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SubjectRe: Promise PDC20376
David Ellingsworth writes:
> On Fri, Oct 24, 2008 at 9:04 AM, David Ellingsworth
> <david@identd.dyndns.org> wrote:
> > I recently purchased a Seagate 1.5 TB drive to attach to the Promise
> > Fasttrak SATA 376 (PDC20376) controller on my Asus A7V8X motherboard.
> > After installing the drive, I went into the FastTrak setup and
> > configured a simple array which consisted only of this drive. At this
> > point I noticed the FastTrak setup could not identify the drive's
> > size, none the less it reported the array as functional upon reboot
> > and showed what appeared to be the Cylinder/Sectors/Head count for the
> > array. Next, I proceeded to install a rather recent copy of Kbuntu
> > with kernel version 2.6.20. The Kbuntu installer found the array and
> > installed without incident. However upon trying to boot into the newly
> > installed copy of Linux, Grub stopped at stage 1.5 with an error code
> > of 17. I've read that this error code is usually the result of Grub
> > not being able to identify the type of file system or that Grub's
> > drive mapping didn't match the one used by the bios. As I only have
> > the one drive in the system, it seems unlikely that Grub was
> > misconfigured.
> >
> > Upon having little success installing Linux, I attempted to install
> > Windows XP to see if it's boot loader suffered from the same problem.
> > To my surprise, the Windows boot loader also halted with an error. The
> > error was "A drive read error has occurred. Please press Ctrl+Alt+Del
> > to restart." As a result of both Linux and Windows failing to boot, I
> > believe this problem may be a result of firmware/bios used for the
> > on-board Promise SATA controller, which unfortunately is embedded in
> > the system bios.
> >
> > Asus's technical support indicated that even if this is the case they
> > will _not_ release an updated bios for this board. In any event, there
> > are a few things I have yet to try. Like (1) trying the latest kernel
> > version and sata_promise driver during install, (2) using a newer
> > version of Grub, and (3) attempting to boot the drive using another
> > SATA controller. If neither 1 nor 2 correct the issue and the drive
> > operates fine under 3 then my only option is to update the
> > firmware/bios for the on-board controller to see if it resolves the
> > issue.
> >
> > The current firmware/bios version of the controller as reported by
> > FastTrak is 1.00.0.21 which is provided with the latest Asus bios
> > release for this motherboard. After a lot of searching I have been
> > unable to find a firmware/bios revision newer than the one I currently
> > have for this chip. However, I did see that Promise has a 1.00.0.37
> > bios/firmware for their FastTrak S150 TX2plus card. This card uses
> > their PDC20371 chip and the features it provides seem fairly similar
> > to those of the PDC20376, but it's unknown if its firmware/bios would
> > be compatible with the PDC20376.
> >
> > I'm therefore left wondering what differences exist between these two
> > chips and whether or not using the firmware/bios for the PDC20371 with
> > the PDC20376 could cause any major damage. Can anyone familiar with
> > these chips foresee any issues or problems with doing something like
> > this?
>
> Since I put this out there, I felt it was important to follow-up on so
> others could benefit from my experiences. After extensive testing, the
> cause of the problems I've experienced are a result of a bug in the
> Fasttrak bios for the Promise 376 controller. Specifically speaking,
> bios interrupt 13h, AH=42 fails to read the requested sector from the
> drive despite the fact that bios interrupt 13h, AH=41, BX=0x55AA
> indicates the drive supports LBA extensions. The only known
> work-around at this time is to limit the size of the primary boot
> partition to 8GB or less and place it below the 8GB boundary where LBA
> extensions are not required to read the drive. I have contacted
> Promise concerning this issue and will provide more updates if
> anything metabolizes. Until then any users experiencing similar issues
> should use the work-around I've described above to boot the operating
> system of their choice.

For booting with grub only /boot needs to be accessible by the BIOS,
so it's common to make /boot a separate partition early on the disk
with / and other partitions higher up.

This is the first I've heard of any Promise SATA controller having
such lame limitations.


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