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WiebeTech DriveDocks


Well-known member
Hello everyone. Around our MLA, I only ever saw WiebeTech mentioned for SATA PCI cards (and a lot of those mentions are not about WiebeTech hardware, but about software piracy :-x ). I would like to start a thread regarding WiebeTech.

So the story goes, WiebeTech started in James Wiebe's basement. James Wiebe is a legend: he started Newer Technology (which was gobbled-up by monster Other World Computing OWC). Nowadays, James Wiebe runs an aircraft company, and still puts out really cool products. Steve Jobs once dissed him, said 'We don't like it when you introduce accelerator cards which are faster than our computers.'.

I owned two DriveDocks: FireWire DriveDock+ (or "Plus") and USB DriveDock v5. Both are neat bridgeboxes, had a lot of potential, but unfortunately both have quirks.

WiebeTech FireWire DriveDock Plus (or DriveDock+) is assembled in USA. Its core is two circuit boards, which are stacked and soldered. Power board might be made in USA, bridge board is imported. Its case is made of milled aluminum. I remember reading an interview or journal post on WWW, wherein James told a story of his company being in Kansas, which is like "aircraft capitol of USA", so he decided to have DriveDock's case made by a local metal machining company. Now, I cannot find that story.

FWDDP has two power inlets: 5.5/2.1 mm barrel connector (12 V centre+), and SFF-8012 inlet. Its upper power board hosts a DC-to-DC 5V supply, for operation from 12V barrel. It is very nice to be able to use it with a worktop power supply (ATX or AT or whatever).

FWDDP lower bridge board is Deltron FU9121A-35MA. Between the two bridges, FWDDP has worked with every PATA (including ATAPI) drive which I tried.

1394: bridge is Oxford OXFW911; PHY is Agere FW802B. OUI is 000483 (Deltron Technology, Inc.). Connected to a PC with TI TSB12LV26 OHCI, FWDDP delivered 42 Mo/s linear read. Oxford 911 or firmware contains at least one bug or quirk: it is not compatible with all drives. When it works, it works well. When it does not work with a small number of drives, then it either is very slow and chokes/dies when writing, or does not work at all, as if it does not even recognise attached drive.

USB: bridge is ALi M5621; date code 0517; other markings is A1 TH07 XHHH7000000J. ID is 0402:5621. Connected to a PC with Intel 82801DB (ICH4) EHCI, FWDDP delivered 35 Mo/s linear read. M5621 (or internal mask ROM firmware) contains bugs or quirks: occasionally, HDD capacity is reported as 2 Tio. Others have experienced this bug, in a M5621 marked TH05. (Hydrogenaudio Forums : WILU : 2005-03-22 : External enclosure help needed) This cannot be fixed with an easily electronically distributed update to firmware, because FWDDP has no external program ROM (it does have a 8-pin EEPROM which identifies the device as a DriveDock). Like sister controller Oxford 911, ALi M5621 Just Doesn't Work with some drives.

This was Wiebetech Web site FireWire DriveDock page.

This is FireWire DriveDock+ announcement news release.

I got USB DriveDock v5 so that I could (hopefully) use SMART (via SAT). Unfortunately, too it has quirks. I remember it not working well with a CD writer. (Maybe it could read but choked when burning; I am not going to check and remind myself what problem it has.) It puts connected drives to sleep after a few minutes inactive, which interrupts long full SMART tests. And it is not compatible with several PATA devices, a consequence of involving a PATA-to-SATA translation bridge.

USBDDv5 contains JMicron JMS551 (SuperSpeed two ports SATA 3Gb/s bridge; ID is 152d:0551). Its LUN 0 connects to eSATA receptacle. Its LUN 1 is a PATA device translated via JMicron JM20330. Both LUN 0 and LUN 1 do work simultaneously.

USBDDv5 is all-around cheaper than classic aluminum DriveDocks. FWDDP had more glowing spots (indicator LEDs) than USBDDv5, and came with a metal plate to protect IDE (not included with USBDDv5). USBDDv5 is made in Taiwan, has a plastic case, involves weird power connectors. It gets 5 & 12 V supply (from black plastic brick AC adapter) via mini-DIN inlet, and provides power to drive via mini-fit 2×2 outlet. It comes with a 2×2 to SFF-8012 cable (for most PATA and some SATA devices) and a SFF-8012 to SATA power (15p) cable. I opine, they should have chosen converse: because SATA connectors are designed for multiple connection cycles, SATA power should be one hop from DriveDock, and PATA (SFF-8012) should be second hop.

This is CRU-DataPort Web site USB DriveDock v5 page.

Daniel Rutter wrote about some original DriveDocks on his personal site, Dan's Data. He is not posting anything there anymore, which is a shame. His blog was one which I followed. Off-topic: some of Wiebe's companies' products appeared as props in big famous films. Did you ever use any WiebeTech stuff? Please share your stories. Share your experiences of Newer Technology, too, if you will.

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