Contents | < Browse | Browse >

===========================================================================
                           Review: AppleCD 600e
  Peter Eriksson                                         ptr@solace.mh.se
===========================================================================

PRODUCT NAME

  AppleCD 600e

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

  The AppleCD 600e is an quad speed external SCSI-2 CD-ROM unit.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

  Name:     Apple Computer AB
  Address:  P.O. Box 31
            S-164 93 Kista-Stockholm
            SWEDEN

  [Please note that Apple has subsidiaries and distributors in other
  countries as well.]

  Telephone:  +46 (0) 8-703 30 00
  FAX:        Unknown

  E-mail:          Unknown
  World Wide Web:  http://www.apple.se   (Swedish site)
                   http://www.apple.com  (International site)

COMPONENTS SUPPLIED IN PACKAGE

  AppleCD 600e CD-ROM unit
  Power cord
  SCSI terminator
  SCSI "System" cable (25 pins to 50 pins style)
  Warrenty statement
  Macintosh software license agreement
  Registration sheet + envelope for the sheet
  Apple Assistance information pamphlet
  List of world wide Apple subsidiaries and distributors
  User manual
  Macintosh CD-ROM Installation software on CD
  MacWorld commercial pamphlet

LIST PRICE

  Unfortunatly I don't know what list price Swedish Apple has set.  I
purchased my CD-ROM unit on a sale for 1499 SEK (about $225 (US), DM
340,-).

DEMO VERSION

  None.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

  HARDWARE

    SCSI controller required.

  SOFTWARE

    A CD-ROM filesystem, such as "CDFileSystem" as found on the 3.1
    Workbench disks.

COPY PROTECTION

  None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

  Amiga 3000/25, 4 MB Fast RAM, 2 MB Chip RAM.
    Maxtor 120MB 7210SR internal hard disk.
  NEC Multisync-II multisync monitor.
  AmigaOS 3.1.
  CDFileSystem filesystem version 40.9 (used at first...)
  AmiCDROM filesystem version 1.15 (... and then replaced by AmiCDROM)

INSTALLATION

  Because the unit itself is external, you will have to connect it to your
SCSI controller somehow.  On my Amiga 3000, this is easily done using the
'system' cable that comes with the CD-ROM unit.  If the unit is to be
connected to another device on a daisy-chain, a SCSI 'peripheral' cable is
required.  Such a cable is not included with the AppleCD 600e package.

  If the CD-ROM is the last device on the external chain of SCSI units, it
has to be equipped with a 'terminator'.  The terminator is a resistor that
tells the SCSI controller that this is the last device on a given chain of
devices.  A terminator that plugs right into one of the AppleCD's two SCSI
busses is supplied with the package.

  In order for the Amiga to communicate with the unit, a software
filesystem has to be mounted.  Users of Workbench 3.0 and above already
have one in the L: directory.  This filesystem is henceforth referred to as
'CDFilesystem'.  Although this filesystem is capable of dealing with CDs
made for the Amiga, it lacks certain features third party filesystems
display.  Users who wants unlock their CD-ROM unit's full potential should
look for a filesystem replacement.  (Note: The user manual mentions Audio
CD, CD-ROM, CD-ROM XA, CD+I, Photo CD, Video CD, CD+MIDI and CD+G as
compatible Apple 600e CD-ROM formats.)

  In theory, the installation process should be a breeze.  Just plug an
appropriate SCSI cable into the last device on the (external) daisy-chain
and attach a terminator if the CD-ROM is the last piece of equipment on the
chain.  But then, this is in theory.  This process showed to be more
troublesome than first expected.  More on this later.

