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The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube

COW Library : What Computer Should I Buy? : Helmut Kobler : The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
CreativeCOW presents The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube -- What Computer Should I Buy? Review


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I'm one of those die-hard Mac tower users who didn't know what to think about Apple's new Mac Pro, with its utter lack of expansion card slots and drive bays.

Personally, I loved how I could stuff so much gear into my 2009, 8-core Nehalem Mac Pro (and before that, a 4-core Mac Pro, and before that a couple of G5 PowerMacs). In the 5 years I've had the Nehalem, I've always had every expansion card slot filled – a SAS card for RAID and LTO tape backup, a broadcast monitoring card, a high-speed P2 reader card, H.264 acceleration card, eSATA card, USB 3 card, you name it. And I stuffed the drive bays to the gills as well, running 5 drives in all thanks to hiding a bonus drive in one of the Pro's DVD bays. So much gear, all in a single case with few cables and minimal footprint!

The 2009 Apple Mac Pro tower: so much gear with a minimal footprint!

Then Apple announced the new Mac Pro with all expansion handled via a few Thunderbolt 2 ports, and I briefly saw my life flash before my eyes. How would I use all my existing stuff? How much would it cost to replace the stuff I couldn't carry over to the new machine? How would my workspace look with all sorts of new crap lying around?

I definitely experienced a few moments of heightened pulse and clammy palms, but I have to say that it passed fairly quickly. In the end, despite wanting to give Apple a good, swift kick on more than a few occasions lately, I generally trust its instincts on hardware design. It has a good sense of timing, knowing when to retire the old way of doing things for a new approach. So I ordered my new Mac Pro as soon as I could (a 6 core stock config), and started figuring out what gear I could keep, and what new gear I'd have to buy.

And that's what this article is about. I tried out a lot of products, and want to share some experiences and thoughts with other Tower users who are making the same Great Migration that I am. I'll focus on three main video-related components – RAID/LTO storage, Broadcast Monitoring, and Additional Hard Drive Storage and then I'll let you know how it's all worked out after more than a month of regular use.


RAID AND LTO OPTIONS
For almost 5 years, I've run a Sonnet DX800 12TB RAID using ATTO's now-retired R380 SAS card. What a great team the two made! The 8-drive RAID was quiet and used steady, reliable enterprise drives, while the ATTO card supported all sorts of RAID configurations (I chose a RAID 6), and connected to the RAID via two fast SAS ports. On my old Mac Pro, I could get read/write speeds around 700 MB/s with both SAS cables going into the RAID, but I preferred to use just one cable to attach my RAID, and the other cable to connect an HP Ultrium 6250 LTO6 drive. The ATTO card drove them together, with the RAID running only about 100 MB/s slower due to using one cable. It was a great setup for the ProRes editing I did, so my goal was to get similar functionality with the new Mac Pro. I had a few options....

Option #1: Migrate Existing RAID card to a Thunderbolt Chassis
My first instinct was to try to preserve all this gear simply by putting the ATTO R380 card into a Thunderbolt expansion chassis, so I ordered the small, affordable OWC Mercury Helios chassis for $349. It seemed like a pretty affordable way to migrate my RAID/LTO solution smoothly over to the new Mac Pro, but sadly, it was not to be.

It turns out that my trusty R380 card is one of those incredibly rare cards that can't work with a Thunderbolt expansion chassis! Who knew! Personally, I thought any PCIe card would work, but after an hour of troubleshooting, some internet research resolved the mystery.


OWC Mercury Helios
OWC Mercury Helios


Had I owned a slightly later-gen card, like ATTO's R680 card or a number of RAID cards from the likes of Areca, the OWC chassis should have worked, but I still wasn't thrilled with the chassis. It's small and easy to get working, but its fan noise is pretty annoying – ie, it's easily audible over my old my Mac Pro, my new Mac Pro, and my DX800 raid combined. It seems a shame that designers put a lot of effort into making big, expensive hardware relatively quiet, but all that effort is thrown out the window by a $349 box.

Still, Thunderbolt cables are getting longer and cheaper (OWC itself offers a variety, including a 10 foot cable for under $50), so you can minimize noise by putting the Helios chassis far away. But if you're at all sensitive to fan noise, you still won't be happy.


