diglloyd Mac Performance Guide

The Speed You Need

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Reader Question: Upgrading Video Card for Adobe Lightroom in 2009 Mac Pro

Gavin C writes:

I have a 2009 8 x 2.93 GHz MacPro - it has SSD / 32GB memory - was wondering what you think the best video card would be for it with Lightroom mostly in mind?

This is a attempt to put off buying a new MacPro for another year or so.

MPG: the premise that a faster video card will speed up Lightroom (or any other program) by now is an internet legend, but is definitely not one that should be assumed. Yes, there are situations where a fast GPU can help.

Whether a video card helps a particular application is not even the question—it’s which task or tasks (or no tasks) within that application a faster video card would help. Moreover, even if an application uses the video card (GPU), it’s not a given that a card that is 2X or 3X or 10X faster will make a meaningful difference for any particular operation (or any at all). That’s because a program might already be bottlenecked (serialized) on some computational step such that even a 100X faster video would not run any faster in the context of that particular task.

Put another way , if 90% of the runtime is already non-GPU time and 10% is GPU time and the GPU is 10X faster, one would see about a 9% reduction in runtime. Unfortunately, this is often the case. For example, the decoding of compressed NEF files (Nikon raw) is a serialized step (bottleneck) that dominates the runtime. The GPU flies through the rest of the process (once decoded), but the raw conversion process cannot run faster than the time to decode each file (with the CPU).

So it all depends.

The key point is to assess the workflow, and examine what is actually being done and where the bottlenecks are*. Even simple statements such as “has SSD” do not mean that the SSD is being used optimally for the workfow (or that it has or could have any meaningful influence).

* Consulting is how I help clients work through the workflow situation, then target areas that ought to help, but also clarify where spending money is likely to achieve nothing.

Upgrade existing Mac or new? OWC offers a wide variety of upgrades for all Macs. The 2009-2012 Mac Pro remains particularly relevant for upgrades to memory, ultra-fast PCIe SSD, regular SSDs, hard drives, graphics cards, etc.

Video card

The last video card tested here at MPG for the prior Mac Pro was the Sapphire HD 7950. As can be seen, in Photoshop it speeds up one task (Sharpen) in a meaningful way versus the 5870 (the fastest card Apple shipped), but has no benefit in Photoshop otherwise. This gets to the specificity of use discussed above.

In the 2009 Mac Pro, the video card is not nearly so fast, so benefits might be much more significant, but there’s no way to know in advance. The only accurate answer for any particular workflow is “install it and see”.

GPU performance on 2010 Mac Pro with Radeon 5870 vs Sapphire HD 7950

GPU performance on 2010 Mac Pro with Radeon 5870 vs Sapphire HD 7950

MPG Experience: a Month Using the 8-core 3.3 GHz 2013 Mac Pro

2013 Mac Pro
2013 Mac Pro

Upgrade existing Mac or new? OWC offers a wide variety of upgrades for all Macs. The 2009-2012 Mac Pro remains particularly relevant for upgrades to memory, ultra-fast PCIe SSD, regular SSDs, hard drives, graphics cards, etc.

Now in use for about a month, my intensive photography work is benefitting from the 2013 Mac Pro in modest ways: my most time-consuming tasks are sped up by perhaps 20-30%. But those tasks are short duration.

To use a car analogy, the new engine has 500 horsepower instead of 325, but most of the time its like rush hour, so the commute doesn’t go a whole lot faster.

The MPG 2013 Mac Pro was purchased as a 4-core model with D700 GPUs and 1TB SSD, then upgraded to an 8-core 3.3 GHz CPU and 64GB OWC memory.

The lack of serious gains in productivity boils down to three things:

  • Adobe Photoshop CC makes poor use of CPU cores on average, as it has forever. Really dumb stuff that has no reason to exist—pure design faults—like no ability to sharpen more than one layer at once.
  • GPU speedups for common operations either don’t yet exist (hope springs eternal) or have been disabled until the graphics driver bugs are fixed (in 10.9.3). I expect this situation will last until late May or so just to get sharpening back to optimized speed (not that sharpening alone can really speed up total workflow).
  • Save and open are I/O bound, and this was already fast on the old model with the optimized Photoshop preference settings. On the new model the dual-SSD speed is gratifying but it was plenty fast in the older Mac Pro also.

On the CPU utilization front for example, the generation of a lens rendering aperture series takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. Photoshop uses at most 2 CPU cores (out of 8) for that entire script, and it is a CPU bound operation (very little disk I/O)! Photoshop CC just is not efficient for way too many things.

The most meaningful improvement I am seeing comes in converting raw files to 16-bit TIF for the aperture series and/or when previewing the raw files in the Photoshop ACR conversion window. This is an interactive part of my workflow so any speedup is welcome, and I see perhaps 30% faster responsiveness and that really does feel nicer.

But bottom line: am I getting my work done faster, saving even 1/2 hour per day? The answer is an unequivocal “no”. Things here and there are most definitely faster but in terms of measurable increased in productivity (or reduction in time required to do XYZ), the difference just doesn’t merit the huge cost bother.

Put another way, the new Mac Pro has the potential to consistently run ~20% to 40% faster (more for things that really exploit the GPUs), but software remains the gating factor, as it always has. The only question is whether the “constant factor”, —e.g., that ~30% speedup—is worth it for smoothing out the interactive portions of the a worflow where small delays are big irritations.

2013 Mac Pro
2013 Mac Pro

Dave S writes:

Just read your latest post, and I have to say that after reading your new Mac Pro assessments intently, I'd come to a similar conclusion. I'm on a 12 core Westmere, upgraded to 3.33 and 64gb, so essentially your prior machine.

Your machine has the Accelsior cards as well, though I noticed that you weren't booting from them.

When weighing the speed gains of the new Mac Pro against externalizing storage and PCIe to very expensive Thunderbolt or USB3 solutions, there is a huge cost premium for a marginal speed boost. The new Mac Pro is a beautiful piece of industrial design, but nested amongst a plethora of new black boxes and a tangle of cables, it's a tough sell.

As a guru on Mac performance, you don't have the luxury of sitting back and waiting / watching. Kudos to you for your honest and direct assessments. Personally, I'll need the new Mac Pro to offer more in the balance, before I make the leap.

MPG: I was booting off the Accelsior on the older 12-core, but it really doesn't matter for much of anything versus any other SSD. All that really counts is using the fastest SSD for the I/O sensitive tasks.

Whether a new Mac Pro is “worth it” is highly dependent on what one is doing. Certainly if running the 2008 or older model or video work or very large storage requirements there are strong arguments to be made for the new model.

The cable mess is there, but that pile of boxes sits under my desk so I just ignore it.

Robin K writes:

None of this is a big surprise, but watching you go through the process has been entertaining and valuable. I am happy with my 6-core 5,1 and will use it for a couple more years, I suspect.

Multi-threading can be difficult. Back in my days at Oracle, we paid a lot of attention to it, and reaped the rewards when systems gained more and more compute engines. But multithreading a database was relatively straightforward as we were able to separate user work into separate threads from the Oracle kernel, which itself was multithreaded. Plus this development work had the backing (indeed, insistence) of upper management (Larry).

I don't know too much about the inner workings of Adobe, but apparently they have other priorities.

Also, it seems to me if multi-threading is difficult, then moving code to GPUs may be even more difficult. Never done it myself, so I'll assume there is a bit of black magic involved. And a limited number of developers who understand it sufficiently well. We're talking about zillions of lines of code - a non-trivial exercise.

MPG: Everything depends on the workflow.

I wrote interrupt-level drives and server code for many years—yes it is difficult. But when very smart people optimize particular functions but supply a user interface which precludes the most basic efficiencies—operation on N layers with one command thus allowing parallelization—that’s low hanging fruit that it’s crazy to leave unpicked: why can’t I select 10 layers and choose Sharpen (for example)? Even if zero time benefit accrues (unrealistically pessimistic), it saves my time by letting me invoke once, rather than 10 times. It’s obvious, so why isn’t it done?

As for the GPU support, yes it’s hard, but with the graphics drivers rife with bugs (rushed out by Apple in the opinion of MPG), Adobe had to defeat the GPU optimization for sharpening. No vendor can work with the GPUs until and unless Apple gets its act together. The good news is that I expect 10.9.3 to be a lot better, but that’s far from saying it will be robust.

OWC Upgrades Thunderbay 4-Bay Enclosure to Ultra-Quiet Fan

In the MPG review of the OWC Thunderbay 4-bay Thunderbolt enclosure, the only significant issue was the fan noise, which is now solved. I’ve been running an ultra-quiet fan for weeks now, and the very low noise is now eminently acceptable to my sensitive ears.

Get a replacement quiet fan for the OWC Thunderbay for only $9.99. Builds as of March 10 had a quieter fan as do all current builds.

I’m using two OWC Thunderbay units under my desk and I’m content with the fan noise. The noise is mainly hard drive noise now, and that is unavoidable. I plan to add a third unit.

OWC Thunderbay 4-bay enclosure
OWC Thunderbay 4-bay enclosure

Ethernet Way Faster over Thunderbolt 2

Current gigabit ethernet offers 1000 Mbps (megabits per second). Networking over Thunderbolt 2 makes that 10X faster, about as fast as an extremely fast SSDs can go.

There has been some support for Thunderbolt networking already, but Intel has announced support for Mac to PC networking over Thunderbolt 2:

Thunderbolt Networking, emulating an Ethernet connection environment, provides 10GbE throughput between two computers.

Already released on the Mac with OS X Mavericks*, a PC driver will soon be available to connect two PCs together or a PC to a Mac, adding a new level of workflow flexibility for media professionals.

By offering simple and fast file sharing, Thunderbolt Networking enables backup or upgrade across two computers like never before, using existing cables and connectors. A demonstration of Thunderbolt Networking will available in the Intel Zone of the StudioXperience booth at NAB (Booth # – SU621).

It’s unforunate that the speed is limited to 10 gigabit given that Thunderbolt 2 can go more than 2X that speed. But apparently the solution integrates with existing 10 Gbps protocols and drivers. On the other hand, it’s not clear that the networking stack in OS X can deliver even 10 Gbps; all layers have to run at very high efficiency (minimal overhead and latency) for the bandwidth to actually be fully exploited.

The missing link that MPG sees is a Thunderbolt hub of some kind, so that one does not have to daisy-chain devices together (easier and more flexible to cable to a hub and spoke pattern).

The implications are profound for high performance computing: that kind of bandwidth allows large data sets to be shuffled around so that more CPUs can be thrown at a job. Scalability has its limits, but for compute intensive jobs, having 10X the bandwidth expands the problem/solution space considerably.

FOR SALE: FirmTek eSATA Enclosures, Thunderbolt to eSATA, drive trays

Includes:

At new prices, that's about $2200. Asking $725 or best offer. Contact.

diglloydTools Updated to version 2.2.3

diglloydTools

diglloydTools has been updated to version 2.2.3. Download page.

The update makes some minor improvements to IntegrityChecker output when encountering security restrictions on files/folders.

What does diglloydTools do?

Aside from testing hard drive or SSD or RAID performance and reliability with DiskTester, data integrity with IntegrityChecker is a must-have workflow tool for anyone with important data:

OWC CPU Upgrade Program for 2013 Mac Pro Now Available

Down the line an upgrade of the CPU in the 2013 Mac Pro is a nice option to have.

But for those who want the fastest now, order the 4-core model (1TB flash drive and D500 or D700 GPUs) and then upgrade the CPU to the 8-core 3.3 GHz. That is what diglloyd.com photography and MPG use. See also 2013 Mac Pro: Choosing the CPU and more.

OWC CPU upgrade for 2013 Mac Pro page.

CPU upgrade choices at OWC
CPU upgrade choices at OWC

OS X File System Hang Bug

I spent all weekend tracking down a hang bug in the OS X Mavericks file system (the bug is new to Mavericks, the most bug-ridden OS X version ever released).

It is a severe bug: a reboot does not cure it, the file system always verifies as good, but any attempt to access the file causes a complete OS X lockup, and the only fix is to erase the volume. A nasty little bugger.

This particular bug involves the file system, but only Mac OS Extended (does not affect ExFAT). I reported it a few months ago, and it is 100% reproducible by myself on several different machines with different hardware and by independent 3rd parties, yet the response in Apple Bug Reporter has been a “cannot reproduce” so lacking in details as to make one skeptical that it was actually even tested at all.

For programming nerds, it involves FSAllocateFork(), or in POSIX API terms, fcntl(fd, F_PREALLOCATE, &params). It requires use of software RAID-0 (Disk Utility or SoftRAID, doesn't matter) or concatenated RAID, occurs with SSDs or hard drives, with Thunderbolt or eSATA, and on a laptop or desktop. It requires a large file, but the size varies and the bug can be triggered below certain threshold in other ways too.

So my weekend was spent in a fruitless effort to find a workaround—none.

But I did determine that the bug occurs not just in Carbon APIs but also in low-level POSIX APIs (rather scary to see it at that level), so it runs deep and it’s just one more core rot introduced by Mavericks.

I have now submitted source code along with a binary program showing the problem, which is again confirmed by multiple 3rd parties. I wonder if “cannot reproduce” will be the response yet again from Apple. It’s incredibly frustrating to see the long latency in response time as well as the apparent inattention to detail. I have the distinct impression of little interest or inclination to investigate.

Update April 1st

(It’s April 1st but this is no joke).

A thank you to the OWC staff for reproducing and confirming.

Also, Tim Standing of SoftRAID.com was able to help by reproducing the bug and getting a stack dump to submit to Apple.

UPDATE: staffing at Apple is apparently minimal. A request for the core dump upload instructions going unanswered, and my bug updates have not been addressed for three days.

The key factor appears to be journaled HFS+ file system. It will be nice if Apple fixes it (bug #15821723 updated), but at least there is a workaround that does not require a complete volume erase.

Disabling journaling not only prevents the issue from occurring (at least I can no longer reproduce it with journaling off), but it allows a volume with a problem test file to be removed (put into trash, empty trash).

