MacInTouch Reader Reports

Hard Drives: Thunderbolt

Jun. 30, 2011
Jul. 1, 2011
Jul. 2, 2011
Jul. 6, 2011
Jul. 7, 2011
Aug. 16, 2011
Aug. 17, 2011
Aug. 18, 2011
Aug. 19, 2011
Aug. 20, 2011
Aug. 22, 2011
Aug. 23, 2011
Aug. 24, 2011
Sep. 29, 2011
Mar. 17, 2012
Mar. 19, 2012
Mar. 20, 2012
Mar. 21, 2012
Apr. 16, 2012
Apr. 17, 2012
Apr. 18, 2012
Apr. 19, 2012
Jul. 10, 2012
Jul. 16, 2012
Jul. 17, 2012
Jul. 18, 2012
Jul. 19, 2012
Jul. 21, 2012
Jul. 25, 2012
Aug. 13, 2012
Aug. 15, 2012
Aug. 17, 2012
Aug. 20, 2012
Aug. 21, 2012
Aug. 22, 2012
Oct. 12, 2012
Oct. 13, 2012

Newer entries...
Jun. 30, 2011

item.137956

MacInTouch Reader

Thunderbolt RAID dramatically faster than FireWire 800

When connected to the iMac, the [Promise Technologies Pegasus] R6's AJA System Test read scores came in at 566MBps -- 6.8 times faster than the [Promise SmartStor] DS4600 using FireWire 800. Even more impressive was the R6's 644MBps AJA System Test write score, which is 11.5 times faster than the FireWire 800 scores of the DS4600.

item.137958

MacInTouch

What Makes the Thunderbolt Cable Lightning Fast [iFixit]

We found two Gennum GN2033 chips in the connector, one on each side. They were flanked by other, much smaller chips that surely added to the cable?s cost: two chips labeled S6A 1JG on one side, and chips labeled 1102F SS8370 and 131 3S on the other. Of course, there were tons of little resistors (providing impedance as needed) all around the larger chips.

Jul. 1, 2011

item.138014

Kevin Lepard

I originally though the $50 price was just obscene markup as you see with HDMI cables. Perhaps not with all the extra stuff they've had to put in.

No matter how fast it is, though, Thunderbolt is going to be at best a professional niche technology unless you can get cables for less than $50. USB 3 is going to eat its lunch, and rightfully so for the typical user.

Jul. 2, 2011

item.138102

Pete Wilson

Kevin Lepard comments on the cost of HDMI cables.
It's true that you can buy expensive HDMI cables. But you can get them pretty cheap, too, if you're happy with generic.
Fry's sells 6ft HDMI cables for somewhere around $7, and Parts Express has them as cheap as $3 or so, if you can wait for mail order (http://www.parts-express.com/wizards/searchResults.cfm?srchExt=Cat&srchCat=628)

[Or $2.28 with free shipping in one example from Amazon (and, of course, purchases through our Amazon links are what keep this website running). -Ric Ford]

Jul. 6, 2011

item.138295

Ed Sikorski

I see USB 3.0 replacing 2.0 when the demand is there. For now, there are a few USB 3.0 drives available (but no USB 3.0 on Macs, aside from a few adapter cards).

But what annoys me is the lack of Thunderbolt PCI-X/e interface cards. There are many Mac Pros with free slots that would benefit from the speed and arrays now available. I'd love to get rid of my eSata PM array for a RAID 6 or 10 Thunderbolt array.

Perhaps Apple will release a new Mac Pro revision soon with twin Thunderbolt ports, but I would rather see an adapter (ironic that no one, not even Newer or Sonnet, has made any public commitment).

item.138313

MacInTouch Reader

I've been pondering Kevin Lepard's comment about USB 3.

Recently I spent time with some friends in the cable industry and I asked about eSATA, USB, HDMI, Thunderbolt, and many of them felt that the future was not going to be USB 3. USB would be around, but USB 2 might possibly stick around longer then you might think.

I was curious about it, since like Kevin mentioned it seems that USB 3 is on its way to be the new standard. But they felt that despite promises, we still aren't seeing a lot of USB 3 motherboards. I asked about HDMI and they said that even though folks don't want to pay the royalties, surprisingly, they thought that we might start to see Ethernet via HDMI starting to play in data transfer and other devices. Fast data rate, easy to implement.

So, the idea is that HDMI would supplant USB/Firewire for many applications. Why? As one colleague wrote to me, "with the advancements of the high speed with Ethernet channel now in the H.E.C. HDMI 1.4 spec, it is only a matter of time before HDMI becomes the new standard."

For professional users, Thunderbolt, USB 3, or Firewire might rule the day, but with the differences between "pro" gear and consumer gear narrowing every day, the discussion will be more and more niche driven. I'm reminded that low cost DSLR has extraordinary image quality compared to high-end models. Not the bells and whistles, maybe not the sensor size, but certainly at the end of the day, image quality is often remarkably close.

If we see high speed data transfer through a common interface like HDMI it might just become a new standard.

Have other folks heard this discussion? One common ground I heard was royalties, and part of that discourse was USB 3 vs. HDMI vs. Firewire, not in terms of tech specs, but really in terms of licensing costs which impact implementation more then users might think.

item.138358

Paul Huang

USB 3 eating TB's lunch?

Yes indeed. While I spend only a few minutes transferring 10GB of files from the server to an external drive via FW800, my co-worker, who believed that USB 2.0 was faster, went to an extended lunch.

I'd say USB 3.0 is going to force you to eat more lunch. Jenny Craig certificate not included. At the same time, I am able to get things done quicker and go home earlier.

Pick one. Market dominance is meaningless. If I am able to find a tool that does what I need to do efficiently, even if it only occupies 0.1% of the market, I wouldn't mind at all.

