Author Topic: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed  (Read 410 times)

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Online Fraser

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I own a thermal camera that uses a Linear Flash PCMCIA card for its operating system and calibration data.

Now for those unaware, PCMCIA memory cards come in several varieties including the common ATA type. Whether you can access such cards depends upon the capabilities of the readers chipset, its implementation and software. There are solutions available that work with ATA PCMCIA cards and some support for SRAM cards. Be warned however, many external PCMCIA card readers do not have Drivers for later versions of OS, so check before you buy.

I have tended to use PCMCIA port equipped legacy laptops running Win XP or Win 7 to access PCMCIA cards when the need arose. When I found a Linear Flash card inside one of my thermal cameras, I knew I was in trouble as LF is not supported in any modern or most legacy laptops. It is a specialist PCMCIA memory card format that has very different needs to ATA or SRAM type cards. I know of no laptop that can access an LF card, even my old 386SX and 486SX laptops could not access it under Win 3.1 !

Oops Lunch calls so more on this later :) .......

Fraser
« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 08:19:44 pm by Fraser »
 

Offline Cerebus

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2020, 01:56:41 pm »
I have a stack of linear FLASH cards somewhere. If you want them say so and next time I trip over them I'll send you a PM and arrange to slap them in the post.
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2020, 02:09:21 pm »
OK, lunch over....back to the story......

So as I previously stated, anyone wanting to read and write a Linear Flash PCMCIA card was out of luck when using any of the common methods, be they in a elderly laptop or external ATA PCMCIA card reader. There were some external PCMCIA card readers that had LF compatibility but they were rare, expensive and often ran on very old operating systems. As such, special drivers were needed. Even if you found one of the external ‘drives’, the drivers will likely be very hard to track down. Some such external readers had driver software that was charged as an extra depending upon the card support required !

ELAN used to make some pretty sophisticated PCI format internal PCMCIA card readers. The software was a bit of a nightmare and incompatibilities with the host PC were common. I am not sure whether even an Elan card could cope with Linear Flash. I had an Elan PCMCIA Card reader but I think I binned it due to the hassle of configuring it and silly Software activation requirements.

So I was bang out of luck accessing and backing up the irreplaceable data on my cameras Linear Flash card. I looked at various options but there is not much out there in the way of choice for modern operating systems. One company called CSM kept coming up in discussions about capable modern PCMCIA card readers.

CSM and their Omnidrive Professional External PCMCIA USB 2.0 External card reader/writer. It is designed to meet the needs of industry and offers ruggedness combined with PCMCIA standards comparability. It acts as a bridge to a modern operating system via USB2.0 and CSM software comes with the driver side of things. The Omnidrive Professional is an expensive product at around £300 ! It comes in several versions. The versions provide different card slots and/or enhanced compatibility capabilities. It was one such enhanced models that I wanted. Sadly the special enhanced PCMCIA card reader with added Linear Flash card support was even more expensive than the standard PCMCIA model. The unit has all the capabilities of the standard model but the hardware supports the differing needs of Linear Flash cards as well. Amongst these additional needs is a higher supply voltage for programming and the driver support in the CSM bridge driver. So close, yet so far..... way too expensive !

So what did I do.. ? Well time for a coffee so back soon  :)

Fraser
« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 08:28:55 pm by Fraser »
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2020, 02:11:50 pm »
Cerebus,

I would dearly love some Linear Flash cards please  :-+ They are relatively hard to find these days, as long obsolete.

The senior designer of the thermal camera that uses the Linear Flash card knew this when he wished me luck finding a means to read and write the Linear Flash card ! He knew I was in for a challenge  ;D

Fraser
« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 08:31:01 pm by Fraser »
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2020, 02:28:19 pm »
Completely disconnected from my long term search for a means to read the Linear Flash card, I stumbled upon an eBay seller offering sets of 9 brand new rugged 7” Arbor Gladius G0710 Tablets for £175 per set of 9 ! I was interested and offered him £150 and he agreed. I already own an Arbor Gladius G0710 so thought it likely that I could get the new units working. Why the doubt ? Well these particular tablets were part of a dedicated medical tablet network and were configured as thin clients running WinXPe. There was no BIOS  access and the BIOS was hard coded to find the custom XPe client software on the CF card.

Long story cut short, I copied the BIOS from my Gladius G0710 onto the customised BIOS chip on the new units and they returned to standard Arbor Gladius specification. A great result and I created a modification document and the AMI G0710 BIOS .bin file for the seller. He did not ask for such but I wanted to help him as he had kindly included free docking stations with my tablets at no cost which he need not have done. He was very happy to receive all that is needed to return the tablets to a useful state for installation of a normal OS.

