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Inside the Daystar Genesis base system
Nicknamed "Elvis" (aka the King)
Update: As I noted in the Main site news in fall 2001, I'm glad to see that XLR8 has solved the G4 CPU upgrade issue in 6 PCI slot macs. (Where having controllers in the lower 3 PCI slots caused problems, hangs, etc.) Other than a modified Newer Tech G4/400 card (no longer available as they're now out of business), no other G4 CPU upgrade card has even booted reliably in this loaded Genesis with dual SCSI cards (one in each PCI bus). XLR8's "SSE" (six slot edition) single and dual G4 CPU upgrades have been plug and play so far in this system. The single G4/400 CarrierZIF MPe SSE and Dual G4/450 CarrierZIF MPe SSE card have been totally reliable in tests with all apps I have on this Genesis. For more info on the XLR8 SSE upgrades, see XLR8.com. (The info below has not been updated yet for performance tests, photos, etc. of the XLR8 SSE cards or for the Voodoo5 PCI card now in the system - although the Video cards page has a previous review of the V5.)
Since the goal of the 'Ultimate Mac' project of 1998 was to have the best equipped Mac possible (within limits) the selection of a base system was critical. Several factors are of prime concern:
- Internal Expansion capability (7 Hard Drives!)
- 6 PCI slots
- 12 DIMM slots (up to 1.5GB of RAM)
- Power Supply - 300W
- Cooling - for internal RAID array, PCI cards and CPU
After initially starting out using a PowerTower Pro base system I switched to the Genesis for one reason - internal expansion capability. The seven internal drive bays with two large cooling fans were a major factor in my decision. The 300+ watt power supply also ensured that there would be plenty of power to handle anything I could stuff inside.
There were three drawbacks to the Genesis case - cost, limited external expansion bays and the soldered-in cache (not removable or upgradable) of the 9500 based motherboard. (Actually there is a fourth drawback - noise. If you demand a quiet Mac this is not the system for you.) This kind of case quality and expansion capability is not cheap. With the CDROM installed there was only one external bay available, I filled it with a ZIP drive for max. compatibility with the rest of my Macs and the world in general. The soldered in cache turned out to not be an issue with most CPU cards.
The goal was to have one of the most complete, fast and full featured Macs possible all in one case with no external devices littered about. I think I've succeeded in that goal.With faster CPUs, Video cards, etc. always appearing this will be a continuing project that will be updated with the best offerings as they are available.
The rear view of the Genesis case shows the 6 PCI slots, ethernet, ADB, external SCSI connections. Note the large power supply cooling exhaust grill at the top. Combined with the two large fans cooling the drive bays (and also blowing across the CPU card) the Gensis is without a doubt the loudest Mac I have owned, but then I'm not really sensitive to noise. I place it on a carpeted floor under the desk and the noise is simply one price to pay for the cooling required for a system running that much hardware inside the case.
Considering I'd have to have a 4 drive external RAID case to house the same drives the Genesis does internally, I'm not sure how much quieter another system would be considering the total package (system+external cases for drives) would be. Owning a Genesis is like having a very important piece of Mac histry (and keeping it alive). This Genesis is unlike any other Macintosh you've ever seen and we will likely never see anything like it in the future. Plastic and low cost/mass market consumer based machines seem to be all the rage now.
The Genesis case is large (tall) and heavy - it's far higher quality in construction that anything Apple has ever made - all steel construction and very heavy. It was obviously designed for the high end, not a low cost plastic flexy-flyer for the home market. Daystar really went the extra mile in most cases and remember this system was originally desiged to sell for $10,000 or so. It shows. Even their tech manuals show an amazing attention to detail rarely found these days.
Not shown in these pictures is the lockable side cover that is secured by captive screws. Another nice touch.
7 Drive Bays with Dual Large Cooling Fans
The image below shows the 7 drive bay area (empty in this photo). Daystar's harness has the drive power supply connectors properly positioned for each drive and the standard narrow SCSI ribbon cable also was made to 'fall into place' for drives placed there. Note that with a SCSI CDROM you'd not be able to have use all 7 drive bays (you'd be out of SCSI IDs). However with a PCI SCSI Card (Daystar planned for this) the drive bays are put to good use. I'm currently using two ATTO SCSI cards. Another plus of the 6 PCI slots and internal expansion capability the Genesis provides.
Drives Installed in Cage: The image below shows the drive bays filled (top to bottom) with a narrow Seagate Barracuda (on the stock SCSI bus as a backup boot drive), a wide SCSI Seagate Cheetah 4.5GB boot drive and a 4 drive RAID 0 striped array of disks (Atlas II 2.2GB drives). The Cheetah and RAID array drives are driven by two ATTO ExpressPCI UW SCSI cards. One ATTO card drives the boot Cheetah and two Atlas II drives, the other ATTO card drives only the final two Altlas II drives of the array.
SoftRaid 2.1.5 is used for both the Cheetah boot disk and the RAID array. It's simply the fastest RAID and single disk driver I've ever seen. Performance is excellent for both with Macbench 5.0 disk scores in the 1500+ range for the Cheetah alone. The RAID array delivered 55+MB/sec peak speeds even with the lower cost Atlas II drives. Next year I'll be replacing them with Ultra2 drives perhaps but for now they provide all the speed and storage needed for video capture and Photoshop work for instance.
6 PCI slots - 12 DIMM slots
The image below shows the PCI slot and RAM slots of the Genesis. As shown both are literally filled. Having 6 PCI slots is a real bonus - no need to make compromises on what PCI cards you want to use as is often the case in 3 PCI slot Macs. I have 2 UW SCSI Cards, two video cards, a Fuse Video Capture card and 3Dfx Voodoo2 card. That array is not possible in a 3 slot Mac.
Current PCI cards installed in the slots are:
- ATTO PCI SCSI #1
- 3D Overdrive (3fdx card piggybacks on MP540)
- FWdepot.com PCI Firewire controller
- ATTO PCI SCSI #2
- Aurora Design Fuse Video Capture Card
- Formac Proformance 3 Video Card
The original Ultimate Rez card was later replaced with a far faster (in 2D and the Ultimate Rez really blew chunks in 3D) Formac Proformance 3. The Macbench graph below however shows the performance with the IXMicro Ultimate Rez installed and has not been updated. Scores with the Proformance 3 can be seen in my review of the card.
(Summer 2000 Note:) If 3dfx can ever get the bugs fixed and the 2nd graphics chip enabled, I'd consider putting a dual-chip PCI Voodoo5 card in this machine. In my Voodoo5 PCI Review, I did some quick tests in the Genesis/9500 but only one of the two graphics chips are fully enabled in this 'unsupported' Mac (officially only Apple Beige G3 and later Macs are supported/warrantied with the Voodoo5).
Here's a MacBench 5.0 snapshot of performance as of Nov 98 with the above components:
Sure there are higher CPU scoring systems now but I still like this system. With internal 4-drive RAID, enough RAM for any task, video capture, dual monitors (Trinitron 20" and 21") and even 3Dfx support this Mac covers all the bases better than any single system I've owned as of 2000. (As of the time I'm writing this - who knows what the future will hold of course.)
RAID Performance: Although the SCSI cards are only UW (not Ultra2 or faster SCSI) and the drives are far slower than the current crop of Ultra2 or 10,000 RPM drives, the four 2GB Quantum Atlas II UW drives perform pretty well using Softraid:
If these drives were more modern models and the SCSI cards were Ultra2 or Ultra/160, performance would be much higher of course.
Sources of Genesis Systems and Cases:
Other Misc images of the Genesis
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