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Prosoft, SoftRaid & Intech Comment on Native PowerPC Code Disk Drivers
Published: 4/24/2000
(Last updated: 4/25/2000 for FWB comments)


After reading the note on FWB's Hard Disk Toolkit 4.0 claiming they have "the industry's only Power MacTM native storage device driver", I sent mail to both Mark James of Softraid and Chris Karr of Intech to get their comments on the issue. I later contacted Prosoft to inquire about their new Radialogic drivers. Their reply is shown below, followed by comments from Softraid and Intech.


Update: I was copied on a mail from FWB to SoftRaid indicating they are removing their claim of the only PowerPC native driver:

"Dear Mark,
I did some research on our claim to have "the industry's only PowerMac native storage device driver" and discovered FWB has been making this claim and shipping native drivers since the release of Hard Disk ToolKit version 1.7X back in 1995. As a matter of fact, previous versions of HDT posted on FWB's site carried the same claim for years and we have not heard from anyone trying to dispute it until today. It was therefore a shock to us when we received your letter this morning, and we humbly apologize for overlooking SoftRAID when we issued our statement.

As a goodwill gesture, our website will be updated with the removal of the claim that HDT has the industryıs only PowerMac native driver.

Once again, we apologize for overlooking SoftRAID when we made the claim.
Mark Hurlow
Director of Product Development
FWB Software, LLC.
"

Mark James of SoftRaid copied me on his reply to this:

" A quick test you can have your guys do is this:

take an older "native PPC driver", from before 8.6. And, any other driver from before 9.0)

If, under 8.6, you can create a volume, then this is not 100% native, (or under 9.0, if the volume mounts, same thing.)

the reason for this is that if a driver is 100% native, then they run into a bug in the native driver kit, where the volume counter is wrong. There are two solutions, one is doing the 68K call, the other is add one to the volume counter. (This is the solution SoftRAID chose, as we wanted to be 100% native)

When Apple worked on 8.6, they started fixing this problem.

So there were many native drivers, but none which were 100% as of 1998, as SoftRAID was the only driver and application to get hit with both the 8.6 bug and the 9.0 bug.

Hope this helps. But the bottom line is you guys have a native driver, and have for a while.

Mark James
SoftRAID, LLC
"


To add to the confusion (at least mine) of who was first- the original founder and former VP of Engineering of FWB wrote:

"I was Founder and VP of Engineering of FWB, up until I sold it last year (1999).

Hard Disk ToolKit has had native drivers since 1994-5, a couple months after the first PowerPC machines shipped. As John Brisbin indicates, a version of the PowerPC HDT Driver that was embedded on the Flash ROM of the Nubus SCSI Jackhammer, was shipped shortly after Apple shipped their PowerMacs.

These releases predate the existence of several of the Formatter software vendors. FWB has long supported the Macintosh, since 1985, and continues to do so today.
Thanks,
Norman Fong
"

The reason for this page was to determine if other vendors had native drivers (if the original claim was true).

[Previous replies on the issue follow:]

Just when it looked like FWB might have the only ATA/USB/Firewire compatible native drivers, Prosoft responds they do as well:

"Saw your thread on your web site and got your email. Definitely wanted to add my 2˘.

Prosoft has been shipping "100% PowerPC Native Drivers" - for SCSI, ATA, USB, and FireWire now for over six months. Originally this was only to OEM clients; these drivers are now available in our just-released retail product, Radialogic Storage Master. So I can comfortably say that FWB is neither the sole vendor nor the first vendor to provide an across-the-board fully native solution.

Christopher Karr from Intech brings up some good points about whether SCSI and ATA drivers should or should not be native. In our case, there are a number of reasons:

1. All of our drivers share a lot of common code so that new features get added to all busses simultaneously.

2. We do support encryption - up to 128-bit - and there speed does matter.

3. The DTS quote Intech references is actually pretty old - I believe from about System 7.5. Since then, the SCSI and ATA managers have gone native, busses are faster (e.g. ATA Ultra DMA), and drives are faster and have larger caches. Whatever the reason, our native SCSI/ATA drivers are turning in some pretty good numbers in performance tests.