I had seen that the same seller was offering some CSM Omnidrive Professional PCMCIA card readers for £75 each. Not a bad price but I asked if the units were the “LF” suffix model. The picture of one units ID label confirmed that sadly it was the standard non LF model which was a shame. I was still interested in buying one of the Omnidrive units as they are nice quality and support the later operating systems. I negotiated a very good price for one and it arrived today. The seller has looked through his stock and sent me the “LF” model that I wanted. He did not even tell me, it was such a nice surprise :)  He is a lovely seller who I was glad to help with the Arbor tablets and he has reciprocated :) That Omnidrive Professional LF unit now gives me complete PCMCIA comparability and on a modern OS, which is a bonus.

If anyone ever needs to download data, back-up or copy a Linear Flash PCMCIA card, please feel free to contact me and I will see if I can assist :)

I attach pictures of my Omnidrive

Fraser
« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 02:37:19 pm by Fraser »
 
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Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2020, 02:39:26 pm »
The CSM.de web page for their various card readers.....

https://www.csm.de/en/products/cards-and-drives

Fraser
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2020, 02:41:09 pm »
The range of CSM Omnidrive PCMCIA card readers......

https://www.csm.de/en/products/cards-and-drives/184-omnidrive-usb2-product-series

Fraser
 

Offline Cerebus

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2020, 03:44:13 pm »
Cerebus,

I would dearly love some Linear Flash cards please  :-+ They are relatively hard to find these days, as long obsolete.

They're yours, if I can find where they got to.

Don't hold your breath, I had a seven segment display delivered today because I can't find the exact same one that I know I have somewhere.  :)
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2020, 03:58:56 pm »
Cerebus,

That is a regular occurrence for me as well ! It is easier to buy another than find the box containing the part in my stocks  :palm:

I will, of course, pay all postage costs  :-+

Thank you  :)

Fraser
 

Offline TheSteve

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2020, 06:22:21 am »
The HP 8920B Service Monitor uses linear flash cards. When I wanted to read them I did some research into it and eventually found a program called "Memory Card Explorer". It will read them using an old laptop I have that runs Win98/XP. I then wanted to write to the cards and found that it is pretty standard to need 12 volts on the write line. This was part of the PCMCIA standard years ago but used so little that manufacturers stopped adding the hardware to drive the line to 12 volts. I opened up the laptop and cut a trace and added a toggle switch to 12 volts. It will now write the linear cards as well. It never hurts to have a stock pile of the cards. In the case of the 8920 there are not only optional software features that can be loaded but the same cards are also used for firmware updates.
VE7FM
 
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Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2020, 10:31:29 am »
TheSteve,

Thank you for this very useful information. I knew that a higher programming voltage was needed and most laptop manufacturers dropped that from their Designs, but I was not aware that it was so simple to add it to a standard laptop PCMCIA port  :-+ I think I found Memory Card Explorer previously but, from memory, I could not get it to work on the laptop I was using. That could have been due to the specific laptop though.

Fraser
 

Online Fraser

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2020, 12:19:27 pm »
I just took a look at Memory Card Explorer and I do not think this is what I tried as my test was using free software....MCE costs a significant sum of money  :o On sale at the moment at 50% discount for $323  :scared:

https://www.synchrotech.com/products/software-pcmcia-pc_cards_01.html

The same company suggest the Omnidrive as a currently supported solution.... but just look at the prices !

https://www.synchrotech.com/products/software-pcmcia-pc_cards_02.html

$519 for the Omnidrive Pro LF model  :scared:

Obtaining legacy technology support can be really expensive ! I paid £40 for my Omnidrive USB 2.0 Pro LF  :)

Fraser
« Last Edit: September 06, 2020, 12:22:39 pm by Fraser »
 

Offline Cerebus

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Re: Fraser now has Linear Flash PCMCIA card read/write capability if needed
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2020, 04:24:21 pm »
Cerebus,

That is a regular occurrence for me as well ! It is easier to buy another than find the box containing the part in my stocks  :palm:

I will, of course, pay all postage costs  :-+

Thank you  :)

Fraser

Five minutes, five ruddy minutes after I start plotting out what MCU pins to connect that new 7 segment display to - I found the one I already had! Grrrrr.

Still haven't found the linear FLASH cards - I've found a 440mb ATA FLASH PCMCIA card, also three 11mb wireless PCMCIA cards and a cardbus 10/100 Ethernet card, but not the linear FLASH cards.

BTW the other cards I've found are surplus to requirements, if they're any use to anyone reading this pipe up and they're yours.

I'll forget about it for the moment and then they'll turn up when they are good and ready, and (most importantly) not being actively looked for. I'll PM you if and when I ever find them. In Murphy we trust...
« Last Edit: September 06, 2020, 04:29:11 pm by Cerebus »
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 


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