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FireWire Spec to Boost Data Speeds to 3.2 Gbps 223

Posted by Zonk
from the lots-of-mp3s-really-fast dept.
Stony Stevenson writes "A new set of data transfer specs may reach new Firewire speed records. The new transfer version is called S3200 and builds on the earlier specification approved by the IEEE.' The technology will be able to use existing FireWire 800 cables and connectors while delivering a major boost in performance. The new spec also will let users interconnect various home-networking appliances via coax cable, linking HDTVs with set-top boxes, TVs, and computers in various rooms around a home or office. The new release enables the transmission of FireWire data over distances of more than 100 meters. Home entertainment centers are likely to be an early application.'"
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FireWire Spec to Boost Data Speeds to 3.2 Gbps

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  • I think Apple.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alta (1263) on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:45PM (#21702796) Homepage Journal
    will be the earliest application. Remember when this was like e1394, or if you're sony i.Link. Those names never got any momentum, and they didn't push it. Heck, sony isn't too good at pushing standards anyway. Beta? Mini Disk? Memory Stick? Blueray has a chance.

    Anyway, when apple calls it firewire2, then it'll get adopted.
    • My guess is they'd call it FireWire 3200, since they currently have "Firewire 400" and "Firewire 800". That's going off the spec here [apple.com] on the Apple page.

      I haven't found too much use for my FW800 port... I just hope that I can find a sweet external drive for the FW3200 ;)
      • Re:I think Apple.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by kithrup (778358) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:09PM (#21703122)

        I've got a drive with USB 2.0, FW400, FW800, and eSATA connectors. (It's a LaCie "quadra," if anyone is interested.)

        In terms of performance, that's pretty much the order, there -- USB is slow, despite it's claims of 480mbits/sec. FW800 and eSATA get me about 85MBytes/sec reading from the raw device; writing appears to be a bit slower, but that was going through the filesystem, so I'll do another test on a drive I don't mind wiping out :).

        As with SCSI, the big advantage the faster FW speeds have is that you can have multiple devices chained. So you can have six or seven disks on the chain, and not worry about running out of bandwidth. eSATA doesn't give me that advantage.

        • Oooooh - that drive is seriously lust-worthy :D

          I see 3 of those 500GB models in that little rack replacing my current external FW-400 RAID in about 10 days...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          I have two older LaCie disks on a FW800 chain. They are the triple-interface version with FW400, USB2 and two FW800 ports. With FW800, I can plug both disks into a laptop at the same time with a single cable (there's another FW800 cable strung between the two) and get 30MB/s copying from one disk to the other (like I said, these disks are a few years old now). The lack of FW800 on the old MacBook Pros was the reason I delayed upgrading my PowerBook for so long.

          FireWire is also a good way of adding an

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ameline (771895)
          Chaining FW drives is great in theory; however, in practice, once you chain more than 2 drives on a single firewire chain (either FW400 or FW800), the performance of the entire chain degrades substantially -- I have measured this using a fairly new iMac, and GDrive-Q drives (using the oxford 924 chipset)

          • by Megane (129182)

            That is why I put a Firewire card in my G4 MDD tower, so that I can have each of my three external drives hooked up to its own dedicated FW400 port. (but of course the big drives are on the inside, since the MDD has four drive bays and two optical drive bays)

            Of course that's a little more difficult to do with a laptop, but you're not likely to be leaving drives permanently attached like you would with a desktop.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iamacat (583406)
        Try TCP/IP over Firewire next time you need to transfer stuff between two computers. Way faster than ethernet through a hub and of course wireless. USB can not do the same thing easily since host and device do not use the same interface, hence you can not connect two computers with a cable without an adapter.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by magarity (164372)
          USB can not do the same thing easily since host and device do not use the same interface, hence you can not connect two computers with a cable without an adapter.
           
          Not only that but also USB networking requires special software. Linux/WinXP/2K/98 all do FW networking out of the box. Vista does NOT, however, so keep that in mind if you need it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Remember when this was like e1394, or if you're sony i.Link.

      You're thinking of IEEE1394, which it still is. And Sony's iLink implementation was the unpowered 4-pin version of it.
    • Yeah they've had some flops but they also had the 3.5" floppy, the CD (as part of a partnership), Hi-8, and S-PDIF (with Phillips). Personally I prefer open standards and Sony does have a history of trying to push more closed ones than open.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Colin Smith (2679)

      Beta? Mini Disk? Memory Stick?
      You know... I think you've found a pattern there!

