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PC-98 – PC-9801NS/A PCMCIA Network

It's done. I did it. I managed to wrangle a set of disks via Yahoo Auctions Japan and succeeded. It seems the winner of the previous auction didn't want these disks as well... which is good for us all!

Look at that floppy disk. Isn't it the most awesome disk you've ever seen in your life? It cost AU$50. Fifty-#$%#$-bucks for a floppy disk. If you add the previously bought floppy (that had been overwritten!), then this total adventure cost over AU$100. Anyway, the outcome is that anyone can now get PCMCIA running on their NS/A, NL/R, NX/C or Ne!

The file on the disk happened to be SSDRV.SYS, not SSMECIA.SYS as I'd been expecting. It turns out that SSDRV.SYS comes in two flavours: a ~5kb version for PCMCIA 2.0 and a ~6.34kb sized version for PCMCIA 2.1+. As that I scored the actual PC Card Support Software disk for this specific laptop, it all just installed fine.

Firstly, a copy was made of the disk, with the original being stored away safely.

Of course, this copy is now available to the world! As it should be! Note that this is a 1.2mb Disk Image and that you'll need to format the floppy as 1.2mb prior to imaging or copying the data over. RawWrite for windows worked fine once I re-formatted a floppy disk from 1.44mb to 1.2mb under DOS in the NS/A.

PC Card Support Software

Slap in the disk, type SETUP.EXE and hit enter. You'll be presented with the main menu, as per the middle shot below.

From the menu, the top item is the installation source, secondly the install destination and the highlighted row is "Let's do this!". Go down to that option and smack enter, as the defaults should be correct.

In that second-last shot you can see the CONFIG.SYS listing where the installer has added three lines to the bottom. The first two are legit and the last is the Memory Card (i.e. flash storage) driver... which we don't need.

Network Hardware

I initially tried a RATOC R280, but it seems that it needs PCMCIA 2.1. Instead I reverted to my NEC PC-9801N-J02R, as I'd read somewhere that it was compatible with the NS/A.

As mentioned in the fine-print under the lovely graphic on the card, it's also known as a B4680 "Interface Card T", so remember this when installing the next software product. The drivers for this card are useless without host software to use them, so we need to choose something that can use this card!

MS Lan Manager + Network Drivers

How do I get network sharing going? It turns out that Windows for Workgroups was never released for the PC-98? I could go up to Windows 95 again, or go backwards to MS LAN Manager for PC-98. Lettuce do the latter and get some files transferring!

Not much to discuss yet. First screen is an introduction and the second tells you how to use the menus. Basically that the bottom-left button is OK and the one next to it is Back. Use TAB to switch between and ENTER to confirm selections. The next screen firstly defines the installation source and then the target installation directory. After that, you get the choice between installing the "Enhanced" or "BASIC" version of MS LAN Manager. I chose the defaults (the top option, "Enhanced") and continued.

Per disk, you get cute little countdowns instead of progress bars. It's telling you the amount of files it still needs to copy. Once it gets to zero it'll ask for the next disk:

It also asks where the next disk is, so I assume you can dump all of the files into one folder on A:\ (that's your HDD, stop thinking about C:\) and just do a super-quick install. Instead, I wrote out the six disks and inserted Disk #2.

It asked for disk #3: Drivers... and blew up.

And kept blowing up... and then threw me back to the DOS prompt. Ok, I failed to write #3 correctly! I found a substitute, re-wrote it and kept going. Cool! Driver selection!

Remember how I told you to remember the 'secondary' name of the PCMCIA LAN card? That's what we need to go by here. It's the 5th or 6th option... depending on which version of NDIS you wish to use? I chose v1.0. But now that I look at it, is it actually the version of the PCMCIA card? My card doesn't have a version on it, assumingly it's v1.0 then as they didn't think to put a version on the first if it was only meant to be a single version?! (Spoiler, it still worked...)

Ok ok, that says RATOC R280. Disregard and pretend it sayd B4680. I tried the RATOC card first and it vomited when trying to initialise it. I then switched to the NEC card. Either way, the middle shot lets you select the protocols. Use TCP/IP, unless you have other specific purposes to use other protocols. Make sure the DHCP box is checked and let it install!

Next up, set your Computer Name, Username and Domain/Workgroup name respectively. Then choose if Windows or DOS will be controlling the LAN Manager? Or does it say something else. I went with defaults. It then asks where Windows is... and I gave it the appropriate response.

Finally, there's something about message popups... I left it as default, and then hit "Let's do this" on the "we're gonna make changes now" middle screenshot. Finally it confirms that everything has been done! Let's save, quit and reboot.

We're in DOS, I connected the cable, we booted and it looks happy?

IPCONFIG works and it's displaying a correctly-assigned DHCP address! Can we ping?

We can! I .. what .. it works?!

Browsing the Neighbourhood

There's a NET command in MS LAN Manager for DOS that lets you browse the network and map shares. I can't say I had much luck with it, but I tried anyway.

When you first run NET, you'll be presented with a small configuration dialog. It asks for your Username, Password and Domain/Workgroup. I entered the required values and then hit enter, which dismissed the dialog. I then got a few warnings that the domain didn't respond and that things probably wont work properly... or that's what I think they said.

A short while two computers appeared in the main list!

The first is "Local" and the second is my W98 PC. I created a 'free for all' share on Windows 98 and then tried to hit 'enter' on the machine in the list after selecting it. Nothing really happened. Going to the view menu and choosing the first option popped up a dialog with the share I'd created!

Hitting enter on the share didn't work...

Something about a remote name? Oh well... I have a plan!

Speaking the correct version of SMB

So, SMB is the windows network share standard and it's come a long way. We're up to encrypting everything, from being able to have zero-password free access, way back in the day. The issue here is that the old LANMAN client speaks zero encryption and my NAS doesn't want to even consider talking to it. Windows 98 is even scoffing at it!

Errors are "share not found" or "access denied". Pretty much expected... so what to do? I cheated with the BeBox in the past.. and I now realise I never made a post on how I got network shares going. Oh well, now is a better time than ever. I did something really dodgy and loaded up RedHat 7.2 (not RHEL!) to create a kind-of SAMBA proxy. I'm sure that you could get Docker to do this, but setting up a VM was just as fun!

The goal was simple: a VirtualBox VM with RedHat 7.2 installed which could SMB to the NAS and then share that folder forward with all the encryption disabled. Sure, dangerous as hell, but it's all only accessible on the local network.

With the machine set up, it even showed up on the LANMAN net browser!

I got a weird NET2123 (API out of buffer space) error when trying to list the shares, so I just went and mapped it to Z: manually in DOS.

Woah... it worked... Oh, the actual use command scrolled off the screen... it was net use Z: \\redhat-oldie\public

It even shows up with a cute network icon in File Manager!

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