How to control fan speed & noise on the mac pro

How to control fan speed & noise on the mac pro

Did you know there were actually 5 different fans inside a Mac Pro (early 2009 version)? They are named Intake, Exhaust, BoostA, PCI and Power Supply! By default, all of them turn pretty slowly; in the 600 to 850 rpm range! Which makes the whole thing pretty silent… yet… anoying because of the complexity of the sound (yes, it’s 5 different spining motor sounds combined, not to mention the hard drive spinning!)

You can monitor that with iStat menus – which is very cool for monitoring a lot of things, except voltages & power consumption which do not seem to work, at least on the Mac pro 2009.

Now my problem is I’d like all these fans to run faster! Yes, faster! Not because I want some extra fan noise, but because I believe Uncle Steve pushed it too far when he asked his engineers to reduce the fan noise! I wouldn’t mind the noise to be a little bit higher pitched than it currently is.

I first tried FanControl from Lobotomo Software. BEWARE: it’s a pain to uninstall (unsinstall instrutions on their page). Because it’s designed for the macbook pro (yes, the laptop), it only controls 2 of the 5 fans and the minimum speed it allows is 1000 rpms. Up from 600 rpm, that is too much! I wish I could run every fan at 850 rpm!

Then I found smcFanControl from eidac. That one has the advantage of allowing settings for all 5 fans on the mac pro. However, again two of them cannot be set lower than 1000 rpm. Worse: it doesn’t actually do anything on the mac pro. It probably works on other apple computers but on the mac pro 2009 it has absolutely no effect on fan speed. :’(

From what I undrestand the fans are controlled by a chip called “SMC” as in “System Management Controller” and apple doesn’t give you much control over it, apart from a clunky procedure to reset it! Note: resetting the SMC allowed me to get back to original rpms for all fans after FanControl had messed them up. Resetting teh SMC also seems to have reduced the tempearture of the air mesured at the exhaust – at equivalent fan speeds and system load (that is: idle!). Strange…

If any of you knows a way to effectively control fan speed on the mac pro, please let me know.

I’d be up for some watercooling too :)

How do I sync my macs?

How do I sync my macs?

If you have multiple macs (and an iPhone), is a must have, of course, but it only syncs so much… basically:

  • Address book
  • Calendar
  • Mail (but I’m using IMAP anyways)
  • Safari bookmarks
  • System preferences does not auto-sync:

  • All kinds of documents
  • Application settings & preferences
  • iPhoto library
  • iTunes library
  • VMware virtual machines
  • Firefox bookmarks

For merging all kinds of bookmarks I use Foxmarks. However for the rest, I’m pretty much down to manual sync every time I leave for a trip where I have to move all mods over to the laptop and then back to the desktop when I get back. When synchronizing the entire home folder there are actually a lot of files that need to be left out or you’ll just break apps on the other computer (erase serial numbers, etc.). So it requires a lot of manual supervision.

It feels like an entire wasted day every time. (At least I’m doing some packing/unpacking during large file copies, but still…)

Most sync tools are too stupid to handle exceptions nicely. The only way synching home folders could actually work over time in my opinion would be for the sync toll to start by asking you for each subfolder what should be done: Ignore, Sync, Sync with curent contents, Sync with future contents. Then at each subsequent sync, any new found folder should trigger the question again, unless it was already included in a “Sync with future subfolders” parent.

Some folder would also require a “Sync as a whole” function, where contents from both sides should never end up mixed as a result of a merge (I am thinking about iPhoto here).

Still looking for something smart enough…

Beyond the software issue I think I need to buy a Firewire 800 cable in order to transfer files faster direcly from one mac to another. Believe it or not but file transfers over Gigabit Ethernet remain pathetically slow… like 14 MB/s which is roughly only 0.14 Gigabits/second.

