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Hot off the Press - News & Commentary
by Zack Bryce, Tech Lab Manager

Apple’s new OS X “Panther” bugs abound, kills 1394B FireWire 800
November 7th, 2003

Just a week after the release of the new version of Apple’s lauded operating system OS X Panther (v. 10.3), a lot of users and aftermarket hardware manufacturers are finding a lot of serious bugs.

As far as we can find, all manufacturers of IEEE 1394B (FireWire 800) HDD solutions are finding that their hardware is failing after anyone upgrades to OS X 10.3. LaCie issues alert LaCie has issued a statement based on Apple's findings, stating "LaCie has learned that a compatibility issue exists with FireWire 800 drives and Apple’s new operating system release. We believe this problem affects all manufacturers of FireWire 800 drives." As reported by Macintosh community help site MacFixit

LaCie also stated, "At this time, we have not isolated any issues with other LaCie FireWire products with their use of Mac OS X Panther. LaCie FireWire 400 products are not affected by this issue and require no special handling. LaCie products that may be affected."

LaCie says "Do not use Mac OS X Version 10.3 Panther with external drives attached until you follow the instructions detailed on their site. Caution: Data loss can occur unless you follow these directions carefully."

1. Immediately unmount and disconnect your FireWire drives from your Macintosh computer before installing Mac OS X Version 10.3 Panther, before shutting down your system.

2. Go to http://www.lacie.com/support/drivers and follow the instructions for updating your FireWire 800 drive. An updater is available immediately for users with access to Macintosh computers that can boot Mac OS 9. LaCie plans to release a Mac OS X compatible updater as soon as possible.

WiebeTech has posted a firmware updater for its FireWire 800 drives, including Fire800TM desktop drives and MicroGB+800TM pocket drives. “It has been determined that this problem between Panther and FireWire 800 drives usually occurs in circumstances involving older, slower Macintosh computers where the FireWire 800 drive is attached to a FireWire 400 port on the

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computer, and the firmware level of the FireWire drive is 1.02,” said James Wiebe, CEO of WiebeTech.

Oxford Semiconductor, which is the manufacturer of the chipset Apple blamed as the cause of this problem, has released their own terse statement, in which they point out that this issue may not be limited to the Oxford 922 chipset.

"Oxford Semiconductor is actively investigating reports that certain FireWire800 drives have lost data following an upgrade to the Panther operating system for Apple computers (released late October).
"We currently believe that this issue relates to a change in the way Panther uses FireWire, which affected version 1.02 of the OXUF922 driver software. A new version, 1.05 was issued by Oxford Semiconductor to the manufacturers of external drive products in September. “

"We advise end users to contact the product manufacturer to get an upgrade of software to the latest version. “

"As there is currently no evidence that this issue is purely related to Oxford's 922 based drives, Oxford Semiconductor is advising all FireWire drive users to take advantage of further Panther revisions as they arise."

Many of the Mac community “self-help” sites on the internet, like MMNews, MacMinute.com and MacNut have seen a flood of posters reporting failures with these drives along with a lot of other problems with Wake-from-sleep issues, QuarkXpress 6.0 follow-up, Multiple server names, Outlook Express, synchronization with Microsoft Exchange, FileVault issues, Epson Scanners, Screen calibration issues and Quicken 2004.

If this were not enough problem for the new born OS from Apple, a Security Fix (Security Update 2003-11-04 ) was announced two days after the release. “This is beginning to sound a lot like shoddy planning and QA”, said a number of bulletin board posters. We have to agree with that.

Recommendation: Upgrade at a risk, better not to be an early adopter. Remember, it’s the pioneers that have the arrows in their backs.



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