Jul. 7, 2011

item.138395

Skot Nelson

Re:

Pick one. Market dominance is meaningless.

This has happened before. IDE dominated; high performance hardware used SCSI.

Now, USB2.0 dominates and does a decent job, but FW800 is used for high performance needs.

USB3.0 will be the mass market standard. ThunderBolt will be used for demanding high performance situations.

item.138437

Sterett Prevost

If I recall correctly, when LightPeak/Thunderbolt was first announced, there were some online technical evaluations available to read, one of which mentioned that direct access to the CPU was required, negating the possibility of Thunderbolt PCIe adapter cards. Maybe someone with more tehnical savvy can explain it better?

Aug. 16, 2011

item.141879

Art Majerus

While we are on hard drives... I keep wondering when we are finally going to see a single Thunderbolt drive. Yes, there is one out there in a large RAID configuration, but I am waiting for the promised 1- to 2-TB drive. I need to replace some backup drives and have been waiting. Promises were for the summer which is almost over. LaCie keeps promising their "Little Big Disk" but I haven't heard anything in awhile. Anybody?

item.141858

Ed Sikorski

I wonder, now that Apple has updated all but the Mac Pro...when should we expect the new tower with Thunderbolt ports? Soon I hope...

I am amazed at the speed, after seeing a Macbook Pro 15" 2011 attached to the Pegasus RAID array via T'bolt. So much that I want to replace my eSata RAID.

However, I've not seen others, like LaCie's drive product (announced in February), available. Nor have I seen any news of any PCIe card makers (Newer, Sonnet...) releasing add-in cards to use Thunderbolt on earlier MacPro models.

Aug. 17, 2011

item.141959

Joe F

Art asked,

"I keep wondering when we are finally going to see a single Thunderbolt drive."

I'm not at all surprised. Is there a single mechanism hard drive that can benefit from Thunerbolt? Or is FW800 sufficient to deliver the drive's full performance? There may be a very small benefit, but not enough to justify the extra expense of Thunderbolt vs Firewire. The cable alone costs $50! Most people won't pay the marginal increase in cost to move up from USB to Firewire for better performance. I don't see a market for Thunderbolt single-mechanism drives until Apple drops Firewire from its computers.

item.141960

Sterett Prevost

Re: any Thunderbolt (TB) add-in cards coming?

IIRC, back when TB was first announced, there were some online articles here and there discussing the technical aspects of TB. I recall reading in one that there would probably not be any PCIe add-in cards because of the need for TB to directly access the CPU through logic board circuitry. Don't know if that has changed recently.

item.141962

Charles Park Seward

re:

"I keep wondering when we are finally going to see a single Thunderbolt drive."

Why would we want one? An eSATA interface at 3 or 6 GBit/sec is far faster than any single drive. Thunderbolt won't make the drive any faster.

Yes, with an array, you can go faster. I've seen 500-800 MBit/sec quoted. Perhaps the solid state drives will be a better match for Thunderbolt. But "standard" spinning disk drives? You won't get beyond 200 MBit/sec no matter what interface you use.

I like the idea of a Thunderbolt hub that will have firewire, USB and a display port, all working together.

item.142081

Bo Clawson

Ed Sikorski noted:

I wonder ...when should we expect the new tower with Thunderbolt ports? ... Nor have I seen any news of any PCIe card makers (Newer, Sonnet...) releasing add-in cards to use Thunderbolt on earlier Mac Pro models.

I would check out the reports on www.barefeats.

Sounds like to me that things are going to have to shake out over the next year before we get the best HDs and SSDs for Thunderbolt uses.

Reminds me of the early SSDs, some of which were *real* dogs.

Aug. 18, 2011

item.141999

Rex Raymond

Charles Park Seward wrote:

"I like the idea of a Thunderbolt hub that will have FireWire, USB and a DisplayPort, all working together."

I'd like to add to/amend the list of interfaces the ideal Thunderbolt hub would have:

FireWire 800
USB 3
eSATA 3 (6 Gbps)
Gigabit Ethernet
Thunderbolt/mini DisplayPort

I don't know how likely, or technically possible, such a hub is, but it would make using a MacBook Air as a primary/sole machine feasible for even a geeky tech-head like me. It would also make using a rack full of Mac Mini servers a no-brainer, as one would now have almost universal high-speed connectivity (barring fiber-channel or iSCSI) for backups. One could even use Thunderbolt to mirror to a second Mac Mini server and have a quick and dirty fail-over arrangement. But I digress...

item.142006

David Charlap

Charles Park Seward wrote:

"I like the idea of a Thunderbolt hub that will have firewire, USB and a display port, all working together."

Since a Thunderbolt port is essentially an external PCIe slot, it should be possible to design a full-blown expansion chassis based on it. Something that might combine (for example) USB/FW ports, display ports, card readers, a few hard drives and maybe even one or two PCIe slots.

Such a device would make an ideal docking station for a laptop, as well as providing substantial expansion capability for owners of iMacs and Minis. And since TB is an Intel standard, not Apple-proprietary, it should be possible for a third parties to develop it without any Apple-proprietary knowledge.

item.142025

Scott Newman

Question:

"I keep wondering when we are finally going to see a single Thunderbolt drive."

One Answer:

"Why would we want one? An eSATA interface at 3 or 6 GBit/sec is far faster than any single drive. Thunderbolt won't make the drive any faster."

Reply to answer above: Uhhh... maybe because lots of people are buying MacBook Airs without FW800 and without the ability to connect via eSATA.

item.142052

Skot Nelson

Re:

Or is FW800 sufficient to deliver the drive's full performance?

