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Laminar's Mac Pro Funtimes
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Laminar
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Dec 3, 2018, 11:22 AM
 
I did some binging over Thanksgiving and ended up ordering six Mac Pros. My end goal is to build one killer Mac Pro and sell the rest to cover my costs, giving me a free Mac Pro. Yesterday's technology, today!

One has arrived so far. Legit 2010 model (Mac Pro 5,1) with an eight core 2.4GHz, 4GB 1066MHz RAM, a couple small hard drives, and the Radeon 5870. It was damaged during shipping. Looks like it took a hit on the rear handle, it popped out and is now blocking the door slightly. I can pull the handle up and still get the door off.



Also the graphics card got knocked loose and its retaining tab was broken off.







Fortunately when I put everything back together it booted right up. I'm working with the eBay seller now to get some dollars back. Side note - the power supply is no joke and dims my lamps when it first powers on.



Fortunately I had expert help.



It came with Yosemite installed, so I went ahead and upgraded it to High Sierra, including the firmware upgrade that HS installs.

Upgrading a MP to Mojave requires having a Metal-compatible graphics card installed. Fortunately, I picked up an RX 580 on Black Friday for $190. I had to get a dual-mini-6-pin-to-8-pin adapter to power the card. I threw that in and everything worked great minus the lack of a boot screen that comes with using a non-Apple card.





I bought an LG ultrawide screen when it was on sale at B&H photo. I had to use SwitchResX to get my iMac to support it through a mini-DP to HDMI adapter. I used the same adapter on the MP's stock Radeon card and just dealt with a stretched screen. But with the new RX580, the ultrawide resolution was natively supported through HDMI.

Next up, Mojave! It had its own firmware upgrade and then installed without issue.



I ran a couple of benchmarks in GeekBench and Cinebench. Single core operations show this MP about on par with my 2.93 i7 iMac. Obviously multicore operations are much better. I loaded up Bioshock: Infinite and it looked great at max everything in ultrawide:



The last thing to do was pull the RX580 and reinstall the 5870. Fortunately, my Amazon mini-DP to DP cable showed up earlier in the day - it specifically called out support for 2K/4K resolutions, and magically OS X began supporting the ultrawide 2560x1080 resolution natively.

Another round of MPs should show up today along with a pair of X5680 six-core 3.33GHz processors, we'll see what those look like when they get here.
( Last edited by Laminar; Dec 3, 2018 at 04:18 PM. )
     
reader50
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Dec 3, 2018, 02:03 PM
 
Do you have a C clamp with an 8.5" opening or bigger? You can probably fix the MacPro handle by clamping across the width of the MP. With padded spacers of course, to protect the finish. Slim wood spacers would do.

Aluminum has little spring to it, it will bend back in fairly well from small distortions.

The 5870 is capable, beyond it's official specs. It officially goes to 2560x1600, but I successfully used mine for 3840x2160, though at only 30Hz. However, the drivers are not graceful with Retina. And it's not Metal-compatible, so expect visual glitches in Mojave. Dark Mode reportedly reduces the visual glitches.

If you want boot screens, a Radeon HD 7970 is about the best option. A Mac-firmware GF 780 is better, but quite expensive.

Better nVidia cards are available with custom Mac firmware (still more expensive) up to a 1080 Ti or Titan, but the macOS driver support is lacking. These cards require driver updates from nVidia before every OS point update, or the drivers stop working. Apple and nVidia have been feuding for a few years now.
     
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Dec 3, 2018, 02:45 PM
 
I bought an LG ultrawide screen when it was on sale at B&H photo. I had to use SwitchResX to get my iMac to support it through a mini-DP to HDMI adapter. I used the same adapter on the MP's stock Radeon card and just dealt with a stretched screen. But with the new RX580, the ultrawide resolution was natively supported through HDMI.
This is because HDMI sucks. When dealing with anything over 1080p, avoid HDMI. You don’t mention exactly what iMac it is, but it may be that it doesn’t support HDMI 2.0, and SwitchResX only got it to work by overclocking the pixelclock of the HDMI signal.

The 5870 is capable, beyond it's official specs. It officially goes to 2560x1600, but I successfully used mine for 3840x2160, though at only 30Hz.
This is because it only supports DisplayPort 1.1, which doesn’t support 4K at 60Hz. It was a great card, but it is very old now.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 3, 2018, 04:03 PM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
Do you have a C clamp with an 8.5" opening or bigger? You can probably fix the MacPro handle by clamping across the width of the MP. With padded spacers of course, to protect the finish. Slim wood spacers would do.
That's the plan - some gentle persuasion with a wood block, mallet, and clamps should at least get the door free to open and close.

