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TESTED: OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro with Photoshop

Excellent real world performance.

OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro as Photoshop Scratch Disk for diglloydHuge Benchmark

OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro as a scratch disk for Photoshop
OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro as a scratch disk for Photoshop

Procedure for Minimizing Risks with a Software Updater that Runs as 'root'

This follows:

Sea Change: Security is Your Job Also, the Writing is on the Wall.

Sony Pictures Hacked: Do You Really Want to Update your Camera Firmware with a Sony Updater that Runs as 'root'?

This discussion actually applies to any software updater, signed or not, for a camera or anything. Because as the Sony fiasco shows, private keys can be stolen.

Even a signed app or updater does not preclude a version modified to contain malware by a hacker who cracks a stolen private key file. And then signs the app so that it looks legitimate*.

  1. Erase a drive, and clone the system to it. (see also How to upgrade your system/boot drive).
  2. Disconnect all drives including the original system drive. Or at least dismount the volumes (sophisticated malware can still infect at the driver level though).
  3. Boot off the clone.
  4. Download the updater, update the camera. Of course, infected firmware could still infect the camera, but the only solution to that is never to update firmware. And even then, really good malware might infect modifiable firmare RAM. Well, it’s all odds.
  5. Disconnect the clone.
  6. Reconnect previous devices, boot up.
  7. Ideally, physically destroy the clone drive (e.g hammer and saw, so to speak). Alternately (and carrying some risk), connect the clone drive (do not boot off it!) then using Disk Utility, erase it, then wipe all blocks (one pass secure erase). SoftRAID 5 also has an even better “Wipe” function.

Obviously if the update is for software you want on your computer, you’re out of luck—in it goes.

You want that software on your system—or do you? It is why MPG installs only absolutely essential software and loathes vendors deliver crapware and automated agents of various kinds. More software means more updates, each of which is a potential vector for compromise.

* That is why it is so critical that a vendor immediately revoke a certificate if there is any suspicion of the private key having been obtained, encrypted or not.

For that matter, a computer containing the private key that signs software should ideally never be connected to the internet. Certainly the private key should not be on a laptop taken for travel. But given reality, the password for the private key should be very long and complex.

Sea Change: Security is Your Job Also, the Writing is on the Wall

With the recent and ongoing security breaches at Sony Pictures, a chilling new level of risk has emerged that is pummeling Sony*, but applies to any entity, including Apple and Google. No company has perfect security nor will it ever, period.

Sony Pictures Hacked: Do You Really Want to Update your Camera Firmware with a Sony Updater that Runs as 'root'?

Sony Firmware Updater: a Security Risk

* Reportedly, Sony has shut down filming because hackers have rendered its payment systems inoperable!

See also A concise history of recent Sony hacks (MPG takes no position on the material at that link).

Security is YOUR job too

This is a general discussion, and while specifics are used, the issues span a much larger space than detailed here.

This has always been true, but the risks have never been harder to understand or more concerning, nor has there every been more inter-connected. Then think bank and brokerage accounts, which in MPG’s view, should not be used via the web, though admittedly that is a huge hassle these days. A system compromise of any kind potentially delivers the juiciest prize: draining money from your account to a hacker somewhere.

Risk for which you by law have no choice and no control: MPG vehemently objects to electronic medical and tax records. For reasons that should be obvious given the Sony fiasco, e.g. the government is incompetent to protect those records from determined hackers. Edward Snowden showed that even our “spooks” with the most highly classified information and strictest procedures can be compromised.

MPG advises readers to disavow cameras that require software updaters or USB transfers or charging (USB also has exploits when connected to the computer):

Computer code that can turn almost any device that connects via USB into a cyber-attack platform has been shared online.

You camera and your computer

Sony and certain other camera vendors provide software updaters that run on the computer in order to upgrade camera firmware. Moreover, the Sony updater (and some other brands) must be run as 'root' (no security restrictions). A software updater that must be run on the computer with root access is a fundamentally flawed design; it is a potential “root kit” vector. Other vendors like Nikon and Canon provide downloadable firmware that the camera itself can load**.

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do that”.
Doctor: “Don’t do that!”.

It cannot be fixed except by doing it properly: no software updater at all. The camera itself should accept a firmware file, taking the computer out of the loop, at least in the sense of running 'root' capable software. Because either the updater or the firmware could compromise (hack into) the system, and the user would have no way to tell (well written malware is invisible).

The writing is on the wall. Meaning that all Sony software of any kind must now be suspect as potentially harboring malware, either now or some time down the line. There can be no assumption that it is “only Sony Pictures” or similar naive ostriches.

As this was written, it appears that Sony had not revoked the certificates for the compromised PFX (private key) files. If true, that a (non) act of gross negligence that in MPG’s view carries the prospect of awesome financial and legal liabilities, should the private keys be cracked and used for unsavory purposes.

** There are no zero risk approaches to updating camera firmware, but a binary file that the computer does not execute carries a much lower level of risk than having to run software, especially software that executes as “root”.

 

TESTED: OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro (first + only internal 2TB SSD for Mac Pro)

The only 2TB internal SSD for the 2023 Mac Pro offers great performance in a very high capacity.

Sustained Transfer Speed for Large Transfers

Transfer speed from 32K to 512MB

OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro: sustained transfer speed with large transfers
OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro: sustained transfer speed with large transfers
OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro
OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro: transfer speed from 32K to 512MB

OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

The highest capacity SSD (“flash drive”) that Apple sells for the 2013 Mac Pro is 1TB, and there is no upgrade option.

The OWC Aura SSD for Mac Pro addresses both issues with a nice kicker in being able to use the the original Apple flash drive as well.

  • User installable module in 1TB or 2TB capacity.
  • Original SSD installs in the Mercury Envoy Pro SSD enclosure (INCLUDED). This is a very nice sleek portable bus powered enclosure.

Performance results coming tomorrow here at MPG.

More information on the OWC Aura SSD for Mac Pro.

OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro
OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

OWC Announces Aura SSD as Industry’s First SSD Upgrade for the 2013 Mac Pro and Availability for Pre-Order

Custom-engineered DIY Solution with 1TB and 2TB Capacities Delivers Up to 8x the Capacity of Factory Shipping Models

Woodstock, IL – December 9, 2014 – Other World Computing (OWC), a leading zero emissions Mac and PC technology company, today announced new 1TB and 2TB Aura SSD upgrades for the 2013 Mac Pro. With the announcement, OWC becomes the first to offer an easy, cost-effective DIY solution for upgrading the capacity of the 2013 Mac Pro. Custom engineered specifically for the 2013 Mac Pro and fully tested for compatibility, speed and reliability, the new Aura SSD for Mac Pro delivers the capacity and performance Mac Pro users need for high-speed production workflows in audio, film, photo, and graphics.

OWC Aura SSD upgrades for the 2013 Mac Pro are available for pre-order starting at $899 for the 1TB model and $1449 for the 2TB model. The kits come with all of the tools necessary for a simplified DIY upgrade, including a ­comprehensive step-by-step installation video and ­24/7 award-winning, U.S.-based technical support.

Since the first Mac Pro in 2006, OWC has been a leading provider of award-winning computer upgrades and enhancement products for every Mac Pro model Apple has introduced. Building on this experience, OWC’s new Aura SSDs for Mac Pro 2013 feature:

Industry leading controller technologies for enhanced reliability
Engineered for Mac – no extra software or hacks needed
Designed and assembled in the USA
Transfer speeds up to 730 MB/s
3-year limited warranty

Bonus: Use your original SSD as a portable USB 3.0 drive

Included with the Aura SSD for Mac Pro kit, your original Mac Pro factory-installed SSD can be repurposed in OWC’s sleek, award-winning OWC Envoy Pro external enclosure to create a new, blazing-fast external USB 3.0 drive.
“Upgrading with an Aura SSD provides Mac Pro users the option to get the additional capacity they need now, rather than waiting for the next upgrade cycle,” said Larry O'Connor, Founder and CEO, OWC. “The solid performance and increased capacity means an enhanced experience for professional workflows.”

Pricing and Pre-Sale Offer for the New OWC Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro:

1.0TB Aura SSD $899
2.0TB Aura SSD $1479

The OWC Aura SSD for Mac Pro is now available for pre-orders with an estimated ship date of 2 to 3 weeks.

Learn more and order the OWC Aura SSD for Mac Pro today: https://eshop.macsales.com/preorder/OWC-Aura-SSD-for-Mac-Pro/

Visit the OWC Mac Selection Guide where you can easily find an OWC SSD for nearly every Apple Mac model.

