Wednesday, March 22

Bye Bye Mac Pro – Hello 5k

Sooner or later it’s time to say goodbye to old friends. This is about my good old 2007 Mac Pro. It has served me incredibly well for over seven years. It only needed two upgrades during that time: one to bring the original 4GB RAM up to 8GB and the other one being the replacement of the spinning root disk with an (albeit smaller) SSD.

Extending The Life Span
When I did them, both of these upgrades have extended the Mac Pro’s life span by at least a couple of years. And what great years those were! I could throw pretty much anything at this 4-core beast. It would chug along rendering video while at the same time downloading files from an FTP server, checking integrity of an external disk, backing up its root drive to Time Machine and recording a podcast. Plus surfing the web would still be buttery smooth with all that going on in the background.
I love this machine! The hardware is amazing, the four drive bays that are accessible without needing any tools, the PCI slots, the cheese grater design. And during all those years, it only required emergency maintenance once: the power supply died. Oh well, things happen, it was fixed within a couple of days. That’s what an extended warranty and an external SuperDuper backup are for. I booted from the backup on my laptop and continued working.
Even the handles on top are great. Not that I had to move it around a lot, but when I did, those handles made all the difference.
Of course, the tower form factor is huge in size compared to today’s computers. And after seven years, my friend has slowly begun to show its age. I never bothered to upgrade it to USB 3, which I could’ve done using a PCI card. And I never got Thunderbolt for it.
I treat my desktops different than my mobile devices. Those I change every two to four years. With my desktop systems I wait until they really show their age. At one point I start saving for a new one. And then I wait…
Stuck With USB2
So here I am, with USB 2 and FireWire 800. The internal SSD is 256 GB in size, which at the time when I bought it was expensive enough that I didn’t want to go for the bigger option. This was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I have spinning disks in the remaining drive bays where I keep most of the data.
But the system is bursting at its seams and for the last few years, the question was always: do I keep investing in this old system or will I wait until something brand new comes out that I’m willing to afford? And the point when I started wondering about this was also the point when I opened a new budget category in YNAB (“You need a budget”. Unrelated side note: you should try it, ping me for a discount code) called “New computer” that I then started to pay into whatever I would’ve otherwise spent to upgrade the old computer.
Stuck On 10.7.5
What helped with that decision was the fact that the 2007 Mac Pro is stuck with Mac OS X 10.7.5 Lion. Some software won’t run on it because of that. Also a few new OS features. No iCloud drive, no Handoff, no Continuity, no other fancy stuff that I’ve come to like on my 2012 MacBook Air. It won’t upgrade beyond Lion without using nasty tricks that I’m not willing to dive into, it’s after all the big work horse that I have to be able to depend on. And to be honest, while initially I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t continue upgrading, at this point I realise that the new features in the new OS versions would have made it even more creaky and slow.
So yes, I did something that’s very much out of style these days: I started to save. You should really try it, it’s awesome.
And I waited for a new Mac Pro. And waited.
Too Expensive
When the new “little black cylinder” Mac Pro came out I was intrigued and devastated at the same time. I wanted a Mac Pro, but I didn’t have the budget to buy that one at over $6000 at the configuration that I would’ve liked, plus a 4k display that would have probably set me back about another $2000 — and let’s be honest, anything below 4k at this point wouldn’t really make sense with what I do — plus external Thunderbolt storage.
So I clenched my teeth and waited again, with the 2007 Mac Pro getting more creaky by the day. I had decided to wait it out.
The Stars Align
And last week, finally the day came that I had been waiting for: Apple announced the new iMac 27″ with 5k display. That’s an incredible 14 megapixels. There are current digital cameras out there that don’t have as many pixels as this display. It also builds on top of the existing 27″ iMac internal design, so there are no design issues to be expected.
The stars had finally aligned! I have a need to fill, there is a system on the market that’s a perfect fit. And the best part: I have a budget that it will fit in.
Long story short: I ordered one. With the processor and graphics upgrade. And I splurged a bit on the SSD side too. By now it has made its way from Shanghai to Incheon, Korea to Almaty, Kazakhstan to Warsaw, Poland and UPS tells me it has just shown up in Colgne, Germany. They claim it’ll arrive on my doorstep by the end of Friday. And yes, I firmly believe that frequently hitting refresh on the UPS tracking page makes things move faster 😉
Next up: hell, now I’ll need a camera that can do 4k video…
PS: by the way, the old Mac Pro isn’t quite dead yet. At this point, I’m planning to make it the central scanning station and set it up as a guest computer at the Viewfinder Villa – care to drop by and say hello? Make an appointment 🙂
Photo by Paul Hudson