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Reader Feedback: IDE RAID with Promax Turbomax IDE PCI Card
Published: 12/2/99 (Updated 12/7/99)

SoftRaid Reports | FWB Raid Reports | Remus Reports |  Problem Reports


Update: See the storage topics page for more recent IDE RAID articles including ATA/66 and dual/quad IDE drive RAID. The latest reports have tests with IBM's impressive 75GXP IDE drives. For a guide to installing IDE Raid dual drives in a G4 or B&W G3, along with Softraid setup and performance tests - see the IDE RAID tutorial article (Links to hardware and software install are at the top and bottom on the article.).

To offload the main front page news I created this page to list owner feedback from IDE RAID users with the Promax Turbomax IDE controller card.

I welcome other feedback from Turbomax card owners - please list your Mac model, OS version, drives, etc. with your report.

Softraid IDE RAID Tips from 'The Man': Although there are reports here of successful Softraid/Turbmax users, there were some problem reports as well (as shown below). Mark James, creator of Softraid has some suggestions for those that are having problem and encourages owners of Softraid to report any problems to him.

" Mike;
I was browsing the web late at night, again.... I was looking in the IDE section, and saw a couple things.

One coment mentioned that "all the problems were with SoftRAID". While not totally surprising, we hear of few problems from users on the Turbo Max card, so none of these people ever contacted us with their problems. (Maybe they are not registered/licensed users?) Either you have a monopoly on Turbo Max problems, or something is keeping them from reporting their problems to us to work on with them. ;-)

[Note: there are good reports below as well as problem ones, but to be honest no other problem reports were received with other packages. Also many owners probably assume that support is only provided for SCSI drives - not IDE and therefore may not write to report problems with a non-standard RAID hardware setup like the Turbomax and IDE drives. This site is probably the most popular Mac upgrade site on the net so therefore I likely get more readers that have upgrade cards like the Turbomax attempting to run IDE RAID.-Mike]

A couple comments. Anytime someone has a problem, they need to disable acceleration first, then continue troubleshooting. Speed kills, sometimes!

I have had at least one user have a failing system, then bought some higher quality cables for IDE, and the problems stopped. So even with IDE, cabling is starting to matter.

We do a reasonable amount of testing with the card. What we find is for desktop use, it works most of the time just fine. It is fast, and a nice inexpensive solution. However, there are enough, though infrequent, directory glitches where data gets corrupted, that this card is not up to being a Server quality component. Use it for desktop use, with good backup, and be happy. Keep it off Servers, though.

We have also had a couple reports of specific drives giving problems, and not being able to use 4 drives reliably. Most of these problems went away with new cables. The rest with Acceleration disabled. I may be wrong, but dont think there were any other problems, expect perhaps with a G3 upgraded system, which as hacked together systems, there is often not much we can do, except have them disable acceleration and hope. ;-)

There was one comment I found bothersome, until I figured out what they were talking about. "They said reverting to the previous OS 8.6 Drive setup driver fixed it - but if you're using Softraid for a stripe that's not an option - especially disturbing is that you are using Softraid v2.2 that was updated for OS 9 compatibility (when using native SCSI drives)"

I think the comment was that with SoftRAID you cannot go back to a previous Driver version (because 2.2 or later is required for OS 9), but the user CAN go back to 8.6, etc. The reason 2.2 is required for OS 9 is that Apple changed a key native driver call, and as the only 100% native PPC MacOS driver, we broke. Nothing we could do to predict or prevent this problem, but we did work with Apple to ensure that the particular issue is solved permanently.

If a system won't boot with 9.0, have the users tell us. There is one system, the Beige G3, which sometimes won't boot, and usually reinstalling OS 9 repeatedly will fix it,k but we are trying to collect data to see what is causing this, so either we or Apple can fix the issue.
thanks
Mark James
SoftRAID, LLC
http://www.softraid.com
mjames@softraid.com
The box said 'Requires Windows 95, or better.' So I bought a Macintosh. "


Reader reports follow:


Softraid/Turbomax Comments:

" I am a reseller of Macintoshes and related hardware and software, with a significant portion of my business given over to on-site and remote technical support and service. For my main computer I use a beige G3/300 MT that shipped from Apple with a PCI-bus Adaptec ultra wide SCSI card and an IBM 4.5GB hard disk drive (DDRS-34560W) installed. I have 224MB of SDRAM and currently run Mac OS 8.6.