About OWC
OWC is the manufacturer and upgrade provider of choice for Apple and PC enthusiasts and has been providing OWC Memory upgrades for Apple computers since the mid-90s. For the last decade, OWC has been building SSD upgrades specifically for Apple computers, winning multiple awards while also earning accolades for OWC External Drives and OWC Optical Drives. Widely recognized for its exemplary customer service, OWC provides extensive US-based technical support for Mac and PC users around the world. As a member of the Apple Developer Program, OWC also produces a catalog of upgrades and accessories, having served the Apple community worldwide since 1988.

OWC Mercury Electra 6G 960GB SSD: RAID-0 Striping vs RAID-5 vs RAID-4 vs RAID-10

No matter how tested, the OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G delivers outstanding results. As a RAID-qualified drive, it’s a terrific choice for the OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini.

OWC Mercury Electra 960GB — RAID-5, RAID-4, RAID-0, RAID 1+0

Write/read speed, plus hashing throughput with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 vs RAID-5
Write/read speed, plus hashing throughput with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 vs RAID-5

Site Maintenance this evening.

17:20 PST — This site might be erratic or unreachable for short periods tonight as some server upgrades are performed.

20:00 PST — server update finished, no known issues.

OWC Mercury Electra 6G 960GB SSD: Stunning Performance in Thunderbay Mini: Throughput, Photoshop, Incompressible Data Too

This performance represents best of breed and is even faster than the 240GB SSDs tested last month.

OWC Mercury Electra 6G 960GB SSD: Aggregate Throughput in OWC Thunderbay Mini

If you’re looking for the fastest, this is the ticket. The huge price drop to about $449 makes 4 X 1TB as a stripe or RAID-4 or RAID-5 highly attractive to any alternatives: that’s 3TB usable capacity (RAID-4 or RAID-5) or 4TB usable capacity (RAID-0).

OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD: aggregate throughput using Thunderbay Mini
OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD: aggregate throughput using Thunderbay Mini

Also impressive is the performance with incompressible data.

OWC Mercury Electra 6G 960GB SSD: Zeroes vs Incompressible

OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD: zeroes vs incompressible data
OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD: zeroes vs incompressible data

And for total real world, it’s as good as its Extreme Pro 6G sibling.

OWC Mercury Electra 6G 960GB SSD: diglloydHuge Photoshop Benchmark

OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD: zeroes vs incompressible data
OWC 960GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD: zeroes vs incompressible data

OWC Offers 1TB SSD for $449

A new SDD from OWC, the 1TB Mercury Electra™ 6G SSD for only $449.

With 7% over-provisioning, far more than many brands: flash RAM fails over time.

Note that the drive is qualified for RAID. MPG will be testing four of these in the Thunderbay 4 Mini.

Though not yet listed, the Electra 6G 1TB can be used in the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini enclosure using bus power (about $34). OWC will probably soon offer this combination directly.

OWC 1TB Mercury Electra™ 6G SSD
OWC 1TB Mercury Electra™ 6G SSD

Specs

  • Form Factor 2.5"Capacity
  • 960GB useable capacity
    Total Flash Memory Components – 1024GB
    64GB allocated to real-time data redundancy & error correction
  • Flash controller: Silicon Motion SM2246EN Series with 7% Over Provisioning firmware set
  • Interface: SATA 6Gb/s, 3Gb/s & 1.5Gb/s supported, SATA 3.0 Compliant
  • NAND: Tier 1 Asynchronous NAND Flash
  • RAID Support: Qualified for single drive and multiple drive production workstation RAID 0/1/10/0+1 and SPAN usage
  • SMART Attributes Standard
  • Native Command Queuing: up to 32 commands
  • AHCI Compliant: Yes
  • Format: Unformatted (Instructions on formatting here)

B&H Photo: Apple Mac Pro for $2599

See review of the 2013 Apple Mac Pro.

Apple Mac Pro Quad-Core $2599 (instant savings of $400). AppleCare at B&H is also discounted substantially over the Apple Store price. AppleCare for 2013 Mac Pro.

The CPU in the 2013 Mac Pro can be upgraded after the fact, and thus it is a solid investment to start with—many users will find 4 cores more than adequate.

View all Mac Pro models

Big Discounts on Storage

See also photography deals at B&H Photo.

Big discounts on storage including $250 - $300 off various Thunderbay 4.

See MPG’s view on the Thunderbay in Simplify Your Storage: Fast, Reliable, Expandable.

Various desktop hard drives are on sale.

Laptop drives

Got an older laptop? See Making an Old Dog of a Laptop Run Like a Young Puppy, Make Lightroom or Photoshop Fly.

Laptop users should have a bus-powered backup drive for travel at the least.

How can you beat a 750GB hybrid HD/SSD for only $54? But all the 2.5 inch drives are on sale.

More OWC Holiday deals

Adobe DreamWeaver CC 2014 Does Not Launch! How to Fix Preference Permissions

Installing and uninstalling Adobe DreamWeaver CC 2014 several times resulted in no luck getting the installed DreamWeaver Application to launch.

Symptom: double-click to launch results in a brief blink and then nothing (fractional second failure). No error message, never even gets near the startup scfeen.

All other Adobe apps including CC 2014 have been running just fine.

A tech support call to Adobe India was pretty much as expected, except one clue emerged: the app would launch if a new admin account were created and it was run in that account. Adobe then punted and had nothing to suggest except “call your IT department”. Which I did, since that is myself.

So I went hunting.

Root cause

Two Adobe folders were set to owner root and group wheel:

diglloydMP:Preferences lloyd$ pwd
/Users/lloyd/Library/Preferences diglloydMP:Preferences lloyd$ ls -ld Adobe "ExtendScript Toolkit" drwxrwxr-x+ 27 root wheel 918 Jan 22 2014 Adobe drwxrwxr-x+ 6 root wheel 204 Jan 31 2014 ExtendScript Toolkit

As can be seen permissions generally allowed world access but something must have been off on some subfolder such that DreamWeaver CC 2014 could not read or write some crucial file. Having just installed it, this is a little odd for an installer not to check its own folders. It’s also bad code (bug) to not report critical errors.

Why these folders had these permissions is unclear (I would never have done so). Perhaps a past Adobe installer bug. Such permissions can be quite nasty: owner root with executable bits set can compromise the entire system. But I did not investigate deeper; I just wanted to fix it.

To look for “nasties”, use this command (in bold); it might find a few things that are normally owned by root, but normal applications should generally never do so.

find . -uid root -print0 | xargs -0 ls -ld

Fixing owner/group/permissions

This fix is using Terminal (no other way to do it).

The # lines are comments; the rest are command line commands to run in Terminal. “lloyd” here is the account login name for the account in use.

# change to Preferences dir and see what permissions are there
cd ~/Library/Preferences
ls -ld Adobe "ExtendScript Toolkit"

# change owner to 'lloyd' and group to 'staff
sudo chown -R lloyd Adobe "ExtendScript Toolkit"
sudo chgrp -R staff Adobe "ExtendScript Toolkit"

# all permissions for owner, deny permissions to all others 
chmod -R 700 Adobe "ExtendScript Toolkit"

When done, permissions should look like this:

  diglloydMP:Preferences lloyd$ ls -ld Adobe "ExtendScript Toolkit"
  drwx------+ 29 lloyd  staff  986 Dec  1 12:08 Adobe
  drwx------+  6 lloyd  staff  204 Jan 31  2014 ExtendScript Toolkit

So all is well, right?

Not exactly. DW CC 2014 runs, but the intervals between rainbow beachball hangs averages 2 minutes. It is the biggest piece of crap MPG has ever used, beating only DW 5.5 for the title: MPG has used DW 5.5 for years; it is rife with bugs but can generally be used for reasonable periods of time until it crashes.

When the “Continue Trial?” dialog pops up, the world “trial” certainly takes on an appropriate meaning.

OWC Holiday Deals

See also photography deals at B&H Photo.

OWC Holiday deals

My favorite peripheral remains the OWC Thunderbay 4. The RAID-5 edition with bring-your-own-drives is just $557 and the base unit (no drives) is $449.

Fast 3TB hard drives for only $107. Preferred drive at MPG is the fast 5TB Toshiba for $199.

You can make an old dog laptop feel like a puppy: great deals on SSD including just $249 for a 480GB SSD.

Don’t forget an excellent USB3 hub and fast USB3 card reader.

Quality Products at Competitive Prices + Expert 24/7 Support. That's the OWC Difference.

CyberMonday Savings + Amazon Instant up to $50 off + Delivery from $1.49 or even Zero = +++. Current Amazon Instant up to $50 off ends after today.

Now 400+ ‘CyberMonday’ Featured.

Free Delivery within the USA on Memory and light orders $25 & up; most any order $79 & up within the contiguous 48 US States + International options from just $2.99!

RAID-0 vs RAID-4 or RAID-5: Does the CPU Usage Matter?

