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April 2003

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The IBM Thinkpad A30p - eCS Power on the Road

By Mark B. Szkolnicki© April 2003

As a consultant that does a lot of traveling for my business, I decided last year that I needed a new portable.

I was previously using a ThinkPad 390X which had seen lots of service, but was slow by present day standards (400 MHz Pentium II), and had limited memory and hard drive capacity (8 Gb). It also had only an 8X CD-ROM installed.

I wanted to run Virtual PC under eComStation on the new system, as many of my clients required Windows based program support while I was on the road. The program is extremely CPU and memory intensive, which made it impractical to run on the 390X. I really needed a system with a DVD drive installed, to support various training activities and was also hoping to get a system which had CD-RW capabilities, to burn CD's when I was away from the office.

Having great success with Thinkpads in the past, I started searching the ThinkPad line first, to see if any of the models had all the specifications I was looking for. That's why I finally settled early last year on the A30p. {Click on the image to the right for a larger view of the A30p}

While the T series ThinkPads are declared by IBM to be OS2 compatible, the ThinkPad A30p was not listed on the IBM web sites as being certified to work with OS2. However, with some experimentation, ingenuity and advice from various individuals and newsgroups, I've found that the A30p can indeed function very well as an OS2 / eComstation based portable, using drivers from other models in the ThinkPad line, and OS2 software available commercially, through shareware and open source.

Most of my comments will relate to use of eComstation (eCS) on the A30p, as all of my computers now have eCS installed as the standard operating system.

Initial Hardware Impressions

The A30p could be ordered in a variety of customized configurations with varying model numbers. Based on my needs and requirements, I ordered the Model 2653-64U, which contains a 1.2 Ghz Pentium III-M with the ability to have up to 1 Gb of memory on-board.

My overall impression of the unit when it arrived was that it was very well designed, and made good use of available space. Access panels were well located, and most items which may need to be serviced or changed could be accessed by removing one screw and a panel.

The A30p has two Ultrabays, located towards the front of the unit, on the right and left sides. A clever system of levers was provided to quickly and easily remove drives or batteries installed in the Ultrabays. {Click on the images below for a larger view}

Like most IBM portables, the operating system software was supplied in a set pre-formatted configuration, which would have to be installed in the same configuration again if something goes wrong. The 2653-64U model came with Windows 2000 pre-installed.

I must say I was somewhat bemused, when looking at the pre-installed configuration, that most of the 48 Gb hard drive was formatted as ONE FAT32 PARTITION. I can just imagine someone defragging a 40 Gb partition under Windows!

For reasons also unexplained, the portable also did not come with any separate recovery disks. A hidden, non-standard 8 Gb recovery partition is located on the hard disk, but this would be of no use if the hard drive becomes physically damaged or inaccessible due to a boot virus or damage to the partition table.

Separate recovery disks on CD can be ordered by phoning IBM, but I suggested to the sales representative that they be included as standard, regardless of whether a recovery partition was on the hard disk or not.

The A30p, as shipped standard from the factory, also has no floppy drive pre-installed (confirmed by an IBM sales representative). I found it somewhat amusing that many of the IBM supplied windows based drivers on their web site which are specifically designed for the A30p come on floppy based drive images!

Operating System Installation

To install eCS , I needed to repartition the hard drive from it's original configuration, as recovery partition seemed to be interfering with the installation. Once the repartitioning was accomplished, the eCS bootable CD could be run and installation proceeded normally.

I did not try to install Warp 4 on this machine, but I suspect that most versions would install correctly, if the most current installation disks containing updated hard disk drivers and recent kernels were used. However, A30p users without a floppy drive installed may find it difficult to install original versions of Warp 4 unless a bootable CD could be created.

The A30p works fine under the base eComstation operating system installation, and with all current fixpacks (operating system and base device driver). The current configuration I have tested at the time of this article is eCS v1.03 (Convenience Pack 3), kernel 14.093d, Base Device Drive Fixpack 3, TCPIP 4.32 (WR08707 and UN02206 updates).


As mentioned previously, the Model 2653-64U came with a 48 Gb hard drive as standard equipment. The hard drive can be easily accessed, if required, by removing a panel located on the right hand side of the unit. It impressed me that a 48 Gb hard drive could be contained in a unit measuring only 9 centimetres long X 4 centimetres wide X 1.5 centimetres deep (4 inches X 2 3/4 inches X 0.5 inches).

A low profile Matsushita UJDA 720 CD-RW / DVD combo drive was installed in the UltraBay on the right side of the unit.. As some clients still supply me with files on floppies, I ordered the optional Ultrabay floppy drive for the A30p and installed it in the second Ultrabay on the left side of the unit. Both drives can be swapped into either Ultrabay, as required.