ATTO's ThunderStream SC3808D
ATTO's ThunderStream SC3808D


Option #2: ATTO's ThunderStream SC3808D
ATTO's Thunderstream is very similar to the product I was trying to create by dropping my old R380 card into a third-party expansion chassis....except it actually works. With the $1295 ThunderStream, ATTO took the guts of its popular R680 SAS RAID card (6Gb/s), and put it in an external box with two Thunderbolt 1 ports, two SAS ports for connecting to RAIDs and LTO drives, and a reasonably quiet fan.

The ThunderStream has no power button – it's always on and its fan gently purrs even when it's not connected to a computer (that's a little weird, though ATTO says it's normal behavior). When you start or wake up your computer, the ThunderStream revs up its fan a bit more, and makes your SAS peripherals available to your Mac.

Once I installed the latest driver and RAID manager from the ATTO web site, the ThunderStream would generally mount my DX800 RAID when I turned it on, and remount the RAID if I woke the Mac from sleep while the RAID was online. Occasionally, things wouldn't work quite so automatically – I'd turn the DX800 on, but it wouldn't mount by itself, so I'd have to launch ATTO's RAID manager app to manually get the RAID online. But that occasional hiccup also happened on my old Mac Pro with the R380 card, so it was something I was used to.

Speedwise, I clocked RAID/Thunderstream combo doing reads of around 635MB/s and writes of 552 MB/s in BlackMagic's Disk Speed Test app, which was respectful. As for working with my LTO drive, the ThunderStream had no problem copying data to/from the RAID and LTO, as I had always done with the R380 card.

If anything gave me pause, it was the ThunderStream's lack of a Thunderbolt 2 connection (largely for future proofing, since I doubt my DX800 would be able to take advantage of TB2 speeds) combined with its $1295 price point. But other than buying a brand-new RAID, the ThunderStream was the best option I found for preserving my DX800 RAID in a Thunderbolt world. Getting LTO6 support from the same box was a nice bonus.

One more note: ATTO also sells a Thunderbolt box with SAS connections, but without RAID functionality. It's the ThunderLink SH 1068, and it's a good option for connecting a non-RAID SAS device like HP's LTO drive to a new Mac Pro. At $895, the ThunderLink isn't exactly cheap, but by the time you buy a PCIe SAS card like ATTO's H680 ($395), and then a separate Thunderbolt chassis, you're in the same general ballpark anyway.


Option #3: A Native Thunderbolt RAID

A final option was to give up on my Sonnet DX800 RAID altogether, and buy a new Thunderbolt-native RAID, with its RAID controller built into the main enclosure.

I don't like the idea of spending money unnecessarily, and my 12 TB DX800 is still going strong, but a new Thunderbolt-native RAID is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, newer 8-drive RAIDs are shipping with giant capacities up to 32TB at a price around $4500. That's pretty reasonable! Secondly, Thunderbolt native RAIDs are really easy to work with. They don't need any drivers, their controllers are built into the RAID enclosure which keeps their footprints small, and they can automatically turn themselves on/off whenever you startup/wake/shutdown/sleep your computer. So I found two native Thunderbolt RAIDs to put through their paces....

Maxx Digital ThunderRAID
Maxx Digital ThunderRAID


Maxx Digital ThunderRAID.
The first was Maxx Digital's ThunderRAID (24TB for $3,995), which I used for several weeks on a variety of editing projects. I was pretty wowed by it. For starters, it's the smallest 8-drive RAID I've seen. It's also pretty quiet – maybe slightly louder than my old Mac Pro, but you can minimize that even further with a 10-foot Thunderbolt cable. It also handled all the waking and sleeping I do with my Mac without a single issue. And you can order it from Maxx Digital with a few custom options – for instance, with more affordable "desktop" drives or more robust "enterprise" drives, and the company will pre-format your RAID in whatever configuration you want (RAID 5, RAID 6, etc.). Maxx also stress tests the RAID before shipping it out to you, and backs it up with a 3 year warranty.

The only hitch with the ThunderRAID is that it doesn't take advantage of the Mac Pro's Thunderbolt 2 speeds. For a Thunderbolt 1 device, it's definitely fast, with read speeds around 548 MB/s and writes of 585 MB/s in a RAID 6 config. But I wondered how much faster a Thunderbolt 2 RAID might be, and as my Mac Pro shipped, so did the industry's first Thunderbolt 2 RAID...


