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More on FireWire to IDE
The MacAlly CA-805FWH Hard Drive Enclosure

The MacAlly CA-805FWH is ice plastic and includes a FireWire cable but not a metal lid for the drive compartment. The black and tan CD contains a sparse manual and Prosoft Formedia v. 1.7 native HDD driver and partitioning software.


The Box - The CA-805FWH is just one of three different FW/IDE enclosures shown on the MacAlly website, and it is specifically for hard drives. While the case has mounting holes for either 3.5 or 5.25 inch devices, the bridge board in this case is set up to work with hard drives only. Also, as shown below, the enclosure's opening is not a standard size for 5.25 drives. A bezel is included to close this opening, and the bezel has mounting holes where you could install two standard hard drive cooling fans.

Price: Buy.com carries the enclosure for $113.95, and Onvia.com has it for $115.66 (the page has the right model # but wrong picture). [Note: prices and availability may change over time.]

OS Compatibility: MacAlly says the enclosure is compatible with OS 8.6. Be aware the read me for Apple's FireWire 2.3.3 and 2.4 says "To use FireWire on a Blue and White Power Macintosh G3, you should first install MacOS 9 or the G3 Firmware Update 1.0.2 or 1.1. This software provides PCI performance adjustments that are necessary for maximum FireWire performance."

Compatible CDs and Hard Drives - Indigita has tested its bridge board with a large number of devices and supplies this list to its OEMs. MacAlly posts this information on their WEB site. The compatibility information should apply to currently shipping ClubMac enclosures as well, since they use the same bridge board and firmware. Remember though, you must buy an enclosure whose bridge board has been set up for the type of device you wish to install.

The Bridge Board - The bridge board used in the CA-805FWH is made by Indigita and is model iDT-400FHD (FHD = FireWire Hard Drive), shown below. This is the same bridge board used in currently shipping ClubMac enclosures. Knowing more about this board is the key to knowing how your drive and computer are communicating.

The heart of Indigita's board is a FW/IDE bridge chip made by LSI Logic, but what makes the chip work is the firmware. The current firmware is v.45a, which Indigita says is very reliable and has been in use since Fall 99. Indigita is working closely with Apple to improve the firmware as the OS and FW extensions mature and does have a Mac flasher in development to allow users to update the firmware when necessary.

Indigita developed its board initially for their FireDAT Tape Drive then added HDD, CD, Zip, MO, DVD-ROM, and DVD-RAM support. At first, the board was designed to allow the OS to see an attached device as a SCSI peripheral, and Indigita wrote a set of SCSI Interface Module (SIM) extensions that converted SCSI commands to FireWire commands. In the Mac software architecture, an interface module is a level below a device manager (i.e. SCSI Manager 4.3) that converts I/O commands to commands appropriate for the type of interface on which a device is attached. The MacOS now has USB, FireWire, ATA/ATAPI and SCSI IMs, for example.

When FireWire support was brand new, Indigita's SIM extensions gave OEMs using Indigita's bridge MacOS compatibility by allowing their devices to work with existing drivers and utilities designed for SCSI peripherals. Now that native FireWire drivers like Intech's HD SpeedTools (HDST), Prosoft's Radialogic, and Adaptec's Toast 4.1 are available, the SIM extensions are not needed. But the SIM extensions still provide the fastest write speeds and ARE NEEDED to use HDST's RAID O striping feature. Intech is working with Indigita to be able to distribute the SIM extensions with HDST.

A config ROM on the board allows it to be set up for Tape, ATAPI Disk (Zip, LS120), CD or HDD. Removing a jumper on the two pins closest to the board's power connector write protects the ROM, so it should be removed, although the unit may have shipped wih the jumper in place. Moving to the left in the picture above is the EPROM for the firmware. There are two sets of pins on the far left of the board. The set closest to the power connector is the drive activity LED, to its left is the board power LED.

The MacAlly enclosure has both a green power-on LED that is connected to the power supply and a wire that goes to a red LED on the front of the enclosure just below the power-on LED, shown below.

