Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Hard Drive Deals: Why Buy 5TB if only 2/3/4TB is Needed?

Why buy 5TB if you only need 2/3/4TB?

Hard drives slow down as they fill up, so MPG recommends buying a drive 50% to twice as large as the actual data to be stored. Otherwise, the newest stuff ends up on the slowest part of the drive. Another trick for “guaranteed fast” is to partition a drive into fast and slow partitions, depicted graphically at right.

For example, a new 2TB hard drive might do 200 MB/sec when empty, but when 80% full (1.6TB) it’s going to drop in speed to 120MB/sec or so. Whereas a 5TB drive with 1.6TB of data will drop in speed only 15% or so.

Right now, there are some excellent hard drive deals at MacSales.com. MPG top pick as overall best deal on price and capacity: $136.75 Toshiba 5TB X300. More details shown below.

Hard drive warranty

Hard drives have lousy waranty support: a bad drive can cost you 4-6 weeks of waiting for a manufacturer to send you a *refurb*, essentially forcing you to buy another one while you wait.

That’s why the MacSales 90-day replacement guarantee is something to consider when buying a new hard drive: waiting weeks for a hard drive manufacturer to send a refurb is an untenable plight, particularly for a RAID, which might need that drive to operate.

OWC is proud to offer an extended replacement window of 90 days on new internal hard disk drives* (unless otherwise noted in the product description) and Pioneer DVR devices. Once a return authorization number has been issued and we receive the problematic drive back, you will get a brand new replacement drive, rather than a factory refurbished drive.

MPG also recommends buying pre-tested “burned in” drives with the OWC Thunderbay 4, to benefit from not only the full burn-in process but the excellent warranty.

Each ThunderBay undergoes OWC's multi-hour drive "burn-in" performance certification procedure prior to shipping. This ensures your ThunderBay arrives operating properly and ready for demanding use.

Back in late 2015 I invested in two OWC Thunderbay 4 units incorporating eight 8TB HGST 8TB Ultrastar He8 enterprise-grade hard drives, which cost a pretty penny. Those drives are still serving me well except for one failure, which was replaced by MacSales.

Deals on Hard Drives

Reader Question: Testing More than One New Drive with DiskTester

See Drive Capacity and Speed for why drives slow down across the capacity.

John L writes:

Performance across capacity of HGST 8TB Ultrastar He8

I just bought two new HGST 8TB NAS drives from OWC.  I want to run fill-volume on both of them as new drives.  This will be done using NewerTech Docks from OWC.

I assume that in order to run both of them at the same time, I will need to use the command line as I don’t see an option for multiple instances in the application.

Is that correct?

Will I still get the output in a format to put into the Excel spreadsheet for graphing?

I have one running in Terminal now:  it’s writing 7.41 GB files!  It is running about 200 MiB/s right now and a Voyager Q connected by eSATA.

MPG: drives can be tested across their capacity using the fill-volume command of diglloydTools DiskTester. The output pastes into the supplied spreadsheet to show drive performance (read and write) over the entire capacity. Testing is trivially invoked in Terminal, for a drive named Drive1:

disktester fill-volume Drive1

Many drives can be done simultaneously using one invocation per Terminal window. The only caveat is that if the drives are on the same bus, testing can only show full speed if the bus over which the testing is done has enough bandwidth to support all the drives at the same time (such as in an OWC Thunderbay 4). So for proper results, be sure not to overload the bus bandwidth while testing (also disable Spotlight and TimeMachine, at least on the drives to be tested). If the bus is overloaded, bus bandwidth will throttle/flatline performance on a hard drive, which is “wrong” (see the graph below for what it should look like).

With Thunderbolt 3 and suitable 6-bay enclosures which MPG hopes will arrive this year, as many as 13 fast hard drives could be simultaneously tested on just one TB3 bus.