PEGASUS2
PEGASUS2


Promise Technology Pegasus2 R8.
The Pegasus2 comes in 4, 6 and 8-drive varieties, but I went for the 8-drive version (the R8) since I really wanted as much speed as possible and to preserve the option to run as RAID 6, with two drives in redundancy. Sure enough, the Pegasus2 did indeed get a speed boost from its Thunderbolt 2 connection. Running in its default RAID 5 configuration (one drive in redundancy), it reported Blackmagic reads of around 900 MB/s, and writes of 850 MB/s. You can't compare that directly to my ThunderRAID results, because the ThunderRAID was in a RAID 6, which loses some speed to manage the extra redundancy. But I also tried running the Pegasus2 while daisy-chained to a Thunderbolt 1 device, forcing it to run at Thunderbolt 1 speeds. In that test, I got reads of 750 MB/s and writes of 620 MB/s, which shows a real benefit from Thunderbolt 2.

So speed was impressive, and the Pegasus was respectably quiet when attached to my 10-foot Thunderbolt cable. Operation was also very smooth – just not quite as smooth as with the ThunderRAID when it came to waking and sleeping behavior. For instance, on a few occasions, I would wake my Mac from sleep and the Finder would warn me that the Pegasus had not been ejected properly before sleep, even though you're not required to eject it beforehand (despite the message, the Pegasus did mount automatically, and seemed perfectly fine). Also, one one occasion, I woke the Mac Pro, and the Pegasus2 didn't mount at all, forcing me to restart the Mac before it came online again. Overall, these sleep-related quirks were very rare, occurring only a few times in more than a hundred wake/sleep cycles. They're the kind of thing that most people may never notice, and or be squelched with a firmware update. But to be fair, I never had a single issue with the ThunderRAID in the same circumstances.

The Pegasus should definitely get credit for keeping costs down – at $3599, a 24TB model is about $400 cheaper than the equivalent ThunderRAID, and the most affordable 24TB RAID I've ever seen. On the other hand, the Pegasus' 32TB model is only $100 cheaper than the ThunderRAID equivalent, and it ships with slower, 5900 rpm drives instead of the usual 7200 rpm models. The Pegasus also gets a 2 year warranty instead of the ThunderRAID's 3 years, and you can't order the RAID with enterprise drives, in case you want to pay extra for a little more peace of mind. Finally, as I write this in February 2014, a Thunderbolt 2 version of the ThunderRAID is due within a month, so that may level the playing field between the units, speed-wise.

The fact is, after using both native RAIDs for weeks, I came away feeling that you can't go wrong with either of these units, and I wondered if now was the time to bite the bullet and get an extra-spacious RAID that worked so well with the new Mac Pro.

 

ADDITIONAL HARD DRIVE STORAGE
I use my RAID for editing client video and as a volt for recent footage I've shot, but it's not a general file repository. Not everything needs to be on a blazing fast RAID, and I also don't like the idea of putting all of my digital stuff in one enclosure, in case some catastrophe befalls it. So my goal with the new Mac Pro was to keep my iTunes library, photo libraries, documents, and Time Machine volume on separate drives, just as I did with my 2009 machine.

That meant investing in yet another drive enclosure for the new Mac Pro – something that could handle multiple hard drives but without hardware RAID functionality. In that vein, I found a few choices, such as a new 4 bay enclosure from Other World Computing, and a new 3 bay enclosure from CalDigit. But 3 and even 4 drives felt a little limiting (I had stuffed 5 drives into my old Mac Pro) so I was relieved to come across LaCie's 5big Thunderbolt enclosure, which gives you 10 TB spread over 5 drives for $999 (there's also a 20tb version for $1999).

LaCie's 5big
LaCie's 5big


I like the LaCie because it can find something useful to do with all 5 of its drives: in my case, that would be two drives in a RAID 0 for fast access to iTunes and photo libraries, then another two drives in a RAID 1 to backup client footage before it goes to LTO tape, and finally a single drive for Time Machine.

There's no hardware RAID support built in, so I designate my RAID 0 or 1 drives in software using Apple's Disk Utility. But a software RAID takes up virtually no computing cycles these days, and I've run them for years without problems. The 5big also wakes and sleeps automatically with the Mac Pro, and it's practically silent. Finally, even though it's a Thunderbolt 1 device, there's no way a few drives configured in a RAID 0 and 1 could come close to saturating Thunderbolt's original 10Gbs throughput, making Thunderbolt 2 largely unnecessary.

