You can’t take the computer geek out of me
Posted on 26 May ’11 by Earl
Meandering Passage was started five and a half years ago with no real concept of being more then a personal journal and I certainly didn’t foresee it lasting as long as it has.
From personal musing, some of which are embarrassingly terrible, it became a technical blog focused upon Apple Macs, applications and networking. It was during that period some of my most popular “how-to” posts were written, one of which has attracted over 110,000 views to date and still draws several hundred new views a month.
Then came my reborn interest in photography, both making photos and posting them with written word here, and once again Meandering Passage changed course. If nothing else can be said, I had a premonition when I name this blog.
The computer-geek in me still lives. I like building and setting things up, making them work and then finding out how to make them work better.
My main home computer for a number of years has been a 2006-2008 Mac Pro 1,1 that I purchased refurbished. I’ve added memory and larger hard drives since but with greater demands of modern applications and my own desire for quick response times it’s grown a little tired, or at least I’ve grown a little impatient with it.
Of course I’ve looked at Apples latest offering of Mac Pros. I like a tower computer/workstation for home use because they have a longer life expectancy with upgradable, memory, disk space, video graphics and other cards. However, the price Mac Pros are selling for now is not for the faint of heart…nose bleed territory, as in high.
So I fell back to the concept of making what I had work better through focused upgrades and I’m happy to report the results have been excellent. I’m not going to go into how-to details as there are plenty of good instructions available via a Google search, but here’s the basics of my upgrades.
CPU Upgrade: I found a used match pair of Intel Xeon X5355 2.66GHz CPUs to replace my default Intel Xeon 5150 2.66Ghz CPUs. Yes, the new ones are the same speed as the old ones. The upgrade comes from the newer X5355 CPUs having 4 cores per chip vs. the 5150 CPUs 2 cores per chip. The X5355 also has a larger memory cache (8m vs 4m). This resulted in doubling the total CPU cores from 4 to 8 which translates to bit more processing power and speed.
Boot Drive: The price of Solid State Drives (SSD) are reaching a reasonable price and they are many, many times faster in reading data then standard hard drives. I installed a 2.5 inch, 240GB SSD drive as the primary boot drive. I used an OWC mounting kit allowing it to be placed in the unused 2nd CD bay of the Mac Pro leaving the four main drive bays unchanged. Wow…what a difference this made. Applications load many times quicker and they often operate faster once loaded — Adobe Photoshop takes about 10 seconds to completely load now. Installing and updating applications or the operating system is extremely quick as well.
User Home Directory(s): Even with no moving parts a SSD can “wear out.” Most of this wear occurs writing data to the device. I moved my Home Directory and it’s subdirectories (Library, Documents, Movies, Music, Pictures, etc.) to another drive (the old boot drive). It turned out to be a simple process and caused only a few minor and temporary mapping issues. Moving these folders put less wear/writing to the SSD and allows for a smaller SSD boot drive requirement which translates to a cost savings.
So with these changes and upgrades the old seems NEW — at less than a fifth the cost of a new Map Pro. A bonus of taking my old Mac Pro apart to do these upgrades is I got to blow out all the dust clusters and bunnies from those hidden points not reached by my regularly cleanings. The Mac Pro even runs a couple of degrees cooler now.
The best upgrade or change I made — the SSD boot drive for sure.