USB2.0 custom enclosure

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catmistake's picture
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I'm getting sick and tired of enclosure prices. Not only are they (more often than not) butt ugly, they're often times 2-3 times as much as I'd ever consider paying for them (case in point). I don't understand how manufacturers can keep getting it completely wrong, afa style, lack of fw400, or price. Is it me, or are decent Firewire enclosures getting harder and harder to find? Why hasn't the PC world embraced firewire? Why is USB2.0 ubiquitous, and firewire, relatively speaking, so rare (when it is superior)?

______
Part I
But with the new Airport Extreme, with the NAS-style functionality via the usb port, I have an idea to build something (not original), but I'm not sure it will work the way I'd like. Engineers... have a look:

Question is... will something like
this externally powered USB2.0 hub
have enough juice to power 4 drives connected to
4 of these usb/drive adapter thingies?
AND would OS X's disk utility software RAID be able to conglomerate the drives into a usable RAID (0, 5, or JBOD)? Really, I'm not sure how you could get the new Airport to raid USB drives (hack in, get disk utility installed...etc.), but if I could RAID off a USB2.0 PCI card, I'd be happy with the plan.

If so, for ~$60 (along with an old, emptied mac or something for a box), sacrificing speed, among other things, one can almost match the fucntionality of one of these outrageously priced $2.7K monstrosities

so... worky? or no-worky?

______
Part II
if you are aware of nice, handsome enclosures, perferably both USB2.0 & fw400, any chipset, for $30 or less, please post links.

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Dr. Webster's picture
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Re: USB2.0 custom enclosure

catmistake wrote:

Question is... will something like
this externally powered USB2.0 hub
have enough juice to power 4 drives connected to
4 of these usb/drive adapter thingies?

It won't be able to spin up the drives themselves, but should be enough to power the adapters (bridge boards). USB as a standard isn't capable of supplying the current that a 3.5" drive needs.

Quote:

AND would OS X's disk utility software RAID be able to conglomerate the drives into a usable RAID (0, 5, or JBOD)? Really, I'm not sure how you could get the new Airport to raid USB drives (hack in, get disk utility installed...etc.), but if I could RAID off a USB2.0 PCI card, I'd be happy with the plan.

Yep, Dr. Bob did it.

Quote:

if you are aware of nice, handsome enclosures, perferably both USB2.0 & fw400, any chipset, for $30 or less, please post links.

If you can spare $40 instead of $30, this is a very solid, competently-build enclosure:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817146602

I have one and it's better than any of the other 4 enclosures that I have.

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catmistake's picture
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thanks

the $30 limit is artificially low, sale price range, really. I just won't consider anything greater than $50. I know one can find $8 enclosures on eBay, + ship for ~$20 total, but I imagine those are inferior. I just had an enclosure fail. I never thought that would happen... it sat in the same place for 3 years, then just stopped working.

Of note, some firewire enclosures seem to resist daisy chaining, and I have no idea why. If there's some good documentation somwhere as to how the 2 seemingly identical firewire ports on enclosures are different, let us know.

Thanks or the link, Doc, keep 'em coming (anyone)

DrBunsen's picture
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Re: USB2.0 custom enclosure

catmistake wrote:

Why hasn't the PC world embraced firewire? Why is USB2.0 ubiquitous, and firewire, relatively speaking, so rare (when it is superior)?

Firewire requires a dedicated Firewire chip added to the motherboard. USB can be handled by (and hog cycles on) the CPU.

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Jon's picture
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I've got one of [url=http://w

I've got one of these that is listed on your link above. I got it from ax0n, and he got it for less at Microcenter than that site sells it. It works fine, but I sure wouldn't dump nearly $60 for it - with no drive.

If you are using an old case you can easily hack in an AT or ATX powersupply and not worry about USB power to run the drives.

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dankephoto's picture
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ATA-Firewire bridgeboard and your case/PS

If I were going the ATA-Firewire route, I'd buy ATA-FW bridgeboards and put them in old SCSI cases that I have by the ton. Excellent cooling and solid construction.

Here's an example on eBay, $40 and it supports two ATA devices.

If you don't already have the old cases with PSes (or a source), it's not such a great idea.

dan k

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At work we sell Apricorn encl

At work we sell Apricorn enclosure, very well built. They have a cooling fan and the chipsets spin down a drive when not in use.

http://www.apricorn.com/product_detail.php?type=family&id=9

Last product on page. This is both USB & Firewire, but a decent product. $69.00 for just an enclosure, no drive. There are other models with drives but I prefer buying an OEM drive from Seagate to get my 5 year warranty.