REVIEW

  'This should be pretty much painless', I thought while connecting the
SCSI cable to my Amiga 3000, 'Just plug in the CD-ROM, power up the
computer and mount CD0:.'.  Yes, it _should_ be pretty much painless, but
then there is Murphy's Law.  I followed the instructions step by step as
prompted by the manual, turned on the AppleCD 600e and then the computer
itself.  Nothing.  Then nothing.  Then the "Insert Workbench floppy"
animation.  'Great.  The hard disk won't boot.'.  I powered down everything
and double checked the terminator and the SCSI cable.  Everything did seem
to be in order, so I decided to power up the computer again with the CD-ROM
turned off, just to check whether or not my Amiga would boot from the hard
disk like it had during the last three years.  No problem, everything
worked like a charm, just like it always had.  'Oh well', I said, 'I'll
figure out why the computer won't boot with the CD-ROM turned on at first
later.'.  Anxiously, I wanted to mount the CD filesystem.  I turned on the
CD-ROM unit again, this time during the boot.  As soon as the Amiga had
finished the boot sequence, I put a CD in the slot and mounted CD0:.
Again, nothing.  No icons showing up on the Workbench desktop, no device
entry for CD0: reported by "C:Info".  It appeared like my CD-ROM was
configured as SCSI ID 3 by default.  CDFileSystem on the other hand expects
the CD-ROM to use ID 2.  I changed the unit's ID to 2 as described by the
manual.  This is done by pushing the tip of a pen into a small hole on the
back of the unit, just like you set the time on most digital wrist clocks.
I powered up the CD-ROM again, mounted CD0: again and...  it worked!

  I took a brief look at my Amiga's hard disk LED.  'Now what' I cried out,
getting tired of all these new problems piling up like unpaid bills on the
kitchen table.  The LED.  It was flashing.  Every three seconds, that damn
thing flashed!  No hard disk activity and still, it flashed!  I later
learned that this is normal behavior of CDFileSystem.  The filesystem is
polling the CD-ROM unit to check for new CDs being removed and inserted,
pretty much like the Amiga checks for floppies (thus the clicking sound). 
Everytime a poll is made, the hard disk LED flashes.  This may sound odd,
and it is if you like me don't know about the A3000's hard disk LED
actually being a "SCSI" LED.  The LED displays the SCSI controller's
activity meaning every action undertaken by any SCSI unit, may it be
internal or external, will be reflected by the "hard disk" LED.  (This
"problem" was solved by a lot of helpful people responding to an article I
submitted to two USENET Amiga newsgroups.)

  Still, one problem remained.  When I for some reason had to reboot the
computer without a CD in the AppleCD 600e unit, nothing happend.  Annoying
yes, but I soon found out that the computer would boot from the hard disk
as soon as I put a data CD into the unit or after waiting perhaps half a
minute.  I wasn't content with this solution, however.  This shouldn't
simply be.  Some intense e-mail correspondence with Claus Pedersen, Denmark
sorted things out.  To quote Clauss: "Having a normal ISO CD placed in the
drive, usually shortens the wait period".  So what is the cause of the
period of waiting then?  Well, it has to do with the CD-ROM unit looking
for a boot strap.  If no CD is placed in the unit, it'll continue to search
until it timed out by the SCSI controlled.  However, if a CD is inserted
during this process or before it even started the CD-ROM will stop looking
for boot straps unless, of course, there is one in which case it will boot
from the CD instead from the hard disk.  As I don't have access to any
bootable CDs right now, I havn't had a chance to test booting off CDs. 
(There are other means of getting around this problem.  Since this is a
review I won't go into any details here and now.  Please get in touch with
me if you have any questions regarding this matter.)

  I thought I'd wrap up the review with some benchmarks I made.  I ran this
script using CDFileSystem version 40.9, then AmiCDROM version 1.15 and
finally AmiCDFS version 2.37 (unregistrated).

Date
Copy sprintsos1:games/entertn1/depth.zip RAM: QUIET
Date

  The CD used for the benchmarks is 'Super OZ Shareware Volume 1'.  Sorry
to say, I had no Amiga CD available with files larger than one megabyte so
I had to use a friend's CD instead.  The file "depth.zip" is 1452051 bytes
large.

CDFileSystem version 40.9 takes 21 seconds to complete this operation,
which translates to approximatly 67 KB/second (1452051 / 21 / 1024).

AmiCDROM version 1.15 takes 4 seconds to complete this operation, which
translates to approximatly 354 KB/second (1452051 / 4 / 1024).

