Fixing a Starion for NT and Linux

Please note: the following worked for my machine. It may not work for yours, and opening a PC involves risk to the components. I do not recommend doing this unless you are very familiar with the inside of a PC, have the tools, and trust yourself not to ruin anything with accidents or doses of static electricity. Any work done using the following instructions is done purely at your own risk.

When I first installed Linux, I found myself very frustrated with my CD player. I finally had to install Linux from a hard drive partition, since none of the CD-ROM settings could find my CD player - a Mitsumi 4x CD-ROM connected through an IDE port. Linux never picked it up, even after installation, and this looked like a continuing problem.

When I installed Windows NT, the situation got even worse: my NT machine was taking 10 minutes to start up every time. This made configuring the system difficult if not downright impossible - make a change, take a break, walk around the block, make another change... This was bad. I checked out the Microsoft Knowledge base on their web site, and discovered that I might need a new driver for my CMD Technology PCI-0640x IDE Controller, so I downloaded that from the CMD bulletin board (even though they said it was only a 3.5 problem, not 3.51). It did the same thing - my event viewer listed a device that was failing to respond - 10 times. (I figure the time-out was 1 minute) I tried editing the registry - HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE - and discovered that under the Scsi section of DEVICEMAP was a Target ID 1 with a completely screwed-up name and no other information as well. Here was the problem. I couldn't figure out what it might be. Deleting the item had no effect. I finally found that these registry entries get rewritten by NTDETECT every time the machine started up.

I even asked at the Digital NT booth at UNIX Expo in New York - the guy I spoke with had one and knew of the problem, but no one had yet worked out a solution. Because the Starion was for the home market (yes, I bought it at CompUSA) Digital hadn't made it to run NT despite its being on the Hardware Compatibility List. And since I'm probably one of four people with a Starion foolish enough to play with NT, they hadn't given it much consideration.

I thought it had to be my bizarre sound card (which used to work with NT - though not on the compatibility list - but no longer does for no apparent reason) which has an IDE port. So I took it out and tried it, and the same thing happened. 10 minutes of blue screen. I took out the network card, and finally the daughterboard with all the PCI and IDE slots. No change. Since I was there I disconnected the CD-ROM completely - no improvement. I was figuring that I had a hopeless chip set problem when I noticed that the IDE connectors had three places to attach devices - one for the motherboard, an empty one, and one connected to the hard drive or the CD-ROM. I reconnected the CD-ROM to the same connector as the hard drive, and started up the machine. NT took less than a minute to load. Beautiful.

NT was fine and even seemed stable, though it was wondering where the network disappeared. I restarted with Linux, and it was fine. It even discovered my CD-ROM, finally. The only thing that no longer works is Windows 3.1 - which is fine except that it can't read the CD-ROM drive. It knows it's there, but can't find it. Someday, if I bother, I'll fix that too.

Is this kosher? I wouldn't quite expect them to feel bound by the warranty on it, but it seems to work beautifully and unless it doesn't, I won't be worried about the warranty.
Copyright 1995 by Simon St.Laurent. All rights reserved. You may print this document for yourself or others at no charge, but commercial distribution without permission is prohibited.

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