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Friend uses old braille displays in his company, but their producer does not exist, they use serial port and there is problem with either drivers (Ethernet) for <= Win 98 or serial access on NT+ on new or newer machines. Are there any possibilities to upgrade old unreliable PC's and keep expensive braille displays working ?


Edit Found something easy, seems to work:

PortTalk - allowio "testio32.exe /R1 0x3F8" 0x3F8

AllowIO for PortTalk V2.0
Copyright 2002 Craig Peacock
http://www.beyondlogic.org
Address 0x3F8 (IOPM Offset 0x7F) has been granted access.
Executing testio32.exe /R1 0x3F8 with a ProcessID of 4532
PortTalk Device Driver has set IOPM for ProcessID 4532.

C:...>_inp(0x3F8) = 0xFF

And without last port to be open:

allowio "testio32.exe /R1 0x3F8"
AllowIO for PortTalk V2.0
Copyright 2002 Craig Peacock
http://www.beyondlogic.org
Executing testio32.exe /R1 0x3F8 with a ProcessID of 4328
PortTalk Device Driver has set IOPM for ProcessID 4328.

C:...>_inp(0x3F8) failed
  • 2
    In general yes, but the fact that you mention ethernet here is confusing. Do you got more information about parts and workings? – Raffzahn Dec 16 '19 at 3:09
  • Can't replace with something newer and supported? support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4004262 – another-dave Dec 16 '19 at 3:20
  • Yes, Ethernet is 2nd biggest problem after serial - there is a data server using unsupported IPX/SPX - now XP, Virtual PC & 98's and 2 DOS clients with local braille displays (uncompatible with any other), both DOS stations now run 98 only because missing or non-working Ethernet support 4 DOS - older has drivers, but in fact only 98's version work/DOS exist but does not work even when installed from 98 - probably untested(/supported) in fact. And there is unportable old fassioned CRM written in WordPerfect/DOS. Any change except vintage not much reliable HW would cost ten(/s) thousands USD... – Tom Dec 16 '19 at 3:41
  • I have no idea if it would help, but have you considered installing OS/2 Warp v3.1 on a somewhat old (but not ancient, maybe Pentium class) machine? OS/2 had excellent DOS support, and claimed its DOS and Windows 3.1 support was better than Microsoft's. Also, if there are people writing OS/2 drivers for newer machines, you might be able to use newer hardware as well. – RichF Dec 16 '19 at 4:31
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    This sounds as your problem isn't the braille display but the outdated software you're using. Not exactly something for RC.SE, but to get new old hardware - or a new software. It seams as if you're not far from me, drop me note at vcfe . org – Raffzahn Dec 16 '19 at 13:45
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Its absolutely unclear what and how you are connecting. You mentioned both COM (RS232) and LAN (Ethernet) and Win9X and NT OSes with MS-DOS tag. So we can only guess what you have and what exact issues you face...

Here some stuff that might help:

  1. LAN

    Older MS-DOS and Win9x SW used IPX protocol instead of TCP/IP...

    Windowses above Win 9X do not install IPX protocol for network adapters automatically anymore. But you can still install them manually (tested on W2K,XP) that usually solves the LAN problems for old win9X SW. You just need install CD for your Win9x. I think XP have the protocol chached in itself without any need for CD/DVD.

    Newer Windows (Win7++) have some weird ballast virtual network adapters usually called Tunneling device which are messing with the LAN and are hidden in device manager. If you turn on hidden devices in the device manager menu and manually delete them all (they tend to install them self over and over many times) it usually solves older SW LAN connection problems. (Do not worry they are not needed for anything usefull)

    There are also simpler workarounds for games like

    Where you simply place the wrapper DLL's into your executable directory and that is it. But this solution works only if both connected sides using it (games and file transfer SW or chats ets...). So this will most likely not help you at all as you got HW device where you can not place any DLL and most likely it runs on some MCU instead of x86 anyway...

    Newer LAN cards do not have Win9X and MS-DOS driver support but many old 16 bit SW can still run in 32 bit OS like w2k,xp,win7 in compatibility mode ...

    You can run older SW in emulation where you can still expose to real LAN connection

  2. COM/RS232

    this should not be a problem. There are still produced and even new machines still uses RS232 (I heavily use my on board RS232 on modern machines for ISP of MCUs without USB). So you can still make new machine with native COM port (no USB2RS232 crap that do not comply with voltage ratings and need special drivers not possible in Win9x and MS-DOS...)

    For SW that directly access I/O ports and memory space you need a special driver to make them working again in protected OSes like NT,W2K,WXP,... because such access is priviledged to kernel mode stuff ... To make this possible there is a very simple (but potentially high security risc so do not use this with machines connected to internet) solution:

    • DLL Port IO (I did not test the link its just first google hit)

    The driver make your app Kernel mode so it can do anything without any access violations etc ... So simply write an app that opens file with the driver name, then start your SW from it and that is it ...

    Also in case of RS232 connection you can still run MS-DOS on new machines directly. Just turn off all CACHEs in BIOS SETUP which will turn your machine into fast 386. And if needed slow it down even more using slow utility or patch the TP7 CRT bug ... For more info about running real MS-DOS on new machine see:

  • Thanx a lot, looks like it answers my problem - there were 2 - it is very hard to install network card and setup communication in DOS nowadays, even Win 98 do not have drivers or they do not work and XP also do not have IPX protocol at all or do not work with older 9x/DOS systems if installed. Old RS232 braille driver (thymus.exe) does not work in protected OS (NT+). – Tom Dec 19 '19 at 6:56
  • @Tom btw. there where 3th party windows drivers called OMEGA Drivers (not sure if for LAN too, they got sound and gfx but its worth trying look for) , some times using generic LAN driver (IIRC NE2000 or NDIS2000 in w9x) works for some unrecognized LAN cards. Few years back there was a custom online service for writing drivers for unsupported OS/devices for a small fee (IIRC ~10$ per new driver) can't remember the link but it was related to driversguide pages I think ... Also there are safer versions of DLL Port I/O that require login/password out there. – Spektre Dec 19 '19 at 10:09
  • No problem with security - DOS net was crashing when IPX and TCP machines were on same switch and they have separate network and switch for 1 server and 2 clients, there is no way to reach internet and even hard to transfer data (floppy or flash, but they do not work on 9x without drivers :-) ) – Tom Dec 19 '19 at 21:06

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