Start Win95 setup. Chose Minimal (just above Custom). Install asked for several files we had deleted but let me just SKIP those during the "Copying files" section. PC rebooted with "Getting ready to run Win95..." Setup finished and rebooted the PC. After reboot, Win95 found the monitor and presented the desktop! Windows showed 75MB free on drive while installing the stupid IE Active Desktop junk. Java Error (since we deleted java). System booted fine. Grabbed the USBSUPP.EXE file, saved it to the DOS Flash Drive, booted with the DOS Flash Drive and copied the USBSUPP to the DOM. Rebooted into Win95 and ran USBSUPP. System rebooted. Went into Device Manager and updated any USB devices. Installer complained about uhcd.sys, but I was able to browse to Windows\System to find it. Unfortunately, the system locked up after an "Unknown Device" wizard popped up. The USB driver could no longer see the keyboard and mouse attached. Of course, I have no PS/2 keyboards or adapters. Contacted a friend of mine at a local school and he had an adapter! Got the adapter to work with a USB ball mouse (optical would not work). I could not find a keyboard that would work with the USB add-on. So, I removed the USB support. Once I did that, the keyboard and mouse worked as usual. Go figure. I even tried the XUSBSUPP, but that did not work either. Specifically, the drivers in stalled, but the keyboard no longer worked and I eventually had a BSOD. I gave up on this part of the project.

Windows 98SE (512MB RAM, 256MB DOM) [limited] - I followed the steps outlined at RMPrepUSB for installing Win98 via Easy2Boot. I used UltraISO to edit the Win98SE.iso file. In retrospect, I should have not only deleted the files mentioned, but also ALL of the folders under the Win98 folder, as I do not believe they are needed and the copy process is SLOW on the t5710. The DOM had already been partitioned from the Win95 install above, so I skipped those steps and jumped to formatting the DOM. Once the format was done, I created the B:\TEMP folder. NOTE: You MUST delete all the files under the WIN98\OLS folder, otherwise setup complains about drive space on B. Run SETUP /T:b:\temp to start the install. My install complained about a Windows NT format. I chose COMPACT install. Skip the startup disk. When prompted to remove disks, unplug the USB and hit Enter. System will reboot. Continue installation. My system booted with 70MB free on the DOM. I restarted the system and booted from a DOS USB then copied the USB drivers from PhilsComputerLab to the system. I figured this would open up the door to grab other drivers directly from a USB stick. Rebooted to Win98 and ran setup for the first set of drivers. No luck. I grabbed NUSB32E.exe and copied it from a DOS boot-up USB to the Win98 and ran it. After a couple reboots, it detected my USB flash drive! At this point, trying to install various drivers was fruitless due to storage constraints.

Win98SE (256MB RAM, 4GB DOM) - UNTESTED*

Windows XP Embedded (Factory Reset) - (512MB RAM, 256MB DOM) [working] - Downloaded the SP29705.EXE file that contains the SuperPAQ factory image from HP. I tried to run their flash utility, but it never worked. So, I chose the option to create an ISO then burned the ISO to a cd. I booted the device with a USB CD drive and started the restore process. It is not fast. Removed boot media, restarted. XP continued setup. Was presented with locked PC with arrow on screen. Manually rebooted. After a few moments, the factory-restored XPe appeared and finished setting up devices, software, etc. This also takes a LONG time (10 minutes or more). Asked to restart device, restarted. After a few moments, presented with desktop. VERY limited access. Cannot access My Computer, drives, etc. Limited Control Panel access. An HP Sys Info app shows 57MB free on the DOM along with some other info about installed software, hardware, etc.

Windows XP (256MB RAM, 4GB - UNTESTED*

Windows 7 - UNTESTED*

Windows 10 - UNTESTED*


*NOTE - I inserted a USB stick in order to try to install Win98SE with the 4GB DOM. When I did, the system would no longer boot. I swapped DOM, RAM, etc and unplugged everything except power and VGA, but the system would never POST again. Pretty sure the USB stick shorted the system somehow.