Peter Commons
VP Engineering
"


Mark James of Softraid copied me on a mail to FWB that indicates Softraid drivers have been native since 1996.

" From: Mark James
Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 12:52 PM
To: info@fwb.com
Subject: Truth in Advertising act

Dear sirs;
I have had several of our users point out a false claim in your web pages.

In your promotion for HDT 4.0, you are claiming to have the "the industry's only Power Mac native storage device driver".

This is blatantly incorrect.

You are at least 4 years too late. SoftRAID has had a 100% native driver since version 1.5, released in 1996.

I am not even sure you are second in line, but you can do that research yourself. SoftRAID was the FIRST *100% native* PPC driver for Mac OS. We accomplished this a time when Apple themselves thought it was impossible to do, but we did it anyway.

The obvious test is install 8.6 or 9.0 on an older version. There is a bug that only affects drivers using the native version of the volume reference in the driver kit. The fact that SoftRAID was the only Mac OS driver affected by those bugs showed us as of 1999, we were still the ONLY 100% native driver for Mac OS.

And keep in mind is also a very popular, totally free, disk driver which likely is 100% native now.

So please correct your web site, and go ahead and let prospective purchasers know you have a 100% native driver, but not that you claim to be first. We will pursue this if you persist. It is easy to prove, and will be embarassing to you should we do so.

And be careful if you claim to be faster than Drive Setup. Our last round of testing showed Drive Setup to have a faster driver than any but ours. Even Anubis was faster than HDT.

thanks for your prompt attention to this matter.

Mark James
SoftRAID, LLC
mjames@softraid.com
"


The following is a detailed reply from Intech on the issue:

"I'm on West Coast time, so I just finished reading your page a few minutes ago. We're glad to offer our perspective on this issue to separate some of the marketing hype for from the engineering reality.

Anyway, yes, FWB is the only native PowerPC driver for SCSI and ATA devices. All Firewire and USB drivers from all companies are already PowerPC native, due to the new way drivers are loaded for these devices.

Last year we participated in the development of Technote #1189 which covers all aspects of disk driver development on the Macintosh. I recommend that anyone who is interested in this topic read the following link: http://developer.apple.com/technotes/tn/tn1189.html#PowerPCNativeDiskDrivers.

For those people who want the Reader's Digest version, it goes something like this: device drivers on the Macintosh are I/O bound, NOT CPU bound. In short, because the actual executable code for a read or a write is so small (a few hundred bytes, assuming no errors), that the vast majority of data transfer time is consumed while the device is actually sending/receiving data.

In fact, PowerPC native code for SCSI and ATA devices could actually be SLOWER for normal data transfers because the File Manager is expecting the driver to be 68K and, therefore, an asynchronous native driver will have to perform at least FOUR CPU mode switches for each and every I/O: the first on entry to the I/O code, the second on the exit from the I/O code, the third on entry to the I/O callback, the fourth on the exit from the I/O callback.

The actual Technote says it best in the "Recommendations" section: "DTS (Developer Technical Support) does not recommend that developers implement disk drivers in PowerPC native code unless there is clear evidence that doing so improves the performance significantly. Typically this is only for drivers that are CPU bound, such as encrypting drivers. A standard SCSI or ATA driver is I/O bound, and receives little benefit from running native."

Another significant consequence of FWB's decision to "go native" is compatibility: FWB requires a PowerPC and MacOS 8.1 or higher. The Intech driver supports every Macintosh ever made since the MacPlus (manuf. 1986) and any MacOS from 6.0.4 up to 9.0.4.

Best regards,
Christopher P. Karr
V.P. Engineering
Intech Software Corporation
http://www.intechusa.com/

Intech's drivers have been a solution to the issues of data corruption with rev 1 B&W G3 systems as noted in articles here previously.



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