My New Mac: Behold the Awesomeness!
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Well, I finally got a new computer, though the process itself wasn't particularly smooth. Apple made it difficult for me to give them money, something that neither the consumer nor the Apple shareholder in me appreciates.

As I mentioned the other day, I'm finally going to ditch Windows, an operating system I've lamented having to use ever since, well, having used it. The new quad-core all-in-one iMac with a 27" screen announced recently seems to be an incredible value, both in terms of performance/price and of “tidiness” (since you need just one wire to it, the power cord). It was irresistible.

But I resisted. The geek in me decided to pay an obscene amount extra for the large, clunky, heavy Mac Pro, because of how it can be expanded.

The long tale of woe (and, ultimately, awesomeness) that follows is mostly as a diary entry for my own memory. Long story is long.... and boring.

Take My Money, Please!

So, I wanted the quad-core Mac Pro, with a few simple customizations: I wanted the US wireless keyboard instead of the Japanese wired keyboard, the new Magic Mouse, and 6GB of memory instead of the 3GB that came standard. (Apple's prices for extra memory are hyper-inflated, but this particular upgrade cost the same as if I were to do it myself.)

So, I go to Apple Japan's web site to place my order, and when I select the Mac Pro, it says “ships in 24 hours”. Cool. Shipping is extremely fast in Japan – you can even get same-day shipping from places like Amazon – so I expected to get it quickly. But after choosing my customizations, I noticed that it now said “ships in 3-5 weeks”. Doh!

It turns out that selecting the memory customization makes it “1-3 days”, selecting the US wireless keyboard makes it “2-4 days”, and selecting the Magic Mouse makes it “3-5 weeks”. Yikes. After much experimenting, I found that if I ordered the mouse and keyboard separately (as opposed to as part of the machine's customization), it would cost a bit more, but arrive much faster, so I did that.

At Amazon.co.jp I ordered an Intel 160GB solid state drive (SSD). It has no moving parts, more like a fast/big camera memory card than a hard disk. I intended to use this as my main boot disk because its very low latency (its very quick response time) means that the system can access applications and data much more immediately than with a normal disk. I also ordered four 2TB drives to be used for other storage.

We then left on a short trip about which I'll post once I get my photo workflow up and going, but while on the bullet train I got a call from Apple: there was a problem with my credit card and I'd have to contact the credit-card company. Sigh. This is my own fault – the first 20 times my credit-card company froze my account (“suspected fraudulent activity”) I was appreciative that they were watching out for me, even though it was always just my normal day-to-day use that triggered it. But somewhere among all the inconvenience they caused time and time and time again, I got sick of it and should have dumped them. Believe me, it's high on my list now.

Anyway, we returned home late the next day and I called the credit-card company and cleared things up (and resisted the deep-seated desire to bite the head off of whomever answered the phone). The next morning I called Apple to have them re-process the card, but that department was closed for the weekend. Rather, it would be quicker to cancel the order and resubmit it, so I did.

The next day I checked the order status, and saw that it was again held up due to the credit card. Arrrrgh. I called the credit-card company and inquired about any denied charges in the last day, but they said there was no activity except $300 from Apple. Apple had successfully processed the fee for the Apple Care extended warranty, but hadn't even tried submitting the charge for the computer itself. Arrrrrrgh.

I thought that perhaps they had blacklisted my card, so I used my card's “safe shop” feature to generate a new, temporary card number that would appear to the merchant as an unrelated card, and re-submitted the order yet again.

It, too, was held up “due to the credit card”, so I was stuck until they came in to work on Monday.

So, Monday morning rolls around and I call, only to find out that the “ships in” dates they quoted were from China, and that it might take quite a while after that before it gets to me. There seemed to be no sanity in my immediate future. Dejected, I told the guy to cancel my order.

Amazon.co.jp had the computer in stock, with a note that I could get it the next day if I ordered within the next 3 hours. Schweet! I couldn't do the customizations, but those were small issues that I could handle myself later. In placing the order, I was looking around for where to choose the “expedited shipping”, and somehow ended up submitting the order without it. Oops. Amazon lets you change a lot about the order after the fact, but I didn't see how to change the shipping, so I canceled it and immediately tried to reorder.... but they didn't have any more in stock!

I waited around for a while to see whether they'd put the one from my canceled order back, but it never showed up, so I guess someone else got it. Sigh.

