Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

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Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

Postby DrTom » Fri Aug 01, 2008 7:45 pm

I am asking for information comparing the CFFA and the IIgs MicroDrive, which is described at

http://www.reactivemicro.com/product_in ... ucts_id=34

and comes with the following

IIgs MicroDrive/Turbo IDE Controller
a DUAL CF Card Adapter
a 128mb CF card
a USB Compact Flash Card Reader for a PC

plus the following software:
GS/OS v6.0.1
ShrinkIt
Copy II+
MicroDrive Utilities
DiskMaker8
DSK2File
DOS.MASTER
and different AE Memory Testers

The price is $185.00 plus shipping.

How does this compare with the CFFA card that sells for $95.00 plus shipping?

I am not trying to make any sort of trouble or controversy. I am just thinking about getting one or the other and would like to read comments comparing them.

Thanks,

DrTom
Last edited by DrTom on Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

Postby rich » Sat Aug 02, 2008 12:24 am

DrTom,

That is a fair question. To be honest, I have never tried a Microdrive so I can only go by the published specs.
Below is a list of things I think you should know when making your decision.

1) The first thing that jumps to mind is the cost. You could nearly buy 2 CFFAs for the price of one MicroDrive/Turbo IDE controller, and there is no chance it is double the value.
2) From what I can see the MicroDrive/Turbo IDE controller only works in an Apple IIgs or //e enhanced, where the CFFA works in any Apple II except the //c (which has no slots)
3) The CFFA now supports two devices with the release of v2.0 firmware. You would need to provide a IDE to CF converter to use a second CF card. (typ cost < $10)
4) v2.0 firmware lets you boot from any partition on either device. The choice can be temporary or permanent (via built-in config boot menu)
5) All Run 6 orders include a 16MB CF card loaded with all version of CFFA firmware, ProDOS 1.9 and 2.0.3, and Davex utility, Copy II+, the firmware flash utility, and copy of Dave Schmenk's Excape From Home Brew Computer club game in 3D low-res graphics.
6) The CFFA comes with a 90 day no-questions-asked return policy and a 1 year warranty. So you have three months to figure out if you like it or not. If not return it in good shape, and I will return your money, less shipping.
7) The CFFA is made in the USA. Which was important to me.

CiderPress for windows, included on the documentation CDROM, has supported the CFFA from the beginning and makes transferring files from a Windows PC to your Apple II a breeze. With Dave Lyons' GS/OS driver for the CFFA you get faster access and HFS partition support under GS/OS. Dave Lyons is also currently working on a driver for OS X that will let you read and write CFFA formatted CF cards directly from your Mac. He is also working on the new GS/OS driver to support the new v2.0 firmware.

To be honest, Henry has done a nice job getting Joachim Lange's MicroDrive to work like a CFFA. Indeed it may even be a little faster because it supports DMA and the CFFA does not. If I had to guess I would say the currency exchange rates are forcing the price to be so high. Not to mention that I will offer discounts to people buying 5 or more cards over a short period of time. The only restriction being that you agree not to just go and resell them.

But for many the deciding factor is that the CFFA project is open, you can download the source code and schematics for all of the software and hardware and learn something along the way. It was a fun project for me and I got to become member of the Apple II community that is still active.

Good luck with your choice, either way I think you can't go wrong.

-Rich
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Re: Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

Postby DrTom » Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:35 am

Hi Rich,

Thanks for all the details and congratulations on what really sounds like a wonderful project.

Best wishes,

DrTom
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Re: Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

Postby DrTom » Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:07 pm

On Friday, August 15, 2008 I decided to go ahead and buy the CFFA Card.
I'm looking forward to trying it in my Apple IIgs ROM1 with a standard
Zip Accelerator and 4 MB RAM card.

DrTom
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Re: Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

Postby DrTom » Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:04 am

Hello again,

I did it: bought a CFFA, and got it in the mail a couple of days later. Very well packed with
a CDROM. But Rich sent a note, saying he was temporarily out of the 16 mb CF cards that
he is now usually shipping with the CFFA, and that he plans to mail one to me soon.

I was planning on getting a bigger CF card, like maybe 256 mb, so I could have at least 4
partitions of about 32 mb, which I understand is the maximum size volume that's address-
able in ProDos, and ProDos is all I use on my IIgs.

I went to RadioShack. The smallest CF card they sell at this time is a 1 gb SanDisk Type II f
or $12.99. I got one, and with tax it came to exactly $14.00.

Before I put the CFFA with the new CF card into my IIgs, I turned the IIgs on, pressed the
Apple keyboard key (just to the left of the space-bar), held it down, then simultaneously
held down the control-key and the escape-key to enter the so-called Desk Accessories,
then navigated to Control Panel, and to Slots. I changed Slot 7 to "Your Card" and Startup
Slot to "Scan", then exited the Desk Accessories and turned off my IIgs.