Disabling HFS journaling

In Terminal, use the commands in red. It is easily reversible. Journaling is strongly advised for most all uses, so disable it temporarily only.

    # Disable HFS journaling on volume 'Scratch'
    diglloyd:DIGLLOYD lloyd$ diskutil disableJournal Scratch
    Journaling has been disabled for volume Scratch on disk14

... remove the file, e.g., put into trash and empty trash ...
    
    # Enable HFS journaling on volume 'Scratch'
    diglloyd:DIGLLOYD lloyd$ diskutil enableJournal Scratch
    Journaling has been enabled for volume Scratch on disk14

Apple’s (non) Response

Update April 14: no response in BugReporter from Apple, 10 days later. Separately, no response to developer Tim Standing with the stack dump to be uploaded. Consistent with Apple Core Rot.

After 10 days, no response from Apple
After 10 days, no response from Apple

Photoshop CC With Too Little Memory

OWC loaned its 128GB and 64GB memory kits as well as a 6-core 3.5 GHz 2013 Mac Pro for MPG to delve into the performance differences.

What happens when the demands on memory exceed what is available? Ouch.

OWC 128GB memory for 2013 Mac Pro
OWC 128GB memory for 2013 Mac Pro

Using Dual GPUs on the 2013 Mac Pro

At present, the dual GPUs on the 2013 Mac Pro have extremely limited support in software applications (this is actually true of all Macs of all years, but the 2013 Mac Pro holds huge promise in particular).

A certain software application vendor contacted me very recently, asking if I were interesting in testing a beta version of software that will utilize both GPUs on the 2013 Mac Pro. Naturally I said yes, and I hope I’ll be able to report on the results soon, the exciting part being that optimized use of both GPUs could deliver 3X to 7X the performance one gets from CPU-based processing. That’s particularly exciting for photography (video too, but it has fairly good GPU support already).

Will it be a sockdolager performance upgrade as for the value of GPU computing? One hopes so.

In the meantime, see 2013 Mac Pro GPU Benefits to get a sense of half-way implementations that don’t put both GPUs to work.

Saving and Opening Huge Photoshop Files *FAST* (OWC Mercury Helios 2 and Dual Accelsior PCIe SSD)

The diglloyd.com photography workload includes frequent creation of large files, typically 1-5GB, but sometimes up to 14GB (saved sizes). A sample is shown below. To save and open those big files fast requires a very fast drive (and configuring Photoshop preferences for speed).

The internal SSD (flash storage) in the 2013 Mac Pro is stunningly fast and that is a great option. But it also has other uses, and it’s great to have fast external SSD performance as well, particularly if one did not opt for the 1TB internal flash.

To match the internal 2013 Mac Pro flash storage speed externally requires Thunderbolt 2 connectivity to fast SSDs.

To that end, diglloyd.com photography is now using dual 960GB OWC Mercury Accelsior E2 PCIe SSDs in a RAID-0 stripe configuration for a 1.92TB working volume. The enabling device is the OWC Mercury Helios 2 enclosure, into which those two cards is installed. It works great and the fan noise is quite low.

Performance of that striped-SSD configuration is around 1000 MB/sec for writes and 1100MB/sec for reads for sustained transfers, with somewhat higher speeds in shorter bursts.

Typical file sizes for diglloyd.com photography work
Typical file sizes for diglloyd.com photography work

Tested in 2013 Mac Pro: 64GB vs 128GB Memory from OWC

OWC loaned its 128GB and 64GB memory kits as well as a 6-core 3.5 GHz 2013 Mac Pro for MPG to delve into the performance differences.

More memory helps with huge jobs that exceed the 64GB memory configuration, but the key question is whether it hurts other tasks, since the 128GB configuration has reduced memory bandwidth.

But memory bandwidth is one of those numbers of little significance to any particular task, particularly with the large and efficient CPU caches on the 2013 Mac Pro. All that counts is real world performance.

Read the multi-page analysis of the real-world performance of the OWC 64GB and 128GB memory kits.

OWC 128GB memory for 2013 Mac Pro
OWC 128GB memory for 2013 Mac Pro

OWC Introduces 128GB Memory Upgrade Kit for 2013 Apple Mac Pro

Now shipping. MPG will be testing this new memory kit starting today.

OWC Introduces 128GB Memory Upgrade Kit for latest Apple Mac Pro Offers Up to Double The RAM Versus Factory Maximum Offered

New ‘MaxRAM’ Certified OWC 32GB Modules enable Up to 2x More Memory and may also be mixed with OWC and Apple 16GB modules enabling even greater flexibility for individual user requirements

March 26, 2014, Woodstock, IL — Other World Computing (OWC®) http://www.macsales.com, a leading zero emissions Mac and PC upgrade and storage technology company, today officially expanded its MaxRAM™ Certified Upgrades to include up to 128GB memory upgrade kits for the latest Apple® Mac Pro 2013 6-Core, 8-Core, and 12-Core models. The new OWC 32GB modules and matched kits up to 128GB, are Fully Tested, Qualified, and MaxRAM Certified for the most demanding applications and are backed with a Money Back Guarantee and OWC’s Lifetime Advance Replacement Warranty.
OWC ‘MaxRAM’ 32GB Module Based Kits Offer Up to Double Factory Maximum RAM:

OWC 32GB Module (32GB x 1) $599
OWC 64GB Upgrade Kit (32GB x 2) $1,149.99
OWC 96GB Upgrade Kit (32GB x 3) $1,699.99
OWC 128GB Upgrade Kit (32GB x 4) $2,129.99 (128GB option not available from Apple)

OWC also has a memory rebate program for memory of all kinds from any Mac.

Technical discussion

MPG will ascertain what the speed impact is of using 1333MHz modules, but note that when more memory is really needed, more memory trumps memory speed. And if 64GB is already ample, going to slower-speed 128GB memory is not a win. In short, 128GB is for big jobs.

  • The 32GB modules run at 1333 MHz, which means lower performance than the 1866 MHz speed of the 16GB or 8GB or 4GB modules. How much this affects performance awaits testing.
  • The 32GB modules can be mixed with 16GB modules, so (for example), a 96GB configuration is possible (2 X 32GB + 2 X 16GB).
  • While a single 32GB module should function (mix) with the 16GB modules, OWC advises pairs of matched modules.

OWC memory page.

OWC 128GB memory for 2013 Mac Pro
OWC 128GB memory for 2013 Mac Pro

iTunes User Interface Ignores Screen Size, Tedious and Hard to Use

Below is what iTunes looks like on a 30-inch display. It would look the same on a 24-inch or 27-inch display (a bit less white space), but on a 4K display the abject design failure should be apparent even to iTunes engineers, or so I would hope.

Most of the content is hidden, requiring awkward scrolling and dragging to do anything useful, yet 2/3 of the screen is blank space, wasted.

Convoluted clicking and dragging is needed to do the most simple app organization between pages, and one cannot even see the destination, because it’s hidden by the screen from which one is moving the app. Also, I frequently have to try 2 or 3 times to succeed; it is the most tedious and frustrating user interfaces of any application I use, by far. I would rather edit a plain text config file than suffer through this mess.

Years ago, Apple had design sense for which I had great respect. Those days are long gone. A “design” like this shows a fundamental ignorance of usability, and I’m not even counting the convoluted kitchen sink aspects of iTunes. I see it as one more small indicator of Apple Core Rot.

Apple iTunes user interface
Apple iTunes user interface

OWC Helios 2 and 128GB 2013 Mac Pro

I’m back from traveling a few days, by car and bike.

The OWC Helios 2 has arrived. Two 960GB OWC Accelsior E2 PCIe cards will go into it for “production” use for digital photography.

Also arriving in two days is a 2013 Mac Pro loaded with 128GB memory.

OWC Mercury Helios 2-slot PCIe expansion chassis
OWC Mercury Helios 2-slot PCIe expansion chassis

Price Drop on OWC SSDs

Prices are down nicely on 3G SSDs.

"G" = gigabit, 3G = 3 gigabit, 6G = 6 gigabit SATA

The OWC Mercury Electra 3G SSDs are not as fast as the 6G models, but for many if not most situations the difference is immaterial, being a huge upgrade in speed over a hard drive, particularly a laptop. The 240GB model looks to be ideal for upgrading an old laptop (cost and capacity), though MPG recommends 480GB as even better for longer term, simply for capacity reasons.

The 3G models slot into many Macs, including the 2009-2012 Mac Pro drive bays (using the Mac Pro drive sled).

Also, these SSDs are terrific cost-effective upgrades for an older laptop in particular; see Making an Old Dog of a Laptop Run Like a New One: Wow!.

Or for a MacMini (internally or otherwise), or any Mac with USB3 (via an external USB3 case), but see bus power discussion for the 960GB model below.

OWC pricing

Get deals like this by signing up for the OWC newsletter.

The 960GB model

The 960GB model is interesting: it uses two flash modules internally as a RAID-0 stripe, and while it is a 3G SSD SATA interface, the RAID-0 striping keeps its throughput high even for incompressible data.

MPG uses the 960GB model in an OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini USB3 case, but since the power draw is too high for USB bus power, it is mandatory to power the unit using the optional AC power adapter (wall wart). No big deal for home use: 960GB in a compact case on the desk is pretty darn awesome.

Consider also that four 960GB Electra 3G SSDs can fit into a 2009-2012 Mac Pro, for 3.84 TB of SSD storage. Totally quiet, awesomely fast.

Price drops on OWC 3G SSDs
Price drops on OWC 3G SSDs

Deal—TRIPP LITE 7+1 Port USB3 Expansion Hub

OWC has the TRIPP LITE USB3 hub on special. Highly recommended.

OWC also has fast USB card readers, plug one into this puppy for fast downloads from digital camera cards.

Review: Expanding USB3 Ports (TRIPP LITE 7+1 USB3)

TRIPP LITE 7-Port x USB 3.0, 1-Port x USB 3.0 Charging Hub for iPad 2
TRIPP LITE 7-Port x USB 3.0,
1-Port x USB 3.0 Charging Hub for iPad 2

Attaching a Display to the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station

The driver update enhanced the functionality of the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station.

A few readers wondered about display support, and so MPG tested that, and notes have been added to the review of the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station (under “Display Support” section).

CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station
CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station with Thunderbolt, USB3, HDMI, ethernet

128GB Memory for 2013 Mac Pro

Several readers have written to note that Transcend has announced a 128GB memory kit for the 2013 Mac Pro. MPG has no experience with Transcend memory but has bought and used several hundred gigabytes worth of experience with OWC memory in a variety of different Macs over the years.

OWC has also been working on a 128GB kit (4 X 32GB, 1333 MHz); MPG will have an OWC 128GB memory kit for testing on or around March 24th.

OWC states that pricing will be announced next week and it will be possible to order around the same time.

Details:

  • The 32GB modules run at 1333 MHz, which means lower performance than the 1866 MHz speed of the 16GB or 8GB or 4GB modules. How much this affects performance awaits testing.
  • The 32GB modules can be mixed with 16GB modules, so (for example), a 96GB configuration is possible (2 X 32GB + 2 X 16GB).
  • While a single 32GB module should function (mix) with the 16GB modules, OWC advises pairs of matched modules.

MPG will ascertain what the speed impact is of using 1333MHz modules, but note that when more memory is really needed, more memory trumps memory speed. And if 64GB is already ample, going to slower-speed 128GB memory is not a win. In short, 128GB is for big jobs.

OWC memory page.

Modules shown are 16GB modules (MPG does not have 32GB imagery as yet).

OWC 2013 Mac Pro CPU Upgrade Program

The OWC 2013 Mac Pro CPU upgrade program will go live the week of 24 March.

MPG has been running the 8-core 3.3 GHz CPU in the 2013 Mac Pro for about ten days now, an upgrade by OWC from the 4-core model.

MPG 3.3 GHz 8-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs and 64GB memory
MPG 3.3 GHz 8-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs and 64GB memory

As the graph shows, the fastest CPU is the 8-core 3.3 GHz (green line), though the 6-core 3.7 GHz is about the same for most tasks (but falls two cores short and is not offered by Apple). The 6-core 3.5 GHz CPU is excellent, but just a notch slower than both of those two faster siblings—not enough to matter for most users, only those needing the last increment of speed. Discussion.

Turbo Boost Speeds with 2013 Mac Pro Intel Xeon CPUs
Turbo Boost Speeds with 2013 Mac Pro Intel Xeon CPUs

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station Adds Support for iPhone/iPad Charging + Apple Superdrive

The Caldigit Thunderbolt Station now adds support via a driver for:

  • iOS device charging, such as iPad and iPhone.
  • Apple USB SuperDrive
  • Apple Keyboard

Previously, the higher power draw devices did not function. The driver makes this possible now.

MPG has verified operation of the Apple USB SuperDrive (burning a DVD) and iPad charging (connecting and updating iOS over that connection).

The iPad is a high power draw device that few USB hubs will charge, and while the TRIPP LITE will charge an iPad on its one special high power port, but it will not function as a data connection (charging only). The CalDigit Thunderbolt station not only charges the iPad, but provides a data connection to the computer.

CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station
CalDigit Thunderbolt™ Station with Thunderbolt, USB3, HDMI, ethernet

2013 Mac Pro: Which one to Choose, How to Store Image Files, Backup, etc

Deciding which Mac Pro variant is best for a particular workflow is not obvious—it’s easy to overspend on a system that might actually run slower than a less expensive one. Spending $2K more for a slower system is not an appealing thought. And in some cases an alternative might be preferred.

Overspending is not the only risk; choosing the wrong system can mean having to buy the right system later and that’s a really expensive mistake. A trip to the Apple Store slants the odds against you by the glitz and pressure to decide, just as walking into a car dealership uninformed can be a costly experience (read this).

Just yesterday I walked a photographer through the choice of systems, this client having almost turned away from the 2013 Mac Pro thinking it had to cost $10K. As it turned out, the ideal system was half that cost for her needs, and will run her workflow faster than the more expensive choices.

What actually matters for performance?