Hard drives are capable of pumping data out quite a bit quicker than FW800 is capable of moving it through a pipe.

item.142061

MacInTouch Reader

I think that Charles Park Seward misses the point regarding single-drive Thunderbolt enclosures. Yes, we can expect such a drive to only be as fast as hooking that same drive mechanism up with eSata, but where is the eSata port on the MacBook Air or on the Mac Mini?

The lack of eSata ports on the new Thunderbolt Macs is why we should be interested in single-drive Thunderbolt products!

item.142062

MacInTouch Reader

Thunderbolt drives? How about something as simple as a TB card reader?

Since USB 2.0 readers replaced FW in the market, dumping photo cards (SD or compact flash) takes more time. Until cameras have TB ports on them (which I don't see happening very soon), as old card readers fail, we're stuck with a slower technology. Hi-res still or HD video files are huge and USB 2.0 is relatively slow for large files. And yes, I realize MacBooks have SD readers built in. Too bad they're connected to the internal USB bus.

USB 3.0 ports on a Mac are unlikely to happen. Perhaps Charles Park Seward's comment about a TB<->USB3.0 hub will come to pass.

A $50 cable isn't too much to ask for if you are looking for performance. Heck, before they vanished, FW800 readers cost more than that and were worth every penny.

Aug. 19, 2011

item.142201

Skot Nelson

Re:

How about something as simple as a Thunderbolt card reader?

Card readers are such commodities now, I can't see a ThunderBolt one emerging in a world where FireWire ones have all but disappeared. I tried to get one for ages, but eventually aquiesced and bought a $17 USB 2.0 one (I shoot on Compact Flash cards.)

Frankly, the card reader isn't the bottleneck either; Aperture takes longer to process the photos and generate thumbnails than it does to import the files.

item.142105

Travis Butler

Re:

"Why would we want one? An eSATA interface at 3 or 6 GBit/sec is far faster than any single drive. Thunderbolt won't make the drive any faster."

Reply to answer above: Uhhh... maybe because lots of people are buying MacBook Airs without FW800 and without the ability to connect via eSATA.

A better solution would be a TB to eSATA/FW800 interface cable. As noted above, just about any single drive will be much slower than a Thunderbolt connection, so putting TB on the drive doesn't have much benefit. A TB to eSATA or TB-FW800 cable, OTOH, lets that MacBook Air owner use any eSATA/FW800 drive. And since TB is basically PCIe and PCIe-SATA and PCIe-FW800 controllers are standard parts, it hopefully shouldn't be too hard or expensive to make such a cable.

(The only case I can think of where TB on the drive would be an advantage is putting a second TB port on the drive for daisy-chaining; even that could theoretically be done through an interface cable, but it'd be bulky.)

item.142161

Lyman Taylor

Re:

How about something as simple as a TB card reader?

Or a USB 3.0 reader that already exists...

Since USB 2.0 readers replaced FireWire in the market, dumping photo cards (SD or Compact Flash) takes more time

With USB 3.0, it is [less] time, and it is backwards compatible without any dongles, docking ports, or $50 cables. (The above Lexar USB 3.0 reader *with* cable is less than $50. There is no way a Thunderbolt version is going to come in more affordable with $50 cables.)

The primary motivation for the displacement was that USB 2.0 was more widely deployed. It is highly unlikely that Thunderbolt is ever going to catch up to, let alone pass, USB 3.0 in deployments. Reasons why USB 2.0 squeezed out FireWire from these types of devices are the same reasons that Thunderbolt won't get selected over USB 3.0. USB 3.0 is "fast enough", "less expensive", and "more widely deployed".

USB 3.0 ports on a Mac are unlikely to happen.

That seems highly unlikely to still be true by the end of 2012.

1. Intel announced that USB 3.0 will be incorporated into the Ivy Bridge Chipset (Intel Integrates USB 3.0 into Ivy Bridge Platform, Thunderbolt Optional). So despite some of the rumors this previous Spring that Intel was going to squash/kneecap USB 3.0 in favor of Thunderbolt... those are simply not true. The "optional", discrete component technology next year will be Thunderbolt; not USB 3.0.

AMD's top end chipset is already at USB 3.0 (AMD First to Certify USB 3.0-Supporting Chipset) and should be fully deployed into the mid-upper market offerings next year.

There are only lame excuses left when the USB 3.0 controller is sitting right there on the motherboard and the system vendor doesn't support it.

2. A quick trip to http://www.notebookcheck.net and every greater-than-800 euro (i.e., over $1000) notebook on the recently-reviewed list has at least one USB 3.0 socket. Currently, one of the most recent reviews on that front page for the Sony VPC-CB2S1E/B states:

" ...In fact it delivers all the ports you would usually demand of a modern 15-inch notebook. USB 3.0 and HDMI are the first that we should mention. ... "
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Sony-Vaio-VPC-CB2S1E-B-Notebook.59604.0.html

Apple will probably continue to beat back HDMI with DisplayPort on laptops, but proactively blocking USB 3.0 is a lost battle.

The classes of recently-released models in this "newly released" list where USB 2.0 exclusivity continues to dominate are netbooks and lower-priced options. That is now, while the implementation requires an additional, discrete USB 3.0 chip. When USB 3.0 is part of the standard chipset deployment, [adoption] will be even higher and start to cover the lower ends of the market as well.

USB 3.0 is well on its way to the critical mass stage, before it even hits the chipset. The only other large missing piece is either a Windows 7 service pack with USB 3.0 support or the arrival of Windows 8 (which, even 2 years ago, Intel/Microsoft were targeting for native USB 3.0 support. Windows 8 is late, but it isn't going to be later than 2012. The public beta should be underway by the beginning of 2012.

Apple probably figured it was relatively safe to "kick the can" down the road into 2012, so that they could use 2011 to get Thunderbolt out. That window to ignore the competition is closing now.

Perhaps Charles Park Seward's comment about a TB<->USB3.0 hub will come to pass.