      Blueray has a chance.
      Then ... you blow it.

       
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DECS (891519)
        All the hating on Sony forgets that the company co-invented the CD format (heard of that?) with Philips, and the two later got behind DVD after their own video format based on the CD was hijacked by Toshiba. That puts Sony behind every successful consumer format of the last decade, not just the turkeys it has failed with.

        Betamax has also been the basis for ED Beta, the prosumer format nearly every TV crew uses and has used over the last two decades. Trying to create a black and while picture by dialing up t
    • I thought that Apple originally engineered the IEEE 1394 standard and that anyone was free to use the technology, but if you wanted to call it Firewire, you had to pay Apple some money. I was under the impression that other tech vendors are using the tech but no one wants to pay to use the recognizable brand name.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Originally, probably. The trademark is now freely licensed, though.

        http://www.1394ta.org/license/FireWire_License-Guides_v6.pdf

    • Better yet.... 3.0 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hellfire (86129)
      Technically it is 3.0. 400 is 1.0 and 800 is 2.0, if you were to renumber retrospectively.

      Geeks get the 400 vs 800 reference, but I think nongeeks get it completely. Sure 400 is not as good as 800, but what does that mean compared to USB?

      USB is 1.0 and 2.0. Firewire should be 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Why? Because the general masses see version digits as newer = better. USB is only on 2.0? But Firewire is on 3.0? Gee, that must mean Firewire is more advanced!

      Geeks know better, but you don't tell only to the
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by eh2o (471262)
        This will be officially IEEE 1394c. FWIW, USB 3.0 will be ratified at about the same time (mid 2008) and have a speed of up to 5 Gbps on an optical link. The USB people are claiming to have found some workaround for their historically crappy performance (high interrupt overhead) as well, but this remains to be seen...
  • stupid tags (Score:5, Funny)

    by farkus888 (1103903) on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:50PM (#21702862)
    what moron tagged a story about fire"wire" "wireless"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by doi (584455)
      I don't know, but I for one will welcome my new overpriced Monster Cable Gold Shielded Mega Quality Firewire 3200 Cable overlords!
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan,jared&gmail,com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:51PM (#21702866)
    Maybe it's just me, but I don't see why USB and Firewire need to exist. Maybe I'm naive and don't see where there are ad hoc benefits to both. I would like to see a unified standard. I have both on my machine, so there is no compatibility annoyance. I don't see competition benefiting either one really.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      IIRC FireWire needed more complex (=more expensive) interfaces, so wasn't really suitable for mice etc.
    • by speculatrix (678524) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:00PM (#21703004)
      very crudely, firewire was specifically designed to be for high speed streaming data - like video - it's ideal for a hard drive moving large chunks of data, and would be no use for mice and keyboards. USB was originally designed for low bandwidth low latency peripherals; it allocates data bandwidth in inverse proportion to demand, so e.g. mass storage gets whatever's left after mice/keyboards and tablets have had their share.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        But aren't today's firewire external hard drives only a little faster than USB2? I sure wish USB could simply be upgraded to these higher speeds (since it is admittedly undesirably slow for hard drives nowadays). But When I travel, I really like having a single cable for my GPS, MP3 Player, and camera.
        • by hcdejong (561314)
          In my limited tests, FW400 was about 30% faster than USB2 on the same computer/external harddrive combo. Plus I've the impression FW performs better when the load increases (more devices on the same bus).
          • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:22PM (#21703278) Homepage

            I've seen the same thing on my MacBook Pro with my external drive. FireWire 400 is maybe 25% faster, FireWire 800 is 50% faster (same drive). The big thing is CPU utilization though. Maxing out the disk on FireWire 800 is no problem. Very little CPU usage (maybe under 10%, this is based on a little graph, I've never looked at hard numbers). Running it over USB has a very noticeable CPU impact.

            FireWire is great at what it was made for. USB is very good at what it was designed for (mice, keyboards) and weak at things it was forced to do (hard drives).

            It's all Intel's fault. They put USB on everything, but didn't put FireWire on anything until very recently, if they even have by now. So USB "won".

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by MikeyVB (787338)

              It's all Intel's fault. They put USB on everything, but didn't put FireWire on anything until very recently, if they even have by now. So USB "won".