– To Create DOS SD Card - From "Dustin" on theinstructionlimit.com. Create a virtual drive with the same specs as your SD/CF card. (I don’t think the size actually matters, but just in case) – Install DOS on to the virtual drive via VirtualBox and the DOS floppy images. – Open powershell or cmd and navigate to the VirtualBox install directory – Run .\vboxmanage internalcommands converttoraw "C:\PATH\TO\YOUR\VIRTUALDRIVE.vdi" "C:\PATH\TO\YOUR\VIRTUALDRIVE\NameOfImage.img" – Plug in your CF/SD card. – Open Rufus (https://rufus.ie/) – Select your CF/SD card, and browse to find the image you created above.











Feb 12, 2021

Thin Client Adventures: DevonIT TC2D DeTOS 7.1.1 (Update: Feb 25 2021)


 I picked up a DevonIT TC2D "Zero Client" device for about $5.00 on eBay. It came new in the box (or appeared new) with a power adapter, instructions, and a DVI/VGA adapter. Let's look at some specs:

CPU - VIA Eden 1 GHz

GPU -VIA Chrome9 (according to LSPCI)

RJ45 (Wired Ethernet) -Realtek 8169 (from LSPCI)

Sound -Azalia HDA Controller (Intel HDA)

Storage -1GB DOM (2.5-inch IDE riser connector)

RAM - 1xDDR2 SODIMM 

USB Ports -4x USB 2.0 (2 on back, 2 on front)

Video Ports - DVI Connector 

Power Requirements - 12V, 3A AC Adapter 

Other Ports -PS/2 Keyboard connector on back, Kensington slot on back

BIOS: Phoenix AwardBIOS

OS: DeTOS 7.1.1 20120508

Notes: HDD Auto Detection, Provisions for IDE Slave Device, Set Boot Priority, Boot from USB, Azalia Disable Feature, USB Settings (KB/Mouse can be set to USB), Power Management Options.

OPERATING SYSTEMS:

DETOS 7.1.1 (1GB RAM, 1GB DOM) - The device boots to a DevonIT (displayed as "devonIT") and attempts to search for an auto-configuration server. 

After that fails, user is presented with an option to boot to DeTOS or ZeroClient. I chose DeTOS.

I was presented with locale selections. 



Next, networking options. This includes wired and wireless. Also options for IP configuration, included option to boot with DHCP.


 

The next screen is "Thin Client Management." This allows setup of managed or unmanaged settings, adding an "agent" password, and whether or not to allow users to take screenshots.

 

Next up, the tech can set up  remote session connection info, if desired. 


 

Then, we are presented with "Local Storage Options." This allows the system to keep (or not keep) certain information on the installed DOM. 

 

Next up, we can choose to save settings to Echo. This basically creates a machine profile for this device on the management server. Since i don't have one, I just clicked "Finished."

 

After a few moments, I was presented with the DeTOS desktop.

 The desktop displayed the time and date (incorrectly) in the lower right along with a couple icons. Once of which (the little blue "devonIT" logo) presented config info. The "Start button" only had a Control Panel option and selections to shut down or reboot. 


Control Panel provides a slew of information and possible connections. Each item listed allows the user to add a connection to the certain type (Citrix ICA, VDI-in-a-Box, rDesktop, etc). When I attempted to set DHCP, I received an error screen. Note: I was trying to figure out the wifi. Wired was not plugged in. 

 

I plugged in a network cable and the screen went blank for a moment. When the desktop returned, I had an IP address.

 

For giggles, I added a shortcut to Firefox and visited the DevonIT webpage in the "Aurora" browser. It is not fast!

Feb 25 2021: I ran into issues with the system itself after switching over to the "ThinOS" option. I reached out to Clientron in Japan and was sent a link to a reflash utility. I ran the utility, installing the flash software onto a usb drive. After booting the device from the drive, I followed the prompts to reinstall the software onto the original DOM. I recommend NOT having a mouse plugged in. My system screen was filled with connects/disconnects coming from the USB mouse which didn't seem to affect the install process, but made following along difficult. After it finished, the system rebooted. I was greeted with the DevonIT boot screen and then the screen went blank for a bit. I tapped an arrow key and was met with the OS selection screen as above!

Jan 29, 2021

Wyse Cx0 Thin Client Notes, Experiences (Updated: 02/03/2021)

 


I bought a super-cheap Wyse Cx0 Thin Client off eBay some time ago, and I have been toying with it a bit. This post serves as a catch-all place for my information regarding the device. Note: information may be added, updated, or deleted at any time.

