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April 2001

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Using the Toshiba PDR-M4 Digital Camera with OS/2 via USB

By Eric Landrieu ©April 2001

Through experimentation, and thanks to something I noticed when hooking up the camera to a computer running an operating system made by a certain Redmond-based company, I've found that I can transfer the images from my Toshiba PDR-M4 digital camera directly to my OS/2 computer using the USB cable that comes with the system. Based on information on Toshiba's website, I suspect this may also hold true for the PDR-M5 and the PDR-M70 (although don't hold me to it on these models). This article will tell you what you need to get this working, how to set it up, and what you need to know to do the transfers.

The PDR-M4 has both USB and serial cables included with it. You can't (at least, at the moment) get the camera to transfer using the serial cable.

How it works

The PDR-M4 (and possibly other USB-based digital cameras) behave as mass storage devices on the USB bus. It almost acts like a USB zip drive, according to OS/2. I found this out when I connected my camera to a Windows 2000 laptop, and it recognized the camera as a "USB Mass Storage Device". I told myself that maybe OS/2 might do the same, and I remembered that I'd seen the USB zip drive listed in IBM's Device Driver Repository. So I grabbed that driver, installed it, and my digital camera became visible under OS/2.

What you need

You need the following to be able to do the transfers:

An OS/2 computer with USB ports that work with IBM's USB support drivers

The digital camera and its USB cable

IBM's USB Basic Device Support Package (software choice at http://service.software.ibm.com/os2dd/swc/usbbasic.exe )

IBM's USB Mass Storage Device Driver (software choice at http://service.software.ibm.com/os2dd/swc/usbstor.exe )

Editor note: These drivers should also be available as the part of eComStation since it includes the Merlin Convenience Pak as it's base and all driver updates from SWC.

How to install the camera

The setup is very easy. If your system does not yet have the USB Basic Device Support Package installed, you should install that. As long as your USB ports work with these drivers, you're in good shape (the drivers support UHCI-compliant USB ports only).

Once you've got these installed, you install the USB Mass Storage Device Driver. When that's done, reboot, and you'll be ready to start using the camera.

You can make some customizations of the way the drivers set up your system. You can tell it how many devices the drivers should accommodate (reserve drive letters), and how many of these are devices that be can treated as floppies versus hard drives. The PDR-M4 does not act like a floppy, so you should make sure that you allow for at least one non-floppy device in the driver parameters.

Using the camera

Copying photos from the Toshiba camera

Once you reboot, when you connect your camera, you will find that you have a new drive letter assigned (on my system, it took my CDROM's drive letter and that one moved up one letter). This puts you right at the root of the SmartMedia that is in the camera. The Toshiba camera creates a directory off the root called DCIM. In this directory, there are directories named xxxTOSHI (where xxx is a three digit number, the first being 100). Inside these directories you'll find the *.jpg files where your camera stored the pictures.

You can simply copy these files (using any normal OS/2 file copy procedures) to copy the files to your computer's hard drive. It's really that simple.

OS/2 will cache the directory structures of the hard drive, and doesn't recognize if you change SmartMedia. You should issue the command:

EJECT x: (where x is the drive letter of the camera)
to tell OS/2 that you are ejecting the media. You will see the camera's status light go from green to off. You can then change the Smartmedia card, and OS/2 will have no problem reading the new one.


The biggest limitation that I've found is that I cannot write to the Smartmedia in the camera at all. I can with Windows 2000, but not OS/2. I don't know what is different, but enough is different that it won't allow that. This means that you can't upload any Flash updates for the camera from OS/2. You also cannot delete any of the files on the SmartMedia using OS/2.

I've also noticed that the transfers (at least on my end) are slower with OS/2 than with Windows 2000. The transfers are still much faster than I could get with a serial connection before, I wish it could be a little faster. It took 3 ½ minutes to transfer the contents of a full 32MB SmartMedia card to my OS/2 computer (which translates to about 1200Kbits/second for the data itself, not including any control, error checking, etc. data).


Yes, you can use a USB digital camera with OS/2. I don't know whether any cameras other than the Toshiba PDR-M4 will work like this, but I suspect that some will. If the camera tries to act like a mass storage drive, it's definitely worth a shot to make it work. I find that I can easily live with the two limitations I mention above, and I'm very happy to be able to bring my images right into my OS/2 system, instead of having to bring them in to the system through a different one.
Article references:
IBM's USB Basic Device Support Package (software choice subscription required): http://service.software.ibm.com/os2dd/swc/usbbasic.exe
IBM's USB Mass Storage Device Driver (software choice subscription required): http://service.software.ibm.com/os2dd/swc/usbstor.exe

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