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How many times have I flashed a bios?  Probably less than 50, but enough that I can’t say.

However, today I had a very unique experience.

Consider the following factors:

  • This bios update must be installed from either windows or DOS.
  • This laptop has no windows or DOS installation
  • This laptop does not have a functioning CD-ROM drive or floppy drive.
  • This laptop does not support booting from USB.

Here we have a chicken and egg problem.

If windows were nice and flexible, it would be relatively easy to find a windows install on someone’s laptop, pop out the hard drive, run the update, and put the hard drives back into place.  Unfortunately, taking out the disk does not work, because windows is tied too closely to the hardware.  Once the OS is installed on a system, it cannot easily be modified to work on another system.

However, DOS does not have this same restriction.  You can remove your HD, plug it in another system, install DOS 7.10 or what have you on it, plop the updater on the partition, replace the HD and DOS will actually boot, just like any other “modern” operating system like MenuetOS, OS/2, BeOS, QNX, Linux or BSD!

Incidentally the DOS 7.10 installer is really stupid and will clobber the MBR and dump its data onto the first pre-formatted fat partition, so it’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds, as you will have to reverse the damage inflicted by the installer.

Once you’re through all that, the updater may return an error about something or other being protected…  That’s kind of annoying…  luckily, if you boot into DOS in debug mode, no such error will occur.  Unfortunately, you may need to modify a system file to give you access to the boot menu.  I ended up booting a livecd on another system, modifying the file, and then going back.  I have no idea how many times I have swapped laptop HDs today, but I have had enough.

So, after all that work, I have successfully updated my neighbor’s BIOS.  Why, you may ask, would I go through all that trouble (especially for a 6-year old system)?  Well, it may be a matter of pride.  At any rate, his video ram is now 8 MB as opposed to 1 MB, which means that he can run BeOS at his LCD’s native resolution, 1024×768.

Why BeOS, you may ask?  Running today’s software on today’s hardware is fine.  Running the software of today on yesterday’s hardware is unbearable.   However, to counteract slow or failing hardware, try running it with the lightest OS possible.  It will be a very enlightening experience.

Sometimes I wish I actually got paid for this stuff.

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