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   REVIEW: Ami-File Safe Pro filing system from Fourth Level Development
                            By:  Jason Compton 
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Filesystems scare me.  I've had more than my share of run-ins with corrupt
root blocks, weird checksum errors, and lots of lengthy re-validations.
I'd really rather just leave them alone.

But Fourth Level Development came up with AFS, and IAM sent me a review
copy, so with my heart in my throat, I bravely created a whole new
partition so I wouldn't damage any of my data. :)

Ami-File Safe sells itself on the following ideas-

1.  It's faster than FFS.
2.  If your machine crashes or blows up during disk access, your partition
    won't have to be revalidated.
3.  Did we mention fast?

AFS is sold in two configurations, the User and Pro versions.  The User
restricts your installation in size--not partition size, DRIVE size.  You
also are allowed fewer partitions.  Pro, the version we are reviewing, has
unlimited usage.  It's also considerably more expensive--$40 vs. $100 (or
equivalent).  But if you're going to invest, you may as well go with the
unrestricted package.  No point in finding out you need to buy something
twice...

Installation of the package is pretty benign.  After that, you're free to
install a new partition christened AFS: and format it.

You'll be up and running in no time.  But I have to take time out here to
enter a major complaint.   I got my hard drive partition up and running
DESPITE the manual, not because of it.  For something as major and system
critical as a new file system, I'd like to hear the hows and whys, in
detail, of its functionality, even if I don't fully understand it.  AFS
asks you to put your data in its hands with 13 pages of documentation, and
it never really ventures into the "how and why" area, just "what."  So far
so good, but forewarned is much more confident.

AFS recommends you use at least 50 buffers.  Actually, the documentation
basically demands it.  So you may find yourself using more memory than you
might have chosen to otherwise, but buffers do tend to be useful.

AFS hard drive partitions can be made bootable--this is something to
consider for me, because the biggest cause of my machine crashes come from
my DH0: partition.  However, call me a wimp, but I'm just not willing to
trust my system files to 13 pages of documentation, despite its impressive
performance on a storage drive.  I've reinstalled my OS too many times for
that.

AFS does come with floppy version, and there is an AFS demo that allows
floppy sharing among those who don't own AFS.

AFS claims to be exceptionally good with huge directories.  I honestly
haven't noticed a big performance difference, except instead of hitting the
hard drive for directory information, AFS seems to have it cached away in
memory.  It still took a considerable amount of time to bring up the larger
listings.

Down to benchmarks...

For those who absolutely LOVE benchmark tests, here's your big chance.
Click  here  for the entire DiskSpeed 4.2 rundown.

(Note that DiskSpeed is unable to generate CPU ratings on the AFS drive)

The test system is my trusty A3000 with standard 030/25, 2 megs of chip and
8 megs of fast RAM.  The drive is a Quantum Fireball 730 on the A3000's
SCSI port.

Is it fast?  Well, the directory tests for AFS in general beat the hell out
of FFS.  On virtually every read/write/create test, AFS scores higher, and
once the higher buffers come into play, the difference is astonishing.

But benchmarks can be so...sterile.  So here's a real-world test, a copy of
a really large file from RAM to each partition, and between the two.

Test:

4483434 byte file (text), the Aminet 9 file database.

From RAM to:

FFS: 10.12s
AFS:  6.39s

From AFS to FFS:

12.87s

From FFS to AFS:

6.44s

Here, with no disk caching of any kind in place, AFS again looks to be a
whole lot faster than FFS.

The upshot: AFS is an excellent high-speed performance filesystem, which I
do recommend highly if you are frustrated with your current hard drive
performance.  Remember that the A3000's controller, while it supports
SCSI-II commands, does not take advantage of the impressive SCSI-II speed
enhancements, yet speeds well in excess of 1 meg/second were being piped
out of the filesystem in testing.

For the brave at heart, a utility is enclosed that will automatically
convert your FFS partitions to AFS.  Good luck!

Published by Fourth Level Developments
afssales@flevel.co.uk

31 Ashley Hill Montpelier            
Bristol, England BS6 5JA
tel: 0117 985 4455 
fax: 0117 955 9157

Distributed in North America by
Intangible Assets Manufacturing
http://www.iam.com 
info@iam.com

828 Ormond Avenue
Drexel Hill, PA  19026-2604
USA
tel: +1 610 853 4406 (orders only)
fax: +1 610 853 3733