So for about $1000, I managed to replicate my old Mac Pros internal hard drive bays, and picked up an extra 10TB of drives along the way.


BROADCAST MONITORING
The last component my new Mac Pro needed in Thunderbolt form was some sort of HD broadcast monitoring, so I could send a video signal from my editor (Final Cut Pro X) to my trusty Flanders Scientific broadcast monitor.

On my old Mac Pro, I used Blackmagic's simple, reliable Decklink SDI card, but there was no point in trying to migrate that over to the new Mac since there are already two great, affordable Thunderbolt solutions: Aja's T-Tap ($295) and Blackmagic's UltraStudio Mini Monitor ($145).


MINI MONITOR AND T-TAP
Blackmagic Design's Mini Monitor and AJA's T-TAP


The two units share a lot in common. They're both tiny, and easily fit in the palm of your hand. They both have a single Thunderbolt 1 port, so you have to place them at the end of a daisy chain. They both have an SDI Out and HDMI Out port, so they work with any HD monitor at 10 bits with 4:2:2 subsampling, along with all major frame rates and 8 channels of embedded audio. Both units draw power from the Thunderbolt cable they're attached to, so you don't have to plug them into a wall. Finally, they both work with recent versions of major apps like Final Cut Pro X (and 7), Adobe Premiere/After Effects, Avid, and more.

But besides price, there are indeed a few differences between the two little guys:

  1. The Mini Monitor is the only one that can work with DaVinci Resolve. Since Blackmagic uses Resolve to sell more hardware, it's unlikely they'll write AJA support into their app. I wouldn't hold my breath, at least.

  2. The T-Tap can monitor at 2K resolution, and supports 3D via HDMI.

  3. The T-Tap was a little more convenient to use, day-to-day. I work with projects in a mixture of frame rates and resolutions, and you have to manually set both the T-Tap and Mini Monitor at the desired resolution/framerate to get the sharpest, smoothest picture. But in Final Cut Pro X, I had to quit the app, and then set the Mini Monitor to the right setting, and then boot up Final Cut again. With the T-Tap, I could change its output settings without relaunching Final Cut. That convenience adds up over time.

 

At any rate, both the Mini Monitor and T-Tap are simple, affordable solutions that accomplish a single task well. And if you happen to need a few more bells and whistles beyond pure monitoring (tape digitization, 4K support, etc.), then you'll also find some other good Thunderbolt options from AJA and Blackmagic.


THE DUST SETTLES
So these are the solutions I researched and tested as I migrated from my legacy Mac Pro. Yes, buying a new 5-bay drive, a broadcast monitoring gadget, and either an ATTO ThunderStream or whole new native RAID will add at least $2500 to my migration costs, but I'm actually feeling okay about it. For one thing, it's a one-time charge that I'll be spreading over 5 or so years of productivity. Plus, those peripherals will work on machines that I might have years from now, from a new Mac Pro to an iMac to a Macbook Air to an HP PC (many PCs are adding Thunderbolt these days). You can't say that for all the PCIe expansion cards I bought over the last several years, which only work in one tiny sliver of the market.

As for the rest of my concerns about moving to all-external expansion, here are some other impressions after having my Mac Pro more than a month:

  • Without all the drives and cards to keep cool, the machine is dead-silent. It's 2 feet away and I can't hear it. Glorious!

  • There's no realistic limit to the Thunderbolt peripherals I can easily add to the new Mac Pro, thanks to the machine's 6 ports, powered by 3 independent controllers, along with the ability to daisy chain 6 devices off each port. On my old Mac Pro, I was constantly running short of card slots, and fretting over which functionality I could live without. Do I need broadcast monitoring or USB 3? Do I need USB 3 or eSATA? Do I need h.264 acceleration or a super-fast P2 card reader? Should I buy a new card that combines functions, or stick with what I already have? With Thunderbolt, I won't face those Sophie's Choice scenarios.

  • It's true that Thunderbolt can't accommodate powerful graphics cards and for some people, that can indeed be a problem. On the other hand, I'm not one of those folks, and suspect that few people are. With my old Mac Pro, I bought the best graphics card available (the ATI 4870), and kept it for 5 years. Over the years, I tried both the NVIDIA Quadro 4000 and the ATI 5870, and returned them both because they didn't make an appreciable difference in my work. By the time I could really benefit from new graphics cards (like my Pro's dual D500 cards), I was ready to buy a new machine anyway.

