No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

Summary: Since Apple announced the new MacBook last week sans FireWire, there's been a backlash from the Apple community about the omission.Users love the high-speed data protocol for things like Target Disk Mode (TDM), transferring clips from digital video cameras and for connecting to external hard drives.

TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, Hardware

Since Apple announced the new MacBook last week sans FireWire, there's been a backlash from the Apple community about the omission.

Users love the high-speed data protocol for things like Target Disk Mode (TDM), transferring clips from digital video cameras and for connecting to external hard drives. Mac techs love FireWire because TDM is one of the best ways to diagnose a damaged hard drive (without having to physically remove it from the computer). In fact, over 60 percent of respondents to my recent poll said that they can't live without FireWire.

Firewire 400 came out in 1995 and has a higher sustained transfer rate than USB 2 which came out in 2000. FireWire (IEEE 1394x) is faster than USB 2 in many repsects because it has a dedicated controller and a Direct Memory Access (DMA) channel. FireWire supplies more power than USB 2 making it better for time-sensitive transfer applications. USB 2, on the other hand, is controllerless and requires CPU overhead to move data and has much higher latency compared to FireWire.

Apple, in its infinite wisdom, decided that MacBooks don't need FireWire, and Steve Jobs claims that most camcorders are all USB, anyway. The problem is that it isn't true. So why did Apple drop FireWire from the MacBook? Most believe that Apple doesn't want to pay the FireWire licensing fees (believed to be around 25 cents a port) but others (like me) believe that it's just another way to upsell you to the more expensive (US$2,000) MacBook Pro.

In a piece written before the new MacBooks were announced some were speculating that Apple could support FireWire over Ethernet if the FireWire port was indeed dropped from the new MacBook. Unfortunately it has come to light that it's currently impossible to run FireWire over Ethernet.

While it has been possible to run IP over Firewire since Mac OS 10.3, FireWire over Ethernet is another matter altogether. FireWire is more like SATA or SCSI than Ethernet, it's just a dumb point-to-point connection.

There is hope though.

IEEE 1394c is an extension to the FireWire standard (IEEE 1394/a/b) that would provide the ability for FireWire to run at 800Mbps over category 5 unshielded twisted pair cables. It's still in development and just passed the first ballot. More on 1394c is available on TechRepublic.

Once the 1394c standard passes, Apple would have to implement it either onboard or via an adapter. It's conceivable that if there's enough backlash and demand for the US$700 port Apple could implement FireWire over Ethernet by the time Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6) is released.

Those carrying pitchforks and torches on their way to Cupertino need to remember that Apple is still selling the white MacBook which still has a native FireWire 400 port.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware

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  • License fees???

    "Most believe that Apple doesn?t want to pay the FireWire licensing fees (believed to be around 25 cents a port)"

    Um, didn't Apple invent firewire? People pay *them*...
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    A few historical facts about FW:

    Firewire is the Apple trademarked name for the IEEE 1394
    connectivity standard adopted before the IEEE ratified it as
    a standard.

    Originally, to use use the name 'FireWire', you had to pay
    Apple a licensing royalty. In the beginning the levied fee
    was One US Dollar per port, but in 2000 they recended this
    to the flat fee if one USD per device. Under the old
    structure, a manufacturer of 4-port FireWire hubs would
    have to pay a 5 dollar royalty on each hub (4 downstream
    and 1 upstream ports); under the newer scheme, it is one
    dollar flat regardless.

    However, in June of 2002, the 1394 Trade Association
    officially adopted the FireWire trademark as its brand
    identity for the IEEE 1394 standard in what is known as a
    "no-fee license agreement" from Apple. This allows the
    1934 group and anything that uses 1394 to use the
    FireWire trademark and logo free-of-charge.
    • Ok...

      And your point? Apple is a conglomerate that is financially broken up into many parts. Just like the federal govt. Just because Army does work for the Air Force, don't mean it's free. Sure, it is all DoD, but they operate under different financial scenarios. I am assuming that Apple is doing the same since they have to pay a licence fee for something the company invented.
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    definately a mistake, as a tech for a school board, i

    We are gonna stay clear of those laptops.
  • Another Steve blunder

    While Steve Jobs has done much to resuscitate Apple, he has made his share of mistakes. It is his way, or no way. And, increasingly often, his way is not in the interests of most users.

    The biggest blunders to my mind have been the MacBook Air (a victory of form over function), and the look of OS X.5 (dark and fantasy, but just plain ugly). Clearly, he should bring Firewire back. But, he won't.
    • MacBook Air not a blunder

      The critics of the Air, don't get what the Air is for. For
      someone who occasionally needs modest computing power
      (Word processing and internet access, primarily)
      [b]everywhere[/b] they go the [i]form factor[/i] of the Air is
      perfect. For example, if you are travelling to a series of
      meetings, all day, in different locations, where you may or
      may not need a computer, then an Air is perfect for
      throwing into a bag and forgetting about ('cause it small
      and light) until you need it. And if you don't end up using
      it, you aren't tired out by carrying around alot of extra
      weight - both the weight of the notebook and the weight
      of the larger bag that a larger notebook needs. And, if you
      not a "macho man" because you happen to be my wife
      (who loves her Air) or most other women, and quite a few
      men - then those extra few pounds make alot of

      The Air is not for you, fine. Its not meant to be a system
      for the masses. Its specialist system that does what it was
      designed to do very nicely.

