Last month I wrote about my Mac Pro problem. Short version: my 2006 Mac Pro tower couldn’t be upgraded to Mountain Lion, so I needed to get a new computer.
After weighing the various options, I decided to buy the new retina MacBook Pro for Ryan Nelson — who does all the graphics for us — and use his 2011 MacBook Pro as my main computer.
So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
I was already using a 2.5″ SSD as my main hard drive, so it was simple to swap that into the MacBook. Everything boots fine, and the machine feels as snappy as my tower did. With a new cable, I’ve been able to keep using my old 30″ Apple monitor. I’ve seen occasional striping and artifacts, but nothing terrible.
On the whole, it feels almost exactly like my old rig. I wouldn’t notice that anything had changed except that the MacBook Pro is completely silent — unless the fans need to spin up, which they do during podcasts, frustratingly. It’s odd having a laptop that operates only in clamshell mode, sitting on an milk crate under my desk. But not bad.
The biggest challenge has been figuring out what to do with the additional drives in my tower, which had all four bays filled, with drives for Projects, Media and Backup (which did all the Time Machine magic).
My first instinct was to just keep these drives in the Mac Pro and use it as a server. With FireWire 800, I was able to network to it and mount the drives. But it felt janky and unreliable, plus it meant a lot of power (and fan noise) to keep the Mac Pro running 24/7.
I wanted a dumb box that could just hold the bare drives. Not as a RAID array, but Just a Bunch of Disks (JBOD). So I tried a 4-bay unit by Icy Dock designed to do exactly that. It worked, but the attached fan was much louder than I wanted, even on its low setting. There was also no easy way to make it sleep, and the best connection for it was USB 2.
Ultimately, I returned the Icy Dock and opted for a conventional external drive, the 3TB My Book by WD. It’s not totally silent, but I don’t hear it. It has FireWire 800, with an extra port for daisy-chaining. And it happily sleeps when the computer does.
3TB is enough that I could set aside a partition for Time Machine and consolidate Projects and Media down to the drive. I back up both the internal SSD and the external drive to a toaster-style dock, the Newer Voyager Q, which has also proved handy for bringing in all the data from my old drives.
I’m still hoping for a real Mac Pro tower than can hold a bunch of drives. But for now, this setup seems fine.
Meanwhile, Ryan loves the retina MacBook Pro. He’s encountered oft-reported software inconsistencies — new apps are breathtakingly sharp, while old apps look blurry — but the art he’s been able to make has been terrific. You’ll be seeing the results very soon.