Time for Plan C, which should have been Plan A. I called around Kyoto-area stores and found one that had the item in stock, put a hold on it, drove over, bought it and the US wireless keyboard, and took them home. As a bonus, I got them for less than I would have at Apple or Amazon, and I had them in my hands now.

Behold the Awesomeness!

Apple's Mac Pro is the physically largest home computer I've ever seen. It's forty pounds (as much as 7-year-old Anthony), 20” high, 19” deep, 8” wide. It's huge. This is not a good thing, except that at least they put the size to good use in that it's an absolute breeze to service. I thought that the Dell that I got three years ago was a beauty of inner tidiness and easy-to-access precision, but compared to the Mac Pro it's a rat's nest of cheap, chintzy kludge.

The Mac Pro is precision machined and laser etched from a single block of granite, or so it seems. Lift a latch and the heavy brushed aluminum side of the chassis effortlessly falls away to reveal absolute order and tidiness. Not a single cable or wire is visible.

The first thing I did, before even powering it on, was to yank out the 650GB disk that came with it, mark it, and place it into storage (where “storage” in this case means "somewhere among the clutter on my desk). I replaced it with the 160GB SSD, then plugged it in and booted from the OS-install CD. This was made somewhat more difficult than it should have been by the fact that the instructions for booting from CD – hold down the C key while booting – neglected to mention that you had to already have the CD in the tray, or the whole thing would be ignored. Once I figured that out, I booted from CD and installed OSX 10.6, Snow Leopard.

Once that was done, I powered off and slid in the four 2TB disks mentioned earlier, and booted again. The OS immediately told me that they weren't formatted, and brought up Disk Utility to let me have my way with them.

It's shocking how easy the next steps were, even though I'd never done it before: I configured two of the drives, Bay 1 and Bay 2, as a 2TB mirrored RAID array, and the other two drives, Bay 3 and Bay 4, as a 4TB striped RAID array. The former basically wastes the bay-2 drive to keep an exact copy of what's on the bay-1 drive: the redundancy allows me to continue working if the bay-1 drive were to fail. The latter pairing essentially combines the two disks in such a way to make a double-sized partition that has no redundancy, but allows for fast reads and writes.

I then named the first “Main” and pointed Time Machine, Apple's backup solution, to the second.

So, my setup is now like this:

  • 160GB solid state disk · Very fast, very silent boot disk. Holds the OS, applications, my home directory, and will hold my Lightroom catalog database (but not the photos themselves, which are much too large).
  • 2TB mirrored array “Main” · Two terabytes of fault-tolerant main storage. Big things like my photos and iTunes library will go here.
  • 4TB array “Backup Storage” · local high-frequency backup storage for the first two.

This kind of local backup is important, but it doesn't protect me from forces of nature (earthquake, tornado, children) or theft, so I'll backup off-site as well. I currently backup all my photos to a server on a different continent, but may also try a service like Backblaze, which I've heard good things about. ($5/month for unlimited storage is very good if you can trust it.)

The nice thing about having 8TB of disk inside, and being able to configure it as I have, is that it allows me to avoid an external disk for local backups, thereby allowing “one step forward” in the march against home-office clutter.

One step backward is Apple's previous-generation wireless mouse. Maybe we got a bad one, but it was unusable with both Fumie's Mac Mini and my Mac Pro – it was twitchy and slow – so I appropriated my wireless Logitec mouse from my Windows box.

I spent last night and today copying stuff from the Windows box and from my mishmash of external drives. I've been configuring Firefox and other applications, and generally trying to get settled.

I was in the midst of downloading Lightroom from Adobe's site as I started writing this post. It's finished, so I'm excited to finally be able to give that a try. I think it'll be fast.


All 26 comments so far, oldest first...

Jeffrey,

Care to comment on the noise level — louder than your Dell, quiter. Not scientific, just any observations? Could you have it in a bedroom and not have to turn it off — would it keep kids (you) awake?

thanks
Guy

It’s absolutely silent except for the CD/DVD, and occasional quiet chatter from the disks. The old Dell box is very quiet, but in comparison is quite noisy. —Jeffrey

Update: now that I’ve powered off the Dell, I can hear a quiet but consistent hum from the computer. It sounds like a fan on low power, but I suspect it’s the four 7200RPM drives spinning. It’s more quiet than the clock ticking on the wall, but not “absolutely silent” as I commented before, so I wanted to set the record straight. —Jeffrey

— comment by Guy on November 3rd, 2009 at 10:12pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Hi, all sounds like fun! What I don’t get is that it sounds like you have 5 drives in there… four 2Tb drives and your boot SSD. Did I misread something?