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Cheap Firewire 400

I bought a cheap, no brand dual USB 2.0/Firewire 400 enclosure. The reviews warned that USB 2.0 worked perfectly but that Firewire was unreliable. The reviews were correct. If I need a Firewire enclosure in the future, I'll buy a decent one.

catmistake's picture
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Re: ATA-Firewire bridgeboard and your case/PS

Excellent posts everyone.

I am intrigued by this firewire bridge board (fwbb) idea. One thing pops out at me is that the price is off by a lot. Why $40? (ok, everyone pays too much for things on eBay) Isn't a fwbb what's inside a fw enclosure? Aren't crappy fw enclosures crappy because they fail to deal with heat properly and burn themselves out? Wouldn't it not be a bad idea to invest in cheapo fw enclosures, but only to rip out the fwbb, eliminate the problematic case, and thus eliminate the heat issue by allowing proper cooling? Or is it that the cruddy fw enclosures just have inferior electronics? (sorry for so many '?' in one post... I think they can all be answered in one swoop, though)

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I just reread that site, and

I just reread that site, and it only says up to 128GB drives. I've got a 160GB in mine, recognized as a 160,041,885,696 byte / 149.1GB drive. No S.M.A.R.T. support, but oh well.

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One drive or two? Or more?

Most crappy FW cases can only handle one drive. The fwbbs I've seen recently are mostly able to handle two (or four even) devices. Also, the fwbbs usually have mounting plates suitable for use in existing cases as well as power passthrough cabling. Neither is a deal-maker/breaker, but . . .

As for quality and price - where has anyone seen FW cases for under $40, except perhaps as a brief sale? I used to wonder why fwbbs cost $80 to $120, but their prices have fallen alot over the last year or two. Also, most built-up cases these days seem to be the dual FW/USB2 jobbies, and I'd as soon stay as far away from those as possible.

Heh, the vendor selling the eBay item to which I linked above also has dual-channel four-drive FW800 fwbbs for ~$100. That seems like a fair deal for that 2 TB server drive box I'd like to construct. I've already got the big ol' super-well-cooled SCSI case I need . . .

dan k

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catmistake's picture
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Re: One drive or two?

Quote:

As for quality and price - where has anyone seen FW cases for under $40, except perhaps as a brief sale?

eBay fw enclosure search

It appears you can probably catch a cruddy one for ~$25 (that includes ship). Obviously, YMMV.

Quote:

The fwbbs I've seen recently are mostly able to handle two (or four even) devices.

ah... the rare valid point. Sorry, I missed that completely. Actually, I was thinking that the cruddy fw enclosure could be had for ~$10, but I was neglecting shipping. A $40 fwbb would totally be worth it, if it converted 2 devices. Please pass along links... I really like the idea. Though... I don't care so much about mounting plates, nice touch, but doesn't justify cost. That sort of thing, adding ability to mount, shouldn't cost anything whatsoever, even if it adds a little value to the unit.

dankephoto's picture
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big drives? suggesting FW800

One more thing, if you are gonna be using drives bigger than 100GBs or so, I'd strongly suggest buying FW800 gear. It really makes a big difference over FW400 speeds. I've got some FW800 cases (LaCie 500GB Big Disk Extreme) that until recently I had only FW400 to which I could connect. Then I got a FW800 PCI adapter for my QS and boy-oh-boy is the speed-up noticeable. Very.

dan k

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catmistake's picture
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Re: big drives? suggesting FW800

The speed of FireWire 800 is ... so desirable. But you'll need one of these:

  • iMac (24-inch Late 2006)
  • Mac Pro
  • Mac Pro (8-core)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch Core 2 Duo)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch Core 2 Duo)
  • Power Mac G4 (FW 800)
  • Power Mac G5
  • Power Mac G5 (June 2004)
  • Power Mac G5 (Late 2004)
  • Power Mac G5 (Early 2005)
  • Power Mac G5 (Late 2005)
  • PowerBook G4 (17-inch)
  • PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW800)
  • PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.33GHz)
  • PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.5/1.33GHz)
  • PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.5GHz)
  • PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.67/1.5GHz)
  • PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.67GHz)
  • PowerBook G4 (15-inch Double-Layer SD)
  • PowerBook G4 (17-inch Double-Layer SD)
  • Xserve (Slot Load)
  • Xserve (Cluster Node)
  • Xserve G5
  • Xserve G5 (Cluster Node)
  • Xserve G5 (January 2005)
  • Xserve G5 (January 2005 Cluster Node)
  • Xserve (Late 2006)

or... one of these:

dankephoto's picture
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project and budget

Well, of course all my suggestions break the $30 price point, so I can't really say I'm being all that helpful. I figure it'd cost ~US$150 for a 4-drive FW800 bb and a FW800 PCI or cardbus adapter. But the difference is going to be profound between 4 USB2 adapters and my suggested setup.