I added a TurboMAX card shortly after they were introduced, using it first with a single-partition 5,400rpm Maxtor 18GB UltraDMA/33 drive initialized with Silverlining 5.6.2. After several months, I replaced that drive with a 7,200rpm Maxtor 20GB UltraDMA/33 drive, initialized it with SoftRAID 2.2, and after backing up the IBM SCSI drive, also initialized it with SoftRAID, and striped it with an exactly-sized partition on the Maxtor drive. I also created a second equally-sized partition as a straight-up normally-accessed backup for the SCSI drive, using the SmartCopy feature of Speed Doubler 8 to synchronize the two. The remaining space on the Maxtor became a normally-accessed 12GB partition for additional backup and miscellaneous storage functions.

I have not really measured the throughput of this system, but I can confidently assert that the Mac with this arrangement is considerably more responsive than it was in any earlier implementations of the hard drive(s). I work on my clients' B&W G3s and new G4s and am not wowed by the performance increase--yes, it's perceptible, particularly with the G4s, but on disk-intensive tasks, I really cannot complain that I am very far behind the curve.

Hope this report is helpful.

BTW, I cannot get my Mac to boot up from OS 9 with the TurboMAX installed. Promax e-mailed a PROM flasher that, according to them, makes the TurboMAX OS9-compatible, but it has failed to solve my problem as of yet. I may take out my ixTV card to see if it may be causing the hang when installed with the TurboMAX and Adaptec cards. Any ideas???

Robert R. 'Bob' Curlee
Image Computing Co. "

I could only suggest updating the drivers with the OS 9 CD drive setup or a previous OS 8.6 drive setup version perhaps (of course that won't allow RAID). I say that as even some B&W G3 IDE slave drive owners reported failures to boot after an OS 9 update. They said reverting to the previous OS 8.6 Drive setup driver fixed it - but if you're using Softraid for a stripe that's not an option - especially disturbing is that you are using Softraid v2.2 that was updated for OS 9 compatibility (when using native SCSI drives).

As noted in my review of the card, the turbomax makes IDE drives appear as SCSI to the OS. What was the version of the ROM they sent you? (I have a 1.5 rom TMax card here)

I have not tested OS 9 with the Turbomax card other than with a TrueX CDROM drive (which is not supported and never allowed booting under any OS version on my 9600/350 as noted in my turbomax review)

I welcome other feedback from OS 9 users with a Turbomax card - please list your Mac model, OS version, drives, etc.

I have not tested OS 9 with the Turbomax card other than with a TrueX CDROM drive in my 9600/350 (only a CDRom attached to the card). (Note that cdroms are not supported and never allowed booting under any OS version on my 9600/350 as noted in my Turbomax review).



FWB Raid Toolkit/TurboMax Comments:

" I used FWB RAID Toolkit to partition both 16GB ATA drives into four 8GB volumes, then RAID two volumes (with MAC Standard file system), and leave two volumes alone (with MAC extended file system). This was simple and I have never had a problem. Speed is not much different, but video capture to the RAIDED volume from my FUSE card is faster than to the non-RAIDED volumes.

My machine is a UMAX j700 with a Newer g3 220 512k over-clocked up to 275/137 (running reliably for 18 months now, BTW). I have 240MB ram, Aurora Fuse card, internal Zip SCSI (first generation). I use a RAGEPRO xclaim VR for graphics (not capture). I use OS 8.6 with tons of extensions and programs. And of course I have the TurboMax with two 16GB drives (IBM?), as sold by them in a package. As you can see, my computer is a mutt, but it all works. I have never had any problems with FWB RAID Toolkit. It may be slightly slower than REMUS, but it's rock solid stable in my experience.
Mike Kramer "

Actually, as noted in my 1998 RAID test comparisons (5 RAID software packages tested with one scsi card and dual scsi card configurations, see also the graphs of comparisons) - Remus is usually the slowest RAID software (but often the most backward compatible with older arrays they say). Softraid even then was the fastest usually. The 5 package comparison was part of my 3 part SCSI Review (4 SCSI cards and 5 RAID packages - 3 part scsi review linked at www.xlr8yourmac.com/scsi.html)

More Softraid/TurboMax Reports:

