Digital Photo Archaeology: featuring hardware DRM from the crypt

So I picked up this large boy from the MSU Surplus Store:

Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD91 (c. 1998 CE) — yes, that’s a 3½” floppy drive on there

You get about 7 high-resolution pictures on a disk. And high resolution by 1998 standards means this:

1024×768 whole pixels: that’s huge! The camera is autofocus with image stabilization, so it was quite a nifty unit at the time.

Pre-dating EXIF, its image metadata is limited. There’s an external ‘411’ thumbnail file that looks a bit like this:

If you care to dig about in such an ancient file, I’ve got a matching image and its 411 file here: And manuals? Here: Sony_Mavica-FDC91-W0007229M.pdf

Most annoyingly, the camera really only likes real Sony batteries, or it shuts down with an “InfoLithium” battery error (swearies in link). As this battery format is now used in generate photo lighting systems and Sony don’t make it any more, this may be a camera that dies from DRM before anything else.

the beast of the bios

I now have a 16:9 LCD monitor for the front room computers. The Ubuntu box needed a little reconfiguration of the X Server to work perfectly, though I think the bandwidh for 1440*900 might be a bit high for my old KVM, as I’m getting some sparklies on solid colour.

The mini-ITX box was another story. It resolutely refused to see the wider screen. Then I found out I had to update the BIOS. Yuk.

Since Catherine is of the teacherly profession, she bought a USB floppy drive with her iMac five years ago. The drive hasn’t seen much use, but it was essential here. First I had to find a floppy that worked (discarded a couple), then I found that Windows XP’s “make bootable floppy” option doesn’t actually make a disk that boots. I had to go off to to find a super-minimal floppy boot image. Once I got that, I installed the bios tool and the flash image onto the floppy, and rebooted.

At this point I got really annoyed. The bios tool linked from all the VIA pages is too old to recognize the new bios file format, so exits with “It is not Award BIOS” error message. Once I found the right link (thanks, filupn), I was in business. Or was I?

I then discovered that my SP13000 had its BIOS protect jumper on. This meant dismantling the box. For most PCs, it’s not such a big deal, but for mini-ITX, it’s a horror. I had to remove the DVD drive, the hard drive, the PCI card and riser and many cables just to get down to the motherboard. Putting it all back together was hard, with the expected amount of squtcha, squtcha‘ing on the cables to get everything in.

The BIOS upgrade, the machine rebooted, and now all I need to do is update the graphics driver. Unfortunately, there are many that are described as the VIA/S3G Unichrome Pro Integrated Graphics Driver. Argh.