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Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIOS?

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Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIOS?

Postby hakon » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:34 pm

Hey

I've just got a diskless 1630 laptop which I want to boot, and I don't want to use CD's. When I boot up the laptop and hits the F12 menu to get boot options, the best alternate I can see is Removable Devices, but I can't seem to figure out what that is. I have tried USB-sticks, which should not work since I am running BIOS v. 1.01c if I remember correctly, and I havent made it to boot from a memory card and I don't think it's the CD station since that got it's own label in the boot devices list. So, any tips?

And, does anybody know if there is any point of taking the chance of flashing the BIOS to an alternate version supporting USB boot, if there exists any at all? The newest available BIOS is 1.04, and 1.06c is required to to that if I am not wrong. And if I do, and I also manages to brick the BIOS or the hardware is not supported to it wont boot, is there then any ways to flash the old BIOS back again if I have a backup, without replacing the BIOS chip on the mainboard?

I am going to run Linux, most probably Debian on it if that is of interest.
Thanks :)

I guess I can install the bootloader or a minimal Debian system on a CD and load the rest of the system from USB, as I want to be able to save data. The best would be to find out what these "Removable Devices" are, or fix the BIOS if possible.
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Re: Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIO

Postby hikaru » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:25 pm

I'm not sure what "removable device" means. It could indeed refer to a USB stick, but that is a bit tricky. Depending on how the USB stick is setup it might be detected or not. Basically there are two ways:
1. superfloppy: no partition table or partitions, just a plain file system like on a floppy disc
2. USB HDD: with partition table and partitions like a regular HDD

Especially the early USB-boot capable BIOSes weren't able to handle both formats and there is no clear rule which one is supported more likely. So whatever the format on your USB stick is right now, try the other one!
As for the rest of your BIOS questions I can't offer you much help. The only thing I'm pretty sure about is that your BIOS can't boot from the SD-card slot.

If you want to boot your USB stick from a CD the easiest way would be to use a Supergrub CD. Installing Debian on a USB stick is no problem, just take some precautions to keep write accesses low and to improve the speed a bit:
- don't use ext3, use ext2 instead (no idea how much ext4 wears flash media)
- mount /tmp (and maybe /var/tmp) to a tmpfs
- disable browser disc caches
- etc. (try to eliminate as much as possible that writes on your stick)

I did something similar in my Si 1520. I even soldered* a USB stick into my notebook (google will happily translate that for you):
https://www.amilo-forum.de/topic,24492,-USB-Stick-intern.html
Best would be to get a USB stick with SLC because SLC is not that prone to wear damage, but they've been expensive back then and are completely replaced with MLC sticks by now afaik. In any case, get a USB stick with high write rates (20MB/s+) otherwise it won't be much fun.

*) Well, actually I told somebody else to do it. ;)
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Re: Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIO

Postby hakon » Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:31 pm

hikaru wrote:I'm not sure what "removable device" means. It could indeed refer to a USB stick, but that is a bit tricky. Depending on how the USB stick is setup it might be detected or not. Basically there are two ways:
1. superfloppy: no partition table or partitions, just a plain file system like on a floppy disc
2. USB HDD: with partition table and partitions like a regular HDD

Especially the early USB-boot capable BIOSes weren't able to handle both formats and there is no clear rule which one is supported more likely. So whatever the format on your USB stick is right now, try the other one!
As for the rest of your BIOS questions I can't offer you much help. The only thing I'm pretty sure about is that your BIOS can't boot from the SD-card slot.

I am pretty sure that I have read that I need 1.06c to boot from USB, but I will try soon. Will come back with the results.
If you want to boot your USB stick from a CD the easiest way would be to use a Supergrub CD. Installing Debian on a USB stick is no problem, just take some precautions to keep write accesses low and to improve the speed a bit:
- don't use ext3, use ext2 instead (no idea how much ext4 wears flash media)
- mount /tmp (and maybe /var/tmp) to a tmpfs
- disable browser disc caches
- etc. (try to eliminate as much as possible that writes on your stick)

