VOGONS


Reply 20 of 44, by Zeerex

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I have an almost identical NEC Versa except with a Pentium 90. One of my favorite laptops no doubt.

I use network to transfer files about so I have a 3C574 10/100 PCMCIA card in there. I just performed the following tests on both 98 and Nt4 which i have dual booting on it - the hard drive is an 8GB SD card.

Windows 98: 569kb/sec
NT4: 622 kb/sec

So these are similar results to your PCMCIA CF so you are at max bandwidth of the hardware and not the CF card itself.

Reply 21 of 44, by Socket3

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my compact flash experience is a dud

Same here mate. I've only had problems with CF cards. SD adapters aren't much better. Boot times are fine, but the PC(s) will occasionally "freeze" for 1-5 seconds during intense drive activity. These freezes also occur when installing games or installing drivers. It's a lot worse when trying to copy lots of small files off a CD or another drive.

So far I've tried IDE to CF adapters (a cheap one from china that plugs directly into the mainboard and is powered by a FDD molex connector) and a much pricier adapter that mounts to the I/O of the PC taking the place of an expansion card, and provides access to the CF card from outside the PC.

The cards themselves are not cheap, good adapters are not cheap either. Luckily I've hoarded a decent supply of IDE drives and continue to find them in all capacities, from 120mb up to 200GB. Sure, they can fail, and it's a PITA when they do, but out of over 100 IDE drives I own I've only had a 6-7 fail so far. I also love the noise a mechanical drive makes, especially older Conner and Quantum Fireball HDDs.

Reply 22 of 44, by Jo22

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Well, there's a reason Compact Flash historically was aimed towards professionals..
It was never intended for bloody lay(wo)men. 😼
That's what MMC, SD, SDHC/SDXC and TF are for.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 23 of 44, by douglar

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Any chance you can pull the negotiated and available PATA transfer modes for your storage device?
You can usually use run some version HWinfo or any of the other sysinfo type tools to find that info.
It is also helpful to know what kind of addressing scheme you are using( CHS, ECHS or LBA )

I find that info to be really helpful when investigating these kinds of issues.

Reply 24 of 44, by douglar

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Socket3 wrote on 2022-05-09, 17:19:

I've only had problems with CF cards. SD adapters aren't much better. Boot times are fine, but the PC(s) will occasionally "freeze" for 1-5 seconds during intense drive activity. These freezes also occur when installing games or installing drivers. It's a lot worse when trying to copy lots of small files off a CD or another drive.

That sounds like there could be transfer errors occurring between your storage device and your system.

Are your IDE cables in good shape? Are they wrapped around your power cables? Are there loose soldiers in your CF adapter? Is there a DMA conflict?

Reply 25 of 44, by Socket3

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douglar wrote on 2022-05-10, 17:59:
Socket3 wrote on 2022-05-09, 17:19:

I've only had problems with CF cards. SD adapters aren't much better. Boot times are fine, but the PC(s) will occasionally "freeze" for 1-5 seconds during intense drive activity. These freezes also occur when installing games or installing drivers. It's a lot worse when trying to copy lots of small files off a CD or another drive.

That sounds like there could be transfer errors occurring between your storage device and your system.

Are your IDE cables in good shape? Are they wrapped around your power cables? Are there loose soldiers in your CF adapter? Is there a DMA conflict?

Yes (one of the adapters plugs directly into the motherboard), no, no and no. And I've tested these in multiple builds using various cf cards. I did notice the issues occur less often with smaller capacity cards under 2gb. Also there's builds I've had no problems with - slow 386 and 486 machines using 512 to 2gb cards. Faster machines (k6-2, pentium 3) seem to present the issues described above very frequently.

Reply 26 of 44, by douglar

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Socket3 wrote on 2022-05-10, 18:42:

Yes (one of the adapters plugs directly into the motherboard), no, no and no. And I've tested these in multiple builds using various cf cards. I did notice the issues occur less often with smaller capacity cards under 2gb. Also there's builds I've had no problems with - slow 386 and 486 machines using 512 to 2gb cards. Faster machines (k6-2, pentium 3) seem to present the issues described above very frequently.