As a photographer, I must answer that question for myself based on real results, not benchmarks or tests run in unrealistic scenarios. My review coverage reflects that reality.

Moreover, a professional needs a computing system that takes into account current and future needs, reliability, backup and expansion.

The wrong choices can mean spending more money for less performance, inadequate storage capacity, confusing backup, or workflow configuration that does not utilize the best approach.

For all these considerations, personalized consulting can save time and money and prevent making choices that can cost you later. Also available for updating and expanding existing systems, photography systems, etc.

2013 Apple Mac Pro, innards
2013 Apple Mac Pro, innards
© Copyright 2014 DIGLLOYD INC. All Rights Reserved

2013 Mac Pro In Stock at B&H

B&H Photo has the 2013 Mac Pro 6-core in stock as this was written. With a nice kicker: get 64GB of OWC memory installed for only $749 ($100 discount).

These handy search buttons (bookmark 'em) provide search links to in stock and other configs.

Metadata = Surveillance

Security expert Bruce Schneier discusses metadata, a term poorly understood by both politicians and the public.

But what is metadata? Using a telephone as one example—

Metadata is who you call and when and how often, how long, where you and that person were located, which phone and carrier were used, where you (your phone) is at all times even when not calling, etc.

The actual phone call (voice recording) is plain “data”. So with bromides like “the NSA does not listen to your phone calls”, recognize the grotesquely dishonest evasion that it is, because it sidesteps the really juicy stuff, the chilling Orwellian stuff: metadata is the core requirement for real-time surveillance of everyone with everyone and everything all the time.

But maybe metadata is only tip of the iceberg.

Metadata is commonly thought of as less important than data content. But in fact metadata is vastly more powerful because it connects the dots in Orwellian ways never before possible. You know this in your gut: how does it feel to be tracked online as to your habits? Not many people like that idea. But now extend it to every aspect of your life and every interaction with everyone and everything and every service and site all the time 24 X 7.

With metadata, everyone is a dot on a networking map. The idea that such power cannot and will not be abused is one only naive children could believe in, right up there with the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. Or perhaps the Supreme Court, seemingly unable to come to grips with the 4th Amendment having any meaning at all in a modern world—concretized thinkers unable to comprehend (or perhaps uwilling to confront) the dire risks or metadata—horse and buggy legal reasoning rather than conceptual thought (after all, a cell phone or computer is not “paper”).

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. — 4th Amendment.

Locating cell phones precisely was mandated by government edict; it is is required. For “public safety reasons”. Today, your cell phone is the most powerful tracking device ever invented: it gives a continual precise location. And you carry it willingly and without fail. And yet metadata is largely dismissed as a concern.

The issue is the massive surveillance machinery being put into place and what if any legal mechanisms will restrain it (ideally, dismantle it), because once in place the temptation for its use will be too great, needing only a plausible excuse to employ for more and more “reasonable” uses.

OS X 10.9.2 bug with 90° Screen Rotation Reportedly Fixed in OS X 10.9.3 Beta

I am told that the screen rotation issues are fixed in the current OS X 10.9.3 beta (not confirmed directly by MPG, as MPG has not installed OS X 10.9.3 beta).

No word on the sleep issues.

90° screen rotation broken on 2013 Mac Pro (should offer 1600 X 2560)
90° screen rotation broken on 2013 Mac Pro
(should offer 1600 X 2560)

Isolating/Blocking Hard Drive Vibration, Especially on a Hardwood Desk or Floor

Hard drives (“spinners”) typically rotation at 7200 rpm, and this generates vibration. Placed on surfaces like concrete flooring, this is of little concern. But placed on a hardwood desktop or floor, those vibrations can resonate into the material in a quite annoying way (a low humming vibration typically). Or not, depending on the material. While the enclosure can eliminate much of the vibration, certain frequencies are not attenuated.

MPG has both a hardwood desk and hardwood floors, so these types of vibrations are very unwelcome, hence a search for a solution.

The Auralex MoPAD Monitor Isolation Pads do the job. While designed for audio monitors (speakers) they do a great job of blocking vibrations from spinning hard drives. The pads include wedges that allow the hard drive(s) enclosure to sit perfectly level on desk or floor.

Auralex MoPAD Monitor Isolation Pads
Auralex MoPAD Monitor Isolation Pads
(leveling inserts not shown; can sit level too)

2013 Mac Pro: Photoshop CC Filter Crashes Appear to be Due to Apple Graphics Drivers

While MPG was testing Photoshop performance for the 2013 Mac Pro real-world performance, several filters were crashing the tests and had to be removed from the test suite; others made it through without crashing, but destabilized Photoshop, leading to a later crash. Ultimately some had to be run “solo” in order to get a timing figure.

MPG reported the crash issues to Adobe, but it quickly became apparent that the crashes were peculiar to the 2013 Mac Pro only, easily seen by disabling GPU support (uncheck Use Graphics Processor) and/or running the same test suite on other Macs (MacBook Pro and/or 2010 Mac Pro) and/or hearing the same thing from other trusted parties.

Some of these crashes remain extant. Adobe is currently working with Apple and AMD to get this issue resolved as soon as possible

For the improvements, Adobe has chosen to undo GPU support for fast sharpening, something MPG picked up on while retesting Photoshop CC speed on the 2013 Mac Pro a few days ago, observing 3X to 4X losses in sharpening speed. MPG agrees that this is the right thing for Adobe to do at this this time. But it is also MPG’s position that Adobe should make a formal statement on where things stand now, since the improvements were announced with 14.2. Unannounce them, along with the reason. (Perhaps MPG has missed such an announcement?).

It is also the MPG position that Apple, having broken sleep and display support with some displays is also (to MPG’s knowledge) not coming clean on the state of the graphics drivers with the 2013 Mac Pro, which MPG testing shows make Photoshop CC too unstable to use on the 2013 Mac Pro with certain other Photoshop filters. The 2013 Mac Pro is a high-end machine that professionals rely upon and invest huge sums in, and hence Apple must step up to the plate first by fixing the broken testing processes at Apple (hardware and software with some extremely dangerous failures), 2nd by having the integrity to acknowledge bugs, and 3rd by providing a timeline for fixes.

The 2013 Mac Pro offers much ballyhooed dual* AMD graphics. Apple just barely shipped it at the end of 2013 to meet the promised deadline, but was it shipped prematurely to meet that deadline with inadequate testing of the dual-GPU graphics system? Readers can ponder that for themselves, perhaps in the context of Apple Core Rot.

* To date, “dual” is a theoretical benefit, as very few programs can use more than one of the two GPUs.

OS X 10.9.2 Breaks Display Support with NEC Displays: Sleep, 90° Rotation Failure

OS X 10.9.2 has been changed to break longstanding behavior with some 3rd-party displays. MPG doesn’t know how widespread the issue is among 3rd-party displays, but it definitely affects NEC displays (e.g., it might or might not affect Eizo or Dell or other brands).

Update March 10: The lightbulb clicks on—the 90° rotation appears to be an AMD thing, meaning AMD graphics and/or graphics drivers. Using the 2010 Mac Pro back in February, I noted a failure of the AMD Sapphire HD 7950 video card to function properly at 90° rotation even as the stock Radeon HD 5870 was working fine and worked fine for years. So the 90° rotation bug might be restricted to AMD graphics, but on any model Mac Pro.

MPG is working with Apple high level Support and also contacts at NEC to get this issue nailed down. Apple support has also communicated the issue to Apple engineers.

Any fix would likely go into 10.9.3 (now in beta), but MPG declines to access 10.9.3 beta, as the Apple NDA restrictions would preclude discussing it here.

UPDATE March 13: I am told that the issues are FIXED in the current 10.9.3 beta (not personally confirmed).

MPG has used the NEC wide-gamut displays for ~6 years now, most recently the 30" 2560 X 1600 NEC PA302W and NEC PA301W and also a 2560 X 1440 NEC PA271W (mainly as a spare on a 2nd system). All of them are highly recommended for their calibrated wide-gamut performance.

After years of functioning properly in a dual display setup, along comes OS X 10.9.2 and the 2013 Mac Pro. The following issues are extant*.

* These are issues that reasonable testing by Apple ought to catch (when code is changed, there is that testing thing to be done). OS X releases are breaking more and more things throughout the system at greater and greater frequency, not just display support.

Sleep mode broken by OS X 10.9.2

Various sleep behaviors no longer work correctly. MPG configures NEC displays like this for sleep mode.

Example, occurs with a single display or dual displays—

When the display is supposed to sleep after the Energy Saver duration specified, it ought to go blank (off). Instead with 10.9.2, the image on the display freezes, and remains at full brightness forever, the image burning itself in. Waking the machine up, normal operation resumes.

Since other users are reporting sleep issues with NEC displays on other Macs, this seems to be an OS X bug not involving the graphics card or Mac model.

Dual-display support with 90° rotation

90° screen rotation broken on 2013 Mac Pro (should offer 1600 X 2560)
90° screen rotation broken on 2013 Mac Pro
(should offer 1600 X 2560)

The NEC displays are easily pivoted to be a portrait-orientation. MPG uses dual 30-inch displays, the main one in landscape orientation and the 2nd one in portrait orientation. This is about both desk space (and neck swivel capability) but also about workflow efficiency.

Substituting a 27" 2560 X 1440 NEC PA271W, portrait orientation works—sort of—reboots often force it to some lower scaled resolution while also swapping around the menu bar for good measure, forcing a redo to fix everything (which works ultimately). The flaky behavior strongly suggests a software bug (graphics drivers). And that is on two different Mac Pros (D300 and D700 models).

But the 30" display will not work at all at 90° rotation on the D700 GPU 2013 Mac Pro (after working for weeks on a D300 2013 Mac Pro, then beginning to fail after a swap between machines, suggesting a flaky graphics driver bug).

As it stands, one 30" display has now been rendered useless, costing me the better part of a frustrating day (including a call to Apple). Desk space and neck-swiveling make dual 30" displays side by side in landscape mode for both unusable for MPG. Having a $2200 investment idled is unfunny, but it is also an ongoing workflow impairment.

This 90° rotation bug appears to be limited to the 2013 Mac Pro seems; the same scenario worked flawlessly for the past ~4 years with NEC 30" displays on the 2010 Mac Pro.

AHA! The lightbulb clicks on—it might be an AMD thing, meaning AMD graphics and/or graphics drivers. Using the 2010 Mac Pro back in February, I noted a failure of the AMD Sapphire HD 7950 video card to function properly at 90° rotation (the stock Radeon HD 5870 was working fine and worked fine for years). So this 90° rotation bug might be restricted to AMD graphics.

Additional (non-NEC) graphics issues

The graphics drivers for OS X and the 2013 Mac Pro GPUs are prone to crash; crashes in Photoshop are still occurring with some filters. That display support (see above) has been multiply-broken makes sense in context.

These crashes started with the 2013 Mac Pro, and do not occur for MPG with other Macs running the identical tests.

The crashes have been partially addressed Adobe undid GPU support for fast sharpening, something MPG picked up on while retesting Photoshop CC speed on the 2013 Mac Pro yesterday.

Adobe has not weighed in on the remaining crashes, but to MPG it appears that Adobe code is not involved, e.g., that it is a bug in the Apple drivers for the AMD GPUs in the 2013 Mac Pro. It’s up to Adobe and Apple to publicly clarify the situation and the timeline for fixing it. MPG’s position is that silence on this and other such issues is unacceptable.

Housing Data Safely: Dual OWC Thunderbay 4-Bay Units for Performance, Capacity, Redundancy, Backup

With dual OWC Thunderbay units attached to the 2013 Mac Pro, eight 4TB drives can be housed in a way that offers cross-redundancy for “master” (original) and always-attached nearline backups.

With dual Thunderbay units housing eight drives I can house all my original image files and similar (Archive0, Archive1) as well as keep clone backups of both of those as well as my Boot and Master volumes*, and a TimeMachine volume too. Moreover, each archive volume can be a dual drive RAID-0 stripe for high performance in both usage and backup and verification time.

Boot     = system and applications, miscellaneous data
Master   = current projects (past 6 months or so), high performance SSD
Archive0 = oldest projects
Archive1 = next oldest project
... etc

Many users don’t have enough data to require additional archive volumes housing older data, so this simplifies to Boot and Master, with respective backups.

* Online always attached backups are not a substitute for other detached backups stored safely away from the computer. MPG keeps both nearline and separate backups to address both the “I’m too busy to go get those backup drives” and the worst-case “everything attached is stolen/burned up” scenarios.

When the data grows too large

When Master nears capacity, the concept needs to be extended to Archive1, Archive2, etc (your choice of naming convention). Each of these can be backed-up by cloning to single (non RAID) external drives.

The structure can be extended indefinitely without requiring any new mental model. MPG deems this far preferable to larger and larger and more expensive 4/6/8 bay units; these generate the same issues for backup, and end up being more complex, not less.

Configuring the dual Thunderbays

By using dual Thunderbay units, I can “cross configure” so that each Thunderbay houses some originals and some backups, so that if one unit were to fail, the loss would affect some originals and some backups, but the other unit would have a backup of what was lost. Note that a lightning strike or other hazard could take out both units (and the computer), so this approach is NOT a subsitute for additional backups out of harm’s way.

An approach equivalent to this is mandatory as a professional competence issue for anyone whose livelihood depends on data safety. Consulting can walk you through a suitable approach tailored to current and growing needs.

Simplified (omitting Boot and Master):

Unit #1: Archive0, Archive1.Clone
Unit #2: Archive0.Clone, Archive1

A failure of Unit #1 leaves intact copies on Unit #2, and vice versa. Perfect.

The MPG system has a lot of data to house and it’s growing steadily, so more volumes are required, but the concept is unchanged:

Internal SSD:                                   Master,        Boot
Unit #1:        Archive0,       Archive1.Clone, Master.Clone1, Boot.Clone1
Unit #2:        Archive0.Clone, Archive1.       Master.Clone2, Boot.Clone1

Don’t forget that data validation is an essential part of any backup system. Assuming that backups are intact is a fundamental error.