AmiCDFS version 2.37 takes 21 seconds to complete this operation, which
translates to approximatly 67 KB/second (1452051 / 21 / 1024).

  A quad speed CD-ROM _should_ be able to read 600 KB/second (4 * 150). 
Obviously, this isn't the case with any of the filesystems I've tested.
The performance may however boost with different CD0: mountlist parameters.
This hasn't been tested because no filesystem's documenation mentions
AppleCD 600e preferable settings.

DOCUMENTATION

  71 pages of printed assistance is what Apple has put into the package,
besides all commercial pamphlets, warrenty cards et cetra.  The
documentation probably covers everything the average Macintosh users needs
to know, from installing the hardware itself to installing the supplied
Macintosh software.  Being an Amiga user, it is hard to rate the
documentation.  On one hand, I could say that the manual is real lousy not
mentioning any of the problems I experienced, on the other hand I could say
this product is intended for users of Apple computers.

  In short terms - an Amiga user may need additional sources of related
documentation to get everything up and running.  Something like this
review.  :)

LIKES

  Once you get to know it, the Apple 600e CD-ROM unit does what it is
supposed to do with no quirks.  'No less, no more' as some would put it.  A
more interesting discussion would be the interface between the CD-ROM and
the Amiga, i.e.  the filesystem.  Whatever the CD-ROM is up to must be
matched by the filesystem.  Now if the filesystem can't keep up with the
CD-ROM in some aspect, we do have a bottle-neck.  'A chain isn't stronger
than its weakest link' as the Swedish saying goes.  This is also the case
with the filesystem you intend to use for the CD-ROM unit.

DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

  Just as I can't find much about the unit itself to like, I don't find
much to dislike neither.  I repeat myself - the unit does what it is
supposed to do with no quirks.  One thing I think should be improved
however, is the location of the headphone jack.  The outlet is placed just
underneath the CD slot which makes it hard to access when the slot is in
its 'outward' position.

  The unit has its power transformer built-in.  In case you own the
original Commodore 1541 5.25" floppy drive, you know what I'm getting at. 
Since the transformer is internal, the unit tends to be quite warm after
some time of usage.  In the case of the C1541, this caused problems when
certain circuits in the drive expanded and shorted out when in contact with
other components.  I don't think this is the case with technology of the
mid 90's, but then again, nothing is wrong with precaution.  Not to mention
the unit gets really dull with a built-in transformer.  (Note: the C1541's
sucessor, the C1541-II has an external transformer.)

COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

  Since I never had the chance to play with CD-ROM equipped Amigas before
besides the CDTV and its cousin the CD32, there isn't much to say here.

BUGS

  At the time of writing no bugs have been found.

VENDOR SUPPORT

  Apple has something they calle 'Apple Assistance'.  You register by
sending your Apple subsidiary or distributor a provided registration sheet.
As soon as Apple validates your registration you get 90 days of free
support per phone, plus either three free issues of Swedish magazine
'Svenska MacWorld' (Swedish MacWorld) or a 45% discount on a full year
subscription of the very same magazine.  Offers similar to this may vary
from country to country.

WARRANTY

  The chain of stores I bought my Apple 600e CD-ROM unit from gives one
year of product warrenty.  Apart from this warrenty, Apple has a world wide
warrenty, also limited to one year.  Apple's warrenty applies to every
country on the face of the Earth, provided you have a proof of purchase
from an authorized Apple dealer.

CONCLUSIONS

  I'm pleased with my purchase.  I've wanted a CD-ROM for my Amiga 3000 for
years, but external SCSI CD-ROM units have always been rather expensive
compared to e.g.  internal IDE CD-ROM units.  This all changed on that
magic sale.  :) The AppleCD 600e works just the way you expect it to work
once you know what normal Amiga 3000 SCSI behavior means.  No quirks, no
fuzz.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

  Copyright 1996 Peter Eriksson (ptr@solace.mh.se)
  Permission hereby given to Amiga Report magazine for publication.