CD Burning on PS/2s

Windows ASPI Package Adaptec has its own downloadable ASPI layer pack.
   ASPI drivers v4.71.2 ASPI v4.71.2 for Win98, NT 4, ME, 2000 and XP
   ASPI Driver  v4.71 for Win98, NT 4, ME, 2000 and XP. Includes ASPICHK
   ASPI drivers v 4.70 For Windows 98, NT 4, Me, 2000 and XP
   W95 ASPI - Use ASPI ver 4.60 found under EZ-SCSI 5.x downloads for Windows 95

ImgBurn Win 9x/Me/NT4/2k/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7/8/10 (plus all 64-bit versions). If you use Wine, it should also run on Linux and other x86-based Unixes
Note: Use the 4.71.2 ASPI layer, NOT SPTI

Windows NT 4.0 and Optical Media

"Some software may attempt to access optical drives using SPTI (SCSI Pass-Through Interface). This programming interface was created by Microsoft to allow direct access to hardware like optical drives. Unfortunately, the implementation in NT 4.0 is very poor and unstable. Attempting to access hardware through SPTI may result in STOP or Dr. Watson errors. If the option is available, use ASPI access instead."

Burning at 1,800KB/s under NT 4.0

I had tried using a 3.36 / 4.70 Buslogic BT646S to drive a Plextor PX-W124TSi, but all it would do upon starting to write is fill up the device buffer, and then the device buffer would drain. Once drained, the burn terminated. This may be an issue with the BusLogic ROM pairs.

I then installed a Corvette with a wide cable, a Plextor PX-W124TSi (term disabled), 50 to 68 pin converter, and left the heatshrinked active terminator at the end of the F/W cable intact. I used the Adaptec 4.71 ASPI package (includes Win2k version) which installs version 4.60 (correct for NT 4.0). I used IMGBurn.  Fired the Plextor PX-W124TSi up, waffled through the IMGburn screens, and waa-laa, we have a successful burn taking place.

Corvette on 95-Y/NT4/Nero 5.10 Success
  This had me going. I attempted to light up a Plextor PX-W124TSi 12/4/32 at 12x off a Corvette. It bombed under Nero 5.10.56 at 12x (burn failed, buffer underrun). I throttled it down to 8x, hung the CD-R and the data drive off the same Corvette, and I was able to burn successfully.

I did have to install the Adaptec ASPI layer, ForceASPI could not successfully complete the install. Nero tech support, trying to be helpful, eventually advised me to enable DMA on the drives, like I was using W9x/XP or other kiddie OS. Hint: there is NO setting under NT to enable DMA. If you run NT Diagnostics, it reports DMA is not being used by the system. Yet Nero Infotool reports DMA... Go figure.

Burning with Nero 4.0 and WfW 3.11
Ezoto piped up with:
I have Nero 4.0 that works on my 9577BTB. I use a Ricoh SCSI burner and a 100meg internal zip drive. I don't have the dos driver for the Ricoh but using the Future Domain SCSI card with the FD drivers in WFW works perfectly. However after you install and run it, it asks for the WINASPI.dll file that is in WIN95 (OSR2 but that is easy to fix since I copy it from 95 to the WFW system directory. After that I successfully burned on my 9577BTB with the 83mhz ODP and 64meg RAM.

One Possible CD Burning Configuration
   For multitasking during a CD-burn session on a relatively slow (P90 plus) relatively memory-poor (64MB-128MB) MCA/PCI-bus system, I recommend using a whole separate SCSI adapter (with no non-bus-mastering I/O for the "other" stuff) controlling a drive dedicated to the CD Image and the CD-Writer.
   With good software that can work out that all operations for the CD-burn are on the same adapter+bus between two devices then the controller *should* be able to do inter-drive operations without anything but tiny CPU and host memory requirements. This is a "special situation" solution that should, in fact, be more commonly known, understood and described in the software blurb for CD-R/RW/DVD-R/RW/RAM packages.
   *Never* take the "minimum requirements" on a package/service's advert to heart. It's based on the poor knowledge and understanding of the technical issues by the "general public". A "fail-safe" cop-out.
        Tim Clarke (a.k.a. WBST)

CD and DVD Musings
I think you need to differ between two points:
a) what you really need from the hardware
b) what the accompanying (Windows-based) software needs

The data stream required for a 4x burning process is about 500Kbps, which can be done with a reasonably configured 486DX33 / 16MB and a sufficiently fast HD subsystem already. But the lot of the fat software packages require Win 9x / ME or even XP - were the latter two are often too big for older machines.