For the current, pre-USB 3.0 configurations being deployed, perhaps. However, long term, from a price/performance perspectiv,e it isn't going to be the most competitive solution. <

And yes, I realize MacBooks have SD readers built in. Too bad they're connected to the internal USB bus.

Actually the newer ones aren't:

"... Newer Macs use the PCIe bus to communicate with the SD card slot and can transfer data at a much faster rate. ... "
http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3553

It is only a matter of Apple selecting a reader with support for the higher transfer speeds (SDXC UHS-I at 104MB/s and UHS-II at 312MB/s), both of which are faster than USB 2.0 at 60MB/s).

item.142172

Harris Upham

I'm sure it's overkill for all but the most demanding photo users, but for video purposes I've done very nicely with a Sonnet QIO card reader. It's a PCI device, connects to the Expresscard slot on my MacBook Pro. I'm told I can get a host card for my Mac Pro to use it there, but I haven't gone for that option yet.

I can pull media from P2 and Compactflash cards far, far faster than with the equivalent USB or FireWire readers. I didn't bother to do speed tests, because it was obvious that the limiting factor was the speed of the cards themselves, or in some cases the target archive drives.

If you regularly deal with a lot of media from these formats, you'll earn back the investment before long.

I imagine this device is going to get replaced with a Thunderbolt version at some point, but the current version is a great way to get the job done quickly with current and recent Macs.

item.142182

MacInTouch Reader

For those interested in Thunderbolt, the modified MiniDisplayPort connector is intellectual property owned by Apple, not by Intel. Intel owns the LightPeak specification, and they have partnered with AvaGo and a number of other third parties to implement the raw physical layer in optical format. This original technology was aiming just to replace PCI-express between major choke-points in a PC and/or multi-board/box system. Later, Intel developed a copper-only variant, including the PHY chips you see in the current Thunderbolt cables.

Thunderbolt is an implementation of LightPeak, with (we assume) Apple-added features, including the DisplayPort data channels and the connector. Theoretically, Intel is able to license this to anyone, but for now, they appear to be highly restrictive in the third-parties getting any kind of access to the technology - explanations vary, but without resorting to any conspiracy theories, skilled engineers will recognize the complexity of delivering a SerDes-based bus technology that runs at 10Gbits per second, per channel... this is a clock rate significantly faster than the CPU itself, and all this has to run on components cheap enough to include in peripherals - and that nut is still being cracked by us developers in the back labs.

Thunderbolt will be available broadly, but I wouldn't promise a TBolt product to your children to be under the x-mas tree this year.

item.142168

Emory Lundberg

I'm also eagerly awaiting Thunderbolt peripherals to be available and I like the idea of a single-cable "dock" solution for notebooks, but I had not realized that most video cards for PCI-E are 16x, not the 4x that Thunderbolt can keep up with.

So if you were hoping for a wicked graphics card for gaming, Thunderbolt isn't fast enough for those graphics cards from ATI and nVidia.

Aug. 20, 2011

item.142221

Davide Guarisco

Lyman Taylor is correct: What we need are Macs with Thunderbolt *and* USB 3 ports. It's not a matter of if, only of when, Apple will switch their USB ports to USB 3 (and probably remove FireWire at the same time).

Personally, I am holding off buying any new Mac until they come with USB 3. Depending on Apple's stubbornness factor (hi, Steve), this could happen with the next revision or a couple of years later...

item.142257

James Katt

The new Thunderbolt connectors on the new MacBooks are very useful, once peripherals are created for them.

For example, the new 24-inch Apple Display connects via the Thunderbolt connector. And it provides built-in USB 2.0 and Firewire 800 adapters for Thunderbolt!

Thus, the new MacBook Airs can connect to FireWire drives via the external display.

item.142258

James Katt

The problem for Thunderbolt is the chips that are needed to support it. These are not available yet at prices much below $100. Thus, Thunderbolt won't be available to the general public until the prices come down. It is limited to RAID drives and other expensive peripherals at this time.

Aug. 22, 2011

item.142278

Steve B

I had asked WiebeTech (now CRU-Dataport) about the availability of their products with the Thunderbolt interface and I received this answer:

"Yes, we plan to embrace the Thunderbolt interface on multiple products. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for Thunderbolt technology to be released to the manufacturing community."

Not exactly sure what 'released' means but the answer doesn't seem to give me the idea it will be very soon.

item.142279

Skot Nelson

Re:

For example, the new 24-inch Apple Display connects via the Thunderbolt connector.

It's 27 inches.

[Re: the claim] that Thunderbolt chips aren't available for less than $100, [I think] no one's paying that much for a single Thunderbolt chip. If they were, new Apple hardware would cost a fortune.

item.142358

Brian S

LaCie's web site ( http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10549 ) says the Thunderbolt Little Big Disk (with SSDs inside) will be available "Summer 2011". A product announcement in late February 2011 and a web video showcasing a prototype convinces it isn't vapor, but the proximity of summer's demise makes me less sanguine.

item.142388

MacInTouch Reader

Skot Nelson wrote:

Card readers are such commodities now, I can't see a ThunderBolt one emerging in a world where FireWire ones have all but disappeared. I tried to get one for ages, but eventually acquiesced and bought a $17 USB 2.0 one (I shoot on Compact Flash cards.)

[Here are some] FireWire card readers [at Amazon]

Aug. 23, 2011

item.142447

Skot Nelson

Re:

[Here are some] FireWire card readers [at Amazon]

Yeah, but I can't find one at retail in Canada to save my life.

Sandisk's web site doesn't list one:
http://www.sandisk.com/products/readers-accessories

They've become niche products (pushed over the edge, probably, by the inclusion of SD slots in more and amore hardware, including Apple's and the restriction of Compact Flash cards to "professional DSLR's.)

item.142459

Kevin C.

