Changing Intellibox firmware

The Uhlenbrock Intellibox is a groundbreaking device that came out in the 1990s. Not only does it support three different track protocols (Motorola, DCC, Selectrix) at the same time, it also supports LocoNet and the IC2 bus, s88 sensor input and Märklin boosters. It provided two speed controllers too.

It was also upgradable, so when Uhlenbrock made improvements we could load updated firmware.

When I got my Intellibox it had version 1.203 installed. I found it incredibly stable and bug free. I read about updates over the years but never felt compelled to make any changes, since all the updates did not affect how I used my Intellibox. 

Recently I managed to short my Intellibox and I substituted another one I had obtained a few years ago in case of such a situation. This second device was running version 1.55 which is the latest version that was available for free. I was having some problems and I was not sure if the problems I was seeing were due to the newer version. I therefore decided to see if I could downgrade it to 1.203 to answer that question.

I had saved some of the update programs over the years but have never used any of them. The older update programs required us to create a bootable floppy disk, which would start the computer up in DOS, precluding anything else from running in the background. This is because the firmware update could not be interrupted in any way or the update would fail. I found one old PC with a floppy drive, but it does not have a serial port, so I could not use that to load the firmware.

Later, Uhlenbrock also released a CD image that could be burned onto a bootable CD. This CD created a RAM drive and copied the 1.55 update file into the RAM drive. This ensures that the program could read the file without any interruptions. 

I tried to modify the ISO image file to add the older firmware files and I made numerous CDs but the files copied to RAM only included the 1_55.IB file, never the additional files I was trying to add. Once booted, I was also not able to switch to another CD to access and copy additional files. So I eventually gave up trying to make a bootable CD.

I had also downloaded a more up to date Windows program from the Uhlenbrock site that is used to update to version 2.0 called IBUpgrade. I installed that and selected the 1_203.IB firmware file but it declared that to be an invalid file.

I wrote to Uhlenbrock asking if they could perhaps create a CD image with all the free versions so we could select the firmware version. After numerous mails they directed me to use their windows update program at https://uhlenbrock.de/de_DE/service/download/software/I0011930-001.htm and they also sent the firmware files I was interested in.

Of course I said I had already tried that and at that stage they said, I am using IBUpgrade and I should be using IBUpdate. See the difference?   They have two programs that look identical, and only differ from each other in names that are synonyms of each other! Update vs. Upgrade.

So, I uninstalled IBUpgrade and downloaded and installed IBUpdate. I was able to select the 1_203.IB firmware file and start the process.

Finally I could load different firmware versions and test to see if the older version made any difference.

It did not make any difference. As soon as I connect a Märklin booster and switch track power on, the s88 bus gets filled with garbage data. You can read about that saga here.