PCMCIA cards not 'noticed' by Compaq Armada

Forum: Laptops
Topic: PCMCIA cards not 'noticed' by Compaq Armada
started by: CrazyBeethoven

Posted by CrazyBeethoven on June 28 2008,02:41
I am a fan of older computers -- they seem simpler to me. However, the biggest thing that I dislike about old computers is the lack of integrated USB, since transferring huge files over floppy drives (remember the sneakernet days?) is slow and complex.

I now have a Compaq Armada 4131T laptop (no CD-Rom, no USB, no network, no modem, no anything useful) with 80MB of RAM and a 3.2GB hard-drive unto which I installed DSL (Linux kernel 2.4.31) by popping out the HDD and putting it into a more recent laptop, installing DSL and putting it all back together.

I thought I was doing fine until I popped in a wi-fi card and it would not turn on. Not that it just didn't know what the card was, it didn't know a card existed. Popped it in my brothers newer Dell and got the same story: Dead card? Thought so, since my ancient-of-days 3Com 56K Pcmcia modem works just fine on my laptop.

Then I thought to myself, if I buy a USB card, I can kill two birds with one stone, since I already have a USB wi-fi dongle. Well, I did something I now regret and bought a card without any research: "Best Connectivity" knock-off brand, whose web-site to this exact card is < here >. When I got home, I plugged it in and here is what I found:

Nothing. No beeping when inserted. Running 'cardctl status' just says "no card" to both sockets. Running 'cardctl info' is the same as empty sockets. Booting with the pci=assign-busses flag (suggested around the interwebs for various pcmcia problems) changed nothing. Looking at 'dmesg | tail' brought up nothing interesting:
Code Sample

<6>ttyS02 at 0x03e8 (irq = 4) is a 16550A
<6>parport0: PC-style at 0x378 [PCSPP,TRISTATE,EPP]
<4>Registering unionfs 1.0.14
<4>EXT2-fs warning: mounting unchecked fs, running e2fsck is recommended
<6>usb.c: registered new driver hiddev
<6>usb.c: registered new driver hid
<6>hid-core.c: v1.8.1 Andre....
<6>hid-core.c: USB HID support drivers
<6>mice: PS/2 mouse device common for all mice
<6>apm: BIOS version 1.2 Flags 0x03 (Driver version 1.16)

Running 'lspci -v' returns the same info as an empty socket. Running 'lsmod' gives this readout (unfamiliar with it's meaning, but it was usually asked for in trouble-shooting):
Code Sample

Module   Size   Used by   Not tainted
soundcore   3428   0   (autoclean)
apm   9768   1   (autoclean)
mousedev   3832   0   (unused)
hid   22788   0   (unused)
input   3168   0   [mousedev hid]
unionfs   67168   7
nls_iso8859-1   2844   0   (autoclean)
nls_cp437   4348   0   (autoclean)
serial   52228   0   (autoclean)
ieee1394   183300   0
ds   6536   2
i82365   12580   2
pcmcia_core   39840   0   [ds i82365]
ide-cd   28768   0
rtc   7036   0   (autoclean)
cloop   39204   2
usbcore   58016   0   [hid]
ide-scsi   9040   0

So I tried what I know, and I plugged around online for several hours, but could not find much even dealing with PCMCIA to USB cards at all, let alone my situation. Then I tried looking for what people said about the computer not even noticing a card being plugged in. Again, not much available.

Summary: Card is plugged in, computer doesn't notice. It is not the card: Used it in another computer. A different card works in the slot, so I don't think it is the slot. Another card does [l]not[/I] work in the computer, and receives the same treatment as above, so maybe there is an issue with certain kinds of cards or chipsets? Is there an issue with voltages (working card is 5V, this one is 3V)?

I have become completely stumped on this issue, and I hope someone can help me figure out what to do next. I have the windows drivers on a disc, but I don't know a) if they are useful, or b) if they are, how to use them. Anyones help would be very appreciated!

Posted by CrazyBeethoven on June 28 2008,04:57
I just noticed the forum tree might suggest a better place for this as under "Non DSL / Hardware" which may be right. I think this is a DSL/software issue, since both cards work on other Windoze machines... However, the activity of absolutely no response from the computer makes me wonder if it is a hardware issue instead of software. On the third hand, other cards work in the ancient laptop, so I don't think this is hardware based. AUGH! My frustration is not that it won't work, it is that I don't know why and I can't figure out how to figure it out!