The difference between CD-R and CD-RW burner is mainly just a firmware issue - and a slightly modified laser control. Since CD-RW includes burning CD-R already the manufacturers opted to drop sole CD-R burners in favor of lower-priced CD-RW units. I can see no problem with it. I would always prefer a CD-RW capable burner over one that does only CD-R.

Far better however is a multiformat burner that also does DVD in its various manifestations (DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM ... and Double Layer) ... plus the CD-R / CD-RW stuff. Would be a bit more expensive but more versatile as well. Win98SE is sufficient to run e.g. MyDVD software for creating home-made DVDs My PC300GL 6561 with 333MHz P-II and 128MB does fine here - and it is far from being a "modern" system.

Controller and Device Issues
   Odd challenge is with a wide hard drive and burner on the same controller. I suppose that having a F/W drive talking to a burner is overkill, since the HD will be sitting around, waiting for the CD burner to come up for air. I had tried to separate HD and burner onto separate controllers.

A kicker is a Wide drive and CD burner on a F/W. I had a 20x Plextor (with the HPDB68 port) that refused to run on a Corvette until I disabled wide messages.  Perhaps running the burner and a dedicated HD on the same Buslogic BT-646 would then be the best setup. 

Lack of ASPI Layer
   Known problem. Use ForceASPI to install an ASPI layer on your 9x/NT system. I have used it under NT 4.0 without a problem. This will let you have an Adaptec ASPI layer for a non-Adaptec SCSI adapter. It works with IBM SCSI adapters as well. I know about Spock and the Corvette personally.

Bootable CD on PS/2

Saskia says:
   I have probably found out why Server 95 doesn't want to boot from CDs, except from the ServerGuide CD (thanks Peter!) and a few others.

The key is the first sector, a kind of "Boot Sector". Not a real one, of course. It is described in the original El Torito (Boot CD) specification, but seems to be forgotten in the CD layout description  and marked as "not necessary". And since El Torito is a specification by Phoenix and IBM, IBM CDs do work - they knew how to do it. The ServerGuide CD has this "Boot Sector". And others, who implemented El Torito based on the specification, just skipped this part.

   I don't know of WinDOS burning programs like Nero and so on, but mkisofs (from the CDRTools or CDRTools/2 package) generates an almost valid booting table. The problem: It generates it in a file - named by default - on the file system instead of sector 0! We need to patch mkisofs to put the boot catalog into the right position. But first I'll contact the author of mkisofs, maybe he can do it better, faster, and right into the official source tree.

Writing an utility would be a bit difficult, but not impossible, because it would need to analyze the disk image if it already has this boot catalog. If not, it would need to generate a new one. And if it has, it could copy it to sector 0, and subtract the negative offset to calculate the new relative addresses. But I'm not sure if I can program all these things ... or better: I'm sure I can't program all these things. Maybe someone other wants to try it? *g*

Here are the specs, the boot catalog can be found at section 2: HERE

PS/2 CD "Burnfest" 2005/2006 (by William Walsh, original HERE)

This was going to be a compilation of CD burning results on IBM PS/2 computer hardware. However, it seems to have turned out as more of an interesting (okay, maybe) story than a compilation of results.

To significantly improve the performance of your IBM MCA SCSI subsystem or adapter, visit the MCABase and check out the vastly improved Spock-206, AHA-206 (for Adaptec 1640 MCA SCSI host adapters), and the beta Spock-208 driver for Windows NT (local copy HERE).

Some Introductory Text

Anyone who has spent any amount of time working with and building up IBM PS/2 computers has probably had the thought of using this hardware to burn CDs and maybe even DVDs.

Now, in theory this certainly should work, and it ought to work relatively well. PS/2s generally have respectable disk I/O subsystems across the spectrum of later models with SCSI. SCSI CD burning hardware certainly exists and can be used with a PS/2 as long as it meets the requirements of the host adapter. (Generally, for an IBM MCA SCSI controller, this would mean that the drive can provide SCSI parity on the bus.)

The reality can often be very different. Many people have experienced unexplained (or maybe unexplainable) failures when trying to burn CD-ROM discs on MCA hardware, especially when Microsoft Windows is the operating system of choice. Some of the fault seems to lie with Microsoft, as they did not provide great support for the various IBM MCA SCSI host adapters. Others have experienced problems with the ASPI layer in Windows, or, rather, the lack of decent ASPI support "out of the box".

