68008 SRAM Microcomputer – Windows-in-a-Box

Now to something completely different: Software.

As i expect my 68008 computer not to work with an empty Eprom, i will probably have to program it. For this i have bought some years ago a Genius NSP universal programmer from Shenzhen Stagger Electric. No need to remember this name, they are probably folded. For good reason.

I had installed the software on some kind of old Pentium Desktop running Windows 98 which i kept for this purpose only. But it's sitting in the Loft and i'd need to find a free space to work with it. Frankly, i want to get rid of it.

The idea is to install a Windows in Virtual Box on my Mac. I have already a Linux Mint running in Virtual Box (every now and then) and i know there are free pre-built images of this or that operating system available in the net. I thought, i'd pick an XP image, get an XP license key from an unused pre-scrapped computer from my employer, install the image, register Windows and try whether i can attach the programmer through an USB-to-Serial connection.

Good news: Microsoft offers pre-built Windows images on it's web site for testing the IE and maybe non-commercial use (some websites say). They are not registered but they are freshly installed and the registration period has not yet started. Also, i got a Windows XP Home Edition key from my employer.

I downloaded one of the XP images available, figured out how to combine the split .rar archive which consisted of one .rar file and one .sfx file (how-to: make the .sfx file executable and execute it) and imported the resulting .ova Virtual Box Appliance into Virtual Box. Made a snapshot. Started it.

Step One: It was unregistered as expected and i tried to register my key. This did not work. It seems that the XP instance is a Windows XP Professional and probably this is the reason why the key is rejected. Ok, no problem, i have 30 days ahead.

Second step is to install an anti virus software. I downloaded it with OSX, dropped it in a shared folder and installed it in XP. Yeah!

Third step is to install Firefox. :-)

Fourth step is to install this piece of crap, erm, the software for the Genius NSP programmer. I was afraid it could be on floppy disk, but it was on CD, and, yes, important, on a full-sized CD. I have a slot-in CD drive in my Mac and this matters. Installation worked within few seconds. My Mac is SO fast! :-)

I attached the programmer with an USB-to-Serial adapter to my Mac and started the software. As expected the software did not find the programmer. Ok, let's figure out why.

Windows does not see the adapter. I investigate settings for the virtual machine and found a place to enable this specific USB device which instantly bothered me with the next problem: USB 2.0 controller enabled – you need the VirtualBox Extension Pack. Googled for it, downloaded it from Oracle, it automatically installed into Virtual Box – fine!

After starting XP again and waiting for some seconds, it found 'new hardware'. Do i have a driver disk? hmm, no. Shall i search online for a driver? – yes. Wait. wait. I didn't find a driver. Mist. (Did it ever find a driver this way?)

I figured out what is inside the USB adapter – a Prolific Technology Inc. USB-Serial Controller C, product ID 0x2303. So i downloaded the PL2303_Prolific_DriverInstaller_v1_9_0 driver from the Prolific website from OSX, moved it into the shared folder and installed it in XP.

Ok installed. What's next? The Stagger software still doesn't find it. Hmm, given my experience with Windows i restarted it. And yes, now there is a Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port in the Device Manager and – ta ta – the NSP software can talk to the programmer! That's not a matter of course, because even if the serial communication works the software may do some weird things with the serial port, like bit-banging, and that is likely to fail with an USB adapter.

I tried reading an Eprom and it looked like this:

Crappy NSP software reading my Eprom

Only partly translated, very poorly translated, window decoration around a transparent window. Buggy chip data base. Outdated now. >:-) But it works. Somehow.

Ok, i can throw away the old Windows 98 computer. Fine. :-)

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