I bought a cheapo $50 usb/firewire enclosure at CompUSA, stuck in a very cheap Maxtor 200GB drive and started having problems.
I couldn't identify the chipset on my Mac, but XP did well with the properties tab on the drive manager utility. It's a
Prolific PL3507 Combo Device (1394-ATAPI rev1.10) IEEE 1394 SBP2 DeviceThe Taiwanese vendor site has been rumored to have firmware updates in the past, but as of today there are none listed.
Searching the net I found several similar loooking enclosures sold under different names, typically from $50-$80.
Other web searches found bad news on every front with both the Maxtor drive and this chipset. The Maxtors don't seem to work that well in Firewire enclosures, and this ATA-Firewire bridge chipset is notoriously problematic under every possible OS. So the enclosure is going back to CompUSA.
When I pulled the drive from the enclosure, the enclosure felt cool to the touch. The drive, however, was too hot to hold. It even smelled slighly burnt. Although the enclosure has an aluminum exterior, the innards are plastic. There is no conductive channel between the drive and the enclosure. The extereme heat alone may have caused the problems I was seeing. I suspect the drive would have died within a few weeks.
Firewire is clearly problematic. I wonder if the technology is fundamentally flawed -- Apple has had problems with these drives under OS X since day one. Maybe that's why the new iMac only supports Firewire 400 and not Firewire 800. Perhaps Apple is resigned to switching to USB 2 or a future alternative.
PS. After scanning the Macintouch Firewire report I'm thinking I don't want to attach anything but the most costly and exotic blessed firewire device with cables from heaven to my lowly iBook.