For use with an APExtreme bs of course you can't use FW anyhow, so that's a moot point . Best cheap bet is probably one of those OWC $10 USB2 adapter thingys, a 500GB HD (best price-point just now) and a nice, well-cooled old SCSI case to hold the drive. Just remember that the speed of the ATA adapter will be largely moot too. The IO is going over enet or wifi, neither is anywhere close to ATA speeds.

I seriously doubt you can run a SW RAID off of an APX bs, but hey, I'd love to be proven ignorant.

dan k

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grannysmith's picture
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Bridge chipset

I am late to the party, I know, but I am struck that there was no mention of the FW chipset. Neither did the Macally site mention it. Some of the referenced bare adapters in the Google pages did.

I may have some kinship with Joe Bftsplk, but my recent purchases of 2.5-in and 3.5-in combo drive enclosures have not been crowned with success. Yes, bewdy bottler for formatting and reading from, but for booting? Fergeddit. In both cases the relevant chipset was by Prolific, who do not mention the idea of booting on their web pages, admittedly. I am driven to the conclusion that No Oxford chipset = No bootable external IDE enclosure.

Compare and contrast.

de

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Re: Bridge chipset

Quote:

I am late to the party, I know,

not at all... this thread is still an infant

Quote:

but I am struck that there was no mention of the FW chipset. Neither did the Macally site mention it. Some of the referenced bare adapters in the Google pages did.

You are right on. So... its not just manufacturers that completely suck and completely miss our needs and wants as paying customers, either with items that are decent but outrageously overpriced or with plainly inferior, malfunctioning products, or its the resellers that fail to report just what the heck they are selling. Sickening.

You'd think that one or two manufacturers or resellers would zag once in a while and actually offer a decent product and advertise it correctly.... if they did they would quickly rise to the top, and virally they would become massively popular, and make lots of money, etc. etc. But... I guess, these suckers just don't care about nurturing a brand.

Anyway... here's an epilogue for anyone (not to put the thread to rest... but my own aspirations for any more hard drive space, hopefully for some time):

I cought this sweet seagate deal before the price went back up, and I gambled on this Syba enclosure from this reseller. Specs say support up to 500GB, but I think my chances are about 50/50 that it'll work with the 750GB. If not, I'll find another solution for the big drive, and use the enclosure for my 400GB seagate. On the face of it, the enclosure seems very nice... decent looking, has a fan, fw400 + usb2 interfaces... and with ship it was under $40.

Now... assuming everything works... I'll still be scared as all get out having that much data in one basket. Just how does one back up something like that?

-----
edit--
-----

Well... everything arrived... all works fine. The Versa enclosure is crap, though. It uses a non-standard, unbalanced A/C wall wart power adapter, and the fan is has a high-pitched whisp that is very annoying. I think these perpendicular drives are strange, and vibrate more, because the whole box shakes when its working (right now, I have it on its side on top of a folded towel so the vibrations don't affect my other drive boxes). Drive too nice and important for such a crappy enclosure. So I ordered this instead. A little flashy, but it looks sturdy, and uses a familiar power connector, and it has a switch for fan speed (in case one speed causes... headaches).

---
I have to say that The Grim Ninja's approach to a drive box, below, is pretty sweet... once you commit to firewire 800. What I've learned recently is that on the new world macs (my example, AGP Graphics Sawtooth, using XBench drive tests), even PCI USB2 is slow, less than 10MB/s, and the onboard firewire400 hits about 15MB/s, PCI firewire400 a little faster, about 20MB/s, the ATA-3 bus is slower than the firewire, ~12MB/s... and far and away the fastest bus is the fast ATA-5 bus, giving a whopping 40MB/s.

So... my next question (if anyone sees this... I didn't post, just edited...) is how long can ATA cables be? Because what I think I'm going to do (unless I come by a machine with native firewire800- "man seeks P58!") is get a couple PCI cards with dual-dual ATA buses (each card can take 4 drives) RAID or not, and run ATA cables out to the breakout drive box. This garuntees me getting as close as possible to 40MB/s, which is downright close to the physical limitations of the drive.

