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February 2001

Actiontec PC700 Internal PCMCIA Reader and a Compact Flash Adapter under OS/2

By: Peter Hinckley ©February 2001

Actiontec PC700 PCMCIA Reader: http://www.actiontec.com/products/readers/pc700/pc700_overview.html
Olympus C-2500L: http://www.olympusamerica.com/product.asp?c=15&p=16&s=12&product=380
OS/2 Device Driver Pak On-Line PCMCIA Socket Services: http://service.software.ibm.com/os2ddpak/html/pcmciaso/index.htm
IBM PC Co PC Card Director (version 4.12) drivers 5/16/1999: http://www.pc.ibm.com/qtechinfo/YAST-3MDRYE.html
PCMCIA card driver (PC Card 5.0): http://service.boulder.ibm.com/asd-bin/doc/en_us/ddcat.htm
The latest CARDBUS driver set has been moved to Software Choice, which is available by subscription only now.
PLAYWILL.EXE 2/15/99: ftp://ftp.software.ibm.com/ps/products/os2/os2ddpak/playwill.exe
Lists 6 Compaq Armada's, 4 Dell and 3 HP laptops as supported
CARDBUS.EXE 10/13/00: ftp://ftp.software.ibm.com/ps/products/os2/os2ddpak/cardbus.exe
Lists 15 Thinkpad series supported. No version in the Readme file, so I'm not sure if this is the 5.0 version that is available at SWC or not. This is the last free version of the PC Card Director driver set that I am aware of.
PCCARDW3.EXE 12/18/96: ftp://ftp.software.ibm.com/ps/products/os2/os2ddpak/pccardw3.exe
I think this is the original version of PlayAtWill. Doesn't say what chipsets or models are supported. Most likely an update to the base PCMCIA support included in Warp4. There are are 12 NLV versions of this as well. You can find them at http://service.software.ibm.com/os2ddpak/html/who/index.htm all starting with PCCARDxx.EXE. No version in the Readme file.

There are a lot of us OS/2 users who would like a way to download images directly from our digital cameras without having to boot to other operating systems, use slow serial cables, or have found that the available OS/2 download programs don't support the camera of our choice. There are solutions, although they're not necessarily all-encompassing nor "inexpensive". I don't claim to be an expert on the subject but here is how I was able to get this running under OS/2.

The simplest, although perhaps not the snazziest, solution I found for my desktop computer, by carefully watching discussions on the OS/2 newsgroups comp.os.os2.misc and *.*.*.setup.storage, was to get an internal PCMCIA card reader, for which you can get adapters to enable reading the Compact Flash(CF) cards (also called "Digital Flash Film") used by most digital cameras. It does take a bit of looking around to find one which works with OS/2, and the manufacturers further confuse things by calling these several different names: IDE/ATA PCMCIA controllers, ATA card adapters, PC card "drives", and card readers. Many times these are hidden under the heading "industrial" or "commercial" on their websites. "Car reader" seems to be evolving into referring only to the external plug-in varieties which read SmartMedia and/or CF cards and use parallel or USB ports. The typical internal reader fits in a 3.5 inch mounting bay, comes with its own interface card, and has anywhere from 1 to 3 slots for reading various combinations of type I, II, III, or IV PCMCIA cards. Some have special CF slots and others will also read microdrives. Installation involves opening your computer, plugging the interface card into an empty slot on the motherboard, installing the "drive" in an empty 3.5" bay (or in a 5" bay with an adapter), and plugging in the cables (I'm going on the assumption here that OS/2 users are a little more savvy about the internals of their computers than those Who use a certaIN other system98). There seem to be more ISA-bus readers which will work with OS/2 than PCI-bus ones. A few of the sites I looked at had readers which would "work with any PNP operating system" and then went on to specify either no specific system at all or several systems with the exclusion of OS/2. DOS 6 compatible readers were more common than I expected.

This IBM page on PCMCIA: http://service.software.ibm.com/os2ddpak/html/C3B001A5282F009285256102006EB125.html says, in so many words, that a card reader (modem or whatever) can be made to work if you can find a compatible card system in the PCMCIA System window of the set up window. This is sort of what I suspected, but the problem is how do you tell what's compatible? And, has that system list ever been updated?? editor's note: Beginning with Warp Server eBusiness, IBM only supports Thinkpads in the general install process. The drivers are on the CD but they are buried. Unless something has changed, the Merlin Convenience Pak, which is the Warp4 refresh that's included in IBM's Software Choice subscription as well as the base for Serenity System's eComStation, is based on WSeB, and has the same lousy PCMCIA installation support. The legacy PCMCIA drivers are on the WSeB and the eCS installation CD though - x:\OS2IMAGE\DISK_17 in a couple of packed files (PCMCIADD and PCMCIA). When I installed WSeB on my laptop I had to go through a bunch of drivers to find one that worked. :-(

