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My Amiga-Section

Under Construction

Welcome to the Amiga-Section of my Homepage. I'm planning this to be the starting point to those thousands of interesting articles and reviews I'm going to write and interesting things I'll find in the net over the time. But as I haven't written much up to now and have severe problems finding the time or even a topic to write something about, this page only presents my first/only article/tip/review or what ever you want to call it. Have fun.

Best of both Worlds - EIDE on Amiga

Since mid 1998 the world of high-speed EIDE-Devices is also useable for Amiga Computers. Well up to now only for one Amiga computer, the A1200. The card is developed and produced by a polish company named ELBOX(you can find another unfinished Homepage of Elbox here) but is widely known as the Power Flyer and sold by Power Computing in the UK. Here in Germany it is available at Vesalia under the name Winner Fast-IDE Controller.

I wrote this page for people who seek information about a product before buying it in order to evaluate its usefulness or to avoid problems with hardware allready in use. Normally I do so too but with the Power Flyer I wasn't able to find much and so I found out most about it after I bought one. This should not happen to everyone and so I wrote something about it.

How I got my Elbox Fast-IDE Controller or "The guessing Game"

The first time I heard about the EIDE controller was on the newsgroups where people in the UK announced the availability of a new HD controller at Power Computing which would enable the internal IDE port of the A1200 to achieve much faster transfer rates with modern EIDE-Harddisks even as fast as on PCs. After a few weeks these "Power Flyers" began to pop up in the sig-Files of more and more people.

As I was extremely happy with the SCSI setup I had (well, as much as you can be with a Phase5 SCSI-Controller) and also had no IDE HD's handy that could make use of it, I didn't pay much attention to these articles. But as time changes everything I saw myself upgrading my PC box from 6GB to 10GB about a year later. Now I got stuck with a really neat HD which I didn't allow my PC to have because 10 Gig ought to be enough for every PC.

So I began my search for information about the Powerflyer on Deja News and all I got were some articles announcing it, praising it and problems the driver software had with PowerPC cards, but no technical specs or adresses where to find any.

Some more specs would have been even more interesting since ads of the new IdeFix-Express started to appear in german Amiga magazines. The only difference between the two devices, on the advert side I mean here, was that the maximum speed stated for the IdeFix Express was at 5MB/sec instead of the 7-8MB/sec of the PowerFlyer/WinnerFast-EIDE. As there was no mention about a PowerFlyer or EIDE-Controler in adverts articles or price lists in german magazines I was just about to buy the Flyer at Power Computing and therefor face the dangers and traps of currency exchange rates (no EURO in GB).

At that time the Winner Fast EIDE Cont. first appeared in a Vesalia advert. The technical specifications given in the typical one line advert style sounded extremely like the PFlyer and after some consideration I ordered one and it arrived a few days later. I couldn't plug it in right away because of lack of time and of a GFX card replacement for my PicassoII which blew up with a nice "prizzle" sound that day. So about 3 weeks went by searching all kinds of fleamarket areas I could find on the net and in RL for a new PicassoII, but that's a story that could be told another time another place and it isn't that thrilling anyway.

The Installation or "Better look twice"

The installation description I got with my Winner Fast IDE Controller was a small manual in DinA5 format, which described the installation process in german. That's ok actually, as Vesalia seems to be only the distributor for germany. While reading through the text everything seemed quite simple. It's the sort of installation guide that says "open the computer ... plug in the device... don't use brutal force ... close the computer ... install the software using the installer script... etc.". Nothing really new to someone who's been useing an Amiga for quite some time now. For a better understanding they even inserted pictures showing the installation in some parts, which you should take a much closer look at, as I found out later.

So I started right away with disassambling my beloved A1200 Tower. As I came to the part of plugging in the IDE-Controller into the Kickstart-Sockets I was faced by the problem, that the passthrough pins of the controller board, where the kickstart ROMs should be fitted after the installation of the controller, didn't fit right. The spacings of the pins was ok and they slid in quite well into the sockets, but they didn't want to stay in that position. The installation guide wasn't very helpful in the section dealing with the fitting, either. It only said that you shouldn't use force to fit it. After reading the whole manual three times without finding a single note about this problem, I ended up using brutal force facing the threat of breaking something. But I had enough luck or "skill" :-) to get it fitted.

When I had everything put back together I was happily using my new high speed HD. So far so good, but shortly after the first bootup I did some speed testing with copying large files from partition to partition and got read error requestors, that dissapeared after klicking "Retry". Very annoying, but more about that

I searched the Internet about my contoller and found the "pages" of ELBOX and followed the link "How to install FastATA IDE-Controller". The pictures showed the complete installation process step by step but some pictures looked somehow familiar to me. I grabbed the manual I got from Vesalia and the pictures in there where the same as on this page! That is meant with no offence but the installation text nowhere mentions what is being shown on these pictures. And as I assumed reading the manual would be enough, I forced myself into trouble.

While browsing through the pictures on the Web, I soon discoverd something, that would have been extremly helpful in the installation process. The package I received from Vesalia did not only contain the contoller, the driver disk and an IDE cable, but also two plastic strips to bind cables (in german "Kabelbinder") together. I wondered what they where for and forgot about them shortly after. But now I saw them in the pictures being used to keep the controller board in place, stripped to the kickstart sockets ! So, no force had to be used nor would there have been a danger to damage something. You just had to do the simplest task possible, that even a child can accomplish.

Looking on pictures, the truly international language.

Well, life could be so easy sometimes, if you knew what to do in the first place.

The Usage or "It's great, but what's that ...?"

As mentioned
before I did some testing after everything was assembled back together and seemed to work right. I ran Diskspeed on some of the freshly formatted partitions and was extremely happy to see the controller get my HD near to its limits at about 6 MB/s reading and slightly less in writing. To get my first advantage out of the speed increase I decided to move my SYS: Partition to the EIDE-HD for a faster bootup. So I copied it from my SCSI HD to my new one and did the various things that had to be done to let my Amiga boot from the new partition. As I was ready I did a reset and waited. It came up much quicker than before, but what was that ! Shortly after the WB-Screen opened it halted, showing me a requestor saying "Read Error on Block #######! RETRY - CANCEL" In my first panic attack I did, what I thought, shouldn't hurt too much. I hit "RETRY" and it magically continued booting up. In normal usage I saw this requestor popping up very rarely. Mostly when transfering very big files (several megabytes) or big chunks of small files. But I couldn't notice any form of a real malfunction. I checked the HDs several times in nearly all possible configurations and no errors were found. The other thing I noticed was that my once rock solid machine randomly crashed while loading executables.

As a temporary solution I found out, that degrading the CPU-time hunger of the ATA3.driver and the HD processes belonging to it via a tool like Executor helps big time. It doesn't turn off these effects but it limits them to a acceptable level.

The downside of this setup is a noticeable decrease in transfer speed. I set all my HD tasks to "Schedule" with a "Nice-Level" of zero for a start. You should experiment a bit with this value until you find the most sufficent for your settup. be continued.

This article is NOT finished yet. Please don't base any decisions regarding this product on my small article, alone.
I still have some points to talk about, but after about 3 months of
interrupted writing I wanted to share what I've got 'till now.
(Especially as someone recently started a new thread in c.s.a.hardware regarding the Power Flyer)

Sorry, still under construction.

Under Construction

But you may E-Mail me, if you have any suggestions