RAID-4 with SSDs in the Thunderbay Mini is quite impressive. MPG has updated the analysis to include RAID-5, RAID-4, and 3 and 4-drive RAID-0 stripes.

Real World Throughput for RAID-0 vs RAID-4 vs RAID-5

Write/read speed, plus hashing throughput with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 vs RAID-5
Write/read speed, plus hashing throughput with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 vs RAID-5

Heat Your House with Someone Else’s Computers

Cool stuff. Well, warm stuff!

Heat Your House with Someone Else's Computers

Cloud&Heat is a German company that has started offering “distributed cloud heaters,” which are big insulated metal cabinets that access your water tank and are crammed with hard drives, controller boards, and some fans.

The idea is that you’d buy and install one of these cabinets for about the same cost as a conventional heating system, and hook it up to your ducting, water system, electricity (3 phase at 400v), and Internet (at least 50 Mbit/s).

Cloud&Heat pays for the Internet connection and the power required to keep it running, and you get as much warm air and hot water as the servers in the box can produce, free of charge, as it quietly performs cloud computing tasks.

A Pseudo-Security Trend: Password Reset and Locked Accounts

Last Friday, I was locked out of one of my email accounts by the provider because of “too many failed login attempts”.

None of which I made—it was someone trying to hack my account. I was told that this is a new “security feature”. But I have a good password, and I don’t want to be locked out of my account at any time.

In my case, I had to wait all weekend for a password reset, since this particular organization was closed on weekends. This pretty much makes this email provider useless for anything but trivial stuff; the account could be locked at any time.

What such security features really do is to play into the hands of hackers, allowing trivially easy denial of service attacks. Denial of service attacks are typically in the context of web sites (overwhelming a site), but can be applied to email or any kind of login account on a web site. For example:

  1. Dig up 100 million email addresses (many ways to do this).
  2. Fake login attempts N+1 times, where N is the cutoff for locking the account. Starting Friday night of course, so customer support staff are thinned out.
  3. Sit back and laugh as 100 million users find themselves locked out of their email, if only for a day or two.
  4. Repeat each day (hey, bot nets are cheap).

Variations include targeting specific providers. Web sites that lock accounts this way are in essence implementing denial of service support for hackers.

There are many other ways to approach this, other than this crude bludgeon. For starters, allowing the user to decline this behavior (perhaps requiring an especially strong password), an option to notify a user about activity, additional prompts if a login occurs after failures, two factor authentication including apps like Authy, etc.

Corollary — nuisance messsages from “password reset” dialogs

Apple provides an iForgot.apple.com site to reset a password. It’s an ongoing headache for me, since Apple kicks me over there if I type my password wrong just twice (which I do sometimes do if my hands are stiff and cold). Very annoying behavior. But 1Password eliminates that issue for me now. Except not in iTunes or the AppStore, where 1Password doesn’t apply. So it still gets me on a regular basis.

That is relatively minor. The bigger headache is the regular recept of this message below, which is some hacker-generated thing (not me). And sometimes this is followed or preceded by an Apple “account locked” email, similar to that discussed above. Ditto for my Apple Developer account, which generally locks me out every month or so.

Nuisance email

2-factor authentication

Apple has a 2-step authentication approach for purchases, but it’s unclear if it has been applied the idea to the above nuisance factors. Now enabled, MPG will soon see.

Apple 2-step verification security
Apple 2-step verification security enabled

OS X Yosemite Update (10.1): Regularly Deletes the AppleMail VIP List

Last week I wrote that OS X Yosemite had deleted my Apple Mail VIP list AGAIN.

Well, it’s now gone yet again showing that Apple Mail in Yosemite deletes the VIP for whatever reason, and that it’s not an update issue but a general bug.

The deletion renders the feature useless, because the list just disappears for no apparent reason.

UPDATE 2 days later: deleted again. Rampant Apple Core Rot, just one data point of many.

RAID-0 vs RAID-4 or RAID-5: Does the CPU Usage Matter?

One reader expressed concern that the CPU usage required for parity calculations during writes would chew up too much CPU power. This concern is put to rest in this analysis:

CPU Usage for RAID-0 vs RAID-4 or RAID -5

Throughput of hashing speed with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 SSDs
Throughput of hashing speed with IntegrityChecker, RAID-0 vs RAID-4 SSDs
~130% CPU Usage for RAID-4 or RAID-5 during intensive write  (during disktester fill-volume test)
~130% CPU Usage for RAID-4 or RAID-5 during intensive write
(during disktester fill-volume test)

RAID-5 vs RAID-4: Which is Faster?

RAID-4 is striping with a dedicated parity drive
RAID-5 is striping with distributed parity

Interesting finding in favor of RAID-4 for read speed.

RAID-5 vs RAID-4 with SSDs

OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, RAID-4 vs RAID-5 for varying transfer size
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, RAID-4 vs RAID-5 for varying transfer size

RAID: Performance vs Transfer Size

Stripe size is typically 64K, which means that the data is split across drives in 64K chunks. It could be 32K or 16K or 128K and so on; minor efficiencies can be had by choosing for specific types of access.

RAID-0 striping and RAID-5 striping with parity offer much higher performance than with a single drive under the right conditions.

Peak RAID performance is realized only when the I/O transfer size is substantially larger than stripe size, which allows the multiple drives in a RAID to operate in parallel (simultaneously). This is where the speed gains of RAID striping variants come from.

For example, with a stripe size of 64K, reading 256K of data allows 4 drives to each read 64K in parallel (assuming best-case alignment at 256K boundaries, but this is often not the case). Doubling that to 512K ensures higher efficiency, but even with 1MB transfers, peak performance is still only about 65% of peak peformance for RAID-0, as the graph shows.

Since many programs read/write in relatively small chunks, the full performance potential of RAID is often unrealized for real-world applications.

As a user, there is generally nothing you can do about this; it’s the application making the decision. For example, Photoshop uses ~ 1MB chunks for reading and writing its scratch disk, an anachronism that Adobe really ought to fix: observe on the graph below that 1MB I/O size yields much less than the peak performance. It is why a single very fast SSD can perform so well even relative to a RAID, see Thunderbay Mini with SSDs as a Photoshop Scratch Disk.

Shown below are two graphs, one for RAID-0 and one for RAID-5. Click through for article and then click the graphs for a much larger view.

Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-0 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)
Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-0 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)
Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-5 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)
Transfer speed vs transfer size , RAID-5 (SoftRAID 5.0.5)

Any Kind of RAID is Easy with SoftRAID

See also Software RAID Performance with SoftRAID 5 as well as recent tests of the OWC Thunderbay Mini using SoftRAID.

SoftRAID makes creating RAID easy: just select the drives, choose the desired total capacity, click—done. No need to think about partitioning or other nerd stuff.

See Initializing with New Drives page in my review of the OWC Thunderbay Mini for some examples.

If the drives are brand-new and thus never formatted, first select the drive(s) and then choose Disk => Initialize.

Shown below is how easy it is:

  1. Select the 4 drives, then Volume -=> New.
  2. Choose the type of RAID you’d like (RAID-5 is ideal with 4 drives), enter the desired volume size (this is the way to make more than one volume without having to think about partitioning).
  3. Cick Create.
Creating a RAID-5 volume in SoftRAID 5
Creating a RAID-5 volume in SoftRAID 5

diglloydTools Updated to version 2.2.9

diglloydTools

diglloydTools has been updated to version 2.2.9. Download page.

Purchase diglloydTools.

  • Modified default transfer size for various commands to a larger value (128MB) which is more in line with the hyper fast SSDs available today.
  • Fixed bug in which reported MB/sec was too high when using double async buffers in fill-volume with very fast SSDs.
  • Removed verify option from read-files and fill-volume; this is properly handled by test-reliability, and verification causes certain measurement difficulties with very fast SSDs. The double async buffer case is now a very tight loop and shows more consistent MB/sec readings.
  • Fixed erroneous MB/sec and time in sequential testing (intermediate message during testing).
  • Standard deviation is now reported with some test results.

Some of the capabilities in diglloydTools

Aside from testing hard drive or SSD or RAID performance and reliability with DiskTester, data integrity with IntegrityChecker is a must-have workflow tool for anyone with important data:

diglloydTools graphing template
diglloydTools graphing template

Email Notifications for Site Updates

An email notification service is in place for subscribers at diglloyd.com . At this time the list is only for subscribers (that includes diglloydTools).

Email updates are for diglloyd.com and/or MacPerformanceGuide.com and/or WindInMyFace.com. Each site gets its own email, so if all three sites change on any given day, you’d receive three emails, one per site (weekly choice would be one per week).

Specify: diglloyd and/or mac and/or wind. Details...

