SUMMARY: SCSI CDROM drives for use on Suns

From: Ken Rossman (
Date: Fri Nov 22 1991 - 17:15:17 CST

[Sorry it's taken so long to summarize the info concerning the question of
third party CDROM drives on Suns -- been real busy here...]

In short, I've been looking to find out if I can use just anyone's
SCSI-compatible CDROM drive to simply READ CDROM's, not necessarily BOOT

The general consensus seems to be that, yes, I can, in SOME cases, get
someone else's CDROM drive and use that to read CDROMs. Points of
consideration include:

  - The drive's blocksize. If the drive offers 512 byte blocksizes (i.e.
    does 512 byte transfers), then it's *possible* the drive could be
    bootable (there are other factors), and also operate in standard 4.2BSD
    file system mode.

  - There's some question (at least in my mind anyway) as to whether both
    HSFS and 4.2 file system CD's can be read with equal ease, and this
    seems to hinge (at least partly) on the drive's (perceived) blocksize
    (see above). A 4.2 filesystem on a CDROM probably requires the 512
    byte blocksize. HSFS should not.

  - I understand that the kernel code actually checks the manufacturer name
    in the firmware, to see if it is either "SONY" or "HITACHI", and this
    is used as a table index for other drive parameters, apparently.

  - Most of the problems with using a third party drive hover around the
    way the kernel driver operates with the drive. Some folks mention that
    I *can* get third party drivers, and that they work OK, but others say
    the drivers are somewhat lacking.

So, the short story seems to be, yes, it's possible to get a CDROM drive
from many other sources that would work for simply *reading* a CDROM (not
necessarily booting from it), and in some cases both reading and booting
are possible (with third-party kernel drivers installed, at least).

Some third party vendors mentioned:

  1) Young Minds, Inc.
        Redlands, CA.
        (714) 335-1350
        (Software drivers to support CDROM drives other than Sony)

  2) CMS Enhancements
        (somewhere in California)
        (Sun compatible CDROM hardware)

  3) Kimberly Electronics
        Paramus, NJ
        (Sun-compatible CDROM drive + compatible PROM)

Young Minds was mentioned by several people writing in, as being a good
company to contact for CDROM software solutions (it was not clear whether
they did anything with the hardware, but I don't think so). The Kimberly
Electronics CDROM drive also got very good reviews (i.e. fully compatible
Sun CDROM drive lookalike, no problems with it at all).

In any case, I didn't state the problem I was trying to solve clearly
enough. If we were going to buy a NEW CDROM, I'd be getting it from Sun
most likely. But I had the opportunity to get an alternate CDROM drive for
SCSI in trade for some other equipment, so I didn't have the option of
picking and choosing from among the third party drive vendors.
Nonetheless, all of that extra information was tremendously appreciated,
and we will keep it on file for future use.

Many thanks to all who responded. They include:

'Robert (Fletcher) Williams' <> (Ron McDaniels) (Daniel Strick) (Geert Jan de Groot)
Steve Hanson <> (Russ Poffenberger)
Mike Raffety <> (Hal Pomeranz)
J Eric Townsend <JET@UH.EDU> (Barry Shein)
stern@sunne.East.Sun.COM (Hal Stern) (as usual :-)
tester@cmcl2.NYU.EDU (L Testerville)
"Jon Mellott" <>

Ken Rossman
Computer Center
Columbia University ken@cumin.bitnet
212-854-4876 uunet!columbia!ken

"You can't teach a new dog Ultrix"

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