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The Northern Spy: February-March 2001
Where's the Fire(wire)

    I decided it was time to upgrade my trusty old 8600/200/(G3 card of course) machines with Firewire/USB PCI cards, in anticipation of the technology's bright new future. Call it an adventure.
    After spending some time browsing the links right here on The Northern Spy, I settled on two Orange Micro cards, a SCSI+Firewire combo and a Firewire+USB combo, with a 30M pocket VST Firewire/USB drive as the first consumer on the 1394 food chain.
    The Orange SCSI card had big problems right off, not allowing any drivers to be in the boot sequence other than the one it was installing. After numerous crashes and a long discussion with a none-too-knowledgeable-or-forthcoming tech support, I returned it as defective. Unfortunately, the replacement card had the same problem.
    Meanwhile, the other Orange card wasn't doing much better. It gave throughput under half what a Firewire should, crashed frequently, and wouldn't allow any of the VST drive's partitions to be scanned by TechTool without hanging. I checked the VST drive on my son's machine (a new G4, better than mine) and all was copesetic. Conclusion: the drive's OK but the cards won't work on my configuration. OK, bundle up the Orange product and send them back to the vendor. Gotta say here that the vendor, MacWarehouse (Canada) was super through all this.
    I called VST to get their recommendations on Firewire cards. They said there were known problems with Orange cards, and suggested their own, Belkin's, and Evergreen's. I checked them all out. The VST was the most expensive, Belkin appeared not to have a combo card. Evergreen's Fireline combo card was the least expensive and had three Firewire ports and two USB.
    Evergreen had the cards here in four days. I was apprehensive at first, because apart from a one-line mention on the outer box, there was nothing about MacOS 9 either inside or on their web site--no installation instructions, no drivers, no nothing. So I tried it, assuming the Mac way applied--plug it in and expect it to work. I discovered in the process of getting my machine to boot that I now had a corrupt TechTool protection extension and a corrupt MacsBug file (no they didn't cause my Orange tests to fail). With those fixed, all worked.
    If you back up files daily and restore back and forth from home and work as I do, a hot-pluggable little drive that can pop into a corner of the briefcase is just the ticket. When I succumb to the major cool factor of the Titanium notebook and replace the department's trusty old 540c for presentations, the little VST drive will be how I move files to the mobile when I need them, without leaving them to clutter up the portable's internal drive for the next person.
    The bottom line: I can strongly recommend the VST drive/Evergreen FireLine combo. Sorry, Orange. I've been a happy customer before, but not any more. Your product needs work--lots of it.
    --Rick Sutcliffe
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