Intel Core i7-3770k Ivy Bridge
Gigabyte SKT-1155 Z77X-UP5-TH
Zalman CNPS12X-Heatsink and Fan
Corsair CMZ16GX3M2A10 Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 Mhz Memory
Corsair Low-Profile 16GB Memory DDR3, 1600Mhz
Antec TrueQuiet Pro 120 Case Fan
Crucial CT128M4SSD2 M4 SATA III SSD (x2)
Sonnet Tempo Card
Samsung 840 Series Pro 256GB SSD (x2)
Antec P280 Performance Series Tower Case
BackMagic Intensity Pro (x2)
Asus GeForce GTX 660 DirectCU II OC Nvidia Graphics Card, 2GB GDDR5, PCI Express 3
Segate 4TB/8GB Serial 2.5 inch Solid State Hybrid Drive (x2)
Segate 4TB Drive
LG 16X Blu-Ray M Disc DVD BDXL Burner
Seagate STCA30002003TB Backup Plus USB 3.0 Drive
G-Tech G-RAID Studio 6TB
Blackmagic Ultrastudio Mini Recorder
Tactile Pro 4 Keyboard
Belkin F8T017 Bluetooth Dongle
600-Watt Power supply – I’m afraid I can’t remember what it is — I’ll look the next time the case is open.
Sonnet Technology Tango FireWire 800 USB PCIe Card
Apple Wireless Mouse
2x BENQ Monitors
This isn’t actually a new build, and what you see above has evolved over time. It started back in 2012, long before the all-new Mac Pro graced us with its rounded presence. I trained as a music graduate so I’ve always had an interest in high-end macs, and I’ve owned/fixed/sold on pretty much every generation of high-end mac for the last twenty years. (As a music student back in the late 90s, I did up old PowerMacs and sold them on for extra cash).
By the time I quit being a music teacher in 2008, I was using a Mac Pro 1,1 as my main studio machine. As time went on and I became a journalist instead (online, covering green cars and green tech) I started to produce my own online shows. And so my requirements grew with me.
By 2011, I had managed to blag an old Mac Pro 2.1, to replace the 1,1, since it came with the quad-core 3Ghz Xeon processor (I’d already given my original Mac Pro a 2.66 quad-core upgrade along with some hefty ram, but it wasn’t enough). At this point, I was streaming online video using both Mac Pros side by side. Since the 1.1 had lost a memory channel by this point, I was desperate.
My online shows were a nightmare, constantly dying because the tech wasn’t up to par. While I had a brand-new MacBook Air to help me write in the field, that wasn’t going to help for studio work. So I took the plunge and decided to build a Mac Pro Hack, using my previous experience the year earlier when I built my kids two identical CustoMac Minis (H67N-USB3-B3 Mini ITX with i3s…)
What you see above is the gradual upgrading of the hack pro over time. Back in 2012 when I first put it together, I used Chimera and a RAID 0 spinning iron setup (using the various TonyMac guides to help me.)
I chose the case and the fans specifically to allow for large volume, low speed air moving, but soon found out that the Zalman cooler fouled the closest memory sockets to the CPU. That’s why you’ll note I’ve got low profile and normal profile memory. (on day one, I broke one of the original memory sticks trying to secure the cooler down. It was the worst build-day of my LIFE)
To keep things tidy inside the case, I heat-shrinked cables as I went, bunching them together for a neat finish. I also had to ‘balance the fans so that they would all work together. Like Mac Pros of old, there’s a fan at the front of the case, drawing air over the disks. Then there are two fans behind the disks, drawing air through towards the back of the case. Then there’s the three-fan CPU cooler, and fans in both the rear of the case and roof of the case.
All in all, it’s pretty darned quiet. My online studio is less than 40 square foot, and with a microphone pretty darned close to the machine, it doesn’t pick it up with a little careful low-cut filtering.
Back to the machine….
In 2012, I added the two 256GB Crucial SSDs, with the aim of using them as boot drives. Set up using 10.8 and UniBeast, I followed the guides on getting RAID 0 working (copying bootloader onto the EFI partition and manually dd’ing the boot1h file and boot0 as required.)
Even with all of that however, the machine wasn’t fast enough. When I do a live streamed show, I ingest audio from multiple different Skype calls, recording each audio stream separately using Logic Pro via a PreSonus 16.0.2
I also feed in multiple different video feeds from computers, studio cameras etc, and use WireCast to mix and output this all on the fly.
(A separate machine (the old Mac Pro 2,1) takes the mirrored, mixed-down video HDMI output from the GTX 660 and streams it to the Internet… But I digress again….)
Any which way you cut it, I guess you can see at this point that I have a MONSTER IO need (The reason I have 23 TB of spinning disc storage is because of all the videos we process in FCPX etc, as well as B-rolls, backup etc). So last year, I upped the game to include another two SSDs.