Additional drive accessories (Hard drives, Zip drives, LS-120 drive, CD-ROM, CD-RW) can also be purchased separately. If you wish, both drives can also be removed, and plastic inserts placed in the Ultrabay slots, to save weight on a trip (one insert comes with the A30p, the second must be purchased separately).

For full use of all drive capabilities on the A30p, the DANI series of drivers written by Daniela Engert are recommended for use. DANIS506.ADD can be used as a direct replacement for the IBMS506.ADD driver provided by IBM, for basic hard drive and controller support. In addition, the DANIS506 driver provides other extended features, including support for removeable drives, PCMCIA memory cards, and hot swapping of drives in the Ultrabays.

DANIATAPI.FLT can also be used as a replacement for the IBM filter drivers, to allow full use of ATAPI CD, DVD and CD-RW capabilities.

As an example, Ultrabay hot swap support for a floppy drive, zip drive and a DVD/CD-RW on the A30p can be added by using the following switches with v1.6.1 of DANIS506.ADD and v0.3.13 of DANIATAPI.FLT:

(NOTE: different switches are required for versions of DANIS506.ADD 1.5.2 and below - see Daniela Engert's documentation for DANIS506.ADD for the correct settings.)

The above switches, which are described in Daniela's documentation for DANIS506, will allow hot swapping if the A30p if the unit is placed in APM suspend. (NOTE: removable storage devices must be ejected prior to swapping, to prevent data loss).

For CD writing, I've found the RSJ CD-Writing software to be very reliable when used on the A30p. If DANIATAPI.FLT is installed, the BASEDEV=LOCKCDR.FLT statement added by RSJ may be removed or REM'ed out in CONFIG.SYS.

The Matsushita DVD/CD-RW drive is not recognized by default as a CD-RW drive by RSJ, as settings information in the CDDRV.INF file installed by RSJ does not contain information for this hardware. I was able to get the RSJ software to write correctly to the drive by copying settings from another ATAPI drive which was listed in CDDRV.INF and editing it as follows:

For playing of DVDs, the WarpVision package functions very well, if the software settings are configured correctly, and the rest of the system is set up properly to use the software. The DVD/UDF file system support v1.1.3 or higher must be installed for WarpVision to function correctly, and the IFS statement for UDF file system (UDF.IFS) must be placed in CONFIG.SYS before the statement for the CD file system (CDFS.IFS).


A 15" LCD screen takes up the entire inside of the top cover of the unit for the A30p. A Radeon Mobility chipset with 32 Mb of memory is used to display to the built-in screen or an external monitor at resolutions up to 1600 X 1200 X 16M colors.

The SNAP (formerly Scitech Display Driver - SDD) drivers created by Scitech Software support a wide range of video chipsets under OS2/eCS. I currently use the commercial SNAP v2.1 drivers which allow full use of hardware acceleration and all available resolutions on the A30p. I would anticipate that the latest Special Edition IBM SDD drivers would also work for this system, but would not provide most of the extended features and custom resolutions available with the commercially available version of the SNAP drivers.

The version 2.1 drivers allow use of zooming capabilities to various lower video resolutions, as required. This is especially useful for output to external displays which have a lower resolution than the LCD display.

A Video out connector is provided on the back of the portable to allow connection of a monitor to the computer. I also use this connector to provide video out capability for a multimedia projector manufactured by 3M Corporation. The SNAP drivers allow switching between the onboard LCD screen and a monitor or projector, but do not allow simultaneous viewing on both displays.

While an S-Video out connector is located on the back of the A30p, I was informed by SciTech support that SNAP currently does not support display output to S-Video under eCS.


Sound for this model is provided by a Crystal Audio based chipset. Speakers are located at the front of the unit, under the keyboard. Additional outputs for external speakers and inputs for sound are located on the left side of the unit.

This chipset is used on the ThinkPad model T23. The ThinkPad Audio V drivers (aftp1aos.exe) listed under the T23 driver matrix for OS2 provide the proper support.  

Three sound control buttons are present at the top of the keyboard (increase sound, decrease sound and mute). These buttons operate independent of the operating system, and work perfectly under OS2 / eCS.


PCMCIA support is provided by a Ricoh RL5c478 Cardbus Controller. This controller is not currently supported using the standard IBM PCMCIA drivers (eg. IBM1SS14.SYS) which ship with eCS, or in the updated CardBus 5 driver package.