2013 Mac Pro: that 1TB Flash Storage (SSD) ’Rocks’

Tests are one thing, and there the 1TB SSD in the 2013 Mac Pro tests out better than any single (non-RAID) SSD I’ve yet tested.

But real-world results are the only thing that actually matter. Here’s one example.

Data verification

Second, verifying data integrity with IntegrityChecker is incredibly fast*, encouraging doing so as a matter of course (no assumptions about “should be fine”). See also How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups (IntegrityChecker).

diglloyd2:DIGLLOYD lloyd$ ic verify Master
IntegrityChecker(tm) v1.2.1 64-bit, diglloydTools 2.2.2, 2013-10-26 13:20
Copyright 2006-2013 DIGLLOYD INC. All Rights Reserved ... Using threads = 6, read buffer size = 4096K, num buffers = 36 Looking for files in "/Volumes/Master".. Selecting files for hashing...
Preparing to hash 601014 files...
Files prepared, hashing 601014 files...
0%: 48 files @ 1090.9MB/sec, processed 1.07GB
1%: 70 files @ 1105.1MB/sec, processed 2.17GB
1%: 89 files @ 1110.0MB/sec, processed 3.27GB
1%: 110 files @ 1114.4MB/sec, processed 4.42GB
2%: 128 files @ 1117.9MB/sec, processed 5.54GB
2%: 148 files @ 1120.5MB/sec, processed 6.68GB
2%: 168 files @ 1122.2MB/sec, processed 7.81GB
3%: 189 files @ 1123.5MB/sec, processed 8.97GB
3%: 210 files @ 1123.6MB/sec, processed 10.09GB
3%: 231 files @ 1124.0MB/sec, processed 11.2GB
4%: 250 files @ 1125.5MB/sec, processed 12.3GB
4%: 269 files @ 1120.0MB/sec, processed 13.4GB
4%: 288 files @ 1118.3MB/sec, processed 14.5GB
5%: 308 files @ 1118.8MB/sec, processed 15.6GB
5%: 328 files @ 1119.4MB/sec, processed 16.7GB
5%: 349 files @ 1118.8MB/sec, processed 17.8GB
6%: 370 files @ 1119.2MB/sec, processed 18.9GB
6%: 389 files @ 1119.6MB/sec, processed 20.0GB
6%: 410 files @ 1119.5MB/sec, processed 21.2GB
7%: 431 files @ 1119.9MB/sec, processed 22.3GB
7%: 452 files @ 1120.3MB/sec, processed 23.5GB
7%: 472 files @ 1120.4MB/sec, processed 24.6GB
8%: 493 files @ 1120.0MB/sec, processed 25.7GB
8%: 513 files @ 1118.4MB/sec, processed 26.8GB ...

* IntegrityChecker is one of the most efficient multi-threaded programs available, using all CPU cores with near perfect scalability.

 

Photoshop CC Sharpening Now 3X Slower But ONLY on the 2013 Mac Pro (unmaking the power of the Ring)

Refer to the chart below; results were with OS X 10.9.1 and Photoshop CC v14.2.0.

With OS X 10.9.2 and Photoshop CC v14.2.1, the Sharpen filter now runs 3X to 4X SLOWER on the 2013 Mac Pro. This reverses the mid-January speedup.

Sharpening was touted as greatly improved in 14.2.0, and MPG duly confirmed and reported on that (see Two GPUs to Rule Them All, and in the Software Bind Them—Photoshop CC Now Sharpens 4X Faster). That improvement has been “un-made”, in ring parlance.

MPG does not hold Adobe culpable here, rather it is Apple that is responsible in two ways: poorly-tested graphics drivers, and a failure to provide a key software partner with adequate machines to test with.

Let’s take the 8-core 3.3 GHz case:

10.9.1 / CC 14.2.0: 2.6 seconds using D500 GPU
10.9.2 / CC 14.2.1: 7.15 seconds using D700 GPUs

That’s right: faster GPUs are running ~3X slower. (the 12-core with D700 GPUs clocked in at 2.4 seconds when tested on 10.9.1 as the chart shows, so it’s not some weird D700 vs D500 vs D300 thing).

Even more dismal results are seen with the 4-core (3.5 seconds to 12.4 seconds and that’s with GPUs used!).

MPG re-ran and rebooted and re-ran with the same shocking results each time.

  • The MacBook Pro tests at the ~same speed as before! (5.9 seconds now vs 6.0.
  • Other filters test the same or even a little better.
  • Turning OpenGL off, the time increases form 7.15 seconds to 11.6 seconds, so clearly the GPU support is not just disabled entirely.

My guess is that the crash bugs in Photoshop (still not fixed, some filters still crash if OpenCL is enabled) have been dealt with by disabling or detuning something.

An inquiry is in to Adobe. It’s unclear if Photoshop CC is directly responsible, because the filter crashes I observe(d) is/are a graphics driver bug according to information received.

The late 2013 MacBook Pro performs the same (5.9 seconds now, vs 6.0 ~= the same), this sure seems like more half-baked Apple Core Rot. And along with severe dual display problems, the MPG advice for professionals is to tread cautiously on the “upgrade” front.

Click for larger chart.

Photoshop CC filter speed
Photoshop CC filter speed

2013 Mac Pro: 1TB SSD Faster on Writes

Just tested— the 1TB flash storage (SSD) option in the 2013 Mac Pro is a big bump up in write speed over the 256GB and 512GB SSDs.

Observe a write speed of ~929 MB/sec vs ~755 MB/sec for the lower capacity options. I can’t rule out OS X 10.9.1 vs 10.9.2, but OWC tells me that this difference is their same observation.

Discussion.

2013 Mac Pro SSD performance
2013 Mac Pro SSD performance

2013 Mac Pro: Dual Displays Problematic

My upgraded Mac Pro is here.

Update March 10: The lightbulb clicks on—the 90° rotation bug might be an AMD thing, meaning AMD graphics and/or graphics drivers. Using the 2010 Mac Pro back in February, I noted a failure of the AMD Sapphire HD 7950 video card to function properly at 90° rotation (the stock Radeon HD 5870 was working fine and worked fine for years). So this 90° rotation bug might be restricted to AMD graphics.

MPG is working with Apple high level Support and also contacts at NEC and AMD to get these issues nailed down (sleep is probably an Apple thing, 90° rotation an AMD thing). So all parties are aware of these issues.

Any fix would likely go into 10.9.3 (now in beta), but MPG declines to access 10.9.3 beta, as the Apple NDA restrictions would preclude discussing it here.

But I’ve run into a serious problem involving dual 30-inch displays ( NEC PA302W and NEC PA301W). On the 4-core/D300 Mac Pro I just swapped out, the displays were set up as follows, and working perfectly for a month or so:

PA302W: 2560 X 1600 main display
PA301W: 2560 X 1600 2nd display, in portrait orientation (90° rotation)

This same pairing worked together for the past ~6 months on the 2010 Mac Pro, and a similar pairing for 3.5 years prior to that. And the past ~3 weeks on the 2013 Mac Pro with D300 GPUs.

So along comes the 8-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs. I swapped the display cables into the same ports on the 8-core, and now the 2nd display will not run at full resolution in portrait mode! It will do full 2560 X 1600 resolution in landscape mode, but only ugly scaled resolutions in portrait mode (even the option-click trick for more resolutions will not show 1600 X 2560 as an option).

Go figure. The D300 (cheaper) Mac Pro works properly and the “better” D700 Mac Pro does not. The only thing I can figure is that the “better” D700 GPUs have a bug, and the D300 GPUs do not. But given the new batch of display sleep bugs in 10.9.2 (after years of no issues) and GPU crashes in Photoshop (the AMD driver for Apple), the issue seems to fall into “Apple bug” land. Seems to at least—bugs are that.

Mac Pro D700 GPUs does not offer 1600 X 2560 resolution, but Mac Pro D300 GPUs does!
Mac Pro D700 GPUs does not offer 1600 X 2560 resolution, but Mac Pro D300 GPUs does!

What I tried

The things I’ve done/tried have wasted the better part of a day, with no solution in sight. I’ve gone through all A/B variables, etc. All efforts point to a bug:

  • I’ve unplugged all additional Thunderbolt devices.
  • Tried two different Mini DisplayPort cables to rule out cable issue.
  • Rebooted several times.
  • Reset PRAM (twice).
  • Created a different admin account.
  • Downloaded and installed the OS X 10.9.2 update over existing install.
  • Update not working, so installed and booted off a brand-new OS X Mavericks install on a separate drive to rule out some oddity in my system.
  • Cloned the system from the 4-core/D300 Mac Pro to an external SSD, and booted both Mac Pros booted off that same drive/system. The D300 Mac works perfectly and the D700 Mac Pro fails as described.
  • A/B swapped the two Mac Pros several times (same displays with same cables in matching ports). The Mac Pro with D300 GPU works perfectly (as did 2010 Mac Pro for years), the Mac Pro with the D700 GPUs malfunctions as described.
  • Tried a NEC PA271W (2560 X 1440) 27-inch display, which works fine with the D700 Mac Pro.
  • Spent an hour or so with Apple 1st and 2nd level technical support: “first report we’ve had”.

It appears that there is a software or hardware bug with a D700-based Mac Pro. Or that my PA301W and the Mac Pro with D700 GPUs just dislike each other, for unknown reasons. Or maybe it’s a PA301W bug only or an Apple OS X bug only or a 2013 Mac Pro D700 bug only! I don’t know.

This bug is a problem for my work efficiency, so it’s driving me crazy.

More below! Symptoms run deeper and wider.

Dual display arrangement
Dual display arrangement

More problems, and worse than thought

Subsequent to the above, I observed other things that make it clear that there is something seriously unstable with multiple display support in OS X 10.9.2:

  • Rebooting sometimes swaps the menu bar to the other screen and simultaneously changes the screen resolution to a scaled low-res variant. I observed this happen on BOTH Mac Pros with the 2560 X 1440 PA271W, which otherwise was working as expected. Using the Displays control panel, I was able to restore full resolution at 90° for the PA271W and to put the menu bar back on the main display. A reboot was OK, but another reboot screws it all up again. Or doesn’t—it’s flaky.
  • Re-attaching the two displays to the Mac Pro D300 (vs D700 model), the same display resolution problem was observed with the PA271W and also with rebooting. But again, flaky, and not always.
  • All of this after weeks of trouble-free use on the D300 Mac Pro, and years of trouble free use on the 2010 Mac Pro. Something flaky is in the innards of OS X here. Reboots apparently trigger it.

Note also that Apple has broken display sleep in 10.9.2: I’ve been dealing with this as well as hearing reports from readers with NEC displays (though it did not start with the 2013 Mac Pro, suggesting something broken at the OS level, not hardware level).

Also, graphics drivers for the new Mac Pro GPUs still crash Photoshop in some cases (these are apparently written by AMD for Apple). No wonder 10.9.3 reportedly includes graphics driver fixes (unspecified).

With two 2013 Mac Pros both showing the symptoms discussed using displays proven to work for long periods of time (years), something deeper and more troublesome is at work: the increasing trend to shoving sloppy untested changes out the door. When a company can break a fundamental and critical security underpinning, can one reasonably expect that multiple display support escape unscathed? BTW, full screen viewing mode to does not function in any useful way on two displays, which should come as no surprise in this context.

It’s amateur hour at Apple, with Apple Core Rot spreading wider and deeper.

2013 Mac Pro: Total System Configuration

Now published is a summary and discussion of the finalized MPG 2013 Mac Pro configuration for a intensive digital photography usage.

2013 Mac Pro rear ports
2013 Mac Pro rear ports

2013 Mac Pro: Upgraded to 3.3 GHz 8-Core

See the MPG buying links to B&H photo for the 2013 Mac Pro. Thanks for using!

MPG has the privilege of being the first advance customer of the new OWC CPU upgrade program* - which OWC will soon be opening up for all.

Now upgraded, it’s on its way back to me, where it will have 64GB memory installed to yield the fastest 2013 Mac Pro possible ( as per the tests). Still, it’s only a little faster than the stock 6-core CPU, which is the MPG recommendation for the vast majority of users.

2013 Mac Pro upgraded to 3.3 GHz 8-core Xeon E5
2013 Mac Pro upgraded to 3.3 GHz 8-core Xeon E5

System configuration

MPG uses the Mac Pro mainly for intensive photography, every day. Few users need this much gear, but some do, and most users will need some of it.

The key things are optimizing workflow, a well-conceived strategy for storage, and a robust backup approach. Expert advice can be helpful in all those areas, but also for saving money by not over-configuring for little or negative benefit and/or tips on how and where to buy stuff.

Apple’s CarPlay: iOS in the Car = Deadly New Distractions?

As a cyclist I’ve had some close calls on the road, which is why I use a very bright rear flasher and a daytime running light on nearly all my cycling rides.

Most drivers are prudent, but it’s clear that distracted driving is a serious problem too. Of those situations, some are aggressive drivers, a few are mentally disturbed malicious individuals*, but taking the troublesome minority of drivers as a group, most are simply careless or impatient (an “accident”). Hence my concern about iOS in a car leading to distracted driving.

Along comes Apple with the idea that iOS in the car is a good idea (Apple CarPlay). Since when are messaging and videos and similar distractions a good combination with driving, particularly with teenagers? Teenagers tweeting in cars and watching videos and status updates from friends with built-in iOS makes me nervous. As did a recent incident with two teenage girls gyrating wildly (including the driver) to “do you wanna be my lover” while tailgating the car ahead and passing me on my bicycle. OMG.

Though one might already bow in defeat to the reality of iPhone (ab)use in vehicles already, it is a fair question to ask how many people will end up dead or mangled as a result of inappropriate usage once the idea is accepted by virtue of it being a built-in part of driving. That number is not going to be zero.

To be fair to Apple, it is a general issue and someone is going to do it anyway. I don’t have the answers here, but driving and iOS-like technologies aren’t likely to ever be a good idea. Maybe a multi-way proximity sensor that shuts off functionality would make some mitigation sense, and while I abhor tracking, a “black box” recorder noting usage of messaging and similar features could be appropriate for determining culpability, so “accident” is not an excuse. It is a question that the legislature will have to decide in 50 states. But here in California, text messaging or phone usage is a ticketable offense (wireless link to phone is OK, for both hands on the wheel).