              If you really wanted to blame someone, you can at least partially blame Steve Jobs. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] mentions that one of the reason Firewire wasn't as popular as USB was the high licensing and manufacturing costs compared to USB. (One of the IP owners is Apple). This gentleman [teener.com] mentions that just when Apple was going to give away licenses for a fairly cheap price (199

        • by AaronW (33736)
          I consistently get noticeably better performance using Firewire 400 for external drives than USB with much less CPU overhead. In addition, at least on Linux, the stability has been much better. I found with USB that if I had multiple applications accessing an external USB drive at the same time the interface would hang, but no such problems with Firewire.

          I haven't played around with the USB reliability with my latest Linux update since I just use Firewire instead.

          Plus, I have no problem ganging Firewire dri
          • by Nutria (679911)
            After my first experience with Firewire vs USB I make sure any external drive I get supports Firewire, though I want to try playing around with eSata as well. I just need to pick up some cables one of these days to try it out.

            I echo your statements about FW vs. USB on Linux.

            One thing to note: There aren't many external FW enclosures for SATA, and they're all on the expensive side.

        • by InvalidError (771317) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:47PM (#21703546)
          FW400 may be "only" 400Mbps but it is double-simplex 400Mbps - 800Mbps aggregate. USB2 may be "faster" at 480Mbps but it is half-duplex with 10% bandwidth reserved for host commands and more dead-time inserted between TX and RX packets while host and target devices' transceivers switch directions, wasting several microseconds each time.

          The highest copy speed I have ever reached on FW400 is 32MB/s - limited by the ATA33-FW400 bridge chip (Oxford 911) while the highest speed I have ever seen with any combination of my USB2/480 external HDD boxes and PCs is 24MB/s with 18MB/s being more typical. Under the best circumstances, USB barely matches the SLOWEST speeds I take for granted on FW400. If I string two of my FireWire drives together and move data between the two boxes, I still get the same 24-30MB/s I am used to but if I try to do the same with USB2 and a hub, USB2 crawls at 8-10MB/s. In this scenario, FireWire is as much as 3X as fast as USB2.

          With eSATA for external storage, USB3 (late 2008) for all sorts of high-bandwidth (4.8Gbps) devices and GbE for mainstream networking, FW3200 will become irrelevant soon enough: USB3 is supposed to be 4.8Gbps double-simplex fiber, blowing away FW3200 on raw speed and finally getting rid of USB1/2's half-duplex overhead.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            I wouldn't assume that USB3 will do much at all. If it doesn't require a more intelligent bus controller to offload the work, it will be torture on the CPU at those speeds, and if it does, a lot of manufacturers will reject it because it costs too much more to build cards for it, and a lot of users will reject it because of the substantial extra expense of the cards compared with other technologies. Similarly, for external devices, cost will probably play a more important role in driving adoption than any

    • by zsouthboy (1136757) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:01PM (#21703012)
      USB is computer-centric - created by Intel. Somewhere in the chain, a computer needs to be connected.

      Whereas 1394 is device-centric - designed for tranferring video, audio, data, etc. between "dumb" devices.

      The PC world "snubbed" 1394 (not completely) because of the $.25(or something equally absurd) royalty to Apple; Intel pushed USB.

      1394 is more expensive to implement in hardware (which should be obvious - it's for dumb devices!), while USB is cheap - the CPU does most of the work.
    • by 2ms (232331)
      The reason there are two is that Intel wanted to create a competitor to Firewire. So blame Intel.
    • Blame Intel then. Firewire was developed in 1990, released into PCs

      Here are the technical specs for Firewire from Wiki:
      FireWire can connect up to 63 peripherals in a tree topology (as opposed to Parallel SCSI's Electrical bus topology). It allows peer-to-peer device communication -- such as communication between a scanner and a printer -- to take place without using system memory or the CPU. FireWire also supports multiple hosts per bus. It is designed to support Plug-and-play and hot swapping. Its six-wire cable is more flexible than most Parallel SCSI cables and can supply up to 45 watts of power per port at up to 30 volts, allowing moderate-consumption devices to operate without a separate power supply. (As noted earlier, the Sony-branded i.LINK usually omits the power wiring of the cables and uses a 4-pin connector. Devices have to get their power by other means.)

      FireWire devices implement the ISO/IEC 13213 "configuration ROM" model for device configuration and identification, to provide plug-and-play capability. All FireWire devices are identified by an IEEE EUI-64 unique identifier (an extension of the 48-bit Ethernet MAC address format) in addition to well-known codes indicating the type of device and the protocols it supports.

