The idea behind the Medea Drives is a very good one: put all the drives and RAID controller hardware in a single box so you can have a RAID without using one of the precious few PCI slots in the new Macs (or PC’s.) I got the new drive, opened the box, and was pleasantly surprised at how small the case was.
The 64GB version holds 4 IDE (yes, IDE) drives and a hardware RAID controller. Setup went relatively fast, the drive plugged into the Adaptec 2940UW SCSI controller card just like any of the UltraWide drives in our office and was done. The drive didn’t mount right away so I consulted the manual, which suggested I simply re-initialize the drive with my drive setup software. I use FWB’s Hard Disk Toolkit for formatting and initialization of my 18GIG Cheetah’s so I tried that first. I spent a couple of hours with FWB and had no luck, so I called tech support and I was informed I should be using Charismac’s Anubus software.
No problem, although I wondered why that information was not in the manual and why the software didn’t ship with the drive. I tracked down a version
of Anubus that shipped with another drive and repeated the initialization process. This went on for a couple days and I eventually got the drive up and running. When it did mount, it sporadically crashed my G3, most notably when I was copying files larger than 600MB. Tech support at Medea suggested I go to Fry’s to buy an LVD terminator to see if that would solve my problems. Again I wondered, “Why isn’t this in the manual?” and “Why didn’t one ship with the drive?” I drove to Fry’s in Burbank and the salesman there assured me he had never heard of a Low Voltage Differential terminator so I returned to the office and decided I was just about done spending time on the drive.
Medea sent a rep out with a new drive to try to remedy my problems and we got the new drive up and running. It seemed to work fine if it was at SCSI address. At least, it did while he was at my office. It crashed soon after the Medea rep left and continued to hang my computer intermittently when I used it. I also tried the new drive on our Media 100 system with inconsistent results. I understand that sometimes you just get a lemon and I would rather write a good review of a working product than what you’ve read, so when Medea offered to get me one of their new 150GB 6 drive boxes, I agreed.
Success, at last
The 150 arrived three weeks later and we plugged it into our Media 100 system. We again had trouble connecting the Medea drive to a SCSI chain with UltraWide drives. When we used only the 150 with the LVD terminator (that now ships with the drive) we got the drive running and capturing video from our Digi Beta deck at 300k per frame in the Media 100. The performance was great and we had no problem doing a cross dissolve between two video streams and playing it back in real time. By the time you read this Medea says they will be certified on the Media 100 system.
The working drive’s performance would certainly warrant certification, however the reliability of the drive still remains an issue. The Medea rep suggested we try buying the latest ATTO Ultra2 card to solve the compatibility problem with our Ultra-Wide drives. We bought the Adaptec 2940U2W card and eventually got the card working. Now our 150 is currently capturing and playing back movies with the Media 100 consistently although we still could not get our UltraWide drives to work on the same chain.
No RAID drive is a plug-and-play solution and the Medea drives are no exception, they all require more routine maintenance and care than single drive solutions.
In fairness to Medea, we have had little luck consistently using 2 Cheetah’s striped with FWB’s SoftRaid, so unless we are using our Media 100 and absolutely have to have the performance, we avoid RAIDs like the plague. The 150GB Medea at 25MB per dollar and 5MB per second thoughput are outstanding values and the idea behind the drive is a great one.
Medea is getting close to working out their remaining problems; They obviously have the drives working fine in their office or they wouldn’t send them out for review. If you have the time to experiment with your SCSI chain and aren’t in a situation where you need to use UltraWide drives on the same chain as the Medea, consider their drive.
Kory Jones is a partner at Reality Check Studios and a faculty member at the American Film Institute.