The list is opt-in, meaning that unless you ask to be put onto the list, you will not get email notifications of site updates. You can choose daily or weekly updates.

What an Impaired SSD Looks Like

This SSD below had seen some use. The red line for writes was its performance as I began testing it: very poor performance dropping to a stunningly low 30 MB/sec.

The orange line is following DiskTester recondition (DiskTester is part of diglloydTools).

Some SSDs benefit, and some do not but at least in this case, performance has held up since, at about 6X the speed of the impaired starting behavior.

Generally speaking, read speeds are unaffected and remain high, but it is write speeds that suffer when an SSD is ailing. And in general, one should be cautious about making regular backups when an SSD starts to behave like this.

Click for large graph. The graph shows writing and reading the entire drive capacity (MB/sec, 1000 large files to fill), before and after recondition.

Before and after DiskTester recondition on impaired SSD
Before and after DiskTester recondition on impaired SSD

SoftRAID 5.0.5 Released

See also Software RAID Performance with SoftRAID 5 as well as recent tests of the OWC Thunderbay Mini using SoftRAID.

A few of the release notes in SoftRAID 5.0.5 are interesting:

  • Your Mac may hang at shutdown if your remove a SoftRAID disk while your Mac is running. This bug only occurs if the disk is connected via SATA (or SATA over Thunderbolt) and you are running Mac OS X 10.9 or 10.10. We have tracked it down to a problem with the Apple SATA driver and are currently working with Apple engineers on a fix.
  • RAID volumes on USB disks are unreliable. We believe this is due to bugs in Apple USB driver and are currently working with Apple engineers on a fix.
  • There is an incompatibility between VMWare Fusion and SoftRAID volumes. We are currently investigating this
  • The SoftRAID driver now logs any illegal requests it receives for SoftRAID volumes. Log entries are written to the softraid.log file. This logging was added to help investigate bugs in other applications.!
  • Added code to detect modification of the SoftRAID application and driver. Users who run MacKeeper were unable to mount SoftRAID volumes when running Yosemite, Mac OS X 10.10. This was the result of MacKeeper modifying the code in the SoftRAID application and driver. This version of SoftRAID detects these modifications and tells !the user to download a new copy of SoftRAID.

MPG: Stick to Thunderbolt for RAID (or internal drives or SATA or miniSAS on older Macs).

OS X Yosemite Finder File Copy: Data Loss

MPG has never trusted Finder file copy across a network, having observed failures to copy changed items, as well as total-death system lockups more than once in past OS X releases.

Today I observed the OS X Finder copy a file to my other machine, delivering a zero-byte result after a short pause: no report of error and the normal sound played at the end of the copy. In short, total data loss (of the copy) with no warning whatsoever. Fortunately I had the original but had a move been done (by holding down the command key while dragging), the file would have been lost.

Such inexcusable bugs* are a good reason to use IntegrityChecker after a network copy operation, or after any important data transfer.

This was using WiFi; MPG normally uses only gigabit ethernet, but the MBP is short one Thunderbolt port while testing, until the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock arrives.

* Network failures with WiFi are not uncommon; any file copying algorithm has to assume that a failure could occur, and report the error!

OWC ThunderBay Mini Performance with Four SSDs

Thunderbay Mini sales page at OWC.

Configured with 4 SSDs, the OWC Thunderbay Mini outruns even the lightning-fast 1TB SSD in the MacBook Pro Retina.

Thunderbay Mini with SSDs as a Photoshop Scratch Disk

OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: Photoshop scratch disk vs MacBook Pro Retina 1TB internal SSD
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: Photoshop scratch disk vs MacBook Pro Retina 1TB internal SSD

OWC ThunderBay Mini Performance with Four SSDs

Thunderbay Mini sales page at OWC.

The OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini is a very fast little box with four SSDs.

OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, aggregate throughput
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, aggregate throughput
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, transfer speed vs transfer size
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, transfer speed vs transfer size
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, large transfers with RAID-0, RAID-5, RAID 1+0
OWC Thunderbay Mini performance: 4 OWC 6G SSDs, large transfers with RAID-0, RAID-5, RAID 1+0

OS X Yosemite: Problems From “system cleanup” Software

MPG has a strong distaste for “system cleanup” software. Here’s a specific case where problems occur, but it is not the only ill that can result. Avoid such “system maintainance” or similar software.

When Apple started shipping Yosemite, we started getting complaints from customers that they couldn't use SoftRAID volumes. We would ask them to reinstall the SoftRAID driver and use other similar tricks, but still the volumes would not mount. After a couple of days of investigation, we discovered that the SoftRAID driver was getting modified.

Yosemite increases the security of Mac OS X by always checking the validity of drivers, any drivers which have been modified will not load. The question was how was our driver getting modified.

We went back to our users and asked them what utility software they had installed. Out of the 6 users who first encountered this problem, all 6 had MacKeeper installed. We asked them to uninstall MacKeeper and download a fresh copy of SoftRAID from our web site. Then we asked them to reinstall the driver using the newly downloaded copy of SoftRAID. After that, all of them were able to mount their SoftRAID volumes.

MPG: MacKeeper was deleting the 32-bit portion of the binary to save space. But that portion is also digitally signed. So the signature check fails, and OS X Yosemite refuses to load the kext.

Any software messing with things like kernel extensions should be taken out to the woodshed. Keep your system lean and clean to avoid problems: install only the things that are absolutely essential.

OS X Yosemite: Update the SoftRAID Driver

MPG thinks that Apple code quality and quality assurance in OS X are both in a downtrend (and apparently accelerating), but it’s particularly worrisome when software is whacked at the kext level.

According to Tim Standing of SoftRAID, OS Yosemite installation corrupts SoftRAID by writing over a more current driver (version 5.0.3 is written over version 5.0.4, a bug report has been filed). No harm done, but run the SoftRAID app to update the driver back to the most recent version.

Once our customers started upgrading to the latest version of Yosemite, 10.10.1, some of them started having problems. Their SoftRAID volumes would no longer appear on the desktop. We started investigating this after today.

After repeating the upgrade process from 10.10 to 10.10.1 ten times in our lab, we found that Apple's update software modifies the SoftRAID driver about half the time. Once the SoftRAID driver gets modified, the Yosemite system software will no longer load it. This leaves customers wondering what went wrong.

The solution is to use the SoftRAID application to reinstall the SoftRAID driver.

Run SoftRAID.app to update the driver after OS X Yosemite installation

OS X Yosemite: TRIM

MPG spoke with driver expert Tim Standing of SoftRAID today about TRIM for SSDs and OS X Yosemite, to better understand the issue.

Online reports are that OS X Yosemite no longer supports TRIM for non-Apple SSDs. This is true.

Furthermore, use of a tool that enables TRIM on an SSD causes the system to become non-bootable, because Yosemite sees that a key 'kext' has been modified.

Users who have not upgraded to Yosemite that have used a TRIM-enable tool should be aware of this, and revert before upgrading to Yosemite.

MPG has not recommended SSDs that need TRIM for various reasons, but this is the latest development that really makes such SSDs unpalatable. OWC SSDs do not need TRIM, and MPG has been running them for years, thus avoiding the issue entirely.

Checking whether TRIM is enabled

Choose Apple menu => About This Mac => System Report

Check for TRIM enabled: About This Mac => System Report
Check for TRIM enabled: About This Mac => System Report

4K Televisions Plummet in Price

My jaw dropped when I some of the discounts being offered on 4K televisions.

The iMac 5K is pretty darn nice for its screen, but the iMac 5K is $2500, and not a TV and doesn’t work for high quality streaming from Netflix or Amazon. Yet a 4K TV is stunning for cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and/or 4K streaming from Netflix.

Amazon also has 4K Sony TVs and 4K Samsung TVs at blowout prices.

For example, Sony XBR55X850B 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD for $1598.

OS X Yosemite: Disable WiFi if Using Gigabit Ethernet

Many users find WiFi convenient (of course!). And it’s essential for iPhone and iPad and many televisions (streaming), etc.

But for computers, MPG strongly recommends gigabit ethernet instead of WiFi. WiFi at its best is inferior to gigabit ethernet, flaky from various types of interference, less secure, and comes with high latency that results in (for example) excruciatingly slow file copies, particularly for many small files.

Multiple computers on gigabit ethernet reno problem; wire them into a good WiFi router with multiple gigabit ethernet ports, and add an inexpensive ethernet switch for more ports.

Mark A writes:

Under Mavericks, I had ethernet priority over WiFi and Yosemite reset it without warning to favor WiFi.

So I was experiencing issues while the cable was plugged in and took me a while to realize the traffic wasn't wired as I'd set it and I didn't think to double check after an O/S upgrade.

