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Mac SCSI ORB Drive Owner Comments
Reader Feedback on the new 2.2GB Castlewood Removable Media Drive
Last Update: 10/10/2000

Due to the continuing thread of extensive owner comments in the front page news on the Castlewood ORB SCSI drive I've decided to collect them on a separate page to offload the main page news and provide single page of all comments. Note these comments cover the SCSI version only, the IDE version currently does not recognize disk changes without a reboot or running Apple drive setup as metioned in the news last month. Castlewood mentioned at Macworld that they are working on a Mac IDE drive to address according to readers.

Update from 10/2000 (also noted in an entry in our Mac Drive Compatibility Database):

" This note deals with an attempt to install an Internal SCSI Orb drive in my beige G3 266 tower.

The beige G3 comes stock with an extra SCSI bay, extra SCSI 50 pin plug in and extra power plug. So I installed an internal SCSI Orb drive. But the Apple Profiler and SCSI Probe couldn't find it.

I had to buy a 50 pin to 68 pin SCSI adapter and terminated the Orb drive with the Low byte termination off and High byte termination on required for this configuration, but still no dice. I even tried it with no termination because the internal Zip drive is terminated. I also gave the Orb drive an ID #6. The Zip drive comes with an ID #5. I also zapped the PRAM, but the system still does not recognize the internal SCSI Orb drive!

After 4 calls to Orb tech support, they finally sent a jpg photo to me showing a missing capacitor on this new SCSI external Orb unit that is about the size of a small nail head. Not only was their one missing cap, but two. This is a manufacturing defect showing they do not test the final unit to make sure it is working before they ship it. They gave me an RMA #, but I had to ship it at my expense.

As a side note, the unit comes with a face plate. But Orb tech support admits it is only for PCs. So I called the corporate sales group at Castlewood per tech support's advice. Sales support says they do not supply a face plate for the MAC. They are looking into third party providers who can make the face plate. But the corporate office is not promising a delivery time or even a promise to deliver.

I will still keep the unit if I can get it to work because no removable media option is as good or as cost effective for my use at present.
Ted Grigg "

Previous Orb SCSI Feedback (10/13/99):

"Here is my experience with ORB.

Test #1. Removed the scanner from the external scsi port and attached the drive. Inserting the cartridge.(Presumably Mac formated ready but we don't know with what tools) The drive is on the desktop. Tried to copy the system folder from the start up disk(Cheetah 10.000 rpm LVD) Crash!! Repeat it 3 times. Crash, crash.

Reformatting the cartridge with SOFTRAID 2.17.
Here comes the baby. Moved 1.5MB data from the start up disk. Flawless. Play with it for about 2 hours. No complaint. Removed the drive from the scsi port, attached the scanner and the ORB drive on the scanner's port. Both are working flawless. But the speed of the drive slows down. Oh well! It's not made to be your start up disk or work on files from this disk! It's just a back up device. Much much faster than my old Syquest.

Now, will my printer or the service bureau accept files from this disk is another story! They are still working on Quadra computers!

Rate. 9 of 10. Why not 10 of 10? Because of this crappy button indicating the scsi ID. You'll never know the setting until you plug it and check it with some utility.
One more thing. There is still no tools for the Mac. The windows version is already updated twice.
Evan Iliadis"

From the 7/26/99 front page news:

Mike Kramer sent his 'mini-review' of the SCSI ORB drive. Doesn't sound fact this sounds worse that the IDE drive which worked except for cartridge changes not being recognized and the fact that writes were only 2.5MB/sec (but reads were about 10MB/sec here).

"Here is a mini review of my drive.
I just got my SCSI ORB drive (external). Sure, it works, but not as advertised. Makes you wonder what they have been doing during the year long delay...

