What I Don't Know: What you need to know about Thunderbolt Computers | MacUser | Macworld


This article (via Daringfireball.net) does a good job of introducing people to the basics of Thunderbolt, the Apple-adopted, Intel-developed 10Gbps daisy-chain-architecture super-fast bus. But I have one big, hairy question that I’d like to see addressed before I jump whole-hog onto the bandwagon here.

What about hubs? Because without them, the daisy-chain architecture is just as hobbled as FireWire’s is.

The subject of hubs was mentioned in the comments on the article, but nobody has provided an answer to this question as I write this. If I get one port on my machine and I have to plug into it all of my peripherals and they are daisy-chained, what happens if I want to take a device out of the middle? As it stands now, I lose my video, which has to be downstream of that device—for the time being, anyway—and any downstream hard drives just got dismounted in a not-so-nice way.

And if Nikon is really introducing a Thunderbolt-based DSLR, where do I plug it in? If my monitor doesn’t have a pass-through Thunderbolt port, then the camera has to have two ports on it (unlikely—they are small, but not that small), and I have to disconnect my chain and add a cable to insert the camera. Ick.

Finally, what if one of the devices in my chain goes tango uniform? Does it take down everybody downstream or, worse yet, upstream, too? I have somewhat-old FireWire drives that have the ability to cause my XServe to go kerplooey! (requiring a cold restart) when they decide to go out for lunch without permission. Though USB is slower, it never, ever did that, so those drives sit on USB these days. (They are for backups, not serving, so I don’t notice the performance hit, but am glad for the reliability.)

Don’t get me wrong: I like the underlying technology which, essentially, externalizes the PCIe bus, which is a really cool thing. But I gotta’ see how this works in real life before I say it’s not “very, very frightening.”

(OK, a little hyperbole there just for the sake of the lyrical reference.)

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