Re:

[Here are some] FireWire card readers [at Amazon]

Unfortunately there is only a single Firewire 800 reader in the first 200 results that link returns. It quickly turns into computers with FW ports and FW hard drives.

The Sandisk Extreme reader on the first page is a great reader, however it is now selling for at least $100 more than it cost late last year.

Aug. 24, 2011

item.142529

Harold Zeh

For several years, I have dependably used a Lexar Firewire 400 CF Reader to read camera CF cards, like this one from Amazon:

Lexar Firewire CompactFlash card reader RW019 Rev B

into which I plug this converter (or one like it) for (SD) SDHC cards (30 MB/s), found on two other cameras I use (both do SLR HD video, as well :)

SD-CF II: SD to CF Type II Adapter (Supports SDHC MMC)

Seems to work a lot faster than the SDHD card direct to USB 2.0, although maybe I just think it does, not having taken actual measurements - but I am satisfied none the less. I can simply take SD cards when traveling and use the CF to SD converter (they are inexpensive so a back-up or two is recommended) in the CF-only camera (which does not do video, so if there is a speed hit, I do not feel it).

It is also how I created a (back-up) Lion installer. My first attempt was using a USB 2.0 thumb drive - which seemed extraordinarily slow to boot (and run) by comparison.

But it sure does seem FireWire card readers are becoming extinct! Thought I could helpfully pull a few positive quick searches. "Out of stock" and discontinued is what I found instead. Hopefully, the Firewire Reader will last long enough to see USB 3.0 SD slots on the computers (even though I'm not usually in too big of a rush to off-load memory cards in the background.)

Sep. 29, 2011

item.144178

MacInTouch

Village Instruments CEO Promises Graphics Card Enclosure for Thunderbolt

Village Instruments CEO Hubert Chen wrote an open letter to Facebook last week, attempting to gauge customer interest in an external PCI Express graphics card enclosure for Thunderbolt. He said that the company would begin development on such a device if 50 people left a comment indicating interest - as of right now, the letter has well over 300 comments, and Chen confirmed in a follow-up note that development on the peripheral would begin soon.

Mar. 17, 2012

item.154314

Michael Fryd

A MacInTouch Reader reported that his Snow Leopard Mac would ignore keyboard input, but allow him to move the mouse.

I have seen a similar problem when I boot my MacBook with the external Thunderbolt monitor attached.

I can move the mouse, but it ignores the keyboard and mouse clicks. It's clearly a software issue. I can resolve the issue by using screen sharing from another Mac. Using screen sharing, I can log in, and then the local keyboard and mouse work again.

My other solution is to disconnect, the external monitor, power cycle the Mac, and then reconnect the external monitor.

I suspect that Apple has some bug in Snow Leopard that causes this. I doubt Apple will fix it, as they really want us to move to Lion. The best we can hope for is to figure out what triggers the bug, and how to work around it.

Mar. 19, 2012

item.154407

Gideon Zimmermann

I can confirm the exact same problem Michael Fryd describes, only that I've encountered this with Lion X.7.3b on a brand new 15" MacBook Pro connected to a Thunderbolt Display.

When this happens, the MacBook Pro Trackpad also does not work!

Apple extended aluminum keyboard and Logitech USB mouse are connected to the display.

All Thunderbolt firmware and software updates are installed.

Mar. 20, 2012

item.154465

Ed Sikorski

I've seen this randomly at boot, where the mouse works, but one cannot login at the prompt. We think it has to do with the shutdown (checked box to reopen windows at login).
Making sure the box is unchecked, the problem doesn't come back. All under 10.7.3.

I really don't like Lion. We kept 10.6 on another partition and it confirms this issue (don't have it with 10.6.8).

Of course this is with login prompt (Mac is in an open area), and mouse movement but no data entry accepted at login prompt. Apple aluminum external keyboard, USB Microsoft mouse, all updates (firmware and software).

Oh, and not a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac (so this might not be your issue, but the input lockup is definitely real).

item.154444

MacInTouch Reader

I experienced this issue as well. Seemed to randomly occur after a wake from sleep. Once or twice after connecting the keyboard after a start up. Simple Restart seemed to resolve the problem.

MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011), Thunderbolt Display, Apple USB (wired) Extended Keyboard, Apple Magic Mouse (BlueTooth).

Mar. 21, 2012

item.154539

Scott Bayes

Re:

I've seen this randomly at boot, where the mouse works, but one cannot login at the prompt.

I have seen something that sounds about the same, a couple of times now. This is on a late 2009 iMac running Lion, no Thunderbolt in sight.

IIRC, I fixed it by - get this - typing some letters of my logname or password, then hitting the Brightness up/down keys on my keyboard, which caused the typing to suddenly appear in the field. I suspect that typing the logname and password "blind" might also have worked, but I was wanting to use my Mac, not have a learning experience, so I didn't test further.

I believe that at least once the trigger for the problem was using Screen Sharing to log into an account on this iMac that was logged in locally but fast user-switched out. Some action after that, maybe fast user-switching to the currently active user, finally triggered it.

Apr. 16, 2012

item.155932

Frank Miller

For Michelle Steiner-

Monoprice (www.monoprice.com) has inexpensive FW800-400 cables available so you will not be stuck with USB 2.0 speeds.

HTH.

item.155867

Michelle Steiner

I recently purchased a Seagate GoFlex Desk for Mac hard drive, which has FireWire 800 and USB 2.0; one of the reasons I bought it is that the box prominently proclaimed that it is upgradable to Thunderbolt.

I couldn't find the upgrade module for Thunderbolt anywhere on their web site (I did find one for their mobile GoFlex drives, though), so emailed them, asking about its availability.

They replied that it is not available yet, and wouldn't or couldn't tell me when it would be available. They suggested that I keep checking their web site.

