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HP OmniBook 300 find!
05-08-2016, 07:35 AM
Post: #1
HP OmniBook 300 find!
Hello everyone. I don't post here a whole lot, but I've had a pretty healthy collection of HP stuff going for some time. One of my favorite not-quite-calculator gadgets of theirs is the 200LX DOS-based palmtop computer, of which I've owned two examples (one of which took a tumble a few years ago, and suffered a cracked screen). It's rather outdated nowadays, but is quite capable nonetheless, and runs for a long time on a pair of AA batteries.

Anyway, while looking around at a recent 'hamfest', I found something which looks for all the world like its big brother, an OmniBook 300. It came with the original box, power supply, (likely dead) NiCad battery pack, and a few manuals. It gives a few BIOS-type errors upon start-up, but once those are gotten past, it boots to Windows 3.1 from ROM, and seems to work fine. Anyway, here are some pictures:
[Image: omnibook300_box.jpg]
[Image: omnibook300_front1.jpg]
[Image: omnibook300_front2.jpg]
And here are some pictures of it alongside my 200LX. The resemblance is almost uncanny...
[Image: omnibook300_200lx1.jpg]
[Image: omnibook300_200lx2.jpg]
[Image: omnibook300_200lx3.jpg]
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05-08-2016, 09:32 AM
Post: #2
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Nice target for Statistica 5, if there's a way to get it onto the Omnibook.
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05-08-2016, 12:39 PM
Post: #3
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-08-2016 09:32 AM)Thomas Radtke Wrote:  Nice target for Statistica 5, if there's a way to get it onto the Omnibook.

If it's content running in Windows 3.1 in standard mode, with 2 - 8 MB of RAM (depending on how much the unit has been upgraded), then I imagine it wouldn't be very difficult.
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05-08-2016, 01:01 PM
Post: #4
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-08-2016 12:39 PM)Dave Britten Wrote:  If it's content running in Windows 3.1 in standard mode, with 2 - 8 MB of RAM (depending on how much the unit has been upgraded), then I imagine it wouldn't be very difficult.
Used it under Win 3.11 with 8MB RAM (IIRC) and still have it on disk. Unfortunately, it doesn't run very well on later OSs, even with those compatibility switches. Wikipedia doesn't mention an internal FDD (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_Omnibook#OmniBook_300) so I guess there must be a different solution.
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05-08-2016, 06:31 PM
Post: #5
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
The unit has the stock 2MB RAM. There are ways to upgrade it, but I have yet to find a source for the F1041A 2MB RAM cards it uses. I should've mentioned, it's the version which has a 40MB hard drive installed (it was available with a regular HDD, a 10MB flash card, or no mass storage).

There was a floppy disk drive available for the OmniBook series, but I don't think it works with the 300. I think the only real way of I/O data-wise with the 300 is the PC card slot, though it does have serial, parallel and IR ports. I do have a 32MB Sandisk flash card which I use with my 200LX, so hopefully it'll work with the OmniBook 300.
-Adam
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05-08-2016, 08:56 PM
Post: #6
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-08-2016 06:31 PM)Adam Vaughn Wrote:  The unit has the stock 2MB RAM. There are ways to upgrade it, but I have yet to find a source for the F1041A 2MB RAM cards it uses. I should've mentioned, it's the version which has a 40MB hard drive installed (it was available with a regular HDD, a 10MB flash card, or no mass storage).

There was a floppy disk drive available for the OmniBook series, but I don't think it works with the 300. I think the only real way of I/O data-wise with the 300 is the PC card slot, though it does have serial, parallel and IR ports. I do have a 32MB Sandisk flash card which I use with my 200LX, so hopefully it'll work with the OmniBook 300.
-Adam

The 300 is really fussy about flash card compatibility, but I'd say you've got decent odds with the 32 MB one. Failing that, just use serial, or IR from the 200LX.
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05-08-2016, 11:36 PM (This post was last modified: 05-08-2016 11:43 PM by Adam Vaughn.)
Post: #7
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-08-2016 08:56 PM)Dave Britten Wrote:  The 300 is really fussy about flash card compatibility, but I'd say you've got decent odds with the 32 MB one. Failing that, just use serial, or IR from the 200LX.

Thanks for the heads-up. I tried the 32MB flash card in the Omnibook 300, and it shows up just fine as A: (though much of the LX-centric software on it doesn't quite work correctly on the 300). I'll have to use one of my older laptops which still has a PC card slot, but at least I have a known way of getting outside software onto it.

Anyway, my current concern about the unit has to do with batteries. Is there a known source for replacement battery packs, or at least the cells used in the existing pack? I found a thread on the old forum concerning these packs, but I'm not sure how relevant the info is. There are sites which claim to sell new battery packs for the 300, but I'd rather not pay several times as much as I paid for the unit to get one if possible.

