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Using the Zip Drive
Wolfram Gottfried firstname.lastname@example.org
USING IOMEGA'S ZIP DRIVE ON THE AMIGA
There has been a lot of writing and reviews of Iomega Corporation's
ZIP removable media data drive in the PC and Mac magazines, but finding
information on using this device with the Amiga has been largely a matter
of asking on IRC, experimentation and button pushing. This article is a
result of my efforts and experimentations, and hopefully will make it
easier for others who wish to make use of this versatile storage device.
WHAT IS IT:
The ZIP drive is a removable media, high capacity file access storage
device. For all practical purposes you can call it a removable disk hard
drive although technically it is not traditional hard drive technology.
Physically the drive is slightly wider than the slim-line Amiga external
floppies, about the same width as the old 1010 external floppy but not as
tall. The disks themselves are about 1/2 wider than a standard 3.5 floppy
and appromixately twice as thick. The ZIP drive comes in 2 versions,
either set up for SCSI connection or parallel port connection. You can't
(to my knowledge) use the parallel port version of the ZIP drive on the
Amiga, however the SCSI version works quite well if your Amiga is equipped
with a SCSI interface.
WILL THE ZIP DRIVE WORK ON THE AMIGA:
For those who are still unsure - yes the SCSI ZIP will work! Even
Iomega slips a quick reference to the Amiga in the instructions, giving a
clue as to how to proceed by mentioning low-level formatting the disk that
comes with the ZIP unit (which has PC and Mac software tools). And that
is pretty much what you have to do, but they don't give any details on HOW
to do this.
You don't need any special software for installing the ZIP on your
Amiga if you have OS 2.0 or higher. All you need is the HDToolBox program
that is included in AmigaOS, or use the hard drive preparation software
for your SCSI controller if it's a 3rd party unit. 3rd party SCSI hard
disk preparation software should also let you use the ZIP with OS 1.3 as
well. You WILL need a SCSI controller hooked to your Amiga, but a hard
drive is not required. The ZIP can act as a hard drive if, for some reason,
you have a SCSI controller but no hard disk. So a SCSI controller (with 25
pin connector or the correct adaptor) and either HDToolBox or 3rd party hard
drive preparation software is all you need.
When you buy the ZIP drive it comes with one ZIP disk that contains
Mac and Windows software tools. If you never intend to use your drive on
either of those machines, you can just reformat that disk. Otherwise you
may want to consider saving that disk and buying extra ZIP disks (they are
sold in both PC and Mac preformatted format, doesn't matter which you buy
since you will be reformatting them anyway) to reformat into Amiga format.
You'll probably want additional disks anyway.
Physically connecting the drive is easy. Either use the early boot
menus on your Amiga (or some other program that polls the SCSI controller
and reports back the device numbers for devices currently connected to the
SCSI controller), and set the ZIP drive to either device 5 or 6 with it's
built in DIP switches. If you have both a SCSI device 5 and SCSI device 6
on your system already, you will need to change your configuration around
to free up 5 or 6 for the ZIP drive since it only offers those 2 device
numbers as options. You'll also need to enable or disable the termination
on the ZIP drive. If you have some external SCSI devices, make sure that
only the last device in the chain is terminated. The ZIP documentation
discusses termination fairly clearly. Just make sure only the last device
is terminated and you should be fine. If the ZIP is your only external
SCSI device then make sure the termination is enabled. Hook up the external
power supply and power up the drive and Amiga. Boot normally and make sure
nothing is acting improper. If it is you probably need to check your device
numbers and terminations.
FORMATTING THE DISK:
You'll need to do this for every ZIP disk you plan to use with the
Amiga. It's exactly the same process as setting up a new hard drive
from scratch, just repeat for each ZIP disk. You can reformat the disk
that came with the ZIP drive or buy additional blank ZIP disks to use.
Load up HDToolBox (or other hard drive preparation software). I won't
try to give step by step instructions for every possible hard drive
preparation program available because they are all different. I use a
GVP controller and used the GVP FaaastPrep software to set up my ZIP
disks but the steps are basically the same. You need to read and save the
drive configuration (sectors, cylinders, low and high cylinder, etc),
low level format the disk, create a partition, write an RDB and then do
an AmigaDOS format. I recommend making the ZIP disks one partition
but if you decide to make your zip disks multiple partitions, make
sure you make them all IDENTICAL otherwise you'll have to reboot the
machine for every disk change. Keep in mind that the Amiga reads the
disk layout and partition information either from a dosdriver file,
the RDB of the disk itself or a mountlist entry and mounts the device,
you can't change parameters for a mounted drive. Keeping all your
disks identical in partitioning will let you change without rebooting
since the mount information will be valid for all of them.