Bad news. I plugged it in, and started up. Not even a SAD Mac. Just a lonely mouse pointer. Good news. Restart with extensions off worked. Orb showed up immediately. Bad News. Attempting to shut down freezes the computer. Good News. The forced restart allowed booting with extensions on. Bad News. The supplied CDROM is crap, and does not seem to work in my computer. The drive makes weird noises, and the image never appears. FWB mounter doesn't even see the CD in the drive. This makes installing the drivers and software really hard.

Good News. Copies to the ORB seem to work fine. Bad News. Even 160x120 compressed movies get hung up towards the end, as did FUSE files. Not only that, but just having the drive attached will make long movies hiccup no matter what drive they are run from. Seems the drive clicks once and a while, and the movie hiccups. My computer is a Newer220 UMAX j700 running at 275MHz with 240MB RAM. My video card is ATI RAGE VR 8MB. I have an AURORA FUSE and a TURBOMAX with two 16GB drives. I have the ORB as ID1:4. Scanners (flatbed and film) on ID1:0 and ID1:6. A ZIP on ID1:5. A hard drive on ID1:3. The CDROM on ID0:5. A hard disk on ID0:1. And the TurboMAX with two drives as ID2:5,6 I believe [IDE drives don't have ID numbers, they are only masters and slaves - the Turbomax makes the mac 'see' them as SCSI with IDs emulated-Mike.]

Even playing a FUSE movie through video playback only from RAIDED TurboMAX now hiccups because of the ORB. Terminations are correct. The ORB is the only new thing, so it is the cause.

Good News. The disks are cheaper than JAZ, and IOMEGA sucks so badly the ORB is still better.

Bad News. I still can't shut down. It just freezes the computer. Bad News. Performance isn't so hot. While the external SCSI is only 5MB on this computer, read write is only at 2.5MB. That's 50% overhead. [As noted in my comments here - 2.5MB/sec or so was the max *read* speed I saw on the IDE model, due to the fact I suspect the drive verifies reads (or does an erase/write/verify). Reads on the IDE drive were appx 10MB/sec-Mike]

Worse, small files copy very slowly. One movie file copied faster than a game folder with lots of small data files. The movie was 60MB. The game folder was 11MB. I enclosed RAID toolkit's benchmark screen as a graphic. Maybe ULTRA SCSI will approach 14MB, but I highly doubt it.

Bad News. Castlewood warns of data corruption if you attach the drive to a bus that has scanners and CDROMs. They recommend HD's and removable cartridge drives only. How many average people have TWO external SCSI buses? Sure, professionals do, but they want to sell cheap media to the masses.

Bad News. No OFF switch. So to stop the hiccup, you must unhook the drive. There is a spindown utility, but it is on the CDROM, so it is unavailable to me, and who knows if it will help. Ditto for the driver. This really makes it useful as a cheap archive drive only, which is still very useful, but not as advertised.

Good News. Works with DiskDoctor (not disk first aid though). Fixed problems with a brand new, empty, unused disk. It shipped with incorrect Finder Settings, and a screwed up catalogue. All errors were fixed.

Bad News. The loading mechanism is flimsy and difficult. Press the lid open button, push the disk in hard, then down, with little room for my fat fingers to work. And after a few seconds, the door drops on your finger tips. It isn't heavy, but it makes loading that much harder. And shake a disk. They rattle like nuts. Doesn't make me confident. [Note - the ORB disks are *fragile* - drop one and it is likely to be damaged.-Mike]

I have only had it for a day, and I am sure Castlewood is trying to fix the problems, but with all the extra time, they should already be fixed. Maybe the driver will help.

Ratings (out of 11... That's one higher than 10)
Features. 3
Quality. 6
Value. 10
Usefulness 5
Overall rating. 6

Mike Kramer"

[from 7/27/99 news] Alex Jones responded to above with a more positive opinion of the drive:

I got my external SCSI Orb drive last week, and I promptly broke it in by making about a gig worth of archives on it and then running a Retrospect backup to it. Zero problems. I repeat, _none_. The cd mounted just fine, I installed the driver, then shut down, added the orb to my extended (to say the least) SCSI chain, and started back up. The disk mounted just like a normal hard drive, and I began transferring data. The speed isn't stunning, but I believe that's due to the fact that my Orb is on my 5 MB/sec external chain with a scanner, a zip drive, a CD-R drive, my stock CD-ROM drive, and an IBM Ultrastar hard drive.

