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Toshiba M200 SD Boot

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#1
InTheWayBoy

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Well, here's the situation...we just got in five new TabletPC's, the Toshiba M200 to be exact. They are the more mobile flavor of TabletPC's that Toshiba offers, and as such they don't come with an optical drive. Of course, you can spend a chunk of change and buy their official external DVD drive, but we don't need them.

The units come with a Restore DVD that is nothing more than a large Ghost image (Which is password protected and supposedly encrypted) and the install files for all the extra crap Toshiba loads on the unit. I've already worked past not having a regular install source for the TabletPC OS, and have succesfully constructed a RIS image that works great over LAN. But I really want to find a way to do a 'local' restore at the unit, in case the network isn't availible or the NIC is bad. The units have an SD reader built in, and Toshiba has managed to make it bootable. At first blush this looks to solve all the problems, but after much frustration it doesn't...it makes it even worse!

Allow me to explain...Toshiba includes two utilities that relate to the SD. One is a format utility, the other a boot utility. The format utility looks to format the SD as a FAT16X, with some odd partition tables. I don't have the info handy, but I did record the info. The boot utility transfers a bootable floppy disk or disk image to the SD. When it does this the end result is an oddly named floppy image, $TOSFD00.VFD. After some investigation there isn't much to it other than the specific name...I just create a disk image using WinImage or VFD and then rename it to the previously mentioned file.

Because of this funky scheme, I can't figure out how to load an XP setup process natively. I know I could do it via DOS and WINNT.EXE, but that is slow. My first thought was to try and load BartPE, after which I could initiate the setup process via WINNT32.EXE. But because the way the SD boots it's not very easy. Let me explain some things I've found/tried:

1. When using the Toshiba tools to format and setup the boot for SD, I can boot to a DOS prompt. The floppy image is A:, and the rest of the SD is C:. This makes me think I could accomplish a lot, since I could just use the floppy image to load and then run everything from the rest of the SD as C:. If you format the SD using other methods (HPFormat, HEX Format, etc) then you won't get access to the rest of the SD after boot. I think it has something to do with how the partition tables are setup when using the Toshiba utility.

2. It's impossible to boot to a USB drive, it's not even offered in the boot menu. And Toshiba is very restrictive with their BIOS config.

3. I've tried using apps like Gujin, GRUB4DOS, SmartBootManager, and XOSL...and many will load and work, but I can't figure out how to get it to load anything useful. For instance, it will let me load the XP that is currently running from the HD, but I can't configure them to boot to a boot loader that resides as a file on the SD card.

4. I've tried to just forget the Toshiba utilities, but without them nothing is bootable. I've tried several methods of booting BartPE from a USB drive. And they work on other systems, but as I mentioned the units can't boot from a USB drive. I then tried to use the SD as the USB drive, and successfully completed the steps as I did when using a normal USB drive. But nothing worked...I think it's because the process will only work by loading that specific $TOSFD00.VFD, like it's hard coded into the BIOS or something.

So given all that, I know what I need...I need some way to hold the install files on the SD, and then have a floppy image configured to boot and then 'chainload' the XP setup process from a file. I can't use partition boot sectors, because the way the process goes if it's anything other than Toshiba's proprietary mix then I can't access the rest of the SD.

It's so simple yet far too frustrating to do on my own...I need some help. Been trying this for so long I think I'm cross-eyed :) So maybe some of ya'll will have a simple solution for me. If you are suggesting an application, please try and include some kinda of example for the syntax. A lot of the applications I tried to use say they can do what I want them to, but trial and error never got me far.

And as an aside, since this is based on SD, there would be the time when the SD card would die from usage right? And with all this type of file access it may go quicker...any input or personal experience?

Thanx in advance, I'll be happy to provide any information and try all valid suggestions. Thanx again!


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#2
LLXX

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The fact that the SD is not treated as a standard hard disk by the BIOS but instead as a virtual floppy and a virtual hard disk is going to be the main obstacle of this.

Putting a DOS kernel and a CONFIG.SYS with only "shell=c:\i386\winnt.exe" in it on the floppy image, and the contents of the XP CD in the c: area should work. The boot code in the BIOS will load the virtual floppy image, boot the DOS kernel, which then runs winnt.exe as the "shell" - starting the setup process.

And as an aside, since this is based on SD, there would be the time when the SD card would die from usage right? And with all this type of file access it may go quicker...any input or personal experience?

They are limited in the number of write cycles, but read cycles can for all practical purposes be considered infinite. As the normal CD-based setup does not attempt to write to the CD, if the setup is run off the SD it should not write to it either.

#3
crvaggie

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I was wondering if you found a solution to this problem! I am having the exact same issue and NEED a fix soon. This issue has been driving me crazy for months now and I am ready to just give up and buy their stupid expensive drive so that I can get my tablet PC working again! Thanks for any help you can offer!

#4
Albuquerque

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Thought I'd offer a second alternative -- my company also has a few of the M200 units in our pile-of-stuff. We saw the pricetag on Toshiba's external cd/dvd rom and promptly gave them the finger.

I thought I'd let you know that *any* USB cdrom seems to do the trick; I've booted it from several different USB cd/dvd roms I have laying around the office. But it's SLLLOOOOWWW to boot for some reason... I'm talking REALLY slow. A WinPE that's 90mb on SDI takes 3+ minutes to load into ramdisk, whereas it takes about 50 seconds on most any other piece of equipment in the office.

#5
TDog

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Albuquerque, you wrote in your previous post that you were loading a 90mb SDI file in 3 minutes.

We are having an issue with our WinPE SDI file (much larger at 150MB) taking 30-50 minutes to load on the M200. Did you do anything special with the way you created your SDI boot environment to make it work faster on the M200 or did you follow the normal procedures for building a CD that loads the SDI file?

The same CD that takes 30-50 minutes on an M200 using the Toshiba external CD-ROM drive takes only 2 minutes to load using the same external CD-ROM drive attached to an IBM/Lenovo X41.

Just curious....

#6
Albuquerque

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Nope, didn't do anything fancy at all. My PE image is based on the Server 2003 core and PE OPK 1.6 if that helps. The CD itself is based on an ISOLinux 3.09 core if that helps any further...

But otherwise, I made no radical changes. The SDI file was previously 95mb in physical size; it's now 115mb in size due to some new tools we're using and it typically takes the M200 about 3m 30s to boot up. Our choice for boot device is normally one of our "floater" Sony 16x DVD+-RW/DL USB 2.0 drives. We use CD media for my boot disc.

That's really all the pertinent info I can think of.




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