Understanding the Apple II mass storage

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I've been contemplating my options regarding hard drives for my Apple IIGS. There are quite a few alternatives available and the CFFA3000 and Focus IDE seem to be the most popular.

I currently have a Unisdisk Disk II/Smartport emulator in my IIGS and after having done a bit of research I've begun to wonder if that would be sufficient for me. There are a few things I'd like to get some clarification based on facts and experiences to help me make up my mind:

1) Is 32 MB the absolute maximum size of a hard drive partition in a stock ProDOS/GSOS and do any of the storages offer bigger ones?

2) The Unisdisk enables you to have a 32 MB image in SmartPort mode but is that the same as a virtual hard drive?

3) Do all the modern mass storage devices utilize virtual hard drives or do any of them work as "native" hard drives?

4) Is there any noticeable speed gain, if you have your mass storage controller in an expansion slot compared to having it in SmartPort?

5) I haven't been able to find detailed information about the SmartPort. I know you connect your floppy drives and apparently it enables you to use virtual hard drives but was it originally designed to be anything else than a floppy drive port?

6) Would I get any significant benefit over the Unisdisk, if I got either a CFFA3000 or Focus IDE?

Thanks for helping me out!

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speedyG's picture
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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage

protek wrote:

I've been contemplating my options regarding hard drives for my Apple IIGS. There are quite a few alternatives available and the CFFA3000 and Focus IDE seem to be the most popular.

Another Option not to be forgotten is the RAMfast SCSI Controller....

protek wrote:

1) Is 32 MB the absolute maximum size of a hard drive partition in a stock ProDOS/GSOS and do any of the storages offer bigger ones?

a) Yes the limit of 32 MB per partition is given by math boundary....

b) and the maximum amount of partitions is limited by the amount of slots used you mapping the virtual drives
...you may map 2 partition to an unused slot ..... ( but this is only valid to some of the interface cards
- due to the software programed in the interface ROM - some devices do not permit "virtual mapping" like the
older Apple SCSI controllers and several older IDE controllers .....
in such case you can only map 2 drives to the slot that contains the controller and mapping
to other unused slots is not possible )

c) maybe someone want´s to publish a list with details like the following example ( to be continued... ? ):

.... device...................connection system...... virtual mapping........max. size per Vol......max.speed
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Apple SCSI controller...............SCSI................ NO..................32 MB...................??? Mbit/s
RAMfast SCSI Controller V.A-B.......SCSI...............partial................32 MB...................??? Mbit/s
Lange/SSH old IDE controller........IDE(*)...............Yes..................32 MB...................??? Mbit/s
Apple Profile Controller ...........SASI similar......... No.................5 MB /10MB...............??? Mbit/s
CFFA V.2.0..........................IDE or CF Card.......YES..................32 MB...................??? Mbit/s
CFFA 3000 ..........................IDE or USB...........YES..................32 MB...................??? Mbit/s
Sider Disk...????
Corvus ......????
InsideDisk/Frank&Britting...........IDE..................No.................10 MB / 20 MB ............??? Mbit/s
AE Vulcan...........................IDE(**)..............partially...........32 MB dependent to ROM...??? MBit/s

(*) limitation to HD Parms ( 1024 cyl. 4Hds. ??? sectors )
(**)limitation to HD Parms ( 1024 cyl. 4 Hds. 26 sectors = 100 MB )
and so on.....

probably it would also be a good idea to even extend the list by indicating the supported OS systems like:

.........D/U/P/C/GS.......... ( letters for DOS/UCSD/ProDOS/CPM/GS OS .......
.........Y/Y/Y/N/N......... indication by letter ( Y= yes N = no )....
maybe someone of the members would publish such lists and one person collecting Lists and linking information
together to one large "General overview list"

protek wrote:

2) The Unisdisk enables you to have a 32 MB image in SmartPort mode but is that the same as a virtual hard drive?