The Samsung 840 Pros are sweet. Seriously sweet. And with the Sonnet Tempo installed on one of the free PCIe slots, I was able to push them to their absolute limit.
Recently, I’ve been slowly upgrading all my other machines to Yosemite, including the old Mac Pros (thanks to the Piker-Alpha boot.efi) Since all my old Mac Pros use upgraded video cards, they’re working fine on Yosemite, and have 16 GB RAM and 20 GB RAM respectively. They still work pretty hard, but not as hard as my Hack Pro!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to get some headspace to get my mind around the Ozmosis BIOS mod. I’ve not had much success over the years with Clover, and found it really unstable with my machine, so I’d been put off Ozmosis and convinced myself that Chimera was the best way.
How wrong I was.
A few weeks back, when my machine needed opening up for its monthly cleaning session. (The only way you keep those fans slow is to keep the insides clean) I made the decision to take the plunge and try for Ozmosis.
My RAID0 SSD array (four discs, striped with 32k) was slowing down. Trim wasn’t working. And the speed I had once was slowly disappearing. Not to mention my processor was still running at stock.
I did a bunch of reading, including this awesome thread on TonyMac which links to the Ozmosis bootloader project.
I decided to take the plunge.
After doing some research (Bios F12j mod9 from Tweaktown patched with Ozmosis 1479 seemed the best way to go) I followed this great guide from InsanelyMac to patch the Tweaktown F12J mod9 bios, using compressed versions of all the files to ensure it would fit.
Using Clover Configurator, I created an appropriate SMBIOS I could inject into Ozmosis using the guide I’ve linked to in the previous paragraph.
So far, so good. With the clover config file generated, I pulled the relevant information from the resulting config.plist file and added it to the Ozmosis.plist file.
I flashed the Bios, took a deep breath, and tried to boot Yosemite from a Vanilla install disc. Success, although iMessage didn’t work (surprise!)
At first, I installed Yosemite to a spare 1.02 TB partition on my Windows boot drive, enabling me to ‘test out’ the Ozmosis install while having the old ‘chameleon’ one to work with during the week.
But I soon realised that the Yosemite install was doing great. With Voodoo HDA injected into the Bios itself along with the other ‘mandatory’ kexts, everything was working great.
I did hit one red herring during the Yosemite install, which I incorrectly attributed to the Ozmosis setup: when booting, only one of my two monitors was showing. One (an older VGA monitor connected to an DVI-D adaptor) displayed an image at the start of the Yosemite boot sequence, but turned off half-way through, turning the other one on.
After some back and forth, I discovered that it was the adaptor causing the problem: the graphics card couldn’t ‘see’ anything plugged in when the OS loaded, so turned off that port.
After plugging in two DVI monitors, everything was great. I mention it here because it caused SO MUCH head scratching!
At this point, I’ve proven that I’ve got a vanilla install working with Ozmosis, so I wipe my SSD RAID0, say goodbye to 10.9 for good, and install 10.10 on it.
It’s dog-ass slow. Really slow. Like molasses. I check, and Trim isn’t working on any of the SSDs. Write speed is now down to 9MB/s, and read is 50 MB/s.
Two of my 4TB drives are arranged in RAID 0 and average 250 read and write. Even my single 4TB drive (the one I installed Yosemite onto first) manages 150MB/s read and write.
So I try Trim Enabler. And I try setting the NVram boot args to include ‘dev-mode=1’.
And my wonderful Hack Pro goes bye bye. Only the original Yosemite disk will boot, and the SSD RAID 0 doesn’t love me.
I punt, take a deep breath, and rethink. And I remember: I DIDN’T PUT DEV-MODE=1 INTO THE BIOS!
At this point, I decide to start again. I obviously didn’t write the ozmosis.plist file as carefully as I should have. iMessage isn’t working, and kext-Dev-Mode isn’t working either. So neither does TRIM.
I do some more digging. I start with a fresh clover install, and this time, I pick a generated SMBIOS for an iMac 14,2.
I double-triple check the IGFX injection code, so I can have air-play.
And I do some more investigation on iMessage fixes.
I Think I FOUND THE ANSWER
So I know a lot of folks are using Clover, so I went the Clover research route, and I discovered the Apple MAC Hack tool.
I thought originally it meant I’d need to download the SMbios information from a real mac, which I didn’t want to do (and I know is against the TOS for this board).
But it also works if you drag a clover-generated config file, with pseudo-random SMBIOS information in it, onto the Apple MAC Hack program. The app builds a modified .plist file, calculating appropriate serial numbers, ROM, MAC address UUID etc from the information Clover generated.
After putting THAT all into the ozmosis.plist file, and then using the KEXT2FFS linked to earlier in the post, I was left with a brand-new BIOS ready for the flashing.
Here’s the Ozmosis.plist file I used, with the obvious omissions..