      From the USB wiki:
      USB was originally seen as a complement to FireWire (IEEE 1394), which was designed as a high-speed serial bus which could efficiently interconnect peripherals such as hard disks, audio interfaces, and video equipment. USB originally operated at a far lower data rate and used much simpler hardware, and was suitable for small peripherals such as keyboards and mice.

      The most significant technical differences between FireWire and USB include the following:

              * USB networks use a tiered-star topology, while FireWire networks use a repeater-based topology.
              * USB uses a "speak-when-spoken-to" protocol; peripherals cannot communicate with the host unless the host specifically requests communication. A FireWire device can communicate with any other node at any time, subject to network conditions.
              * A USB network relies on a single host at the top of the tree to control the network. In a FireWire network, any capable node can control the network.

      These and other differences reflect the differing design goals of the two buses: USB was designed for simplicity and low cost, while FireWire was designed for high performance, particularly in time-sensitive applications such as audio and video. Although similar in theoretical maximum transfer rate, in real-world use, especially for high-bandwidth use such as external hard-drives, FireWire 400 generally has a significantly higher throughput than USB 2.0 Hi-Speed.[13][14][15][16] The newer FireWire 800 standard is twice as fast as FireWire 400 and outperforms USB 2.0 Hi-Speed both theoretically and practically.[17]

      There are technical reasons why USB 2.0 devices cannot efficiently utilize all the available bandwidth. USB communication is based on polling the devices; there is no pipelining of commands. After sending a command to a device, the USB host must wait for a reply to the command before a new command can be sent to the same device. The bandwidth of a USB bus is divided by all devices connected to the bus. The USB host cannot send commands to one device while waiting for reply from another device. Since all communication is initiated by a USB host, the host must periodically poll all those USB devices that can provide data at unexpected intervals, such as network cards and keyboards. This consumes unnecessary resources when the devices are idle. These issues are being addressed by the forthcoming USB 3.0 specification, although it is not clear whether USB 3.0 is going to match FireWire in bandwidth efficiency.
      • by kithrup (778358) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:13PM (#21703170)

        One of the big advantages FW has over USB is that a device can request, and get, a specific bandwidth. So, for example, a video camera can say, "I need to have 19mbits/sec." And if it can, then it'll get that -- and nothing on the bus will be able to take it away until it releases it.

        When doing real-time applications such as video, this is pretty important.

      • The bandwidth of a USB bus is divided by all devices connected to the bus.

        Compare and contrast with Firewire?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 2nd Post! (213333)
          Different devices can get different amounts of bandwidth on a Firewire tree.
          Each device on a USB bus have to get equal bandwidth slices.
          • by Tetsujin (103070)

            Different devices can get different amounts of bandwidth on a Firewire tree.
            Each device on a USB bus have to get equal bandwidth slices.

            That's not precisely true...

            The bandwidth a USB device gets depends on two things: The speed of the device itself (naturally) and how frequently it's polled by the host computer. So one device can be polled more frequently than others (and HID devices can suggest how frequently they should be polled) - so the devices don't get "equal bandwidth slices" (at least, not equal slices of the total bandwidth when you average over time), one device can take more than 1/N of the total bandwidth of the bus if it ne

          • by Obfuscant (592200)
            IEEE1394b (FireWire) has defined two modes of bus operation. Asynchronous and Isochronous.

            Async is used for devices like disks where you want to read a block but it doesn't really matter if the block doesn't come back right away.

            Isochronous provides a fixed amount of bus bandwidth at fixed times, which is important if you are streaming audio or video.

            Iso is guaranteed up to 80% of the bandwidth. Asynch is guaranteed at least 20%.

            As for this "new standard" the story is talking about, no, it isn't new. 13

      • by hyc (241590)
        The most obvious thing: USB was invented by Intel and designed to keep Intel microprocessors as an indispensible part of the system. That's why it uses that stupid "speak when spoken to" protocol. Intel did everything they could to proliferate USB in preference to Firewire, because they wanted to make sure the x86 remained king of the hill in system architecture. That's why USB is so cheap today. Nobody with equal marketing muscle was really pushing Firewire the same way, even though Firewire is better for
    • by vux984 (928602) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:05PM (#21703066)
      USB is slow and cheap.
      Firewire is fast and cost more.