      End of Rant. And...

      I'm still waiting for the FIrewire thing to sort itself out. I
      have a system with FW, and won't need a replacement for
      several years. Then, I'll see if Steve was correct or not. I
      hope he is.... but he's not divine.
      • Air no mistake; no firewire, a big one

        Total agreement. Don't have an Air, but bought one for one of
        my crew. She loves it, I would not, but it's a niche machine.
        The MacBook however, is NOT a niche machine, but meant to
        take more market share from the mid-line Windows laptops.
        And the pure advantage of firewire on all mac units was another
        coupe that the PC world could not, and will never be able to
        touch. With the removal of firewire now, it just makes the
        MacBook that much closer to being a mid-line PC... but w/ OSX
        of course. So as a result, I've canceled a purchase I was
        submitting for about 10 Macbooks this fall for my labs. I'll
        probably end up buying refurb white macbooks from Powermax
        or something. We depend on firewire for our optical beam
        tracking data systems, backup drives, and overall upkeep of our
        laser lab mac flock of 20 machines. Thing is, I'm certain it's
        even hardwired on the motherboard, it costs them virtually
        nothing to include it, then turn certain features off etc... for
        different price points on their products. Very disappointing.
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    Sweet pickle sandwich, Apple. Just say you messed up, and re-
    issue macbooks with firewire. Or offer it as a new option and say
    you planned it all along. I'm sure it's on the motherboard but it's
    just turned off. You'll sell a million more this year, save all that
    hassle w/ shoving firewire over twisted pair or whatever (if it even
    works)... save on adaptors, keep Apple customers happy... it's
    win-win-win. No-brainer. Production Management Theory
  • RE: No FireWire - WTF?

    I am in the market for a new Powerbook (I mean
    MacBookPro), But now that it seems to lack the Firewire
    port I use for my HD's I think I will purchase the previous
    version instead. If I am not mistaken, I thought FW800 was
    backward compatible with FW400. Still I think the previous
    model suits me fine. I was even contemplating a MacBook
    and a Mac Mini in lieu of a MBP. But now that is absolutely
    out of the question. Jobs says the video trends lean
    towards USB, I thought Apple was a leader in technology
    not a follower. I say, be the Shepherd not the Sheep...
    • The Macbook Pros still have FireWire...

      But not the Macbooks.


      * Built-in AirPort Extreme (802.11n)4
      * Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
      * Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)
      * Two USB 2.0 ports
      * One FireWire 800 port
      * One ExpressCard/34 slot
  • Maybe it's because Firewire 3200 wasn't quite ready?

    Maybe they didn't have Firewire 3200 ready. The next iteration
    might carry a Firewire 3200 port that also is backwards
    compatible to Firewire 800 and 400.

    Or maybe there's a Firewire adapter for the card slot?

    In the end, I'm betting Jobs figures 802.11n is fast enough.

    So, Steve, give us some 802.11n CD card readers!
    • Sorry, the new MacBook doesn't have a card slot

      No ExpressCard/34 slot in the new Aluminum MacBook, but the MBP still has it. Apparently Steve thinks that nobody needs FireWire or expansion except power users who will fork over the big bucks for the MBP. Unfortunately, I have a school that has lots of firewire-based DV cameras that would be useless with the MacBooks, and we can't afford to purchase MBPs just for the privilege of editing video. I hope that the white MacBooks aren't just there until the stock of parts runs out.
  • Licensing?

    Apple pays licensing to Apple for Firewire? That's brilliant!
    Chris Wiley
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    The IEEE 1394c standard has already been approved in 2006, see
    The soon-to-be-expected standard IEEE 1394-2008 comprises further amendments such as FireWire 1600 and 3200.
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    As a Mac consultant, I constantly use firewire to move files
    and troubleshoot hard drives.

    Firewire will be sorely missed. As for firewire over
    ethernet, what about all the Macs from 2000 to now? My
    client will not have implemented FWoEN.

    worra worra worra

    Dan Robinson
  • you don't need it!

    Steve has spoken.
    So use usb 2 disk for booting and trouble shooting intel macs...... its now already possible!
    also make usb 2 work in target mode, Steve
    because no way will this new "Firewire over ethernet" fly
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    Question to the thread....

    Can a third party card be added to the almost never used Express card port to answer all of these issues?
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    What do I use for my video transfer and editing?
    Bought a new miniDV Camcorder last year for our travels. Pity Apple has the monopoly on cute software!
    I was going to buy a MacBook laptop this year with firewire, but firewire has disappeared - despite the number of people who use it for video transfers (at least).
    So, not sure what to do now. Maybe I'll transition back to Windows Vista on my Toshiba and buy video software (would be cheaper than a new MacBook).
    Oh yes, sold my Apple stock too. Hope for Apple's sake this is not a trend.
    Steve Jobs is a smart dude, but he really needs to listen to what his customers want - it would make him smarter, Apple bigger and NASDAQ much happier......
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    Apple should release an small format MacBookPro to alleviate this problem with Firewire missing on the MacBook. It is stupid for Apple not to do this but my guess with the economy as it is it would be hard press to open another line.
  • RE: No FireWire over Ethernet; but maybe in Snow Leopard

    Petition Apple to Bring Back Firewire