A post on a newsgroup pointed me to a little known PCMCIA driver called SS2PCIC1.SYS, which is also present on eCS installation disk #2. I was able to install it directly from the disk, using Selective Install, by using a text editor and modifying the PCMCIA.TBL file contained in the X:\OS2\Install\ subdirectory (where X: is the drive where eCS is installed) to contain the following line:

Adding this line gives a menu choice for the A30p when installing PCMCIA Support under Selective Install, which allows the driver to be unpacked from the disk and installed correctly under eCS.

Installing this driver, coupled with the use of Daniela Engert's DANIS506.SYS driver allowed me to use 95% of my PCMCIA devices on the A30p, including SmartMedia card adapters, modems, SCSI support, multifunction adapters, etc.

In order for the DANIS506.ADD driver to correctly configure the PCCard slots for storage device support, the switch /PCS must be added (starting with v1.6.0) or /PCMCIA (pre- 1.5.2 or lower). In my CONFIG.SYS for the A30p, the following switches provide PCCard support:

(other switches are also present for hot swap support, but this switch is specific to PCMCIA)

One exception to the current PCMCIA support for this driver is use of a CompactFlash adapter, to read CompactFlash based memory cards. Under SS2PCIC1.SYS, the card appears as memory, with no resources assigned. In comparison, SmartMedia cards are recognized as hard drives, with assigned resources if DANIS506.ADD is installed, and may be mounted as removeable media, to allow reading and writing to occur.

I've recently obtained a beta IBM1SS14.SYS driver which does contain support for CompactFlash in addition to the other devices. While the driver is a little buggy (eg. cards must be inserted after the system has booted in order to be recognized, powering down a card for removal will power down all cards in both slots), they still function correctly, and are fully useable. I usually revert back to the SS2PCIC1.SYS driver for normal use.


An Intel Pro Mini PCI Network Adapter card is included as standard on this model of A30p, providing 10/100 Mbps support when the unit is connected to a network. The RJ-45 network connector for the A30p is located at the back of the unit.

The Intel Pro PCI OS2 v3.5 network driver package (eftpnteo.exe) listed under the T23 ThinkPad device driver matrices works perfectly with the A30p. An updated driver is also available on Hobbes (v4.53), which corrects some problems related to suspend on the ThinkPad.

Bluetooth wireless support hardware is provided on this model of A30p. Unfortunately, no drivers currently exist for Bluetooth under OS2 / eCS.


A 56K modem comes installed into the A30p. However, like most internal modems in the ThinkPad line, the card is a software based Lucent WinModem.

An OS2 driver for earlier Lucent WinModems was created a few years ago, which worked perfectly on the 28K modem installed in my ThinkPad 390X. However, the same driver was not recognized when I attempted to install it on the A30p.

An updated Lucent WinModem driver has been available on Hobbes since September, 2002, which supports 56K modem operation. I have not tested this driver to see if it provides the required support. From reading various newsgroups, it is my understanding that a variety of models of Lucent Winmodems have been used on this model, including the Lucent AMR version, for which no drivers exist for OS2 or Linux (based on Tim Sipples excellent article on the ThinkPad T30 in the January 2002 VOICE newsletter).

I have a U.S. Robotics 33.6K PCMCIA modem, which works perfectly for dial-up connection on the road, coupled with the In-Joy Dialer software package, so use of the built-in modem is not missed very much.


An infrared port is provided on the A30p, which must be enabled through the BIOs on the system.

An OS2 infrared device driver package originally developed for the ThinkPad line is now available for the variety of portables (irdd2), from Hobbes and from the eCS web site. I do not have the driver installed on my computer, so I cannot verify whether it works correctly on the A30p or not.


Two connectors for USB are located on the back of the A30p, which uses the Universal Host Controller Interface (UHCI) for USB support.

Using the latest USB Base and Mass Storage drivers, and latest Base Device Drivers Fixpack 3 available from the eComstation web site (also available from IBM Software Choice), I was able to connect and use an 8 Mb memory key which came with the A30p, as well as a 100 Mb PhotoShow Zip Drive and an Imation FlashGo! memory card reader.

Trackpoint / Mouse Support

The trackpoint on the A30p is the same standard pointing device that has been available for the ThinkPad line for some time. The Trackpoint on the A30p will work with the OS2 TrackPoint IV v1.03 drivers (tracpt01.exe) which are listed on the T23 device driver matrices.

A mouse port on the back of the A30p can also used to connect an external mouse, if required.

Serial / Parallel Ports

The ThinkPad A30p comes with one parallel and one serial port installed on the system.

I was somewhat surprised to see the serial port when I unpacked the unit, as the specifications did not list a serial port as being present on the system (confirmed by an IBM representative when I enquired via phone prior to purchasing the computer)..