      So they both existed. One was good for mice and keyboards, one was good for digital video and external hard drives.

      Then USB2 came out which is almost as fast as firewire, and the lines got blurry.

      Firewire was still considerably better as a technology. It does a lot of its own processing while usb2 offloads a lot of processing to the host system... so firewire drives don't tie up the CPU the way a USB2 one does. Firewire supports more simultaneous devices, and seems to have fewer issues with power as well. It also doesn't have stupid rectangular connectors that users will try upside down 50% of the time.

      Then Firewire 3200 was announced and santify was restored.

      USB2 is slow and cheap.
      "Firewire-3200" is fast and costs more.

      Do we 'need' usb? no. We could get by on just firewire. But usb is cheaper and a penny saved is a penny earned.
      • Firewire 400 cards are like $10. which is pretty much what a USB2 card costs although you don't need a USB2 card since every PC has one built-in now, so you can call it $0.

        I hope that Firewire-3200 quickly becomes price competitive, and that chipset vendors get smart and just bundle a 3200 controller in with their prosumer chipsets.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vux984 (928602)
          Firewire 400 cards are like $10. which is pretty much what a USB2 card costs although you don't need a USB2 card since every PC has one built-in now, so you can call it $0.

          When I said a penny saved is a penny earned I was serious.

          Firewire maybe less than a dollar more expensive per port than USB, but it adds up. And the bean counters designing hardware care about the pennies.

          Not too mention we couldn't cut over to pure firewire even if wanted to. Firewire versions of low bandwidth devices like keyboards, mi
      • USB is slow and cheap. Firewire is fast and cost more.

        For an OEM to add a firewire port costs about $1.50 more than a USB port. Not exactly a huge difference.

        Do we 'need' usb? no. We could get by on just firewire. But usb is cheaper and a penny saved is a penny earned.

        There is nothing wrong with USB for what it was designed for. The problem is when it is applied to a task it just isn't very good at, like hard drives. Even if you have USB-2 for a hard drive, it is still pretty inferior. It uses up your CPU, you need software to manage it, it is slower, and you can't just plug it into your video camera and go, because it needs a computer in between. Intel's insisten

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          >For an OEM to add a firewire port costs about $1.50 more than a USB port. Not exactly a huge difference.

          Yeah, but when you spread that across a million machines, you're talking real money.
        • by dangitman (862676)

          For an OEM to add a firewire port costs about $1.50 more than a USB port. Not exactly a huge difference.

          To the OEM it is. They are cheap bastards. And of course, customers are cheap bastards, who tend to care more about price than quality. Keep adding "only $1.50 more" to other companents, and soon you don't have that $300 PC. Not that anybody should be buying a shitty $300 PC, but people like cheap junk, as I said.

        • by vux984 (928602)
          For an OEM to add a firewire port costs about $1.50 more than a USB port. Not exactly a huge difference.

          I said "a penny saved is a penny earned" for a reason.

          Plus the average PC comes with what? 6, 8, 10 ports? Times every motherboard you sell... sure to you its a buck fifty on a $500 PC... but to the OEM its a whole LOT of $1 parts. And if they can shave even a few off it makes a big difference to the bottom line.
      • by xlsior (524145)
        Then Firewire 3200 was announced and santify was restored.

        USB2 is slow and cheap.
        "Firewire-3200" is fast and costs more.

        Except that USB 3.0 has already been announced as well:
        http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070918-intel-announces-demonstrates-usb-3-0.html [arstechnica.com]

        The USB 3.0 target speed is 5 GBps, which would still make it one and a half times faster than the new Firewire 3200 standard... While retaining USB 2.0 backwards compatibility, which is a pretty big deal as well.
    • USB devices are 'dumb' they just push bits back and forth. Firewire devices are smart and can talk to each other. Theoretically if someone put the right software on a camcorder, you could dump video directly to a Firewire hard drive.

      Second, USB uses CPU. Firewire uses its own chip. (Which is why Apple removed the chip from the iPods, it wasn't going to fit with that and the video decoder in the same form factor).

      USB is good because... there's no reason my mouse needs that much speed.

      They're for completely d
      • by Mercano (826132)
        USB wound up being used for devices that were really more suited for firewire, such as external hard drives and CD burners, because it was cheaper to implement and there were (and still are) quite a few machines out there that have USB but not firewire.
    • Competing technologies are good for innovations in some cases.

