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Thread: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    It's time to replace my aging Mac Pro. Like many others on the MF forum I'm running C1, PS and LR. I'm using a Drobo for mass storage. I'm shooting a variety of cameras, but at the high end it's an IQ 180 - the big files bring merely average computers to their knees.

    So what has your experience been migrating to a new Mac Pro? With this software do I need more Westmere cores or max clock speed? Or God forbid, both? Is there any sense in going all the way to 64 megs of memory? I suspect that the upgrade to an ATI Radian 5870 (from 5770) is a good idea given C1's use of the graphics card. True?

    Any hitches? Surprises? Gotchas?

    My past migrations have been unpleasant, multi-day affairs, not unlike extended dental surgery. I'm not looking forward to this.

    Thanks to all.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    I found more cores helped my use of C1 more than a better card. With Aperture a better card helped.

    I swapped from a gen1 MacPro to a late 2010 one by just swapping my drive.

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    Member David Duffin's Avatar
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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    If you can afford them, SSD's will yield good longevity, blessed quiet operation, and peace of mind...
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Campbell View Post
    It's time to replace my aging Mac Pro. Like many others on the MF forum I'm running C1, PS and LR. I'm using a Drobo for mass storage. I'm shooting a variety of cameras, but at the high end it's an IQ 180 - the big files bring merely average computers to their knees.

    So what has your experience been migrating to a new Mac Pro? With this software do I need more Westmere cores or max clock speed? Or God forbid, both? Is there any sense in going all the way to 64 megs of memory? I suspect that the upgrade to an ATI Radian 5870 (from 5770) is a good idea given C1's use of the graphics card. True?

    Any hitches? Surprises? Gotchas?

    My past migrations have been unpleasant, multi-day affairs, not unlike extended dental surgery. I'm not looking forward to this.

    Thanks to all.
    Woody,

    Mac Pro settings are a bit weird ... here is a great site to look at for some advice. It looks like Apple may drop the Mac Pro towers...may be a great time to buy.

    http://macperformanceguide.com/

    Bob

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    i followed digilloyd as well; great advice. he will also set up your machine through OWC...you just have your new mac sent to them, seems like a good idea. what i did was to put the OS and programs on an ssd, then get four! hard drives set up as a raid something or other. back when i was pushing the envelope with a 39mpx back

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by David Duffin View Post
    If you can afford them, SSD's will yield good longevity, blessed quiet operation, and peace of mind...
    Apparently Phocus makes better use of multiple cores than PS, and I also process video, and intend to do much stitching and merging of big files for pan-stitch, shift-stitch, and DOF merge, so I expect to spend over 10k on mine, with an SSD raid and eSata raids, 12 cores, 64Gb etc.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Woody,
    You won't get a great deal of extra mileage from a graphics card unless you're doing video. Improvements here would be marginal for us.

    Most machines today are crippled by slow Hard Drives. This can somewhat be mitigated by lots of RAM. 8GB is not enough for C1, PS + a browser and email. Macs like lots of RAM.

    If you could install one SSD in the box and use this drives as the main area where you download images and process them, you'll find a huge speed boost. If you can have another separate SSD where you locate the operating system and /private, you'll be able to handle more simultaneous tasks. Finally if you can stretch to RAID storage you'll have a better overall experience and also gain some peace of mind if you configure it for redundancy.

    An SSD RAID array would be a money-no-object performance boost, but it's not a magic bullet, try to keep your O/S separate from everything else, to avoid contention. Separate O/S and data on different SATA buses where possible.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Hello Woody,

    in general Lloyd's recommendations are very good as are those from GetDPI members. I'll share my experience. My experience moving was pretty seamless. The only surprise was that Mac OS Lion does not fully support the software Mac OS X RAID configuration that I use and of course waiting for all of my applications to be ported to full Lion compatibility. It's pretty stable now.

    The solution to the lack of Lion RAID support for software RAID is to run disk utility from a terminal (command line) window if you need to repair permissions or repair the RAID disk volume. There are a few other items that did not work like file vault (drive encryption).