The ports function correctly using the standard IBM COM.SYS drivers,the SIO drivers developed by Ray Gwinn and the commercial QCOM drivers available from Quatech, for use with their ISA, PCI and PCMCIA serial port equipment. I currently use the QCOM drivers on the A30p, as I sometimes require additional serial ports on this machine, which are present on a 2 port PCMCIA serial card which I purchased from Quatech.

The QCOM drivers settings have a large number of switches that can be used to enable support for various sytems and configurations. The settings for the QCOM drivers that I've used successfully for standard serial and PCMCIA support for my hardware on the A30p are:

For ease of upgrade on all my machines, I keep non-operating system related files in a separate "SYSTEM" directory. For other systems, the statement above would have to be modified, based on your own configuration, and device driver location.


The A30p has a standard Thinkpad keyboard built in. Because of the size of the unit (13" X 10 3/4"), the keys are also standard size. No separate keypad is provided.

The keyboard has various extra Windows specific keys, as well as a set of 6 round buttons on the left side, which can be used to perform various browser and Internet functions under Windows. All of these keys are unsupported under the original eCS package.

Fortunately, Ulrich Moeller's XWorkplace (XWp) enhancement software supports mapping of unused keys to various functions (eg. opening directories, quickkeys to open various programs, etc.) as one of it's many functions. All of the unused Windows keys on the keyboard, as well as five of the six round keys can be mapped for various uses, using XWp (the very top round button on the left being the only exception).

I saw a possible explanation for the inability to assign scancodes for some buttons in a recent post on the XWp Yahoo group. It was indicated by one of the members that the IBM keyboard driver has a very complex table for reassigning scancodes, including scancodes for special keyboards which are no longer available. The table has no definitions for certain scancode ranges, so the keys are not recognized.

Whether this is the problem or not, another member on the same group indicated that a file called WIN95KEY_V3.ZIP available on Hobbes provides additional support for keys which would not be recognized by XWp. I have tried this package, and still could not get the top round button on the left hand side of the keyboard to be recognized.


For those late night or early morning flights, a light which can illuminate the keyboard is built into the LCD screen on the upper edge on the left hand side. The light can be turned on or off by pressing Fn-PgUp. The switch is operating system independent, and functions perfectly under eCS.


BIOS upgrades are available for the A30p which are operating system independent. I've done two BIOS upgrades on this system already on floppy diskettes. Users without floppies may be able to burn the update on to a CD, but I have not tried it myself, to see if it would work.

Battery Power

A 9 cell, 10.8V Lithium-Ion battery is provided as standard on this model of the A30p. The battery is rated at approximately 3 hours of usage without recharge, with a recharge time of approximately 2 hours if fully discharged.

In real life experience, I've found that the battery will have a maximum useful life of about 2.5 hours, with an average life of approximately 2 hours. A second battery can also be installed in an Ultrabay, to provide additional power.

System Advantages

High end workstation power in a portable package, all devices on-board, DVD / Rewritable CD support and a large screen. What more needs be said?

System Disadvantages

Size and weight.

The dimensions are 32.9 centimetres wide X 27.25 centimetres deep X 4.5 centimetres deep (13 X 10.7 X 1.8 inches), which allows for the 15" screen, but makes the unit a tight squeeze to fit in most zipped computer briefcases.

With batteries and/or drives installed in both Ultrabays, the A30p also weighs in at approximately 3.4 kilograms (8 pounds). Removing devices from both bays can bring the weight down to approximately 3.1 kilograms (7 pounds). You definitely get your exercise sprinting across a crowded airport!

The A30p is also a high end portable, with a high end price range.


It took approximately three months of trial and error to get almost everything working under eCS on the A30p, but the final result has been well worth it. While some of the equipment changes from model to model, I would suspect that many of the same procedures listed above would apply to other models in the A30, A31 and A31p line as well.

All in all, I would recommend the A30p as an eCS based machine, if you need high end performance on the road.

IBM Thinkpad A30p
Developer: IBM -
Price: This model has recently been replaced withthe A31: Approx $1,469 - $2,124 USD

   RSJ CD-Writer -
   Scitech SNAP Drivers -
   ThinkPad T23 Device Driver Matrix -
   Hobbes OS2 Software Archive (DANI drivers) -
   Quatech Communications Devices -
   Xworkplace Software Site -
   eComStation -

Mark Szkolnicki has been an OS2 / eComstation user and enthusiast for 12 years.

He is owner and senior consultant of Paladin Environmental Consulting Services Ltd., an environmental and emergency planning organization based in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, which undertakes projects for organizations in Canada, the United States and Internationally.

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