So if you're motivated to get this drive with the intent of upgrading it to Thunderbolt, be aware that you won't be able to do it immediately.

I hope that by the time the next model of the iMac is released (which I intend to buy), they will be selling the Thunderbolt model; in the meantime, I'm using USB 2.0; my current iMac doesn't have FireWire 800, and I don't have a FW 400/800 cable.

Apr. 17, 2012

item.155901

Jay Craig

Michelle Steiner: Try this adapter. It's the smallest I could find. A little over $6.

Micro Accessories FIR-1369-AD-01 400 to 800 FireWire Adapter

item.155908

Chris Stumpf

I was in an Apple Store a week ago and they had those Thunderbolt upgrade modules hanging on the wall along with the Go Flex drives.

Don't know why Seagate would tell you they are unavailable with no known ETA.

item.155936

David Charlap

Michelle Steiner wrote:

I recently purchased a Seagate GoFlex disk for Mac hard drive, which has FireWire 800 and USB 2.0; one of the reasons I bought it is that the box prominently proclaimed that it is upgradable to Thunderbolt. ... They replied that it is not available yet, and wouldn't or couldn't tell me when it would be available. They suggested that I keep checking their web site. ... I hope that by the time the next model of the iMac is released (which I intend to buy), they will be selling the Thunderbolt model; in the meantime, I'm using USB 2.0; my current iMac doesn't have FireWire 800, and I don't have a FW 400/800 cable.

Ugh. I hope they ship the adapter soon. Personally, promises like this always fall into the "I'll believe it when I see it" category. If they don't get the adapter developed before the next generation of drives ship, it may never be available for the model you bought. Let's hope my pessimism proves to be unwarranted.

As for what to do now, you may want to get a cheap FW 400/800 adapter. I purchased the Moshi adapter to attach a bunch of FW400 devices to my new Mac mini. It works great. You can plug the adapter into the drive and use a FW400 cable to attach it to your iMac (or to a FW400 hub). It should work just fine (but at FW400 speeds, of course.)

No need to put up with USB performance if you've got a perfectly good FW port.

Apr. 18, 2012

item.155959

Brian Marsh

Those were the portable GoFlex, not the desktop versions of the Thunderbolt adpater.

For some reason they shipped the portable version first (maybe people at Seagate use MacBook Airs that don't have Firewire ;) )

item.155975

Dave Sholle

Concerning the Seagate Goflex Thunderbolt adapters, I believe that the Thunderbolt adapter that works with the portable (2.5") drives is currently available, while the Thunderbolt goflex desk adapter that works with the desktop (3.5") drives is not yet available for sale (although it has been tested at sites such as CNET). Hence the confusion with some claiming the Thunderbolt adapter is available, while some claiming otherwise.

Apr. 19, 2012

item.156004

MacInTouch Reader

Many of the Frys stores have both the Seagate GoFlex Desk and portable adapter in stock and on the shelf. I picked up both at our local Frys.

Alas, only compatible with single drives, so while you get the connection capability, no way to benefit from the performance possible unless an SSD is used.

item.156037

Chris Hanson

The desktop Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt docks are in stock at Apple Stores in Houston.

Jul. 10, 2012

item.159771

MacInTouch

Why Thunderbolt cables will be expensive until 2013

... This isn't likely to change in the near future. Our research shows that for the rest of 2012, Thunderbolt cables are going to remain in the $45-60 price range. Prices aren't likely to drop noticeably until early 2013, when second-generation silicon for Thunderbolt's active cabling becomes available in production quantities. ...

Jul. 16, 2012

item.160163

David Blair

Thanks Ric, for the excellent daily Apple news, I read Macintouch most days and pick up tips and useful knowledge all the time!

Is there a Thunderbolt drive that has two or more bays and treats them as "Just a Bunch Of Disks" [JBOD], with the ability to quickly insert/remove the SSD?

I record from my camera via BlackMagic Hypershuttle onto OCZ SSD's and want quick (and not too expensive) way of transferring the footage onto a working drive to free up space for more recording on the SSD.

Jul. 17, 2012

item.160200

Lyman Taylor

Re:

Is there a Thunderbolt drive that has two or more bays and treats them as "Just a Bunch Of Disks" [JBOD], with the ability to quickly insert/remove the SSD?
... want quick (and not too expensive) way of transferring ...

Not exactly but two approximate, relatively inexpensive solutions:

Seagate's GoFlex adapters that as based on the USM SATA standard.

Desktop version:
Seagate GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt Adapter (STAE122)
(if you need to daisy chain so you don't use up the only Thunderbolt connector available).

The actual dock's data/power connector is SATA, so people have hooked bare drives to this. The "desktop" version where the drive is inserted vertically would probably be better on a bare SATA drive which doesn't have an external shell. Unless you need a kludge to support the less-tall drive when inserted horizontally. There is more about the USM standard size and shape of the external shell and some interoperability issues, but it is much like what the "SATA dock" products have been doing for a while.

The limitation here is a single drive at a time.

One can attempt doing parallel drive dumps, but unless the "working (space) drive" is substantially faster than two SSDs, doing two serial transfers will be about as fast in total transfer time. Running multiple, often slower but unattended, transfers is going to cost more.

If you have multiple camera drives that require parallel dumps, then I can see > 2 JBOD as being a big need. If it is a single camera, a 3-disk rotation (camera, dock, ready is likely going to be a more cost-effective solution.

Second, would be a JBOD box.

QNAP's JTB-400: A BYOD 4-bay Thunderbolt Enclosure

It is an approximate solution because it isn't on sale yet. :-)
It is probably going to cost around $300-400 (about as much as a TS-412 NAS box it appears to be derived from).

The expensive route would be to use one of the 4 (or more)-bay external Thunderbolt RAID boxes that also have a JBOD mode. They typically cost much more.