My system is a Performa 6400 w/ an Initio Miles U/W SCSI card connecting 2 Seagate Medalist Pro 7200 rpm U/W drives, 136 megs of ram,. an IX3D Ultimate Rez, and all the aforementioned SCSI devices.

I noticed from Mike Kramer's review that he seems to have the Orb attached to the same SCSI bus as his raided hard drives-- that would explain the loss in performance, since one of the fundamental rules of SCSI is that all devices on the chain will perform at the speed of the slowest device. A $49 SCSI card should clear that up. [This is not true- SCSI by design can negotiate speeds with the target device. I don't like adding slower devices on fast SCSI chains, but only when mixing SE and U2 SCSI devices on a U2 SCSI card is there any performance hit. See SCSI page reviews and FAQ SCSI section for more info. For best results the ORB should be on a faster SCSI bus than the 5MB/sec max typical of Apple's external onboard SCSI however.-Mike]

Overall, my external SCSI Orb is freakin' sweet. The capacity is huge, the speed is acceptable, and the price is definitely right. It's a little slow to load and eject, but that's because it purges all of the air from the drive before spinning up the disk, unlike a few click-of-death-prone Iomega products I know of. Sometime soon I plan on routing a cable from my internal 10 MB/sec chain to an external connector somewhere to attach my Orb to, and that should provide me with better speed. It has a few quirks, but I would not hesitate to recommend the external SCSI Orb to anyone (even my peecee using friends).
Regards, Alex Jones"

[from the 7/28/99 news] Mike Kramer sent a reply to the counterpoints made above:

"Hey Mike,
Wanted to clear up two things about the ORB. First, as I stated in a previous email, the shutdown problem seems to have disappeared. Secondly, the RAIDED volume I use is through the TurboMAX PCI card (virtual SCSI Bus 2), while the ORB is on the external bus (BUS 1).

In regard to Alex's post, his and my comments basically are in agreement. He is happy to use his drive as an archive medium, and he does not use a 640x480 video capture card for a living. Since I do, I have to unhook the drive when I am not going to archive to it so I can print to video without hiccups. I bought it for archiving video files, but am nervous about the potential corruption because of scanners on my chain.

As for just spending $50? on another SCSI card, apple is too stingy with their PCI slots for that. I use one for video, one for capture, and one for TurboMAX. The UMAX j700 has four slots, but the fourth is waiting for a FireWire/USB combo card if it ever arrives.

But I totally agree that my one bad (very thin and flimsy) CD-ROM should not condemn a product. The driver I downloaded does nothing as far as I can see (it worked without it). It was a 1MB download that installed a 66k extension file with a non-standard install interface. The MACTOOLS are nowhere to be seen. Disks do mount fine, as long as you press the load/eject button an even amount of times (seems to get confused and not talk to the BUS if it thinks you should be ejecting when you are inserting. strange)

Maybe someone who works for CASTLEWOOD and reads your site can clear things up. But they don't seem to readily answer questions, so who knows. Love the site and glad that Alex loves his drive.
Mike Kramer"

Speaking of the ORB SCSI drive, Jamie Peloquin said that the Castlewood rep at Macworld told him the internal ORB SCSI drive was being changed from 50pin SCSI to 68pin. This means the internal SCSI ORB will be wide-SCSI. Upside is better performance by a bit I suspect (if the drive is not the bottleneck), the downside is that narrow SCSI owners will need an adapter. Note that if you have an Ultra2 SCSI Card other than the Adaptec 2940U2W, you may not want to connect any Single Ended SCSI drives to the chain as it will reduce the speed of the U2 card. This is noted in my review of Ultra2 SCSI Cards (see the SCSI articles page or sidebar for links and more info).

