How too use Star Commander and the X1541 cables



Star Commander
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Star Commander is the most used program to transfer data between a PC (where it can be used by emulators) and floppy disks in disk drives for Commodore 64. Star Commander supports all cables in the X1541 series.

Star Commander should preferrably be run under pure MS-DOS to work properly (so that timeouts and lock-ups don't occur). I have also run Star Commander in a command interpreter window both under Windows 98 and under Windows XP with an XE1541 cable. I have got it to work satisfactory even if it doesn't work perfectly. It is considerably more difficult to get Star Commander to work under Windows XP than under Windows 98.

Here follow instructions about how to get Star Commander to work under Windows XP. Also carefully read the documentation that accompanies Star Commander! The instructions below are mostly based on my own experience. I have tested with two different installations of Windows XP Home Edition SP1 on the same computer with a hard disk crash (not related to Star Commander), a BIOS upgrade and miscellaneous Windows updates in between. Note that UserPort/Star Commander behave slightly differently on these two installations that are practically identical so it is very sensitive even to small changes in the system.

1. Under Windows NT/2000/XP, you have to use a driver to access the parallel port directly since these Windows versions do normally not allow this. From the home page for Star Commander, you can download the drivers UserPort and GiveIO (included in Star Commander 0.82). Use UserPort with Windows XP! With DirectIO I got problems with that the PC couldn't enter low-power modes and that the PC stopped sending data over the network cable so that I couldn't access the Internet (I then used the latest version of DirectIO from DirectIO's home page and not the version that exists on Star Commander's home page).

2. Copy UserPort.sys to C:\WINDOWS\System32 och run UserPort.exe!

3. Enter the address areas 40-43 and 61-61 in the left window in UserPort. Also enter the lowest address area for your parallel port. You can find this in the Device Manager (under Control Panel/System/Hardware). There you can also find an upper address area but UserPort doesn't allow such high address areas so you will only get an error message if you try to enter this. Remove all other address areas. The right window you can either leave empty or enter the same address areas there (it doesn't seem to matter). Note that the tweak package that is downloaded with Star Commander 0.82 only says that you should enter the address areas in the right window but it only complicates things since you in that case then need to issue an extra command in the command window before starting Star Commander. Therefore use the left window instead because it works for all programs without having to enter any special command!

4. Press Start in UserPort (or Update if the driver is already started)!

5. Shut down all programs, processes and functions that are not necessarily needed since they might interrupt Star Commander. You can in the Task Manager (which you bring forward if you press Ctrl + Alt + Del) see which processes that are running and then search on the Internet to see which processes that absolutely must be running for the operating system to work. The rest of the processes, it is best to shut down. If it is possible to shut down processes by changing options in programs, then do that instead of shutting them down with the Task Manager since it becomes a more controlled shut-down (for example alg.exe will disappear if you shut down the built-in firewall in Windows XP). Also disable screen savers and automatic transition to low-power modes. It is also best to pull out the network cable or shut down a connected ADSL or cable modem. [Edit April 9 2005]: I have found that the important things to do is that you shut down your network connection (unplug network cable or shut down connected ADSL/cable modem) BEFORE starting up your computer and that you turn off screen savers and low-power modes and disable your antivirus program.

6. Now open a command interpreter window and start SCSETUP to do settings for Star Commander. Then try to move around among the menus. Now there is a big risk that the complete command interpreter window will hang. I have seen slightly different behaviour regarding this. With my previous Windows XP installation I often had to restart between one and three times before SC or SCSETUP started up without a lock-up. If it locks up, then close the command interpreter window using the Close button in the upper right corner and then click Stop followed by Start in UserPort. Then, open a new command interpreter window and try to start SCSETUP again. With my present Windows XP installation it only locks up now and then and in that case only the first time after I have started up the computer. Thereafter, it goes well to run SCSETUP or SC. However, a pre-condition for this is that there are proper settings stored in the configuration file SC.INI. If you haven't run Star Commander before this file doesn't exist and then the latest beta version refuses to start up for me at all with my present Windows XP installation. Luckily, I managed to get Star Commander 0.82 working for so many seconds so that I got the time to change settings under Transfer options to settings that didn't cause any lock-up and save these (you get a question if you want to save when you select Exit). Thereafter, version 0.82 was stable for me and by copying SC.INI to the latest beta version I could get also that to start up and work stable. Do you have the problem that you despite of repeated attempts can't get SCSETUP to work long enough for you to be able to save settings that make it stable? In that case, you can try to put my SC.INI file for Star Commander 0.83.17 beta in your Star Commander directory and see if SCSETUP starts up after that and that you are able to move around among the menus for several minutes without a lock-up. You can find my SC.INI file at http://folkvagn.commodore64.or...ler/SC.INI . Of course, you have to modify the settings under Transfer options so that they are correct for your configuration (cable, disk drive etc.). The SC.INI file I have provided is only to help you to get SCSETUP running at all so that you can do these settings.

7. The most important window in SCSETUP is Transfer options. Set Transfer mode to as fast as possible for it to be stable under Windows XP (preferrably Warp if it is supported by Star Commander for the Commodore disk drive you have selected). For Serial interface you have to look at the address areas and select the port that corresponds to your parallel port. For example, the parallel port of my computer is called LPT2 in SCSETUP while it is called LPT1 in Windows. Asynchronous transfer must be enabled (set to 'Always' or 'Auto'). Manual timeouts must be disabled. Disable Detect port modes.

8. One setting under Transfer options that I can mention in particular is Delay value. Double click on Recalibrate a number of times! Every time the same value must appear after Delay value and no other value must temporarily flicker by when you do Recalibrate. The value that appears must also be low. I have seen the value 4 both with a 450 MHz Pentium II (Windows 9Cool and a 2.6 GHz Pentium 4 (Windows XP) when everything works as it should. If the just described condition is not fulfilled, there will be a lock-up when communicating with the disk drive (for example if you try to read the directory of a disk). Typcially, the value 20 or 21 appears if it doesn't work as it should (either permanently or that it flickers by temporarily when pressing Recalibrate). If this happens there is no point in manually trying to input another value like e.g. 4 because the communication with the disk drive will still not work although the documentation of Star Commander suggests otherwise. If this happens to you, close SCSETUP, close the command interpreter window, do Stop followed by Start in UserPort and then start SCSETUP again in a new command interpreter window and do Recalibrate. If you repeat this a number of times and it still doesn't work, try restarting the computer. I can mention that the just described problem is something that pretty often happened to me with my previous Windows XP installation but with my present installation it has never happened to me.

9. Also set other necessary settings in SCSETUP that haven't been mentioned in previous bullets, e.g. type of disk drive and transfer cable. See the documentation for Star Commander!

10. Now you can try to start Star Commander and read the directory of a disk and do transfers. A good piece of advice to avoid lock-ups during transfers is to not move mouse or keyboard as long as Star Commander is communicating with the disk drive. Even if this instruction is for Windows XP I can mention that under Windows 98 it might possibly be an advantage to maximize the command interpreter window so that it covers the whole screen (with Alt + Return) to avoid lock-ups.

source Christian Johansson