  • I love having the Mac Pro on my desk, instead of under it. I can easily attach things without getting down on all fours with a flash light pursed between my lips. Also, on the rare occasion that I have to move the machine, I won't risk a hernia.

  • It's wonderful to be able to put devices that might make some noise 10 feet away on a long Thunderbolt cable. Try that with SAS, eSATA or FireWire cables. And remember: if you're willing to spend more money, you can buy Thunderbolt cables far longer than 10 feet.

  • Do I miss having everything in one big box? Not really. My RAID was already outside my old 8-core Nehalem, and that will still be the case. The broadcast monitoring options for Thunderbolt are ridiculously small and require no power supply, so being external gives up no convenience. Finally, the 5-drive LaCie enclosure I like does take up a little extra space, but so what? I think I can spare a power outlet, and 9 square inches of free space near my desk.

So yes, I'm absolutely at peace with the Mac Pro's exclusive use of Thunderbolt. No card slots and drive bays keeps the machine more affordable, which means Apple can sell more machines. That helps keep Pro hardware relevant to the company, and more likely to receive development resources down the road (hopefully, Apple will never go another 3.5 years without an appreciable update). And yet users who need to customize their machines with fancy add-ons actually get more options and flexibility to do that (graphics cards not included).

This makes the new Mac Pro simpler but richer, which seems like an impressive design feat and a good example of Apple at its best.





On the other hand, while Apple's hardware team has hit one out of the park, it feels like the overall Mac experience is being marred by Apple's sloppy, buggy software efforts. Lately, I struggle with Apple bugs on a daily basis. My skimmer stops working in Final Cut Pro X, forcing a relaunch. Renders hang in Compressor, forcing a restart. Music from iTunes won't sync to my iPhone. iCloud documents stop synching in Pages. Mavericks can't remember how I arrange the application windows on my three Thunderbolt displays. And while I'm at it, why does my iPhone keep resurrecting voicemails I've already deleted, forcing me to kill them 3 times before they're finally gone? (Not a Mac bug per se, but still an appalling example of poor quality control at Apple).

You can find most of these and other issues discussed on Apple's support forums, often in long threads full of users wasting their precious time on troubleshooting. And the bugs often linger a while – for instance, Final Cut's disappearing skimmer (which is fundamental to the FCP X experience) has been annoying me for years.

Of course, I haven't done a scientific survey, but after 15 years with the Mac, I think I can spot a trend. The fact is, Apple seems to be losing its attention to fine detail...to the small things that nonetheless form the glue of the Mac experience. Years ago, I could honestly say of an Apple product: "It Just Works." Now it's becoming: "It usually works." Or even: "It sometimes works."

Which brings us back to the new Mac Pro. I now have a fast, silent, tiny, expandable powerhouse on my desk, but my daily Mac experience is more frustrating than it's ever been, except perhaps during the last days of OS 9 and the early days of OS X. You won't hear about it from the general media and the Mac press treats Apple with kid gloves, but I hope some execs in Cupertino can still recognize that there's been a decline in the stability/reliability of Apple software, and that it's slowly spoiling even a great breakthrough like the Mac Pro.

 





About Helmut Kobler
Helmut Kobler is a Los Angeles-based DP and cameraman who also likes to edit. Visit his website at http://www.losangelescameraman.com.


Comments

Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by chris bazlinton
Yup, great article (though a little above my head). I am a pure amateur producing fun and family videos since the late 1990s. I used FCP as the first really good editing suite, but also used iMovie for basic rough, first edits.

Because of the lack of 'backward' support as used to apply to Apple, believe it or not I am still using IMovie6 HD on an iMac 2006 model. I keep a 2009 iMac running for the 'old' FCP - and now Premiere which has moved beyond the old FCP in some areas. I use a MacbookAir for on-the-road editing with a DVD drive on the side (Amazon - far cheaper than Apple and does the job) as I was unhappy with the decision to do away with hard drives. Not everyone has superfast broadband - here in my part of the UK we have 2 MBs and that's unlikely to change for at least a couple of years, so DVDs are vital. Also my 'target' audience still uses DVDs and not computers to view. Yes I know DVDs will be redundant in a few years just like floppies and other bits. I believe DVDs still have a longer life than Apple suspects - similarly with blueray....