Further, is it OK to operate the unit with the battery pack removed? I know some of this old battery-powered stuff doesn't like to be run from an AC adapter without the battery pack installed, so I've been limiting my usage of it on AC with the old pack still installed. Also, is there an internal battery for the BIOS? Generally, when the unit starts up from dead, I get a couple of errors saying that the internal settings have been lost, but it does manage to boot once those are gotten past. Again, thanks!
-Adam
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05-08-2016, 11:39 PM
Post: #8
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Gene has done lots of research on the OmniBook family and I think has one of each family. If he doesn't post here within a couple days, send him a PM or email, pretty sure he'll have some answers. Nice find, and though I've seen one many times before, I've never seen one sitting next to a 200LX to see the family resemblance; nice shot. Thanks.

--Bob Prosperi
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05-09-2016, 12:42 AM
Post: #9
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
I believe the cells in the rechargeable pack are called "4/5 A". I've yet to find any, so that may not be accurate.

If you're worried about running it without batteries, pop in a set of AA NiMHs. (Or alkaline, if you replace the hard drive with a flash card.)
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05-09-2016, 01:35 AM
Post: #10
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Adam,

Congratulations on getting the OB-300. I have been a fan of the whole series of Omnibooks. I have all three versions that run on penlight batteries - 300, 425, 430.

You will definitely want to swap out the old 40 MB hard drive. I have a stack of them that have all gone bad. You will want to install a flash card - will be faster and save on battery power. I've used several sandisk and pny CF cards in mine.

If you don't want to rebuild the rechargeable battery pack, then I would recommend using Everyready lithium AA batteries. These will give a lot longer life than regular AA batteries. The only downside is that there may not be much warning before they die.

I do not use windows on mine - I just stick to standard MSDOS, since I love playing in standard DOS. Unfortunately, the OB-300 doesn't have as much free space available. But fortunately, there is an utility called OBMAX that will recover some of the DOS work space. I could send you OBMAX if you need it.

I would recommend switching to a flash card. Just pop out that old hard drive and put the flash card in. Reset the OB and it should automatically try to set the card up and copy the files to it. You may want to disable the double space installation, since you don't need it with a larger CF card. I believe that you answer No at some point - I know I was able to do it - but am now a little fuzzy on how to do it.

The best OB in the series is the OB-430. It will still use the AA batteries and will let you install other operating systems (if you have the memory). Plus, you can use a 512 MB flash card as the C-Drive. Actually, you can use 4 GB CF cards (including microdrives). It will only format the first 512MB.

My OB-430 has 8MB memory and a 512mb compact flash card for the hard drive. I have almost all my old MSDOS programs on it and still have lots of room on the drive. I have installed the following operating systems on flash cards on the OB-430: MSDOS 6.22, XENIX 2.3.4, Slackware Linux 7.1, and CP/M-86. I tried OS/2 but could never get it installed. The Slackware Linux 7.1 is installed on a 4GB micro drive - first partition is 512MB with MSDOS 6.2 and the remainder (3.5GB) has Linux installed.


Here's a forum thread about some programs that run on the OB-300:

OB-300 Thread

Following is Blog on Disabling Double Space:

OB-300 Blog

Note: He mentions the ROM card (slot D). There are several ROM cards and later ones allow for CF cards.

You most likely will not be able to find an expansion memory card. You're best bet is to keep your eyes out for another OB (preferably the 430) that has a card already in it. A few years ago I picked up an OB-430 for on ebay that had a cracked screen - but it had a 6mb memory card in it that I was able to transfer to my working 430. I got it cheap due to the cracked screen.

Enjoy your new toy - they are a lot of fun.

Please let me know if you want a copy of the OBMAX program.

Bill
Smithville, NJ
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05-09-2016, 01:56 AM (This post was last modified: 05-09-2016 03:36 PM by Adam Vaughn.)
Post: #11
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-09-2016 12:42 AM)Dave Britten Wrote:  I believe the cells in the rechargeable pack are called "4/5 A". I've yet to find any, so that may not be accurate.

If you're worried about running it without batteries, pop in a set of AA NiMHs. (Or alkaline, if you replace the hard drive with a flash card.)