Yes, five drives. There are six Serial ATA connectors, four backplane connectors for the slide-in drive bays, one for the CD/DVD drive, and a spare that would be used by a second CD/DVD drive. I plugged the SDD into that last one. In the old days of (non-Serial) ATA drives, interfaces had primary and secondary connectors, and if devices were connected on each they’d share the bandwidth. I don’t know that situation with s-ATA in general, and the spare s-ATA connector specifically, but since I rarely use the CD/DVD, I don’t think it matters too much for me. —Jeffrey

— comment by Domi on November 3rd, 2009 at 10:40pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

I’m fascinated to read your experiences of buying and configuring a Mac. Like you I’ve been using PCs since the first IBM and Windows since it first arrived. I am very close to switching myself for similar reasons.

I should be clear that my switching is not something borne from a long-developing dislike of Windows — I’ve always hated Windows. I very much appreciated the concept of a “Personal Computer” when I used Microsoft’s first operating system, but even then I felt that they had done a poor job, pandering to the least common-denominator. By the time Windows XP came around, the hatred for their “technology” was intense, yet, I very much appreciated that they had blanked the world with a standard. I only wish it hadn’t been with mediocre technology. And because they could blanket the world with a crappy product, I very much respected them as a business. I disagree with the US State Department (who persecuted them as a monopoly) for penalizing them for having a product that people actually bought. If people want crap and buy nothing but crap, I applaud the company that makes them want it and gives it to them.

I live in Thailand but have a US credit card. I have the same problems where the card company’s hairtrigger security often blocks legitimate purchases. Is yours a Japanese card or a US one?

American… MBNA.

The first thing I’d but with a setup like yours is a backup power supply. It’s amazing how we talk casually of terabytes now. I remember when a gigabyte was a huge amount of storage.

I remember when a floppy with a 160k was a lot of storage. The first computer I used had used a cassette tape. The 2nd computer I used used punched cards. The first hard drives I ever saw were the size of a large dorm fridge. When IBM came out with a 10 megabyte drive for the PC (we took out one of the 5″ floppies to use it), it was an unbelievable feeling of vastness. 2TB doesn’t even come close to comparing.

Can I ask how many photos you have in your Lightroom catalog? I have about 50,000, the catalog is just over 1GB and I am concerned that it will have problems soon.

77,650

My desire is to have one Lightroom catalog for every photo I take for the rest of my life.

See http://bkkphotographer.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/my-biggest-hope-for-lightroom-3/

Do you think that is a reasonable objective? I have never got an answer to my questions to Adobe.

I’m in your camp (one catalog for everything). I have no problems with this catalog in LR2, and from what I hear, it’ll be even better in LR3. I have not used LR3 beta much, except for testing, so I’m just drinkin’ the Kool-Aid at this point. —Jeffrey

— comment by BKKPhotographer on November 3rd, 2009 at 10:46pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Sounds like a sweet machine, I’m jealous. I’m curious about your RAID setup. Did you pay for Apple’s insanely priced card or did you go with a software solution?

Software… whatever was offered by Disk Utility. —Jeffrey

— comment by Brent on November 3rd, 2009 at 11:27pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Sounds like a nice set up. I still love my early 2008 Mac Pro!

One question though … I thought there were only 4 drive bays, which you loaded w/4 2TB drives; where did the SSD drive go?

thanks!

Mike from Lindsborg, KS (Little Sweden USA)

In place of the 2nd CD/DVD drive. —Jeffrey

— comment by Mike on November 3rd, 2009 at 11:54pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Please take a pic of your desk when you get it. First off, seeing workstations is always fun. But secondly, everyone who buys an iMac says they are doing it because it’s “all-in-one” and it keeps their space clean. But when you actually see how they work then they got the tidy iMac sitting there and a stack of external drives, USB peripherals and charges hanging out of it.

Again, I’m not trying to be smart here. I’m just someone who’s struggled with keeping my desk clean and while the 27″ is appealing, I’m still sticking with a Macbook Pro, a 24″ monitor and a stack of drives on a shelf.