Let's talk hardware specs to get things going:

CPU - Via C7

GPU - VX855 Chrome9

RJ45 (Wired Ethernet) - VT6122 (Velocity)

Sound - Vinyl HD (uses version 7.9 drivers)

Storage - 2.5-inch IDE interface (male connector on motherboard)

RAM - 1xDDR2 SODIMM

USB Ports - 4 USB 2.0 Ports (2 in front, 2 in back)

Video Ports - DVI Connector

Power Requirements - 12V, 2.5A AC Adapter

Other Ports - 1 PS/2 Mouse, 1 PS/2 Keyboard

Mine came preinstalled with some kind of thin client software (I do not believe it was XP Embedded)

BIOS was locked with a password. Password for WYSE is Fireport. The BIOS allows user to change boot sequence and enable/disable some basic items. Very limited BIOS. 

The system accepted bootable CD/DVDs and also USB floppy drive as bootable media. You can also boot from properly formatted USB storage. Makes for a very flexible installation environment.

Since the storage is IDE, everything just worked when installing anything from DOS 6.22 to XP as far as install goes. My unit had 512MB RAM and a 128 MB DOM (Disk on Module) 44-pin PATA board. 

I purchased a 2.5-inch ribbon cable (F-F) and a 2.5-inch IDE-to-SD adapter. This allowed me to swap out storage options at any time (er, with the top cover removed, of course).

Speaking of top cover, there are two plastic clips at the front corners of the lid, making it a bit of a hassle to remove. I snipped those off so that the lid can just come off when I remove the single screw (on back of unit) to open the case. 

OPERATING SYSTEMS - ALL MUST BE 16-bit or 32-bit ONLY!

In every case, booting with USB keyboard and mouse already plugged in showed no problems installing/using the OS. The speed rating (Class) of your SD card makes all the difference! Be sure to use Class 6 or higher.

DOS 6.22 (512MB RAM, 512MB SD) - DOS installs easily from USB Floppy (or bootable USB). In order to install games like Wolf3d or Duke3d, I had to employ the use of MoSlo. Once the games were installed, though, the Wyse ran the games themselves just fine without the helper. Duke3d ran VESA 800x600 smoothly. The Secret of Monkey Island Demo played nicely in EGA mode (hmm, maybe it was VGA mode). There is NO SOUND BLASTER SOUND. The Vinyl HD audio does not have a DOS driver. I tried a variety of VIA-related drivers, hacks, etc and in each case, the dreaded "No VIA Chipset detected" message (or something similar) would appear. Programs that support the PC Speaker will output sound to the piezo speaker built onto the motherboard. This would make for a compact, spry DOS game machine if only there was sound support.

I installed DOS on the 128MB built-in flash and then after I swapped out for the SD/IDE adapter, I installed DOS to a 512MB MicroSD with an adapter. Works great!

Windows for Workgroups (WFW 3.11) (512MB RAM, 512MB SD) - Installed on same SD as the DOS install above. Windows would not boot. Either got a scrambled splash screen or a "Divide Overflow" error on a mangled splash screen. I changed various video settings and tried MoSlo, but nothing worked for me. I gave up trying to make it work.

Windows 95 (512MB RAM, 512MB SD) - Formatted SD with DOS. Copied Win95 setup folder from CD to SD card. Did not choose Sound, Network, etc during setup. Could not get any drivers to work (even though they came from the VIA downloads site).

Windows 98 (512MB RAM, 512MB SD) - Installed with no problem that I recall. Used LAN drivers from the XP Drivers file below. Could not get sound nor video drivers to work. I installed VIA Hyperion Drivers v5.24a and the VIA Retro Drivers (from here) along with the USB 2.0 Driver Pack (Here). After the install, reboot and the system should find new system-level devices. If asked to search for drivers, just click NEXT and let Windows find what it needs. I also recommend Phil's Win98 Easy DOS Mode PIF! More info here!

Windows XP (512MB RAM, 4GB SD) - Windows XP installs with no problems. Finding drivers, however, was a royal pain. To help with that, I created a ZIP file that has the XP drivers for video, sound, networking, and chipset. You can grab those here.