* In one encounter I was hit by a disturbed individual who the CHP neglected to even ticket in spite of a witness shocked by what he saw. That disturbed driver caused an indirect death (heart attack) in a road-rage incident ~2 years later.

WebCam Internet Security

My kids can’t understand why they shouldn’t use things like FaceBook et al, but to be fair to them, the vast majority of adults think the same way. Publishing details of one’s personal life online poses risks for years to come (surveillance, criminals, job searches, “privacy”). Perhaps overseas where thugs rule, people understand this better than in the USA (though there is very uncomfortable presumption in that sentence).

But what about another area that presumably most users consider private?

Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

The use of very strong peer-to-peer encryption that does not involve any certificate or other authority is the right way to go for such things. That a company like Yahoo would even provide a service that could be intercepted is a good reason not to use it. I don’t want anyone to know I’m going to the grocery store, let alone more sensitive areas like the emerging area of doctor/patient video chats.

Having once worked at PGP, I am disappointed to see how little progress has been made in getting away from the fragile infrastructure of official “trusted” parties (encryption or otherwise) for the transmission of private information.

How and Why to Partition the Mac Pro Internal SSD (ditto for any Mac)

The internal 2013 Mac Pro PCIe SSD (flash storage) is a very high performance device, at present the clearly preferable solution for high performance needs such as housing Lightroom catalogs, or actively editing large Photoshop files, scratch files, etc.

In some cases it might be useful to partition it into two partitions, such as Boot (system and applications) and Master (storage for files that benefit from high performance).

2013 Mac Pro: How and Why to Partition the PCIe Flash Drive

Partitioning
Partitioning

2013 Mac Pro Arrives

See the MPG buying links to B&H photo for the 2013 Mac Pro. Thanks for using!

See previous discussion on 2013 Mac Pro order status and Apple logistics.

The MPG Mac Pro has arrived. It was supposed to go directly to OWC for the 3.3 GHz 8-core CPU upgrade, but in spite of four phone calls to Apple with assurances of the shipping address being updated, the shipping address was not changed. No big deal (sarcasm), only a $350 screwup for me—I have to have it right away, since the loaner I am using has to go back and I cannot be without a computer. So it’s overnight shipping two way. Nice job Apple—ship it late and ship it wrong.

Update March 7: I have to hand it to Apple for doing something entirely unexpected and praiseworthy: out of the blue I received a call from Apple apologizing for the mishandling, along with an offer to refund some of the shipping (about half, e.g. ~$175). While I am not made entirely whole, I expected nothing at all, certainly not coming out of nowhere like that. It’s a class act and deserves mention here.

So tomorrow out it goes to OWC for that CPU upgrade*. I have the privilege of being the first customer of this new OWC program - which OWC will soon be opening up for all.

It should be back by Friday or Saturday, where it will be put into “production” use, primarily for intensive photography. As shown below, I ordered the 4-core CPU with 12GB; it will become an 8-core with 64GB memory and the D700 GPUs. It doesn’t get any faster. Still, it’s only a little faster than the stock 6-core CPU, which is the MPG recommendation for the vast majority of users.

* OWC is performing the CPU upgrade on the MPG Mac Pro in advance of public availability of the upgrade program (expected soon). Rolling out such a service requires logistics and support to do it right, so anyone looking to do a CPU upgrade should appreciate that OWC is taking the time to implement the service robustly.

How those thunderbolt ports are used matters—see 2013 Mac Pro: Thunderbolt Performance Tips.

2013 Mac Pro rear ports
2013 Mac Pro rear ports

How to Choose a Secure Password

This article by Bruce Schneier (a true security expert) is excellent.

Choosing Secure Passwords

Last year, Ars Technica gave three experts a 16,000-entry encrypted password file, and asked them to break as many as possible. The winner got 90% of them, the loser 62% -- in a few hours. It's the same sort of thing we saw in 2012, 2007, and earlier. If there's any new news, it's that this kind of thing is getting easier faster than people think.

Is Thunderbolt Faster than USB3?

Is USB3 faster than Thunderbolt with a fast SSD? It depends.

Read more…

Speed in MB/sec of OWC 6G SSD in OWC Thunderbay and OWC USB3 Elite Pro Mini     
Speed in MB/sec of OWC 6G SSD in OWC Thunderbay and OWC USB3 Elite Pro Mini

2013 Mac Pro: Apple Misses Ship Dates, What is Wrong with Apple Logistics? (UPDATE: Mac Pro SHIPS)

See the MPG buying links to B&H photo for the 2013 Mac Pro. Thank you for using!

See previous discussion on 2013 Mac Pro order status.

Something is rotten in the city of Cupertino, or rather, Austin TX, where the Mac Pro is manufactured. It’s just strange to see Apple execute poorly.

I’ve never seen such amorphous delivery dates, and now my order has clearly slipped: I received a phone call from Apple in Texas at 15:55 informing me that my Mac pro would ship in “5 to 7 days”. MacRumors has a similar report.

Oddly, a CC hold was put on my card a full week ago, a hold that has since elapsed, which is even more strange: how can a company think it’s time to ship, pre-charge the full amount, then miss it by 5-7 days?

Apple is clearly having logistics and planning difficulties, but the nature of the issue(s) is unclear. Perhaps there is a component shortage that is delaying production, or perhaps there are problems in the production itself. But that is only a symptom—to think it does not go deeper makes for a comforting but naive thought, no matter what public excuse or rationalization is offered.

MPG sees it as another of many symptoms of Apple Core Rot, now spreading to the execution level. Apple reached its zenith with Steve Jobs (a true genius), believe it or not. All great companies gain steam, but like a 2-mile-long train train loaded with iron ore (the spillage great ammo for my childhood slingshot), inertia carries it a very long way, and a cooked noodle at the helm cannot steer a visionary course. It will take a long time for that to be perceived (being first always looks wrong), but that changes nothing. Nor does it mean I don’t prefer Apple products over competing brands—it isn’t relevant to the foregoing—for now. But I would not be 'long' on Apple, even if there are short and intermediate term gains likely.

UPDATE Mar 1: to their credit Apple updated shipping to overnight and I did not ask, they just did it. That is a good way to operate and deserves kudos.

Now my challenge is to get the shipment rerouted to OWC for the 3.3 GHz 8-core CPU upgrade before it actually goes onto a truck/plane. (Among other considerations, Apple can’t charge sales tax for destination vs buyer, e.g., Texas vs California, so I had to wait until my CC was actually charged, there is now a pending charge for the full amount).

Update, Mar 4: A phone call to Apple Saturday Mar 1st after my CC was charged led to assurances of the shipping address being updated as requested, and that was while the Mac Pro was still at Apple. A subsequent phone call on Monday led to “it should be rerouted” which led to noting— the Mac Pro was delivered today to the address I did not want. So now I have to ship it out to where it needs to go. This follows two other phone calls to Apple the week prior.

The MPG 2013 Mac Pro ships
The MPG 2013 Mac Pro ships
2013 Mac Pro order status
2013 Mac Pro rear ports
2013 Mac Pro rear ports

2013 Mac Pro: USB3 Performance Impaired Relative to MacBook Pro (Single PCIe Lane Throttles Bandwidth)

The USB3 implementation on the late 2013 Mac Pro is a non-starter for high performance applications because its four USB3 ports are restricted to 500MB/sec theoretical maximum speed (in each direction). Actual limits are even lower.

A RAID-0 stripe of SSDs on USB3 is no faster than a single SSD on the Mac Pro.

By comparison, the late 2013 MacBook Pro offers far higher aggregate bandwidth, and superior performance even with a single SSD.

Read more…

Aggregate read/write speed with dual OWC 6G SSDs in external USB 3 enclosures used simultaneously     
Aggregate read/write speed with dual OWC 6G SSDs in external USB 3 enclosures used simultaneously

OS X 10.9.2 Reportedly Fixes the TLS/SSL Security Bug

OS X 10.9.2 is out with a stated fix for the TLS/SSL bug.

Software Update failed to work for me, insisting there was no update at all (even after rebooting and multiple checks).

I had to go and manually download the OS X Mavericks 10.9.2 update.

Major Security Flaw in Apple iOS and Apple OS X, Involves Fundamental TLS / SSL Security Protocols

Apple blemish
Blemishes are inconsequential,
but what’s inside?

UPDATE: OS X 10.9.2 is out with a fix for the TLS/SSL bug.

Apple has plenty of engineers for eye candy and destructive changes to usability.

But what about real usability, respect for compatibility and just plain fixing bugs? OS X Mavericks introduces more new bugs than I have ever seen in an OS release (including a new file system hang that I personally encountered*.

But that’s all trivial stuff in context—

The latest fiasco (which I add to the preponderance and growing evidence for Apple Core Rot) is a major security flaw in the most crucial underpinning of all for security: the TLS/SSL protocol.

In a nutshell, this particular bug allows a MITM attack (man in the middle); an attacker can interpose between the two ends, fooling each into believing the conversation is direct, undetected by both, capture everything in unencrypted form.

This exploit is made possible by the failure to validate the certificate (the nature of the Apple bug), that validation step being fundamental to the security. It is so critical and fundamental that no implementation could reasonably be released without a test suite to validate that it functions properly, well that’s my view when tens of millions of devices are in use. Obviously, Apple did not have that test suite in place.

The bug is so simple that it’s surprising a compiler warning was not issued: a 'goto' statement in the middle of a series of 'if' statements. With security code, one ought to enable all the warnings and have rigorous code-review processes in place.

What’s puzzling is given that the bug is trivially simple to fix (take out the errant 'goto'), Apple still has not issued an OS X fix. Fix the bug, and get that test suite written yesterday Apple.

researchers faulted Apple for inadequate testing[1]

This one is unforgiveable**. It could have compromised interactions with tens of millions of devices, had hackers exploited it (have they?), and that fact remains true for some time to come because plenty of people won’t update their devices and OS X doesn’t even have a fix as this was written.

You just don’t break a core security protocol like this. Who is in charge over there? Test suites should validate such stuff; it’s not exactly a new protocol. Heads ought to roll on this one and right up to high levels perhaps.

A security fix is in iOS 7.0.6 which is now available (affects iOS 6 also, v6.1.6 might fix it). Apple is mum on the full timeline and extent of the issue. See http://support.apple.com/kb/HT6147.

* Engineers at Apple have yet to test the Mavericks file system hang I reported, which is reproducible by highly competent other parties using different gear. I’ve filed a Bug Reporter bug and given specific instructions for a 100% reproducible test taking 5 minutes, but so far the response amounts to no action. I see it as indicative of serious internal issues at Apple in quality control.

** Your author worked for at time at Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), is familiar with TLS/SSL, and has implemented SSL on server software.

OS X is affected and a fix is yet to arrive

UPDATE: OS X has the same flaw and a fix HAS NOT been issued as of Feb 22. Which means that hackers everywhere are game to exploit this while they can. Details at Reuters.

Apple released a fix Friday afternoon for the mobile devices running iOS, and most will update automatically. Once that fix came out, experts dissected it and saw the same fundamental issue in the operating system for Apple's mainstream computers.

That started a race, as intelligence agencies and criminals will try to write programs that take advantage of the flaw on Macs before Apple pushes out the fix for them.

The flaw is so odd in retrospect that researchers faulted Apple for inadequate testing and some speculated that it had been introduced deliberately, either by a rogue engineer or a spy. Former intelligence operatives said that the best "back doors" often look like mistakes.

...

The bug has been present for months, according to researchers who tested earlier versions of Apple's software. No one had publicly reported it before, which means that any knowledge of it was tightly held and that there is a chance it hadn't been used

The issue is a "fundamental bug in Apple's SSL implementation," said Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer at security firm CrowdStrike Inc

NOTE: “researchers faulted Apple for inadequate testing”.

Big surprise? Hardly. I noticed this starting years ago, and it’s why I wrote Apple Core Rot a little over a year ago; it just became so obvious that software quality was being compromised in so many ways. It’s one reason why Apple’s proprietary hidden code presents a very serious concern in a worldwide sense up to and including the spectre of a national security threat: one vendor with a proven track record of extreme secrecy depended upon by tens of millions of users, if not more. Open source can be examined by experts; closed source code cannot.

BTW, it is NOT true that iOS devices update automatically. Mine didn’t; I had to connect them up, launch iTunes and make it happen. I have a friend with iPhones who doesn’t even get it near a computer or WiFi for months = no update. He can’t be alone.

This kind of flaw makes the Target fiasco look like a minor spat in a kiddie sandbox: the effects of a TSL/SSL compromise in Apple iOS and OS X are worldwide and could be devastating if exploited properly by opportunistic hackers. What is Apple’s liability if something happens, e.g., access to Citbank, Chase, Schwab, and similar financial sites?

Moreover, the ramifications extend well beyond now and well beyond a fix: systems compromised by this bug could harbor malware lying in wait undetected. It is a very ugly potentiality. It’s not just about your access, it’s about that financial institution employee whose system was compromised... an employee with access to critical systems. Ditto for internet service providers. I wonder if anyone in the military uses an iPhone or iPad or Mac?

Avoid Safari?

It’s not clear at all if use of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox avoids the security issue, but Apple kicks Mac users in the teeth by not IMMEDIATELY making that point clear (so users can avoid Safari). Apple should be on paid television telling users exactly how to safeguard their internet use, how to play it safe. It’s unconscionable. The core rot extends to ethics apparently.

Wow. It’s a huge prize and if hackers everywhere aren’t salivating and working 24 X 7 on this gift from heaven... consider that they don’t have to compromise your Mac or iOS device, they just have to compromise the right accounts at the right companies, insert their hooks and all heck could break loose in the Garden of Apple.

Is the 'cloud' and swarms of devices attached to it an inherently flawed design ?