The Voyager Q takes only one drive so that’s not an issue unless something else is using the bus—then the bus might limit performance—but in this case eSATA is one dedicated channel. If it were USB3, two hard drives might work, depending on the dock in use and whether other things were using bus bandwidth. The OWC Thunderbolt 2 Drive Dock is sufficient for full speed with two fast hard drives.

Particularly for RAID, it is wise to test all the drives and then overlay the graphs as seen below—one bad apple (so to speak) can bring the whole RAID performance down. Below, there is a tight grouping, though clearly there is one standout performer a little faster than the others. But MPG has seen up to 15% variance and that is not good if performance is a goal. Also, a drive with bad blocks may remap them, creating canyons and peaks of performance at inappropriate places.

Performance across 8TB capacity of HGST 8TB Ultrastar He8, 5 samples
Deals on Hard Drives
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SoftRAID Updated to Version 5.6

SoftRAID has been updated to version 5.6, see the release notes.

MPG recommends SoftRAID over Apple’s Disk Utility for any type of RAID, since Disk Utility has bare bones buggy support for RAID.

Highlights of version 5.6:

  • SoftRAID Easy Setup is a new helper application which guides less technical users through the process of creating SoftRAID volumes. SoftRAID Easy Setup automates the process of configuring disks, making recommendations to help users set up their SoftRAID system. All users have to do is decide what the RAID volume will be used for, and how much space to use (with hints from the application) and SoftRAID Easy Setup does the rest.
  • SoftRAID 5.6 incorporates a new SMART over USB proprietary driver, which extends SoftRAID’s disk checking and monitoring to most USB and FireWire enclosures. SMART over USB checks disk health for most USB 3/3.1, and many USB 2 and FireWire 400/800 connected drives, and can predict future failure by identifying symptoms that correlate to a disk’s imminent demise.
  • SoftRAID 5.6 is now translated to Simplified Chinese. SoftRAID now supports 6 languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Simplified Chinese.
  • SoftRAID 5.6 fully supports Thunderbolt 3 devices with sustained throughput of over 2.5GB/s on a single Thunderbolt 3 bus. With SoftRAID you can even use 2 ThunderBolt 3 buses at the same time and create a volume which can read and write at over 4 GB/sec.
  • Email Notification has been updated to support recent security enhancements in smtp servers. Additionally, SoftRAID 5.6 includes support for almost all third party email servers.
  • Quick Start Guides have been updated for both SoftRAID and SoftRAID Lite to include an entire section on using SoftRAID Easy Setup. Quick Start Guides are localized to all six languages supported by SoftRAID: English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.
  • SoftRAID 5.6 features improved failover handling in the event of Mirror (RAID 0), RAID 4, RAID 5, and RAID 1+0 disk failure scenarios.
  • SoftRAID 5.6 extends disk certification to all 4Kn (4 KB sector) drive
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Now Shipping: OWC Thunderbolt Helios 3 PCIe Thunderbolt 3 Expansion Chassis

The about $280 OWC Thunderbolt Helios 3 PCIe Thunderbolt 3 Expansion Chassis is in stock and now shipping from MacSales.com.

Use PCIe Expansion Cards with any Thunderbolt 3 Equipped Mac or PC

Mercury Helios 3 is the ideal way to access the PCIe card you need and is perfect for video capturing, video editing, media transcoding, audio processing, ultra-fast networking, data storage, and more via its Thunderbolt 3 interface. Get empowered with the flexibility to upgrade the capabilities of almost any workflow and workstation.

Install One PCIe Card + Daisy Chain

Mercury Helios 3 supports one half-length (up to 7.75"), full-height, double-width x16 PCIe 3.0 card to provide a vast array of expansion options. 

  • One PCIe card slot + daughter card support
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Thunderbolt daisy-chain up to six devices
  • One mini DisplayPort

Thunderbolt Performance Juggernaut

The Mercury Helios 3 is the perfect solution to enhance and expand the computing capabilities of any Thunderbolt 3 equipped Mac or PC. Utilizing Thunderbolt high-performance technology, Mercry Helios 3 is a tour de force that provides the flexibility to use a multitude of PCIe cards with the bandwidth to support their capabilities.

