Multiboot PC for FreeDOS, Linux and eComStation

Here is another great system for an eComStation user that is similar to the previous system I wrote about. There have been requests from several people for me to document these builds to help promote eComStation (demo CD URL) and I have agreed that is a good idea. Here are the specifications of this system as agreed upon by the end-user:

  • Thermaltake Armor Series VA8000BWS Full Tower Case w/Side Panel Window (Black)
  • ENERMAX EG465P-VE-FMA 460W Power Supply
  • Asus M2N-E nForce 570 Ultra Sempron/Athlon 64(FX)(X2) SktAM2 DDR2 ATX Motherboard w/Audio, Gigabit LAN, RAID/Serial ATA (includes added internal parallel cable)
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor 4000+ Socket AM2 (65W)
  • Kingston KVR800D2E5K2/2G 2GB Kit DDR2-800 PC2-6400 ECC Memory
  • Adaptec SCSI Card 29160N
  • HIS H165PRF512N-R Radeon X1650 PRO 512MB GDDR2 PCI Express x16 Video Card
  • NEC 1.44MB 3.5in Internal Floppy Disk Drive (Black)
  • LITEON DH-20A4P-08 20X IDE DVD Burner Black Drive
  • FUJITSU MBA3147NP 147GB SCSI-320 (68 pin) 15,000 RPM 8MB Buffer Hard Drive
  • Logitech Media Keyboard (PS/2)
  • Logitech Marble Mouse (PS/2 + USB)
  • ViewSonic Q241wb 24in 16:10 6ms LCD Monitor 1000:1 300 cd/m2 (Black)
  • eComStation 1.2MR upgrade from eCS 1.1 (ESD)
  • Labor to install eCS on new PC
  • eComStation Subscription Services with eCS (ESD)
  • Novell openSuSE 10.3 (ordered from Novell for the end-user)
  • Installed FreeDOS on first primary partition

We at ERACC installed FreeDOS and eComStation for the end-user. We offered to install the Linux as well but the end-user wanted to install the openSuSE 10.3 Linux himself. There is space set aside on the 147GB SCSI hard drive for him to install a /boot near the start of the drive and the rest of openSuSE 10.3 after the eComStation partitions.

The Radeon X1650 PRO based PCIe graphics adapter was ordered with the other parts and arrived with them but before this system was built we at ERACC discovered there is a flaw in the graphics handling for many ATI video cards under eComStation. I contacted the end-user and offered to replace the Radeon X1650 PRO with a nVidia based PCIe card at our expense. He agreed so we ordered a GeForce 7300 LE based PCIe card to replace the ATI based card. This worked out quite well with the included SNAP Graphics driver that is included in eComStation 2.0rc4. I imagine it will also work with the Panorama VESA driver but we did not try that since SNAP worked “out of the box”.

The 24 inch Q241wb ViewSonic monitor is a very good choice here. It works perfectly with the eComStation graphics system and is run at its’ native resolution of 1920×1200 dpi. I personally want one of these monitors now.

I have also never used a trackball “mouse” myself. I found myself liking the Logitech Marble Mouse while working on the setup of this system. That is another item that may find its’ way onto my desktop in the future.

The original dual IDE DVD?RW drives were a matched set. When building the system it was discovered that one of the drives would not spin up. So it was replaced with a “PIONEER DVR-212DBK 18X SATA DVD” burner which works quite well with the updated eComStation mass storage chipset drivers from Daniela Engert.

The audio was problematic as we downloaded the latest UNIAUD drivers and installed those. This caused a very nasty hard hang on the desktop whenever the second system sound tried to play. The only out was to push the reset button. After several hours of trial and error research I discovered that installing UNIAUD from uniaud114RC5.zip and then replacing the uniaud32.sys file with the one from uniaud32-1.9.2.zip “solved” the hang problem. These are both older versions of UNIAUD files but they work here. NOTICE: This is a specific fix for the audio on these ASUS M2N-E motherboards and may or may not work on other motherboards with eComStation.

Several folks have asked me for pictures of this build so here they are:

The Entire System

From the Top

From the Side

Yup, it is a Q241wb.

1.44MB Floppy, IDE DVD?RW and SATA DVD?RW

Storage drawer included with the Thermaltake case

OOOoooo! Shiny!

