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PowerTower Pro: ATA CF Slowness


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Hi everyone,

 

My PTPro was wonky with the SCSI2SD v6 in it, so a few months I took it out and got a CF adapter to use with the Tempo ATA card that I have in there. I believe it is an ATA/100 model if I recall off my head. The CF card works pretty well, but I have issues every now and again. For instance, I have multiple partitions, and depending on which System version I am using, startup to the desktop can take a real long time. 7.5 works pretty well, but both 8 and 9 start to take a real long time after extensions have loaded to get to the desktop...a few minutes it seems (I haven't timed it, though). Shutdown does the same thing, much longer than you would expect with a normal hard drive. Other things happen too: when playing Panzer General (if anyone is familiar with the game), there are combat animations, and they stutter and take a while to load at times, which I never experienced before with this setup. Other times, things like opening folders work just fine.

 

I haven't the faintest idea what the issue is with this, but I wasn't sure if upgrading to an ATA/133 card would help or make no difference at all. Any suggestions are appreciated.

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What kind of CF card are you using? CF as a tech lasted a very long time, and older or lower end CF cards might actually be quite slow.

 

And, almost certainly same as with SD cards, you want to get the best possible CF card, so as to accommodate for their not generally being designed for computer usage, so, I'd say to get a new CF card before you get a new card for your Mac.

 

If you do get a new card for your Mac, consider one of the SIL3112 SATA cards instead, then you can just get a normal SATA SSD that is meant for general purpose computer usage. (new ones will be meant to stand up to modern general purpose computers, even.)

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9 hours ago, LaPorta said:

This will work in the old-school PCI slots? No software needed?

Assuming you mean the SIL3112 SATA card, it will need a new ROM flashed (there are one or two people here who can do that), but I've had one working in a PCI machine as old as a PowerWave with no issues at all.

 

FWIW, in these non-ATA Macs/clones, the SATA cards are a much more convenient way to go, all around. It's still easy to get decent Samsung, et al SATA drives at affordable costs, since, at least for me, I'm not looking to get above 64 GB anyway. I've even managed to get a few SATA optical drives working on them as well.

In my ATA Macs, I have a CF adapter, however. I'm using SanDisk Extreme 120 MB/s UDMA 7 which, really, is a bit overkill, but It's incredibly fast , and because I had CF cards sitting around... On my 4400/StarMax setups, running both 7.6.1 and 9.1 I had zero issues, really, and menu shutdown was almost instantaneous. This is my adapter:
GgxqZZ8l.jpg

 

Of course, that's with an on-board ATA bus. I've never used an ATA PCI card.

Edited by jessenator
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Here is my card. I assume it is fine for this use, but let me know if I’m wrong. If anyone has a specific SATA card they can link me to on amazon or something, I’d take a look at it. What is involved in flashing it, and what is put in place of the standard driver?

 

 

39F818C2-2A7B-47DE-B224-2CD83E6771DC.jpeg

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The card looks to be the same spec as the one I've got (UDMA 7). My money would be on the IDE interface and also 8 & 9 quirks.

As far as the SATA interface, anything with the SIL3112 chipset is large enough to accommodate the Mac-friendly ROM. AFAIK/have been told, no other chipset is big enough to be flashed with it. Here's an ebay listing for a card similar to the one I got from defor: https://www.ebay.com/itm/233388086306

As far as flashing the SIL3112 cards, this guide here is about what I've seen described by forum members who've done it: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/guide-to-flashing-pc-sil3112-sata-cards-for-mac.1690231/

 

System Profiler will just see it as another "SCSI" bus, even though it isn't.

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Posted (edited)

The IDE card I have now is seen by my machine as SCSI, so it must be a similar deal. I'll verify which card it is tonight. Maybe just the faster ATA card would do it, but this is out of my realm of usual expertise.

 

P.S. - I can already see from the guide that I can't do the flashing myself...I don't own a PC!

Edited by LaPorta
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On 10/7/2020 at 10:03 AM, jessenator said:

The card looks to be the same spec as the one I've got (UDMA 7). My money would be on the IDE interface and also 8 & 9 quirks.