Durable, Cool, and at the Ready

A whisper quiet variable speed fan keeps the inside of the Mercury Helios 3's durable aluminum ventilated chassis running cool. It automatically powers on/off with your computer, so it's at the ready whenever you are.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock port layout
 
Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Security: Phishing Email Purporting to be a Buyer Complaint

A few weeks ago, this blog discussed Phishing Email Purporting to be a Password Reset Notification.

NEVER CLICK on LINKS or ATTACHMENTS in EMAILS

Nearly all phishing uses bait (and you’re the fish). Bait can be subtle, threatening or insulting. Don’t bite. All bait is designed to provoke a reaction: fear, anger, your innate desire to help or solve a problem, etc. Appeals to decency and honesty work because most people want to set things right, even if they did not cause the problem—it’s the desire to help. Don’t let your good side be baited into helping someone hack you.

Below, the attached file looks like an HTML file in the Apple Mail window. The recipient is urged to open it in order to resolve a problem with damaged goods. But it is really an encoded javascript with inscrutable purpose. If the html attachment (an encoded javascript) is opened, it will rewrite a web browser window, sending the browser to a web page with evil purposes.

...script type="text/javascript">
document.location.href="data:text/html;base64,DQoNCg0KDQoNCi...

Why does Apple Mail EVER allow this level of exposure to risk? It is security malfeasance for an email program to present users with such risks. There is near zero virtue in supporting such attachments in email, since the 99.9% case is malware or spam. It’s about time Apple fixed such sloppy security practices in Apple Mail: users should not have to be aware of such risks—the risks should be eliminated.

Below, a bogus return path (anciens@aegee.org), unprofessional greeting, incorrect grammar, etc are all giveaways. But what if the hackers aren’t this stupid and the approach has none of those easy to spot faults? See Apple Mail Security: Viewing Mail Headers.

 
Phishing email purporting to be a problem with a shipped product

Source code for the ad.

 
Source code of phishing email purporting to be a problem with a shipped product

See also:

Deals Updated Daily at B&H Photo

Big Discounts on Mac Pro and iMac 5K

Here are some great savings on used and factory-refurb Macs and storage too.

Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Deals on Hard Drives

Right now, there are some excellent hard drive deals at MacSales.com.

Hard drives slow down as they fill up, so even if capacity needs might fit into 6TB, an 8TB drive is a better long term investment. Ditto for 6TB vs 4TB, etc.

The MacSales 90-day replacement guarantee is something to consider when buying a new hard drive: waiting weeks for a hard drive manufacturer to send a refurb is an unpleasant plight.

OWC is proud to offer an extended replacement window of 90 days on new internal hard disk drives* (unless otherwise noted in the product description) and Pioneer DVR devices. Once a return authorization number has been issued and we receive the problematic drive back, you will get a brand new replacement drive, rather than a factory refurbished drive.

MPG also recommends buying drives with the OWC Thunderbay 4, to benefit from not only the full burn-in process but the excellent warranty.

Each ThunderBay undergoes OWC's multi-hour drive "burn-in" performance certification procedure prior to shipping. This ensures your ThunderBay arrives operating properly and ready for demanding use.

Back in late 2015 I invested in two OWC Thunderbay 4 units incorporating eight 8TB HGST 8TB Ultrastar He8 enterprise-grade hard drives, which cost a pretty penny. Those drives are still serving me well except for one failure, which was replaced by MacSales.

Deals on Hard Drives
 
OWC Easy SSD Upgrade Guide
MacBook Pro and MacBook Air
iMac, Mac Pro, MacMini, more!

macOS 10.12.5 Update

Updating to macOS 10.12.4 was an unhappy day that cost me two days of headaches from the sudo problem.