PCMCIA Installation

The "card drive" I purchased (over the internet) was an ActionTec PC700 PNP PCMCIA card reader (16 bit ISA) which has two bays, enabling reading type I, II, or III cards, and is advertised to work with OS/2 for about $99. This uses the INTEL PCIC drivers from the Warp 4 Installation CD:
Insert the Warp 4 Installation CD in your CDROM drive. Open theOS/2 System folder; next open the System Setup folder; next open the Install/Remove folder. Select the Selective Installobject. Select Next and on the next page click on PCMCIA Support. Select INTEL PCIC from the PCMCIA System window and check both PCMCIA Hard Disk and PCMCIA Flash checkboxes. You will then have to reboot the system to load the PCMCIA support drivers.

The instructions which came with the PC700 are silent about OS/2, but the PC700 FAQ page on the ActionTec website includes the OS/2 installation instructions (which are more or less just as described above). To use the Compact Flash (CF) cards, I picked up a Compact Flash/pc card adapter from my local camera store for about $10. There is also a good listing of "card drive" suppliers at: http://www.apresearch.com/cardrive.htm, but unfortunately most of the suppliers listed don't have links attached.

Installed with PCMCIA Hard Disk support, a CF card is treated like a removable drive. After booting OS/2, I insert my camera's CF card in the adapter, insert the adapter in the card reader, and BEEP beep! Drive L: is now available for use (sub-directories and all). I guess this is a form of what you call "hot swapping". When I download the images, it takes about 48 seconds to move 34mb of high resolution images (20 images) to the picture folder on my hard drive (drag and drop), and I've have had no problems. This is a lot easier than bothering with another operating system and a USB reader (BTDT), parallel port reader, or camera download program (BTDT also).

All CF cards conform to the ATA/IDE standard, so any camera which uses them can be read by any PCMCIA card reader using the appropriate adapter--the trick of course being to get your computer able to use the reader. When I buy my next camera, I will be sure it has at least one CF card slot (I lucked out this first time). SmartMedia cards tend to use proprietary formats which complicates things no end. Besides they are more expensive per unit of storage than CF cards.

My camera, an Olympus C-2500L, uses both types of cards, and to get the images off the SmartMedia card (when I actually do use it), in the camera I copy them to an empty CF card and then insert that in the PCMCIA card reader. The camera came with a USB external smart media reader for <that other system98>, but every time I wanted to use the reader, I had to re-install the software. I next bought a Microtech CF USB card reader, which worked very reliably. It's sole drawback was that it also required using <expletive deleted98>. The CF card I bought (Microtech) may have been pre-formatted because I never did anything to it before use. The camera itself created a directory structure on the card, "x:\DCIM\100OLYMP". If you don't empty x:\DCIM\100OLYMP of images daily, subsequent directories are automatically created, "x:\DCIM\10nOLYMP", using n=0,1, 2, 3, 4, etc to represent each new day. The camera hunts for the last empty directory and fills it. This may not necessarily be true for all cameras. The pictures are always recorded in that sub-directory, and I've never had to modify it or change it other than to move the pictures out to my hard drive.

My system is a desktop with: Asus P297L board, P-II 266, 128 MB ram, Matrox G400, W4 with fixpak 10. I haven't gone beyond FP10 because of all the complaints and bugs I've read about on the newsgroups regarding FP11 and up. This is what OS/2 inserted into my CONFIG.SYS when I installed PCMCIA support:

Editor's note: I have found that my PCMCIA driver would not assign any resources to my Compact Flash Adpater until I moved the adapter to Slot 1 and moved all the PCMCIA related lines above to the end of my CONFIG.SYS. Interesting to note that my other PCMCIA devices (IBM Network card, IBM Wireless Network card and a BestData 56K modem) all worked fine as originally installed.

OS/2 Documentation for PCMCIA is rather skimpy, and IBM has just about completely discontinued updating its PCMCIA system "drivers". The first and third DEVICE statements are obviously for DOS/Win use, while the second is OS/2's COM.SYS driver for com1 etc. For some reason, the PCMCIA installation process moved this line from just below the one for MOUSE.SYS higher up (to where I've returned it). PCMCIA.SYS recognizes the presence of the card slot; PCM2ATA.ADD recognizes the card as an ATA hard drive; I think SS2PCIC1.SYS contains the routines specific to the "INTEL PCIC" card system selection; and OS2PCARD.DMD is the device manager driver. The /!DM switch on PCM2ATA.ADD tells card services to use OS2PCARD.DMD instead of OS2DASD.DMD (not sure why this is necessary). I have experimented with REM-ing out VPCMCIA.SYS and VCOM.SYS, and a DOS window can still read the PC card as Drive L: I have also REM-ed out PCMSSDIF.SYS, PCM2SRAM.SYS, FLSH2MTD.SYS, and PCM2FLSH.SYS, which appear to be associated with cards as memory. This has had no adverse effects on using the card slots as [ATA] Drive L: (I've forgotten to mention that the other slot is Drive K:). In no way do I claim to be expert on all this, and I suspect that if I ever need to use the slots to read cards as memory, then these 4 lines will have to be "un-REMed".

