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Firewire disappearing from Laptops?

Hi all;

Just wondering if anyone else is seeing a potential problem looming for Firewire users/Laptops/Remote recording.

I have three laptop systems that I use regularly on remotes; all Sony Vaios with 4-pin FW connections (often very iffy) and PC Express slots, which I plug in a FW cable to PC Xpress card. (These can easily be dislodged, but I tape it all down and things work fine.)

These laptops are dual Pentiums, etc., running Windows Vista and/or Win 7, and things are working just fine, for now. As we all know, everything eventually breaks and needs to be replaced, updated, etc. Like everything else, I know these laptops wont last forever, although I treat them well, and don't do much of anything else with them except live remote recording.

What is concerning me is a cursory look at all the new medium-priced laptops contain neither FW or PC Xpress slots anymore; just USB 2, LAN, and wiresless ports. (I have read this is also a problem with new MAC laptops coming out as well.)

I'm worried that all the FW recording devices I have (RME Fireface, Mackie Onyx, etc.) are going to become useless in the next few years.

I HAVE seen some higher end Dell laptops still shipping with the 4-pin FW jacks, but next to no PC Xpress Card slots. All the quick&easy budget laptops (in the under $500 range) are looking to be totally useless for Firewire, in terms of ins and outs.

Anyone else concerned about this, or coming up with a work-around/solution?


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moles Sun, 04/01/2012 - 21:11

I refuse to buy a new system OR a new interface OR a new OS until one dies beyond repair, and any viable replacement won't/can't work with the remaining two.* My needs aren't that of a pro studio, but that said, hanging on to my Aardvark Q10/Windows XP setup is continuing to be a worthwhile investme nt (of the penny-saved variety). Samp 11 works just peachy on it. Everything's running on a desktop PC I built around a scavenged tower and drives I've had hanging around for years. As of it's last wipe/reinstall it stays of the 'net and it's STABLE like it's never been. Just finished a week long session with an acoustic duo, and not one glitch/issue the whole time...

So with the original topic in mind... if pre-built laptops are not giving us the options we want/need, what are the other options? I used to see plenty of rack-mount PC boxes, and more recently with little 8" or 10" LCD monitors on top. Maybe it wouldn't be as small and portable as a laptop, but with the right size rack case you could put a full space interface in there, and only have one thing to carry...

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JoeH Mon, 04/02/2012 - 07:45

Thanks to everyone who's responded so far (keep it comin', folks!)

Remy, you should write a book. I'm serious. Chris, I hear what you're saying. It seems like EVERYONE is dealing with this one way or another. And this ever-constant lemming-like race over the cliff with technology that no longer works with previous versions is just maddening. I'm all for change and improvement, but why are we continually throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

At the moment, I'm just fine, too....Samp/Sequoia Vs 10 are running great on all of my Vista & Win 7 systems, and they're all more than enough for live tracking. I also have the JoeCo Black Box that runs on a standard USB 2.0 drive and plugs into the inserts of any preamp, so I'm probably going to be covered there for a long time to come. Even so, one has to keep looking out past the horizon to see what's coming next.

I too have considered lugging a desktop style computer around if it ever comes to it, and (so far) my laptops are running fine, the result of a LOT of TLC and careful upgrades. As Remy points out, I don't EVER jump on a software upgrade just for the sake of getting the newest/bestest version. The damn thing has to really WORK in a proven fashion before I can risk it out on a remote or in front of a client. (Nothing worse than that "oops" moment when a piece of software hangs up, or crashes an afternoon's worth of editing with the client SITTING there....)

John's right, too, pointing out that the Xpress card slot is ALSO disappearing. That's what really hit the panic button for me. I too hate that little 4 pin connector on the Sony Laptops (at least one of them has already stopped working; it's either busted off the circuit board, or something just blew it up), and the PC XPress Card was a good (but not perfect) work-around.

I guess for now, I'll have to keep my aging laptops under lock & key, in perfect working order, until something better comes along. There's alwaysy Ebay and NOS (New old stock) for the immediate future, I suppose. Like Epson printers, there's always SOMEONE out there who's been rat-holing a pile of Laptops and things, ready to unload them at fire sale prices.

I'm not against moving to USB per se, but I'll bet a lot of folks agree with me that it's nice to put the INPUTS on the Firewire bus, and all the storage ins/outs on the USB 2.0 bus. Once I sorted that out years ago, all my conflicts and (most of my) Asio buffer problems went away. For me, it's the best way to go with live recording.

Fortunately, this is just a live-tracking issue; I'm fine back in the studio with a Dell 4-core tower that has more horsepower and ins & outs than I ever dreamed about, so that part should be good for a long time to come.

Thanks to all for comments so far! Please post more on here if you get any new ideas or solutions about this.

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soapfloats Sat, 06/02/2012 - 00:17

The problem with Thunderbolt, is those of us that have $1800 interfaces w/o Thunderbolt.

I have an HD24 for my live multitrack capture, but I also like redundancy -
and this is why I'd love to have a FW400/800 laptop that runs the same OS/DAW as my studio.
Or at least one that allows for PCIe so I can transfer my audio digitally in some manner.

We've thought about using a laptop/interface for redundancy, extra mobile rig, remote machine/mixer, etc...
Basically, a scaled-down version of our control room on-the-go... in studio or on the road.
As integrated as technology is today, one would think this would be possible - it was a few years ago...

As others have lamented, only the "i" series of products seems to have the ease of compatibility a modern engineer can benefit from.

And I'll repeat my biggest beef - that neither Dell nor HP websites or phone reps could/WOULD tell me that I couldn't get FW in a new laptop.
It must have been a secret?
Either way, I've lost my faith in (new) computer-based mobile recording.
Maybe I'll wait until Thunderbolt is old news?

bigtree Sat, 06/02/2012 - 00:31

PCAudioLabs has great FW capable laptops, I have one and love it. I use the Network port and it works great. Also, there will be other interfaces that bridge FW to thunderbolt as posted in this thread earlier. Like Prism has posted on their website for the Orpheus.

I don't think its as big deal right now and by the time it is, you will be happy to be replacing your converters.