      It seems to me that improvement in Firewire speed didnt really happen until USB 2 came along, and that now there is a speed-contest between USB and Firewire that cause the technologies to improve rapidly.

      By contrast, the pace at which ethernet speeds evolved seems rather low...
  • Instead of trying to cram RF signals at ever higher frequencies down a coax or twisted pair cable with all the problems that entails, why don't we switch to optical cabling?

    (I know, it's because that's not profitable enough for the manufacturers. They wouldn't be able to sell us new cables every 5 years)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ChronoReverse (858838)
      Actually, USB 3.0 will have optical connects (while retaining the metal connectors for USB 2.0 compatibility (the socket, not the cable).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      The 1394 spec has included an option for fibre for a while. There used to be a nice graph on the Apple site showing the different lengths you could use (I think you got something like 1000 metres with optical FireWire). As far as I know, no one has implemented the fibre version in consumer devices.
    • That's already in the full FireWire 800 spec, at 3.2 Gbps, too. There's a port on my iMac right now.

      It seems that this boost is a way of running the optical speeds over copper, but I could be wrong -- the article isn't very technical.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Optical cable is fragile. I don't think it would like getting tossed in my backpack and dragged on a plane ride.
  • by speculatrix (678524) on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:56PM (#21702942)
    this seems clearly aimed at providing a long reach version of sata at 3Gb/s (Gigabits not GigaBytes per second). Incidentally, too many people call the higher speed sata "SataII" which is somewhat incorrect - sataII means a whole slew of features over and above the first version say Sata IO Org [sata-io.org]. Note that 3Gbps means 3 x 10^9, not 3 x 1024^3.
    • Unlike the high speed with SATA, the high speed with FireWire is actually useful. I can connect up to 63 devices on a FireWire chain (actually a tree, but few devices have more than two ports). The fastest hard drives you can buy at the moment (15KRPM SAS monsters) get around 125MB/s sustained transfers. Your average consumer drive is lucky to get 60MB/s (480Mb/s). While SATA has some nice future-proofing, the extra speed of FireWire 800 can be used now to plug in two drives and get decent speed with b
  • Yeah -- so what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ThousandStars (556222) on Friday December 14, 2007 @05:59PM (#21702986) Homepage
    If a protocol is released in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

    I've read a variety of posts about the problems with FireWire (see here [pcstats.com] and here [theappleblog.com] from what I found on Google), and the big problem is that FireWire didn't become a de facto standard seven or eight years ago when it was really needed. These days, it seems like few computers other than Macs ship with FireWire standard, and I've never seen a laptop in the wild outside of Macs with a six-pin FireWire 400 port, let alone 800.

    I've heard this is chiefly due to Apple's initial intransigence regarding licensing; they demanded $1 per computer to use the "FireWire" name, making other device makers really angry [eetimes.com]. Considering how slim hardware margins are, no one was going to go for it. FireWire 400 is still technically superior to USB 2.0 in many ways, even today, but it's never reached the market penetration it needs, and now USB 2.0 is "good enough" for most purposes.

    I use a Mac and so do many family members, and I've long counseled them to get only FireWire drives for backups. When Leopard came out, some were shopping for drives, and I found that I could not find FW400/USB 2 drives for as little as plain USB 2.0 drives. In other words, the FireWire premium for HDs appears to be at least $30. Not a good sign for market penetration.

    Now FW 3200 is being discussed when FW 800 already seems dead on arrival in consumer land, and only supported to the limited extent it is by Apple. Not making it backwards compatible with FW400 was an idiotic decision that ensured whatever chance it had in the market was gone. In the meantime, eSATA and the like have come along and perhaps obviated the need for many FireWire applications altogether.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kithrup (778358)

      FW800 is backwards compatible with FW400. The connector, however, is not.

      This is a good thing, because the FW800 connector will be the same one used for FW3200 (or whatever it ends up being called :)).

      You can, however, get an adapter pretty easily and cheaply. This will allow your FW800 device to plug into your FW400 chain (and run at 400Mbits/sec)... or your FW400 device to plug into your FW800 chain (and, while it will run at 400Mbits/sec, your FW800 devices will still be able to run at 800Mbits/sec!)

      • What you say is true -- and it doesn't matter.

