Low Cost / Small PC Platform for SpinRite 6

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  • A Patch for SpinRite 6.0's Division Overflow
    Please see my blog posting for the whole story!

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Oct 7, 2020
Mark et al,
Don't neglect your local garage sales and thrift stores. These are often excellent sources of gently (and harshly) used PCs.


Active member
Sep 30, 2020
Copy/pasting directly from SN #892 shownotes (I just ordered one with the additional Y SATA cable):

What I think I’ve found here, with this ZimaBoard, is Steve’s Dream SBC –
Single Board Computer.
(podcast video timestamped here)
It is 100% Intel chipset with the exception of its dual Gig network adapter, which is a Realtek
8168 chip. That’s perfect for my development needs, since I have DOS network drivers for that
chip. It has a pair of 6 gigabit SATA 3 connectors with a cable to provide power for one drive.
And it has a pair of USB 3.0 ports. So SpinRite will be able to run drives attached to either. And
it has a single PCIe x 4 connector for the expansion of anything else. That could be a PCIe to IDE
adapter if SpinRite needed to repair any older IDE drives, or an NVMe adapter if SpinRite needed
to be run on NVMe drives once that’s supported. It has built-in video through a mini DisplayPort
which can do 4K video at 60hz.

And critically, the ZimaBoard offers both UEFI and traditional BIOS support. It has a very
comfortable Award BIOS with all of the bells and whistles, drive boot order and so forth, so that
SpinRite v6.1 will be able to boot FreeDOS and run without trouble. It could boot from an
attached USB thumb drive if you wanted to leave the Debian-derived CasaOS Linux that’s
shipped with the board in place, or FreeDOS and SpinRite could be installed onto the board’s
built-in roomy 16GB eMMC drive. That’s what I’ll be doing. Either way, I’ll be able to use the
same platform for SpinRite’s future development under UEFI. So it’s perfect for both now and for
what’s next.

There are three ZimaBoard models which vary in speed and size, but the smallest of the three is
what I purchased. I have two of them, one for each of my locations. As I mentioned, the
smallest of the three contains a 16 gig eMMC drive which is preloaded with a Debian Linux
variant which they call CasaOS. The board is broadly compatible, able to run any Intel OS, Linux,
Windows, pfSense, OpenWRT, NAS software and anything else.

If you click on the “Order Now” button on the home page, and then again on the page that
comes up, you’ll get to the place where you set the quantity and model number you want. If you
scroll down that 3rd page to the bottom, you’ll find a “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE” offer that
explains “Buy ZimaBoard and get a free 12V/3A Power Adapter!” which you’ll need. So that’s
what I would recommend. There’s also a 10% off discount coupon available but you probably
cannot use both. As I mentioned, the ZimaBoard comes with cabling to supply power to a single
SATA drive. But there’s an optional dual SATA cabling, for $4, that you may want if you intend to
power two SATA drives from the board. That’s also what I’m doing.

So I now have a terrific answer to the often asked question “What does GRC recommend for
running SpinRite standalone.”

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New member
Dec 28, 2022
I recently purchased a ZimaBoard. I plan to use it only for running SpinRite 6.1
Steve mentioned blowing away the OS and making it boot directly to SpinRite.
Any tips on how to do this?


New member
Dec 28, 2022
Worked like a charm! Though I am realizing I'm very rusty in DOS.

Question - How can I download the current Alpha release of SR 6.1?


Well-known member
Sep 16, 2020
Ontario, Canada
How can I download the current Alpha release of SR 6.1?
If you have downloaded it previously, use the same URL with your transaction code from your purchase. If you have not downloaded it previously, I'm afraid, for now, Steve requests you join his SpinRite newsgroup to participate in the Alpha testing. You can learn about the newsgroup here: https://www.grc.com/discussions.htm


New member
Dec 28, 2022
Thanks. I read through the overview.
Decided to download NewsTap on my iPad.
Clicked on connect to news.grc.com
Message says Connecting to Serer, but nothing happens.
Do I need to wait until I'm somehow added to the newsgroups?

Sigh. Such a newbie



Well-known member
Sep 16, 2020
Ontario, Canada
Steve's newsgroup server had an issue with TLS which he chose not to work on because he was focused on SpinRite. Make sure your client is not trying to use a secure connection. (I know that sounds wrong, but hey.)


Chief Adm., Dept. of Garrulous Redundancy
Sep 17, 2020
Kentucky, USA
You can't be "added" to the server. I realize that you've already read the "Newsreader Configuration" section on the Discussions page and successfully contacted "news.grc.com", but the following should be the only critical settings to obtain a connection:

1. Set the server address (host name) to "news.grc.com".
2. Set the port number to 119 (should be default) and disable any option to use a secure connection.

With that much configuration, your reader should be able to contact the server and obtain the group list and headers (confirmed with XNews). If it still doesn't work, then something is definitely wrong. Other NewsTap users might be able to help, but the server doesn't care about your configuration to read anonymously so long as you access the right port. A firewall could technically block access, but I've not heard of one doing so by default.

As Paul said, the biggest problem at present is that the server refuses to allow secure connections so make sure that NewsTap is not trying to use port 563.

You then need a CECIL-ID to post and cancel messages:

3. Set the login method to "Username and Password" and enter identical strings into the Username and Password fields to serve as your CECIL-ID. Pick something unique and stick with it as the first 29 characters becomes your server identity.
4. Set your posting Name to whatever you'd like to use.

Remaining non-critical steps would include:

5. Set your E-Mail address to some string. Many people enter a fake e-mail address here, such as "yourname@email.invalid"
6. Optional: Enter or Add a "Reply-To" field containing a real e-mail address, if you wish.

I don't know whether spammers still bother to scrape NNTP, but I've used steps #5 and #6 for 25 years or more and have never received a single spam e-mail at my "Reply-To" address.
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