TECH Help! covers these DoubleSpace and MRCI Topics:
DoubleSpace API INT 2fH 4a11H and IOCTL services
Compressed Volume File Layout (CVF internal structures)
Mapping DOS FAT to MDFAT For CVF spelunkers
DBLSPACE.INI Commands Boot-time configuration settings
Using a Compressed RAM Disk Just a tip for power users
MRCI API (INT 2fH 4a12H Real-time Compression fns)
DoubleSpace compression is implemented in levels:
■ The lowest level is the MRCI support which compresses and uncompresses
data with a few simple API calls. MRCI fns may be installed in a ROM
■ The next level is the DoubleSpace device driver (DBLSPACE.BIN) which is
installed at boot time. It emulates a disk drive by reading from and
writing to a standard DOS file (i.e., a Compressed Volume File▲).
■ Finally, the program DBLSPACE.EXE is an external DOS command which
installs DoubleSpace support, compresses disk volumes, and tweaks the
DoubleSpace configuration file (DBLSPACE.INI).
At system startup, the BIOS reads and executes the boot sector of the
boot drive. That reads and executes file IO.SYS which reads and executes
MSDOS.SYS (all of this is the normal pre-DoubleSpace sequence).
New with DOS 6.0: Before MSDOS.SYS begins processing CONFIG.SYS, it looks
for DBLSPACE.BIN in the root of the boot drive. If found, it is loaded
into the highest part of conventional▲ memory and executed.
Next DBLSPACE.BIN looks in the root of the boot drive for DBLSPACE.INI.
It reads this file to learn how it should configure itself (which CVFs to
mount and which drive IDs to swap, etc.).
After DBLSPACE.BIN is done mounting and swapping, it passes control back
to MSDOS.SYS which finally reads CONFIG.SYS (from the root of the
swapped-in drive C) and processes its commands.
If the command, DEVICEHIGH=DBLSPACE.SYS, is found, then a small program
(DBLSPACE.SYS) is executed. All it does is find the DBLSPACE.BIN code
(remember, it starts out high in conventional memory) and move it into a
UMB▲ if UMBs are available or to the lowest available addresses in
conventional memory (if no UMBs exist).
DOS 6.2 Notes: DBLSPACE.SYS may move the 15K MRCI engine into the HMA▲
if there is room. The DOS 6.2 Mem /A command reveals how much HMA is
This also has the effect of "locking-in" the DoubleSpace drive letters,
including any "reserved IDs" needed for mounting compressed floppy
Note that DBLSPACE.BIN contains all of the drive-emulation code as well as
the lower-level MRCI compression engine (about 15K of code). However, it
is possible for MRCI to install itself earlier in the boot sequence...
█▌Before the Boot Sequence▐█
It is possible for an adapter card (a hard disk controller, most likely)
to install its own MRCI engine. It could do that by having ROM-based code
in the ROM-Scan address range. That code would intercept INT 1aH to
provide the MRCI support API (presumably it would provide hardware-
assisted compression support).
In that case, DBLSPACE.BIN would use the ROM-based MRCI engine and discard
its own internal version.
DoubleSpace uses a variation of the "Lempel-Ziv" compression scheme. In
simple terms, it works by keeping track of repeated sequences. When the
same sequence appears later, it just refers to the previous data rather
than keeping duplicates. For instance....
The rain in Spain falls, mainly.
...is compressed to...
The rain ■Sp■falls, m■ly.
↑ ↑ ↑
3,3 9,4 12,3
The codes 3,3, 9,4, and 12,3 identify repeated sequences. The first code
specifies the position of the original text (as a distance backward from
the current position) and the second code specifies the length of the
repeated text. The actual algorithms (as well as library code to do the
work) can be licensed from Microsoft for no fee.
DoubleSpace compression is around 1.7 to 1 with "real world" data files.
Other systems, such as PKZIP and LHARC get better compression, but only in
"batch mode" where they can work with an entire file at once. DoubleSpace
is "real time" system which must work with data in 8K chunks (a 16-sector
█▌Accessing the APIs▐█
See DoubleSpace API and MRCI API for information on how to use these
Most application programs will have no need to access these services.
Exceptions exist; for instance, a backup program can use MRCI Fn 0001H
(compress data) to save disk space on the target disk.
Another example: At this writing, there is no utility to perform simple
DoubleSpace operations such as "Get Drive Info" while in a DOS session
under Windows. As you may know, the DOS Dblspace command aborts with the
"Can't run under Windows" message (Note: fixed with DOS 6.2).
See Also: DoubleSpace API