Your author worked for a few years at PGP, where security does not rely on a single certificate authority (“web of trust”). Unfortunately, the world adopted the hierarchical X509 system, which fails utterly when any top level signer is compromised, and forces users into no backstop (no ability to require more than one signer). The hierarchical vs distributed trust model is not the issue per se here, but it is related in that the bug involves failing to check the certificates properly. Moreover, a cloud-based future makes distributed trust (more than one signer) the only really intelligent choice, just in case an authority is compromised (and that has happened).

In an age where millions of always-on devices are at risk, you don’t screw up fundamentally critical things like this. It’s one reason I abhor gatekeeper type services like the Apple App Store: one screwup and the entire system is at risk worldwide for tens or hundreds of millions of devices. I wrote about this months ago, and while some readers poo-pooed my remarks as alarmist, I repeat that warning even more emphatically now.

It's a near certainty that the NSA has had that exploit at its disposal for a while, and the NSA sniffs the backbone of the internet, so it is perfectly situated for a MITM exploit (and surely has a well developed kit of tools to do just that). Other spy agencies or simply sophisticated hackers with compromises to backbone systems, or at least wireless networks are hardly to be ruled out, which puts them into a nifty position also. When TLS/SSL is undermined, the entire internet is undermined.

Joshua C writes:

Just noting that iOS 6.1.6 also addresses this fix. So it's not just limited to iOS 7 and therefore goes a ways back.

MPG: the TLS/SSL protocol has been around a while. It is unconscionable to see such a basic check on a key underpinning (signature checking on certificates) not incorporated into a validation test suite. Put plainly, it is gross incompetence. It is so unbelievable that one might contemplate the “deliberate action” or “intentional” scenarios. I wouldn’t want to be the engineer who committed that source code change into the SCC system.

USB3 Ports and eSATA Ports on Older Mac Pro: NewerTech MAXPower eSATA 6G + USB3 PCIe Card

Add two eSATA and two USB3 ports to your older Mac Pro with the NewerTech MAXPower eSATA 6G + USB3 PCIe Card. This card will be tested soon here at MPG.

UPDATE: there are two variants of this card, one driverless xHCI card that does not support sleep, and one card that requires a driver and supports sleep. Details.

NewerTech MAXPower 2-port eSATA + 2-port USB 3.0 PCIe card     
NewerTech MAXPower
2-port eSATA + 2-port USB 3.0 PCIe card

Fast USB Digital Camera Card Readers

Card readers are ideal for downloading gigabytes of the digital camera raw files that I shoot (JPEG is mediocre at best).

Connecting the camera is often awkward and they are usually awfully slow via a USB2 port. The last thing I want to do after shooting all day is to wait for 20 gigabytes to download over USB2.

More about fast digital camera card readers...

Hoodman USB 3 card reader    Hoodman USB 3 card reader
Fast USB3 card readers

2013 Mac Pro: Order Status

See the MPG buying links to B&H photo for the 2013 Mac Pro. Thank you for using those links.

February wanes, but maybe it will ship in time like Apple’s barely-met “new Mac Pro in 2013 promise”. At least it’s not a leap year.

UPDATE, February 21: my CC has been charged, so unit should presumably ship with in a few days.

UPDATE 2: CC has not been charged after all, it was a “hold” for the charge that ought to be coming. But as of Feb 28, still says “available to ship February”, which is what it has said since Jan 6.

Update 3, Mar 4: Four phone calls over four different days eventually led to assurances of the shipping address being changed as I requested, and that was while the Mac Pro was still at Apple. Another one as it went to UPS... all of which means the box is on the truck for delivery to the wrong address.

I’ve made the leap to the 2013 Mac Pro for my primary “production” workstation (intensive photography is the primary use). Currently that means the 4-core 3.7 GHz with 64GB memory and D300 GPUs, on loan from B&H Photo, which is an authorized Apple dealer (30 day loan period, so I’m testing it well!).

The MPG Mac Pro order still reads “February” for delivery. It will have its CPU upgraded to a 3.3 GHz 8-core by OWC (announcement of that upgrade program is not yet official, but it is coming). Apple Store lead times have extended to April, so I’m glad I got this order in back in January. But what “February” means even the customer service representative at Apple could not say.

Apple planning and delivery systems for the Mac Pro are in apparent disarray; the online system failed a dozen times over two days with a mysterious “unexpected error” when I tried to change my shipping address. Calling Apple, they could not change it either, their own systems balking. I was told some nonsense story about which warehouse it was shipping from was pre-planned so it could not be changed—which is nonsense because these are all being built in one place (Austin, Texas) and this is a build-to-order order. The logistics for the Mac Pro are thus the creakiest I’ve seen from Apple: no specific ship dates and everything locked down on the order. A highly credible source told of receiving a new Mac Pro with 1TB SSD spec'd and noted on the packing list, but arriving with a 256GB SSD installed.

2013 Mac Pro order status
2013 Mac Pro rear ports
2013 Mac Pro rear ports

Expanding USB3 Ports

No Mac has more than four USB3 ports, and I have about 10-12 devices to connect, so what to do?

After a search, I’ve settled on a USB3 expansion hub that meets all my requirements, no easy task in the huge haystack of crap quality hubs, USB 2 hubs, underpowered hubs, hubs with funky shapes and lights, etc.

Expanding USB3 Ports (TRIPP LITE 7+1 USB3)

Also in use are three USB3 ports on the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station. Together, the TRIPP LITE unit and the CalDigit solves the expansion challenge.

TRIPP LITE 7-Port x USB 3.0, 1-Port x USB 3.0 Charging Hub for iPad 2
TRIPP LITE 7-Port x USB 3.0,
1-Port x USB 3.0 Charging Hub for iPad 2

4 Cores Can Look Good “On Paper” (Benchmarks) but in Real Usage Can Constrain Your Work

Benchmarks can deceive for real work. While 4 cores is enough for many things, 6 cores provides some depth.

Read more.

A busy 4-core Mac Pro
A busy 4-core Mac Pro

One of Many Mavericks Bugs: Column Widths in Finder, Open/Save Dialogs

Never in the history of the Mac have I seen so many bugs crop up in an OS release—OS Mavericks. They are there by the dozens, from obvious GUI bugs to nasty file system hangs (the file system hang I filed with Bug Reporter, but the Apple won’t bother to take 5 minutes to test it using the simple and precise steps I provided).

Also, and perhaps most offensive, arbitrary changes and removals of features and behaviors that users come to rely upon, a slap in the face approach to software updates first established back with Final Cut Pro.

Bottom line is that I have lost trust in the quality of system software releases, which show increasingly sloppy work and careless thinking. I guess “everyone” has one Mac with one drive whose purpose is to watch movies and play games and fry eardrums. BTW, indications are that printing and display sleep and Mail will be even more broken soon.

And still, after many years of waiting and after this very expensive new trashcan Mac Pro with 4K video: no 10-bit video support.

My advice: defer unnecessary system updates by 3-6 months unless a bug that is acknowledged is listed as fixed in the next release (and you need that fix). Professionals are unwise to “upgrade” production systems to Mavericks, barring some mandatory need (e.g. new computer) or pressing need for a new feature (highly unlikely). By the way, professional photographers with color managed and calibrated printing needs should exercise extreme care in the printing support area (it’s unclear to MPG if internal colorspace conversion breakage a few OS X releases ago has been fixed).

Apple Core Rot is accelerating.

One huge time waster example

This bug affects both the Finder and the Open/Save dialogs: columns in list view are always hidden or partially hidden *way* over to the right, off the edge of the window.

The only reason that the columes are visible here in this screen shot is that the window was resized to maximum make them (partly) visible.

The Finder forgets any attempt to correct the column widths ; close the window, reopen it, start over. Add or remove a column; start over. Ditto for Open/Save dialogs.

Accordingly, each and every day, I have to size windows to 2500 pixels or so a few dozen times per day in order to be able to see the columns I need to see. It’s a constant waste of time, and it happens on all my Macs and a fresh install does not cure it. Perhaps it is related to screen size (2560 width on desktop, 1440/2880 Retina display on laptop).

The particular window seen below is a MacBook pro with Retina display at normal "Best” screen scaling; the window is the full 2880 pixels wide. It’s unclear how even rudimentary testing could fail to see this bug.

Tried and failed to fix:

rm ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist&&killall Finder

It could be related to the sidebar and/or combinations of what is shown, though that would not explain the Open/Save Dialogs.

Finder column widths
Finder column widths

Sapphire HD 7950 Video Card Upgrade for 2009/2010/2012 Mac Pro

For the right tasks, the Sapphire HD 7950 is right in the D300/D500 GPU range on the new Mac Pro. With all GPUs (video cards) in general, many tasks see no benefit, but some do, and a fast GPU (video card) can be a huge improvement. If those are your tasks, it’s a great investment.

How does it compare?

2013 Mac Pro: Tests Updated for 4-core 3.7 GHz D300 GPU Model (base model)

All or nearly all tests have been updated now to include the base-model 2013 Mac Pro 3.7 GHz 4-core with D300 GPUs. It‘s a darn fine machine; no one should feel that the base model is 2nd rate; it gives up a lot less than one might think on most work. The gains with 6 and 8 cores are modest in most cases, mainly due to software that needs improvement.

View the performance tests.

Switched to the 2013 Mac pro

The 12-core 3.33 GHz 2010 Mac Pro is now for sale.

I’ve made the leap to the 2013 Mac Pro for my primary “production” workstation (intensive photography is the primary use). Currently that means the 4-core 3.7 GHz with 64GB memory and D300 GPUs, on loan from B&H Photo, which is an authorized Apple dealer (30 day loan period, so I’m testing it well!).

See the MPG buying links to B&H photo for the 2013 Mac Pro. Thank you for using those links.

The MPG Mac Pro still reads “February” for delivery, now 32 days since ordered. It will have its CPU upgraded to a 3.3 GHz 8-core by OWC (announcement of that upgrade program is not yet official, but it is coming).

The switch over process was no trivial exercise to think through for the conversion, make the backups, incorporate some forward planning etc. And with all the hard drives and SSDs and a need to stay operable with very little downtime and the Thunderbolt considerations

As yet, four 480GB SSDs are idled (no home for them yet), and one Accelsior PCIe SSD sits idle, though I hope to resolve both of those handicaps soon.

I had a terrible time with the Promise Pegasus J4, but OWC has graciously agreed to take it back for a refund. It is highly unlikely that MPG will ever consider Promise Technology products again, in good measure because of an infuriating support experience. Moreover, varied sources have filtered my my way on quality issues, and this all “clicks” for me with the J4 experience and in more ways than I’ve documented.

Results

Performance seems at least as good as the prior 3.33 GHz 12-core Mac Pro, which is remarkable for a 4-core system.

UPDATE: the Promise Pegasus J4 is giving me fits. Taking 4 proven OWC 6G SSDs, the J4 will disappear 4 or 3 or 2 or 1 of them each time I reboot the system, or power cycle the J4. Totally flaky. Yet the same SSDs work perfectly in my old Mac Pro and have done so for 18 months. And it’s a configuration I previously tested. So at the least I suspect a bad Pegasus J4.

But OMG what a tangle of power cables and USB cables and Thunderbolt cables, and I still could use several more USB3 ports even with the CalDigit Thunderbolt Station attached. No one can say this is elegant; it’s a mess. It’s like owning a car consisting of an engine, but to drive it one must attach a trailer for the driver and another trailer for passengers and the tire modules... elegant it is not, not when actually configured to be useful. But it is highly expandable, and when Thunderbolt 2 devices arrive and more variety too, it will start feeling its oats.

Nor are the power savings there when one looks at the total system power draw: the Mac Pro itself saves 120 watts or so, but that is all eaten up by all the many required add-ons. So many dilettante reviewers just don’t “get” the reality of a working system and regurgitate the official PR on power usage; it’s like testing for gas mileage driving down a 10° slope.

But I do like the end result: once cabled and stowed out of the way under the desk (a big plus of Thunderbolt), things are working great. Except for Apple OS X Mavericks bugs, which infest the system by the dozens.

Is a 4TB Enterprise-Grade Hard Disk Drive Faster than a 3TB Consumer-Grade HDD For RAID?

What does an enterprised-grade hard drive buy you exactly? Perhaps some consistency, vibration resistance for multi-drive RAID setups, etc, but it ought to also be faster, right? Well, not necessarily.

Read more.

Speed of Toshiba 4TB vs 3TB drives
Speed of Toshiba 4TB vs 3TB drives

Tips for Attaching Thunderbolt Devices on the 2013 Mac Pro

I’ve just started verifying performance on the 2013 Mac Pro with Thunderbolt devices, in preparation for a switch-over to it as my main workstation. As it turns out, it’s not a trivial thing to configure for those using high performance devices.

An initial shock was seeing the OWC Mercury Accelsior PCIe SSD (in Helios enclosure) running at a degraded 450 MB/sec (650 MB/sec is expected).

It turns out that attaching the Helios/Accelsior to the same Thunderbolt bus as the 30-inch display meant that not enough bandwidth remained for full performance! Attaching it to a different Thunderbolt bus yielded full performance.

2013 Mac Pro: Thunderbolt Performance Tips

2013 Mac Pro rear ports
2013 Mac Pro rear ports

Reviewed: OWC Thunderbay 4-bay Thunderbolt Enclosure

The MPG review of the OWC Thunderbay 4-bay Thunderbolt enclosure is now up.

Included are an overview as well as various pages of performance analysis. The OWC Thunderbay is a top notch performing unit.

OWC Thunderbay 4-bay enclosure
OWC Thunderbay 4-bay enclosure

“You Saved My Bacon” (Always keep 3 backups)

Joshua C writes:

I've been reading your site for years and following a modified version of your backup strategy (no offsite, just a drive in a firebox away from the computer).

My current RAID enclosure was getting flaky so I decided to replace it. The problem was temperature and fan related so I was migrating the drives to the new enclosure

I knew I would have to reformat but I've got two backups so that's OK. That is until I accidentally installed my clone drive as one of the drives in the RAID without noticing. Bang! My original and my clone were gone. My heart stopped. This RAID contains ALL my image files.