To help use the enclosure reliably, connect the wire from the red LED to the drive activity pins on the bridge board, not to the board power-on pins. The bridge board will draw power from either the enclosure's power supply or your FW host adapter, so as long as it is connected to your computer the red LED will stay lit if you connect it to the board power on pins. Unlike a normal drive activity light, the red LED will also stay lit if you connect it to the drive activity pins, as long as the drive and your host adapter are talking! The light will blink when the drive is accessed, but if it ever goes off completely you'll know your interface has failed, and based on other information we'll discuss in a minute you will be able to restore the interface.

When hooking up the LED, the anode (red wire) goes farthest away from the board's power connector. If you get it wrong, the LED won't light even when your drive and computer are both powered up and connected.

Last, and very important, when you install your drive into the enclosure, make sure it is configured as a master drive, not a slave. Indigita says this is the biggest reason for the case not working properly, so look at the instructions that came with your drive. Usually, drives are shipped configured as masters, but double check. Also, the data connector is keyed in the MacAlly enclosure so you can't mess up when you connect the bridge board to the drive, but ADS's data connector is not keyed. Just be sure to put the red stripe on the IDE ribbon cable to pin one on the drive's 40-pin data connector.

Indigita's bridge is used by many OEMs that make complete FW drive solutions.

The Software - As mentioned, the Indigita board works with MacOS 8.6, but you need to make sure you have at least Apple's FireWire extensions v.2.3.3 installed, as well as any software your FW host adapter card requires.

Besides the system software, you will also need a driver for your device. My enclosure came with a black and tan CD with MacAlly's name on it that contained Formedia 1.7 from Prosoft. Formedia was a precursor to Prosoft's Radialogic but the Formedia page has been removed from Prosoft's site. MacAlly says they have tested with this software, but when I had problems they emailed me Radialogic v.1.9b8. Both Formedia and Radialogic can work with ATA, SCSI, and USB drives, as well as FireWire drives, and will install drivers for all of your disks unless you opt for a custom install and select only the FireWire drivers. Radialogic will install four drivers, one for CD, HD, and MO, and a "FireWire RBC Driver". You only need the FireWire HD and FireWire RBC driver active to use the hard drive with the enclosure.

I decided to also buy Intech's new v.3.0 of HardDisk SpeedTools, since xlr8yourmac reported that this product was designed specifically to work with every FW/IDE bridge board on the market.

Earlier MacAlly Software - MacAlly originally shipped the same teal colored CD bearing Indigita's name as ClubMac still ships with its enclosures. This CD contains both software for hard drives and software for CDRWs. The hard drive software is Disk Control 1.0.1, which installs El Gato's FireWire Disk Control 1.0.1 extension. The CDRW software installs the Indigita SIM, which consists of three extensions, FireSCSI Enabler, FireSCSI Support, and FireSCSI expert (the expert file. like Apple's FireWire support extension, will not show up in Conflict Catcher). It also installs Indigita's SCSI bus scanning utility. You can actually use the SIM as a driver for your hard drive provided you use a SCSI formatting utility to install a driver on the disk when you first install it. In my testing, I was able to install a driver on the disk using Silverlinging. Even then, Apple's Drive Setup refused to initialize the drive, although the program did detect it on a phatom third SCSI bus created by the SIM. Perhaps because my 8500 does not have built-in FireWire, Drive Set Up could not even see the drive when using it under a native FireWire driver like Disk Control, Radialogic, or HD SpeedTools. (see below)

Using the SIM - by installing a driver on the disk with Silverlining and loading the FireSCSI extensions, Apple's Drive Setup could see the drive, but the initialize command was dimmed. This was Drive Setup v.1.9.2, which ships with OS 9. The fact the FW drive had a Silverlining (third party) driver was not the reason Drive Setup would not initiialize it, as the program would allow initialization of other drives with the same Silverlining driver. I was able to init the drive using Silverlining while running the FireSCSI extensions.