As far as the SATA interface, anything with the SIL3112 chipset is large enough to accommodate the Mac-friendly ROM. AFAIK/have been told, no other chipset is big enough to be flashed with it. Here's an ebay listing for a card similar to the one I got from defor: https://www.ebay.com/itm/233388086306

As far as flashing the SIL3112 cards, this guide here is about what I've seen described by forum members who've done it: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/guide-to-flashing-pc-sil3112-sata-cards-for-mac.1690231/

 

System Profiler will just see it as another "SCSI" bus, even though it isn't.

Most noname SiI3112 cards cannot be flashed with the full ROM as is. It isn't the chipset that holds the ROM, it's a dedicated ROM chip. And on most of these cards, this is a 1 Megabit chip. The problem is that the Wiebetech ROM floating around that does fit on these, only is meant for OS X. Classic Mac OS/System Software will not work with this firmware. The full SeriTek Firmtek firmware requires a 4 Megabit ROM chip, and even has checks that will ensure it only works on AM29LV040, MX29LV040, or PM39LV040 ROM chips. Any other 4 Megabit chip will fail the check, and the card will not work. 

 

Another consideration, is that these LV chips are "low voltage", meaning they run at 3.3V instead of 5V. The card must run the ROM chip at 3.3V, or the replacement LV040 will die. Some will have jumpers, some will have resistors or solder pads, and with some it's just whatever it came with. All in all, it's best to just buy one of the preflashed SiI3112 cards that are occasionally available on eBay if you're not comfortable desoldering and soldering PLCC ROM chips.

Edited by Daniël Oosterhuis
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On 10/7/2020 at 2:18 AM, LaPorta said:

Maybe just the faster ATA card would do it

 

 

Have you done any disk benchmarking on it?

 

It would be interesting to see what that looks like, because it's not unlikely that you aren't maxing out what your ATA card can do, unless it's like a really old ATA card, and that the limitation really is with that CF card.

 

Although, all manner of things can also cause random slowdowns. My 6200 boots fast and then just hangs upon the launch of finder. I think that it's just Speed Doubler 8 taking forever to do something, but I haven't tried turning it off to confirm that for real.

 

I don't know why a cloned install would do this though, so it's hard to say if that part of it is a disk issue or a weird mac os issue.

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I'd be interested to see what you get in MacBench 4.0's disk tests (and the system overall ;)) My native IDE/ATA-CF tests have a massive boost over the spinners so I'd like to see what you get on a PCI interface of the era. Also, a tangent of note, just in case your SATA dreams are realized, disks connected to my SIL3112 card do not like being benchmarked by MacBench 4.0 at least. It crashes almost every time during the first segment of the test suite. Haven't tried with other tools though, so it may be just MB.

I know some others use FWB Hardisk Toolkit's benchmark for other uses on the forum (there was a SCSI/FastSCSI/Ultra/etc thread a while back), and there's also Norton SpeedDisk/SysInfo, I suppose.

I would think that since there's all the MB4 test results up on vTools, it's the de facto if not the de jure benchmark for everything ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Possibly because v4.0 at least works on such a wide swath of hardware.

Edited by jessenator
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heck yeah, macbench it!

 

A DC6 image of macbnech 4 is up on vtools in the public folder, run it (you might want to turn on detailed disk testing) and let us know what you get!

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You have to tell it to run all tests. Next to the button at the top that you use to start the test there should be a drop-down and you can change to all tests.

 

If your display isn't 1152x870 or higher it'll skip the high-res publishing graphics test.

 

And, if you don't have the cdrom mounted, it'll skip the cdrom performance test.

 

(Unless you did all that and it still didn't show the results.)

 

v5 might be on there too but it'll do the same thing, worth trying though because it'll have a better idea of what anything beyond a g3/300 is and it might even know about and test for altivec specifically.

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Yeah, I did have all tests selected. I'm thinking of just burning the disc and doing that, and also using v5 (which appears to be on Macintosh Garden). More on that this evening when I get home.

 

Also, at least looking at the disk status indicator in the menu bar from Norton, it appears the slowdown is when the write icon is shown, taking long times to write. That may be what the issue is, but, again, tests will show more.

Edited by LaPorta
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ooooh, neat idea.