MPG: Mark is correct, which I have confirmed by turning on WiFi, observing poor speeds rebooting, and continuing to observe poor speeds: WiFi is taking precedence over gigabit ethernet; it’s about 10X slower to load a graphics-intensive web page.

If you’re short on Thunderbolt ports (for a Thunderbolt to ethernet adapter), this is a good reason to get the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock.

Disable WiFi when using Ethernet
Disable WiFi when using Ethernet

Yosemite

Yosemite is a point of confusion.

It’s one of my favorite haunts as a photographer: every email I get with “Yosemite” in the subject makes me think of the place, not the OS.

Glacial Blue, Winter’s Icy Hint  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ f/1.4
Glacial Blue, Winter’s Icy Hint
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ f/1.4

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock with 5 USB3 Ports (2 High Power), Gigabit Ethernet, Audio, HDMI, Daisy-Chainable

Especially for iMac and laptop and MacMini users (limited ports), the new OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock at $249 looks terrific.

MPG expects to have one for review: it’s been a nuisance having to plug and unplug gigabit ethernet to test certain things.

More info on the OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Laptop users will find one especially useful for a home docking station because all these ports are gained, and yet there are still two free Thunderbolt 2 ports. For example:

Ports on a Laptop
  Laptop alone With Thunderbolt 2 Dock
USB 3 ports 2 7
USB 3 high power ports 2 of 2 4 of 7
Thunderbolt 2 ports 2 2
Firewire with Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter
(uses Thunderbolt port)
1
Gigabit ethernet with Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter
(uses Thunderbolt port)
1
HDMI possible with adapter
(uses Thunderbolt port)
1
Sound varies additional sound in and out
Digital camera card reader SDXC reader built-in on some models Plusin a fast USB3 card reader
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, specifications

OS X Yosemite Deletes Java / JDK, but Photoshop Needs It

OS X Yosemite deletes an installed java, which MPG uses for writing server code and various other tasks. Not a very nice behavior at all.

The problem is, some parts of Photoshop (some types of scripting) require java.

JDK 1.6 for OS X (works OK on 10.10)

Java 8 for OS X 10.10

See also Information and system requirements for installing and using Oracle Java on Mac OS X and How can I find which version of Java is installed without running an applet in Windows or Mac?.

The whole thing is a mess in terms of transition: JDK 1.6 goes into the right directories and shows up on the command line but JDK 1.8 does not, and does not have the familiar directory structure, breaking scripts and builds (no doubt solvable but very confusing and annoying). MPG needs 1.6 for development purposes so it works out for now. Photoshop users should be fine either way.

Other tips:

  • Disable java in web browsers (strongly recommended).
  • Do NOT disable javascript in web browsers (entirely different thing from java).

OS X Yosemite Update (10.1): Destroys Apple Mail VIP List Again

Last week I wrote that OS X Yosemite had deleted my Apple Mail VIP list, a finding confirmed by others.

Today’s 10.1 update nuked it again.

And 10.1 does not fix the severe file open dialog performance issues.

On the plus side, Apple did not delete my JVM this time. At least there is one thing that did not go wrong.

Sean S writes:

Mavericks also deleted my Stars List - however, there is a small heading above the Mailboxes and just below the toolbar that shows the word VIPs - clicking on that restored my VIP list on the side. Hope it works for you, tho’ too easy I suspect.

MPG: this small text button is grayed-out and inoperable on my system, indicating that there are no email addresses in the email VIP list.

To hazard a guess, I’d bet this is related to the Cloud (dust storm?) I don’t sync my Contacts to the Cloud and I don’t want to, but everyone at Apple is euphorically titillated with the platform lock-in potential of the cloud. But MPG considers it a general security menace.

OWC Announces ThunderBay Mini: 4-bay Enclosure for 2.5-inch Drives, Thunderbolt v2

See previous comments on the Thunderbay Mini. MPG expects to have both SSD and HDD versions of the Thunderbay Mini in this week for testing.

Thunderbay Mini sales page at OWC.

OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD
OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD

Our External of the Year Just Went Portable with the ThunderBay 4 Mini, Delivering Big Performance in a Small Footprint – Now up to 8TB with Sustained Speeds of up to 1,284MB/s!

Woodstock, IL – November 17, 2014 – Other World Computing (OWC®) http://www.macsales.com, a leading zero emissions Mac upgrade and storage technology company, announced today the release of the innovative ThunderBay 4 mini and ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition, which builds on the proven performance and flexibility of its second generation ThunderBay 4.

Big Performance. Small Footprint.
Easily transport your data between production environments with this portable, professional-grade Thunderbolt 2 RAID solution. Optimized for 2.5” drives, the ThunderBay 4 mini delivers outstanding performance and reliability for the most demanding applications, including workflows involving 4K, 2K, uncompressed HD, and multi-stream SD video. Expand production capabilities in industry-leading creative platforms like Final Cut X, Avid Pro Tools, and Adobe Lightroom.

Key Features:

• Four 2.5” drive bays, perfect for SSDs
• Breathtaking Thunderbolt 2 performance with sustained speeds of up to 1,284MB/s
• RAID-ready with up to 4TB of SSD storage (HDD up to 8TB)
• Near-silent operation
• SoftRAID 5 – first ever software RAID 5 for the Mac (available with ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition)
• Flexibility to combine multiple ThunderBays into a single massive RAID array
• Regimented multi-hour drive “burn-in” for ultimate reliability

Thinking Outside the Enclosure

OWC unlocks the incredible performance and flexibility of ThunderBay by pairing the drives with a robust software RAID solution.

Powered by the SoftRAID engine, ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition delivers advanced RAID modes, real-time health monitoring with email notifications, and best-in-class rebuild speeds.

Unlike traditional software RAID solutions, SoftRAID’s revolutionary volume optimization allows you to quickly configure your drive for specific workflows. Now you can experience the absolute best performance whether recording audio, editing 4K video, or creating a multimedia server.

“Our new ThunderBay 4 mini is perfect for mobile workflows involving demanding applications and large mission-critical files,” said Jen Soulé, OWC President. “The combination of RAID-ready capabilities and Thunderbolt 2 technology makes working with large 2K and 4K files easier, faster, and more flexible and affordable than ever before. Now users can get big performance in a small footprint – all in a portable, production-grade 4-Bay enclosure.”

The RAID 5 Advantage

Thunderbay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition is preconfigured in RAID 5 and supports RAID 0, 1, 4, 5, and 1+0 enabling you to achieve the optimal balance of storage, performance, and data-redundancy your workflow demands. With RAID 5, the four drives inside ThunderBay 4 mini are merged for increased capacity and tremendous performance gains over a single drive.

Special redundancy data, called “parity information,” is also stored across the drives, allowing your data to remain completely safe so you can maintain your mission-critical workflows worry-free.

Burn in

Each ThunderBay 4 mini undergoes OWC’s regimented multi-hour drive “burn-in” to ensure you experience the amazing performance of your drive right out of the box.

Includes:
- ThunderBay 4 mini external drive
- 1 meter, certified, Thunderbolt cable and set of keys for front panel lock
- User guide and utility software bundle (Mac and PC)

Pricing and Availability:

OWC’s ThunderBay 4 mini and ThunderBay 4 mini RAID 5 Edition are available for immediate ordering in the following configurations:

OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD
OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD

SSDs Are Not Created Equal

MPG regularly receives emails of “what about SSD Brand X”, often because specifications of some new variant impressed, or the price is $10 lower, or whatever. This is not the way any professional or serious user looking for reliable long-term use should select gear. It is why MPG recommends only gear tested and shown to work reliably here at MPG. Top recommendations go to gear that has shown solid service under heavy duty.

Many users presume an SSD is an SSD, assuming that all SSDs are pretty much the same. Which they sort of are, for light duty use and where performance over time doesn’t matter much.

But brands vary in media life management and more over provisioning. For example, a 250GB SSD has 256GB of flash memory, and a 240GB SSD has 256GB of flash memory. Think about that— one SSD has 6GB of spare flash, and another has 16GB of spare flash. And flash memory blocks fail over time. Connect the dots.

All SSDs can fail for various reasons. All one can do is play the odds. And if the ultimate in reliability is needed, enterprise-grade SSDs are the (pricey) ticket, though overkill for most all users.

Shown below is one brand that in a few days of testing showed a drop in media life from 39% to 31%, and had some severe write speed problems also (disktester recondition made a *huge* improvement). Note also that “hours of use” is a modest 191 hours.

Screen shot from SoftRAID 5.

Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD
Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD

After only 14 hours more steady usage (disktester test-reliability), look what has happened to the media life: it has declined from 31% to 28%, literally overnight.

Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD
Rapid loss of media life in common-brand SSD

Get a Mac Pro Workhorse, Cheap

Half the price of a bare bones 2013 Mac Pro, the 2009 Mac Pro remains a solid workhorse.