I believe this is the type of battery referred to in the post I mentioned above:

http://industrialbatterypros.com/hhr-120...-flat-top/

I'm not sure if a version with solder tabs, which would be preferable, is offered. There is a solder-tab version in "4/5 A" size available here, but I'm not sure if it would fit (A cells are fatter than AAs). Some 4/5 AA cells with solder tabs are available from a TAS seller in Hong Kong. This site has numerous rechargeable batteries, but I don't see 4/5AA (just 4/5A).
-Adam

EDIT: Went back over the above-quoted thread, and "4/5A" would probably be the proper size, given the stated mAh figures for the cells. Is there a known way for taking these battery packs apart without destroying them?
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05-09-2016, 02:54 PM
Post: #12
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Some more rambling on the OB300:

The one I got was actually a UK model, judging from the keyboard layout. I was able to change a few ini files to go back to a US English layout, which works fine, apart from a few of the key labels being wrong (particularly @, #, and quotes). No big deal for a touch-typist.

Never could get OBMax to work with this unit for some reason.

I think the ROM card for the UK model includes the updated compact flash drivers from the 1.1 ROM. I got ahold of a 1.1 ROM image for US model, and wrote it to a linear flash card (a much more complicated task than just dumping an image to a device with dd; I think I had to use some DOS-based Intel flash utility on my Libretto or something like that), but didn't see any increase in card compatibility running that ROM.

I'd like to get ahold of a ROM image for an OB430 and see what I can do with that. Should end up with a lot more conventional memory free not having all the MS Flash and Doublespace drivers loaded, but RAM would be a lot tighter overall since Windows would be running from the C: drive, rather than in-place from the ROM card. On the other hand, being able to run in 386-enhanced mode would afford you the use of virtual memory.
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05-09-2016, 04:20 PM (This post was last modified: 05-09-2016 04:25 PM by Bill (Smithville NJ).)
Post: #13
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Here's some more info on the OB-300.

There are two versions (at least two) ROM cards - V1.0 ABA & V1.0 ABB. The ABB version will play well with Compact Flash Cards. If you are having problems with using CF cards, check to see which ROM card version you have.

The following is a link to the Archive of the old Omnibook mailing list. Lot's of good information. The list is no linger in use. There was a new list to replace this one, but I haven't seen any activity on the new list and not sure it is still functioning.

The Omnibook Archives

As to ROM cards for the 425 & 430:

OB425 Rom card is Version 1.1S.

OB430 Rom card is Version 2.0s.

NOTE: You can turn a OB-425 into a OB-430 just by putting the 2.0S card in it.

Bill
Smithville, NJ
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05-09-2016, 04:29 PM
Post: #14
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-09-2016 02:54 PM)Dave Britten Wrote:  I'd like to get ahold of a ROM image for an OB430 and see what I can do with that. Should end up with a lot more conventional memory free not having all the MS Flash and Doublespace drivers loaded, but RAM would be a lot tighter overall since Windows would be running from the C: drive, rather than in-place from the ROM card. On the other hand, being able to run in 386-enhanced mode would afford you the use of virtual memory.

Dave,

That's great that you were able to duplicate the ROM card. I know several people on the old Omnibook list had tried is but had ran into many difficulties.

I have a OB-425 card, version 1.1S laying around. You are welcome to try copying it. I could also loan you a OB-430 card from one my working OB-430 units to try copying.

Let me know if you are interested.

Bill
Smithville, NJ
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05-09-2016, 05:17 PM
Post: #15
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-09-2016 04:29 PM)Bill (Smithville NJ) Wrote:  Dave,

That's great that you were able to duplicate the ROM card. I know several people on the old Omnibook list had tried is but had ran into many difficulties.

I have a OB-425 card, version 1.1S laying around. You are welcome to try copying it. I could also loan you a OB-430 card from one my working OB-430 units to try copying.

Let me know if you are interested.

Bill
Smithville, NJ

I'll have to see if I still have the tools I used to make that happen. I was able to successfully create a working copy of the 1.1 425 system card using some kind of linear flash card (I think I had to try a couple before I found one that worked). I've been running this copy in my 300 ever since. I don't know if the flashing tool I used also supports reading an image from a card, so I'll have to check on that. Time to dig out the Libretto tonight, I suppose. I'm pretty sure that was where I did it.

I think it was a DOS-based tool; I wonder if it would be possible to run it directly on the OmniBook.
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05-09-2016, 08:30 PM
Post: #16
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-09-2016 04:20 PM)Bill (Smithville NJ) Wrote:  Here's some more info on the OB-300.

There are two versions (at least two) ROM cards - V1.0 ABA & V1.0 ABB. The ABB version will play well with Compact Flash Cards. If you are having problems with using CF cards, check to see which ROM card version you have.

Thanks for the info, Bill. Is there a way to tell which version I have? When I popped out the system ROM card, all I remember seeing on the label was Version 1.0. It works fine with the 32MB Sandisk flash card I use with my 200LX, but I don't have any other cards to use with it (other than a similar 20MB card which thus far has not worked in any computer I've tried it with, so I assume it's dead).