The release of macOS 10.12.5 so far seems good on three machines: 2013 Mac Pro, 2015 MacBook Pro, 2015 iMac 5K. See the release notes for macOS 10.12.5 and security fixes.

This time, I made a clone backup of the boot drive before updating, just in case.

macOS 10.12.5

Paul R writes:

Mac OS 10.12.5 and 10.12.4 are still problems for me and my 40" 4K monitor on my Mac Pro (late 2013). The problem is I can't control the Night Shift feature. After install and restart, the Night Shift feature is always on and no way to turn it off in the Display control panel. It's a known problem. Here's a few links which identify the problem and some possible indirect (and undesirable for me) ways to control it.

http://discussions.apple.com/message/31678505?ac_cid=tw123456#31678505
http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/278789/fixing-night-shift-incompatibility-with-external-monitors
http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/278766/enable-or-disable-night-shift-via-terminal

I'm going to wait for next Mac OS update and hope fixed then. Until then, I've again reverted back to 10.12.3.

MPG: I had no trouble with NightShift with the NEC PA322UHD 4K display, but in the end I decided against using Night Shift at all, and disabled it. The color shift was unacceptable for my work.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

On Ransomware

MPG offers personalized consulting to help you or your business choose and configure a Mac. And/or to design a robust backup strategy for the worst case scenarios.

Just yesterday I wrote about backup reliability and the critical importance of robust backup strategy. Today, all over the news is the worldwide panic about ransomware attacking PCs running Microsoft windows, for example Global Cyberattack Spreads as Experts Try to Limit Damage.

The reporting is awesomely bad in one way: it fails to emphasize that this is yet another in the litany of tens of thousands of Microsoft Windows attacks, dropping the huge context elephant in the room: operating system. I state upfront that macOS is NOT immune to cyberattacks and that threats will grow steadily, but as far as can be told, there is no in-the-wild wildfire malware that has EVER taken down any significant number of Macs via something as nasty as ransomware. Readers, please point me to documented evidence of such an event and its impact and event horizon, if I am incorrect (and Trojans inserted into “free software” don’t count, thieves deserve what they get).

At any rate, one reads little about widespread malware issues with macOS. I mean the Real Deal, stuff that spreads on its own across wide numbers of Macs and does real damage.

And so I ask:

  • No business deserves to remain in business that cannot be bothered to execute a backup strategy for customer data and accounting and other critical business data. It is incompetence at the most fundamental level of a business. Failure to maintain offsite backups (NOT on the internet in any way) is the only thing that makes ransomware succeed, because a ransomwared PC can be physically destroyed and replaced if need be, but data is irreplaceable.
  • Why in this day and age is ANYONE in a business environment allowed to click on a link in an email? MPG has long advised to NEVER CLICK ON LINKS in emails. Why do mail programs allow this? Why don’t corporations insist on mail software that disables all links and trackers and beacons in emails? If nothing else, require plain text only.
  • If someone told you as a business owners that armed thugs would show up at your door and hold all your data for ransom (and if refused, destroy all your computers thus destroying your business), wouldn’t you do something about it, like keep another copy offsite? It’s mind-boggling that ransomware could take down any business. Do businesses go without liability or fire insurance and not pay taxes and so on? How is it even possible that existential risk to critical business data is ignored so that ransomware is more than a nasty nuisance?
  • Why does Apple (at the least), still not offer a “disable all external links in emails” option? As well as defeating certain types of encoded spam, misleading headers versus "reply-to", etc? It’s computing malpractice by Apple and everyone else as to where it stands today. There is just no reason for Apple or any other company to sit on its hands while these sorts of attacks happen. And if link-clicking is allowed, why not “sandbox” any browser window started via a link in an email? The level of technology today is so primitive in its failure to take reasonable precautions that it is computing malpractice.
  • Why are PC's considered a bargain? It’s one of those jokes in the “bubble” (those in the bubble cannot see out of it): the cost of a system has only marginal relation to the initial cost of the hardware! It’s like saying you can fly coast to coast every month on a $19 ticket but there is a 1 in 3 chance you will die in the next few years due to a plane crash. This is not a good deal by my reckoning. No business in its right mind should be running Windows because it is the #1 target for all types of malware. Maybe Windows 10 qualifies, and maybe it doesn’t, but the reporting I see in the press is pathetic as it does not tackle the key question: how many more PCs than Macs are disastrously compromised each year and year over year, at what economic cost? THAT ought to be the #1 consideration for any sane business person or individual when buying a computer (or even a phone).
  • Why is our government (NSA, CIA, FBI, etc) not finding security holes, treating them as national security issues and thus immediately (privately) demanding that companies fix them, rather than exploiting them and thus leaving millions of people and businesses at risk? Isn’t it the first (and only proper) role of government to protect its citizens, including private individuals, businesses, power plants, dams and other infrastructure, all of which of the latter some batch of idiots hooked up to the internet.
  • Why are companies with sloppy software practices not held liable for such defects? Car manufacturers that never did have real problems have paid out billions, but software companies get a free pass?