Windows 7 - (2GB RAM, 40GB 2.5-inch Drive) - Straight-forward install from USB DVD drive (though could have used a bootable USB). Install takes a while. Windows 7 detected sound and network. Using the OS is painfully slow. The system hits the hard drive in a nearly constant state. Attempting to download, install, then use Chrome was a smack in the face of the reality of the limitations of older hardware - especially running at 1GHz with only 2GB of RAM. Firefox was slightly better in that I could at least surf pages, download video drivers, etc. However, the video drivers reported that I had the wrong version of Windows (perhaps because Win7 wasn't registered during testing?). In any case, Win7 saw it was a vx855 chipset and allowed me to change to all sorts of resolutions.

*Note: I tried to install on a 128GB SD card and Windows said it could not install it to that device because it couldn't find a bootbale BIOS setting for it. I switched to a 40GB 2.5-inch IDE drive from an old laptop.

Windows 10 (2GB RAM, Various drives) - I tried a variety of drives (SD, 2.5-inch IDE) and each time, the installer gave me an IRQ Not Less Than (or whatever) blue screen. I never could get Win10 to install on this device.

Windows 8.1 (2GB RAM, 128GB SD) - Since Windows 10 failed, I thought I would try Windows 8.1 Pro. Note that at several times during the install, the system will appear to lock up. Just be patient. System will countdown to a reboot. Shut off the unit here. Otherwise, it will boot back to the setup USB drive. Initial setup took quite a bit of time. This will vary based on the speed of your SD and the throughput of the onboard IDE controller. Again, be patient. During setup, got an error that UUID was not supported and it logged me out. I then tried to log back in, and setup continued. Like Windows 7, setup detected everything except for the video card. And, like Windows 7, I could change to a variety of resolutions. 

DOSBox Distro (1GB RAM, 16GB USB) - There is an interesting project that uses TinyCore Linux to serve as a loader for DOSBox. This actually worked decently on the Cx0. The software itself has issues. For example, some programs dump you back to the DOS prompt, but are actually trying to run in the Linux environment behind the scenes. You can't get to it, though, because task switching is disabled in the system. Overall, things boot and run rather slowly. However, you do get Sound Blaster sounds out of the headphone jack! There was no adlib music even though the games did detect adlib capability. Not sure what's going on there. This has potential promise as a workaround for running DOS games with Sound Blaster on the Cx0.


 


Jan 7, 2021

Lenovo e550 Thinkpad Red Light Only No Boot (Possible Solutions)


Have a user with a Lenovo E550 laptop. The laptop was working fine while watching videos, etc, but would sometimes appear to turn off without being able to come back on.

The Thinkpad light would come on (red light in the logo in the wrist rest area), but the unit would not power up. Fans would not spin up, no POST, no boot, no hard drive sounds.

We found several solutions that have worked intermittently  (that is, seemingly randomly):

  • Remove the battery. Leave the AC plugged in. Hold power button for 30 seconds. Red Thinkpad light will blink 3 times. Unplug the power. Hold the power button down again for 30 seconds. Plus the AC back in, but leave the battery out. Turn on the laptop. If it boots, shut it down and put the battery back in. Boot the laptop.
  • Remove the battery. Leave the AC plugged in. Connect an external VGA monitor. Hold the power button for 30 seconds (until red Thinkpad light blinks 3 times). Turn on the laptop. If the laptop boots, it will most likely show on the monitor instead of the built-in display. Once booted, change the display options to make the built-in display panel the primary display. Shut down the laptop. Unplug the VGA cable. Boot the laptop. If it boots, shut down the laptop, insert the battery, and reboot the laptop.
  • Turn off the laptop (hold power button until Thinkpad red light goes out). Remove the battery. Unplug the AC adapter. Turn the laptop over and remove the three screws holding the large plate that covers the RAM and hard drive. Remove back cover. Near the hard drive, find a wrapped CMOS battery (looks like a watch battery). There are two wires with a plug adapter at the end. Disengage the plug gently. It is a TIGHT fit, so be careful. With the CMOD battery disconnected, turn the laptop over and plug in the AC. Open the laptop and turn it on. When it boots, you will get an error that the time and date a re wrong. Hold the power button until the laptop turns off. Unplug the AC adapter. Turn the laptop over again. Reconnect the CMOS battery. Again, this is a TIGHT fit, so be careful. Replace the back panel and attach the screws. Turn the laptop back over, reinstall the battery and connect the AC. Turn on the laptop. You should get an error about the time and date. Follow the on-screen instructions for setting those then you should be able to boot as normal.