Jul. 18, 2012

item.160253

Mark Kushigian

You asked if there were any Thunderbolt enclosures with two or more drives that treat them as JBOD. Yes, the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt exposes its two drives to the OS as just drives. The RAID, if any, is created with Disk Utility. Of course they come with drives in them. I replaced them with 4TB Hitachi 7K4000 drives, configure as RAID1 in Disk Utility, all is well.

Jul. 19, 2012

item.160300

Lyman Taylor

Re:

Yes, the LaCie 2big Thunderbolt exposes its two drives to the OS as just drives.

While the 2big drives technically have a JBOD mode, it is going to be slightly awkward to use in the context [of] the original request, namely, where the user will be often popping drives in and out of the enclosure in a hot-swap context. The drive does claim hot-swap and JBOD, but the Thunderbolt cables plug in right next to the drive slots. It can work, but the user will have to be careful not to disrupt the Thunderbolt cable while swapping drives.

For example, on the product page, the picture in the "Daisy Chain to Multiply Options" shows the potential hazard. The TB cables cross in front of the drive sleds.

If there is slack in the cable, it should not be hard to include the cable in the grip of the overall enclosure, as you use the other hand to unlock and pull the sled out.

The other problem, that the QNAP JBOD shares, is that the drive sleds are oriented toward 3.5" drives. It is something that can be worked around, but it will involve extra steps on each drive swap.

Ideally, there would be a box which took 2.5" drives on the front (or top ... like toaster slots), an indicator that the drive(s) was "unmounted" (and OK to eject), and connection cables in the back.

item.160303

David Blair

Thanks Lyman and Mark - I will investigate the GoFlex and LaCie options to see if they will work with my OCZ SSD.

I have read reports that the WD 4G Thunderbolt only plays properly with WD drives.

Any other comments and experiences?

Jul. 21, 2012

item.160407

David Blair

Thanks for your input re LaCie, Lyman.

I've read all the docs at LaCie - no mention of SSD compatibility. Asked the local Mac store to see if they can get a demo model so I can try it out in-store.

I have a few FW800 and USB 2 docks and only one of them works with SSD, hence my caution in selecting something that costs a lot more, more carefully.

I have just discovered that CalDigit T1 & T2 drives support SSD, but they are not yet shipping . Same with Drobo Mini & D5.

Guess I'll just have to wait (not my strong point).

Thanks again  :-)

Jul. 25, 2012

item.160515

Alex Alegado

Re: QNAP drives sleds "oriented to 3.5-inch"

True, the QNAP drive sleds are sized to fit 3.5" drives but they are pre-drilled to support both 3.5" drives and 2.5" drives. Nothing special needs to be done to support either type of drive.

Aug. 13, 2012

item.161838

Paul Ukena

I finally got a Thunderbolt/Firewire adapter, something for which I have been pining since my purchase of a 2011 MacBook Air.

It works very well as intended; I'm able to mount drives with a FW800 port to my MBA, and the adapter passes power through. It doesn't work the other way, though: I can't connect a Tbolt drive to my Mac Pro, even a powered one -- I tried the LaCie Tbolt drive powered, and the Seagate mini with Tbolt adapter unpowered (of course, the Seagate also has a FW800 adapter).

However, one thing it does do the other way is to mount my Tbolt-only MBA in Target Disk mode on my FW800-only Mac Pro, which is a nice bonus.

Aug. 15, 2012

item.161929

Walter Ian Kaye

Paul Ukena wrote:

"However, one thing it does do the other way is to mount my Tbolt-only MBA in Target Disk mode on my FW800-only Mac Pro, which is a nice bonus."

Would FW 400 work too?

Aug. 17, 2012

item.162044

Antony Gravett

FW400 works as well, using a FW800-to-400 adapter, such as http://eshop.macsales.com/item/NewerTech/FIR1369AD/

Aug. 20, 2012

item.162149

Scott Austin

The reason the Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter doesn't work on a Mac Pro is because the Mac Pro doesn't have a Thunderbolt port, only Mini DisplayPorts. We are still waiting for Thunderbolt to make it's way to the Mac Pro.

Both Thunderbolt ports and Mini DisplayPorts can be used for connecting monitors, but only a Thunderbolt port supports connecting hard drives.

item.162152

Peter Lovell

I see that Apple has a Thunderbolt-to-FW800 adapter.

Anyone know if there's a similar Thunderbolt-to-USB3 adapter? I know that Belkin and others have announced multi-dock devices but I'm looking for something smaller, like the FW800 adapter.

item.162202

Lyman Taylor

Re: Scott Austin and the Thunderbolt-Firewire adapter working "backwards"...

The reason the Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter doesn't work on a Mac Pro is because the Mac Pro doesn't have a Thunderbolt port

No, that isn't it. The set up was:

Mac Pro [Firewire port] <---- adapter ---> [TB port] TB Drive

The Mini Display Port connectors on the Mac Pro aren't involved at all. So it doesn't matter if they are "forward compatible" with Thunderbolt or not.

This doesn't work because there is no way to send raw PCI-e and SATA commands out to the drive through Firewire that the drive understands. What goes out on Firewire is in its native protocol; not those others.

There is a corner case where Target disk mode is set up:

Mac Pro [FW] <----- adapter ----> [TB] TB capable Mac

In that environment Apple has low level firmware support so that the PCI-e commands destine the internal controller are passed through. You need Apple's proprietary software mechanism on both sides of the cable to make it work.

"Target Disk Mode" is an Apple thing. Not a Firewire standard thing (or any other open standard).

Aug. 21, 2012

item.162227

David Charlap

Regarding running a TB-FW adapter in reverse.