Who knows what this email is below? It is unwanted spam, but non-nefarious? Phishing and dangerous? It looks like one more phishing attempt, and it is base64-encoded (thus hiding its content), so it is almost certainly hiding some nasty stuff. Everyone likes free stuff but why should any business allow its employees to EVER click on links in such an email?

See reader comments that follow below.

That “unused credit” may cost you everything you have.

David B writes:

As it relates to the ransom ware attacks currently I don't encrypt my own files but if I did would that prevent someone else from being able to do it? Might that be a good defensive measure?

I find myself leaving my externals disconnected, which is really inconvenient but figure it's wiser to turn on the computer and see if there's been an attack before connecting in all my data.

MPG: encrypting your data accomplishes nothing in this context: the malware would encrypt the encrypted files and demand payment in order to decrypt them. Decrypting them would restore the originals, whether they are your own unencrypted or encrypted files.

Leaving local backup drives disconnected or off is some measure of defense as mentioned above. However it is wholly inadequate from a backup perspective: real backups should be stored offsite at a separate location and not connected to the internet in any way (unless it’s a cloud backup and that cloud backup is an adjunct, not a primary backup).

Keep in mind that if cloud backup is automatic malware might encrypt your files, then the cloud backup could replace the unencrypted files with the malware-encrypted files and you would be hosed, making such cloud backup 100% useless. If the cloud backup keeps older versions (the ones not encrypted by the malware), then there is some recourse. If not—bye-bye data.

The foregoing is why MPG has recommendd for many years to keep at least three (3) separate offline backups not connected to the computer or located near it and not on the internet, such as in a safe deposit box. Moreover those backups should NEVER be risked by bringing them all at once to the same site; cycle through them once a week or month. This why having 4/5/6/ copies is ideal; update the oldest backup once a week or so.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Is Apple’s Time Machine Broken Yet Again

MPG strongly recommends clone backups as a “real backup”. TimeMachine withreally a toy that is good for a few days (and quite useful in that regards). The “toy” comment might seem unfair or even outrageous, but history proves is perhaps too complementary. More on that below.

Which is why something like a 4-bay OWC Thunderbay 4 in a non-RAID configuration* is so useful: one drive can be for Time Machine and another can be for a clone backup. I call these “half backups” because if the computer is eaten by aliens or burns up in a fire or is stolen, always-attached backup drives have zero value. Keep separate external (away from the computer) as your #1 priority of course. Both are ideal so that backups happen every day and the offsite backups for Plan B for the worst-case scenario.

* RAID is NOT a Backup nor is it advisable to use RAID for backups, excepting only certains specialized situations.

Time machine failing?

A May 13 post I came across macOS Sierra bug not fixed: Time Machine backups still stop working seems eerily familiar with troubles reported here on MPG back in 2012. A bit different, but the same bitter pill.