But since I have another backup I am rebuilding as I write this. One human error could have wiped me out. Following your guidelines has kept me going.

MPG: See the backup pages for critical backup strategy discussions.

Two backups are far better than one: with one backup, a failure means you’re down to a single master copy, possibly out of date. With two backups, loss of one backup means you’re down to one remaining master copy (possibly out of date), as with Joshua C.

Anything less than three complete backups should be a source of uneasiness for anyone who values their data. For starters, spreading the risk (physical risks, bonehead mistakes, out of date backups, drive failures, splitting across sites, etc).

Time Machine backups should be considered strictly a nice-to-have additional redundancy for short term protection. It does not count for the “three”. For one thing, Time Machine has had historical bugs that left data unprotected (and I don’t trust Apple anymore, what with the massive increase in bug count in Mavericks), for another it is unbootable, and it’s also typically subject to the same physical risks. Also, if it fills up, you’re out of luck until something is done, whereas clone backups used properly can never fill up provided they are as large or larger than the original (e.g. some amount of data on a 4TB original can never overflow a 4TB clone backup).

Here is a good general purpose backup drive suitable for all Macs. 4TB or at least 3TB capacity recommended.

You do NOT need RAID for backup; it is far better to have two independent drives than a RAID mirror. RAID is a fault tolerance or performance solution, NOT a backup solution.

An original and its clone (Store the backup clone away from the computer)
An original Master volume, and its clone
(Store the backup clone away from the computer)

 

MPG CPU Choice for 2013 Mac Pro + Order Status

The 6-core 3.5 GHz CPU is an outstanding performer and should be the model of choice for most everyone, as the tests show. Match the model choice to the work you actually do (never to generalized benchmarks); see the tests along with 2013 Mac Pro: How Many Cores for Your Workflow?.

Gains with other Mac Pro models for Photoshop and Lightroom are modest, or actual performance declines, though there are other applications where more than 6 cores offers some advantage. Be sure to note that the Apple 8-core 3.0 GHz offering will be somewhat slower than the CPU-upgraded 8-core 3.3 GHz shown in the tests.

My use of Photoshop is intensive (big files, hundreds of hours of use over the year), so I’m looking to squeeze out every drop of performance. So my approach is to order the 4-core Mac Pro with the intent of upgrading the CPU to the 8 core 3.3 GHz.

Given recent support in Photoshop CC for the GPU with huge speed gains in certain areas, I’ve also ordered the 4-core Mac Pro with the D700 GPUs. I deem the odds low for meaningful gains over the D500 GPUs, but given my intensive usage, it’s a cost I’ll incur.

2013 Mac Pro 4-core: ideal for upgrading the CPU
2013 Mac Pro 4-core: ideal for upgrading the CPU

As for order status of the above, Apple just sent a notice saying in essence “we don’t know when it will ship, but it will be in February as stated nearly 4 weeks ago”. It seems odd for Apple’s well-honed supply chain excellence to have such a vague grasp of delivery time frames. The message just feels frustrating by being so vague.

Dear Lloyd Chambers,

Thank you for your recent order. We know you’re excited to get started with your new Mac Pro, so we’d like to give you a quick update on the status of your order.

Your Mac Pro is scheduled to ship in February. When it does ship, we’ll email you with a more specific delivery date.

For the most up-to-date delivery information, visit Order Status on the Apple Online Store. If you have an iOS device, you can check your order status using the Apple Store app for iPad or iPhone.

We appreciate your patience and look forward to getting the new Mac Pro to you as soon as possible.

The Apple Online Store

One Program I Can’t do Without: SpamSieve for Email Filtering

For better or worse (Apple keeps making it worse), I use Apple Mail for my email. But Apple’s junk mail filter is buggy and still sometimes blips on when disabled; it’s buggy even when disabled!

Enter Michael Tsai’s SpamSieve, which I’ve used for some years now. With a little training, it’s highly effective at passing through the good stuff and blocking the unwanted stuff, which I can quickly skim just in case (no filter is ever perfect).

SpamSieve is indispensible for my high volume email needs!

A point driven home regularly by Apple: every time Apple Mail changes, Apple intentionally disables Apple Mail plugins. But with SpamSieve, an update is promptly made available, generally within a day. I value that kind of support strongly.

2013 Mac Pro: 4-Core 3.7 GHz with D300 GPUs Coming For Testing

Thanks to authorized Mac dealer B&H Photo, a 4-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro is arriving at MPG for testing next week.

MPG links to all models by CPU, GPU, SSD size, etc.

Note that B&H Photo has substantial savings on AppleCare versus the Apple price.

This is the base model, the least expensive and it ought to make an excellent reference for all the other models. See the test results for the 2013 Mac Pro. In particular, how does a fast 4-core CPU stack up, and how well do the D300 GPUs perform on GPU-intensive tasks?

Mac Pro 4 core at B&H Photo
Mac Pro 4 core at B&H Photo

Apple Cheats on AppleCare Term

Bill writes:

Received my new Mac Pro from B&H last week. Everything works great and I’m beginning the process of transferring over from my Windows PC.

When I ordered my Mac Pro from B&H I also ordered AppleCare. The problem is that Apple started the 3-year AppleCare clock on the day I pre-ordered which was Dec 19, 2013. The unit did not ship until Jan 17, 2014. I actually received it on Jan 22, 2014.

My AppleCare "Welcome Kit” was emailed directly to me from Apple and indicated a Dec 19, 2016 Coverage Period End Date. Basically, I lost an entire MONTH of coverage.

I contacted B&H about the issue and they suggested I contact Apple to get the start date corrected. I spoke with an Apple technical support person on the phone and he agreed that the date should be changed but, he said only Customer Service could do that. He put me on hold, spoke with customer service, came back and apologized. He was told that AppleCare ALWAYS starts on the order date. That’s Apple policy and cannot be changed. Have a nice day.

I called B&H Customer Service back and told them what Apple told me. B&H said they would handle it... and they did! My AppleCare agreement now shows a Coverage Period End Date of Jan 18, 2017.

You can check AppleCare status here:
https://selfsolve.apple.com/agreementWarrantyDynamic.do

Please advise your readers to contact B&H if their AppleCare start date on their new Mac Pro is incorrect. Kudos to B&H for OUTSTANDING customer support!

MPG: Yes, kudos to B&H for getting it fixed. And note that B&H is an authorized Apple dealer and will save you a good margin on Applecare over the Apple price.

I experienced a similar issue, but I ordered directly from Apple. I received my MacBook Pro with Retina display on Dec 31, having ordered it on Dec 24; it was shipped on Dec 27. The AppleCare term as per Apple expires on Dec 27, 2016. It’s only a loss of four days (ambiguous, “expires” means that day at 00:00 or does it include that day?). Anyway, the warranty term should start upon delivery, not upon shipment.

Isn’t it obvious that a computer shipped from Shanghai, China cannot be delivered to the USA the same day? How can a warranty even start if the user has not yet obtained the product? This is not an honest way to do business. If it’s Apple policy, it sounds like fodder for a class action lawsuit. It stinks in any case.

There is no reason that products shipped from Apple cannot apply the delivery date as the start date of the warranty.

The B&H case is much more troublesome (pre-order date). That Apple would not adjust when the date of delivery can be demonstrated is dishonest at best.

AppleCare term starts when shipped (or when pre-ordered), not when delivered

AppleCare term starts when shipped (or when pre-ordered), not when delivered

OWC Install Videos for Late 2013 Mac Pro

OWC has install videos for the late 2013 Mac Pro up, including memory installation in the 2013 Mac Pro and DIY CPU upgrade video for the 2013 Mac Pro.

For my Mac Pro, I’m going to have OWC do the CPU upgrade, as I’m good at losing small screws and similar. However, it’s as yet unclear when OWC will offer a CPU upgrade service.

Also, to prevent bending the memory latches (I’m guilty), OWC now ships a plastic spudger tool with each kit:

OWC 1866MHZ DDR3 Kits are available now for upgrading all of Apple’s new ‘2013’ Mac Pro 3.5GHz 6-Core, 3.0GHz 8-Core, and 2.7GHz 12-Core models to up to 64GB.

The Spudger tool now included with all OWC Mac Pro Upgrade kits is the same type of tool used by Apple technicians to aid in the disassembly of iPods, iPads and iPhones without damaging or scratching any other component.

FOR SALE: the MPG 12-core 3.33 GHz Mac Pro with 80GB

This is a great video processing machine.

HAS BEEN SOLD

My photographic work as well as taking Mac Performance Guide forward mean that it’s time to sell my 2010 Mac Pro, which has been my solid and stalwart workhorse since 2010:

  • August 2010 Apple Mac Pro 'Westmere', upgraded to 12 core 3.33 GHz CPUs.
  • 80GB memory as 6 X 8GB + 2 X 16GB.
  • ATI Radeon 5870 video card + spare NVidia GT120 video card (not installed, but included).
  • 3 X 1TB hard drives in internal bays (freshly tested, no remapped blocks).
  • Configured with one Apple 120GB SSD (nearly new) as boot drive with fresh system install in Bay 1 in Apple drive sled. Extra 120GB SSD included.
  • FirmTek 4-port eSATA card (installed).
  • FirmTek 5-bay eSATA port-multiplied (single cable) enclosure with 5 empty drive carriers.
  • OWC Mercury Elite Pro quad-interface (FW800, eSATA) external drive enclosure.
  • Keyboard and mouse and power cord, shipping in original box.
  • Firewire 800 CompactFlash card reader.
  • Four extra internal bay drive sleds (handy for swapping drives in bays, e.g., for backup).
  • Negotiable: NEC 3090WQXi 30-inch display (dual-link DVI-D, predecessor to the PA301W).

System available around Feb 14 (depends on arrival of my new system).

All offers over $3500 considered. Buyer pays FedEx 3-day insured shipping or local pickup. Cashier's check or cash (if local sale). Contact.

2013 Mac Pro 12 core 3.33 GHz with 80GB
2013 Mac Pro 12 core 3.33 GHz with 80GB

D700 GPUs Strut Their Stuff: Unigine Valley 3D Rendering

2013 Apple Mac Pro base pricing
Click for OWC memory for new Mac Pro
Save a bundle!

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning a 12-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs.

An OWC 64GB memory kit was installed for the tests.

Test results have all been updated to include the 2.7 GHz 12 core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs.

The Unigine Valley application uses 3D rendering. Here the D700 GPUs show a clear speed improvement over the D500 GPUs. Regrettably the Valley application uses only one of the two GPUs (like most applications as yet).

2013 Mac Pro: Unigine Valley 3D rendering
2013 Mac Pro: Unigine Valley 3D rendering
2013 Mac Pro: Unigine Valley 3D rendering
Unigine Valley 3D rendering

12 Core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs Tested Against Others

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning a 12-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs with an OWC 64GB memory kit installed also.

The test results have been updated to include the 2.7 GHz 2013 Mac Pro in about half the tests; the remainder will follow shortly.

So far, the 12-core and the D700 GPUs are both duds or only marginally better than the D500 GPUs with most photography applications.

Put another way, you’d better have a darn good reason for going past 6 cores and/or getting the D700 GPUs. The sitution is fluid and might well evolve over time, but for now it’s clear that the 6-core is the ideal machine for most users, and that those looking to eke out modestly more performance should go with an 8-core 3.3 GHz CPU upgrade (from a 4 core).

Mac Pro buying links.

Bleeding edge—the D700 GPUs show a curiously inferior performance on some tests to the D500 GPUs. Barefeats.com reports a similar confounding result in the FCPX Render Gaussian Blur test and others (D700 GPUs test slower than D500 GPUs). Perhaps it is a drive issue or other issue that will get fixed, because the Unigine Valley demo, shows frame rates about 50% higher with the D700 GPUs.

Lightroom Import of Nikon D800E NEF files
Lightroom Import of Nikon D800E NEF files

Tested: 2.7 GHz 12 Core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning a 12-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs with an OWC 64GB memory kit installed also.

The test results have been updated to include the 2.7 GHz 2013 Mac Pro in about half the tests; the remainder will follow shortly.

The only place the D700 GPUs impresses so far (versus the D500 GPUs) is the Unigine Valley demo, where frame rates are about 50% higher. Regrettably the program uses only one of the two GPUs (no program tested here at MPG uses both as yet).

Scalability of DxO Optics Pro on Mac Pro
Scalability of DxO Optics Pro on Mac Pro

Software Extensions are an Additional Attack Vector—Avoid Them

When software of any kind is added to a system, a new vector for infection or malware or exploit is part of the deal. Sometimes it’s the new software itself, and sometimes there are things that combine to create a new weakness.

It’s never a good idea to add extensions you do not need. Ars Technica reports on a new trend in Adware vendors buy Chrome Extensions to send ad- and malware-filled updates.

Google Chrome Extensions preference, none installed
Google Chrome Extensions preference, none installed
Apple Safari Extensions preference, disabled (off)
Apple Safari Extensions preference, disabled (off)

12 Cores vs 12 Cores (and D700 GPUs)

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning a 12-core 2013 Mac Pro with D700 GPUs with an OWC 64GB memory kit installed also.

Arriving tomorrow, the 12-core Mac Pro with D700 GPUs will offer a look at performance with a variety of photography applications, pitted against the 6-core and the 2010 12-core 3.33 GHz Mac Pro. The test graphs will be updated to include results starting tomorrow.

2013 Mac Pro innards
2013 Mac Pro innards

2013 Mac Pro: DxO Optics Pro and Scalability with more CPU Cores

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

DxO Optics Pro shows outstanding scalability across CPU cores.

This graph will have the 2013 12 core Mac Pro added soon. It is a fascinating study in both CPU core usage and efficiency of the 2010 generation of Mac Pros vs the 2013 generation.

DxO Optics Pro deserves kudos for utilizing CPU cores in near-perfect scalability. Best of breed in a technical sense; no more efficient raw conversion out there in terms of CPU utilization. Now if only it could use the dual GPUs and cut that clock time down from ~5 seconds per file to ~1 second per file.