My room is a pigsty at the moment, but once everything settles down I’ll indeed post a picture. The last time was, I think, in Multiple-Monitor Goodness: My New Eizo Monitor. Because I didn’t go for the all-in-one iMac, I’ll have lotsa’ wires everywhere, but still it should be fairly clean. We’ll see. At least no external drives. The one thing I’m a bit irked about with Apple’s design of the Mac Pro is that they didn’t put an SD/CF card reader in the front. I would be willing to bet that to a first approximation, 100% of their Mac-Pro-Buying customers will need such a thing, and because they didn’t build it in, we’ll need Yet Another Ugly Appendage. I got it built in to my Dell three years ago for $19. I’d pay 10x that to get it built in to my new machine. —Jeffrey

— comment by Urkel on November 4th, 2009 at 12:28am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Are you going to run Win XP on your Mac as well? I do that because some of my pharmaceutical apps only exist in Win XP. Works quite well afterall 🙂

Yes, I plan on getting Fusion to run other operating systems. I have a bunch of WinXP licenses that I can use, and may even buy a brand new Win7 license just so I can test my plugins. (54% of plugin registrations are on Windows machines.) —Jeffrey

— comment by John on November 4th, 2009 at 12:44am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

I am almost going to Mac. I don’t think I will go full bore and get a Mac Pro, but Maybe a Macbook Pro instead. It’s hard to make the switch due to years and years of Windows, and knowing how it all works. Glad to see you made the jump!

— comment by Sean on November 4th, 2009 at 1:13am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Mirrored drives are fantastic, especially when the inevitable happens. Striped drives (of 2) scare me though. The advantage is speed, and capacity, but what do i dare trust to them? If it’s speed you need, then an array of 3 drives – 4 TB of unmirrored storage sounds frightening.

PS – love your remembrances of the old PC. My first had 384K, dual double sided drives and PC-DOS 2.0. I can still hear it booting… DOO-doo-DOO!

I understand the concern about striped drives, but in this case it doesn’t really matter. The alternatives were to use the drives separately (which I didn’t want to do, because I wanted a 4TB volume to back up my 2.165 TB of main storage), or a concatenated RAID volume, which would have all the drawbacks of a striped array but without the speed benefits of one. For backing up it doesn’t really matter, but I figured to go with “yes, fast” rather than “no, not fast” as a matter of principle. —Jeffrey

— comment by Paul C on November 4th, 2009 at 1:30am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Didn’t see a “final cost” listed. Would be interested on final cost versus an Alienware or XPS system say from Dell or even a DIY solution.

I’m still not done (I still need to upgrade the memory), but I’m sure that the final cost is much more than it needs to be. At this point in my life, I value “it works, smoothly” more than cost, at least to some point. It’s all been so expensive, though, that I’m scared to produce a final tally… I much prefer to remain ignorant! 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Randy on November 4th, 2009 at 2:12am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,
Welcome to the dark side.
That said the benefit of being able to run mulitple OSs is great. Even Windows!

I thought Windows was the dark side. —Jeffrey

— comment by Sean McCormack on November 4th, 2009 at 4:59am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Quite a mess you had there with your orders…. “Nice” to hear that someone else has bad luck also 😉
But to the point… You have allmost same hardware configuration that I have:
SSD for Os and programs and some big storage for other stuff. In addition that I figured that I put my Lr catalog files to WD 10K raptor disk to speed things up and also there’s Os swap space. This is because SSD disks dont have so fast write speed as regular hard drives. But after reading you setup I could possible do better to put second 10K disk and make it striped to add more speed to write/reads on Lr catalog and some other stuff that needs to be written.
I wonder if anyone has made any speed tests if you use 2 SSD disk striped…. 🙂

— comment by Teemu on November 4th, 2009 at 5:06am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Congrats on your purchase, Jeffrey. Like you I’m a keen photographer, and also
run Lightroom on my desktop. I wonder if Snow Leopard still has ZFS as a file system option? I built a file server specifically for ZFS. Why? I was worried about bit rot for my thousands of family pictures and videos. I was afraid of my memories just becoming silently corrupted without any warning.

I choose ZFS as it continually checks the integrity of the file system while the data is online, provides easy file system snapshots, and simple commands for maintenance and file system creation.

I followed this ZFS file server recipe online for the system and components. Shortly after I installed the system, one of the drives went bad. My weekly scrub of the filename noticed the error. I marked the drive in my raidz (basically raid 5 set) off-line. One command. Replaced the drive. Rebuilt the mirror with another command. No worries. No complicated raid rebuilt. Two commands.

It’s really convinced me of the value of solid engineering. I’m now constructing a second server for off site backups for myself and family to sync to over the Internet.

There’s something to be said for peace of mind when family memories and important data is involved. Man I sound like a commercial for Sun and ZFS. I guess so. My positive experience has convinced several work mates to investigate ZFS and setup their own file servers.