    If you are keeping your working files on the Drobo you are taking a big performance hit and a new machine may not help that much. The Drobo write performance is dreadful and the read performance is awful but it offers good reliability especially if you have two-drive failure recovery turned on, it gets worse as it fills up compared to internal or external drives via eSATA. I use the Drobo Pro at work, but only as a back up drive for Time Machine, Lightroom and Aperture Vaults. Using it as the primary storage slows the machine down a lot, like a whole lot. Did I say how slow it is

    A graphics card will actually make a big difference in some use cases and the 5870 is a good step up from the 5770 if you are using two displays or using applications that use the GPU (like Aperture). I have access to both cards and the performance of Aperture with the 5870 is about 20% better. I'd say more important than a faster CPU. Multicore is a big boost for applications that are correctly threaded, get as many cores as you can afford. Amdahl's law (Gene is a mentor of mine) shows there are diminishing returns as more cores are added, but software threading helps solve even that issue so more is always better. The ultimate CPU speed in my experience is less of an issue. Memory always helps but I've not been able to notice an improvement going from 32GB to 64GB, but I don't have an IQ180

    Most OpenGL and OpenCL applications will benefit from a faster GPU or higher bandwidth VRAM memory available on the upgraded graphics cards.

    My priorities for performance would be:
    1. SSD for system and swap files (bigger is better but expensive). There is a potential life limitation issue with SSDs, they are only good for so many writes but Mac OS X does a good job of distributing use).
    2. Software RAID (4 drives striped for working files and primary storage).
    3. 32 GB Main memory
    4. 5780 Graphics card (1 GB video memory makes a big difference for Aperture and any GPU accelerated application)
    5. 12 cores instead of 8
    6. Highest clock speed

    YMMV of course but I've set up a lot of Mac Pros and this has worked for me for image processing I hope this helps.

    Glenn

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Glenn and others -

    Thanks for the excellent advice. I'm using the Drobo for storage of older files. I move files from my Sata working disk to the Drobo after six months or so. My backup strategy is the Drobo for older files and Time Machine (to a 2 TB Sata drive) for the system and working files. LR generates its own backup files .

    My current use of the four drive bays is

    1. A system drive (750 GB) - 405 GB used. Putting this on a SSD will be close to capacity for the largest SSDs available.

    2. A working drive (1.5 TB) - 1 TB used. The IQ 180 gobbles up drive space. I can make this smaller by transferring files to the Drobo sooner.

    3. A dedicated scratch and Lightroom index disk (1.5 TB) - 554 GB used.

    4. A backup drive (2TB) - 1.5 TB used. Time Machine and Lightroom backup to this drive.


    !, 2, and 3 above would be candidates for SSD but current usage is at or exceeds the capacity of available SSDs.

    So here's my strategy:

    Buy a Mac Pro with 12 cores @ 2.66 GHz and 5780 Graphics card.

    Factory configure with minimal drive configuration. Move my existing drives into it. Watch for future developments in the SSD space, swapping disks out when 750 GB becomes available.

    Factory configure with minimal memory. Install 32 or 64 GB of third party memory.


    An alternative (perhaps a better one) would be to load three drive bays with 2TB drives and configure two of them as software striped raid and use them for working storage, indexes and scratch; with the third being the Time Machine and LR backup. Would there be a speed advantage to configuring three drives as stiped raid and moving Time Machine outside of the box?
    Last edited by Woody Campbell; 29th November 2011 at 04:26.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    I hate ever advising to play the "waiting game" with Apple. But it should be pointed out that the Mac Pro is in it's 490th day of this product cycle and that the historic product cycle has been around 350 (with cycles of 400 and 510 the last two refreshes as their priorities have shifted).
    [source: http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#Mac_Pro]

    There have been those rumors that they will discontinue the Mac Pro, but I suspect (with no better than my own speculation and guesswork) we'll see another refresh before that would occur.


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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Also a quick note that "SSD" doesn't mean "faster" any more or less than "hybrid" means "better gas mileage".

    Often SSDs are much faster (often hybrids get better gas mileage). Often a high-speed spinning drive (e.g. raptors) will outpeform a low-spec SSD (often a small gas-only car will outperform a hybrid SUV). In particular the largest and cheapest SSDs often are not the fastest SSDs and therefore won't get you a lot of the benefits spoken of above. You need to research the specific stated and real-world specs of the drives you're thinking about beyond just the size and price.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    I have just upgraded my MacPro to the 2.93 12core machine and did the following.

    48GB of main memory.
    4 2tb drives in RAID0 in the internal bays for short term storage
    4 2tb drive in Raid5 for backup

    I have placed a bracket in the 2nd drive bay that can hold up to 8 SSD's.

    I use 1 SSD for my system. 256GB. My system is only about 120Gb big together with applications. It makes me wonder why your system is so large (I use, CS5.5 production premium suite plus most other software you can think of necessary for image processing).

