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Software Setup

Once you've gone through a basic installation procedure with the components of the DS-500, you will have a computer with an external hard drive unit attached. Next, you need to install the drivers for your operating system (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux drivers are included).

I don't want to be too hard on Norco, but while I found the quality of the DS-500 hardware to be good (I don't think the weakness of eSATA II connectors are Norco's fault), the architecture and quality of the DS-500's software is bad. Setting up the DS-500 compared to one of my home-brew RAID5 systems or the Synology CS-406 RAID5 NAS, was like playing a game of pick up sticks with a strobe light flashing. The software setup can be done, but it takes time. You have to put it down when you get frustrated, then come back later. And the way Norco architected this software is just plain irritating.

Given the terrible performance of the DS-500 when configured for RAID 5 (as I'll show later), the way that makes the most sense to me to use the DS-500 is to stripe all the drives into RAID 0. So that's how I'll proceed.

The first thing you must not do is to put the installation CD into your Windows computer until after it has booted up. If you forget, and your computer boots from CDs by default, your XP box will boot up into Caldera DR-DOS 7.05 complete with OAK extensions (Figure 7)!

DR-DOS 7.03 Leave the CD in the CD Drive on Boot and This Happens

Figure 7: DR-DOS 7.03 Leave the CD in the CD Drive on Boot and This Happens

Yes, DR-DOS 7.03. But wait, there's more. The reason the installation CD is bootable by a Windows machine is that the adapter card in the DS-500 must be flashed in order to switch between RAID 0 and RAID 5! The firmware flash method chosen by Norco is to have the user boot up in DR-DOS and then run the flash utility.

I believe that Mac people will be unable to switch between RAID 0 and RAID 5 because Macs can't boot DR-DOS (my MacBook Core Duo made a valiant attempt to boot DR-DOS [Figure 8], but ultimately failed). It is possible that Intel-based Mac desktop computers may be able to boot Norco's installation CD and flash the adapter card, but I was not able to test this as my Mac desktop is a dual G5 machine.

MacBook attempting to boot from Norco installation CD

Figure 8: MacBook attempting to boot from Norco installation CD

So don't pop the installation CD into your Linux or Windows machine or you will be taken off into the DR-DOS weeds.

Once you have the adapter in your computer, the eSATA II cable is connected to the external cage, power on your computer WITHOUT THE NORCO INSTALLATION CD in the computer. Note that the external drive cage always seemed to want to be powered on. I would plug in the power cable, and the drives would spin up. But once the power cable was in, the power on/off switched worked as expected. I did not have any problems if the external enclosure was on before the Windows computer, or vice versa. So I don't think power order matters.

Once the computer boots, you will get a prompt from XP that your computer has new hardware in it. But I was not able to install the adapter card drivers by following the automatic install procedure in the Norco manual. So you'll need to point the installer to the Norco Installation CD to /Drivers/Win2k-XP/Base/32bit and then install the driver as usual in XP.

Another installation hassle is that the adapter included in the DS-500 kit is labeled "Norco-4618". But when you point the XP driver installer to the proper file, you will see a driver for "Silicon Image Sil 3124 SATALink Controller" (see Figure 9). The 3124 is the driver to install for XP even though it does not match the 4618 labeling on the controller.

Driver for XP Stripe (RAID0) Array

Figure 9: Driver for XP Stripe (RAID0) Array

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