Rented movies on iTunes come with 5.1 surrond sound

Rented movies on iTunes come with 5.1 surrond sound

Tonight, for the first time, I rented a movie on iTunes…

And I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised by the fact the movie came with 2 soundtracks: Stereo & “Surrond".

Well, “surround” turns out to be AC3 Dobly Digital 5.1  and it does work on the Mac Mini too! It goes straight to your optical out.

Awesome! I’m gonna be doing some more of that renting :p

PS: Does your average downloaded AVI have surround sound? (I doubt it… ;>)

How to open a Mac OS X sparsebundle when it shows up as a regular folder

What do you do if you have, say, an encrypted sparsebundle and some day you try to open it and you discover it shows up as a plain folder in the Finder instead as a bundle icon?

Double clicking will just open the folder and show you the bands that make up the bundle.

So I don’t know how you fix the issue in the Finder but I know how you mount the sparsebundle and access the files: just open a Terminal window and type this:


hdid "/path/to/bundle/name_of_bundle.sparsebundle/"

Then you’ll have your virtual drive mounted on teh desktop, and if need be you can just copy them to a new sparsebundle.

Just ordered my Mac Pro 2009

Just ordered my Mac Pro 2009
Just ordered my Mac Pro 2009

I finally ordered the Mac Pro that will kick the last “standing” PC out of this place :D

I feel lighter already :))

Switching & Software

This is going to be my main/development machine. The PC I had for this since 2006 is actually still good from a hardware standpoint… the problem is with the software.

Windows to begin with. Everything has been said about Vista already. XP feels limited by now and I don’t believe in Windows 7.  Also, it’s about software that isn’t available for Windows at all, like Things.

Of course there’s also Windows software that doesn’t work on Mac OS X. Nusphere PhpED for example. But for these cases there’s VMware Fusion! Plus, there’s so much more you can do with virtual machines once you start to get the feel of it…

My specs… and why :)

Now, even though it’s about my main work machine and a business expense (which basically cuts the price in half due to zero taxation), I tried to stay reasonable… Yet I feel like it’s Christmas already ;)

  • Quad Core 2.66 GHz – Actually, I’m a bit concerned about fan noise levels with higher speeds or with 8 cores :p
  • 8 GB of RAM in order to run several VMware virtual machines at once. Also, I know from experience that as soon as you’re out of RAM, performance goes down the tubes (RAM is much more important than processor speed).
  • 1 TB 7200 rpm drive – Staying away from RAID for now because let’s face it… I don’t crunch that much data and the occasional video editing I do is not HD (errr… yet :p)
  • 2x NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB graphic cards to run my 3 displays. Being able to connect 3 displays was my main reason for going Mac Pro instead of high-end iMac. There’s three reasons why I keep my existing 2006 Sony monitors:
    • They work just fine and there is no software update issue
    • They have incomparable color rendering compared to 95% of other displays on the market
    • Apple may have tempted me to buy bigger and nicely designed screens but I just hate the glossy glass with a passion. Sure they look better when they’re off. But when you try to work on them you always have window (real world windows) or lamp (real world lamps, not linux-apache-yada-yada) reflections somewhere.

  • and of course: Upgrade to Snow Leopard included for just 10€ S&H :p

Ideally I would have moved my ATI graphics cards from the PC to the Mac, but I was just easier to order new ones:

  • First you cannot order a Mac with zero graphics cards and bring your own. I’m not very happy about that but I understand why Apple would only ship machines that can work right out of the box.
  • Once you have one, it’s pretty cheap to buy the second matching one.
  • I’m not sure the old ATIs have drivers for the mac…
  • … and finally those ATI cards were the noisiest components of the PC. I hope Moore’s law will contribute to giving me quieter cards for the same thoughput ;)

OK now in between assembling, shipping and getting the delivery guy not to show up at 8 a.m. (like they always do) it’s probably going to take almost 2 weeks… during which I expect to wear the current PC down to it’s bones… and release b2evolution 3.x stable too!

Back to work!