Miscellaneous Ramblings

Recovering from the FireWire Hot Swap Fiasco

Plus Deals on FireWire Cards for Desktops and Laptops

Charles Moore - 2003.02.27 - Tip Jar

In our previous episode, I had provisionally determined that plugging in my Que Fire! 16x10x40 FireWire CD-burner while my Umax S900 was booting had somehow caused a malfunction - and perhaps a failure of the computer's Macally PCI FireWire card. The S900 was subsequently refusing to boot properly with the OS 9 FireWire extensions enabled.

Monday afternoon, I popped the side cover off the S900 and pulled the FireWire card. When I attempted to boot after I had removed the card, I got a grey screen. No Happy Mac; no Sad Mac; no bomb; nothing.

I stuck in the trusty OS 8.1 Disk Tools floppy, and the big Umax booted up fine, but with no sign of the Quantum 4 GB internal hard drive. However, when I shut down, removed the Disk Tools disk, and powered up again, the machine finally recognized the hard drive and booted smoothly into OS 9.1.

I opened Extensions Manager, reactivated the FireWire extensions, and rebooted. Success again. Without the FireWire PCI card in place, I didn't get the crash to the MacsBug debugger when the extensions loaded.

I shut down again, hopefully reinserted the FireWire card in its PCI slot, and rebooted, holding my breath as the extensions loaded. The S900 breezed through startup, and the Desktop appeared normally.

Pressing on, I plugged in the Que Fire! burner and powered it up, inserted a CD, and the CD icon appeared on the desktop as it should. I launched Toast, which recognized the CD burner's presence. All systems appeared to be functioning normally.

However, I'm still at a loss as to what had happened. It seems that removing the FireWire card and booting the machine without it cleared or reset whatever the glitch had been. I'm wondering whether the fact that the Que drive was powered up when the hot plugging malfunction occurred may have been significant. This time I waited until after the FireWire cable was safely plugged in before I turned the power on.

I'm delighted that this issue seems to have been resolved with relatively little hassle and no expense, but I will in the future make sure to exercise more patience and wait until the computer is finished booting before plugging in FireWire devices.

Coincidentally, MacFixIt posted a reader report on Monday (alas, only available to paid subscribers) about what sounds like a similar issue with a dual processor G4 tower machine:

"I have recently had a problem with my Power Mac G4 DP/533, where both of my FireWire Ports went dead without any apparent reason. PRAM zaps, Open Firmware resets and the like didn't help. So I shut down the system, opened the Power Mac's case and pressed the motherboard reset switch for a few seconds. After hooking everything up again, both FireWire ports have been functioning flawlessly ever since."

Hitting the S900's motherboard CUDA reset button was the next item on my list, had pulling and reinserting the FireWire card not worked.

Speaking of FireWire cards, at the time I got mine in the fall of 2000 they were selling for around $79, but the price has dropped substantially since then. Here are a few deals on FireWire cards from around the Web this week. The above related adventure was the first trouble I've had with my FireWire upgrade in more than two years use, and I've been generally pleased wit the performance.

Other World Computing

Macally 3 Port FireWire PCI interface card features & benefits:

  • 400 megabits/second (50 megabytes/second) maximum data rate
  • provides three FireWire (two 6 pin and one 4 pin) ports
  • allows up to 63 devices to be chained together through it's standard 6 pin interface
  • uses a Texas Instruments Chipset

System requirements:

  • any PCI based Macintosh or Macintosh clone including Apple's Power Macintosh and Performa computers, and Umax SuperMac, Motorola StarMax, Power Computing, and Daystar Digital Macintosh clones
  • compatible with any version of the Mac OS 8.6 and above including Mac OS X

Two year OWC fulfilled warranty.

For more information, visit:

BauCom Computers

  • USB(2.0)/FireWire cards (External ports: 3 USB, 2 FW; Internal ports: 1 USB, 1 FW), $68
  • Orange Micro FireWire card (2 ports), $21
  • Radius FireWire card (3 ports - 1997), $6

For more information, visit <http://www.vs-tech.com/bauc/>.

And for PowerBook users:


2 Port PCMCIA AP-1002 card1394-FireWire Adapter

This CableMax 2 Port PCMCIA 1394-FireWire Adapter AP-1002, is a 32-bit CardBus PC Card with dual 400 Mbps FireWire/IEEE 1394 ports. It can enable your portable for high speed external devices.

Package contents:

  • One FireWire/1394 Dual Port 32-bit CardBus PC Card
  • 6-pin to 4-pin FireWire/1394 cable (6-feet)
  • Ulead VideoStudio Basic SE v.4.0
  • User manual

Warranty: Lifetime

System requirements: PowerBook with CardBus support (G3 Series May 1998 or newer)

Price: $49.50

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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