Kapok 6200 A (ACi Emerald)

So, what happened…
Another joyous day, it was one of the ones where everything went wrong. I was using my trusty Digital HiNote Ultra CT450 (486 DX2, Windows 95) to take notes. I was clearing up, turned away for a second and crash. The open case fell on the floor and its contents including the notebook spilled out on the floor. Making the plastic casing around the impact zone look like crystal. Unfortunately the impact zone was the the compartment where the brand new 1 GB hard drive lay, only a matter of weeks old.

On closer inspection, it seemed that the impact also discharged the main cells into the system board, frying the circuitry, ram, you name it. Unfortunately this was (*just*) after Digital was absorbed by Compaq, so despite having a 5 year all paid up warranty, Compaq weren’t interested. My insurance company however were more than happy to oblige me, and late in 1997 a nice shiny cheque arrived.

My problem was that I needed a notebook, that I considered usable, with upgrade potential and that had good reviews. The ACi Emerald (Technically known as the Kapok 6200A), after a extensive search arrived at the top of the list. The sales man was more that able to flaunt to me leaflets of all the awards that it had got, from PC Magazines that I knew of and read. At the time I couldn’t go back for Digital HiNote 2000, because of their Compaq predicament, plus the reviews weren’t hot. I loathe compaq, and hp notebooks / desktops religiously and there was nothing else that inspired me.

The Emerald offered me a feature over the majority of systems that I had seen. That it used standard chips, rather than special notebook ones (RAM + Processor). These being the early days of the Intel Pentium MMX chips, and special notebook variants were becoming common place, the option of having the ability to use standard chips in the system was ideal as it meant that the processor could be upgraded to whatever would fit in the motherboard slot, rather than what the manufacturer said I could. The sales man assured me hardware and software upgrade potential for the foreseeable future.

So that was it. I opted for the 166 mHz option with 32 MB of RAM (it seemed a lot… but in NT 4 hindsight) and Lithium Ion cells. That was that… supposedly.

I insisted to them that they not provide any software with it other than the drivers CD. I wasn’t, and still aren’t very happy with OEM operating system installs. So I installed Windows 95 myself, without a glitch and plodded away happily for about 6 months…

June 1998 – Windows 98 Memphis

Q. What makes a Notebook a Notebook?
A. The ability to use it snugly on a battery

Oh Dear… Where have all the Power Management features gone…

Windows 98 FE Power Management (Or Lack of it)

The upgrade to Windows 98 First Edition wasn’t especially smooth. The install was plagued with errors but I eventually arrived in Windows 98, without the ability to tell if I was on mains, charging or on battery. The meter simply sat on the Mains Icon irrespective of the physical state.

Mains Power

Mains icon

Charging

Charging icon

Battery Power

Battery icon

Options were missing from the ‘Power Options’ applet in the Windows Control Panel. The system wouldn’t and couldn’t successfully suspend and resume either using the S2D/S4 or S2R/S3 suspend.

The most annoying this to me was that this brand new up-to-date system was being out shone in the Power Management side by a P75 Dell Latitude designed for Windows 3.11 WFW and a Texas Instruments 486 DX 100 that was designed for Windows 95. I even have a Dell Latitude 486 SX which operated power management successfully.

The temporary work around:

The problem here is that Windows 98 does not detect 2 critical hardware elements and 1 resultant system service that are needed to enable Advanced Power Management (APM) support. The hardware & software components are:

  • Composite Power Source
  • APM Battery Slot
  • Advanced Power Management support

Force Windows to recognise the APM Slot and the Composite Power Source, the APM support will follow.

To do this you will need to load the system up on mains. insert the battery and remove and re-insert the mains jack. Eject and re-insert the battery and then run the Add New Hardware detection Wizard. In the found Plug & Play devices list the Composite Power Source and AP< Battery Slot will be listed.
Now if you enter the Power Options applet in Control Panel, you will see that all the standard Laptop Computer options have been made available.

Once you re-boot the computer you loose the options and the system goes back to thinking that it’s a Desktop PC.

A valiant effort…

The obvious question was around the BIOS not being coded to conform fully to the APM 1.2 specification (6200A is chipped to the 1.2 specification). I believed this to be a simple oversight on the part of the manufacturer and happily informed them of the problem. Eventually an update did appear, which added a Windows 98 compatibility option to a BIOS sub menu. This made absolutely no difference.
ACi’s policy now was to keep me fobbed off until my 1 year warranty ran out, and I have to give them credit for being good at that!.
My Lithium Ion battery, verily be thy nature under such circumstances died as I was never sure what the levels were and kept it on the mains through fear of it just running out of steam with no warning (which it often did).

