Tag Archives | FireWire

FireWire: It’s Baaaaaaaaaaaack!

FireWire HaloOf all the news that came out of Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote, one tidbit that didn’t get much attention is worthy of note: Apple’s refresh of its 13-inch laptop brought back the FireWire port that had been removed when the first 13-inch unibody MacBook shipped last October. In fact, Apple upgraded the connection, giving the new laptop a FireWire-800 port rather than the FireWire-400 one it had done away with last year. The return of FireWire in even beefier form is presumably a big part of why Apple was comfortable in redubbing the laptop that had been known as a mere MacBook as a MacBook Pro. Among Macs, only the MacBook Air, a computer so thin it barely has room for ports at all, lacks FireWire.

It’s a truly surprising development. Apple has historically been aggressive about erring on the side of removing technologies from its computers early, and while it often catches flack at the time, other PC manufacturers tend to fall into line eventually. When it killed FireWire on the 13-inch MacBook last year it made lots of folks very angry, but Steve Jobs himself apparently thought it was not a big deal. And so did I. In fact, I thought that other Macs would begin to lose their FireWire. I was wrong.

I can’t think of another instance in which Apple has moved to retire a technology and then changed its mind. (If there have been any, I know you’ll tell me.) It’s a little as if the second-generation iMac had brought back the floppy drive.

I’m still guessing that the company’s instinct is that FireWire is at the beginning of the end of its useful life, and that we’ll see lower-end Macs without it in the not-too-distant future. But for now, score one for FireWire fans–and for Apple, too, since it showed it was listening.

Me, I’m more excited about the fact that the company is finally shipping laptops with built-in slots for SD cards…


A Partial Cure for the No-MacBook-FireWire Blues

I’m thinking this is my final post on the lack of FireWire on Apple’s new MacBook, but it might help some of the folks who are in mourning. If what you’re sad about losing is Apple’s FireWire Target Disk Mode–which lets you copy files back and forth between two Macs via a FireWire cable–you can get a rough USB approximation in Targus’s Targus for Mac File Transfer Cable.

It’s a $50 cable that lets you connect two Macs–or a Mac and a Windows PC, or two Windows PCs–and shuttle files between them. One end of the cable has a lump (see above), and the lump contains Mac and Windows software that shows the folders on both computers and allows you to drag and drop folders and files:

Since the software’s in the cable, there’s no need to install anything (you just launch it directly from the cable). And unlike Target Disk Mode, you don’t need to reboot one computer and put it in a mode that doesn’t let you do anything else. If you’ve been using computers as long as I have, the whole experience will remind you of using Laplink.

I haven’t done any speed comparisons between this cable and Target Disk Mode–lemme know if you’re curious, and if there’s enough demand, I’ll try to do some.

Not everybody needs this cable–if your computers are both on a network, you can move files between them without any additional cost–but it does what it does nicely, and might be worth the investment–especially if you’ve got multiple Macs and Windows PCs.

I do think that Apple will eventually make Target Disk Mode work with USB connections; I make no predictions about when that may happen, though…


FireWire Isn’t Alone: A Brief History of Features Apple Has Killed

Apple has a storied history of being the first company to introduce an array of new technologies in its computers, or among the very first, at least. It all started with color graphics in 1977’s Apple II and continuied features such as graphical user interfaces, Firewire, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and light-up keyboards–and items such as the buttonless touchpads on its new laptops. But it’s just as core to the company’s character that it’s often the first company to kill a technology if it appears to be heading for the dustbin of computing history.

Which is causing a bit of a firestorm this week: The new MacBook has no FireWire port, and some Apple fans are very, very unhappy about that. In our T-Poll on the topic, 49% of respondents are pretty ticked off, and 85% think FireWire still has life in it; only 10 percent applaud Apple’s decision.

It looks like Steve Jobs isn’t terribly sympathetic: He allegedly sent a brief e-mail to an unhappy customer pointing out that USB has been standard equipment on new HD camcorders for several years. Which is true, but may not pacify folks with camcorders that are FireWire only. Or who like FireWire’s speed for external hard drives. Or who just have trouble giving up technologies that they know and love.

(Side note: Some pundits snipe at Jobs for the fact that his e-mails in response to Apple customers are usually extremely brief. Me, I’m impressed that he finds the time to send ’em at all–and what the e-mails lack in diplomacy, they make up for in honesty.)

Like I say, Apple would clearly prefer to move too fast rather than too slowly when it comes to eliminating technologies that may be past their prime. I don’t know if anyone from the company has ever explained its rationale, but I presume it stems from a desire to save money; t remove components and therefore reduce weight and bulk; and maybe simply to simply remove clutter from the clusters of ports on its computers. I know of no instances in which feedback from angry customers caused it to reverse its decisions. Nor of any where most PC manufacturers didn’t eventually follow its lead.

Shall we review the evidence?

Continue Reading →


The T-Poll: Is the Death of MacBook FireWire an Outrage?

A couple of days ago when I posted my initial thoughts on the new Apple MacBooks and MacBook Pros, I declared that the lack of FireWire on the new MacBook was no big deal. Several commenters begged to differ with me. And now Computerworld has a good story by Gregg Keizer reporting that hundreds of angry users are bemoaning the MacBook’s lack of FireWire in Apple’s own forums.

When I said that the death of MacBook FireWire was no biggie, I confessed that I was basing that mostly on my own experience. But it is true that it eliminates the ability to use OS X’s handy FireWire Target Disk mode, which lets you easily and quickly copy files between Macs by treating one of them as an external hard drive. I will miss Target Disk Mode, but I’m thinking that Apple will get around to making it work with USB, too. And Targus already sells a $50 cable that lets you do USB transfers between two Macs or a Windows PC and a Mac.

Apple has a history of eliminating features such as dial-up modems and floppy drives before the rest of the market, and catching some flak for doing so. I’m still thinking that it’s doing something that will eventually seem like a logical move–but doing it before everyone’s comfortable. One thing seems certain: FireWire ain’t coming back to MacBooks.

Anyhow, it’s clear that the people who love FireWire really love it–but I’m still not sure whether they’re a tiny-but-noisy minority or a sizable chunk of Mac users. Let’s take a poll of the Technologizer community, shall we?

(UPDATE: Our coverage of this story continues with “FireWire Isn’t Alone: A Brief History of Features Apple Has Killed.” I dunno whether a decade of other examples of Apple axing stuff will make FireWire fans feel better or worse…)