    I currently have 4 256GB SSD's in RAID5 as a 750GB working volume. Indeed I need to move files quicker to the short term storage. I can expand this Raid set to 1.5tb if needed (7 drives in RAID5) or slightly less if I go to RAID6.

    BTW. the current OWC SSD's and the OZC Vertex3 SSD drives reach read & write speeds in excess of 500MB/s. No spinner gets to that.
    Last edited by Dustbak; 29th November 2011 at 04:56.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Woody,

    Respectfully....

    Nothing you have listed nor others proffered qualifies as an archive.

    Drobo is the bottom of the chain...sells to us amateurs but would not get a second glance from those who depend upon adequate backup.

    Looking at threads from the video world....LTO-5 tape in addition to
    an adequate Raid system is the bare minimum.

    http://reduser.net/forum/showthread....highlight=raid

    Bob

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Sure, nothing might qualify as an archive but I was under the impression the question was more about options for a working machine.

    Archiving can be done externally from this machine and even off-site (which I feel is a wise thing to do additionally to any chosen archiving solution).

    Archiving is something totally different from having a machine that is fast/potent enough to cope with huge files in a swift and pleasant way.
    Last edited by Dustbak; 30th November 2011 at 01:18.

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    I decided to go with an interim solution - I'd like to get a couple of more years service out of my Mac Pro 2.1 (early 2008 with 2 quad core 3 Ghz Xeon processors). This will give me a chance to assess the next generation and to avoid buying v 1.0 of the next generation.

    So . . . . I ordered some hardware from OWC:

    32 GB of ram - the last time I looked 16 G was the largest available for this machine, so this was a very welcome surprise.

    Two 480 GB Mercury Extreme SST drives configured as a striped RAID. I used a kit from OWC to install these in the second optical bay. This is not for the faint of heart because it required a fairly extensive disassembly of the machine to expose the attachment point for the cables. I'm using this as a boot drive. Carbon Copy mirrored my old boot drive to it without a hitch. I configured this with a separate RAID 0 partition (total of 64 GB) to use as a scratch disk (DigiLloyd has instructions on how to do this).

    Two pairs of 2 TB 7200 rpm drives in the drive bays, set up as striped RAIDs.

    I had an e-sata card so I put the old boot drive and one other in an OWC enclosure and connected via esata.

    I still have the Drobo - 8 bays filled with 2 TB drives, for a total of 10.8 TB available after overhead for two drive failure redundancy. For some reason iSata (as opposed to e-Sata - what bozo decides on the names for these things?) doesn't work with my Mac Pro so I'm limited to a Firewire 800 connection.

    I'm using the SSD Raid as a boot drive; the SSD partition as scratch; one pair of RAID 0 drives (4 TB) for working files; one pair of Raid 0 drives for Lightroom indexes and support (the large drive lets me save full sized previews when I import without an concern over how much space they are taking up); I back up LR to a drive in the OWC box; the second drive in the OWC box has a mirrored boot drive which should make recovery relatively painless if this old beast ever fails; I use the Drobo for older working files and backup.

    Overall the machine feels very responsive and fast, but not blindingly fast. With IQ 180 files Editing controls in C1 and LR feel natural with no delays or jerkiness. In C1 100% screen refreshes require a quarter of a second or so to reach full resolution. Files process in about 11 seconds. In LR when I move to a new image the "loading" tag shows for about 4 seconds; after that zooms and scrolls are instantaneous.

    A two frame stitch in PS, starting from LR (again using IQ 180 files) takes about a minute and a half; flattening the layers only a second or two. A four frame stitch took 3 minutes. Saves for these large files are dramatically fast - the four frame stitch is 11,000 x 17,800 or 195 megs, the file is 1.1 GB; it stored from PS in roughly 2 seconds.

    All in I spent a bit over $2500 (I managed to recycle Sata drives) and 5 hours or hard labor - for that I bought a couple of years of time.

    Thanks to everyone who responded on this thread (and thanks to those who participated in Mac Solutions for Medium Format) for your very helpful advice.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Woody, I have that exact same MacPro model. You have my sympathy for the SSD upgrade as I know what fun it is to remove all of the fans and then cable up off the motherboard for the eSATA. It's a fiddly job!

    One thing to watch out for if you decide to upgrade further is to watch out for the power supply, particularly if you add a more current fast Apple display adapter. (I wanted a faster GPU but ultimately it wasn't worth it).