When the CD-ROM went I took it to Kapok UK, the offices of the Taiwanese company (now part of Clevo Int.) who originally made the 6200A. They hadn’t seen the problem before and couldn’t explain it. They did give me a new NiCad battery though, which although not chipped like the dead Lithium cell, at least gives me UPS in a power failure. The down side to this is that now Windows 95’s Power Management won’t work either!

Unfortunately despite many hours of frustrated fiddling, I never discovered anything more than a temporary work around for the problem. Windows 2000, 98 SE and Windows Millennium failed to improve on the situation. My 6200A sat on the front of my network acting as a firewall for 9 months and was subsequently retired to being a sync client as a Windows CE sync platform before I migrated to MS Outllook on my primary system. Naturally I migrated it to the power house that is Windows NT 4.0 – a platform where Power Management is not a feature.
The new NiCad lasted 6 months before it keeled over.

Having moved to hardware firewalls and Cat5e network infrastructure the PC was retired until I thought of using it as a linux test bed in early 2004. Having powered it up to wipe the disk off, the TFT promptly died when the backlight controler blew. Although there is a still a picture on the screen, you can only see it using a torch as a front light. In the absence of any free screens, and an abundance of faster desktop systems loitering around the house, the Emerald glistens no more and sits on a shelf collecting dust. A sad end to a sad story.

Windows NT 4.0 – Trouble at the top

Windows NT, the answer to everyone’s computing dreams… When it works.

I have to admit that when it comes to computers I don’t openly follow the “If it aint broke don’t fix it” maxim. I’m more of a “Oh My God a new patch.. gimme, gimme, gimme” sort of person. Microsoft write these things for a reason, it’s not just to keep members of the NT team employed. If users actually installed the patches and were better informed about them then some of the recent spates of trojan, virus and DDOS attacks that have plagued the Internet in recent times would have been avoided.

Display Problem – IO Conflict with the HAL

My problem actually falls with a constituent of the Windows NT 4.0 Post SP6a SRP (Security Roll up Package).
I haven’t discovered which componant causes the problem, however the patch installs a modification that shifts the IO and IRQ assignments around for some of the core system hardware.

The change to the normal IO addressing that this patch brings about is in direct conflict with that of the Trident XXXX PCI video adapter and ISA controller resources. The result in this battle of hardware is that the ISA controller wins over the display controller… you can wave good-bye to those fancy True Colour Icons (At least NT preserves ones 800 x 600 dignity).

Without going into too much more detail, I have managed to sort out a fix for this little problem, as well as providing a far better display driver for Windows NT 4.0 that is similar in functionality to the Windows 95 one.

Trident NT 4.0 Safe Display Driver – trident-fix.zip (186 KB)

Windows NT 4.0 Trouble Free Installation Guide

I have also prepared an installation list, in order so that you can properly get the driver installed and are fully protected by both SP6a and the SRP.
Please be aware that as of the time of this document amendment this patch list is out of date, updated versions of all my patching lists have been migrated over to HPC:Factor’s support section; here.

  1. Install Windows NT 4.0 Build 1381
  2. Set the Event Log to ‘over write errors as needed’ in all three primary log modes
  3. Set-up & install your local Networking hardware and settings, Install RAS (Do not install PC Card Modems here)
  4. Set-up your Page File and Environment Variables
  5. Do a file clear out, get rid of stray files and set-up the Administrator account settings to your liking
  6. Perform all of the Euro updates
  7. Install the Paint Update. If you are using NTFS you will need the In use Utility to do this
  8. Install the Joystick port. The driver is in the \DRVLIB\MULTIMED\JOYSTICK\X86 of the NT 4 CD
  9. Install SP6a and the Library update
  10. Install your PC Card Modems and configure RAS using the Right hand PCMCIA slots ONLY*
  11. Install Internet Explorer and get the Active Desktop update, you want to end up with IE 6.0 SP1 at the end of this stage
  12. On with Tweak UI, and set that up to your liking
  13. Update the Windows Installer to version 2.0
  14. If you wish to install IIS, install the Option Pack now
  15. If you wish to use a non Microsoft Web Browser install it now
  16. If you are planning to use IIS, a Defrag app or a program using an MMC snap-in, install MMC 1.2 now
  17. Install the bulk of your software, Office app’s, Virus Scanner, utilities etc
  18. The ESS Audio sound driver – 62AAudioNT4.zip (410 KB)
  19. Install the UDF driver, to upgrade the CD-ROM drive’s functionality- udfread_v501-191_inst.exe (425 KB)
  20. Install any other hardware & drivers you need, printers etc
  21. Re-Install SP6a
  22. Install the patched Trident Display driver
  23. Install the MDAC 2.8 SP1 Update
  24. Set your resolution, colour depth and display settings
  25. Run Windows Update / Office Update and download everything you need (All critical updates bar the SRP)**
  26. Update the functionality of Windows Media Player 6.4 by updating to the Windows Media 8 Codec base
  27. Install the Post SP6a SRP**
  28. Re-run Windows Update
  29. Clean out your log files, empty all the temp files and make everything neat and tidy
  30. If your happy with IE, via Add / Remove Programs, delete the uninstall information and delete the ‘Windows Update Set-up Files’ directory from the WINNT directory (if it exists)
  31. Set-up the systems user accounts (if any)
  32. Update your ERD (Emergency Recovery Disk)

