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May 2001

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USB Film Card Readers and OS/2

By Eric Landrieu ©April 2001

If you already own a digital camera which does not work with OS/2, or you may prefer the convenience of not having to connect your camera and use it, there are still options. The OS/2 Mass Storage Device Driver should work with any device which adheres closely to certain USB Mass Storage device specifications (I am not sure exactly which subclasses are supported by IBM). So, all we need to do is find CompactFlash or SmartMedia USB readers that comply to one of the standards.

Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news first: There have been ones made that do work with the driver by IBM. The bad news is they are very tough to find. Most of them that you can find today will not work. My guess is that manufacturers see them as more expensive to produce because of the intelligence that needs to be built in to the device. Along the lines of WinModems, they may feel that dumber equipment and a custom device driver saves them money in the long run. And this looks to be the direction they've been taking.

So how do you know whether a particular card reader will work? What I've found so far (although my research is very limited in this) is that the IBM driver is similar, although maybe not as fully functioning, as the one that ships with Windows 2000 and that is now integrated with the Macintosh operating system. This may not sound like it is much help, but it actually is.

What you need to determine is whether the reader has a custom driver for Windows 2000, or whether it says that the driver is included in the operating system. If it has the custom driver, I doubt it will work. If it says to use the one included with Windows 2000, you may be in luck. One tip that I've found is that the reader won't work if OS/2 is booted with the thing powered and connected, until I unplug it and re-plug it in. It then works fine. This is a fairy trivial thing for me. For some reason, the OS/2 driver just doesn't recognize it properly when first booting up.

In searching, I have found a couple of readers that may work with OS/2. Unfortunately, none is easy to get. I got lucky and found one on EBay that works (in fact, it works about twice as fast as my camera to the OS/2 system, and I have no problem writing files out to it). Here's a couple of readers that I've found that may work:

We're not alone in having these problems. Linux users, and users of other operating systems that have USB support (BEOS, for example) have the same holdups. So maybe some day one of the companies who makes these will see a market for the taking and start marketing one of these gems again, rather than the readers coming out now, which are more like "WinModems" that tie themselves to the Windows (and sometimes Macintosh) platform.

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

Other USB and OS/2 related articles:
Using the Toshiba PDR-M4 Digital Camera with OS/2 via USB, by Eric Landrieu: http://www.os2voice.org/VNL/past_issues/VNL0401H/vnewsf4.htm
USB AND OS/2, by John Twelker:http://www.os2voice.org/VNL/past_issues/VNL1199H/vnewsf5.htm

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