I have played with a lot of solid state storage on retro systems in the past couple years and I have not seen this except on this old Sata SSD with a PII-300 on a 440bx mobo connected via a Adaptec PCI card. It spaces out sometimes. It's a really old SSD though.

Probably confirmation bias here, but when I read your feed back, it sounds to me like you might see this issue more frequently on newer systems because the newer computers attempt to use faster ATA transfer modes, and the faster transfer modes are more susceptible to signal interference. Not sure how to test this unless you have a way to reproduce the behavior. You could switch to a 40 connector cable to force UDMA2. Some BIOS let's you force UDMA0

If you think it is in the CF, you could use a tool to send an ATA secure erase command to your CF device to reset it, but there's always the chance that this will ruin your CF, so only do that if you are willing to take that risk.

Reply 27 of 44, by Socket3

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douglar wrote on 2022-05-10, 19:05:
I have played with a lot of solid state storage on retro systems in the past couple years and I have not seen this except on thi […]
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Socket3 wrote on 2022-05-10, 18:42:

Yes (one of the adapters plugs directly into the motherboard), no, no and no. And I've tested these in multiple builds using various cf cards. I did notice the issues occur less often with smaller capacity cards under 2gb. Also there's builds I've had no problems with - slow 386 and 486 machines using 512 to 2gb cards. Faster machines (k6-2, pentium 3) seem to present the issues described above very frequently.

I have played with a lot of solid state storage on retro systems in the past couple years and I have not seen this except on this old Sata SSD with a PII-300 on a 440bx mobo connected via a Adaptec PCI card. It spaces out sometimes. It's a really old SSD though.

Probably confirmation bias here, but when I read your feed back, it sounds to me like you might see this issue more frequently on newer systems because the newer computers attempt to use faster ATA transfer modes, and the faster transfer modes are more susceptible to signal interference. Not sure how to test this unless you have a way to reproduce the behavior. You could switch to a 40 connector cable to force UDMA2. Some BIOS let's you force UDMA0

If you think it is in the CF, you could use a tool to send an ATA secure erase command to your CF device to reset it, but there's always the chance that this will ruin your CF, so only do that if you are willing to take that risk.

You peaked my interest so i did a bit of research and experimentation. i used 2 different CF cards on my K6-2+ PC (K6-2+ 550 / Aopen AX59 PRO) and then switched to a Compaq Deskpro EN (1.3Ghz Tualeron + intel i815t) - they behaved similarly, with the faster system exhibiting more frequent freezes / stutters. The two cards used are a 16Gb Transcend 133x and a 8GB Sandisk Extreme. The problem lies with the cards themselves. Using a 40 pin IDE cable helped on the Tualatin PC, but the K6 was using a 30 pin IDE cable to begin with since it has a VIA 586B southbridge so ATA33 only.

The problem is CF cards are not designed to be used as a system drive in the first place. While my CF cards boast 60Mb/sec (sandisk) and 133x (150kbps * 133 = 19.48MB/sec) speeds, write speeds are slow. Very slow. An old 40GB Maxtor HDD managed a write speed of 41 MB / sec, while the sandisk card will only go up to 19 - and that's when copying a CD image from one drive to another. If I try to copy over my MIDI collection, the HDD slows to 20-22MB/sec while the CF card goes down to 2-3MB and will actually have periods when it will drop down to 200-500kb /sec. This is also when the PC would hang for 1-3 seconds then come back, then do it again. Concurrent reads and writes also slow the system to a crawl and it seems CPU usage goes trough the roof when this happens.

Read speed was noticeably better on the CF card on the Tualeron vs the HDD, and loading times for unreal tournament 99 seemed to be half of what they are when launching the game off the HDD, but I can't live with the shuttering and occasional freezing.