If you want boot screens, a Radeon HD 7970 is about the best option. A Mac-firmware GF 780 is better, but quite expensive.
Right now the plan is to put the RX 580 in my gaming PC to replace its R7-265 once I'm done fiddling with the Mac Pros. The MP will be for web browsing and FCP work, so the 5870 is more than enough.

Originally Posted by P View Post
This is because HDMI sucks. When dealing with anything over 1080p, avoid HDMI. You don’t mention exactly what iMac it is, but it may be that it doesn’t support HDMI 2.0, and SwitchResX only got it to work by overclocking the pixelclock of the HDMI signal.
2010 i7-870 2.93GHz. I haven't tried my new mini-DP to DP cable straight from the iMac to see if it would work yet, but it doesn't really matter as once the MP is finalized, the iMac is out the door.

Number two came today via FedEx, checked it out over lunch. Eight core 2.26GHz, 300GB SSD + 2TB HD, 24GB RAM, Radeon 5770. This one also has a bent handle, but it was advertised that way so I was expecting it.





It's a bit more severe than the first one, but I can make it a better better/less noticeable. This one is a 2009 model (Mac Pro 4,1) and I was able to flash it to the 5,1 firmware. I started High Sierra installing before I left. I'll probably steal the memory and SSD sled out of this guy for my final build. The 24GB of RAM is in three 8GB sticks, so the first three slots are filled, and the others are empty. I think that means it can't do real triple channel since I don't have 6 slots filled, but I doubt I'd notice a difference outside of benchmarking.

Once I upgrade processors, the new unit will support 1333MHz RAM vs. the existing 1066. I can get 24GB (6x4GB) of 1333MHz memory for under $50, so that may be an option as well.

( Last edited by Laminar; Dec 3, 2018 at 04:19 PM. )
     
reader50
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Dec 3, 2018, 04:12 PM
 
Can't people pack things properly for shipping? I bought my 2009 MacPro used off eBay. It came in original box, with no case damage.

My only problem was they hadn't tightened one of the PCI cover locks, it came loose. But caused no damage.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 3, 2018, 05:51 PM
 
Oops, just bought something else. A seller popped up with matched pairs of X5690s for $130/pair. They're usually $150/pair from China with forever shipping. I had $100 in Paypal from selling some car parts so that was an easy grab.

The X5680s I ordered from a "US based seller" didn't get dropped off at the post office for six days and then it turned out they were in Hawaii. Yeah, those were definitely coming from China, too.

I'll throw the X5680s in one of the units I'm flipping, upgraded 12-core units seem to go for $550+, so those should actually pay off well.
     
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Dec 3, 2018, 07:44 PM
 
Until later this year I had a 12-core Mac Pro from the same vintage, an absolute beast of a machine — especially after I put in an SSD. I wanted to be daring and get a PCIe-based SSD to work, but that was too much of a hassle and I ended up getting a Samsung SATA-based SSD. Plus, this machine was a nice foot heater

A former colleague who left our group bequeathed me a 2013 Mac Pro with 8 cores. I can use the higher single-core performance and don't mind having four less cores.
I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
     
reader50
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Dec 3, 2018, 09:32 PM
 
My PCIe slots are too precious. When I get an SSD, it will be a SATA drive.

My slots are occupied by:
Main GPU (7970, driver support from 10.7 - 10.14)
Old GPU (GT-120), driver support from 10.5 - 10.13
eSATA card
USB3 card

The GT-120 is mostly for old games in 10.5 - 10.6. And accessing AppleWorks files, though SheepShaver helps. I didn't want to swap main graphics cards every time I wanted to run something in the Leopards. Not sure how many insertions PCIe slots are good for either.

My boot drive is partitioned for every OS version 10.5 - 10.14, which took awhile to set up. I've been hoping 4TB SSDs will plunge dramatically in price.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 4, 2018, 09:49 AM
 
The last four machines are supposed to arrive today. These were a bit of a gamble as they only showed full specs for one of them (an 8-core 3,1), which should sell for ~$200. The only specifications offered for the other three were "A1289" which means they could be 4,1 or 5,1. From the pictures, one of them is a single processor and the other two were dual processor machines. I'm hoping one of the DP machines is a 5,1 with a decent case so I can make that my permanent machine. Otherwise I'm going to have to pick the least bent/least scratched case and transfer the 5,1 goodies into it.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 4, 2018, 01:00 PM
 
Well apparently they required a signature? I didn't see that on the tracking info. And the post office is closed tomorrow for HW, so I can't get these boxes until Thursday. Cool.
     
subego
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Dec 4, 2018, 02:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
And the post office is closed tomorrow for HW
“Read my lips. No new Pros.”
     
reader50
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Dec 4, 2018, 06:21 PM
 
If you could hit the post office right before closing today, the failed deliveries should be back from their runs. I think I picked up a parcel that way once, though it's been a very long time.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 5, 2018, 03:22 PM
 
I wasn't off work until well after 5 so no chance of trying that. Wife was out of town last night and I was hoping to spend some quality time with some computers but no luck.