USING THE DRIVE:
The ZIP drive, once formatted, works just like a hard drive or, more
accurately, a very fast 95 meg floppy. So using the drive is just like
using any other disk on the Amiga. There are a few things to watch out for
* Keeping all the disk partitions the same: As discussed above, having
disks with different partition setups could cause problems.
* Mounting the device: The ZIP drive will only automount if a disk is in
the drive when you boot your Amiga. If you want to have the ZIP device
available all the time (without having to keep a disk in the drive when
you boot), you will need to create a mountlist entry or dosdriver file
so the system can mount the drive without reading the RDB. Some hard
drive preparation programs offer the ability to create this file for you,
otherwise you'll have to write down the information shown when you
set up the disk for the first time and make your own. It won't harm
anything to leave a disk in the drive all the time. Iomega says in the
documentation that the drive can be left on all the time without harm,
and the drive has an automatic spin-down feature which will stop the
disk after a period of inactivity and automatically spin it back up when
needed again. It gets up to speed much faster than a hard drive so this
isn't really inconvenient. If the Amiga is booted with a formatted
disk in the ZIP drive, you can change disks freely (assuming they are all
formatted the same) because the ZIP drive will remain mounted until the
next reboot. If you can't come up with a workable mountlist entry or
dosdriver file, just making sure a formatted disk (with an automount RDB)
is in the drive when you boot will mount it.
* Booting from the ZIP: As long as you have formatted a disk, created an
RDB and installed AmigaOS on the disk, you can boot from the ZIP drive as
if it were any other hard disk. This could be useful if you need a custom
bootup or special configuration, but keep in mind that if you boot from
the ZIP and then change disks, you'll get the "Please insert volume"
requestors as if you were running from a single floppy.
* There is no physical write-protect: Iomega supplies a software-based
write protect and password protection for the PC and Mac, but since
the Amiga just uses it's native file system on the ZIP drive you don't
get these functions. In this respect the ZIP acts more like a hard
drive (which is also doesn't have a hard write-protect mechanism like
a floppy or tape would).
* Disk changes: The Amiga handles this very well as long as you don't mix
formats. Just eject the disk and the Amiga will pick it up, displaying
"no disk present" for the ZIP device. Put another disk in and as long
as it's formatted the same the Amiga will read it just like changing
* Networks: The ZIP drive seems to work just fine through the Envoy
networking system. Even disk changes are reflected accurately though
the network to all systems sharing access to the ZIP drive.
* Speed: Iomega says the ZIP drive will do approximately 60 megs/minute
sustained transfer speed. On my system I got around 980Kbytes/second
which is definately close to the manufacturer's specs. The seek time
is listed as 29ms, which puts the ZIP drive in the same range as some
slower hard drives and well ahead of most tape drives.
* Media durability: I can't say much on this because I havn't had the
ZIP drive long enough to make a determination. Iomega warrants
the media to be free of defects with a lifetime warranty, but the fine
print says that this doesn't cover normal wear (read the warranty on
most floppy disks or data tapes and you'll find the same thing). I have
not heard of any problems so far, but it's too new to me to give any
Despite difficulty in obtaining the ZIP drive (demend for these things
is very high and after getting mine I can understand why), I would definately
recommend it for anyone who needs more storage space and/or a backup device.
Having file system access makes it much more convenient than tape for
retrieving specific files. The ZIP is fast enough to use like a hard drive,
you can install complete software packages on it and run them from the ZIP,
or store your large data files on it. The disks are inexpensive (around
$20.00 United States currency) and you can use as many as you need. For
archiving and backing up, it's much better than using diskettes.
It may seem like installing one of these drives on the Amiga sounds
complex, but in reality it is no harder than installing a standard hard drive.
If you are familiar with how to do that, then the ZIP will present no
challenge at all. It took me less than 5 minutes from the time I opened
the box to have the unit physically hooked up and start formatting.
Formatting takes a little time. If Ioemga sold preformatted Amiga disks
for the ZIP drive, installing it would be easier than either the PC or Mac
installation. The machine I tested the ZIP drive on was an Amiga 2000 with a
GVP Impact II SCSI controller and OS 3.1