I never tried a PATA SSD, but I do have a couple of DoMs (disk on module) - one's a 32Gb and the other is 64. These do not seem to suffer from the same problems I encountered with the CF cards... I have the 64Gb DOM in a Fujitsu P400 thin client right now and boy is it fast. The 32Gb DOM is installed in a pentium II build (Abit BE6-II / Pentium II 333 @ 5x100) and again, it performs beautifully. It replaced the 16Gb Trancend CF card I had in there, the one I mentioned above.

Like I said, I've had no problems with CF cards in slow PCs. I have a 512MB card in my Hyunday Super-16 XT (XT-IDE ISA CF adapter) and a 4Gb one as easily removable storage in my POD83 build. Both systems runs great - so I'll limit their usage to these kinds of machines - but for faster PCs I prefer using hard disk drives. Disk on Modules seem promising. They cost about as much as a good quality CF card + CF to IDE adapter, and seem to be designed to be used as hard disk drive replacements. I got mine off aliexpress.

Reply 28 of 44, by chiveicrook

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If I try to copy over my MIDI collection, the HDD slows to 20-22MB/sec while the CF card goes down to 2-3MB and will actually have periods when it will drop down to 200-500kb /sec. This is also when the PC would hang for 1-3 seconds then come back, then do it again. Concurrent reads and writes also slow the system to a crawl and it seems CPU usage goes trough the roof when this happens.

I'm curious, are MIDI files usually numerous and small? This would explain a lot about CF card behavior. OS writes quickly to cache and then waits for CF card to make up its mind.
CF cards biggest advantage is straightforward ATA compatibility but they were never designed for random I/O and/or small files (well, maybe with an exception of some industrial cards).
For 486 and earlier systems CF cards are more than enough, for pentium class machines A1-class SD cards might suffice but for anything faster than say P2 it's better to use small SATA/mSATA/M.2Sata SSDs with adapters IMHO.

Reply 29 of 44, by Jo22

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I'd install Smart Drive for testing purposes.. Or FASTOPEN, as a last resort.

Also possible would be DoubleSpace/DriveSpace.
Sound like nonsense these days, I know.
But it would take care of small files in a better way.
Remember, each file on FAT takes up between 512B - 4KB, even if the content is merely a few Bytes.
DriveSpace could improve performance at some point, also (less IDE data traffic due to compression). 😀

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 30 of 44, by Zeerex

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I don’t know if it’s entirely scientific but I had a home server a few years ago with an onboard CF slot so I used that as the primary disk. I used for a while a UDMA labeled 8GB and it was fast as heck. But I needed for more space and got one of these supposedly fast 233x cards 32GB cards (not labeled UDMA) and I got the freezes described here. I switched back to the 8GB and never again. I just figure UDMA labeled cards are higher quality.

So I stick to UDMA labeled cards even today for anything I want to use as a hard disk and will be running Windows. The non UDMA cards are probably fine for DOS builds.

Reply 31 of 44, by chiveicrook

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Stumbled upon this, really nice reading about flash memory cards and why performance may or may not suck:
https://web.archive.org/web/20181027222214/ht … FlashCardSurvey
and this:
https://lwn.net/Articles/428584/

Reply 32 of 44, by jmarsh

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Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-10, 22:04:
Also possible would be DoubleSpace/DriveSpace. Sound like nonsense these days, I know. But it would take care of small files in […]
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Also possible would be DoubleSpace/DriveSpace.
Sound like nonsense these days, I know.
But it would take care of small files in a better way.
Remember, each file on FAT takes up between 512B - 4KB, even if the content is merely a few Bytes.
DriveSpace could improve performance at some point, also (less IDE data traffic due to compression). 😀

Wouldn't recommend this. Doublespace requires regular defragmenting to pack the compressed data as tight as possible and consolidate the free space, which would perform horribly (not to mention shortening the lifespan of the drive).

Reply 33 of 44, by douglar

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Have you tried using your CF's with a CF to USB adapter on a modern PC? That might be a good test to see if the issue is with your CF's or your vintage setup.

