USB Floppy Disk Striped RAID Under OS X

Updated: 6-3-2003



by Daniel Blade Olson

The Quest

To create an RAID system under OS X using floppy disk drives.

WHY?
Why not? I had just set up my 2 firewire drives and thought, "Can I RAID USB Floppy DRIVES"? I happen to work for Y-E DATA which is one of the worlds largest manufacturers of USB Floppy Drives, so I have access to these things. I had just been going through a pile of returns testing the drives for failure. There are always a few that are fine though, so I got 5 of them for this very important scientific feat.



The Solution

The following instructions explain how this can be done.

This USB FDD raid was constructed using the following:

(1) One Bondi Blue iMAC 500 MhZ ( It was upgraded with a SONNET Harmoni G3 ) running OS X 10.2.4

(2) Five standard Y-E DATA 1X USB Floppy Disk Drives

(3) 5 random floppies laying around

(4) Generic USB 4 port hub

When I first tried to do this, I looked at my DELL running Windows XP, but unfortuately it does not allow USB FDD RAIDs. So, I turned to my new favorite OS, Apple OS X. Here is how I did this low-hi tech marvel.

(1) Connect the 5 USB Drives ( about 1 minute)

4 of the drives connected to the generic powered USB hub ( must be powered ). This hub is connected to the extra keyboard USB port on my iMac. The 5th drive is connected to the iMac's second USB port.

(2) Prepare the Media ( about 10 minutes )

I don't really even know if I really needed to format the disks, but I thought it would not hurt to start fresh and clean. I formatted each floppy diskette using a Mac OS tool called Disk Tool giving each diskette a MS DOS format type and labled each one with a number, "1" through "5", for cleanliness.

(2) Build the RAID ( about 6 minutes )

The RAID is built using disk utility. Mac OS X has two built in choices in their software based RAID. MIRROR and STRIPE. I thought I was going for speed more than security here, so I went with the STRIPE. If you want to know if it is RAID 0 or RAID 4 or RAID 5, you are asking the wrong guy. I build floppy disk drive RAIDs. All I know is that my FDD RAID rules!

Anyway, you drag each volume over to the RAID making thing and then click CREATE. After a very entertaining display of USB FDD flashing lights, whirling drives, and an interesting rhythm of spinning technology sounds, my RAID was complete. At first I thought it was screwed up due to the length of time, but it just took a while for the various units to meld themsleves into a single super duper kalimazooper floppy drive. Upon completion, I had a new SINGLE 4.22 MB floppy disk drive called UNTITLED. Don't ask me where the other MBs went. Frankly, I'm suprised I got this far. I guess this may be the RAID splitting the parity over each drive a bit, so I lose a drive? I cleverly renamed it to "floppy raid" denoting it's newly deserved status. But something was missing: it's own ICON. I made a new one with a cool RAID bug spray logo on it. This is supposed to conotate the punk rock and alternative nature of my wacky USB FDD antics.

(3) Use the RAID. ( turbo lightning speed !! )

This is now a 4.22 MB drive (acutally it is 3.9MB of usable disk space when mounted). I understand that carrying 5 USB floppy drives around is not exactly portable, but there is something special and amazing about the speed of this floppy cluster. It is really cool when you access the drives the way they flash each light and spin in no particular order that I can discern. It is of course faster than a standard single drive. I was able to transfer "DEVO Uncontrollable Urge.mp3" which is 3.6 MB in 32 seconds. That is pretty good.

 

Conclusion

I would have connected more units together, but I ran out of USB ports. For USB FDD RAID II, I would like to use the much faster Y-E DATA 2X speed USB Floppy Drives. I would get more hubs and go for the ultimate USB FDD RAID with 125 USB FDDs drives hooked to my trusty little bondi blue iMac ( I need the other 2 available USB channels for mouse and keyboard). I highly recommend that everyone using OS X try to build their own Floppy disk drive RAIDs. Hmmmm, I have a bunch of memory card readers here too. Maybe I should make a compact flash RAID now!

*UPDATE*

I have still not figured out how to make a monstorous beowulf floppy yet, but I have now made a new FDD RAID using DATA 2X speed USB Floppy Drives. Now this thing is really SWEET! It is like going from an AMC Gremlin to a Ferarri! It was able to transfer the same awesome DEVO song in just 16 seconds!

 

ALSO...

I have made a SONY Memory Stick RAID with 4 YD-8V10.

This setup does not have the same luster and appeal of the USB FDD RAID, but it works just fine. I used four 16MB memory stick cards. I need to expand the FDD RAID to have 127 USB devices to be the fastest and best USB FDD RAID in the world!!!

I have plenty of USB Floppy Drives, but I need more hubs. If you have one you would like to donate, send me an e-mail at
blade@ohlssonvox.8k.com.

The original article can be found
here.


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Thanks!

ohlssonvox is Daniel Blade Olson