As we find other solutions to this problem, I will update this post. Hope it helps!

 

Oct 2, 2020

Tract Computing, Inc - My days in computer retail

 

Back in 1989, I worked for a retail computer company called "Tract Computing." The operation had two locations: one in the Potomac Mills Mall in Woodbridge, VA, and the other in an office complex in Alexandria, VA. I have tried to research information about the company since, but have come up empty.

What I do remember, however, are a few of the things that I will probably never forget. They help lay the foundation for some of my core beliefs regarding business and handling employees. In this post, I'll share some of the things I remember (which may or may not have anything to do with business practices, but are rather memories).

  • I worked with several guys at the store. There was Rick and CJ (I cannot remember their last names to save my life). There were at least two other guys as well. The place was managed by a woman named Karen (I believe her name is/was Karen Williams, but that could be wrong). The company was run by a man named Alex and his wife (also named Karen, I believe). Alex's brother did the books, but I'm afraid I cannot recall his name. Their last name was either Nassif or Nassir, perhaps.
  • Alex had a vanity license plate with "DOS EXE" on it. So appropriate for the late 80's/early 90's.
  • One of the guys had an Amiga 1500 or perhaps 2000. We would go to his house to mess with it and eventually cobbled together a very cool PC/Amiga hybrid. I don't remember the details, but we used an IBM-PC bridge card from the Amiga with a ribbon cable that led to an AT chassis where a separate board served to add expansion ports to the PC side. That was crazy.
  • One of my most memorable moments came by way of a woman who came into the store one day. She held a computer mouse in her hands, and she approached me asking if we happened to sell just the balls that went into the computer mouse. In those days, we didn't have optical mice. Mice had a little ball that rolled around inside for movement. When I told her that we only sold complete mice, I asked her why she just needed the ball. She opened her hands and showed me a computer mouse that had been marred and scarred with a cable that looked like it had been chomped on for quite some time. She said, "Well, you see, my cat was playing with my mouse, and I think she killed it." Truly one of the funniest moments I've had. We sold her a replacement mouse.
  • Another stand-out situation came by way of an older couple. The woman had come to the store early in the day, picked out some software, then asked if it would run on an IBM-PC. I assured her that it would and she bought it. Later that day, she came back with her husband. Her husband was angry about something. When I asked what was wrong, he barked, "Are you the one that sold this (holding up the box) to my wife?" "Yes, sir," I said, confused. "Well, it will NOT work on an IBM-PC! This has five and quarter inch disks and we need three and a half! Where's your manager?" I tried to explain that the software WOULD work, but that I was not told the computer only had 3.5" drives. Didn't matter. He found the manager and proceeded to tell her how incompetent I was (using pretty colorful words to do so), and that I should be fired on the spot. She got him calmed down. One of the other guys copied the program to a 3.5-inch disk and sent the couple on their merry way. The manager got my side of the story and we decided it was a lesson learned - one I still practice as best I can to this day: ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS, ASSUME NOTHING. From that day on, I have tried to ask all the possible questions I can when given a task or a project.
  • Even though I couldn't find information online regarding Tract Computing, Inc, I do recall that the company had folded not long after I left in 1990. I was offered a manager's position in late 1989 as an enticement not to back to college (I was out for a semester, taking time off). They offered me a decent amount of money, but in the end, I thought it better to get my degree and return should the opportunity and offer still stand. By the time I graduated, they no longer existed. Plus, I wouldn't have gone back by then anyway. Life had taken me in a different direction.

In those days, we sold everything from hardware including PCs, Amigas, C64s, all kinds of peripherals. We were basically like Computer Shopper magazine in a little store. We weren't anything like Software, etc or Babbages or the myriad of other computer-related stores, but we were one of the few in the area. Sometimes, just being there is enough to have a moderately successful business. 

Shortly before I left, the manager was fired for allegedly stealing money from the company. Apparently, she wrote company checks to herself, which she signed, and then she endorsed on the back. The bank raised a few questions after the check amounts continued to grow, and things spiraled from there. Note: this is the story as I heard, so if facts are askew,  I am not making any accusations nor legal claims here. Nor am I trying to slander/libel anyone.

Anyway, I thought I would write this post in case any of the folks from back in the day started poking around looking for info about Tract Computing. Thanks for reading.