Turns out my 6" bar clamps weren't wide enough to go around the MP case, so I grabbed a couple of 12" clamps over lunch break today and started on the worst case, this is the one that was advertised as bent. I could get it back inline with the clamps, but the handle is pretty badly deformed and the springback was quite large - it's not even close.





If I wanted to get this one right, I'd have to disassemble the case, remove that entire top piece, and spend some time beating it all back into shape. There's nothing more I can do with it in place.

The other unit, the one that got slightly bent in shipping, I was able to do more with. I worked on it with a mallet yesterday and then used the bar clamps and some JB Weld to put everything back in place. I'll let it set up for a day or two and then after that it should be completely unnoticeable.



     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 6, 2018, 04:25 PM
 
Picked up the last shipment today. One 3,1, two 4,1s, and one 5,1. Three of the four were damaged in shipment ranging from a little to a lot.











They've been mixed and matched a bit - a DP machine has a single processor tray and vice versa. They were advertised as having no HD, but between the four units there are at least six hard drives plus one SSD taped to the outside of one case.

I'll have to check them out tonight and see what works and doesn't.
     
reader50
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Dec 6, 2018, 08:52 PM
 
It's like an evil department that ruins high-powered Macs. Those pics are painful.

Were they all from the same seller, or have most sellers blown their shipping skills?

I'd give them complaints. That's real shipping damage, from incompetent packing.
     
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Dec 7, 2018, 07:06 AM
 
This thread, along with the release of lovely new case, is inspiring me to build something again. It has been years, but once Zen 2 is out, maybe.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
subego
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Dec 7, 2018, 07:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
Three of the four were damaged in shipment ranging from a little to a lot.
That’s just ****ing ridiculous.

Not a deep insight on my part, but the compulsion to say it anyway is too strong.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 10, 2018, 09:40 AM
 
Those four were the same seller, it was a package deal. The eBay auction listed $75 for shipping but there's no way in hell they shipped four 48lb packages for $75, they were probably $75 each.

Anyway, they turned out to be a 3,1 DP, a 4,1 SP, a 4,1 DP, and a 5,1 DP. Ten hard drives including 2 SSDs, 84GB of RAM total.

The 5,1 machine was running its fans at full speed and was reporting dual 2.26GHz processors, which were never available in a 5,1. On a hunch, I swapped that processor tray out for the tray in the other DP machine that was supposed to be dual 2.26s and voila, no more wind tunnel fans, and dual 2.4s like a 5,1 would have.

Not a bad haul, just too bad they got damaged. Working with the seller now to see what I can get back.
     
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Dec 10, 2018, 09:56 PM
 
Maybe for $75 he tied all four to a donkey and had them dragged to you.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
subego
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Dec 10, 2018, 10:16 PM
 
Looks more like one for each hoof.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 13, 2018, 04:41 PM
 
Spent some time playing over lunch.





Got the X5690s installed and swapped back over to the 5870 with Mojave installed on the SSD.

Ran a couple benchmarks and saw a significant improvement over the old 2.4s.





Interestingly, the single core performance of the 3.46GHz Xeon is actually less than the 2.93GHz i7-870 in my iMac, as you can see in Geekbench.

I have noticed some random graphic glitches running Mojave on a non-metal card, which I had heard was possible. If it continues, I may just keep the RX 580 in the MP.

I also managed to get the 3,1 to boot off of a Yosemite USB stick but when I went to install, it got mad and told me the stick was unverified or corrupted, I think it's an issue with the MP's clock being reset. I'll play with it.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 20, 2018, 10:38 AM
 
And we're back!