Socket3 wrote on 2022-05-10, 19:54:

The problem is CF cards are not designed to be used as a system drive in the first place. While my CF cards boast 60Mb/sec (sandisk) and 133x (150kbps * 133 = 19.48MB/sec) speeds, write speeds are slow. Very slow. An old 40GB Maxtor HDD managed a write speed of 41 MB / sec, while the sandisk card will only go up to 19 - and that's when copying a CD image from one drive to another. If I try to copy over my MIDI collection, the HDD slows to 20-22MB/sec while the CF card goes down to 2-3MB and will actually have periods when it will drop down to 200-500kb /sec. This is also when the PC would hang for 1-3 seconds then come back, then do it again. Concurrent reads and writes also slow the system to a crawl and it seems CPU usage goes trough the roof when this happens.

Two issues here.

First you really have to look at the list of available transfer modes presented by the device and the transfer mode in use. You could have the fastest device in the world, but if your device falls back to ATA-0 with your controller, things will be slow. The high CPU load suggests that there could be PIO going on instead of DMA or maybe some sort of IRQ storm.

Second, the blanket statement "CF cards are not designed to be used as a system drive" is a little broad there. CF's have been around for a long time and there are a lot of different types of CF. Some are certainly optimized for work loads that focus on a few large files. Others are tuned to OS style work loads like the venerable WD Silicon Drive CF that's pretty long in the tooth these days, but was designed to be an HD replacement. There are new CF's that support things like UDMA7 and trim that are not supported by any vintage PC. Sometimes these newest devices have a hard time negotiating a viable ATA transfer mode with older controllers. There's also a lot of rebranded junk that gets sold on ebay & amazon that can have unusual performance profiles. For example, I bought a DaneElec 2GB SSD that had an excellent performance profile. Tried to buy another and got something that looked the same but had completely different stuff inside it.

Device      Cache  Firmware  Available Transfer Modes        Tested As  Min Write     Drive Geometry        
DaneElec#1 1 KB Ver2.31 PIO 4, DMA 2, UDMA 5 : ATA-100 UDMA 5 11,157 KB/s 3982C 16H 63S 1.91GB
DaneElec#2 1 KB Ver6.01 PIO 4, DMA 2, UDMA 6 : ATA-133 UDMA 6 4,430 KB/s 3657C 16H 63S 1.76GB

They looked like the same device on the outside, but they ain't even close to being the same on the inside. I find it's important to look at the ATA info on the drive. I got the info on the daneelec CF's by running speedsys and dumping the report to text files. These tests were done on an Nforce2 chipset under MS dos 7.1

As for switching to a DOM vs CF, they are all just different flavors of Pata SSD, unless you find one of those really old CF microdrives. I've seen CF's that have the same guts as a DOM.

I prefer CF over DOMs because:
1) tough to get faster than UDMA2 unless you use a PATA female to female cross over cable & 80 conductor cable or you crack the housing and short pin 34.
2) they can crack old brittle plastic on around IDE pin blocks
3) tough to connect to a modern PC without a PATA female to female cross over cable
4) I've got a lot of CFs

But I do like the clean case that a DOM can give you and the ones with Lei Disk or HyperDisk innards are generally fast and compatible, even though I have an old Gateway with phoenix bios that doesn't get along with the hyperdisk devices.

Reply 34 of 44, by Jo22

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jmarsh wrote on 2022-05-11, 11:11:
Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-10, 22:04:
Also possible would be DoubleSpace/DriveSpace. Sound like nonsense these days, I know. But it would take care of small files in […]
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Also possible would be DoubleSpace/DriveSpace.
Sound like nonsense these days, I know.
But it would take care of small files in a better way.
Remember, each file on FAT takes up between 512B - 4KB, even if the content is merely a few Bytes.
DriveSpace could improve performance at some point, also (less IDE data traffic due to compression). 😀

Wouldn't recommend this. Doublespace requires regular defragmenting to pack the compressed data as tight as possible and consolidate the free space, which would perform horribly (not to mention shortening the lifespan of the drive).

Hmm. Maybe that's right, not sure. 🤷‍♂️ Due to the nature of compression, less data is sent to HDD/read from HDD.
Double Space worked just fine on my 4,77MHz XT clone with a MFM HDD.
There was no performance loss, as far as I can tell.