Using a native FireWire driver - When I installed a driver on the disk using HD SpeedTools and loaded the HD SpeedTools native FireWire extension (called HDST FireWire Support) Apple's Drive Setup could not even see the drive, even when it was mounted on the desktop.

You can order the Indigita CD by itself from ClubMac for $24.99. There are two part numbers. The HDD part no. is I230 1004. The CDRW part no. is I230 1005. I ordered the HDD CD, but it contained both software for both HDDs (El Gato's disk control 1.0.1) and CDRWs (the FireSCSI extensions).

Connecting the Drive - Because the bridge board will draw power from the FW bus if the enclosure is connected to the computer before the enclosure is powered up itself, you must power up the enclosure before you boot your computer if the drive is already connected to the computer, or power up the enclosure before you connect it to your computer if the computer is already on.  If you do connect the drive before powering it up, you can fix this by disconnecting, cycling the power on the unit, and re-connecting the FireWire cable.

Disconnecting the Drive - to disconnect the drive, first drag the volume to the trash which will cause it to unmount (disappear from the desktop), then disconnect the FireWire cable. If you change your mind, you can use the mount command in a utility like HD SpeedTools to put the volume back on the desktop. If you are using a variety of drivers for your FW drive (as I was during testing) you may need to manually mount the drive if it was formatted with a disk driver from one vendor and you switch to using native FireWire extensions from a different vendor.

Setting Up the Drive - I used HD SpeedTools to set up my drive. HD SpeedTools has excellent, detailed instructions in the HDST FireWire Installation/Info document in the HDST FireWire Support Folder. Basically, you will need to install HDST's FireWire support extension in your extensions folder, reboot, then power up and connect your hard drive. Next you will need to install a driver on the hard drive, set up the volume structure by partitioning the drive (if desired), and initialize the created volumes for the MacOS. You can do all this and more from HDST's main menu, shown below:

When Problems Occur

Many users probably bought their enclosures to use with digital video, but it is just this type of file that caused the problems I experienced on my 8500. (The drive worked great in either enclosure with any software on a G4.) While playing back Quicktime movies in QT Player, DV clips in iMovie, copying large files from the enclosure's drive in Finder, or just running the 8 Meg benchmark in ATTO Express Pro Tools, drive read throughput would drop to zero.

Between the drive activity LED and HD SpeedTools main menu, you can get the information you need to handle problems. All the communication problems boil down to two situations:

Not so bad - the drive activity light is off (no red showing) and HD SpeedTools' main menu DOES NOT show the FW drive as disconnected OR the drive activity light is on and the HD SpeedTools' does not show the drive -- disconnect the FireWire cable, cycle power on the enclosure, and re-attach the FireWire cable.  Also, double check that the Apple FireWire extensions (FireWire Support and FireWire Enabler) and your FireWire driver extensions are installed in the Systems' Extensions folder.

Worse - the drive activity LED is lit red but the Volume/Status column in HD SpeedTools' main menu shows the device is "not connected" or "ejected". In this situation you must power everything down (you may have to force a reboot to get the power switch to work), disconnect the enclosure, restart your computer, then reconnect the drive.

When either situation occurs, your computer may appear to freeze. Because communication has shut down, most CPU cycles are wasted polling a drive that not's responding. If you are very patient, applications like iMovie or Finder will eventually post alerts letting you know the drive is responding slowly (iMovie) or "has a problem" (Finder).

You can trigger the worse situation by powering down the enclosure before the drive is unmounted. The Indigita board will begin to draw power from the FW bus, keeping the red LED lit, but the drive will be disconnected.

When either problem situation happened while I was using Prosoft's Formedia software, garbage appeared where the bridge board ID should have been in Formedia's list of buses and volumes. I could not tell if the software still saw the drive as connected or not. HDST was essential!

Don't Zap the PRAM

If communication fails, don't zap the PRAM, if your timing is just right you may cause data corruption on the drive in the enclosure, the drive you are copying to (if the failure occurs while copying files) or your boot drive.

On to Page 3, the ADS Enclosure

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Page 1, Introduction | Page 3, the ADS Enclosure | Page 4, HD SpeedTools

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