The old bug in macOS Sierra, which has been present since its first release last year, resulting in Time Machine backups and other background tasks becoming highly irregular and unreliable, has not been fixed in Sierra 10.12.4.
...
After a variable period of continuous running, usually longer than 7 days, sometimes over 30 days, Time Machine backups and other activities which are managed and dispatched by the Duet Activity Scheduler (DAS) will cease being scheduled correctly. They then become extremely irregular and unreliable – backups may be made several hours apart, for example. All activities managed by DAS are affected.

Besides ceasing to operate entirely or partially, there have been crashes in Time Machine and a variety of other problems that MPG has seen over the years. Hence my “toy” comment with respect to Time Machine: backup software has to be rock solid, both for backing up and restoring. MPG recommends Time Machine, but ONLY as an adjunct for a few days or few weeks—max.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.
Storage Wishlist…

Mac Users Want NVIDIA GPUs, Apple Keeps Doing AMD—a Disconnect a Future Mac Pro Might Resolve

Survey on GPU preference

Barefeats.com surveyed Mac users and found that 80% want NVIDIA GPUs:

Based on our survey, the most popular Mac Pro configuration is a Tower with 8 CPU cores, 64GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GPU, two external 4K displays, and 2TB of internal storage. The top three most desired ports are Thunderbolt 3, Ethernet, and USB 3.1 Gen2.

NVIDIA keeps taking the lead and has better support for GPU APIs:

NVIDIA Accelerates AI, Launches Volta, DGX Workstation, Robot Simulator, More

It’s all fueling demand for more AI computing power. Two years ago, cutting-edge image recognition systems needed seven exaflops of computing power, Huang said. Now, researchers tackling real-time language translation need more than 100 exaflops of power, he explained. By comparison, the cumulative peak performance of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers is under one exaflop.

This demand comes as Moore’s law has stalled out. The single-threaded performance of traditional CPUs is now growing just 1.1x per year. By contrast the GPU performance — powered by improvements in the performance of everything from silicon to software — is still growing by 1.5x per year.

Built with 21 billion transistors, the Volta V100 delivers deep learning performance equal to 100 CPUs. Representing an investment by NVIDIA of more than $3 billion, the processor is built “at the limits of photolithography,” Huang told the crowd.

Why isn’t Apple on board with NVIDIA, instead foisting AMD on Mac Pro and iMac users (soldered on or non-upgradeable) all these years? Maybe the promised vaporware ~2019 Mac Pro will solve the issue by being expandable:

Apple’s Promised Mac Pro Powerhouse

The GPU has its problems, but for some users (video, 3D modeling, etc) it is the #1 consideration.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

OWC Mother's Day Deals

Deals at OWC include used macs with warranties, memory, laptop upgrades, add-ons, etc.

SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
Internal SSD Wishlist…

B&H Photo Mother's Day Deals and More

Deals just seem to never stop these days. It’s like Black Friday, but in May.

Some items below have special deals and offers not necessarily shown below (click).

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Security: Phishing Email Purporting to be a Password Reset Notification

Playing off the now-common practice of companies sending emails for logins from new IP addresses and so on, this latest type of phishing email is very dangerous.

NEVER CLICK ON LINKS in EMAILS (in general), particularly ones like this.

Evil phishing email purporting to be a password reset request notification

This one even uses a font similar to what Apple uses:

Evil phishing email purporting to be a password reset request notification

Well, almost never; if it arrived right after you yourself requested a password reset—that’s a reasonable case. Otherwise, if you were born yesterday and actually think it is legit, go to the claimed site by entering the web address manually, e.g., type in apple.com or whatever.

In MPG’s view, Apple Mail is remiss in not adding technology to counter such emails, if only popping up a little display with the URL when the link is moused-over. It’s just insane in this day and age to not have much better intelligence in Mail softtware—self driving cars while phishing runs rampant?

See also:

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