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parallel-port flash programming a MaxSpeed MaxTerm 230?

Discussion in 'Misc Electronics' started by Jonathan, Apr 12, 2006.

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  1. Jonathan

    Jonathan Guest

    I've been able to find used MaxSpeed thin clients, the MaxTerm 230, very
    cheap from surplus sources. This unit is a low-end PC, basically. The
    main differences are that it doesn't have a full PC BIOS, and it boots
    from an 8MB on-board flash chip.
    The unit normally runs WinCE 3.0. What I'd like to do is load either a
    Linux-based thin client image into the 8MB flash, or at least a capable
    Linux bootloader that could then boot the OS from other media. The
    trick is, it's hard to program the flash.
    The limited BIOS in this unit has a hotkey combination during POST
    (Alt-F9) that initiates some sort of parallel-port flash programming
    routine. This was intended for disaster recovery, and would be perfect
    for loading foreign images into the onboard flash. But there's only 2
    ways to make this work:

    1) Acquire the old DOS program that MaxSpeed used in conjunction with
    this feature. MaxSpeed (now Neoware) tech support tells me they no
    longer have this utility. (I wonder if any former customers out there
    have it?)
    2) Reverse engineer the parallel-port protocol, and write a compatible
    server application from scratch.

    1) is much easier, of course. If I have to go with 2), where should I
    start? I can put a scope on the parallel port's handshake lines, but I
    wouldn't know where to go next.

    thanks for any ideas/feedback/assistance,
  2. Jonathan

    Jonathan Guest

    Well in response to my own post, I now realize I was approaching the
    problem wrong. I could spend months needlessly reverse-engineering that
    parallel-port download protocol they use.
    This thin client happens to have a regular PC architecture. So it looks
    like it will be easier to simply replace the basic WinCE BIOS with a
    fully-capable PC BIOS, or LinuxBIOS. This is the road I'm investigating
    now. The CPU, South Bridge, and Super IO chips are all supported by
    LinuxBIOS, so I'm thinking that will be a good, free, way to go.
    Once the machine has a "normal" BIOS, I will have control of it,
    including the on-board flash chip. As long as the on-board flash has a
    DoC-type interface, I think there are myriad possibilities for this
    machine's new life.
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