" Dear Mike,
I'm in the professional photographic fashion rental market in NYC. Trec rents "Flmlss" digital camera work stations( www.flmlss.com). Each station is made up of two G3's plus other components. Each G3 contains two IDE 7200 rpm drives striped with SoftRaid level 0 off of a TurboMax card. Write speeds are 23 to 24 MB./ sec. It runs flawlessly. We have done about 12 of these combos. Softraid simply is the very best. We tried HDT 3.02, Remus, etc, in every case Softraid was the FASTEST and never any odd or stange behavior . Note in this configuration you cannot low level format the IDE drives only quick initialize. It has never caused a problem. These Raids store 8 to 12 Gigs daily and then are erased by Finder for the next job the next day.
Oleh Sharanevych "

As I noted previously, many of the new high performance (7200 rpm/2MB cache) single IDE drives now can sustain near 20MB/sec rates (some above perhaps) so IDE RAID may not make sense from a cost/performance standpoint for most users.



Remus/Remus Lite Raid/TurboMax Comments:

" Hi Mike,
I've set up two RAIDs using the Turbomax cards. The first was a Rev.1 Blue and White G3 300 with 128 megs of ram running OS 8.5. The drives were 8gig Maxtors. I striped them with Remus 1.4 for use in DigiDesign Protools. Worked great, did upwards of 18MB/sec. (Can't remember exactly) The other system was a Rev. 2 Blue and White G3 400, 256 megs of ram running 8.6. The system was set up for Media100 use in a television station. The drives were IBM 17gig. They were striped with Remus 1.4 as well, and they maxed out the limit, getting 24MB/sec as I recall.
Matt Barnett "

Another report from a early 1.0 Firmware Turbomax card owner:

" Mike: As always, I love your web site; I am always astonished at how much useful info can flow from a single dedicated person - keep up the outstanding work!

As for your request re RAID on a Turbomax card, I specifically purchased the card at MacWorld SF last year for a dual drive RAID; the rep I talked to at ProMax was really enthusiastic about how well the card functioned in this regard . . .I should have paid more attention to the fact that their floor model was a B&W "Yosemite" and not an 8600 series . . .;-)

I ordered all of the equipment from ProMax, including the 2 16.8 GB IBM drives (I will dig up specifics for you once I can get home). I couldn't afford the second drive in January, so I ordered it (plus the Remus software) in April. Thanks to your excellent 4 drive RAID article, I was able to slap together a 2 drive version in a few minutes. After messing around w/ the really long cables and trying to get everything to fit (really need to make some new custom cables!), I was ready to rock.

With the Remus software (version 1.4), you have to assign drive to be controlled by their software; even if you don't choose to format drive w/ Remus, you end up with a drive that appears different (with a new custom icon) to Drive Setup. If you read the manual carefully, setting up a RAID isn't too difficult, but can take some time if you do decide to reformat. As for performance, I wasn't able to see a large change in drive speed; my system felt faster, but the included benchmark software SEEMED to show a rather small increase. One of my major gripes w/ remus is their benchmarking software is really confusing; I can send you the results (very tiny graphs) from my first run and maybe they will make more sense to you. In the end, I pulled one of the drives to lend to a friend for a few days and reformatted the other drive. I am planning on re-setting up the RAID this week, so this would be a good time to get an accurate "before" versus "after" set of benchmarks. I'll be happy to help out in any way I can; I downloaded the ATTO express tools and hope to use that as a benchmarking tool.

In the end, I agree with you - if you really want the best bang for your $$$, I'd stick with getting a really fast single drive. Unfortunately, being stuck with the ver. 1.0 card, I need to stick with the recommended drives; I couldn't get a non-IBM drive (Maxtor) to be recognized by the TurboMax. And I apologize for the wordy e-mail; hopefully it answers some questions.

I'll send you some info later this week (including MacBench 5.0 marks, since I just received the CD recently).
Best wishes
Marc "

I told Marc to request a firmware update from Promax.com.



Problem Reports: All problem reports so far have been from Softraid users (including the latest version 2.2). Not sure why this worked for some and not others but here are some samples:

" I tried several times to raid two WD 18 GB Drives. Softraid failed everytime. It would install the drivers okay, but then not recognize the capacity of each drive. It reported Zero Megabytes available. Any thoughts as to why this might be? According to the TurboMax people, Remus Lite is the only supported raid software, but I don't wanna reformat my drives. No way of backing up data.

Beige G3/400 256 MB Voodoo 3 2000

Nicholas "

I had another detailed report that started this thread yesterday but can't find the mail message at the moment. I'll add it later to this page.

I welcome other feedback on the Turbomax card - please list your Mac model, OS version, drives, etc.




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