Mar 8, 2021

Thin Client: Neoware CA10 (BL-Q2-JD & BK-00-00) (Updated: 03/17/2021)

Rear view of opened ca10

 NOTE: Updates appear at the bottom of this article.

 I bought this version of the CA10 because, well, it was blue. I hadn't seen a blue version before. Turns out that the reason it is blue is that COMVoice had them painted that color. I bought it "as is" for about $10USD.

SPECS:

CPU - VIA C3 800MHz / 1Ghz

GPU - Apollo CLE266 (VIA UniChrome) (shared memory up to 64 MB)

RJ45 - VT6103 Built in PLUS a PCI 3COM NIC

Sound - VT8235M/VT1612A AC97 (Selectable MIDI port addressing and IRQ)

Storage - 256MB DOM (44-pin IDE PATA)

RAM - 1x256MB PC2100 (2 DIMM slots total, 1 available)

USB Ports - 4 Total (@ on back, 2 on front)

Video Ports - VGA / DVI

Power Requirements - 12v 4A, though I was able to use 12V 3.5A

Other Ports - PS2 Keyboard, PS2 Mouse, Line in, Mic out, Two 9-pin serial, 25-pin parallel (printer), PCI

BIOS/CMOS - Phoenix AwardBIOS P640 V:5.03.20F-110205, Ver 6.00 PG, 11/02/2005

Installed OS - Just enough FreeBSD to boot, then system hangs.

The BIOS in this thing allows you to boot from just about anything - HDD0/HDD1, floppy, LS120, SCSI, CD, a slew of USB devices, and more. I could *NOT* use a USB keyboard. However, the BIOS has an option to enable USB keyboard support and that was disabled. I enabled it and was instantly able to use the USB keyboard while still in BIOS. Whoa. The BIOS allows the user to set memory speed timings, theoretically opening the door for some overclocking.

Crystal sound card shown along with ide-to-sata cable and 768mb RAM.

 

The unit I got had high corrosion and would only post every so often. I swapped DOM cards and tried IDE/SD Readers, but the system always corrupted the drive data. Instead, I created a bootable microsd with DOS 6.22 and tried with that plugged into the USB port in the back. That, too, eventually quit working at random intervals.

Below is what I could make work for short periods of time:

Operating Systems:

DOS 6.22 (256MB RAM, 2GB DOM) -  DOS installs. None of the sound drivers I downloaded would allow the audio to play in DOS games. Sound only worked via PC Speaker. However, I installed a Sound Blaster Live! PCI card and the DOS driver. It works very well! Games like Wolf3d, Duke3d, Doom, Ultima Underworld 1, etc had digital sound and music.

WFW 3.11 (256MB RAM, 2GB DOM) - Installed fine, but again no sound drivers.

Windows 95 (256Mb RAM, 256MB DOM) - I had to delete everything except just enough to boot DOS with HIMEM.SYS after copying the Win95 installation folder to the drive. I also deleted AOL*.*, MSN*.*, CHL*.CAB, and possibly a few other files from the Win95 setup directory. I chose the "Compact" installation. I chose to select options not to install, but the only options were Disk Defrag and Disk Compression. So, I deselected them. Setup asked for the now-deleted AOL files, but I told it to just Skip them. When Windows installed, it wanted to set up active channel. ctrl-alt-del to bring up task manager. Kill IE4Setup then kill the Active Setup. You are now at the desktop! At the end of the install, I had 82 MB free. No sound, etc since sound is HD. (Though could install the SBLive and use Win95 drivers).

Windows 98SE (768MB RAM, 2GB DOM) - This took a bit of creative problem solving. When you boot from a USB stick, the computer treats it as a hard drive (C:), so installing Windows would mean installing to the USB. So, I booted to a DOS-ready USB, FDISK and formatted the 2gb DOM. I then copied the Windows 98 setup files to the DOM. After that, I rebooted with a Win98 CD. Because the setup does not recognize USB drives, the CD defaulted to A: which allowed me to switch to the C: drive (DOM) and run the setup from there. I installed the Vinyl-7b sound drivers and the UniChrome VGA drivers.

Windows XP (768MB RAM, 120GB SATA) - I installed a DOM-to-SATA adapter then plugged in a 120GB 2.5 SATA HDD. I booted from a WinXP setup disc. This is a SLOW process. I don't think I have ever seen every single pre-loaded driver's name on the screen before. Usually those whip by. Not with this device. The network card was detected during setup. I disabled everything but TCPIP when prompted, as I had encountered blue screening during certain phases of the installation. After installation, I installed Vinyl7b (v700b.zip) drivers for sound. For video, use the UniChromeIGP driver. Video supports DX7, DX8, and DX9. I did not test anything beyond DX9. Research shows that XPEmbedded was the OS of choice for this, so it makes sense that XP does moderately well once installed.

Windows 7 (768MB RAM, 120GB SATA) - I installed a DOM-to-SATA adapter then plugged in a 120GB 2.5 SATA HDD. I booted from a Win7 setup DVD. This was *NOT* fast!  It took nearly 10 minutes to get to the partitioning screens.  Once setup finally finished, I was able to install Crystal CS4281 drivers to go along with the PCI sound card I had installed using the riser adapter. Unfortunately, the system always reported "not enough resources." I thought this was an IRQ/DMA issue, but after disabling a bunch of built-in devices, I believe the issue is simply that no Windows 7 driver exists (that I could find) for the card. The system functions, but is much too slow to serve as anything other than novelty.

TBD: Windows 8.1

TBD: Windows 10

*NOTES:

03/17/2021 - I installed a SBLive (CT4830) using the PCI slot and a 90-degree adapter. I installed the DOS drivers for it and after a reboot, I had Sound Blaster emulation running for DOS games! 

03/16/2021 -  I received a replacement unit that was a slight "upgrade" from my original board. This one has the "BK" designation, indicating it had the DVI connector on the back in addition to VGA and the processor is bumped to 1Ghz. Everything else, so far as I could tell, was the same.

03/12/2021 - Unfortunately, after the initial Win95 install, the unit would no longer POST. I think the corrosion on the motherboard finally caused the thing to bite the dust. 

I do plan to get a replacement motherboard, though. I just can't help myself. I love this blue case and the form factor will make for a fun little retro machine.

I received a new board on 3/11/2021, but it was DOA - it would show a red light when plugged in and I could press power, but it would never boot. The company I bought it from is doing a cross-shipped RMA, which is very nice of them!

The original board went through some more testing. I was able to get it to boot so long as it was out of the case AND the power button panel was no longer screwed into the case. I surmised we had a grounding problem. This was confirmed by experimenting with various configurations on the system inside the case and out. I eventually laid a piece of anti-static bag under the system board. This works intermittently, but more often than not working.

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