That's just my amateur thoughts, but I think they rather back up some of the other comments and approaches made here.

Oh, and there's little chance I'll be getting a new mac Pro - though in the past I had G3, G4 and G5 towers. Perhaps Apple have been concentrating too far in the future, and on their new markets - iPhones, iTunes etc
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Rich Rubasch
Unique starting point to be sure and adding $2500 to the cost of the Mac is not great...then we will all have to dispose of old hardware (environment issue) etc.

We run almost all 2008 and 2009 MacPros so I am looking to update a couple to 2010 or 2012 models and fill them with what we have, maybe adding an SSD system drive for overall Read/Write with apps etc.

He really had to run thru some paces (and in the end buy new hardware) for the old stuff work in the new stuff. Actually he ended up with lots of new stuff.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com
+1
@The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Billy Sheahan
Yes, Walter. I agree with you as well. The Apple ecosystem is not as reliable as it was even a few years ago. The rock solidness of it was something I took for granted for years.

I'm still not certain that Apple realize the ripples of the FCP X release, two and a half years ago, are still radiating out there. I remember writing a blog post a few weeks after that release, about how opening the door to many editors re-thinking our editing options, might result in us finding more tested tools for our work while Apple scrambled with version 1.0 and shaking out what "missing" features it might begin to restore in future updates. Would it be a case of, "Okay here are the features you were waiting for," after a year or two, only to have many of us respond with, "No, it's okay. We're good now with Adobe." Or Avid. Or any of the other players who have aggressively moved in to fill the vacuum.

Since that June 2011 release, I've had the opportunity to edit on many different systems, even on PCs for the first time in about 15 years. I even just finished up a two month edit on FCP 7 at a shop who agreed this was the last project they would edit on the legacy FCP. It was like visiting an ex-girlfriend. Fond memories, but also remembering why we broke up in the first place. I missed just dropping anything in my timeline, like I can with Premiere these days.

I've heard that a lot of people are enjoying editing on FCP X 10.1. That's wonderful. I'm glad that a lot of the kinks of that first release have been worked out. But as I suspected over two years ago, I'm happy with where I ended up with Adobe. It makes more sense to me as an editor, certainly in terms of my own workflow and how I collaborate with other artists.

The final interesting ripple now is that since I'm no longer tied to the Mac platform as far as my editing tool choices go, is whether to stay Mac or not. I actually had resigned myself to the idea that there might never be another Mac Pro produced. The silence from Apple was deafening for a time about that. So, I went iMac about two years ago, just as a way to retire an aging Mac Pro Tower from 2007 without spending any more money than I had to for a beefier machine. Hedging my bet, so to speak.

Helmut's review of his experience with the new Mac Pro is incredibly valuable, for me, and I'm sure a lot of editors and graphics artists out there who now have other options outside the Mac ecosystem for their production machines, now that the software many of us use is platform agnostic.

That ripple may turn out to be more of a large wave than even Apple imagined. The thing working in their favor is that even with all of the platform and editing software experimenting we've all been able to do in the past couple of years, I didn't fall in love with the PC platform. It's fine. But not without it's own issues as well. The question now comes down to, is it still worth it to pay a premium for a Mac? Are the aesthetics and familiarity and elegance even, of a well designed Mac Pro still a better value than a much more inexpensive, expandable and easier to upgrade PC?

If the operating system and supporting Apple software were rock solid, I'd say yes. But this disturbing trend Helmut mentioned that many of us have noticed in the Apple's sloppy, buggy software efforts of late, is certainly causing me to decide to wait it out a bit longer before making a decision on the Mac Pro.

Ironic that this "hardware company's" latest pro hardware offering is being hampered by their own software. But I think that's an honest evaluation.

In the meantime, I will continue to keep a close eye on Helmut's experiences as well as others here in the Cow Community. Thank you all for sharing.