* Unfortunately you can not use the left hand PCMCIA slot with a RAS device under Windows NT 4.0
** Install using the -n option to preserve disk space and to keep the Windows directory and Add / Remove Programs list free. You will loose the ability to uninstall the SRP or Hot Fix. All Hot Fixes can use the -n option and are usually derived from their Q article number

Removing Windows Media Player 7 from Windows Millennium

Windows Millennium… The final stage in MS-DOS’s evolution. With this release of Windows, 9x is no more.

As with a lot of Microsoft products… you always feel that you get lumbered with MegaBytes of unnecessary data, programs and dll files.

You could call this page the Head Quarters of the “Say No To 7” campaign.

So what can be done about it:.

We want some of the extra features. We want the operating system shell, Kernel and GUI enhancements, but not all of the features:

Updated 22nd February 2006

Windows Media Player 7

This application may be Microsoft’s first attempt at an all in one media player, and in my opinion… they didn’t quite hit the mark. The biggest problem with it is its resource requirements. They are huge. The application takes far too long to load even on the fastest of systems. This of course means that that you will run out of available memory, run up a huge swap file and have to reboot the system.

There are still problems with the CD audio, you are lumbered with features that you will never use such as the mobile device synchronisation options. All of these could be optional and save on the space.. but no. As with windows, office and so many apps before it you can’t.

NOTE: This has not been tested any other Operating System than Windows Millennium

For those of you devoted to Windows Media Player 6.4 here’s how to get your music life back (Please make sure to read all instructions before proceeding):

To uninstall Windows Media 7 under Windows Millennium

  1. Download and Re-install WM7 from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/   (This is required to install the uninstall routines)
  2. Open a Command Prompt
  3. On the prompt type(Assuming that ME is installed on c:):
    c:\windows\inf\unregmp2.exe /SafeUninstall:c:\windows\inf\wmp.inf
  4. Press enter
  5. Reboot the Computer
  6. Open a Command Prompt
  7. On the prompt type(Assuming that ME is installed on c:):
    c:\windows\inf\unregmp2.exe /SafeUninstall:c:\windows\inf\mplayer2.inf
  8. Press enter
  9. Reboot the Computer*
  10. Delete the directory C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player
  11. Download and install Windows Media Player 6.4 from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/

You will now have removed Windows Media 7 from Windows ME, and replaced it with a full copy of Windows Media 6.4:

If you do not wish to install and use Tweak UI, you can place the commands at step 6 and 15 into a Start: Run dialogue box and selecting OK. If this fails then you will have to use Tweak UI

* After this point, and only if you are an advanced user, you can access the system registry and remove all references to Windows Media Player, WMP, mplayer and c:\program files\Windows Media Player . Be sure to back the registry up first of all and Re-Boot after you have finished. This will ensure that you have removed most traces of 7 from your system, and will help keep the registry tidy.
You can also remove certain system files regarding Windows Media Player. Click Here to download a partial list.

No Media Player… No CD Player

New Version 1.3 – Now with Auto Start support!

In removing 7 from your computer, you have now removed Audi CD capabilities. I have compiled a file that will install the Windows 98 CD-Player on Windows ME

  1. Download ME_CD_Patch13.zip (251 KB) from this server
  2. Run the file
  3. Make sure to read all on-screen instructions before proceeding
  4. After installation, all of the required system files will have been updated with the CD Player routines. Except the registry
  5. The registration entry’s will be listed on the desktop as 0.reg – 12.reg. You will need these files in order to install and use auto start
  6. Insert files 0.reg – 12.reg by double clicking them and saying OK *
  7. Open ‘Control Panel’, ‘Add/Remove Programs’. Go to the ‘Windows Setup’ tab, select ‘Multimedia’. Tick ‘CD Player’ and click ‘OK’
  8. The files will install
  9. Reboot Your Computer

* Back up your system registry before running this update

After Running this update you will have to install the registry update files found on the desktop. These files update the Add/Remove Programs tab as to the presence of CD Player and enable the CD Audio auto start feature. I plan to write a automated installation file soon.

