WiebeTech FireWire Keychain

WiebeTech FireWire Keychain, MicroGB, DesktopGB
Company: WiebeTech, LLC


You don’t know James Wiebe (yet), but he knows a lot about you. For example, you:

  • want a fast, compact way to move items between computers running different operating systems on a variety of platforms
  • need to go back and forth between FireWire and USB on a number of computers
  • require your removable FireWire drives to be bootable in OS 9 and X
  • enjoy well-crafted, rugged, attractively designed peripherals
  • demand instant, personalized customer service and support from people who run the company and know their products inside out
  • are intrigued by the possibility of swapping your hard disks between drive enclosures
  • will be elated not to need custom Macintosh drivers to mount and operate removable disks
  • are wondering if you’ll be caught out of luck when the USB 2.0 standard comes to town
  • will need a round-pin AC adapter during your next trip to Europeand a whole lot more. Have I got your attention yet?


    Here’s a quick bio, in his own words:

    I was CEO of Newer Technology for about 15 years, John. I grew it up to $50+million in sales, watched it implode, and then resigned. Six months later, new management called it quits as well and shut the company down in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    I started to do some software consulting — audio compression software, you know, like MP3 only better, but I couldn’t commercialize it fast enough to make a living. So I decided to kick up the hardware development stuff.

    Last fall, I designed a USB2 hard drive, and introduced it. It fell flat in the market, but I didn’t quit.

    I decided to re-embrace my old friends in the Mac marketplace. Got four great new products ready for January MacWorld, and sales happened!!

    Today my mom and pop company employs five people full time. We just opened a European office, and we’re getting ready to intro some more products. We haven’t yet caught up with demand for our FireWire DriveDock.

    On a personal note, I like to flyfish. I am a pilot, instrument rated, bush flying trained. I go to Church every Sunday. I’m a member of a Mennonite Brethren Church (does anyone even know what that is?!).

    I’ve got a wife who has a strong background in marketing. She helps with everything. I’ve got two girls, ages 9 and 13, they’re great.

    From smallest to largest, let’s examine three different removable hard drives from WiebeTech. You can read more extensive FAQ info on their web site.

    FireWire Keychain Drive ($99 on its own; $399 when supplied with 1GB MicroDrive) generated a substantial buzz from the digerati at Macworld last January. This compact engineering marvel is the size and weight of a premium mini-bar of soap from your favorite fancy hotel, and a gift from heaven for many of its current users. How does this Keychain drive compare to SmartDisk’s FireFly removable drive, with its much greater capacity? James Wiebe expects MicroDrives with more storage than the current 1 GB, giving his Keychain additional value in the marketplace.


    Its engraved techno blue metal case is fine, but I have three questions:

    1. Is it possible to construct a model with a male FireWire plug, so it can be inserted into a computer or hub without using a cable? (Yes, says James, but this will make the product more expensive.)

    2. How about a tight-fitting plastic protector to keep grit and grime out of the tender FireWire socket? (Ditto, says Wiebe.)

    3. Shouldn’t the Keychain’s sharp-edged flat bottom have rounded corners on the bottom plate, to ease wear and tear on pockets and fingers? (“Stay tuned,” according to James.)

    On a positive note, let’s congratulate Wiebe for coming up with the very first user upgradeable speedy Keychain appliance of any kind, having affordable 1GB capacity, plus first use of MicroDrives. Or, as the founder states with gusto, “You can go to a digital photography session, load up a hundred high res pics from a Mac onto the Keychain, never burn a CD, never use the ‘net, and completely avoid USB. And that’s a good feeling.”

    Placing a MicroDrive into the Keychain took me about two minutes, going very slowly, and it mounted on my iMac’s desktop within seconds of an initial test drive. More disk capacity will be necessary for me to attempt booting into X from WiebeTech’s Keychain, because the bare bones 1GB bootable configuration is too restrictive for this reviewer.

    I’ll be showing off my FireWire Keychain + MicroDrive at next month’s Tucson MUG meeting, and it will be a big hit, I predict.

    MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5
    Shows promise! Could be better, but a product worth watching.

    (I’m being conservative here only because WiebeTech’s other products are even better!)

    MicroGB Portable Disk Drive (capacity from 0GB to 60GB, with empty drive costing $160, and 20GB review unit priced at $218) is an instant hit with my consulting clients, because it boots using either USB or FireWire, as appropriate, without requiring any driver software installers. I can’t come up with any complaints for my MicroGB, except the aforementioned request for rounded bottom edges.


    This removable drive is covered in stylish brushed aluminum, with logo engraved subtly into the top of the case. It is fast, sturdy, compact, and very reliable. In OS 9 I have an extension conflict that does not allow MicroGB to load via USB, but it works great on my clients’ computers.

    MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5
    A very decent product. Worth the time and investment, but look for competing products.

    Desktop GB FireWire + USB Drive (available empty, for $160, or loaded all the way up to 120GB, for $370; 80GB review unit sells for $300) is already a seasoned work horse in Nemoland, serving as my OS X drive without a glitch. This versatile hard disk is substantial in size and weight, and comes with a quiet cooling fan plus on/off switch.


    My DesktopGB is here to stay, adjacent to my iMac DV 400, ready to run X or 9 in full partnership with the iMac’s hard disk. This morning I downloaded and installed AOL 5 for OS X directly onto DesktopGB, and within minutes I was in AOL/X-land, easy as pie.

    This powered unit caught me by surprise, and I give it our highest recommendation:

    MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5
    Fantastic product! Well worth your money and investment. The best of its kind

    WiebeTech deserves our support and admiration for coming out of the starting gate with so many winning entries. MyMac.com thanks James Wiebe for dedicating himself to the Macintosh community now and into the future.

    Nemo’s MyMac.com “Q/D/S/V Standard” for all product reviews:

    Q = QUALITY, including ease of installation, performance, stability, and general happy relationship with everything on my system;

    D = DOCUMENTATION, both printed and electronic, plus appropriate website material;

    S = SUPPORT, in the form of email, phone, and web updates;

    V = VALUE, which includes both original cost and subsequent expenses

    John Nemerovski

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