 

With regard to the activity lights: That would, roughly, track with the problem we see with the scsi2sd and potential other SD based solutions. Basically, consumer flash media meant for cameras and stuff is actually quite slow and as a rule in the CF era cameras relied on large internal buffers to keep shooting going while the camera wrote to the card.

 

The next couple things I'd try, in general, would be: to get a regular IDE disk that's known good and set that up and see if it's any better, and then, see about trying an IDE/SATA adapter or make the decision about if you want to get a conventional ide disk, a newer CF card, or a SATA card or do something fun like uscsi.

 

There's a lot of physical room and flexibility inside a PTP For stuff like wiring so this is sort of a sky's the limit scenario. I think the only disk you probably can't reasonably run is a seagate elite. (which, you probably wouldn't want to boot from anyway.)

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Gotcha. ATA disks have an amount of write cache in RAM, so any contention could be resolved by the disk prioritizing the read operation and accepting the write operation into cache.

 

My guess is that your CF card has little or no of this kind of cache.

 

Looking at the CF card you got, my guess is that you could mitigate this getting a better card. Nobody seems to give exact specs here but a better card will overall be less bad in this scenario.

 

You've probably seen it before but for an overview on this kind of problem, but with SD card storage, there's some good general discussion in here: 

 

There are a couple higher-end CF cards you could look at, but I'll offer the caveat that I haven't used any very high end or new CF cards. Sandisk has some rated at 120 and 160 megabytes/second and I'd go right for that "extreme pro" level, even though you'll never actually get 160 megabytes/second out of it, if it's closer to being able to do, say, 40 for realsies, then you'll be in a way better position.

 

Unfortunately, I don't have a good way to test any of this, so I can't make any recommendation without the warning that: You might buy the highest-end available CF card and still have problems, even if it ends up doing better on benches. A high end CF card strikes me as an intriguing option for something like, a beige G3 or even a 630 or 5000/6000 series mac, but you're also sort of getting into the realm of this being enough money to justify posting a WTB for an SIL3112 and getting a SATA card and using like a used intel 520 or even a cheap modern SSD. 

 

Incidentally, if you still have those macbench results and have some time, would you mind dropping them somewhere in public on vtools?

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Tangentially, I actually need to set up a few of my macs for some writing stuff and also just ot have more macs online in the near-mid future (before november) and one thing I have been wondering is how Mac OS 9 will handle on SMR hard disks, so one thing I might do is pull out my blue-and-white G3 and drop an SIL3112 and put 9.2.2 on the WD blue laptop disk. (These were going to be the disks I used in vtools, so I have one or two hanging around, one's in my 2011 mac mini as well.)

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Writing to CompactFlash will typically be pretty slow. Writing flash is a slow process, and CF cards really don't make for good general-purpose use drives. For cameras, they have a burst of a write, then a pause during which the CF's controller can actually write out the data. For video, it's a constant stream of writes that's typically slower than the maximum write speed rating, anyway.

 

If performance really matters, and you want something new (not older IDE), then get a SATA-IDE adapter and any new SATA drive.

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Here are some numbers from my StarMax as well as a Power Macintosh G3 (with SIL3112 SATA card) from MacBench v4.0. Fun fact: the results files are just Western (Mac) encoded tab-delimited(?) text files. I copied the disk test into a Google sheet and made a bar graph.
 

i6TeRHp.png

 

bveu6hv.png

 

Sadly I don't have any spinner results handy to show in this way :/ 

 

Here is a similar StarMax configuration (different OS version, CPU speed and L2 cache) in FWB HardDisk Toolkit v2.0.6 bench test (3 consecutive tests) for corroboration purposes:

1EuBwC4.jpg
 

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Those CF results are very similar to what I get on my SCSI2SD v6, especially on the write side. Your reads are faster than my v6 was, but I think that's because the 8600's fast scsi bus is still only 10 megabytes/second. I've got it on reasonably good authority from a friend that the scsi2sd v6could do better on a better scsi bus.

 

IDE to SATA adapter would be the low-hanging way to get much better disk performance with what you already have without needing to buy that much new hardware, esp. a SIL3112, or have to go find an old IDE disk.

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