Anyway, not that my opinion will really assist in finding a solution, just apologizing ahead of time if the thread was categorized incorrectly.

Posted by Onyarian on June 30 2008,07:04
Your pcmcia dongle is a 32 bit version, it doesn't work in an old computer with a 16 bit pcmcia slot.
You have to buy a 16 bit version.
I have a Compaq Armada too and pcmcia dongles for:
and bluetooth
all in 16 bit versions and all works correctly.
If I try with a 32 version dongle, it doesn't work.

Posted by curaga on June 30 2008,13:16

Pic of a 32-bit card; they have those gold knobs in the end. I also think this is your issue, most old laptops only support 16-bit pcmcia cards.

Posted by CrazyBeethoven on July 01 2008,03:00
Thank you both! I am absolutely certain that is what is wrong, so hopefully the shop I bought the card at will take it back...

Man, I looked around online forever and I never found that information. Well, I did find someone who said "older computers sometimes can't handle newer cards, you need an adapter" or something along those lines.

The moral of the story is: If you have a 16-bit computer, make sure you buy 16-bit cards! 32-bit cards are no backwards compatible with 16-bit PCMCIA card controllers. The 32-bit cards have that gold strip down by the pins -- visible in the posted image.

Anyway, thanks again for your help! Hope this helps somebody else out there as well, I didn't find that information after a lot of searching.

Posted by clivesay on July 01 2008,03:15
How about a quick ebay search?

edit: crud, ebay link won't work. D-Link DWL 650 16 bit is the card I found there

Posted by CrazyBeethoven on July 01 2008,17:39
So after much searching, and not finding a 16-bit PCMCIA to USB card, I found a few web pages which state that they don't exist. A sample statement can be found < here >. I thought I should write that down for future searchers.

In light of this, I began searching for other possibilities for ancient laptops. If anyone has other ideas, please let me know. Right now I thought of the following:

Serial port to USB: No go, so far. Plenty converting the wrong direction, but I can't find anything so far. Probably for similar reasons that the PCMCIA to USB doesn't work in 16-bit...

LAN to USB: This idea intrigued me, but would require some careful hardware hacking to squeeze into the laptop, and perhaps some software hacking to get it to work? Basic idea: Take a USB server, something like < this > one or smaller, and squeeze it into the lappy. Problems abound, especially if you were going to run wireless through the USB: PCMCIA to LAN to USB to Wi-Fi doesn't sound very efficient, nor does it sound like I would be able to squeeze that into the lappy. If you have Wi-Fi already, it could be: Wi-Fi to USB. But then you have a weird situation of non-wired hardware in your laptop. Hmmm...

Posted by curaga on July 01 2008,17:57
16-bit Wifi cards exist, as do lan and modem cards. Don't give up hope!

Methods of connecting are many; you can have wireless through irda, or wired through serial or parallel, if all you want is a net connection. For Wifi, if you keep searching, you will find one :)

Edit: here's one: NETGEAR MA401. It's a Prism2, so it should work out of the box in DSL. Here's a complete list of 16-bit pcmcia wifi cards, along with their Linux status:
< http://linux-wless.passys.nl/query_hostif.php?hostif=PCMCIA >

Posted by chaostic on July 01 2008,18:17
Lan to Wlan already exist (and way cheaper then what you're thinking). Like 30~50 bucks. It's called a Wireless Bridge. You can get one the size of a cigarette pack (I have a La Fonera router hacked with DD-WRT [Think super-dsl]) and that one can be hacked to be powered by usb/5v @ 500ma. If you just need wi-fi, this would be the way to go.
Posted by CrazyBeethoven on July 01 2008,18:44
No, it's the other way around: I have a PCMCIA slot, I don't have USB. I can get the internet, and I can use CF cards to transfer data, but what I really really want is a USB port on my laptop so I can more easily hook up other devices. Goal: USB ports.

I cannot get a PCMCIA to USB adapter, since those are all 32-bit and my laptop only supports 16-bit. I looked into Serial to USB adapters, but those don't exist either (they all adapt the wrong direction). At work I use a USB port over a wireless connection, I could do that except that is a lot of hardware to cram into the laptop! And, at $100, they are expensive as well, see < here > as an example.

More info: I just found CF to USB, except it is USB 1.1. Better than no USB, but at $150 the cost is too high for me. < Here > is an example.

I can't really think of any other way to get a USB port on the laptop, so unless someone else has a clever idea I think I may retire this laptop from main use. Maybe use it as a web server or something, I recall someone else on here doing that...

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