        Connectors are all fine well, but the time and energy necessary to buy, hang on to, and connect them makes such connectors a niche market. The operative word is convenience, and the more technical version of it is Metcalfe's law [wikipedia.org]. Everyone has USB, therefore everyone makes USB devices, and therefore more people get USB. Apple killed (or at least harmed) the virtuous cycle that might've made FW a standard in 1998 - 2000. Now only a very small number of machines (r

        • by 2nd Post! (213333)
          It's a good thing that Macs (in the US) are about 9% of the market and grow at about 30% a year; that means this time next year they will be about 12% of the market. I don't think Firewire is going away, any more than SCSI went away despite the success of ATA.
    • by CompMD (522020)
      Every Dell Precision workstation I have purchased over the last six years has had Firewire implemented on it, along with front and rear ports. I also have two Dell laptops that came with Firewire. If by "few computers" you mean "computers built by the largest manufacturer of computers in the world" then sure, "few computers" other than Macs have Firewire.

      You should probably shop around for drive enclosures. $30 premium for Firewire? You can buy encrypting Firewire/USB2.0 enclosures for less than $50.

      No,
    • These days, it seems like few computers other than Macs ship with FireWire standard, and I've never seen a laptop in the wild outside of Macs with a six-pin FireWire 400 port, let alone 800.

      Toshiba laptops come with Firewire ports as well. It is, however, a rarity... which is sad. The main reason OS X is my base OS running my VMs, instead of in a VM under Linux is Apple's "boot in firewire" mode along with the "upgrade from previous computer" option for installs. When I get new hardware I enjoy the one-click feature to have all my old stuff on my new machine and it all configured for me. The easiest way to do this with Linux and Windows is to run them in VMs and let OS X handle it. Unless Fi

    • Sony laptops also ship with the "mini" Firewire ports, which is annoying as shit b/c your iPod discharges while you're forcing songs onto it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      Apple did reduce the fee, their fee is now only part of the total $0.25 per unit royalty.

      I've seen the mini firewire port on many notebooks. I think the problem with puting the six pin port in it is that it would allow the device to consume power and that's not necessarily desirable when everything has to be so small and allowing more power to power a high-draw FW device can be a problem.

      I think eSATA is the replacement for Firewire in many of its previous niches other than video decks and camcorders. It
  • Does it matter? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeramybsmith (608791) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:10PM (#21703128)
    Firewire was mostly used for DV cameras and external hard drives. These devices worked pretty well under XP, Linux, and OSX. However, the 800 pound gorilla has turned on firewire.

    Vista's firewire implementation is the pits. I think TI spec controllers basically didn't work at all even though the cards were recognized (maybe it was the other spec). MS recently released a hotfix that remedied some of the problems, but the controllers were then only working up to 100mbps and not 400 even with registry settings set to 400. Getting 12MB/s to an external hard disk instead of 48MB is pretty ghetto.

    Also, MS recently released a technote saying that IP over Firewire wasn't an oversight in Vista. It is a feature that will never be re-implemented.

    The 800lb gorilla has left the building and I don't think Linux and OSX computers will be enough to keep the market for firewire devices robust except.

    • I chained my PCs and external harddrives together using firewire, XP automatically recognised it as a potential network connection and gave me "LAN over firewire". Whichever PC was switched on first "got" the peripherals, and the second one got to share them over the network. No LAN cables involved, and no hubs. I also included a redundant connection to make a complete circuit, so that even if only one PC was powered up, whichever one it was could still access all the peripherals directly with no replugging
  • Co-ax (Score:4, Funny)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:12PM (#21703154) Journal
    Finally I can use all the 10 Base 2 crap which I squierelled away. I guess I'll have to disassemble the model Eiffel tower I made out of left over T pieces.
  • Its like a VCR... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KoshClassic (325934) on Friday December 14, 2007 @06:39PM (#21703462)
    USB = VHS
    USB 2.0 = Super VHS
    FireWire = Beta - technically superior but doomed due to lack of marketplace penetration.

    Seems to me that the iPod was the first real killer Firewire app for the masses (yeah, video and audio pro's had their own killer apps for Firewire, but they didn't represent enough of the marketplace for that to matter. If Apple had kept the iPod's Firewire only devices (as were the first generations) something would have had to give. Either the iPod would have been DOA (in the PC world at least, since every new Mac has had at least one Firewire port for years), or PC manufacturers would have been forced to start making Firewire the standard due to demand.
    • more like DVD vs blue ray / HD-DVD

      DVD = usb 2.0 good

      firewire = blue ray / HD-DVD better but costs more and is not as common.
      AKA most pcs come DVD very few have blue ray or HD-DVD.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dangitman (862676)

        That analogy sucks even more than the sucky VHS/Beta analogy. Wait a minute, why are people trying to make analogies in this case, when there is no analogy needed?

