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Apple blames Oxford for Firewire data loss bug

And Oxford blames drive vendors...

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Apple and 1394 chip maker Oxford Semiconductor are each blaming others for data lost when some Mac users upgraded to Mac OS X 10.3, aka Panther, in the week following its release on 24 October.

The problem emerged on official and third-party support forums early last week, when users who had upgraded to Panther while their external Firewire drives were connected to their computers, found information stored on said drives had been irreparably damaged. Some users reported experiencing data loss when they rebooted into Panther with their drives connected.

Users have claimed to have experienced the problem with both 400MBps and 800MBps versions of 1394, but late last week Apple issued a statement acknowledging the problem with FireWire 800 drives.

The Mac maker laid the blame at Oxford's door: "Apple has identified an issue with external Firewire hard drives using the Oxford 922 bridge chip-set with firmware version 1.02 that can result in the loss of data stored on the disk drive. Apple is working with Oxford Semiconductor and affected drive manufacturers to resolve this issue, which resides in the Oxford 922 chipset," the company statement said.

However, Oxford issued a statement of its own, effectively passing the buck back on to hard drive manufacturers.

"Currently we believe this issue relates to a change in the way Panther uses FireWire that affected version 1.02 of the OXUF922 driver software," the Oxford statement reads.

However, says Oxford, "a new version, 1.05, was issued by Oxford Semiconductor to the manufacturers of external drive products in early September".

In other words, there was a patch out. The question is, did Apple know about it? If so, why didn't it advise Panther installers to ask their FireWire driver vendors for the appropriate firmware update? To be fair to Apple, it's not its responsibility to liaise between users and third-party product makers. But a polite warning to users would have been politic, particularly since many users will have connected external FireWire 800 drives to back-up their data prior to the Panther install. As we did, albeit with an older FireWire 400 unit.

"For firmware updates for OXUF922-based FireWire drive products please consult your manufacturer's website," says Oxford.

Until those patches become available, Apple is recommending users keep their FireWire 800 drives disconnected. So far, LaCie, Otherworld Computing (OWC), EZ Quest and WiebeTech have introduced patches to update their FireWire 800 products' firmware. ®

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