Enjoy the new Mac. It sure is sweet!

Chris

— comment by Chris on November 4th, 2009 at 10:34am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

hi jeffrey,

when i first got my mac pro i had similar problems with the bluetooth mouse. the problem is with the bluetooth antenna built into the MP – it’s too short. however, there are some other antennas also built into the MP which are longer and offer better reception – swapping them around is a doddle.

info and fix here: http://www.thelocale.org/forum/viewtopic.php?id=1298

hope that helps, regards,
sb

— comment by simon on November 4th, 2009 at 8:09pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

One of us, One of us!
Gooba Gabba, Gooba Gabba,
One of Us!

When I ordered my iMac (as soon as they came installed with Snow Leopard, not as an upgrade to 10.5) I also had to wait as it shipped on an actual SHIP(!) from China.

— comment by Nils on November 4th, 2009 at 10:38pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Which SSD did you end up using?

The Intel 160GB one. —Jeffrey

— comment by Jeremy Zawodny on November 5th, 2009 at 12:22am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

An excellent choice!

Well, it should be, considering I was advised by the venerable Paul Saab. 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Jeremy Zawodny on November 5th, 2009 at 12:56am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

MLC or SLC? Intel has the SLC version right?

I am planning to get SLC SSD for my PC but I am happy with my RAID zero setup now… For games that is…

I don’t know what MLC/SLC is, but according to my purchase, it’s MLC. —Jeffrey

— comment by John on November 5th, 2009 at 1:00am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

My mother’s Macbook keyboard just broke out of nowhere after about 1 year and 2 months of careful use. When she strikes 1 key it writes 2. It will cost her 250 Euros to have the keyboard changed by Apple. The part alone costs about 130 Euros.

Just keep in mind that Apple computers are just as prone to issues as others, but you also get the added benefit of outrageous repair costs. There is nothing “awesome” about this I’m afraid. It’s just like Bose, crappy hardware in a shiny white case and over-the-top marketing makes for good sales with the uneducated masses. I’m surprised you fell for that one, because as a developer you’re obviously tech-savvy.

I hope I’m wrong in thinking you might post a Mac rebuttal piece a year and a month from now when it fails on you… Keep your fingers crossed.

— comment by rx1337 on November 5th, 2009 at 4:09am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Oh I see you got the Apple Care 🙂 Looks like you already think it might fail within the next 3 years. Quite telling if you ask me.

It is. As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog over the years, including last week, that a negative side effect of Apple pushing the boundaries on what hardware can be packed and arranged into what spaces is that they can sometimes be fragile. Especially laptops. They give a 10% discount to those wishing to take a risk, but it’s really required. I think they really miss an good marketing opportunity by doing it this way, but they’re trying to compete on up-front price, and in the end, it just makes them look bad. But laptop issues are not limited to Apple: my Mom’s relatively new klunky Dell laptop has a screen that flickers on and off as you jiggle the screen, or walk by, or breath. My new Mac Pro seems to push the boundaries much less (it’s built to the size and sturdiness specifications of a tank) so maybe I wasted the 10% on the warranty. About Bose, the only product of theirs I’ve ever owned is a pair of desk computer speakers I bought almost 15 years ago. Still use them, moving them from the Dell to the Mac Pro last night. They are wonderful. —Jeffrey

— comment by rx1337 on November 5th, 2009 at 4:13am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey, how do you like the magic mouse?

I am having some issue with it, mainly it’s shape. It is too flat for me. When playing with it at the Apple store, I was standing up, so the angle is not too bad. But sitting at home, I find my wrist too flat to the desk, the mouse just doesn’t offer too much of a grip for me, this gets fairly uncomfortable after awhile. I think I’ll try out Microsoft wireless mouse.