The latest reader feedback (also sent to other sites he said):

"ORB scsi comments/notes 7/28/99
I received my ORB external SCSI drive (w/a Mac-formatted cartridge) a few days ago from CDW. I also ordered five PC-formatted cartridges from another vendor last Friday; got them yesterday.

Read the manual last night; informative, some inaccurate/inconsistent info, fairly brief (had the PC info as well). I install this kind of stuff all the time in the Billyware world so I thought I'd take the 'I'm your typical Mac user' approach to installing/using the ORB. NOT a real good idea as it turns out.

1st, a little background:
I've had at least one Mac since 1984 and currently have SEVEN at home on a 10baseT network (the network is just great for multiplayer game playing say my kids). Most of all this is maintained by my 13 year old son. For you PC disbelievers out there: he got a PlexWriter and Nak changer installed and, in his first attempt, had his first CD burned; all this, including the burn time, in an hour on his Powerbase. I hope Billy NEVER cleans up his act: I'll be working on YnK problems if he does.

installation environment:
PowerComputing PowerCenter Pro MT, 604e 240mhz, Ultimate Rez video card, 128Mb ram, OS 8.0; The usual 'standard' cdevs/extensions including FWB's HDT 3.0 init (full version). Adaptec 2940UW scsi card with the internal 50pin connector connected to a HP50 header plate stuck in one of the 'unused' slots (thus giving me a UltraSCSI HP50 external connector along with the 'stock' extrnal UW 68pin; note that either can be used BUT NOT simultaneously). Two internal UW Atlas II hds hang off the UW 68pin internal connector. Mike> BTW: one hd is an SCA 9gig with an UW adapter that is quite short and has a jumper for active termination; only about 5/8" in depth; I believe it was manuf'd by TransIntl. This puppy has worked well even inside the cramped confines of what PPC laughingly called a 'tower'.

Used a 3 foot HP50/HP50 cable (high quality) I already had to connect the ORB. The 'infamous' scsi id selection switch looks fine in the manual (position indicator on the switch in the drawing as well as the four possible scsi ids nicely clustered above the switch) BUT the drive's actual switch looks like it may have suffered something in the translation. ie. NO position indicator on the switch itself, two ids clustered at each END of the apparent 'slide' range. Could this be the result of using people laidoff from a Nike shoe factory?? Also, the manual mentions that adding a 'narrow'/slower scsi device to a wide/faster scsi bus WILL drop all devices to the slowest device's speed; NOT true according to several knowledgeable folk including Adaptec's own FAQs. A legitimately GOOD feature so far NOT mentioned in the notes from ORB users: the drive has automatic ACTIVE termination. AND it works!!

Hooked the drive up as described above; checked to see if HDT could see it; there it was with id=6. So far so good. Pushed the button to open the door; fumbled with the cartridge... the door snapped shut before I got the cartridge near it... oops... it IS picky about how long the door is open... prudent since it is best to minimize the chances for dust entry. Tried it again; got it in... BUT you must PUSH it in and DOWN; drive is too light to do this without holding it someway. Door closes on its own and disk appears on desktop with a 'brick'-style icon. I shortly determined that the HDT init had mounted it as 'generic removable'. Note that HDT 3.x.x states that it FULLY supports only Zip, Syquest, and Jaz removables. NO mention of the ORB. I pulled the icon to the trash (it ejected), reinserted it, it showed up on the desktop, etc. Worked fine so far. Thank you FWB. Now, what is on the cartridge??

