Where's the Fire? Using Open Ports
August 27, 2007 11:39 AM   Subscribe

PortFilter: What to do with open Firewire ports.

I have two open Firewire ports on the back of my Apple Cinema display...and it seems that any and all peripherals released nowadays come in USB 2.0 versions only. That's fine; I have a nice USB hub that I use for that. But how can I take advantage of the speedy Firewire connections that are currently unused? An ideal solution would be to have a USB hub that connected to the Firewire port. But any cool peripherals would be considered.
posted by sjuhawk31 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Firewire HDs are faster than USB 2.0 ones, so that's something to consider. Firewire Card Readers are wicked fast.
posted by chunking express at 11:47 AM on August 27, 2007

That's an option, chunking, but I already have a USB 2.0 external drive that I'm happy with. The card reader idea is a good one. Might be useful for my camera's card.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 11:56 AM on August 27, 2007

Here is a post on a slick Lexar card reader.

DV cameras and the like usually (always?) use the Firewire inputs. So you could buy a camera and make documentaries.
posted by chunking express at 12:15 PM on August 27, 2007

Unless I'm severely misunderstanding, you won't gain any speed by connecting a USB hub to the Firewire port, as the device-to-hub connections will still be limited by the speed of the USB connection.
posted by box at 12:27 PM on August 27, 2007

box - yeah, but I'll have more USB ports.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2007

But you may as well just buy a USB Hub that plugs into one of your USB ports.
posted by chunking express at 12:47 PM on August 27, 2007

I know. I already have one. I need to get a bigger one eventually.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 12:57 PM on August 27, 2007

Get a Firewire scanner?
Do you have a MiniDV video camera? Those hook to your Mac via Firewire.
Buy an older 4G or earlier iPod on Ebay. They came with Firewire docks.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:15 PM on August 27, 2007

Ooh, a Firewire scanner is a great option.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2007

That display has FireWire 400, which is a 400 mbps connection . USB 2.0 is 480 mbps. Firewire has better performance than USB 2.0 in some applications like an external hard drive, but we're talking marginal differences here. Its not like its 5x or 10x faster that you must buy a firewire HD instead of a USB 2.0 one. Nothing wrong with sticking with USB, especially if you want to use this equipment in the future.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2007

I'm voting for recasing your 2.0 drive in a FW case and use the USB port for something low-speed? According to this chart, even FW400 on the Mac is something on the order of twice as fast as USB 2.0 for large files.

Dealtime has FW800 capable cases starting at $65+s/h, which is cheaper than probably anything else firewire you might be interested in.

...Or, you could get an iSight - They seem to be going for $250-$300 on eBay, and I've got a funny feeling they're not going to get cheaper anytime soon unless Apple does a re-release.
posted by Orb2069 at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2007

Firewire's main advantage is lower CPU utilization, since it's based on DMA and doesn't require as much attention from the host during transfers. Firewire hard drives, video cameras, and audio interfaces are more expensive than their USB counterparts because the peripherals themselves have to be more intelligent to manage transfers across the high-performance bus.

Firewire can be used for networking, too, so if you have other computers so equipped, just plug 'em together and watch the interfaces come up. It's not as fast as gigabit, but wipes the floor with 100Mbps in bandwidth and interrupt load.

There's no such thing as a USB hub that connects via Firewire. USB controllers have to sit on a PCI bus, period. (That's also why there are no 16-bit PCMCIA USB cards -- they're all 32-bit CardBus, which is just PCI in another package.)

Also note that Firewire's DMA nature is a security liability -- a malicious peripheral has direct access to the host's memory, and can do things like read passwords out of memory, modify kernel contents, and in general, totally own the box. Not an issue for a desktop, but kiosk folks should know this.
posted by Myself at 12:23 AM on August 28, 2007

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