The laptop will mostly be running as a simple game server at a local LAN-party, since I don't have anything better to use, so I don't think it will write much to the disc, but I will still try to eliminate as much as possible of the disc writing.
And for GRUB on CD. I will try Supergrub, I even see that Grub 2 includes native USB drivers which can be used if the BIOS doesn't provide any. I was afraid that I had to install a minimal Linux system on the CD to provide these drivers, but it looks like I don't need to.
I did something similar in my Si 1520. I even soldered* a USB stick into my notebook (google will happily translate that for you):
https://www.amilo-forum.de/topic,24492,-USB-Stick-intern.html
Best would be to get a USB stick with SLC because SLC is not that prone to wear damage, but they've been expensive back then and are completely replaced with MLC sticks by now afaik. In any case, get a USB stick with high write rates (20MB/s+) otherwise it won't be much fun.
*) Well, actually I told somebody else to do it. ;)

Mhm, I will use a stick I alleready have, but since I will mostly use this machine to just play around with and hosting some small game servers on a LAN-party until we get something better, I don't think I that will be ok.
Some other questions:
- What is this Uniwill thing? I these AMilos based on them? I see many are running Uniwill BIOS'es on this computer to get more RAM and some other stuff.
- Does it exist any docs on this computer? I am searching for some more RAM for it, and I just wonder what kind of RAM I need. As far as I know DDR PC2700/PC3200 would work.

Thanks btw :)
hakon
 
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Re: Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIO

Postby hikaru » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:29 pm

hakon wrote:What is this Uniwill thing? I these AMilos based on them? I see many are running Uniwill BIOS'es on this computer to get more RAM and some other stuff.
Uniwill is the manufacturer of the Amilo mainboards. They also produce mainboards for other brands and sometimes you'll find identical Uniwill mainboards in notebooks of different brands. Therefore a BIOS written by another manufacturer might also work with an Amilo.

hakon wrote:Does it exist any docs on this computer? I am searching for some more RAM for it, and I just wonder what kind of RAM I need. As far as I know DDR PC2700/PC3200 would work.
Unfortunately documentation on consumer class notebooks is very poor and the Amilos are no exception to that. If you google for something like "a1630 datasheet" you'll find a bunch of PDF files containing most of the useful data FSC respectively FTS released for a specific notebook. These datasheets will tell you that a maximum of 1GB (2x512MB) SO-DIMM DDR PC-2700 is officially supported by FTS.
The problem with these datasheets is that they don't tell you what the hardware actually supports but rather what FTS tested when introducing a notebook model. This in turn means that for at least 50% of the models the data provided for RAM is simply incorrect since usually after a model release there will still be larger or faster but still compatible RAM modules in the future. The same basically goes for HDDs. Of course one can have a look at the datasheets of the chipsets to get more accurate information because at least Intel usually provides correct information, but then again there is this black box called BIOS and nobody can tell you for sure if it will be able to make full use of the chipset features until somebody tried. This whole thing is a very sad and neverending story.

bottom line:
2GB PC-3200 have been successfully tested in the A1630 by other members in these forums, so that usually works.
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Re: Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIO

Postby hakon » Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:07 am

Mhm, ok. I tried formatting the USB stick as a superfloppy using mkdosfs -I, but with no luch. When I installed Slax with Grub on it i saw it created MBR and some other stuff, so I am afraid it kind of converted back USB-HDD. I will try again using Lilo tommorow, and maybe also Supergrub.

Thanks for the help, I will let the topic be open until I am finnished, though I don't have any more questions atm.
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Re: Boot 1630 without HDD and CD. Removable Devices? New BIO

Postby hakon » Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:32 pm

Mhm, don't know if I wrote it or not, but the machine keeps stoping for some seconds when I plug in USB sticks. Either it hangs when I plug in the stick after booting, or when the BIOS Initiaalizin USB controllers. After it stops hanging it boots the Supergrub2 CD, which works just fine exept that it also hangs when I tries to enable USB support for GRUB. Seems like the USB controllers are dead. I will try to boot Debian from a CD and see if I can find any interesting stuff, and then try to update BIOS to 1.04 or Uniwill 1.05 which I think should be supported.
Edit: I updated to BIOS 1.04c and now it boots fine from USB without Supergrub or anything. I am using the USB port back of the screen because I had some issues with the other ones, maybe that is fixed after the BIOS update do, will test soon. I just installed Debian 6 from CD and rebooted the computer, without remembering to insert the Supergrub CD, and it booted :D

Thanks :)
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