        Oh right, this is slashdot. I forgot that you need to reach your daily analogy quota. BMW vs. Chevy FTW!

  • Why aren't there any Firewire-<USB(-lt;PC) adapters? It's not a cheap kind of part, but why not a $50 part that can connect Firewire gear to USB ports, even if it's not full bandwidth?
    • by dangitman (862676)
      1. Why would you want to connet your Firewire gear to a USB port?
      2. USB doesn't have the features necessary to provide Firewire functionality.
      3. When an actual Firewire card costs less than $50, why would you use a silly adapter?
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Because I already have a USB port, and no Firewire port, but I have some Firewire gear. I don't want to use an extra PCI slot for the Firewire (some cheap little PCs I'd like to use don't even have any), or deal with the driver complexity.

        The Firewire gear is just a CD carousel, so any extra Firewire features aren't needed. Couldn't a Firewire/USB adapter just allow those Firewire devices that use only the USB features to run?
        • by dangitman (862676)
          i think you'd find more driver complexity in supporting such a device, as well as sub-optimal performance. I'm not sure of what driver complecity you are referring to, as all major Operating Systems have native Firewire support these days, don't they?
  • Unfortunately, many of you are doing just what the article predicts...

    The new FireWire release will likely be compared to USB 3.0, which is still under development.

    Read the article again!

    The new spec also will let users interconnect various home-networking appliances via coax cable, linking HDTVs with set-top boxes...

    Why would I pay $100 for an HDMI cable to connect a Blu-ray/HD-DVD to my HDTV when I could use a $4 coax cable instead! PLUS, you can send the signal over 100 meters... with any hope, there will be splitters so that I can send a movie/broadcast from my cable providers set-top box to EVERY tv in my entire house.

    Step away from your PC a moment and consider the possibilities this brings to the Home Entertainme

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This could be interesting because there's already an extension (1394c) that allows for FireWire to be transported over Cat5e cable (and co-exist with Ethernet).

    I'm curious to know if the new 3.2 Gbps document allows for Cat5e, or whether you can only use it over the FW800 cables.
  • The new spec also will let users interconnect various home-networking appliances via coax cable...
    Have we forgotten so quickly about vamp clamps, terminators, and finding the break in the damn coax cable???
    • by Detritus (11846)
      In my experience, thicknet was very reliable. It was installed by people who knew what they were doing and was never touched by the average cow-orker. Thinnet was the reliability nightmare. Many points of failure coupled with random physical abuse and reconfiguration errors.
  • Why not HDMI? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by metafizzical (1203436)
    This may sound like a stupid question, but why would we see the implementation of the new Firewire spec in HDTVs when we already have HDMI using equivalent or greater bandwidth? Would it not be just as likely to see HDMI ports appearing in PCs for connections to HDTV and AV equipment? Thanks
    • HDMI is just one one way uncompressed data cable.

      Firewire can send the compressed data to the massive upscaller/decoder that can send the data to the TV. The TV can also send back remote codes to the decoder and storage medium. There does not have to be a one to one ratio on firewire you could have two TV's watching the same thing or something different think one set top box with DVR the can serve every TV in the house, adding a HTPC is trivial as connecting it to firewire. Pretty much it's designed to
  • Fix the damn rj45 connector. You know just what is wrong with it. Bah, same thing happened to my thermostat the other day... Somewhere some engineer is going to go straight to hell for making a screw that had to hold force out of plastic.

    At least USB deserves that much credit, the connector is quite nice. it plugs in easily, doesn't break unless you do something really stupid, and it is easily removed. Only thing I'll complain about is the tiny version you find in cameras and cellphones. I'm just wondering
  • Firewire is good technology, it just has no future beyond a small number of products. There are 3 big reasons for this. First, the consortium that controls the specs for audio-visual delivery over firewire (specs 61883 and AV/C) will not release information about their protocols unless you pay many hundreds of dollars for the specs. USB, an inferior technology IMO, has everything any programmer could ever want available for writing drivers and software. Good luck on that score with firewire.

    The secon

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