If The Grim Ninja could tell us what his CPU is... well, what I'd really like to know is how fast are read/writes to his fw800 box actually are (esp. if through a PCI bus and card).

Yes... I was surprised that the firewire 400 bus is slower than we think it should be... 400Mb/s = 50MB/s and the busses on either end exceed this (ATA to Firewire to PCI)... so why is Firewire only 20MB/s when it should be twice this?? And what is the effect of Firewire 800 (merely twice as fast, ~40MB/s)? I have a feeling the answer is in the latency...

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My drive case:http://ninjap

My drive case:
http://ninjaproduction.com/DriveCase/

Bridge Boards:
http://www.datoptic.com/cgi-bin/web.cgi?category=Bridge_boards

Monoprice:
http://www.monoprice.com/
(FW enclosures starting at $24) Monoprice is the BEST place to buy cables online.

My suggestions: If you're building this for an airport base station, go with a quad USB bridge from DatOptic and load it up... if you need that much storage. If you want something that is usable for multiple purposes, go with their dual SATA->USB/FW800 bridge. It'll work great for the Airport, it can do RAID, it can be used directly with your computer via Firewire. If you don't have FW800, buy a 400->800 cable from Monoprice.

The reason most NAS devices are expensive is because they're smart. They have controllers built in that usually run flavors of linux to handle data upkeep for the RAID sets. The cheapo-NAS systems aren't nearly as sophisticated.

The reason bridge boards are expensive is because they're not cheap (crap). Most of the bridgeboards in drive cases are hobbled to deal with a single drive plus handle power to the drives from cheapo power supplies which end up frying the bridges.

The reason FW failed to catch on with PC users is because USB is dirt cheap. Why do most PC users argue that the PC is better than those super-expensive Macs?... They can't help it, most can't recognize that cheap≠better.

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Firewire/USB raid array

I did a search but can't find info on the Firewire/USB raid array Dr. Bob / Dr. Webster did. Can someone point me in the right direction ?

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FireWire 400 speed

I recall testing Oxford911-attached drives (80GB? 120GB?) connected to PCI FW400 cards under OS 9 and saw sustained throughput over 40MiB/s. Actual speeds reflect not only the Mac's interface and OS, but the bridgeboard as well as the drive itself. I'm a bit surprised any modern drive would test out at only ~20MiB/s over a FW400 bus. I strongly suspect yer bridgeboard ain't too swift (literally.)

dan k

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catmistake's picture
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Re: FireWire 400 speed

Quote:

I strongly suspect yer bridgeboard ain't too swift (literally.)

Lets not forget the sawtooth host, XBench, but also how, for some reason... I tend to use write speed as the gauge...

These are the results from the same drive off the onboard sawtooth fw, & through a no-name pci fw card. The results are typical, for this and the 3 other fw drives I have, all different enclosures (I ran a lot of tests). I don't have xbench results for it, but the fw400 port on my MBP(1stGen) is noticably faster.
onboard:
Disk Test 26.10
Sequential 27.83
Uncached Write 26.68 16.38 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 26.73 15.13 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 18.75 5.49 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 64.42 32.38 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 24.58
Uncached Write 8.57 0.91 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 44.57 14.27 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 78.42 0.56 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 91.88 17.05 MB/sec [256K blocks]
PCI
Disk Test 22.42
Sequential 21.99
Uncached Write 10.35 6.36 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 36.40 20.60 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 23.03 6.74 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 69.24 34.80 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 22.88
Uncached Write 7.54 0.80 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 53.58 17.15 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 74.35 0.53 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 98.19 18.22 MB/sec [256K blocks]

--
Still think its my boards?

dankephoto's picture
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so much for my recall . . .

Uh, never mind. I just retested a couple of my Oxford-powered drives and my results don't match my recollection.

I'm seeing sustained reads around 33MiB/s and sustained writes between 22 and 24MiB/s, these on a GigE G4 Powermac's internal FW. I'd have tried 'em on a FW card too but couldn't seem to find one laying around just now.

dan k

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catmistake's picture
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so... ATA-4+ vs fw

no contest with ATA vs fw400... fw800 ought to be as fast, or faster, but it must be more expensive though more convenient and compatible with future upgrades. I like the idea of a SATA card, and SATA drives too. But all the drives I have are PATA... I'm thinking for my money, long ata cables and a couple sweet ebay ata card deals and I'll be pretty happy with the results (even if I lose a little drive portability).