I first tried burning CDs with a Panasonic/Matsushita 8X CD-R (that's right, CD-R, not -RW!) installed in an IBM PC Server 500 and connected to an IBM MCA SCSI controller with cache. In this setup, I used a very late model adapter, and it was sharing an interrupt with one of the RAID controllers. The OS of choice was Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 6a. For burning software, I elected to use a 5.x version of Ahead's Nero software package, as I find it to be a very well-written CD burning program. Long story short, despite the horror stories I'd heard, this setup worked flawlessly. I could burn around 4X without issue while still using the computer pretty heavily. If I left the machine alone, burning at top speed (8x) was certainly possible.

I'd have been content to leave this setup alone, but a hardware failure of the RAID array and then a basement flood made this setup unusable. I wasn't sure that I would bother settting a PS/2 up for CD-burning again. Then discussion came up on the newsgroup came up that made me reconsider. I was "pushed over the edge" (so to speak) when a group member posted a link to a brand new Yamaha external CD-R/RW drive on eBay. I placed a bid and won it.

So begins this adventure...

System Requirements

One thing that came up quite often during the various group postings was the subject of software requirements. In the MCA world, most of the machines have either 386 or 486 processors. Higher end machines do have Pentium CPUs and some have been pushed to the point of 200MHz (or 233, with mixed results) with MMX. However, these are definitely not the mainstream configuration for many PS/2s...

With this in mind, some folks have raised good questions about our machines handling the software supplied with burners. More often than not, the box and any documentation your burner came with is going to suggest hardware requirements that are well beyond the range that any true PS/2 machine covered. Of course, most CD burner vendors and software makers don't test their software packages to find the true minimum. They simply "pick a number" that would "seem to fit" and go from there.

Just to alleviate any possible confusion here: Ignore the box and manual when they talk of system requirements. The only way you'll know for sure is to try what's in the box and see if it works. The odds can be very much in your favor.

If this concept is still bothering you, think of it like this: If you were the CD burner or software vendor, would you take the time and money to train your support staff on the nuances of 10-15 year old hardware and similary aged operating systems? Of course not! "Most people" aren't using such things any longer, so it's much easier for the hardware and software companies to draw a line that they feel is "reasonably modern".

Yes, this may mean that you can't call the vendor for help if you run into trouble. However, if you're into PS/2s and have a fair understanding of the systems you are running, then the odds are good that you can work yourself out of any trouble you might get into. And that's to say nothing of the newsgroup...which is still somewhat active today.

Oh, and one more thing: If the software included with your burner doesn't happen to work with your PS/2, there are lots of alternative programs that may well work better for you. A Google search can turn up plenty of alternative choices.

Operating System Requirements

...can be a little trickier. Some newer software may want Windows 2000, Me, XP or newer. These operating systems are out of the reach of MCA hardware.

Generally speaking, there is often a way to get most software running on an operating system it doesn't support. Sometimes it is just a question of being able to provide the needed support software to the program.

There is also the possibility of using another OS, such as OS/2 or Linux to do your CD-burning tasks if you can't find a suitable Windows-based package.

Okay, now that we've got the introduction out of the way...

Experiences & Tests

At first I had thoughts of testing across a wide variety of MCA and clone-boxen computers, just to get a feel for what was possible over the SCSI bus, and to see how CPU speed played into it. I gathered together a Yamaha CRW-2200S external SCSI CD burner, a copy of Nero Burning ROM 5.5 and a number of computers.

A little later on I changed what I had plans to do. I first learned that for whatever reason, the Yamaha drive and a variety of IBM MCA SCSI adapters weren't getting along. For whatever reason, attaching the Yamaha drive to the external port of an IBM MCA SCSI controller resulted in the controller failing to work at all. I tried several other MCA SCSI controllers with a PS/2 Server 95a running Windows NT 4.0 SP6a. For whatever reason, only the lowest performing adapter (a Future Domain MCS-700) would work to burn CDs. Others would cause the process to fail almost immediately. I did a lot of diddling around with swapping cards, reloading drivers, reapplying the NT service pack and installing Force ASPI...all to no avail. I stopped the whole process shortly after finding that the Future Domain card would allow up to a 4X burn, but that it absolutely floored a Pentium 90 CPU in order to do so.