No... Virtual Hard drive is the performance of "virtual mapping"... i.e. if you have a Harddrive with
for example 100 MB and mapping:

1 x 32 MB to S7,D1 and 1 x 32 MB to S7,D2
and
1 x 18 MB to S5,D1 and 1 x 18 MB to S5,D2

or if having a 320 MB or larger harddisk and mapping it to 5 diferent unused slots
( each having 2 drives mapped as D1 and D2 )
and
each of the drives limited to 32 MB resulting to a maximum of 320 MB(***) maximum possible used capacity...
anything beyond that space is waste of capacity....
(***) in fact the limit is few higher ( 350 MB ) due to the fact, that each OS uses some space for:
master boot record, file allocation tables, and internal tables for drive mapping and partition tables .....

protek wrote:

3) Do all the modern mass storage devices utilize virtual hard drives or do any of them work as "native" hard drives?

Most of the modern harddrives permit both ( mapping "native" drives to the slot used and mapping "virtual" to
unused slots .... most old controllers did not have the ability to "virtual mapping" and only supported "native"
drives mapped to the used / occupied slot but not permitting "virtual mapping" to other slots....

protek wrote:

4) Is there any noticeable speed gain, if you have your mass storage controller in an expansion slot compared to having it in SmartPort?

Yes there are large variations in speed.... in slot data ( dependent to the content of Interface ROM )
has ability of highspeed parallel datatransmission or some even not
and smartport is in general more slow because data is transferred in serial mode....
( which must be converted by internal software / hardware to parallel data transmission...)

protek wrote:

5) I haven't been able to find detailed information about the SmartPort. I know you connect your floppy drives and apparently it enables you to use virtual hard drives but was it originally designed to be anything else than a floppy drive port?

No it was only designed for use with "floppy kind structures" and "floppy kind drives"....
It wasn´t designed for any kind of "harddrive kind" emulations ( maybe WOZ would correct me ....)

protek wrote:

6) Would I get any significant benefit over the Unisdisk, if I got either a CFFA3000 or Focus IDE?

with the CFFA definitly .... i can´t judge the focus drive - i don´t have one for compare.....

But up to my knowledge the CFFA and the RAMfast SCSI with the ROM version C or D are deffinitly the fastest
controllers with one difference: the RAMfast controller permits all (!) operation systems to run in "native" mode
including CPM 2.2 and CPM 3.2 while the CFFA can boot some operation systems only in "virtual floppy mode"
while it uses itself basicly ProDOS similar block structure at the storage device...

speedyG

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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage

speedyG][quote=protek wrote:
protek wrote:

1) Is 32 MB the absolute maximum size of a hard drive partition in a stock ProDOS/GSOS and do any of the storages offer bigger ones?

a) Yes the limit of 32 MB per partition is given by math boundary....

speedyG

No, GS/OS can use non-prodos (HFS) partitions of up to 2GB! You can use a SCSI card with a very cheap nowadays SCSI hard drive...

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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage

thanks for the correction... i didn´t think about HFS while responding...

but then there is one question left:

is there a possible access from the operation systems of the Apple II series
(DOS,UCSD,ProDOS,CPM or GSOS ) to the HFS Filesystem and is that read only or can you also write ???

Is the access possible without need of writing own conversion/access utility ???

...up to my knowledge usability of HFS partions in that operations systems is very limited !
speedyG

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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage
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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage

I have a focus drive that I recently got. It came with a 540M drive, and believe it or not, it used all of that space, for a whopping 17(!) partitions. That covers most of your Finder desktop. It's also very cumbersome to navigate.

The CFFA has the advantage of virtual 5 1/4" and 3 1/2" drives, which makes getting programs onto the hard drive much easier. You can mount a CF card from the Focus in CiderPress, but the process of getting file on and off the drive is a bit clunky. The CFFA also allows you to select which drives are mounted at any given time, so even if you have a 2G card installed, your desktop can remain tidy.

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Will

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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage

To richen your choices, there is also the MicrdoDrive/Turbo. A bit more expensive than the CFFA3000, but has DMA and I can attest to it being speedy unit, if that is important to you.

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Bill

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Re: Understanding the Apple II mass storage

Thanks for your thoughts, guys!

Considering how actively I will probably be using my Apple, I just might be able to make do with the Unisdisk. On the other hand it's always nice to have something under the hood. Might be worthwhile to wait for the next batch of the CFFA3000 or then I might just be on a lookout for a good old SCSI card, if one comes by for the right price.