Upgrade the CPU or add up to four internal hard drives in the drives bays or add up to three PCIe cards.

2.93 GHz Mac Pro for $1499

6-core 3.33 GHz Mac Pro from $1159 <==== 6 cores at 3.33 GHz

Other used Macs

Mac Pro workhorse system
Mac Pro workhorse system

OWC Offers Thunderbay Mini, Thunderbolt v2 Enclosure for 2.5-Inch SSDs or Hard Drives (4 bays)

The OWC Thunderbay 4 has become MPG’s all time favorite external storage.

OWC is now offering the Thunderbay Mini, a 4-bay enclosure for 2.5-inch drives (SSDs or hard drives). The smaller unit is attractive for portability and/or for installing solid state drives (SSDs) in a compact form factor. MPG will have SSD and HDD units for testing soon.

For example, a 4TB OWC Thunderbay Mini, using 4 X 1TB SSDs. While there are Thunderbolt 2 external SSDs that can max-out the bus, the 4TB capacity with a RAID-5 option (3TB usable capacity in RAID 5) adds fault tolerance to speed, a big plus for those who want to minimize the risks of any drive failure for critical work. But if needs change, one can switch at will, since the RAID is software RAID-5.

Or it can be run for maximum speed and capacity as RAID-0 stripe (4TB capacity) or a mirrored solution, or individual drives/volumes—see SoftRAID 5.

The Thunderbay Mini can also be outfitted with 2.5-inch hard drives, which allows up to an 8TB Thunderbay Mini (6TB as a RAID-5 solution).

MPG recommends the RAID-5 edition, because it includes SoftRAID 5, and one can then pick and choose whatever RAID or non-RAID one wishes.

OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD
OWC Thunderbay Mini — 4-bay enclosure with Thunderbolt 2 for SSD or HDD

iPhone / iPad: New Security Risks Emerge

Everyone, and perhaps especially parents with kids having iOS devices:

U.S. Government Warns iOS Users About 'Masque Attack' Vulnerability

According to Reuters:

Such attacks could be avoided if iPad and iPhone users only installed apps from Apple's App Store or from their own organizations, it said.

Hopefully Apple will take action quickly on this one and Wire Lurker.

Personally, I’d like features in iOS and OS X that shut off big chunks of junk (to me) that I never use. More features = more security holes, an age-old story that only gets worse as operating systems become more complex.

OS X Yosemite Deletes VIP list in Apple Mail

I had curated a just-right VIP list in Apple Mail with about 30 entries.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite destroyed that list—it’s gone, wiped out. As I seem to recall, OS X 10.9 Mavericks did the same thing.

MPG doesn’t know if this is a common problem.

Gary Q writes:

I also lost my VIP list. Just. Wonderful. I am also finding Mail to be hanging a lot and having to force-quit it very often. Never had issues like this before.

MPG: I suspect a general bug. I use the feature as designed; it ought to work across upgrades. I also have been seeing more Mail hangs that require force-quit.

Arne D writes :

This also happened to me, my VIP list disappeared. However, the 'stars' were still next to the names of mails from VIPs in the mail list. I Selected one of those mails and clicked the star twice (first un-VIP then VIP again). After this it showed the VIP list again, with the original VIPs still there.

MPG: MPG uses “classic layout” and no stars are visible in the mail list. Switching that layout style off, the stars show, but only for the new 2 or 3 now re-added / re-done. So the old list is apparently toast.

diglloydTools Updated to version 2.2.8

diglloydTools

diglloydTools has been updated to version 2.2.8. Download page.

Update: minor bug in the "dual" and "triple" patterns for test-reliability; fixed in 2.2.8a.

The DiskTester test-reliability command has been enhanced; see the diglloydTools release notes.

Purchase diglloydTools.

Some of the capabilities in diglloydTools

Aside from testing hard drive or SSD or RAID performance and reliability with DiskTester, data integrity with IntegrityChecker is a must-have workflow tool for anyone with important data:

diglloydTools graphing template
diglloydTools graphing template

Configuring and Backing Up High Capacity Multi-Drive Storage

I’m not entirely satisfied with my treatment of this complex topic, but I wanted to capture some points that keep coming up over and over.

Backing up High Capacity Storage: Partitioning for Practical Backup

Professionals and serious users might wish to consult with MPG on the best approach for their own particular workflow.

4K Video on 2010/2012 Mac Pro?

Will R writes:

I love the site and your exhaustive reviews!

I can’t find an answer to this question and wonder if I haven’t looked in the right place. If I wanted to buy one of the NEC or Dell wide-gamut 4K monitors, AND wanted to purchase a pre-2013 Mac Pro … did any of them come with GPUs that could support 4k? If not, do you have any recommendations?

MPG: Please consider buying stuff through ads on this site or at diglloyd.com, or subscribing to diglloyd publications, thank you—this helps.

Regarding 4K video on a 2010/2012 Mac Pro—several things are at issue:

  • Apple does not offer any video card with support, so it would have to be an aftermarket card. There are a few, but none are properly supported for Macs.
  • The issue is not the GPU but the connector and display bus, which would have to support the 4K video standards, e.g. Mini DisplayPort meeting the same specs as on the latest Macs.
  • Compatibility and reliability are concerns (display drivers). There are cards which “work” in a Mac Pro, but even Apple’s own GPU support has had serious bugs (witness the 2013 Mac Pro crash bugs in Photoshop, which were the result of driver bugs).

In general, MPG is reluctant to recommend any retrofit solution for these reasons.

Glenn K writes:

I have spent the last two days diagnosing Photoshop CC 2014 problems on two of my Dell Precision workstations. Turns out the problem is incompatibilities with AMD graphics card drivers.

The web is full of threads discussing BEX64 errors involving Adobe software and AMD drivers. I don't know which of Adobe or AMD is more at fault, but it is clearly a trans-Apple problem.

MPG believes it mainly related to the AMD drivers, regardless of platform (AMD chips were/are in the 2013 Mac Pro, and MPG worked with AMD and Adobe on the inital round of crash bugs, Adobe actually had to un-release support for GPU sharpening in Feb 2014!). But bugs are found in all software, who can say for sure except the involved parties. But “whose fault” is irrelevant to end users in the end.

GPU value in general

MPG is in general is not a fan of GPU technology unless and only if a specific task is proven to benefit from it (such tasks are few and far between in mainstream computing, games and eye candy user interface aside). And it has to be rock solid, and free of problematic display bugs. Such real-world considerations are never tested in benchmarks, yet they are critical to getting work done. So invest in a “faster” GPU if and only if there is solid evidence of value and reliability for your own work. Or to dispel the buyer’s remorse factor?!

To this day, very little software uses the dual GPUs in the 2013 Mac Pro effectively; one need only compare the disappointing performance of the dual GPU 2013 Mac Pro to an iMac. A year after introduction, the dual GPU approach of the 2013 Mac Pro is a practical failure in terms of performance delivered with real software, especially when set against the value of a 2nd CPU and/or 2nd internal SSD. Rather, the GPU has become a technology in search of a problem to solve, perhaps so as to degrade the user interface (even as it enhances other user interface elements). Practically speaking, the main value of the GPU for most users is to support screen scaling and basic drawing operations with 4K and 5K displays (the huge number of pixels to shovel around).

A GPU can shine only with highly efficient and robust graphics drivers, and at least on the Mac that has never been the case (ever). Taking just one example, Mac graphics drivers have long been inferior for game performance. Moreover, more straightforward technologies useful for professionals go unimplemented in graphics drivers: Mac users still live with 8-bit color, instead of 10-bit. But that’s up to Apple to deliver, and not a GPU issue per se.

Selling that Computer? Wipe Out Personal Files First

diglloydTools

The iMac 5K has gone back to Apple (see comments on why it’s a fine machine but just not for me). See also the review of the iMac 5K.

Having copied over my stuff including mail and source code and various, I didn’t really like the idea of just emptying the trash, so I wanted a fast and efficient way to overwrite my files.

Enter the wipe command command in diglloydTools, which wipes files efficiently without any need to erase the drive. The command also wipes out metadata in the file system catalog as well as renaming each file to a random long gibberish name, before finally deleting it. Double confirmation is needed before any files are actually wiped.

NOTE: the wipe and wipeFree commands are available in Terminal (command line) only at present (advanced users).

  • A full erase/wipe is always better if the drive is to be sold, but this is not viable or convenient when/if the drive is in active and continued use. (Very high security requirements would require physical destruction of the drive, or at the least, a complete erase and block-level wipe by booting off another drive).
  • Since wiping files on an SSD doesn’t really wipe those actual blocks, I followed the wipe-files command with the dgl wipeFree command, letting it erase all free space down to the last free byte. Then I repeated; with most of the drive unused, this effectively cycles through all blocks on the SSD.

