Daily Archives: June 21, 2022

Sony VAIO PCV-90 (86Box)

Another machine that’s supported by 86box and has a recovery CD available online

A desktop PC with a Pentium 166Mhz (No MMX), 32MB of RAM (Although we will be giving it 128MB, the max amount), an 8X CD-ROM, floppy drive, and a 2.1GB HDD. The PCV-90 was a higher-end machine and featured the Pentium at 200Mhz and a 2.5GB HDD. Both systems use the ATI RAGE 3D graphics card with 2MB VRAM.

Setting Up

86box does not support all of the hardware that the PCV70 shipped with, the ATI RAGE graphics accelerator is missing and currently un-emulated so we had to substitute another graphics card instead.

Recovery Disc

A copy was posted onto the Internet Archive which was the full backup disc that shipped with the computer, which was intended to restore the PC back to factory shipped state.
This is where we encountered issues, the recovery utility rightly detected that the hard drive was unformatted since this was a new machine VHD, and instructed me to exit the interface and run a command, which would have initialized the disc. But these commands fail to run, they appear to be batch files that would have run FDISK with a specific argument to create the disc. There are two of these, one for each model since both models had different hard disk sizes.

When the CD-ROM boots, it mounts a virtual floppy drive to drive A: and the actual floppy drive is moved to B:
This image is located as an IMG file and can be extracted and mounted in modern Windows.
For some reason when this IMG file is booted, it loads some sort of customized boot disk but fails to load the CD-ROM drive despite it being detected by the Windows 95 or 98 bootdisks. As a result, the recovery utility cannot see the CD-ROM drive since that is running off the virtual floppy drive mentioned earlier.
The reconvey utility is non-functional due to the lack of CD drive detected by the emulated boot disk, likely Sony is using a custom boot disk that came with its own set of drivers. When the driver loads you can quickly see an error message informing no CD drivers were found.

So in order to make these CD’s work with 86Box we are going to have to work around them

Solution

The easiest way was to install Windows 95 RTM, then boot into the recovery program and have it overwrite the files and replace the install, this also involved initializing the disk. To save time I would opt for a minimal install and use the RTM version instead of the later OSR releases as that’s the version Sony used (They actually used the plus pack version, which is integrated into the recovery image and gets installed regardless)

Once Windows 95 is installed and fully bootable, I had to trick the recovery utility to load files from the G: CD-ROM drive, but the regular Microsoft boot discs will place the CD-ROM drive as D: which the Sony utility will refuse to see.
Multiple ways to do this was:
Both methods work best when you have a basic Windows 95 install, this is because the recovery software has issues writing to the bootsector.

Method 1: Bruteforce SCSI

Add a supported SCSI adaptor to the 86box machine, and add a load of both IDE and SCSI CD-ROM drives with the hope one of them would become the G: drive.

I would then use the Windows 98 recovery disc, which has the SCSI drivers to detect the drives and load the recovery program. Once the boot disk environment had loaded, verify the C drive was accessible (If not FDISK it using FAT16). You have to type ‘lock C:’ to enable full access to the C: (See the Note below)
Then I mounted the extracted OSBOOT file as a floppy disk in 86box. This was done by extracting the OSBOOT file from the iso and mounting it after the Windows 98 boot disk had loaded, once mounted I ran the recover.exe file and mounted the actual iso image under the G drive.

Once the recovery utility loads, select restore system without format, and it should begin the restore process, where it will copy the files onto the C drive, once completed you can reboot the system and it will go through the initial setup procedure.
Remember to eject any floppy discs

Note: The version of DOS that the Windows 98 bootdisk shipped with disables direct writing to the C: drive by default unless the lock C: command was used before the recovery software was loaded. Even then the software had issues writing to the boot sector, so even after transferring and unpacking the files we were still left with an unbootable system. This is why I advised installing an RTM version of 95 then using the recovery utility to overwrite it with the Sony image.

Once the OS is installed you can remove the SCSI drive if you prefer.

Here we modify the existing Windows 95 boot disk to set the CD-ROM drive to be G: instead of D: The easiest way to do this was to mount 9Make a backup first) the bootdisk in a working Windows install or use a third-party utility, and edit the AUTOEXEC.BAT file on the root of the boot disc and change the line:

LH A:\MSCDEX.EXE /D:mscd001 /l:d

See the /l:d
We want to change that to /l:g instead
Then save
This tells the DOS driver to start allocating CD-ROM or ATAPI drives from G: onwards

Now we mount and open the OSBOOT.IMG that was extracted from the Recovery CD, and pinch some files off it, namely the recover.exe, recover.ini, profile.ini and sony.exe
All four of the files total 236KB and we want to copy them to the Windows 95 boot disk, If you run out of space there are a few utilities like regedit that can be deleted off the boot disk.
Save and then mount the modified boot disc and boot the machine into it.
If prompted on the startup disc, load the NEC IDE CROM driver.
If everything is correct it should show

Drive G = Driver MSCD001 unit 0

At the prompt, type recover then hit enter (Should be on the A: drive)
The recovery environment will then load
Select Complete Restore
Select Restore Original Software w/o Format
You may get a few error messages that it was unable to copy certain system files, I believe this is related to the boot sector files I indicated earlier, as long as your original Windows 95 install was bootable then the recovery should work regardless.

I should note that despite testing both methods, both methods result in missing applications like Netscape Navigator. This wasn’t so much of an issue since I could reinstall them alter, and the recovery CD has dedicated options for reinstalling both browsers anyway, along with Microsoft Works and Money.

Update: It seems I had to do another reinstall, and on that one it did install both Netscape and Internet Explore, not sure what I did differently?