    I had 2x X1900T video cards, Apple RAID card and a 2nd eSATA RAID card in mine, along with 2x SSD, 4x 1.5TB drives and ultimately pushed the power supply too far when I upgraded the video cards. They only put support for 300W power and ultimately I had to drop back to a single video card after a couple of drives browned out on power and dumped my RAID. Ideally I'd beef up the power supply but I haven't seen any better options.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Thanks Graham - fore warned is fore armed.

    I found another surprise on the OWC site: the Radeon 5870 evidently works with a Mac Pro 2.1 (or a 1.1 for that matter). So I've ordered one and we'll se how it goes.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Final post on this thread. The Radeon 5870 indeed does work on my early 2008 Mac Pro. I'm finished with the upgrade. I'm very happy with this setup, processing and sorting IQ 180 files. I may actually be able to skip the next generation from Apple.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Well done, I think that was a wise upgrade. The faster memory and especially drives will save you more time than the faster processors. Also the next MP upgrade will have a different architecture processors (2009. 2010 & 2011 were basically the same) probably resulting in a much bigger upgrade. If it weren't for the fact I blew up the logic board in my 2009 machine while replacing the processors (not a job taken lightly with the 2009 model, the 2010 model is much easier to do) I would not have bought the 2010 machine but waited for the 2012 model. Eventually the logic board only costed me around 350euros and I was able to sell the 2009 decently making the expense of the new machine more managable.

    BTW, the OWC bracket for the SSD's does it only hold 2 SSD's? I went for the Maxupgrades model that can take up to 8. If you were not yet familiar with the work of Maxupgrades it might be worth to check out what they do. http://www.maxupgrades.com/

    The only thing I am currently waiting for is the release of new graphics cards to replace my 5770.

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    My system - the one described in the first post - can't do the 10.8.2 upgrade. Looks like the end of the line for it.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Campbell View Post
    My system - the one described in the first post - can't do the 10.8.2 upgrade. Looks like the end of the line for it.
    Upgrade from what OS?

    If you have any version of 10.8 it is not your system....mine is Mid 2010 2x2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Zeon 32 GB memory ... handles 10.8.2 as it did 10.7 etc etc......

    I assume that any Intel Zeon will handle the upgrade.

    Check this out...seems like a FUBAR report to me.

    S2-P files with multiple layers at 400MB are no problem.

    Bob

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Woody,

    My main concern is not the older MAC PRO but the Drobo....

    Please read this:

    My Life After Drobo | Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider

    Regards,

    Bob

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Woody, it occurs to me I never followed up to post this article which was largely inspired by this thread:

    Capture One Computer Hardware Suggestions
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
    Dealer for: Phase One, Mamiya Leaf, Arca-Swiss, Cambo, Eizo, Profoto
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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Bob - Thanks. I'm running 10.7.5. When I click the download button for 10.8.2. I get a message that it doesn't support my machine (a late 2007 as far as I can tell). I'm having a noisy fan issue with my Drobo so it too is slated for replacement. The problem on mass storage is the port issue - thunderbolt is clearly the way forward but I need something that can plug into my current desktop or file transfer will be impractical. A raid box with both thunderbolt and UBS 3 would be ideal but as far as I can tell this doesn't exist.

    Doug - thanks. I've maxed my old box out with all of the suggestions from your article.

    I'm clearly living on borrowed time.

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Woody,

    Your machine must be one of the first generation that cannot run 64bit
    OS:

    See Table at bottom:

    Mac Pro - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A workaround exists but may not be stable enough:

    OS X Mountain Lion can run on unsupported Intel Mac Pros | MacFixIt - CNET Reviews


    The ESata raid connection on the G Tech drives will smoke both USB 3 and Thunderbolt for large continuous transfer...it does need a board to run which adds a bit of initial setup complexity.

    Perhaps a Mac MINI with server OS will suffice for the present and then work as your blog file server down the road?

    See Table at bottom:

    Mac Mini - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Apple

    I am not sure if it will choke on the video side....

    Still no indication that Apple will update the Mac Pros .... many cinema and video guys are moving to PCs....that is not a return path for me.

    Bob

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    Terry is in NY and has this listed:

    http://www.getdpi.com/forum/gear-fs-...al-pickup.html


    Bob

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    Re: Help on configuring a Mac Pro

    I did a lot of searching on this before I purchased mine. It seems as if the 6 core is the is the best for most photo programs. I purchased a used 6 core and then added a SSD and 48GB of ram and I never have problems running any of the programs such as Capture One. Only time I had some trouble on my computer was editing a movie that started to get over 220 GB.

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