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There's a hole in the bucket


EricBall

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I've been clearing out the basement by selling or giving away stuff which hasn't been used in a decade or more. 

 

One of the items which I plan on getting rid of is an old IBM Thinkpad 765L.  Amazingly it still works (although the battery doesn't hold a charge, which isn't surprising) and it even has a clean copy of Windows 98 installed.  It also seems to have what appears to be files restored from old backups.  Files which I aren't on my external backup drive.  So before I put it up on Kijiji I need to copy off the files, but this has turned out to be a little more difficult than I expected.

 

The Thinkpad doesn't have a USB port so I can't simply plug in the external backup drive and copy them over.

 

My first plan was to connect the Thinkpad to the router and copy the files to a USB drive using the router's built-in file share.  Unfortunately, while I have two Etherjet cards the one Etherjet cable I have is bad.  So the laptop recognizes the card, but doesn't get an IP address.

 

The second plan was to pull the drive from the Thinkpad, connect it to an IDE to USB adapter I have and read the files directly from the drive.  But my iMac and Windows laptops refuse to recognize the drive and even Linux fails to boot with the drive connected.

 

Simply copying the files to floppy (as I have both a USB floppy drive and a the floppy drive for the Thinkpad) isn't an option as the files are ~300MB.  What the Thinkpad does have is a serial port.  So I should be able to connect it via a null modem cable to another computer and then transfer the files that way. Of course none of my main computers have serial ports.  However, I have an old Dell mini tower (which I had planned on getting rid of as well, good thing I hadn't yet) with a serial port; although it doesn't have a functional OS nor will it boot off USB.

 

So the next question is what software can I use to transfer the files.  Back in the day I might have used Interlnk+Intersrv, but while I can boot DOS 6 from diskette (have a stack of those too), it can't access the hard disk (likely because it doesn't support FAT32).  After some searching I found PD Zmodem which is a DOS program that includes both a ZMODEM client and server and will transfer entire directory trees.  PERFECT!  And FreeDOS includes FAT32 support, so I should be good to go.  Once the files are transferred from the Thinkpad to the Dell I'm fairly certain I will be able to transfer them to the external drive by booting Linux.

 

Unfortunately FreeDOS doesn't seem to include a simple downloadable boot floppy.  So instead my plan is to download the LiveCD, boot the Dell from that and then create a boot floppy for the Thinkpad.  But this morning I discovered I don't actually have any blank CD-Rs! Hopefully the Dollar Store or Walmart still sells them.

 

I did was able to pick up a null modem cable at a local computer store (after much searching - and I seem to have bought the last one).  For some strange reason it's a male to female cable ?!?  So then I had to remember whether the serial port on a computer is male or female so I could also pick up an adapter.  (It's a male port on the computer so I needed a female to female adapter.)

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No CD-Rs at either dollar store or Walmart.  (Walmart did have three spindles of 10 DVD-Rs, but those won't help me.)  I tried to create floppies but couldn't figure out how to "burn" the images to an actual floppy via the USB floppy.  I was looking at my media collection and I do have several CD-RWs, so I guess the next step is to figure out which of those can be sacrificed for the cause.

 

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The comedy continues.  My attempt to erase and burn the CD-RW instead produced a coaster.  So I went back to the floppy images and was able to create the floppies using my old Windows netbook and the external floppy drive.  Success!  Now I just need to boot the Dell off the floppies, install FreeDOS and....  hmmm.. why won't the floppy go in?  I don't think there's a disk in the drive.  Maybe the drive is just out of alignment with the front facia.  Pop open the case and ... sigh ... there's no floppy drive!!!  I removed it to put in a second hard disk.  OMG!!!

 

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I gave the LiveCD option another try with a different CD-RW, which was successful.  So now I can boot both computers with FreeDOS.  Hooray!  Unfortunately, since the Dell doesn't have a floppy drive I don't have an easy way to copy PD ZMODEM onto it....  But that should be an easier challenge, I just need to figure out which method will be least painful.  Maybe if I boot a Linux LiveCD I will be able to access the USB floppy or a USB flash drive.  If not I can pull the hard drive and connect it as an external drive.

 

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I was able to copy PD ZMODEM to the Dell hard drive from a USB flash drive using a Linux LiveCD and it also fit on the FreeDOS boot floppy.  So the software side it done and ready to go, but I can't manage to get the two computers to talk over the null modem cable!  I did a continuity test and I'm 99% certain the cable is a null modem, but for some reason it's just not working.  So now I need to figure out some way to do a simple serial port test.  Maybe it's just not COM1...

 

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Finally got it to work!  The problem turned out to be the Thinkpad serial port was at hardware address 2F8, which is the normal address for COM2 (COM1 uses 3F8).  So while the Thinkpad only has one serial port, I needed to specify COM2 for PD ZMODEM.  It also took some trial and error to transfer the whole subdirectory tree, but now I'm copying files at 115kbps.  According to PD ZMODEM that's going to take 8 hours...

 

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