The wipe command also supports an easy to use convenience feature: appending the suffix -wipeMe to any file or folder tags it for wiping (“dgl wipe”). All local volumes are scanned for such files in highly efficient fashion, making it convenient to mark many items for wiping, then do it in one invocation.

Other users for wiping free space

As it turns out, my most frequent use of the wipeFree command is to wipe free space on Disk Utility disk images so that they compress down to the smallest possible size (e.g. when I zip compress one for downloading).

See also

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Create Multi-Resolution Image Series

More than any other test is the most “real world” relevant test possible for your author’s work in Photoshop. And the iMac wins in spite of its slower SSD.

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro: Make Multi Resolution Image Series

Create multi-resolution image series iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Create multi-resolution image series
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

When the iPhone and Three Nearby Computers all Ring for a Phone Call, and is this a Privacy Issue?

With OS X Yosemite, three (3) computers and the iPhone were all ringing at once for incoming calls—and the computers keep ringing after answering the phone for a short time, which interrupted the conversation to start. This intrusive and unwanted behavior is new.

There is a way to fix it, but this begs the question: why should a user have to go fix something that used to work fine, and to do something of that sort with every new Apple release? Perhaps when a company sells to untold millions, that is The Way It Will Be.

After turning off iPhone Cellular Calls on the phone and syncing the iPhone, the box remains checked on the computer, so apparently one has to go to each and every Mac and turn it off on each.

Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices
Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices

On the computer(s), open FaceTime preferences and disable this checkbox, like this:

Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices
Disable iPhone cell phone calls from other devices

Privacy

Consider the privacy implications of how FaceTime does this: just because a phone rings—does that mean your co-worker or whoever should be able to read on the computer screen who is calling? (that little green FaceTime badge that pops up). The computer might even be in another room (“nearby”).

It’s subtle, but a potential invasion of privacy, and no more appealing than the unwanted cloud storage of sensitive documents. There is a common presumptuousness that connects these two Apple implementations, and MPG does not think it is a good trend. It is in the same vein as that free album showing up in personal iTunes accounts a while ago, which irritated a lot of people, and rightly so.

The original Apple genius was in making simple tasks simple to accomplish. Now the trend is moving in the opposite direction: new and possibly unwanted functionality that increases the complexity of using the basics, and might violate privacy or security, but in ways that ordinary users are not likely to detect or comprehend. This design challenge is not going to go away, and will likely get worse.

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro RAW to JPEG

In a stunning repudiation of Apple’s dual GPU strategy for the 2013 Mac Pro, the iMac 5K beats out the Mac Pro with D700 GPUs on not just Unigine Valley, but also PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro, one of the few programs that use both GPUs.

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro: Capture One Pro Raw to High Quality JPEG

Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Apple iCloud: Promiscous Saving for Security Lapses

See also The 'Cloud' is DEFINITELY a Huge and Tempting Target for Hackers.

MPG has repeatedly warned and advised against the Cloud for many reasons over the years (and as recently as Oct 22). But sometimes it’s just chicken-brain design with nary a thought to implications. Call it an emerging lack of respect perhaps.

So here’s yet another story of Apple doing insane things with security. How many users might jot a password or something sensitive into TextEdit (with no intention of saving that file), not realizing it all gets saved to the cloud (iCloud) anyway? See What is iCloud.

...

How one man’s private files ended up on Apple’s iCloud without his consent

After security researcher Jeffrey Paul upgraded the operating system on his MacBook Pro last week, he discovered that several of his personal files had found a new home – on the cloud. The computer had saved the files, which Paul thought resided only on his own encrypted hard drive, to a remote server Apple controlled.

“This is unacceptable,” thundered Paul, an American based in Berlin, on his personal blog a few days later. “Apple has taken local files on my computer not stored in iCloud and silently and without my permission uploaded them to their servers - across all applications, Apple and otherwise.”

He was not alone in either his frustration or surprise. Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew D. Green tweeted his dismay after realizing that some private notes had found their way to iCloud. Bruce Schneier, another prominent cryptography expert, wrote a blog post calling the automatic saving function “both dangerous and poorly documented” by Apple.

MPG: nice new home for “MyPasswords.numbers” spreadsheet? I don’t want any of my stuff in the Cloud—ever. The core rots. Security surprises suck. First, do no evil. That’s not a hard concept.

Disabling cloud save

Apple’s instructions for disabling the iCloud saving feature don’t work for me: I cannot find any “Documents and Data” item in the iCloud control panel:

Turn off Documents & Data: Choose Apple () menu > System Preferences, click iCloud, then deselect the Documents & Data checkbox. When you turn off Documents & Data, the iCloud Document Library no longer opens for any Mac apps that use Documents in the Cloud.

Presumably “Documents and Data” is now renamed to “iCloud Drive”; the date on Apple’s instructions (Aug 14 2014) pre-date the release of OS X Yosemite.

iCloud settings in OS X Yosemite
iCloud settings in OS X Yosemite

iMac 5K: Content Lacking

MPG has no time for watching TV or movies really, but once in a while it would be nice to pull up a 4K stream and relax. Except that Netflix.com doesn’t offer any 4K streaming to a Mac, iMac or otherwise.

Sure, there’s Vimeo and YouTube for some home-made stuff, but until Netflix and Amazon Video offer 4K streaming to computers (not just specific televisions), it undermines part of the appeal of 4K and 5K displays. Why should a computer with a 27-inch 5K display be deprived of a good movie? That gorgeous display needs gorgeous high-res content to shine.

Verizon Tracking Users in Nefarious Way

Verizon is clearly out to compete with AT&T. Just not the competition I want.

Verizon Injecting Perma-Cookies to Track Mobile Customers, Bypassing Privacy Controls

Verizon Wireless has been silently modifying its users' web traffic on its network to inject a cookie-like tracker.

This tracker, included in an HTTP header called X-UIDH, is sent to every unencrypted website a Verizon customer visits from a mobile device. It allows third-party advertisers and websites to assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors' web browsing habits without their consent.

Also unlike a cookie, Verizon's header is nearly invisible to the user and can't be seen or changed in the device's browser settings. If a user clears their cookies, the X-UIDH header remains unchanged.

This is an abusive violation of customer trust. A nationwide “quit Verizon” campaign resulting in customer loss seems very appropriate—and wow, this is a juicy opportunity for full page ads for a marketing “switch” campaign for a company like T-Mobile to take up.

It also seems like a great PR opportunity for the company that claims to take customer privacy to heart: Apple. Tim, you can stop this stuff, you have the clout. How does this kind of tracking dovetail with Apple Pay anyway?

Think about the real-time whereabouts tracking involved here with all that *unencrypted* web traffic: every time a web site is accessed, that cookie is there (the tracking doesn’t work with SSL/TLS apparently). What a juicy target for nationwide monitoring (and not just this country), built right into every Verizon user’s phone or whatever. WiFi packets sniffed over the air too—yikes.

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: More Benchmarks

Click each graph for more, and see all the review pages and comparisons.

The iMac outperforms an 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro with dual D700 GPUs in some ways: the “pro” in Mac Pro looks rather stale, particularly the GPU performance, even though the Mac Pro ekes out a win in most tests. Still, MPG prefers the Mac Pro for photography.

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: RAW to JPEG

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro, 36MP Raw to High Quality JPEG

Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Convert 128 Nikon D800 36MP NEF to High Quality JPEG (12)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

OS X Yosemite Deletes VIP list in Apple Mail

I had curated a just-right VIP list in Apple Mail with about 30 entries.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite destroyed that list—it’s gone, wiped out. As I seem to recall, OS X 10.9 Mavericks did the same thing.

MPG doesn’t know if this is a common problem.

The iMac 5K Goes Back

The iMac 5K is going back. I love the screen, but in the end a full-spec iMac is around $4K + $400 for memory plus tax plus AppleCare plus external storage—we’re talking a $5K machine, at least. In that territory, the equation changes, at least for me.

Too much and not enough: a 4-core Mac Pro is a solid long term investment with 6 Thunderbolt ports on 3 busses, faster SSD, an upgradeable CPU, along with 2X or 4X the maximum memory. And the display is independent and can be truly calibrated.

The iMac 5K is just not for me, and I’d rather have my $4K+ back—the 2013 Mac Pro is my workhorse and the screen on the iMac is just not as big a plus as I thought. It’s very nice for viewing, but not really a good match for critical color work, and I’d rather have the NEC PA322UHD on my Mac Pro anyway (pro-grade with 1 delta-E color calibration).