Based on what TB actually is, there is no way such a configuration could work. Thunderbolt is, for all intents and purposes, a PCIe slot. Trying to attach a TB peripheral to a Mac via FireWire is like trying to attach a PCIe device via FW.

Nobody would ever consider buying a PCIe FireWire adapter card and using it in "reverse" - by attaching another PCIe device to it and expecting a computer with a FW port to be able to control it. Nobody would even consider trying it because the connectors are incompatible. The fact that Thunderbolt uses the same connector on both ends of the cable doesn't change the fact that there is a clear difference between the "host" side and the "peripheral" side of that cable.

USB is very much the same. You can't swap the host and peripheral sides of a cable (or tree of devices when hubs are used). It just doesn't work. The entire design of USB is such that one and only one device (that owns the root hub) is always in control of the entire bus. (Devices that can run as both host and peripheral, like some phones, must reconfigure the port, and must physically move to the opposite side of any hub(s) to make this switch. They can't simultaneously act as a host and a peripheral.)

This is completely different from buses like SCSI, FireWire and FibreChannel (all of which actually run the SCSI protocols) where it's a peer-to-peer bus. With these systems, any device can theoretically initiate communication with any other device. A single bus can support multiple hosts and a single device can act as both host and peripheral without any proprietary hacks.

Aug. 22, 2012

item.162271

MacInTouch Reader

Regarding the statement:
"Nobody would ever consider buying a PCIe FireWire adapter card and using it in 'reverse'"

A rather strong statement that ignores reality.

I know of people who have tried:
- to use their multi-interface drive to create a FireWire to USB daisy-chain, and/or convert from one interface to another
- to use the Sonnet ExpressCard interface + <name your interface> ExpressCard to create a Thunderbolt port to connect from USB or FireWire or eSATA or Ethernet to another Thunderbolt device
- to connect the same FireWire or Thunderbolt drive to two different computers at the same time

This only scratches the surface but illustrates the dilemma developers face when products have wide usage in the marketplace. It seems logical to them that it should work. More knowledgeable people realize why it won't work, but that is a small percentage of the user base.

Doesn't help much that documentation is sparse, and most people don't know how to search for answers.

At least the product developers are inclined to factor in these possible use cases to make sure improper use doesn't damage the products or computers.

Just try to avoid absolutes; you'll likely be surprised one day to find out other possible applications beyond the original scope of capabilities.

Oct. 12, 2012

item.165014

MacInTouch Reader

I have purchased a LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 2 x 2Gb drive enclosure and have set it up as a Raid 0 4GB array to use for Documents on my 2012 iMac. The result is very good and using Disk Speed Test by Black Magic I get 280+MB/s write and 330+MB/s read speeds. However while reading info in System Information under Serial-ATA for the 2 LaCie drives/controllers I get

Unknown AHCI Standard Controller:

Vendor: Unknown
Product: AHCI Standard Controller
Link Speed: 6 Gigabit
Negotiated Link Speed: 3 Gigabit
Description: AHCI Version 1.00 Supported

So, as the two Seagate HDDs in the unit are both 6 Gigabit capable drives, I wrote to LaCie to ask why I am only getting 3 Gigabit. After all this is a Thunderbolt unit, so there should be no connection restrictions should there? However the reply from LaCie is:

"Your system profile is normal as the speed of the 2big casing cannot exceed 3 Gigagbit. Your product is working as intended."

Clearly these units are not capable of using Thunderbolt to anything maximum capacity. Perhaps they just used the non-Thunderbolt controllers and so hobbled the potential speed of the unit; after all if it ran at 6 Gigabit even Raid 1 would run close to the quoted speeds in Raid 0. What does everyone think?

Oct. 13, 2012

item.165073

Sam Baughman

To the reader asking about the LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt drive:

The information you've copied from System Information describes the capabilities of the AHCI controller chip in the LaCie enclosure. Thunderbolt functions as a PCI Express connection for expansion devices like storage, and hard drives cannot connect directly to that. However, AHCI controller chips are available that connect to PCI Express and provide Serial ATA connections. It appears that LaCie has picked a controller chip that supports 6 Gb/s link speeds.

The other part of this equation is the Serial ATA link speed supported by the drives. The Negotiated link speed is limited to 3 Gb/s if the drive only supports 3 Gb/s. System Information doesn't directly show this; instead, you have to research the drive specifications to find this.

It is entirely possible that LaCie has a 6 Gb/s controller but is using 3 Gb/s drives into it. There's always the question of the drive's ability to saturate even a 3 Gb/s link. If the actual "spinning disks" cannot fill a 3 Gb/s link, they're not going to gain anything from running with a 6 Gb/s link.

There are always occasional instances where data can be returned from the cache, but for a 32 MB cache, a 3 Gb/s link will drain it in 10 milliseconds; for 6, it would be 5 milliseconds. And then you're back to spinning disk speed.

If this was an enclosure with SSDs, you'd want everything running with 6 Gb/s links. Any SSD can generally saturate a 3 Gb/s link for reads.

In the end, just because a company advertises storage for a fast expansion bus doesn't mean they're stuffing the fastest storage into it...

item.165076

Steven May

MacInTouch Reader wonders about the performance of his LaCie 2Big Thunderbolt 2 x 2Gb drive.

Because the striped performance of your 2 Seagates do not exceed the bandwidth of the 3G bus, it does not matter that your bus is not 6G. A 6G bus is worthless without the drives to saturate it. And 2 HDDs can not saturate a 6G bus. So, for your single 2Big Thunderbolt drive, your 3G controller would only impact you if you had more than 2 drives inside the enclosure directly on the 3G bus.

The 1000MB/sec advantage of Thunderbolt (and it seems most are only seeing 800MB/sec or so) will only come into play when you stripe multiple 2Big Thunderbolt drives together (as illustrated by LaCie on their website).

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