The Battle of 1394

When I saw an eBay auction for a Maxtor 250GB external FireWire drive, $225, I couldn't resist. Simply gave in. This is a 7200RPM, 8MB cache IDE drive in a flashy aluminum FireWire case. I could care less about the OneTouch, but the sequenced access LEDs are nice. Note to Maxtor, though: Drill some holes in the case like I'm about to do. This thing gets hot. One interesting note about this drive. For the first 1

When I saw an eBay auction for a Maxtor 250GB external FireWire drive, $225, I couldn't resist. Simply gave in. This is a 7200RPM, 8MB cache IDE drive in a flashy aluminum FireWire case. I could care less about the OneTouch, but the sequenced access LEDs are nice. Note to Maxtor, though: Drill some holes in the case like I'm about to do. This thing gets hot.

One interesting note about this drive. For the first 10 power cycles, the drive will write slowly, as it verifies every write to disk, which halves the write speed. I elected to let the 10 powercycles occur naturally, rather than flip the power switch 10 times in a row. The slower writes would still be faster than the 100Mb/s Ethernet link.

The idea is to lose the 20/40 DLT drive for scheduled backups of my ~230GB of data, and rsync to this drive once a night. I really have no love for DLT, or any type of tape backup that requires spans of several tapes, and no changer. Of course, I'm not about to shell out for a DLT changer, so here we are.

The drive showed up, still shrinkwrapped. Lacking active firewire ports on groove*, I ran it into an elderly 300MHz blue & white G3. The drive was recognized without a problem. I promptly converted it to UFS, and started an rsync. At 1.5MB/s. With some twiddling, I got that up to 3.0MB/s, but still not enough. Via rsh or NFS, it was just slow. This is due in no small part to the G3's processor. It was really trying very hard. I played around with driving the sync from the fileserver to spare the G3's CPU, but that ended badly, as the G3 up and quit on me halfway through and I'd inadvertently hard-mounted the share. More gyrations followed, but I was either stuck with 3MB/s, or nothing at all.

So I picked up a cheap Orange Micro 1394 card for soul. I had 1394 drivers in the custom kernel on soul, but the 7.3 base init scripts didn't handle the init. Once I'd manually loaded the modules, rescanned the bus, and hacked the init for next boot, the drive was ready. I dropped an ext3 filesystem on there, and promptly started a `cp -pr`from an NFS share. 50GB into the copy, I get I/O errors on the drive. Uh-oh. I do a full fsck and bad blocks check on the drive. No problems. I restart the copy. I/O errors at 35GB. Hunh. I test the drive with bonnie++ and hdparm. The average sequential read is 24MB/s, write is 22MB/s; not too shabby. So I start an rsync via rsh... I/O errors at 100GB.

At this point, I'm thinking that it's either a bad drive, or the Orange Micro card isn't happy about something. I plug the drive into the Vaio, fsck and mount the drive. I then copied 215GB in about 6 hours, averaging ~10.5MB/s. No errors, no foul. A test copy back to the server was perfect.

The Orange Micro card is listed as "works" in the ieee1394 HCL, which is a broad term. I suppose a new card is in order.


* It's really unfortunate that we don't have a mainboard connector standard for ieee1394. Many cases come with 2 or more 6-pin external FireWire connectors, but the internal connectors are pigtails, not a molded connector. The result is a maddening 30 minutes trying to put a dozen female ends on a dozen mainboard pins in exactly the right sequence, while dealing with the unfortunate law of physics that causes several already conneced ends to pull off their pins while you're trying to figure out which one of the remaining ends you need next. It's almost worth it to disable the on-board ieee1394 and install a PCI card.

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