<dict> <key>Date</key> <integer>0</integer> <key>Defaults:4D1FDA02-38C7-4A6A-9CC6-4BCCA8B30102</key> <dict> <key>HardwareAddress</key> <string>INSERT HARDWARE ADDRESS HERE</string> <key>BaseBoardAssetTag</key> <string>Base Board Asset Tag#</string> <key>BaseBoardSerial</key> <string>Sorry,not going to share ;)</string> <key>BiosDate</key> <string>09/03/2013</string> <key>BiosVersion</key> <string>You should look this up too.</string> <key>BoardVersion</key> <string>10</string> <key>ChassisAssetTag</key> <string>iMac-Aluminum</string> <key>Manufacturer</key> <string>Apple Inc.</string> <key>ProcessorSerial</key> <string>serial number</string> <key>ProductFamily</key> <string>iMac</string> <key>ProductId</key> <string>Mac-27ADBB7B4CEE8E61</string> <key>ProductName</key> <string>iMac14,2</string> <key>SystemSKU</key> <string>System SKU#</string> <key>SystemSerial</key> <string>serial number</string> <key>SystemVersion</key> <string>1.0</string> <key>ig-platform-id</key> <string>0x0d220003</string> </dict> <key>Version</key> <string>1.0.0</string> <key>Defaults:7C436110-AB2A-4BBB-A880-FE41995C9F82</key> <dict> <key>boot-args</key> <string>kext-dev-mode=1</string> <key>Version</key> <string>1.0.1</string> </dict> </dict> </plist>
After the successful flashing, I enabled TRIM using TRIM Enabler, and rebooted. I aslo tweaked the BIOS to give my processor 3.8 GHz.
I decided to go two for two.
I genuinely thought it was a fluke. But no, after several log-outs and log-ins, it’s all good. Of course, I could get logged out again in the near future and find I’ve been blocked. But the new MAC hacked information seems to be holding true. Apple is letting me onto its servers. I can Facetime. I can iMessage.
The world is wonderful again and filled with puppy dogs.
So far, everything seems great. I can reboot. I can use the Startup Disc to tell the hack which disc to start from.
And while they’re not the fastest I’ve had, my Geekbench 3 test scores are okay too.
For me, my machine has to be speedy at bringing data in and out. It doesn’t necessarily have to be super-fast in terms of frame rate.
Later this year, I’ll probably add a new graphics card to take advantage of the new generation of GPUs to decrease FCPX render times. But for now? I’m darned happy thank you very much. Sleep and speedstep love me, and with Thunderbolt natively supported too, I’m happy.
[EDIT: Update for sound]
In order to get native sound working, I found the answer in this thread: [SUCCESS] [GA-Z77X-UP5-TH] Yosemite with Clover
I just installed the Multibeast 6.1.0 withoutDSDT 989 driver and it works perfectly. I had tried HDA audio, but that’s really not working according to spec. So this one post-update install is the way to get it to work. Given that Apple updates HDA with most system updates, I’m going to keep this version around in case I need it in the future. I think I will…
• Thunderbolt works great, but isn’t hot-swappable. Our power here isn’t very reliable, and it’s browned out a few times. To get the Thunderbolt working after a brownout, I have to hold down F12 or DEL on boot, and go to the BIOS screen before restarting the computer. I think it clears the Thunderbolt chip or possibly the thunderbolt in the peripherals that have become confused by the power cut.
•USB 2 and 3 are working, but not all the USB 2 ports seem to recognise USB 2 devices. I need to check that out. Since Kext-Dev-Mode is now turned on, I think I may just add a post-install USB fix from Multibeast.
•Bluetooth is a PITA sometimes, but I think that’s down to the dongle rather than anything else. I’ll probably replace it some day.
• Anyone who looked at the list up top probably thinks the keyboard was total overkill. But it isn’t. I spend my whole work day writing or editing video/audio. The Tactile Pro keyboard is the closest modern equivalent to the Apple Extended Keyboard II from the early 90s. It rocks my world.
•Don’t even bother using the included PCI Bluetooth/Wifi card with this motherboard. It’s pointless.
•When you have a kick-ass cooling system that’s air-based, you’ll get a lot of crap in the case, especially if you have laminate flooring and dogs. Make time to clean your machine regularly.
•After the first boot, Ozmosis will happily boot Apple RAID volumes, as long as you tell it to from System Preferences or the Ozmosis bootloader screen. I’m keeping my Yosemite install backed up to a single non-RAID volume too, in case of emergency. You also can’t create a recovery partition on RAID, but I’m sure you already knew that.
•When creating your Ozmosis-enabled BIOS, take your time. Double, triple check everything. And keep everything in one place on a dedicated USB stick. (You can even use that to flash from).
EDIT: RAINING ON MY PARADE
So I just looked over in the iMessage fix thread, and it seems others may have suddenly got iMessage working again. So. Maybe it’s not my awesome hack skills. But I can tell you iMessage wasn’t working until I refreshed my BIOS with a new SMBIOS set of goodness.