PCMCIA.SYS is the card services driver; SS2PCI1.SYS is the ISA bus socket services driver (apparently the one specific for INTEL PCIC); IC memory card services use the ICMEM*.* files I've seen referred to in newsgroup posts, with which I've had no experience with.

One note of caution: the PC700 card reader is a PNP ISA device and isn't configurable to any IRQ other than 7. PRINT01.SYS also uses IRQ 7, but I've had no problems with printing or card reading either in polling mode or by adding the /LPT1 parameter. However, I don't recall ever trying to download and print at the same time. I recently tried installing the new BIDI driver, PAR1284.SYS, to speed up my Lexmark Z51. The Z51 prints noticeably faster, but the BIDI driver "breaks" my ATA card services by putting a deathgrip on IRQ 7. Card services can figure out when a card has been plugged in, but trying to read it produces "drive not ready" or "drive not accessible" errors.

I would like to thank SCOUG's (SoCal OS/2 Users Group, http://www.scoug.com), "Mr. Know-It-All", for many useful suggestions on attempting to clear up the problems with PAR1284.SYS. These included tinkering with the PNP set up in BIOS, changing the order of statements in CONFIG.SYS, the "/EXIRQ:7" parameter for PC2ATA.ADD, and using RESERVE.SYS. These were all educational with respect to learning more about OS/2, but unfortunately, none produced a solution. I finally reached the conclusion that I should have gotten a card reader configurable to several IRQs (7, 10, 11, etc.). Revisiting the ActionTec website and checking on the model PC300 card reader revealed that it's completely configurable both in memory addresses and IRQs (3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11 available) and that it uses DATABOOK TCIC in the PCMCIA System install window instead of INTEL PCIC. Maybe when I have some extra cash I'll get one of these to replace the PC700 and eliminate the IRQ conflict with PAR1824.SYS, assuming I can find one as I just learned that ActionTec no longer markets the PC300 card reader.

If you decide to try all this, work backwards from the camera: select a camera which uses CF cards for "film", then find an adapter and determine what it converts to (i.e. to type I, II, or III PCMCIA cards), and then find an OS/2 compatible internal "card drive" which can read whatever card your trying to adapt to. There are also SCSI card readers, although I haven't researched them very much. I've seen some newsgroup posts which relate problems if PCMCIA tries to read the cards as "memory". I get the impression I stumbled into using them as a removable hard drive quite accidentally. I do recommend it however. I've been doing some more snooping around: Carry Computer Eng. Co. (http://carry.com.tw/), Adtron Products (http://www.adtron.com), and SanDisk (http://www.SanDisk.com) make several kinds of ISA/PCI/IDE/USB card readers. Some of these specifically mention OS/2 compatibility, while others speak about multi-platform capability.

I've taken more pictures in the last 6 months than I have in the past 10 years, and for now, I'll activate the BIDI driver only when I need to print a lot of images on my Z51 (with PMView).

Further Reading

There is a series of good technical articles on memory cards and ATA at http://www.synchrotech.com/support, in particular the link for http://www.synchrotech.com/support/intro.html. As I recall, this is the article which really made up my mind about buying a PCMCIA card reader. There is also http://www.pcmcia.org, which is the PCMCIA manufacturer's trade association website (also called http://www.pc-card.com).

This is a link to a SanDisk site which has good PCMCIA/ATA technical stuff, one of my sources: http://www.SanDisk.com/ci/po_over.htm The articles from SanDisk I saved are slightly different than those in this link, since they date to last Oct. From a couple of other articles which appear to have been dropped: linear flash memory is a non-ATA standard and requires special file system drivers and special software; ATA is a cross-platform standard (essentially "mobile IDE"), and CF cards were developed to emulate an ATA disk drive using 512Byte blocks instead of the typical 64KByte block used by memory--therefore no special file system drivers are necessary. SanDisk also has a page with links to several card reader manufacturers: http://www.SanDisk.com/oem/card.htm SanDisk lumps internal desktop card readers, like the PC700, under the heading "industrial", which seems to be a trend in the rest of the industry as well.

Surfing a number of sites tends to indicate that USB readers are the wave of the future. What this means for OS/2, I'm not sure.

Peter Hinckley has been an OS2/ user since about 1993, starting with version 3 on a 386 machine. He bought it because a friend who worked for IBM had been helping him with computer stuff since CP/M and 8" floppy days (and subsequently with a Kaypro II).

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