Posts Tagged ‘MacBook’

MacBooks and ports

March 10, 2015 1 comment
The new MacBook

The new MacBook

The big news from Apple’s announcement of the new MacBooks today is the single USB-C port. This could be the beginning of the end for not only MagSafe power connections, but thunderbolt too (although presumably Thunderbolt will remain on high-end devices such as the Mac Pro since it has 20Gbs of throughput compared to USB3’s 5Gbs).

Using USB-C connectors looks like it might finally enable single-cable docking station like functionality for Mac laptops, either through canny third-party manufacturers offering USB/display hubs and chargers or through display manufacturers offering one-cable USB-C connections that can charge your computer, pass audio/video to the screen and offer USB/Ethernet hubs too. For example, the Thunderbolt Display may end up being a USB-C Display instead (5K let’s hope!).


FireWire gone from the MacBook

October 21, 2009 1 comment

AppleThe love affair between the MacBook and FireWire is over

I recently predicted that FireWire would eventually be replaced by Light Peak on all Macs, and that FireWire was only back on the MacBook temporarily. Little did I know then that only a couple of days later Apple would announce the new MacBook and kill off FireWire so quickly (on the MacBook at least).

It’s a shame, I shall miss it. The fast peripheral bus is dead, long live the fast(er) peripheral bus!

MacBook peripheral predictions

October 17, 2009 Leave a comment

AppleFirewire makes a (temporary) comeback?

Last year I speculated about the future of Firewire on the MacBook and came to the conclusion that the most logical path for Apple would be to build firewire into the Ethernet port via the new Firewire specification IEEE1394c.

Apple may have taken this in a new direction entirely (which frankly we should all expect from Apple by now!), if reports of Light Peak, the new peripheral bus from Intel are to be believed.  More on that later.

Firewire has now been reinstated to the MacBook line, albeit in a roundabout way.  Firewire 400 is still available on the white plastic MacBook which was the only surviving member of the old MacBook generation that wasn’t transitioned to the new Unibody enclosure borrowed from the MacBook Pro.  Those MacBooks paid the price for their svelte looks and lost their FireWire ports in the process.  Apple has now reinstated Firewire in the form of Firewire 800 to these and rebranded them as the new 13″ MacBook Pros.

So here’s the situation.  Once more every Mac has Firewire (apart from the freak of the family, the MacBook Air).  Although I haven’t had personal experience with the new models, presumably once more every Mac has Firewire Target Disk mode (once again excepting the freak).

So is Firewire back for good?  I don’t think so.  I think Apple was frankly surprised at the backlash to losing Firewire (especially after it was dropped from iPods with only a little angst) on the MacBook, and that was part of the reason to its comeback.  But I believe it will only be a temporary measure, until Light Peak replaces it.  When I first heard about Light Peak I was amazed that we didn’t have a peripheral bus based on fibre optics already, and that no-one seemed to have thought of it before.  I firmly believe that the future will be in wireless peripheral communication, but wires aren’t going away any time soon.  If we have to have wires, why not have one small, high capacity connection that can carry all types of communication now that fibre optic has matured to make cables flexible and durable enough for this purpose?

My only concern is that Light Peak will be developed as a master/slave architecture that will make technology like Target Disk mode and daisy chaining (that makes Firewire great) impossible to implement.  Its multi-device, multi-protocol design would most probably make that unlikely though.

MacBooks and Firewire

October 21, 2008 1 comment


Hope for FireWire on the MacBook?

A ZDNet Blog casts some hope on the future of FireWire on the MacBook now that Apple has removed it from the new MacBooks. The theory is that because there are plans afoot to implement FireWire over a standard Cat5 ethernet cable (codenamed 1394c) that Apple may build in support for FireWire to the ethernet ports on future Macs. You can see the a summary of the draft specification as a PDF on the 1394c Working Group’s website. The idea is that a standard ethernet port could be 1394c enabled and auto-negotiate whether to use 10/100/1000Mbs ethernet or 400/800Mbs FireWire depending on what is connected at the other end, or as it says in the afore mentioned summary:

“For the end user, the objective is to have a
single RJ-45 socket that is labeled “network”,
and works for any kind of connection.”

I’m not sure Apple will introduce 1394c whenever it is ready. First of all, DV Cameras and other consumer peripherals that led the charge for needing FireWire seem to be mostly switching to a USB connection. Secondly, whilst the real-world throughput of Gigabit ethernet is lower than it’s theoretical maximum throughput of 1000Mbs, it’s still higher than Firewire 400* and probably 800 too considering that collisions are what slows ethernet down at higher speeds and wouldn’t be such an issue in an attached peripheral situation as is likely with FireWire. Add to this the fact that Apple have already implemented their Migration Assistant that previously only ran over FireWire (until the release of the MacBook Air) to run over ethernet and even wireless, and the need for Firewire seems even more diluted, when Gigabit Ethernet could step into it’s shoes.

I see no reason why Apple could not release a Mac firmware that enabled target disk mode over ethernet, and not need that pesky Firewire port cluttering up their laptops, or adding more components internally to enable FireWire using the ethernet port, and waiting for the specification to be ratified of course (not that they’ve waited for official blessings before!). Ethernet also provide the additional benefit of being able to be used over cables of up to 100m instead of the 10m maximum of FireWire (although the 1394c specification does provide for up to 100m cables too).

Well, ok, I see a possible pot hole on the road to ethernet replacing FireWire. Firewire provides power, and although ethernet does, using Power over Ethernet (PoE), it might not be practical for laptops as it is designed to power wireless access points and other networking devices which need more of a power draw than laptops are going to want to provide.

The other (horrible) alternative is that target disk mode is dead and buried, never to return!

* From a company trying to sell Firewire 400 peripherals, so presumably these results are skewed towards FireWire if anything.
Categories: Thoughts Tags: , ,

MacBook Air Target Disk Mode

January 22, 2008 2 comments


Target Disk mode is such a useful thing to have on a Mac.  In fact it’s the number one I think when dealing with problematic PCs … “If only I could put this thing into Target Disk Mode”.  The MacBook Air is a worrying development because of the lack of firewire it would seem TDM is not an option.  Of course this could be easily solved by Apple creating a USB TDM.  Rob Griffiths from MacWorld reports that an Apple rep told him there would be no such thing on the MacBook Air.  Has anyone had a go with rebooting the MacBook Air and holding down the “T” key to see if it still has the firmware capability of booting in TDM?  Or at least whether it has the option in Startup Disk in the System Preferences. Surely USB TDM is not that different?  As I understand it TDM goes back to SCSI anyway and was ported to Firewire – if Apple is insistent on replacing Firewire with USB surely it is only a matter of time?

Categories: Apple, Hardware Tags: , ,

MacBook Air: Ugly (keyboard)

January 17, 2008 1 comment

Apple Logo
No-one could deny that the MacBook Air is a thing of beauty.  And that having a full size keyboard with backlighting is great.

But why oh why is it that butt-ugly black?  Why not MacBook Pro grey like the rest of it?

MacBook Air

Categories: Apple, Hardware Tags: , ,