Quenching the firewire and the strange case of the missing diskette

The new Macbook

The new Macbook

As you probably heard by now, launched new Macbooks, and you can get the full specs and stuff over at their website. Going through the product page you will see that this is both good news and bad. The good news is obviously the new design and features. The bad news is not so obvious, unless you plan to get a new Macbook and have a slew of Firewire devices. Which you won’t be able to use. Since it completely lacks FW or any kind.

Some people compare this with the introduction of the original iMac, which lacked a diskette drive. These are the people who don’t have FW external hard drives, or don’t have miniDV cameras which rely on Firewire to transfer video on the computer. So you see, it’s actually not at all as not having a diskette drive in the original iMac. Try capturing digital video via USB and you’ll see what I mean.

Firewire, besides being technically more advanced than USB in almost every way, offers some key advantages that make it “not just another port taking space on the side of the laptop”:

– the ability to daisy chain up to 63 peripherals in a peer-to-peer architecture
– Target Disk mode (this is specific to Macs, Windows PCs don’t have this)
– no system overhead during use (unlike USB which relies on the system to manage the data transfers)
– for DV: the ability to control the video camera (play, stop, rewind etc.) via the capturing software; with USB the camera only streams like an old analogue VHS player

Currently I use my Macbook Pro with three Firewire 800 hard disks daisy-chained on the FW800 port, while keeping the free FW400 free for the video camera. I can also connect the DV camera to the last of the hard disks in the chain, so I could even do with one FW port (meaning I could do this with the white plastic Macbook). But having both is still nicer. Having none is impossible.

I don’t think this is a case of the “missing diskette”. I think it’s a case of rev. A hardware corroborated with the rush to get this babies into production in a certain timeframe. Remember the rev. A Macbook Pro? That one only had FW400, no FW800. By rev. B it had both.

I hope Apple engineers are working on squeezing a FW connector on the Macbook right now. The Macbook is a great little machine for doing home videos, or for use in a home recording studio (with all those audio devices that connect via Firewire), so not having any Firewire connectivity cuts out a lot of people out of the loop. And it’s always nice to not have your processor spike up whenever Time Machine starts churning out entire gigabytes of back up data.

Here’s to rev. B Macbooks!


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