Minds@Work Digital Wallet

Ted Felix
April 27, 2015


Update 4/27/2015.

The size of flash memory cards has grown rather rapidly, rendering my broken Digital Wallet obsolete. So, I've tossed it in the electronics recycling bin. Just keeping this info up in case it helps anyone. I never did try to fix the READ ERROR.


Pat O'Toole reports that his Digital Wallet handled a 120gb drive fine, but not a 160gb. Sounds like the 28-bit LBA limit, so 137gb max.

Steve Dempsey's website has his attempts at resurrecting Digital Wallets. Almost everything you need is there. Although one user I've talked to says that it only works via USB when you are done. No PCMCIA. Also check out Digital Wallet Rescue for more tales of repairing Digital Wallets.

Pat O'Toole's Repair Notes

Pat O'Toole emailed me about his experience with fixing a Digital Wallet:

> Were you able to get the PCMCIA interface to work with the new drive?

Yes...no problems at all with PCMCIA...I use CF cards...and no problems reading them. At first it wouldn't read a card over 2GB...but that was because a 2GB card is FAT-16 and a 4GB card is FAT-32. You need the last firmware version (2.40) to read FAT-32 cards correctly. This is the version on the DW 'rescue' page.

I'm NOT a Linux person...so I sort of came up with my own approach. I used the 'repair' notes and the msupg script to load the firmware (V2.40) at the end of the drive but I didnt have msdosfs on my Linux CD to format the drive...so I did this:

I used Partition Magic (and WinXP) to create a FAT-32 PRIMARY partition. (Windows itself won't allow a BIG FAT-32 partition.)

Then knowing that the partition begins at sector 63...I had to 'move it down'...so that the FAT-32 volume started at sector 0 and NOT sector 63. (These things use a 'superfloppy format'...a single volume..without a MBR or partition table like in a PC.) I went back into Linux and said:

    dd if=/dev/hdb of=/dev/hdb fs=512 skip=63 count=80000

(Copy 80,000 sectors starting at sector 63 to sector 0.) This 'moves the partition' down..and you really only need to move the 32 boot track sectors and the two fat tables...not the entire volume (which for mine was like 312M sectors!!).


[These are just notes. I never actually tried any of this. Pat's approach and the other approaches on the web are better sources.]

I bought this in December of 2001 (maybe 2000) as I recall, and it worked without incident up until December 24, 2003 when it reported a "READ ERROR". Then after a few power cycles, it would no longer boot. My best guess is that the hard drive has somehow been damaged. My plan is as follows:

That's the plan, at any rate. [I never went through with it. See the other repair sites on the 'Net for more useful info.] As I recall there were a few files that I have laying around from when I upgraded the "firmware". Hopefully that is everything I need to get the device back on its feet. I'm not sure that the device actually has "firmware" as it appears to be completely inoperative if it cannot read from the disk. I believe it loads its program from the disk at each boot.

If there's anyone out there who has done any hacking on this device, or who may have worked for Minds@Work at some point in their lives, and can shed some light on this, we would all be very grateful. I will report anything I discover here in the interests of helping everyone keep their Digital Wallets alive for many years to come.

I plan to sift through the USENET archives and search the web extensively to see if I can find any clues related to the repair and feeding of a broken Digital Wallet. I might get lucky and find posts from former Minds@Work employees that might be willing to help us poor users out. Otherwise, hopefully someone else has done some hacking on the Digital Wallet and knows some of its secrets. I will gather all the information I find here.

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