“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”

Bad Dog

I have just spent most of the day trying to get a large SATA disk drive working in my main Linux server. Some combination of Fedora Core 3, Linux 2.6.11, the Seagate ST32508823AS drive, the drive firmware (3.1), the SATA controller, my motherboard, my motherboard settings, my processor, my power supply and for all I know my haircut and the phase of the moon are conspiring to make this not work. Well, to be precise it works really well until I try and move a few tens of GB of data on to it: then, it stops working.

I feel like a dog wearing a collar that gives it a shock when it crosses the invisible fence line placed by its owner. Something huge and inscrutable has decreed: thus far, and no further; bad dog, don’t go there. I could spend another day and perhaps make some progress, or perhaps not. Experience has taught me that the odds aren’t good that I will ever really understand the problem.

So instead I will buy an equivalent IDE drive for less money than I could earn in the time I’ve already wasted, and it will work and the collar will stop giving me shocks. Perhaps one day I will find a system I can make this drive work in.

This is not the most satisfactory outcome, but all I can do about it is bark in frustration.

Have you tried Mepis? I always had problems of some kind, with every version of Redhat.

— jeff lawson on June 20, 2005

Hi Jeff, thanks for the suggestion. However, I think that the amount of effort required to try another Linux distribution (any one, not just Mepis) just on the off chance that it wouldn’t have this problem is way too time consuming to be worth it for me, by comparison with just swapping the drive out. That’s the point of the original post, really.

Also, I have to say that I wouldn’t expect moving to another distribution to help. If this is a software problem, it is most likely something to do with the SATA drivers in the kernel, and distributions all pretty much use the same kernel these days.

I’ve had someone else suggest that maybe tweaking some transfer parameters would help, and I may try that as it would be pretty easy to do. Alternatively, there are new kernels coming out all the time (and Fedora Core 4 just shipped) so I may retry from time to time just to see if the problem vanishes. I know the drive works fine under Windows, though, so I may just stuff it into a Windows machine and ignore it.

Suggestions are still very welcome. If I do find a solution, I’ll post it here.

— iay on June 20, 2005

Deja Vu all over again… remember SCSI…

At the moment I’m having a lot of fun with IDE drives in portable USB cases; they seem fairly compatible with everything I’ve plugged them in to - although if you have a system with only USB 1.0 interfaces and are copying files of some random large size (such as say 4.7Gb) they do take a depressingly long time to transfer. And of course USB drives are once again just a thin veneer over SCSI, which I once swore I would never use again in my entire life. (Using SCSI at Acorn had really scunnered me on it…)

Anyway, for the moment, I’d say stick with EIDE. Or as we say nowadays, PATA.

— Graham Toal on December 19, 2005

The end of the original story is that the SATA drive in question is humming away in one of my Windows machines with no problems observed whatsoever. A replacement Seagate PATA drive is likewise performing flawlessly in the Linux box.

Meanwhile, I have also had good results with external drives recently; I have one of the Lacie external USB 2.0 units as well as several RaidSonic “ICY box” external cases, both USB 2.0 and Firewire. Fortunately, all of the machines I actually use these days have USB 2.0, so performance is quite reasonable.

— iay on December 20, 2005