Next I carefully inserted the CF card into the CFFA and then the CFFA into slot 7 of my IIgs.

My IIgs has
(1) A Grapple printer card in slot 1
(2) A Zip Accelerator card that is not overclocked in slot 3
Plus an auxiliary 4 mb memory card and a 3.5" Apple disk drive.

I put a bootable ProDos disk in the 3.5" drive and turned on the IIgs, which gave me a
message that the device in Slot 7 was not bootable. I was surprised, because I thought
setting Startup to Scan means the IIgs would be able to find the bootable disk in Slot 5,
Drive 1. I reset the IIgs using the control-key and the key on the upper-right side of the
keyboard with the left-pointing triangle. I've heard of this key called the reset-key.

Next I type PR#5 to boot from Slot 5, which my IIgs did, and I was in ProDos, where
I ran CopyIIPlus 8.4. Used the operation named Catalog to see, as usual, the 3.5" drive
in Slot 5, Drive 1, and /RAM in Slot 5, Drive 2, which I think is the auxiliary memory.

But now additionally I could see.

Slot 7, Drive 1, Non-ProDos Volume
Slot 7, Drive 2, Non-ProDos Volume
Slot 4, Drive 1, Non-ProDos Volume
Slot 4, Drive 1, Non-ProDos Volume
Slot 6, Drive 1,
Slot 6, Drive 2,

I formatted each of the top four volumes as ProDos volumes and left Slot 6 alone.

Slot 7, Drives 1 and 2 formatted to 65535 Blocks of memory. I think a block contains about
1/2 kb, if so, 65535 blocks is about 32 mb, as advertised.

Slot 4, Drive 1, formatted to 43741 Blocks, which would be about 21 mb.
Slot 4, Drive 2, formatted to 41810 Blocks, which would be about 20 mb.

I wondered why the volumes in Slot 4 did not format to about 32 mb, but it really doesn't
matter to me. The total of about 100 mb in the 4 volumes is more than I'll ever use.

Next I copied ProDos 2.0.3, Basic.System, CopyIIPlus 8.4, and Apple's ProDos System
Utilities Filer Version 1.1 all to Slot 7, Drive 1.

Then I began to copy about 4 mb of AppleSoft Basic programs that I've written over the
years into Slot 7, Drive 2. All went very well and the machine seemed run faster than it
did with a SCSI Hard Drive.

I turned the IIgs off, then turned it back on, and it booted from Slot 7, Drive 1.

Over the next few days I gave the CFFA a real workout. I did what I normally do, running
lots of the basic programs, which wrangle lots of data. Not a single glitch. I do not run
games or other sorts of software, so I can't comment on that.

In the past a few times a year I'd have trouble with my scsi hard drives or scsi zip drives
which were daisy-chained off an Apple SCSI Card. I think this was the last version Apple
made. I also have a RAM Fast SCSI Card that seemed to be less reliable, and a Focus Card
that was less reliable yet. I think in all cases the unreliability was due to the drives and to
the power supplies in the cases. The hard drives and cases were 15 to 20 years old, and
the Zip Drives were old too.

I've only had the CFFA for a few days, but I like it well enough to order a second one from
Rich. I'll put the second one in my other IIgs, which is just same but has an 8 mb auxiliary
memory card.

I think the CFFA has alleviated my main concern. Now I need to find a way to back-up my
data, which is about 3 mb. Too big for convenience with 3.5" disks, which each hold about
800 kb, and so would take about 4 or 5 disks. I don't want to use Zip Disks, unless I can get
them to run without a SCSI hard Drive on the end of the daisy-chain, which I've never been
able to do. Can anyone in this forum do it?

Maybe I need a DIY project like the one by oraclemaster at

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=123

which might be within my meager skills. If so, I could copy data from my "master" CF card
in my IIgs to a second CF card poking outside the back of the IIgs case. I wonder if others in
this forum find this to be practical, or is there a better idea for regularly backing up a few
mb of data?

I know I put a lot detail into this posting in the hopes that it may encourage others to give
the CFFA card a try. It seems like a very useful product and a good contribution to the Apple II.

Best wishes,

DrTom
San Diego, California
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Re: Compare CFFA and IIgs MicroDrive

Postby rich » Wed Aug 27, 2008 10:16 pm

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your business!!

The problem you are seeing with smaller partitions is actually with Copy II+.
See this forum thread for more information:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11

The post mentions Davex utility. I include that on the CF card I send with your order and which you will get with your next card.

Also, do check out Andy McFadden's CiderPress for Windows. It is the do everything utility for backing up Apple II files to your PC
and it is free.

-Rich
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