The Mac cartridge had ZERO files on it!!! NOT even the 'driver' that everyone mentions. Perhaps they meant the onboard-the-cartridge invisible driver. Looked at it with DiskTop (it STILL works under 8.x) and it had several invisible files; two of which were 'Norton' somethings... strange. Lets try some copies: copied three folders from one partition to another on the 2gig AtlasII (my boot spindle). There were 80 files making up about 20 megabytes. The HD-to-HD copy took just over 12 seconds. Copied this same stuff to the ORB from the same location in just over 15 seconds. (all timed with my fat finger on the start/stop button in stopwatch mode on my wristwatch; NOT spaceshuttle accuracy!). Pretty snappy!!

NOTE that I have NO software from Castlewood on my Mac so far. NOT bad. OK, now the trick stuff. Lets format a PC-formatted cartridge. The finder complained about file sharing; I turned it off. The finder tried valiantly but froze when it said it was creating the directory. Ugh. Time to drop out of 'typical user' mode and go to the 'mountain'.

I jumped on the www and got that lonely driver file from Castlewood. Unstuffed it, ran the installer; it DOES put an init in the Extensions directory (begins with 'Castlewood...', perhaps why no one seems to have seen it??). It also put the lovely PDF file in as well. What a great idea, Steve! Rebooted and stuck the Mac-formatted cartridge in; got a different disk icon; looks just like the ORB cartridge except no color; yuck. Feeling flush with success, I stuck in a PC-formatted cartridge; a moment later the Finder asked if I wanted to format this puppy (as it had done before). Yes! I do want a Mac-format on this puppy. Bingo! Blew right past the 'freeze' spot and had a properly formatted (Mac that is) ORB cartridge a moment later. Tried a 2nd one. Same 100% success. Looks like the ORB init is the key to reformatting PC ORB cartridges to Mac-format. Ok, do things copy OK?? tried the same three folders... success again with about the same elapsed time. Works for me.

All-in-all I'd say the ORB will put Iomega on the hot seat. One doesn't really need the 'tools' for the above actions. Now all I need are some colored ORB disk icons and I'll be 95% satisfied for the near term. Longevity/reliability of the cartridges remains to be seen, however. Of course, the cartridge, especially when in its case, is thicker than a Zip cartridge and thus perhaps spawns a whole new round of ORB racks/holders. Note that the cartridge not only must go in 'pointing' the same way in its case BUT it apparently must go in 'rightside' up (so the paper label shows thru the clear window on the case; it says 'ORB' on the bottom of the case). The poor scsi id switch labeling can probably be fixed with a do-it-yourself sticker overlay for the numbers/positions (perhaps Castlewood will provide this to registered users??) and a carefully placed stripe of whiteout ink on the switch itself.

I highly recommend the ORB right now for an astute Mac user. Once Mac-format cartridges are available it will probably be idiot-proof and perhaps... even user-proof. Those with some manual dexterity shortcomings (either permanent or temporary), however, will do battle with the 'intelligent' door. I'll try Retrospect and accurate speed comparisons (using HDT, among others) with the built-in SCSI bus and again with the UW card later this week.

Dale Breece "

[Added 7/30/99] This owner reports a conflict with the SCSI ORB and the Iomega driver, which I didn't see here in tests with an IDE ORB and SCSI ZIP (when used with a TurboMax IDE PCI Card in a 9600/350:

"Hi Mike,
I just bought a SCSI ORB, used the CD that came with it to install the driver, plugged the drive in to the narrow connection on my Adaptec 2940 UW2 card mounted in a 9500/Newer G3 250/1MB. The only hitch is that the driver apparantly conflicts with the Iomega driver, at least in the rather excessive collection of inits and CPs that I stuffed into my (OS 8.6) system folder. Partway thru the boot process, as icons were marching across the screen, everything froze, and I had to use the Ctrl/Cmd-Power restart. Conflict catcher told me that it was Iomega driver (6.0.4) causing the problem. I ignored it, to double-check. Repeated exactly the same. With the Iomega driver disabled, startup was fine, and upon insertion of a cart, the rather primitive ORB Disk icon popped up on my desktop.