I also took a video with my digital camera of the system booting into eComStation 2.0rc4 and then rebooting to FreeDOS. The video is rather large (319,581,796 bytes) and is 640×480 resolution in AVI format. I attempted to convert it to MPEG-2 but the results were even worse than the original AVI so I deleted that. It is only of the PC booting with roughly the first half of the ~6 minutes showing the system counting the 2GB of RAM and waiting through the IBM Boot Manager 30 second count down to boot eComStation. In my opinion it is not all that exciting but I went ahead and included the video here to be complete.

(This was still uploading as of the time of this post. ETA to finish uploading is 4.5 hours from the time on this post. I want ISP people to just give us the same uplink speed as downlink speed without the unnecessary huge extra fee for that.)

Multiboot PC Video – AVI format – 640×480 – 319,581,796 bytes – Removed until resized

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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

9 thoughts on “Multiboot PC for FreeDOS, Linux and eComStation”

  1. Just great. A thunderstorm has come up while that huge video file is uploading. I pray we do not lose our connection this time. I would hate to have to start that FTP upload again with the anemic uplink speed our ISP “allows” us.
    🙁

  2. Another bit of information about this build. We did not attempt to get eComStation SMP working with the dual core CPU. That costs extra for us to try with no guarantee we will succeed. One pays for the attempt even if we fail to get SMP working with eComStation. The end-user decided if he wanted SMP on eComStation he would try to install it himself.

    If the status of SMP and eComStation changes for the better, in other words usually “just works”, we will be more inclined to offer it as part of the base install. Like we do with Linux and FreeBSD for example.

  3. Checking my visitor statistics I see some of you have already tried to view the video. It is still uploading over our tiny, little uplink at the time of this comment. It is roughly 43% uploaded. Be patient. I will post a comment when the upload is complete.

  4. Ok, the video is finished uploading. One should only try to get it if one has a very high speed connection. Like I said, it is a huge file.

    Edit: One should probably just right click on the URL, save the video file, then view it. When trying to view it “streamed” from the web site it hung my Firefox browser here about 3/4 of the way through the file.

  5. Nicely done Gene. I appreciate the greater “depth” of this article. The more detailed and descriptive, the better. Including the details of any failed hardware / software is just as important as the successful components IMO.

    My compliments on the appearance of the page as well. Very nice indeed.

    Although the components selected for this build are certainly current, some are obviously not “state of the art”. It would be great to see an artlcle on such a build in the future.

    One thing that would benefit from clarification is your comment on the Radeon X1650 PRO. You stated that “we at ERACC discovered there is a flaw in the graphics handling for many ATI video cards under eComStation”. Could you provide us the details of that flaw?

    Thank you for providing this article, and your efforts on behalf of the OS/2 community.

  6. Thank you for the kind comment Sander.

    Regarding “state of the art” hardware. I am always looking for new hardware that works with eComStation and I rely heavily on reports in the hardware database at eComStation.RU. My company does not have the budget to just buy new hardware and test it. So, I have to know it works before I will use it in an eComStation build. This means we will likely never be building systems on the knife edge of technology for eComStation. Further, end-users have specific requirements like need of a floppy drive and/or need of parallel port and/or need of serial port(s) or all the above. Many of the newest motherboards have none of these, so we cannot use them.

    Regarding the ATI comment. What I meant: the ATI chip was chosen because ATI is one recommended by the Panorama developers. They do not recommend nVidia. The previous eComStation build documented here also used the ATI. That previous build end-user needs windowed DOS and windowed WinOS2. Both of those hang with several different versions of ATI including the ATI mentioned here. After doing a bit of research on the archived eComStation news groups it was discovered this is a known problem with “ATI ATOM BIOS” on some cards and GRADD that has never been fixed and is likely to never be fixed at this point. Therefore we will likely not be using ATI in any more of our eComStation builds unless the end-user is aware of this problem and insists on ATI anyway.

  7. Thanks for the clarification on the ATI graphics “flaw”. I have not used Win-OS2, or DOS under OS/2 for a number of years, so I was unaware of the problem with windowed support using the Snap driver. The performance hit with the Panorama driver is unfortunate. I hope that a better solution (Open sourced Snap?) can be found for new and future graphic cards.

    Thanks again for the article and your reply.

  8. Actually the flaw as mentioned here was on the previous system documented here which was installed with eCS 1.2R and latest Panorama. I have no idea if the flaw occurs with SNAP in VESA mode and this card as I have not tested that. However, since it is a flaw in GRADD and I “think” SNAP also partly uses GRADD (corrections welcome) it is possible.

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