Mine was on a truck heading my way when your comment came in, but I’ve had a chance to try it for a while today. I was thrown a bit by the need to first pair it to the computer, then do a software upgrade. I had to do it twice before it stuck. Like every Apple wireless mouse I’ve ever tried, even if I ratchet the “tracking” speed to full-on “fast”, it’s still too slow. (By comparison, any other mouse is perfect right at the default center location). I don’t get it. As for the shape/feel, it’s fine for me. Scrolling is a pleasure. The two-finger sideways wipe is not something I can do yet… it just pushes the mouse itself, so I’ve still got to figure that out. If you’d like to try something else, try one of the Logitec wireless mice… just be very sure to understand how it tracks (ball, IR, laser), how it communicates (line-of-sight IR, bluetooth, some proprietary technology), and how far away it can be. You really have to read the fine print… sometimes the max distance is one foot (I kid you not) and sometimes it’s 10. If they don’t mention something, assume the worst. My prior mouse is a Logitec that, unbeknown to me when I bought it (despite reading the details on the box carefully, I thought) one that required line-of-sight to a wired receiver unit you had to place on the desk. I was a bit upset, to say the least. But other than that, the ergonomics and feel and everything else is superb, and I’ll keep it around in case I get bored with the Magic Mouse. —Jeffrey

— comment by David Wong on November 5th, 2009 at 8:42am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

At least the MacPros aren’t liquid cooled like the PowerMacs were, my quad G5 is the same physical dimensions as my quad macpro, but easily weighs 90lbs. Hauling it into the Apple store for repairs the first time was brutal. Then I learned they have a cart for folks bringin these beasts in…. you can just come in and check in and get the cart and then go get it from your vehicle. So much nicer.

— comment by cabbey on November 6th, 2009 at 6:10am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Do you backup off-site, or to drives more than a few feet away from your computer?
I realise xTB is a lot of data and I’ve only 200gb or so but my backup somewhat ironically lives in a draw beneath my desktop pc. I’d love to mirror stuff through the intertubes to either a family/friends setup (give him a drive) or to a linked hdd at work but the upload speeds in the uk don’t allow this.

I currently backup my photos to a server 8,000 miles away, but as I mentioned, I’m considering a service like backblaze.com to back up everything. —Jeffrey

— comment by David on November 7th, 2009 at 11:29pm JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

How can we behold it if there are no shiny photos?!

Enjoy the terabytes. I remember when I started at Y! in 2001 I had a few massive 2 TB file servers that each took up an entire rack.

— comment by Andrew Shieh in Sunnyvale on November 11th, 2009 at 11:20am JST (8 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Congratulations! I upgraded from a PowerMac G5 2x2GHz to a Nehalem Mac Pro a few months ago, and have a configuration similar to yours (except I didn’t think of using the second optical bay SATA connector for my SSD).

I use a Samsung PB22-J 256GB SSD (and before that, a SLC 32GB Intel X25-E). SLC is more durable (100,000 write cycles per cell vs. 10,000 for MLC) and faster, and usually has more cells set aside for bad blocks because it is used in more demanding enterprise applications. Be very careful with Intel firmware upgrades, as twice they released X25-M firmware that caused massive data corruption.

Unfortunately Apple abandoned ZFS in Snow Leopard. I have a Solaris home server running ZFS for backups (using rsync takes less than a minute over GbE), there is nothing remotely close, but there seems to have been some sort of licensing disagreement.

If you use a US credit card, beware of increasing fees on international transactions, even when denominated in US dollars. I got a Capital One credit card as they are the only ones with Charles Schwab who do not add surcharges to international transactions, after paying nearly $200 in such fees to Bank of America last month (I bought flights from British Airways, they were denominated in USD but the vendor is foreign so the surcharge still applies).

Finally, I would recommend you configure it to boot a 64-bit kernel:
http://macperformanceguide.com/SnowLeopard-64bit.html

I have made this the default, the only problem I experienced was with VMware Fusion 2.0. Parallels 4.0 and Fusion 3.0 will work on a 64-bit kernel, and you gain quite a bit in performance. One of the big benefits of x86_64 is that it has doubles the registers available from 8 to 16, and a good compiler can exploit this to speed things up more than simply widening data types would.

— comment by Fazal Majid on November 26th, 2009 at 4:44am JST (8 years ago) comment permalink

Great setup Jeff. After reading of your SSD setup, I investigated the possibility of doing the same to my late 2007 MacPro. While the DVD/CD drive was an IDE interface, I discovered that there were two SATA ports on the motherboard available. So this morning, I took apart the beast and ran the SATA cable to the DVD/CD tray just to make sure this could be done. Now all I need to do is order the SSD. One question for you, how did you physically mount the SSD drive?

By the way, really enjoy reading your blog about your family and Japan. Been there about 4 times and love the country. – Harv

The drives have standard screw holes…. which don’t match up, so I just aligned one screw up and held it in that way. It’s not heavy, so seems to be fine. —Jeffrey

— comment by Harvey Chin on November 29th, 2009 at 3:47am JST (8 years ago) comment permalink
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