Hardware Sucks

Once upon a time, I had a nice Hush machine with a PCI slot.  It had a SATA Multilane card in it, connected to an external box with three SATA CD-ROMs installed.  I used it to rip the CDs I bought so that I could listen to them.

It was perfect.  It was rock solid.  It was fast.  I got reading speeds of 50x — from all three CD-ROMs simultaneously.  So I got an aggregated speed of 150x when ripping a lot of CDs.  Life was wonderful.

Then the Hush machine died.  And I bought a new, spiffy machine.  That only had a PCI Express slot.  But it had USB3 and E-SATA. 

USB3/SATA adapter

So I first tried connecting the CD-ROMs via a mixture of USB3 adapters and E-SATA.

E-SATA backplane for the box

It kinda worked.  Ripping speeds were not impressive, but OK.  But it was unstable.  It would totally crash the machine like every twenty minutes.

So I tried going with a pure USB3 solution.  Good reading speeds, but equally unstable.  My guess would be that extracting audio from CDs via USB3 hasn’t received a lot of testing in Linux. Which is understandable, but it still sucks.

USB3/SATA PM backplane

Next, I noticed that the Addonics web site listed a SATA Port Multipler/USB3 backplane.  It seemed to say that it would allow just using a single USB3 port, and access all the CD players.  Perhaps that would be stable!

Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine print.  Accessing the drives individually was only possible when using the SATA Port Multiplier interface, and not the USB3 one.

SATA Port Multiplier card

So I bought a SATA PM-capable card, since the Intel SATA chipset doesn’t do PM.

It almost fit into the machine when I removed the bracket.  And it worked!  And was totally stable.

Unfortunately, it’s dog slow.  When ripping a single CD, I get only 20x.  When ripping CDs in parallel, the speeds vary a lot, but ends up evening out at 8x. 

That’s pitiful.

Which brings us up to date.  Today I got a PCI/PCI Express adapter, which  would allow me to try using the old SATA Multilane card.

PCI Express/PCI Adapter
With the Multilane card installed

Multilane plugs are big

 Now, installing all this into the rather small machine took some… persuasion.

 Bendy CPU coolers FTW.

I installed the Multilane backplane back into the CD-ROM box.

 And….  success?

No.

It’s stable.  It doesn’t crash.  But it’s slow!  Slow!  Ripping a single CD gives me 26x.  Ripping three ones in parallel gives me 10x per CD.  So it seems like it tops out at a bandwidth of 30x aggregated.  That’s pitiful.  My old machine gave me 150x.  Is that progress?

It just seems kinda inconceivable that the machine itself is the bottleneck here.  30x CD is (* 44100 2 2 30) => 5292000 bytes per second.  That is 5MB/s.  That is nothing.  The machine has an Intel SSD.  PCI speed is 133MB/s.  The SSD should do 250MB/s. 

But it doesn’t.

I almost feel like giving up and try to refurbish an old Hush machine, but I’m not sure I have the stamina.

Hardware sucks.

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