The whole matrer is a bit like copying ZIP files from/to an USB pen drive, I assume.
Sure, there's compression/decompression, but it's mostly done in RAM.
Or transparently in a TEMP folder on C:.
On a modern computer running Windows, I mean.
On a DOS system, PKZIP would need a physical location to do that.

Speaking about defragmentation..
There's that popular misconception that defragmentation is needed for the HDD only.
But that's not exactly true. The FAT itself needs it at some point.
If fragmentation is too high, data integrity is in danger.
So defragmentation is needed even on systems with SSDs at some point.

douglar wrote on 2022-05-11, 14:10:

There are new CF's that support things like UDMA7 and trim that are not supported by any vintage PC.

TRIM can be sent via both SATA and IDE interface.
The MSIDE driver in Windows 7 does use IDE, too.

There are some projects underway to make TRIM available from DOS.

https://github.com/abusetech/DOSFSTRIM
https://archive.org/details/trim_20190926

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 35 of 44, by jmarsh

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Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-23, 12:48:
Speaking about defragmentation.. There's that popular misconception that defragmentation is needed for the HDD only. But that' […]
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Speaking about defragmentation..
There's that popular misconception that defragmentation is needed for the HDD only.
But that's not exactly true. The FAT itself needs it at some point.
If fragmentation is too high, data integrity is in danger.

That is complete rubbish. FAT keeps track of files by clusters, each cluster index points to the next... It makes zero difference if they're contiguous or not.

Reply 36 of 44, by douglar

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jmarsh wrote on 2022-05-23, 20:57:
Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-23, 12:48:
Speaking about defragmentation.. There's that popular misconception that defragmentation is needed for the HDD only. But that' […]
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Speaking about defragmentation..
There's that popular misconception that defragmentation is needed for the HDD only.
But that's not exactly true. The FAT itself needs it at some point.
If fragmentation is too high, data integrity is in danger.

That is complete rubbish. FAT keeps track of files by clusters, each cluster index points to the next... It makes zero difference if they're contiguous or not.

Matches my understanding. Defragmenting fat volumes is not helpful for performance on solid state devices , is not necessary for data integrity and it increases write wear on the device.

Reply 37 of 44, by stanwebber

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maybe he's talking about fragmentation of the master file table. i know mft is a consideration for some file systems, not sure about vfat though.

i'm still sourcing a usb 3.0 cf reader. in the meantime i swapped out the usb 2.0 pci card with a startech usb 3.0 model in my other retro build so that should help some.

Reply 38 of 44, by Schule04

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For some SanDisk cards there's a tool to make them appear as fixed disks.
https://ozgurkazancci.com/down/set-compact-fl … d%20disk%29.txt
http://www.floutsch.com/pub/download/ATCFWCHG.COM

Reply 39 of 44, by LSS10999

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Schule04 wrote on 2022-05-23, 23:01:

For some SanDisk cards there's a tool to make them appear as fixed disks.
https://ozgurkazancci.com/down/set-compact-fl … d%20disk%29.txt
http://www.floutsch.com/pub/download/ATCFWCHG.COM

That doesn't work with recent Sandisk cards anymore, not to mention Sandisk crippled those cards even more, and that was a long time ago.

I've several Sandisk CF cards that, while work fine behind a USB CF reader, exhibit all kinds of issues when connected with a CF-IDE adapter.
- Some cards report 0MB in AMI BIOS (though they may report correct size in AWARD BIOS).
- I've a 64GB SanDisk CF card with very odd behavior: While it formats and works fine in Linux and other OSes, Windows will always see it as a 30GiB unformatted partition if it was partitioned or formatted outside Windows. Trying to format that card from Windows will make it usable on all OSes including Windows as a 30GiB formatted partition, destroying whatever old partition table and data it had in the process.

None of those issues happens when connected behind a USB CF reader.

EDIT: Great, that forum post's gone. Fortunately it was archived.