Read more.

D800E raw to TIF in DxO Optics Pro, scalability
D800E raw to TIF in DxO Optics Pro, scalability

2013 Mac Pro: Workflow, Backup Advice

The 2013 Mac Pro is an expensive system to assemble. It’s not just deciding which Mac Pro variant is best for a particular workflow, but also the type and capacity and speed and build quality and fault tolerance of external storage and backup. All of which can matter a great deal for some workflows.

The wrong choices can mean spending more money for less performance, inadequate storage capacity, confusing backup, or workflow configuration that does not utilize the best approach.

A complete system is not likely to come in under $6K even for the base model 4-core: a 4-core with with 512GB flash and 32GB and D500 GPUs is already $4199 and that’s before a display, AppleCare, external storage, backup drives, etc.

Professionals in particular might look at all these costs and wonder if they are making the right decision. For that I offer personalized consulting.

2013 Apple Mac Pro, innards
2013 Apple Mac Pro, innards
© Copyright 2014 DIGLLOYD INC. All Rights Reserved

2013 Mac Pro: Lead Times Extend to March at Apple Store, but B&H has the 6-core in stock

Authorized Mac dealer B&H Photo has the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro in stock with free shipping and free Parallels Desktop 9.

B&H Photo also has substantial savings on AppleCare versus the Apple price.

The 6-core is the “sweet spot” model for most uses and users as the tests show. The choice of SSD (flash size) speaks to particular needs (I prefer 1TB, but 256GB is ample for many uses).

Mac Pro 6 core at B&H Photo
Mac Pro 6 core at B&H Photo

2013 Mac Pro: Sigma Photo Pro X3F Raw to 16-bit TIF

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Version 5.5.3 of Sigma Photo Pro is a 32-bit program, and runs like molasses on all machines, taking 7.9 seconds per file on the fastest Mac Pro.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: X3F Raw to 16-bit TIF in Sigma Photo Pro
2013 Mac Pro performance: X3F Raw to 16-bit TIF in Sigma Photo Pro

2013 Mac Pro: How Much Memory for Performance?

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Enough memory is enough. But not enough is a drag on performance.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC speed with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC speed with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB

2013 Mac Pro: Innards

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Here are the innards of the 2013 Mac Pro. The 134mm-long memory module (OWC 64GB module) should give a good idea of just how compact the Mac Pro really is.

Click for larger image.

2013 Apple Mac Pro, innards
2013 Apple Mac Pro, innards
© Copyright 2014 DIGLLOYD INC. All Rights Reserved

2013 Mac Pro: Raw to TIF with Iridient Developer

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

The 8-core 3.3 GHz upgraded 2013 Mac Pro pulls ahead with Iridient Developer.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: Raw to 16-bit TIF in Iridient Developer
2013 Mac Pro performance: Raw to 16-bit TIF in Iridient Developer

2013 Mac Pro: Importing with Aperture

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Apple Aperture might be expected to utilize the dual GPUs of the 2013 Mac Pro. It’s fast but it’s also unclear if it does so.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: import 128 Nikon 36MP NEF files at high quality full size previews
2013 Mac Pro performance: import 128 Nikon 36MP NEF files at high quality full size previews

2013 Mac Pro: 6-core in stock at B&H Photo

Thanks to authorized Mac dealer B&H Photo, the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro is what MPG has been testing for the past two. The 6-core is a very capable machine and highly recommended.

There is quite a long backlog at Apple, yet the 6-core is readily available at B&H Photo as I write this. Don’t forget to upgrade the 32GB or 64GB memory at OWC.

MPG links to all Mac Pros at B&H Photo by CPU, GPU, SSD size, etc.

Reader Bill reports:

Just got an email from B&H that my new Mac Pro is being drop shipped directly from Apple to me today. 6-core CPU, D500 GPUs, 512GB SSD, 32GB RAM. I placed my order with B&H on Dec 19.

B&H also included a great deal on AppleCare and free Parallels Desktop 9.

Mac Pro 6 core at B&H Photo
Mac Pro 6 core at B&H Photo

2013 Mac Pro: Which Filters Benefit from the GPU in Photoshop CC?

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Until Adobe implements GPU support for more of the Filters menu, it’s clear that there is no GPU benefit to a good number of the filters with Photoshop CC 14.2.

It’s not a numbers thing so much as what is used in any particular workflow.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC filters with and without GPU
2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC filters with and without GPU

2013 Mac Pro: Panorama in PTGuiPro

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Continuing to impress, the 2013 Mac Pro displays its performance mettle.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: assemble panorama in PTGui Pro
2013 Mac Pro performance: assemble panorama in PTGui Pro

Configuring a Mac Pro Goes Well Beyond CPU and GPU Choice

Once a Mac Pro system is purchased, then what?

Photographers and professionals need to think about a l0t more than CPU and GPU choices; how to configure for optimal workflow, working space vs main storage, backup and fault tolerance, how to evolve storage as needs grow, software choices and workflow efficiency, color calibration, and so on.

Consult with MPG on the best approach for your needs.

Photography Is My Thing

My testing here at MPG for the 2013 Mac Pro is photography centric, because that’s my profession.

Thank you for subscribing, which helps make the work possible here at MPG. See also articles and blog.

diglloyd Photography publications
diglloyd Photography publications

Evolving Thoughts on 2013 Mac Pro GPU and CPU Choices

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

Testing continues on the 6-core and 8-core 2013 Mac Pro.

Preliminary conclusions on CPU and GPU choices for photographers:

  • The ideal system for photography is the 6-core. The only choice is whether to go with the stock Apple 3.5 GHz, or to aim for a small bonus speed increase with a 3.7 GHz 6-core via CPU upgrade (or 3.3 GHz 8-core).
  • The Apple 8-core at 3.0 GHz is unlikely to be any faster than the 3.5 GHz 6-core for the vasty majority of photographic applications, and will be slightly slower for some tasks: it’s not an upgrade over the 6-core.
  • The emergence of huge speedups via the GPUs holds great promise (as yet unfulfilled in Photoshop). Still unclear is how much difference the D300/D500/D700 GPU choice makes even for functions that use the GPUs (no system to test yet), but it looks wise to make the D500 choice over the stock D300. Whether the D700 choice can bump up real-world gains is unclear as yet, but those who want the fastest should opt for the D700 GPUs and hope for more GPU support.

But... the Power of the GPU...

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro offers “hardware acceleration”, meaning the GPU(s).

See also Two GPUs to Rule Them All, and in the Software Bind Them—Photoshop CC Now Sharpens 4X Faster.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: Raw to JPEG in CaptureOne Pro
2013 Mac Pro performance: Raw to JPEG in CaptureOne Pro

2013 Mac Pro: 6 or 8 CPU Cores?

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

The late 2013 Mac Pro handily outperforms the 2010 Mac Pro, even a 12-core 3.33 GHz monster with the ATI Radeon 5870 video card.

But what about the “sweet spot” of 6 CPU cores at 3.5 GHz (Apple stock CPU) vs an 8-core CPU at 3.3 GHz (OWC upgraded CPU)?

Not sure what to get, how much memory, drives, backup, storage, etc? Consult with me about your new Mac Pro system.

See all the tests.

2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC performance with various filters
2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC performance with various filters

Changing my Config for the 2013 Mac Pro

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

The 6-core 3.5 GHz CPU is an outstanding performer (as predicted). It should match the 8-core 3.0 GHz on most things, based on testing so far.

Hence I have canceled my order shown below in favor of the 4-core 3.7 GHz Mac Pro with D700 GPUs—to be modified to a faster 6-core or 8-core. See discussion below.

2013 Mac Pro : canceling in favor of another model
2013 Mac Pro : canceling in favor of another model

See 2013 Mac Pro: How Many Cores for Your Workflow?.

This order for a 4-core has been in place since January 6th, so it is in the queue. My reasoning for going this way:

  • I want to test a 4-core and this gives me that opportunity.
  • I want to test the D700 GPUs, and Adobe’s recent first and very excellent (crashes aside!) stab at using GPUs suggests that the D700 option might pay off even more. It’s probably not worth it for most users, but I use Photoshop a great deal, and I doubt I'll get a hold of a D700 GPU model any other way.
  • The 4-core is the most cost effective model for upgrading the CPU to either a 3.7 GHz 6-core or a 3.3 GHz 8-core.

My needs call for the fastest possible system, hence the upgrade path. The choice between those 6-core 3.7 GHz and 8-core 3.3 GHz is still pending additional testing. I suspect that the 6-core 3.7 GHz will be just as fast as the 8-core 3.3 GHz on almost everything, based on testing so far, and perhaps even a little faster on some tasks.

It has become clear that the D700 GPUs might be worthwhile now that support is emerging for huge speed gains in certain areas—more is likely to come. But how much more the D700 GPUs will offer over the D500 GPUs is uncertain as yet (specs vs real world usage).

2013 Mac Pro 4-core: ideal for upgrading the CPU
2013 Mac Pro 4-core: ideal for upgrading the CPU

Two GPUs to Rule Them All, and in the Software Bind Them—Photoshop CC Now Sharpens 4X Faster

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

With the release of Adobe Photoshop CC v14.2 as of Jan 15, 2014 we now have an existence proof of the huge potential for speedup using the GPUs. If more functions follow this path, this could be the biggest gain in performance in a decade or more.

But it’s not just the 2013 Mac Pro that’s a winner; the 2010 Mac Pro sees similar gains, at least with the NVidia 5870 video card, which has dual GPUs on board.

But are both GPUs being used, or just one? Not yet clear.

Nice job, Adobe!

Update March 7 2014: this improvement has apparently been reversed—OS X 10.9.2 and Photoshop CC 14.2.1 is about 3X slower (with GPU) than shown here, yet CPU-only test is identical.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC sharpening with and without GPU
2013 Mac Pro performance: Photoshop CC sharpening with and without GPU

2013 Mac Pro: Filters in Adobe Photoshop CC Tested

The Filter menu in Photoshop contains many different functions, but in total it is used heavily by most Photoshop users.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro: various filters from the Filter menu
2013 Mac Pro: various filters from the Filter menu

2013 Mac Pro: Image Scaling with PhotoZoom Pro

A big thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro and authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro.

PhotoZoom Pro 5 support GPUs via OpenCL explicitly and even has an optimization function for configuring for best performance.

My question to BenVista is whether both GPUs are utilized.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro: image sizing with Photozoom Pro
2013 Mac Pro: image sizing with Photozoom Pro

2013 Mac Pro: SHA1 Hash on 8 cores vs 12

The SHA1 cryptographic hash* is a compute intensive job with modest memory access so it tends to scale very well across multiple CPU cores.

Read more.

2013 Mac Pro: SHA1 cryptographic hash
2013 Mac Pro: SHA1 cryptographic hash

Mac Pro 2013: Nice Hand Warmer

One thing the 2013 Mac Pro is rather nice for: the warm air at top is a pleasant hand warmer (my office gets cold in the morning). Just keep it close by your keyboard, and you’re Good, for one hand at least.

Also, at least with the lighting in my office, the polished finish has all the allure of black plastic covered with saran wrap. Looks good on most trash cans.

:;

Redo for Photoshop CC 14.2 (CC 14.2 Unstable on 2013 Mac Pro)

Bad timing — this morning I woke up to find that Adobe Photoshop CC has been updated to version 14.2. So total redo on all Photoshop benchmarks to be sure the number reflect the current version. Version number in graphs should read “v14.2” for the latest results.

The good news is it might address some Filter menu bugs (dimmed, unavailable). The bad news it now crashes in the Shake Reduction and Lens Correction filter 100% of the time (which is good news in that a fix should be easy). But it means that I have to drop it out of my sharpening test suite.

Update: crashes seemed to be confined to the 2013 Mac Pro and do not occur on the 2010 Mac Pro; maybe it is a GPU support code issue.

Could it be related to the new D500 GPUs with 3GB VRAM each?

Update 2: also crashes in Lens Correction filter (maybe others too). Photoshop CC 14.2 appears to be an unstable release to be avoided by 2013 Mac Pro users.

Update 3: CONFIRMED—this is a GPU-related bug specific to the 2013 Mac Pro. With the GPU disabled on the 2013 Mac pro there are no crashes. No crashes either way with 2010 Mac Pro.

Update 4: all benchmarks now updated to Photoshop CC 14.2. A few things had to be removed due to the crashes.

2013 Mac Pro: converting/importing D800E raw files
2013 Mac Pro: converting/importing D800E raw files

Mac Pro SHOOTOUT: 2010 12-Core 3.33 GHz vs the 2013 8-core 3.3 GHz

Many thanks to Other World Computing for loaning the 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro for testing. I have confirmed with OWC that a CPU upgrade program for the 2013 Mac Pro is in the works, and that pricing will be competitive on higher performance CPUs than Apple offers, indeed there might be savings.

For my own needs, it looks like I’ll be buying and upgrading a 4-core Mac Pro to the 8-core 3.33 GHz (cancelling my prior 6-core 3.5 GHz order most likely, but this is not 100% decided until tomorrow’s testing). If you plan to upgrade the CPU, then it makes sense to get the 4-core with 1TB SSD and D500 or D700 GPUs. OWC will rebate back whatever CPU you start with however.

My thanks also to authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo for loaning the 6-core 3.5 GHz Mac Pro which arrives tomorrow.

Hmmm... buy a Mac Pro at B&H, then ship it to OWC for a CPU upgrade and 64GB memory upgrade and some backup drives and add-ons. Sounds like a smart move for those looking for the strongest performance possible. Stay tuned for an updated MPG Pro Workstation program.

Please buy through the links on this site, and so support the companies making these early tests possible. Other World Computing and links to B&H Photo.

Thank you also for subscribing to my photography publications.

Tests

The first batch of 2013 Mac Pro performance comparisons are now posted. More results will arrive steadily including the 6-core results. Watch this blog.

2013 Mac Pro: converting/importing D800E raw files
2013 Mac Pro: converting/importing D800E raw files

Max Your Mac Pro at OWC

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