A few weeks ago I needed to get a new x86 based reference board up and running - the board came with integrated memory, IDE hard drive, and four USB ports (and the hard drive really wasn't removable without a lot of effort) - thankfully the BIOS supported options to boot from a USB floppy drive (remember floppy discs? [or is it floppy disks?]) - so I could boot from a floppy, partition and format the hard drive, and then "sys" with the operating system of choice (MS-DOS with the loadcepc loader).

In the old days, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, and floppy discs were all the rage, the Windows CE development tools shipped with a neat utility called WebSetup and some .144 files. The .144 files (LoadCEPC.144 for example) are a compressed image of a bootable floppy disc, the WebSetup utility reads the .144 files and writes the content out to the A:\ drive of your development machine - cool! - within a few of your earth minutes you have a bootable floppy disc that contains MS-DOS, the LoadCEPC bootloader etc...

Yep, this has worked very well for some time, now enter Windows Vista... Unfortunately the WebSetup tool doesn't work on Windows Vista (and only ships up to CE 5.0) - so how do you go about setting up a new CEPC style device if you are running Windows Vista and CE 6.0 ? (notice the cunning use of the word "style", it seems like marketing types can get away with calling a product anything they like if they add the work "style" in the product name - to make something sound home made you call it "home style", see how that works, these marketing types amazingly clever!).

I have two development machines in my office, one running Windows XP (and I still have a copy of CE 5.0 installed over there), so I could use WebSetup from Windows XP - the other machine is running Windows Vista and CE 6.0 - interestingly, a search of the \wince600 or \program files\microsoft platform builder folders doesn't turn up the WebSetup application - for CE 6.0 an all new utility shipped called MakeImageDisk (so I guess it really is Disk with a 'k'). The utility can be found here - C:\Program Files\Microsoft Platform Builder\6.00\cepb\utilities - along with a CepcBoot.144 file.

So now we're back in business, I can create a CEPC boot floppy from the comfort of my Windows Vista desktop, all I need to get this working is a USB floppy drive (check!), and a floppy disk (hmmm...).

Which leads to a question for you.

CEPC "style" devices are basically just PC's - they run on an x86 processor, have a BIOS etc... - most modern BIOS's support booting from external USB devices (CD-ROM, USB Stick, USB Floppy), but also support PXE boot - since floppy disks are rapidly going the way of the Dodo I'm thinking we should move to a new method of booting CEPC devices, what would your preference be? - USB stick, PXE, Dodo ?

- Mike