To uninstall Windows Media 6.4 under Windows Millennium

  1. Download and Re-install WM6.4 from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/   (This is required to install the uninstall routines)
  2. Open a Command Prompt
  3. On the prompt type(Assuming that ME is installed on c:):
    c:\windows\inf\unregmp2.exe /SafeUninstall:c:\windows\inf\mplayer2.inf
  4. Press enter
  5. Reboot the Computer*
  6. Delete the directory C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player

You will now have removed Windows Media Player completely from Windows ME.

* After this point, and only if you are an advanced user, you can access the system registry and remove all references to Windows Media Player, WMP, mplayer and c:\program files\Windows Media Player . Be sure to back the registry up first of all and Re-Boot after you have finished. This will ensure that you have removed most traces of 6 from your system, and will help keep the registry tidy.
You can also remove certain system files relating to Windows Media Player.

Keeping Windows Media Player 6.4

So, you’ve decided to do the honourable thing. You value your system resources, that or your worried about your Grid Computing project results being crippled by WM7.

If you check your resources, you’ll find that WM7, playing your average MP3 can take between 60% and 90% of your system processor resources away from you. Catastrophic if you use a processor dependant application such as SETI@Home. In contrast, the New WM8 (Windows XP only) takes 50% – 70% and Windows Media 6.4 anything between 1% and 15% of system resources*

Microsoft, are in fact updating Windows Media 6. They don’t publicise this, as they want everyone on version 7 or above. Microsoft are updating 6.4 to suit the new codec’s and Internet Explorer versions that they produce. This inevitable was their own mistake in deciding not to allow Windows 95 and NT 4 users to use WM7. For what ever reasons they chose to do this, technical or political fortunately for us we can still get the most out of 6.4.

The latest build of Windows Media 6.4 is version:

For Windows 3.1x:
3.5.980703
(Maximum Internet Explorer version 5.0 build 913.2206)

For Windows NT 3.5x:
Not released
(Maximum Internet Explorer version 5.0 build 913.2206)

For Windows 95:
6.4.07.1124
(Maximum Internet Explorer version 5.5 SP2 build 4807.2300 + Q320920)

For Windows NT4. 98 and Millennium:
6.4.07.1129
(This version ships with Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1 build 2800.1106 + Q828026)

For Windows 2000:
6.4.09.1129
(This version ships with Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1 build 2800.1106 + Q828026)

For Windows XP Home, Professional:
6.4.09.1130
(This version ships with Internet Explorer 6.0 SP2 build 2900.2180)

For Windows Server 2003:
6.4.09.1130
(This version ships with Windows 2003 Internet Explorer 6.0 build 3790.0)

If your using Windows Media Player v6.4, you can extend its functionality by installing the following patches and utilities.
Note: These will not work with Windows Media Player for Windows 3.x. Do not install on Windows XP installations

Patch Downloads Codec Downloads

The remaining life in Windows Media Player 6 is on borrowed time. With Windows 95 having been retired on Dec 31st 2001 and likewise with NT 4 / Windows 98 being retired in July 2003 users can expect 6.4 to become a distant memory.

Microsoft have always had a thing about it’s media players. Distributing the old MCI version of it right up until Windows Millennium. Even then in Windows Millennium 6.4 remained present side by side with 7.0. Windows XP no longer included the Windows 3.11 MCI version, but 6.4 remains side by side with 8.0 & 9.0.

I predicted that “Windows .net, the next Windows version due in 2003 will not contain 2 versions of Media Player. The minimum system specification by then won’t warrant it. But by then you are likely to see the ability to choose your Media Player and Internet Browser, at least the front end of it. Personally, I’ll be sticking with Microsoft’s contributions to the industry.”

With the release of Windows 2003 Server, the renamed Windows .net, Windows Media Player 6.4 still ships along side 9.0. Windows Media Player 9 updates that modify the core .OCX drivers in media player will however continue to incriment the Windows Media Player 6.4 build number, as has been shown by the univeral rise to build version 1128 with the relase of Q808226.

But at the end of the day its entirely down to personal preference

*Statistics taken on an Intel PIII 733eb with 256 MB RAM

Windows Media Player 9.0

Windows Media Services 9 is upon us, and with this comes Windows Media Player version 9. What makes this significane is that it, unlike version 8 can be installed on other Operating Systems. I can confirm from seeing the beta’s that 9 installs on Windows 2000 and runs quite well. I’ve not tried it on any 9x OS, however under Microsofts Operating System retirement policy, I would expect it to install on Windows Millennium, and perhapse Windows 98SE, but I would hold me breath over any of the 98’s.

