Death (and resurrection) in Paradise HHDD Part-4
The negation of a heinous symptom
THIS IS A NEW PREFIX INSERTED IN FRONT OF THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
Given the experience that prompted the original article, I don't want to simply remove it to pretend it didn't happen. Placing the criminals in the right context (prison, or a museum, or both) is a better way to acknowledge the sins of the past while moving on to a better future.
For that reason, I am not removing all of the test of the original article. I'm simply updating it to provide the latest status. The status is that we're running pretty well. I paid for PrimoCache, and had configured a 12GB L1 cache and a 284GB L2 (persistent cache) as a partition of a 1TB SSD RAID-0 pair.
Apparently one of the subsequent updates by Microsoft managed to fix the terrible mouse and USB audio symptoms that a previous update had dragged into my system. Now that things are fine, I'll continue to use the system, but the history will not be forgotten. It will serve as a warning to be vigilant in these matters so there is no chance to establish a new norm of prejudice, hatred, terror and horror. Oh, I forgot where I am, sorry, we're talking about computers, not US history.
Since that L1/L2 cache plan has had a few weeks' usage, I have learned that there's little-to-no benefit in running the persistent L2 cache. I think gamers with large layers staged in an SSD may benefit, but otherwise, it's a poor usage of SSD space for the way I need things to run.
I've settled on a single L1 cache. Right now I'm vacillating between 8GB and 12GB for the cache size, and experimenting with 4k, 16k, and 32k block sizes. The low latency of the L1 cache makes everything 'sprightly' and because the underlying disk speeds are high enough, there's little sacrifice in not having things pre-staged in an L2.
-Ted Gary of TedLand
October 8, 2018
<-- ORIGINAL ARTICLE IS BELOW -->
The Butler Did It
One of my favorite TV series is Death in Paradise. It features marvelous tropical venues, a fun cast of characters, interesting mysteries, and at the end of each show, a very thorough denouement.
For the unfamiliar, a denouement is the final part of a play, movie or narrative in which the strands of a plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.
That's where we are now. The HHDD project is dead. It died in paradise. It was a clean installation on a powerful machine with massive amounts of RAM, on an SSD and it died anyway. But, the plot wasn't simply that it died.
The attacker was trusted, subtle, and able to hide in plain sight. "Your Update today, sir?", he'd say in his carefully coiffed voice. Windows Updates are like vegetables you don't like. They're sometimes terrible, but very rarely are they deadly, and sometimes you're feeling better for having consumed them. Who would have thunk it?
Yup, Windows Update changed something that broke my mixer connection and broke my mouse cursor function. I could have overcome the mixer problem with a firewire connection, or a Dante upgrade that I had in mind, but there's no getting around a broken mouse. It's dead, Jim. The HHDD project is dead because PrimoCache can't co-exist with a recent Windows Update, and the symptom is that my mouse ceases to function.
So what happened? The first symptoms appeared when my M32 mixer would not consistently become the default audio device. It would fail to load its driver with a Code-10 error. If you research a Code-10 fail, the solution is to try to load the most recent driver. If you already have the most recent driver, then the Code-10 guidance is to try to load the most recent driver ... again. Insanity awaits.
I Thought I Could Fix This
I wound up uninstalling Windows 10 entirely (for the 3rd time). I formatted the SSD, and restored a March 14th backup image. Moving forward from there, I updated all the the maintenance to current level. Everything worked great (except for some trouble with the registry and time zone). I also had disconnected the motherboard Bluetooth of the Mac Pro, and the USB IOGear Bluetooth 4.0 is working great in both Win10 and macOS. I got it all settled down and proceeded to install the DAW, authorized plugin suites and generally moved in for the long term. I even worked on a current customer mix, and everything was well-behaved.
When I re-installed PrimoCache, the first symptom was that my Logitech MX Master mouse didn't work. No cursor. Hmmmm...I popped the USB RF receiver out/in, and the mouse worked fine. After a restart, the same no-mouse problem returned. After another USB pop, I decided to play an MP3 of a song that I'm learning. There was silence. The M32 was back to its old Code-10 ways.
The PrimoCache was only enabled on the W10 boot SSD, and the NTFS 4TB RAID-0 drive. Eliminating the boot disk cache didn't fix the problem. Elimination of the 4TB media drive cache didn't fix it either. Only a full un-installation of PrimoCache from the system restored everything to full function. I am brokenhearted. I had such high hopes!
PrimoCache is Dead, SuperCache is Deader,
PrimoCache is now on my list of great products that were un-done by Microsoft maintenance. I may revisit someday, but my search for an accelerator product resumed with the same optimism that has sustained me through decades of technical misfortune.
SuperCache was the leading candidate. I had rejected it before because of its $80 cost, versus $30 for PrimoCache. My test installation of SuperCache was an unmitigated disaster.
Win10 would not boot at all. It gave a blue screen saying that many horrible things are wrong, and "Your PC is broken". The Windows automated fix/recovery tools have never worked for me, and this time was no different. I had to (again, for the 4th time) install Win10 from DVD as a pro-forma installation, and then restore from my saved W10 image. Read that carefully. SuperCache had broken the Windows partition so badly that even a restored Windows image would not boot. I had to do a re-format/install from DVD before I could restore.
SuperCache has completely disqualified itself. So don't go near it. You've been warned. Here's the link to avoid:
HHDD Still Dead But There's Hope
So what now? I had a little trouble with the pair of 6TB Western Digital Gold Enterprise drives. The symptom was that they would intermittently just not show up for work on the NewerTech RocketRAID SAS controller. I sent them back and scored a good deal on a group of five 2TB HGST drives. They wouldn't work in my external USB 3.0 4-bay towers (but the 3TB HGST drives work fine in there) so I pivoted and installed the 2TB HGST's into the converted G-Tech enclosures. My patience with deadly mysteries was too short at this point to even investigate for root cause analysis.
The four 2TB HGST drives are configured as a RAID-5 group (6TB capacity), so I get some protection against a drive failure and the group reads/writes a little faster than 400MBytes/sec. That's good for the Fast Enough Doctrine and allows me to get some work done.
The top diagram on the left shows the disk layout as it is now, while the bottom diagram is the lamentable picture of what could have been. There are also the Windows AJA and macOS Blackmagic benchmarks of the NTFS 6TB RAID-5 array that will be my media pool drive for both Windows-based and macOS-based projects. I tested it in exFAT format. The speed was the same as NTFS according to the Windows AJA Benchmark too, but macOS Sierra wouldn't even recognize that the 6TB exFAT was there. Life is too short to fiddle around with stupid problems like this, so I went back to NTFS. Paragon Software's NTFS for Mac does a nice job as you can see in the Blackmagic results.
And...in the spirit of unending optimism, the MaxVeloSSD product has some promise. It's quite similar to PrimoCache.  Here we go again.
An Incredible Ending
So there you have it. It's a sad ending to a very hopeful tale of software acceleration. The whole thing was undermined by some routine operating system maintenance. "Behold the Underminer. I'm always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me."
- Ted Gary of TedLand
June 30, 2018