So much has happened. My 5,1 3.46GHz is now in place as the primary machine after a long battle with Migration Assistant. The iMac had the system on the SSD and the home folders on the 3TB HD. When transferring from the Time Machine backup, the home folders weren't going to be copied. When transferring directly from the iMac over a direct ethernet connection, it wouldn't top 22MB/sec and it wanted to take 22+ hours. I let it run overnight only to find it in the morning locked up at ~1hr remaining. I finally just pulled the drives from the iMac and plugged them into the MP directly. Transfer rate (from SSD to SSD) was still only ~30MB/sec but it completed rather quickly and then the migrated users picked up their existing home folder locations on the iMac's drive.

iMac is sold ($500). I kept my SSD and 3TB hard drive and threw in a spare 2TB drive before listing it for sale.



Also sold the MP 4,1 with the good condition case ($375). No real bites on the units with bent cases. I gave eBay seller until tomorrow to respond, then I'm taking action.

So now I have a 240GB Samsung SSD and a 300GB Intel SSD lying around. I suppose I'll throw one in the gaming PC if I decide I want to try and deal with migrating Win10. Maybe I can use one SSD for OS install and another as the Steam game install location.

After reading a bit about seeing huge improvements playing Rocket League on a 144Hz monitor, I figured I'd give it a shot with my 60Hz monitor and a wired controller.



I've always known there was a bit of delay in my Wireless controller -> PC -> Projector setup, but had never played anything competitive enough to make a difference.

It's quicker on the MP, but the Mac port of Rocket League is famously bad and the thing stutters during demolitions or when players join/leave. I can see 100+ FPS normally but then somebody blows up and it drops to 0.3 and I lose track of the ball. It gets better as the session goes on, it's always bad at first. The solution is just installing Win10 in Boot Camp and running it there, but that adds another step before playing the game. It's more accessible to have the game right in the living room - it's kind of a commitment to traipse down to the basement, fire up the projector and wait for it to warm up, launch the game, and get into it.
     
reader50
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Dec 20, 2018, 01:45 PM
 
Did you leave the RX 580 in the MacPro?
     
Laminar  (op)
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Dec 21, 2018, 10:28 AM
 
Yep. With the HD 5870 it felt like there was no hardware acceleration at all. Dragging an icon or window was jumpy and there were oddities in how window outlines and tabs were drawn.
     
reader50
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Dec 21, 2018, 11:13 PM
 
Mojave omits the 3D driver for the Radeon 5xxx cards. As they're not Metal-compatible, and no one (AMD) will update the drivers today. If you imported the driver from High Sierra, it might work. AMDRadeonX3000.kext

But the RX 580 is at least twice as fast. Almost certainly more at higher resolutions.
     
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Dec 23, 2018, 08:43 AM
 
AMD doesn’t even support the 5000 series on Windows anymore.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Jan 2, 2019, 12:53 PM
 
So I got Windows 10 running on my main machine. Boot Camp didn't want to work, so I installed it straight off of a USB stick. Apparently this is the wrong way to do it, as the machine requires a PRAM and SMC reset before it will switch to boot into Windows. I can use the Boot Camp tray utility to easily go back to OS X, but the other direction is finicky. I played with it a bit and made it worse.



So I wiped the drive and reinstalled from an actual DVD. Apparently that engages some kind of legacy boot mode that's needed to make everything work.

Shame, because I'd already spent a few hours getting Windows set up how I wanted.

Interesting side note - I complained about poor Rocket League performance under OS X. On Win10, it was monumentally better. I saw 80-100fps on OS X with frequent dips below 5fps. Under Win10, it pegs at the 200fps max (on higher quality than I ran on OS X). The "horrible" stutters dip it down to ~60fps. Definitely can't play under OS X anymore.

Also, the XBox 360 drivers for OS X are finicky and can cause kernel panics, so that's another downside.

Two MPs sold so far, and possibly have someone coming to pick up two more this weekend.
     
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Jan 2, 2019, 01:36 PM
 
For whatever reason, Apple does not support Win10 on a cheesegrater MacPro. Only on the trash can. It is possible to hack boot camp to extend support to the 5,1 or even 4,1. I fooled around with it, but kept hitting other hitches. Mostly around sharing a drive with macOS.

I solved it by using a dedicated HD for Win10. The luxury of four drive bays. Installed from ... USB, I think. Startup Disk and option-boot both work for jumping between them.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Jan 2, 2019, 03:41 PM
 
Yeah, I have all four bays filled plus a fifth drive in the lower optical slot - 1 TB SSD for Mojave, three 3TB HDDs for home folders + media storage, 1TB HDD for Win10.

I used Brigadier to install the iMac Pro Boot Camp drivers. The only thing that needs to be changed is the removal of the iMac Pro audio drivers, then everything works including the Apple wireless mouse.
     
   
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