As for your earlier comments about replacing the hard drive with flash, I will definitely keep that in mind. Is there a source for the 'door plate' which would allow me to use the PC card slot normally blocked by the hard drive card? Also, is there a known source for the F1041A 2MB RAM card upgrades other than a dead 300 or somesuch? Also, where would they be installed? I noticed a door on the left side of my 300 (opposite the pop-out mouse), but have yet to figure out how to get in there to see what's inside. Again, thanks!
-Adam
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05-09-2016, 10:34 PM
Post: #17
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
(05-09-2016 08:30 PM)Adam Vaughn Wrote:  Thanks for the info, Bill. Is there a way to tell which version I have? When I popped out the system ROM card, all I remember seeing on the label was Version 1.0.

Somewhere on the same side as the Version will be "ABA" or "ABB". Sometimes HP puts it next to the version number, other times it down where the model number is.


Quote:As for your earlier comments about replacing the hard drive with flash, I will definitely keep that in mind. Is there a source for the 'door plate' which would allow me to use the PC card slot normally blocked by the hard drive card? Also, is there a known source for the F1041A 2MB RAM card upgrades other than a dead 300 or somesuch? Also, where would they be installed? I noticed a door on the left side of my 300 (opposite the pop-out mouse), but have yet to figure out how to get in there to see what's inside. Again, thanks!
-Adam

On the lower front of the computer, below the screen latch, you should see a small door that has a slot in it. You just use your fingernail or a screw driver to slide the door down and off the computer. You'll see an opening for inserting a memory card.

A few years ago I searched everywhere and couldn't find anyone selling the memory cards. Your best (and probably only) bet is from another computer.

Kingston did make some memory cards for the OB-300. I have one of their cards (KTH-OB300/6) which is a 6mb card. It's interesting, I was just looking at it and it has three chips on it with space for a fourth. So they may have also made an 8mb card. As far as I know, HP only made 2 and 4 mb cards.

Is the door on the left above the D-drive Rom Card? If so, then you can put a pcmcia flash card there. If you are referring to towards the back on the left side, then that is a slot for an internal modem. Two of my units has the modem installed, but I have never tested them.

There really isn't any source for parts other than buy another complete computer, or occasionally on ebay.

Bill
Smithville, NJ
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05-10-2016, 12:47 AM
Post: #18
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
For Omnibook Fans, the old Omnibook Archive of files are still online at:

OB Files Archive

There is a great amount on info on all the Omnibooks along with many of the files required to re-install the operating system.

Bill
Smithville, NJ
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05-10-2016, 11:43 PM
Post: #19
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Again, thanks for the replies. I checked the ROM card, and it's indeed version ABA. Ugh. Is there a way to tell what sort of flash card would work with this unit before I buy it? I'm guessing the sort of Sandisk card I have for the 200LX is a good bet, but I don't know about any of the others around.

Yeah, I was referring to the door near the back on the left side. Interesting that that's the spot meant for the modem; I would've guessed that it'd be PCMCIA-based, like most of the peripherals used with these machines. My other guess is that it might be an alternate mounting/storage space for the built-in "mouse"; guessing whoever designed this thing didn't have lefties in mind at all...

Again, thanks for the tips on the RAM cards and card carrier door. Was hoping there'd be some sort of source for this stuff, but given that these machines are 23 years old, it shouldn't surprise me, really. I suppose I'll have to keep an eye out for a junker on eBay or somesuch...
-Adam
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06-28-2017, 01:06 PM
Post: #20
RE: HP OmniBook 300 find!
Hi all,
New to the forum, thought I'd add a bit to this thread that has given me some great info already.
Currently working on an OB 300, 2MB ram with the 40 MB mechanical drive.
It's in really nice condition.
Have already ordered four 4/5A NiMh cells to refurbish a battery pack. It came with two packs, both dead so I thought sacrificing one wouldn't hurt.

It works ok, so I was very interested in the topic of replacing the hdd with flash...
...and hit a major snag: BIOS password protection I didn't know about.
It's something you don't notice until you remove the hdd.
So I do not have the password, and judging from the Interwebs, only HP was able to provide you with an unlock code, but they don't know how to do that anymore.
(it's in eeprom, so no battery-tricks will save you here).

I am now stuck with the fact that the device lifespan is now directly linked to that of the hard drive. Bloody shame if you ask me.

If anyone has more info on the Bios password issue or knows other ways to make it use flash I am offcourse VERY interested.

Great forum and to show I'm a bit of a fan I own:
3x200lx (two w. broken hinge) 2x jornada 720 1x Omnibook 300.

Portablepower
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