Audio Storage Drive for a MacMini

Gene F writes:

I’m looking for good external storage for music in an audiophile system. I guess the main requirements are speed and quietness.

MPG: barring the need for fault tolerance (e.g., backups assumed), I’d go straight to connecting an OWC Mercury Elite Pro via USB3 to the MacMini. If needs are 2TB or less, then the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini is even smaller and quieter, and is bus powered too (one data cable does data and power).

Speed is a non-issue in terms of the drive itself: audio is a very low bitrate. Even video has low bitrates (BluRay is typically around 15 megabits and generally not more than 30, which is only 2-3 MB/sec, or about 2-3% of the speed of a slow hard drive). Specialty uses with uncompressed stuff might be higher, but then one had better have a gigabit ethernet connection for reliable performance (not WiFi).

Static Problems on Input/Output with Some Macs?

About a year ago, I gave up on using some headphones on my 2010 Mac Pro because of unacceptable static. At the time, I blamed it on the headphones, but maybe that was unfair to the headphones. Perhaps readers out there have some insight.

Kevin B writes:

I think Apple may have a serious hardware problem on its hands. I’m referring to the plethora of reports during the past several years with respect to audio static and the iMac. There are a number of other links, but this will suffice.

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5592063
https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4846997
https://discussions.apple.com/message/18626895#18626895

Whether we are talking about playback through external speakers, input through the internal mic, input through an external mic (which is how I use the iMac), etc., there are a number of reports on Apple Support pages (as well as Google) noting all of the problems people are experiencing with intermittent static.

Furthermore, people seem to be reporting the exact same thing with respect to Apple’s response: Apple denies that it knows anything about such static problems, that it has ever had reports of such static problems, and so forth; furthermore, it says the only way it can definitively know whether there is a problem with the iMac is for the individual owner to bring the iMac into an Apple Store and have the technicians test the iMac.

Unfortunately, there are a few reports of people who have done just this, only for the technicians to — of course — deny there is anything wrong with the particular machine.

I am one who is dealing with these exact issues. Our family has 2 iMacs: a 2009 model along with a 2013 iMac. We originally thought the problem was exclusive to the 2009 iMac. We were wrong. We get this brand-new 2013 iMac… And the exact same problem!

Both iMacs respond identically with respect to rather expensive Sennheiser microphones (ME-3, we have 2) connecting through a USB pod (Andrea USB pod, we also have 2 of these as well): there is a wealth of static after using the microphones only for a short period of time. (I use these microphones in association with voice recognition.)

I’ve also been in contact with Apple and have received the exact same response noted above. I have about 98% certainty that if I take this iMac into my only-somewhat-local (about 130 miles away) Apple Store I’m going to be informed that the iMac is performing perfectly. This, notwithstanding the fact that I only experience these problems when dictating with the iMac, not on a Windows machine we also own. There are never such static problems when using the Windows machine.

iMac 5K: Adding a 2nd Display (4K Display)

The iMac 5K can drive a second display, including a 4K Ultra HD display.

iMac 5K: Adding a 4K External Display

See also my thoughts on the LG Electronics 4K display and the NEC PA322UHD.

iMac 5K with NEC EA244UHD 4K display attached
iMac 5K with NEC EA244UHD 4K display attached
(OS X resolution on EA244UHD is erroneous, it is 3840 X 2160)

Photography is MPG’s Primary Work

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iMac 5K: Stressing the CPU and GPU

iMac 5K: Heat and Fan under Heavy CPU/GPU Usage

iMac 5K running 'mt stress' (MemoryTester)
iMac 5K running 'mt stress' (MemoryTester)

OS X Yosemite: Severe Performance Issues with File Open Dialog

UPDATE: sometimes I miss something obvious. John S wrote to ask if it affects all applications and in trying this, it seems to be a Adobe DreamWeaver problem (spaghetti code rife with bugs that never are fixed).

While all apps are sluggish to scroll (and this is new to Yosemite), DW has the 3-7 second drawing glitches described below and delays with heavy mds/mds_stores CPU usage. But why my laptop and iMac on the same folders do not show this behavior is unclear as yet. I dismounted most of my volumes, rebuilt the spotlight index, but this had no effect.

...

MPG continues to experience severe sluggishness in using the File Open dialog in OS X Yosemite. As yet, MPG has not found a workaround or deduced any root cause. It impedes work every single day. But on single-drive systems (MacBook Pro, iMac), the sluggish behavior does not occur—only on the 2013 Mac Pro workhorse.

BTW, drawing glitches with the GPU on or off now occur in Photoshop CC 2014 (latest version), which is a new problem in Yosemite also.

Without a doubt, it is a new badly-tested implementation involving Spotlight; listing files in a directory ought to take about 1/10 second, done right. But it is not done right: more Apple Core Rot.

mds CPU usage
Spotlight (mds):
4-5 seconds of
excessive CPU usage
  • 3-5 second delay in getting to point of being able to use the dialog: drawing glitch with heavy CPU usage followed by redraw followed by same, followed by redraw, then finally usable, but same behavior repeats if any sorting by column is done.
  • Not related to the number of files in the folder (which makes it even more ridiculous). A folder with few files is just as slow as one with hundreds.
  • Newly-created files do no appear for up to 20 seconds (this was a bug in OS X Mavericks also).
  • Occurs with images or HTML files (and others, not specific to a file type). Occurs in any sorted view (by name, by date, etc).
  • Occurs in icon view or list view, but not multi-level list view.
  • Scrolling and sorting by column invoke similar delays.
  • Drawing glitches (see below): blank-out, errant controls drawn in list areas, blank-out, list finally drawn.
  • Sorting by columns shows no indication of which column is chosen, and clicking on a column has the same 1-3 second delay in drawing the result.
  • Speed is a problem in list view or icon view. In icon view one can watch the generic icons draw (they don’t just appear in an instant as they shoudl), as if the system were reading each and every file.
  • Persists after logging out or rebooting.
  • On the fastest Mac Pro available today (3.3 GHz 8-core, 64GB, 1TB SSD, D700 GPUs). Occurs with fresh OS install.
  • Transparency turned off.

This more than anything is a really severe problem with OS X Yosemite; I use this dialog hundreds of times a day. Something is badly broken here.

It looks like Spotlight is involved, because every time I click on a folder, I see CPU usage in the 'mds' and 'mds_stores' processes spike. And with no disk I/O (probably all cached), so it looks to be a pure algorithmic bug in OS X Yosemite with no caching and with no regard for responsiveness to the user.

MPG suspects the performance issues run deeper, and are possibly associated with GPU usage, meaning many, many new bugs.

  Typical File Open dialog glitch in OS X Yosemite (happens twice in succession while drawing)
Typical File Open dialog glitch in OS X Yosemite
(happens twice in succession while drawing)
  Another drawing glitch in OS X Yosemite file open dialog
Another drawing glitch in OS X Yosemite file open dialog

Say

As a geek, I run shell scripts to do various things. But I was ignorant of 'say', which speaks aloud text. Thus it can notify when a script is done. Or baffle a non-geek (hint: install a launch agent on their computer that says things periodically).

For example, open a Terminal window, then paste in the following:

say "Like bones, wood weathers and rots hardly at all at high altitude.
At dusk it almost seems to glow in the blue high altitude light."

Say what you will, this is pretty cool.

Bones of a Tree
Bones of a Tree

Transparency in OS X Yosemite

This and many other cases seem to me like Shadow and Outline fonts in the original Mac (hideous), but at least one had to have the puerile judgment to employ them. But in OS X Yosemite, user interface mangling comes along automatically.

How does making a computer display look defective and as if it needs warranty service improve the user interface?

I’ve had to disable transparency in OS X Yosemite due to far too many ugly side effects that impair readability and damage the ability to view images. Incoherent behavior is not a gain in a user interface.

Color blob in OS X Yosemite
Color blob in OS X Yosemite

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Video Transcode 4K to 1080p

Dual D700 GPUs in a Mac Pro should rock for video, right?

Wrong, at least for some things.

iMac 5K vs Mac Pro, Video Transcode 4K to 1080P

Transcode 4K video clip to 1080p (OS X QuickTime Player) iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
Transcode 4K video clip to 1080p (OS X QuickTime Player)
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: XCode Build

Various filters tested on the two fastest Macs one can procure as of late 2014.

iMac 5K Performance: XCode Build diglloydTools

XCode build diglloydTools iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
XCode build diglloydTools
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

Fastest iMac 5K vs the Fastest Mac Pro: Photoshop Filters, Various

Various filters tested on the two fastest Macs one can procure as of late 2014.

iMac 5K Performance: vs Mac Pro on Photoshop Filters

diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700
diglloydSpeed1 Photoshop benchmark
iMac 5K 4 GHz Radeon M295X vs 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-core D700

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