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The Contest Computer 2.5

Subject: The Contest Computer 2.5
From: W3MM@aol.com (W3MM@aol.com)
Date: Mon Dec 4 03:45:51 1995
Greetings fellow Contesters. I hope everyone had a good time in the 160 
test this weekend. I know that I had a great time. The response to the 
first two posts have been 100% positive and I have been asked to continue
with the flow of good info. I know that some of you have ordered new 
keyboards. Now, let us get on with it!

This dissertation will address the topics of the hard drive and the System
BIOS (CMOS setup). This W3MM guy is crazy! What does a hard drive
have to do with a contest? Read on gentlemen and I hope that there are
some ladies on the reflector. I am going to tell you what your Mother and 
dear wife never told you, but every hooker knows!

When the original PC standards were decided upon the guys felt that the 
largest hard drive that was imaginable would be 500 meg. We are talking
about the days when 20 meg drives were considered BIG and cost plenty
of bucks. Well the dealers are selling 1 GIG drives for about $260. I am 
going out to buy one. DON'T!!! You don't have enough info. If you have an
older computer (by that statement I mean that your computer is more 
than about 1.5 years old) , your System Bios does not support the large
hard drives. What does my system Bios support? It essentially supports 
a drive as large as 540 meg and the drive will format to 504 meg. What
happens if I install a 1 GIG drive? The Bios will allow DOS to format the 
drive as a 540 meg drive (end result is a 504 meg drive). Where did the 
rest of that space go? It is there. Your system bios does not let you
access it. Great! Now what do I do? Read on.

There are BIOS upgrades that are available for certain computers that 
were produced in mass quantities. Do not get your hopes up at this 
point. I will discuss the problem as follows:
1. I have an 8088, 286, or 386 computer. FORGET IT. No company is
willing to invest in a Bios upgrade that will provide a marginal (at best)
return on the investment to write the software.
2. I have one of the early 486 systems. Again forget it. (This is a bummer)
3. I have a 486/50/66 mhz system. There is some hope. Read on.

You can infer that I am a great fan of Gateway2000 computer systems. 
I have purchased 10 of them in the past five years and the newest arrived
on the Fri of the CQ CW test. I left it alone untill after the contest. Well
here is the skinny on the 486/DX2-66 series of Gateway systems and this
may include the 50 mhz versions. These systems were built with a
Micronics Computer Systems mother board which had Phoenix Bios. 
Micronics and Phoenix no longer support these motherboards, but remember
that if there is a buck to be made in this world some one will come along
and provide the needed fix. In this case There is a third party software 
company that is Licensed by Phoenix to write and sell upgrades to Phoenix
Bios versions that are no longer updated by Phoenix. The company which
does the above mentioned upgrades is Micro Firmware, phone 800 767-5465.
Before calling them boot your computer and write down the Bios Version
that is on your computer. The answer will be yes, we have an upgrade and
the cost is $79 plus shipping or no, it is an old system and we did not
write an upgrade. The above applies to Gateway systems. If you have a Dell,
Compaque, or other mass produced system call the respective manufacturer
tech support group for info on a third party company for bios upgrades. If
computer has AMI Bios, then call AMI to see if upgrades are available. If
some one on the reflector would like to pursue the AMI bios question please
do so and post for everyone's benefit. 

Well!! I can not get a bios upgrade for a BIG hard drive. Is there a way
this problem. Yes there is but I do not recommend it for the Contest Drive.
is acceptable for the Family Drive or other applications. I will tell you
it but first some comments on hard drives. My preferred brand of hard drives
are those that are manufactured by Western Digital. Before buying a hard 
drive there is something that you should know! Every drive made has a buffer
(cache) built into it. The problem is that the drives are marketed with
amounts of cache for an existing size drive. i.e. 540 meg drive with a 32K
or 64K buffer or a 128K buffer. How do I tell the difference? Well you have
know the manufacturers product code or you have to question the reseller
and hope that you get an honest answer. Now I will tell you how to sort out
a Western Digital drive. The key is in the part number. For a western drive
is like this: AC3100xxxxxH. The last letter in tha part number indicates the
size of the buffer. The Western code is as follows: H=128K buffer, F=64K
buffer, and M=32K buffer. The above codes were provided by Tony, WB2P.
My point is this: buy a drive with a 128K buffer. The performance increase 
is worth the few extra dollars. Keep in mind that the mail order resellers 
usually do not state the buffer size in their adds so it is a buyer beware 
market. The one reseller who is up front about their products is Dirt Cheap
Drives. Phone 800 786-1170. 

Ok. This post is getting too long so I will continue it in The Contest 
Computer 2.5 and 1/2.

VY 73 de Dave  W3MM     w3mm@aol.com

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