Troubleshooting Cables With Star Commander and MNIB/NIBTOOLS
It is hard to troubleshoot issues related to communications as there are so many points of failure, especially when it is between two disparate devices and busses (PC parallel and Commodore IEC serial bus) that are not designed to work together. The choice of OS (DOS or Windows/OpenCBM) also greatly affects the troubleshooting approach. The PC parallel port might not be working properly or not be compatible with MNIB. The X cable might be non-functional or badly made, or use incorrect components and not work under all conditions. MNIB typically won't function on a faster machine under DOS. OpenCBM might also have troubles.
One simple starting point is to use my bootable DOS CD image as it a quick method to test both SC and MNIB. Once booted, it presents a menu of the most common tools (Star Commander, MNIB, 64Copy, XCTEST and XCDETECT) to use for image transfers or manipulation.
Step 1: Start with Star Commander under DOS
Star Commander works, period. It was designed to work on all systems in DOS mode, regardless of CPU speed, with serial or serial/parallel cables. I've tested it under DOS on many systems without a single failure. While there may be a few very rare system boards that don't work with SC, and a few more that don't work with XE/XM and XA cables, they are in the extreme minority.
Start with SC in serial-only mode, no parallel cable. This insures that the disk drive can talk over its IEC port, and that the basic cable works. Then enable the parallel portion of the cable and test again. If SC works both serial and serial+parallel, then the parallel port is OK, the drive is OK and the cable works. This still doesn't mean that MNIB will work as it's requirements are more strict and it only works on slower systems (P3 700 and lower typically).
SC is also designed to work under Windows XP/Vista with OpenCBM, but I have little experience with that. You're on your own there.
If SC doesn't work under DOS
- Try another cable if possible
- Try another disk drive
- Try another PC
- Check the existing cable with a multimeter
- Try the drive on a real C= system
Step 2: Try NIBTOOLS under DOS
NIBTOOLS is an application with strict requirements. It requires a serial+parallel cable (XEP/XMP/XAP) due to its burst transfer requirements for nibbling entire tracks in one pass. It also needs a system board with a built-in and very compatible PC parallel port, and a properly constructed cable made with the correct transistors. See my Troubleshooting MNIB/NIBTOOLS page for more information.
Try to locate a suitable slower PC. The DOS version only reliably works on older machines (P3 700 or slower) due to delay timing issues within NIBTOOLS. The timing issues on newer PC's will not be fixed unless someone else wants to fix them.
If NIBTOOLS doesn't work under DOS, try another slower PC. Otherwise try OpenCBM under Windows, but you're on your own there.
Two different platforms exist for NIBTOOLs: DOS and Windows. According to Peter Rittwage, the present developer of NIBTOOLS, the DOS platform is dead and all development is now on the Windows/OpenCBM version.
Email the author: Peter Schepers | Last updated: June 3, 2009