As a rough test, I took a folder of sounds and utilities on a HFS+ UW external drive and copied it to the ORB. Get info on the folder indicated 168 MB for 944 items. I use Speed Doubler, and Fast Copy indicated that the copy was about 165 MB. It took approximately 4 minutes 37 seconds, and Fast Copy indicated an initial throughput of about 550 KB/sec, peaking at about 820 KB/sec, and at the end about 630 KB/sec. On the HFS standard ORB disk the folder is 187.6 MB.

The drive is quiet, and I found the same idiosyncricities re: the door and cart insertion previously noted in your page on SCSI ORB feedback.

So far I think the ORB is a viable solution for removable/archival storage. Unless something ugly pops up later, I am very satisfied.
Best Regards,
Charles Lindauer "

Reading his comment on adding the SCSI ORB to the external port on the 2940U2W reminded me of a note I mentioned in my review of Ultra2 SCSI Cards; if you are running Ultra2 SCSI drives and add a single ended SCSI drive (like the ORB) to the same channel the card will reduce U2 bus clock rate to 20MHz (from 40MHz). Most disks are the bottleneck so you might not see a difference really. The external SCSI connector on the 2940U2W is Ultra2 SCSI, but it has an internal SE/UltraSCSI connector that is isolated from the U2 bus to allow running single ended SCSI devices without affecting the U2 bus speed. You'd need a internal to external connector jack cable to use this with external drives however.

[Added 8/3/99] A 6500 owner writes:

"Hi Mike:
Just dropped by your page for the first time; I have a PowerMac 6500 and I had just bought a Rage Orion card when I found reports of incompatibilities w/ exactly that combination o' hardware. Various links led me here; I'll keep checking for a week before even cracking the seal on the box.

But when I received the card (on Saturday the 31st) from MacMall, I also received a SCSI Orb drive; I've been playing with it over the weekend. I've got the 6500 (running OS 8.5.1) w/ zip drive installed (using the 6.0.4 driver) - I've also got a Yamaha 4260 CD-RW and the Apple-installed Matsushita CD-ROM drive on the same bus, and haven't had any problems whatsoever. I really have been *playing* with the drive, not futzing or monkeying with it - it's been a plug-and-play dream, and about an hour or so I discovered that I don't even have to have the Orb driver installed for the disk to mount (so long as I had the drive on before I booted up my Mac, of course)*.

I did have a freeze when I started up the system w/o a cartridge in the ORB drive - everything booted OK, and I got to the desktop fine, but when I inserted a cartridge everything locked up. Since then I've only booted up with a cartridge in the drive, and everything's been hunky dory (yes, I'm from the midwest).

I'm not a power user, so I haven't really run the drive through its paces; just copied 1.7 G of files from my cramped 4G drive, using the ORB as a sort of walk-in storage closet. I've run a couple of games directly off the drive (hey, it was the weekend), and they seem to run as well off it as off my 12x CD-ROM.

It's definitely much much faster than my zip drive, which I ony use for file transfers since its predecessor developed the click of death (replaced by Apple Care after much wrangling - !@#$%^ it). The 'intelligent' door is just as annoying as every one says, but if it keeps dust-mote-induced failures from happening, I'm willing to put up with it.

All in all I'm very happy w/ the ORB. Once the Mac Tools are released, I'll repartition a cartridge into two, record some audio, edit it, and burn it onto a CD-ROM; then we'll see how wonky it can get. As a giant, fast, and incredibly cheap zip drive, though, it seems to be a great investment.

Oh, and a nice platinum icon for the cartridge would be a nice cosmetic improvement, for us interface esthetic weenies - I pasted on a platinum jaz icon (from [MIT's Hyperachive] 3d-platinum-jaz-icons.hqx (zip icons here) in the meantime.
Evan Evanson"

I welcome other ORB drive owner reports.

For other Storage related links see the SCSI/IDE/RAID articles page
and the storage area of the FAQ.


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