Windows 95 Bootdisk

Windows 98 Bootdisk

Post Install

We had to substitute a few device drivers in order for us to have a working system

The ATI RAGE card is unemulated in 86box, instead, I used an ATI MAch64VT2 instead. Do note this card lacks MPEG decoding support so some video sequences will be corrupted and will just display a pink color screen

ATI Mach Drivers

The Yamaha sound card was also unemulated, instead, I replaced it with a Crystal ISA soundcard instead. The originally bundled utilities will still function to an extent.

Crystal Drivers (VOGONS)

PreInstalled Software

There is a shedload of software bundled with this VAIO PC, with many titles requiring an additional CD-ROM to be inserted in order to run, which would have been bundled with the system.

VAIO Space

This was the default launcher that came with the system and would run in place of the Windows desktop, similar to the Packard Bell navigator and RM Window Box, oh and don’t forget Microsoft BOB.
VAIO Space tries to take full advantage of the hardware that Sony offered and many parts of the launcher make use of MPEG video (which isn’t functional in 86box since no graphics card can accelerate MPEG video, so your left with pink squares instead.

There are a few different areas of the VAIO Space that contains links to dedicated applications:
Home: Features links to My Space, a Welcome demo, the setting page. The Windows button takes you back to the 95 desktop
My Space: Add shortcuts to your favorite applications.
Windows: Take you to the Windows 95 desktop
Help: Gives you a short description on how to use the VAIO Space utility

Net Space
Accessible by clicking towards the top of the screen, this takes you ‘up’ and gives you a selection of internet applications like AOL, Netscape and Internet Explorer which were not installed on my system. There’s also links to Sony’s online website and an SOS button which opens up a phone dialler to dial 911

Screen 2
Click left from the home screen takes you to this screen, here you see four different categories:
Work Center: features productivity software like Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money and Paint
Reference Library: Links to reference stuff like Encarta, Family Doctor and Compton’s interactive encyclopedia. As the internet wasn’t very widespread it made sense to bundle this software/
Game Arcade: Links to various games like Wipeout and Mechwarrior 2, also featuring the entertainment pack games and the bundled windows games.
Kids Land: Child-friendly software like 3D movie maker

Screen 3
Multimedia applications like the CdPlayer and WAV/MIDI player. These do not open the standalone windows applications, rather Sony’s own that they have bundled. The More A/V button shows the Window standard programs.

Judging from the software bundled, this was designed to be a family PC with various bits of software to suit everyone.

Overall its defiantly a unique experience and was designed to make it easier for novice users to use the system. Not sure how Microsoft felt about it though, image developing a new user interface only for some OEM to replace it with their own.

VoiceView: Seems to be a gateway to various online services, has an online game but this crashes when you try to open it

Billboard Music Guide: Needs CD-ROM

Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia: Needs CD-ROM

AOL: Desktop client for AOL, an internet service provider

Compuserve: Another Internet service provider client

Microsoft 3D Movie Maker: Popular movie maker application that was part of the Microsoft Home bundle

CyberPassage: Needs CD-ROM

DeltaPoint: Needs CD-ROM

Cartopedia: Needs CD-ROM

The Family Doctor: CD-ROM needed

Investor Insight: Another financial application

LAUNCH: Unknown, does not even open without the CD inserted

Microsoft Money: Accounting management software, the 96 edition is included here

Microsoft Phone: Looks like a phone dialer, to make calls through your PC

Microsoft Works: Microsoft’s basic productivity suite, version 4

Microsoft Reference: Works like an offline Wikipedia, needs a CD to run

Quicken SE Gateway: Looks to be a finance application and has a lot of links to various banks, requires a CD to fully run and appears to be trialware – limited to 10 launches.

Sidekick 95: Some sort of personal information manager, like Outlook that would store user contacts email address and phone numbers

Reader Rabbit: Needs a CD in order to run

American Heritage Talking Dictionary: Mainly functions as a dictionary, but has a few extras including an anagram generator and a thesaurus

Telephone Directory PC411: A phonebook application

Games

Wipeout: A 32bit version of the popular PlayStation game, running using the ATI CIF graphics engine. Sadly 86box cannot emulate this and using a 3DFX or the S3 ViRGE won’t work because it’s designed exclusively for the ATI CIF API, which I hope to cover later on as there are quite a few titles that use this technology.

Also to note, WipEout was one of the launch games for the PlayStation

MechWarrior 2: Retail game that I’ll cover separately at some point in the future, again it needs its own CD-ROM

Microsoft Entertainment Pack: Included games like Chip’s Challange, Dr Black jack, and Jezzball to name a few

Hover: That game that came on the Windows 95 CD

Other

USB Support

This was one of the first home desktops to ship with onboard USB, two years before the iMac which was said to have popularised the standard. However, the version of Windows 95 that Sony shipped with the computer had no USB support. The intention was to ship USB support in an update once Microsoft had released the upgrade for Windows 95, which would be introduced in a supplement update to OSR2 which was released in August 1997, nearly a year after Sony had released the PCV-70/90.

Early Windows 95 USB was a bit of a disaster and didn’t have much support, in fact, it wasn’t until Windows 98SE that USB support was to the standard that we accept today, with the earlier versions lacking many USB drivers.

86Box does not allow for USB devices to be connected, so there isn’t much point in upgrading to this version anyway. Regardless i did try to upgrader it to a USB supported build, which ended up bricking the OS completely. Apparently you have to upgrade in steps first, to OSR1, then OSR2, then install the USB supplement, whilst I tried to install the USB supplement update only, which resulted in a VxD error upon bootup. Not even safe mode could rescue me here, I had to reinstall from scratch.

You would think the Microsoft installer would check first and tell me to upgrade to a supported version of 95, instead it just happily installed