Billy Sheahan
Director/Photographer/Editor
Billy Sheahan Photography/Curious Visuals
Chicago, IL

billysheahan.com
+3
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by walter biscardi
Great article and it's funny how that last part of your article really hit it for me too. The entire ecosystem of "Apple" is not what it once was. We made the switch to the Adobe Suite almost 2 years ago now and while it's not without its moments, the software experience has been much more efficient and user friendly.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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+2
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Jonathan Abrams
Does anyone reading this know which Thunderbolt ports on the Mac Pro are assigned to each controller? Is it as simple as each row of Thunderbolt ports has its own controller?

--
Jonathan S. Abrams, CEA, CEV, CBNT
Apple Certified - Technical Coordinator (v10.5) Support Professional (v10.6 through v10.8)
Vice-Chairman, NY section, AES
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Billy Sheahan
Great article Helmut. This is going to help a lot of us going through the same decision making process as we consider new production machines.

The last part of your article, however, was even more resonant to me because I am going through the same disenchantment with Apple software. I agree. You have spotted a trend. I've been using Macs professionally since the early 90s. The "It just works," of the past is, as you say, definitely in the past. Mavericks may be the sloppiest OS X release since the original OS X beta, but we expected that from a beta of an untested new OS.

Lots of things don't work the way they should. I'm not talking about changes Apple has every right to make to evolve. Change of any kind throws people. But even the basic Apple OS apps are misbehaving. I'm talking about Contacts not syncing between devices consistently. Messages that don't sync reliably between computers and iOS devices they way they used to before Mavericks. In fact, nearly all of the OS X apps under Mavericks were squirrelly for months, crashing and freezing before they finally settled down earlier this year. "It usually works." Getting music to my iPhone? Definitely not as easy as it used to be. Not as "Apple" as it used to be.

Things I took for granted for years became suddenly very unreliable. It has given me pause on how much Apple hardware and software I plan to use professionally going forward. You are absolutely correct that Apple has lost the attention to fine detail, at least in their software. Which is a shame. My buying cycle has gone from a very excited, as soon as I can afford it in the yearly budget, to a reluctant, how long can I go without having to replace it. "It sometimes works," indeed.

I remember reading an article about ten years ago that went something like, "Remember, Apple is a hardware company. But they build amazing software so you really want to buy their hardware to run it on." I think Apple would be wise to remember that idea. Because I don't care how beautiful the new MacPro is, or how well designed it is, if the software I have to run on it is buggy and unreliable.

I'm not a Mac hater. Quite the opposite. But I am extremely disappointed in the QC as of late. I expect better from Apple. This is very new territory for me to find myself in.

Billy Sheahan
Director/Photographer/Editor
Billy Sheahan Photography/Curious Visuals
Chicago, IL

billysheahan.com
+1
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Kevin Christopher
My biggest problem with the new Mac Pro is no Nvidia option. Cuda processing is a must for my work load. My second gripe is all of those $50 thunderbolt cables. Very few people realize that here is a chip on each end of that cable inside the connector. To me that represents 2 failure points per cable. I will also have to opt for the more feature rich IO-XT, IO-4K, or the Blackmagic option. Each one of those units require their own power supply. Yet another place for potential failure. It was much simpler when there was a box and it was full of cards. It was either the card, or the box.

Kevin

+1
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Kevin Christopher
@Rob
Because the broadcast world works in Rec 709 color space (NTSC that is) and multiple frame rates. The Mac Pro HDMI is a glorified Display out not a true broadcast signal.

Kevin

+1
Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Andrew Yoole
Great article, Helmut, thank you. Very comprehensive and explanatory.

With regard to your final few paragraphs re: Apple attention to detail, I couldn't agree more. Their software is gradually being plagued by niggling little bugs and inconsistencies that seem never to be addressed.

To Rob Grauert above, many broadcast monitors simply don't support HDMI, using the industry standard SDI only. Particularly if the monitor is more than a few years old.

Re: The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
by Rob Grauert
Why do need a broadcast monitoring option when the new Mac Pro has an HDMI output? Is that HDMI port outputting an sRGB signal or something?

Rob Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com
http://www.facebook.com/robgrauertvideo
@Rob Grauert
by Joshua Campbell
HDMI isn't and never will be a true broadcast cable. Mostly because there is no locking on a traditional HDMI (there have been locking designs), no serial interface, and lastly HDMI has High-Definition Digital Content Protection (HDCP) where transmitters and receivers cannot confirm digital rights management permission. So if you tried to convert HDMI from a blu-ray player to your BNC-HDSDI you will typically receive a yellow screen at your output monitor.


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