Windows Media Player 9 is virtually identical aestetics wise to that of Windows XP’s version 8, however there have been refinments to both the code, the layout, the look and most importantly the codecs and underlying backbone of Windows Media format.

The player in its beta format handles better than Windows Media 7 does. However users won’t be surprised to learn that it covers the same sort of CPU and memory overhaeds as 7.1 and 8 respectivly do on their OS’s. This is perhapse the price we pay for eveoloution, who knows. The crux of the matter is that 6.4 unfortunatly is becoming more and more unstable especially when connecting to streaming servers. Its reliability is deminsihing.

With this volly of new Windows Media technologies, I can only guess that there will be new ActiveX plugins finally to facilitate the advances in browser technology and in Streaming technology. This change will spell the ultimate end for 6.4. Even if the 9 format will play on 6.4, it is unlikly that it will be able to play back on 6.4’s ActiveX, that has for so long been the only realy way to deliver any Windows Media, ASx / WMx / Proparetly WM6 format content over the internet.

I still use 6.4 for my MP3 listening and for video playback where it can handle it. But I’m increasingly using 8 to watch streaming content and inevitably under Windows XP to listen to Music CD’s. Reluctantly I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st MultiMedia century, and I imagine so will you. Although not necesarily with Microsofts player.

The Question that I can see your all posing to me right at this moment… Can I remove Windows Media Player 9.0.. answer… Not the Beta version you can’t!

UPDATE 7th August 2002:
Having now had a chance to play with 9 properly, I have to say that I am very much impressed. Microsoft have clearly been listening to the Windows Media community over it.

Some key points worth noting are:

  • The new Taskbar Tile player, perfect for keeping an eye on web feeds, dvd’s, visualisations and controlling your multi media
  • Info Centre. New improved to provide track and album info, as well as links to purchasing the music
  • Improved CD recognition technologies. Non-US CD versions of a release now display the correct track data (UK Releases at least)
  • .NET services bar. I suspect that this will become more of a feature in the future as the inductry drives towards cleaning up the Internet Music environment
  • New A/V mulitmedia effects. Such as cross fading of media and the little touches on minimisang and maximising video

Removing Windows Media Player 8

Can it be done, can it be removed From Windows XP?

No, not using the methods described here on this page. I also do not want to experiment with this as, until we see Windows Media Player 8.1 arrive, there is no way to re-install it once its gone, short of a system re-install.

However, due to the current legal wrangles going on between the Microsoft Corporation, the United States and the European Union. Microsoft have submitted to the findings of the litigation and, in the forthcoming Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1), estimated to be released to the general consumer in August / September 2002. Usefs will have the ability to uninstall at least the front end of Windows Media Player from their systems using the Control Panel Add / Remove programs applet. The Service Pack will also allow users to uninstall Microsoft Internet Explorers front end, Windows Messenger (Currently removable via the sysoc process) and several other previously embedded utilities.

In the mean time, if you need to use a low process dependant version of Media Player, for example if you run SETI@Home or like to listen to music while Compiling or Rendering all I can suggest is:

  1. Open Windows Media Player 8
  2. Click the Tools button in the Menu Bar, and select Options
  3. Choose the File Types tab and deselect everything except for the CD and DVD options
  4. Click OK to conrim and exit Windows Media Player 8
  5. Browse to x:\Program Files\Windows Media Player (Where x: is the System Drive)
  6. Run mplayer2.exe
  7. Click the View button in the Menu Bar, and select Options
  8. Select the Formats tab
  9. Click the Select All button
  10. Click OK to confirm, then re-start Media Player
  11. You can also point the Start Menu Shortcut to mplayer2.exe

This will default all Media File types to open in Windows Media 6.4. CD Audio, VCD and DVD disks will still open in Windows Media Player 8.

Now that we are seeing openness on the part of the Microsoft Corporation and its integrated products, where does the future lie for the Microsoft vision. This is something only time will tell, however, if Real Networks get their media player onto a Microsoft Operating system CD ever again, Microsoft can say good by to me as a customer. I personally don’t want anything to do with Real Player or their dire codecs.

UPDATE: 03 June 2002:
Microsoft are not going for Windows Media 8.1 as CNet predicted, but instead have invested their efforts on a complete overhaul of the Windows Media Suite and family of products and services in “Windows Media Services 9”

UPDATE: 11 August 2002:
The time of reckoning has finally arrived for 6.4. Here for your viewing pleasure is the new ActiveX control for Windows Media Player Content.

ActiveX Control Screenshot