On the clone front, I found that the fastest I could drive the Yamaha burner appeared to be 12X from an Adaptec 1460 SlimSCSI PCMCIA card installed in a Dell Latitude D800. I figured this probably represented the best performance that the burner could offer, as a 2.0GHz Pentium M (Centrino) ought to have no problem running a PCMCIA SCSI board to its limits.

Finally, I came back to the whole idea of burning a CD on MCA hardware, long after the frustration had subsided. This time around, I set up a PS/2 Model 9585-0XF with Windows NT 4.0, a 486DX4-100 upgrade CPU from Intel, 64MB RAM, onboard IBM cached SCSI, a Seagate Barracuda ST12550N hard disk, a Madge Smart 16/4 MC Ringnode network adapter and an NCR SIOP SCSI adapter. The onboard IBM SCSI would handle the hard disk and booting the OS. The NCR 53C710 SIOP board (card-ID 01BA) would handle the Yamaha CD burner. I got the OS running and updated before installing Force ASPI and Nero Burning ROM 5.5.

To test the burning part, I prepared about 650MB of files. Some files were big, and others were smaller, just to help provide a balanced test. Big files generally don't fit into a program's buffer, although they cut down on the overhead of being found, opened and transferred to CD. With smaller files, the files do generally fit into a buffer, but the computer and CD burning software must find, open and transfer each one, which adds some delay in the burning process.

With the data prepared and a blank CD-R loaded, I fired up the burning software and told it to simulate the production of an ISO-9660/Joliet formatted disc. I picked the 8X speed option, and started the process. A short while later, the simulated burn process had completed without incident. While it ran, the software-based buffer of 32MB never dropped below 75% and the CD burner buffer stayed at 98%.

The 8X burn didn't make for a usable system. I didn't find that to be a big deal, as I could go use another computer, and it really is a good idea to just leave the CD burner alone while it runs. While I did not try it, a 12X burn may well have been possible even without turning the buffer underrun protection on. All things considered, the results shown here are pretty respectable.

A Word About Adapters

If you are familiar with the MCA bus and adapters that are available, you'll notice that I tried to select adapters capable of busmastering or streaming data transfer. Adapters on the MCA bus can (but do not have to) be intelligent devices with their own CPUs and controlling software. While the OS in use doesn't always support these features, an adapter that can work by itself without calling upon the main system CPU for help can ease the load on a heavily-worked system. While I don't know if the NCR 01BA SIOP (SCSI I/O Processor) adapter supports busmastering, it does support data streaming across the MCA bus if you elect to turn it on in system programs.

For this system's network connection, I picked a Madge Smart 16/4 MC Ringnode adapter. This is a token ring adapter, which isn't a big deal since I have two running TR networks, one for 16 megabit stuff and the other for 4 megabit stuff. (Both are linked to my Ethernet stuff, so every computer on the network can see every other without issue.) This adapter is running on the 4 megabit side. However, unlike the very common IBM "shared RAM" token ring adapter, this can busmaster and supports data streaming features if you enable them. If you have data residing elsewhere on your computer network that you wish to burn to CD, it's probably going to be a large amount of a data. An adapter capable of busmastering and data streaming can ease the load on the system and let you use it for other tasks while you transfer data in preparation for a CD burning session.

The point of this discussion is to help you decide what kind of MCA adapters you might wish to populate a CD burning PS/2 with. While at first you may have to use what you have, there is no reason why you can't look out for better performing options and hardware in the future. It will pay to do so for the most part.

If Things Don't Work

Unfortunately, as the experiences I haven't gotten into would show, burning CDs on a PS/2 can be quite an adventure. (It can be an adventure on any other type of older computer too!) Sometimes things don't work, and the failures are not easily explained.

If you run into this, my suggestion is to change your plans. If you have another PS/2 around, and it has a reasonably powerful CPU, give it a try. It may work where the other system would not.

Force ASPI on Windows definitely can help. You can try to burn CDs without it, and it might work. If it does not, try this before giving up.

Very modern versions of CD burning software may really not work, or demand more CPU power than you can easily get if they do work. I'd heartily recommend use of Ahead Software's Nero Burning ROM...for me it has been a high quality CD burning software package. Versions 4.0 through 6.0 all work well on PS/2 hardware.

Content created and/or collected by:
Louis F. Ohland, Peter H. Wendt, David L. Beem, William R. Walsh, Tatsuo Sunagawa, Tomáš Slavotínek, Jim Shorney, Tim N. Clarke, Kevin Bowling, and many others.

Ardent Tool of Capitalism is maintained by Tomáš Slavotínek.
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