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 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