I recently configured a small home office/studio at my apartment, with all of my music gear and my old Presonus FireStudio Project. This is an old 96kHZ/24bit 10 channel 1394 audio interface that I had last used under a 10.9 Mavericks machine. I won a 2013 trashcan Mac Pro on eBay already upgraded to a 12 core E5 and with 128GB of RAM for $500, and figured this could be the audio interface’s last gasp. I needed a small form-factor workstation, anyway.
The FireStudio Project
Using the FireStudio on this machine requires a few things:
- An Apple TB2-1394 dongle
- A “bilingual” 9pin to 6pin FireWire cable
- Don’t use adapters. Don’t even use a 4 pin to 6 pin adapter on a 9 pin to 4 pin cable. Ask me how I know.
colin-campbell/firestudio-catalinafor it to work on Monterey.
It is a dongle monster, but it doesn’t take up much space on my desk, and it looks cool, so that’s good. It’s cute that the I/O panel lights up when you go near it. Apparently, using the extra Caldigit TS3 dock I have with a TB3-TB2 adapter, I can give it USB-C.
One thing I hate is the loose tolerances on all the Thunderbolt port surrounds. My monitor dongle disconnects if you breathe on it, seemingly. I’ve heard various workarounds for this, involving putting substances on the connector shells to increase their thickness and µ. Yucky.
I think the trashcan gets a bad rap, mostly, though I’m not doing tons of renders or other GPU-intensive loads. The most load I put it under is Ableton or Logic Pro, admittedly with liberal use of processors and occasional use of softsynths. It is also a terminal and web browsing machine for now. If
libvirt gets fixed, and memory on the Haswell really crunches, I can use it for virtualization, but it is still slower (single core) than the 4470S. The only thing it has going for it is 128GB of (300 MHz slower) RAM.
libvirt is broken on Monterey, because
sysconf(3) is apparently no longer behaving in a POSIX-compliant manner.
sysconf(_SC_OPEN_MAX) is returning
-1. I need to teach
libvirt how to deal with this, and it seems like it should be simple.
I’ve set the fans to have a more aggressive curve tied to the package temperature reading using Macs Fan Control. It idles around 57°. I have never seen it exceed 70°.
Sleep on this machine is weird. You can’t S3 it. Sleeping from the Apple menu or using
pmset appears to have no influence on its operation. It will go into some kind of sleep mode (that I have yet to measure with the Kill-A-Watt) on its own, and wake up for certain network activity. This includes
ssh, but not
mosh since apparently it only wakelocks when there is a TCP socket. Even the ssh session goes to sleep at inopportune times and is overall maddening to use. The machine does not respond to a wake-on-LAN magic packet. I was very sad to learn this. I know you can check a box in Preferences to keep it awake, but this thing is kind of a pig, and I want it to sleep.
Coming back to OSX
Yes, it is still “OSX” to me. One thing I have sadly noticed after so much time away from the Mac for personal use (and was beginning to notice with using one at work, and was cured by my employer’s gracious decision to begin allowing a self-managed Linux workstation configuration) is the consistent Stockholm syndrome from which most Mac users suffer, and how much Apple has degraded the UX for an experienced Unix hand. Any time you look up how to do something slightly odd or workflow-driven (and which on Linux with sway/i3/any tiling WM is trivial), all you find is a bunch of cult members denouncing the original desire as unncessary, and to just eat the shit sandwich Apple has fed you, in their infinite wisdom. It’s really infuriating. But, I have configured this machine to satisfaction, mostly. Oddly enough, getting the Kodi HTSP client plugin working was the hardest thing. I had to build it myself because the macOS distribution offered for download does not have it. That was fun.
Also, the OS provides no way to disable a display output?!
displayplacer is required to make using this thing in my configuration bearable.
Montery is projected to end support in November 2024, which gives a bit over a year of confident use of this machine under macOS. Not bad. OCLP will extend its useful life, but eventually I see myself dual-booting with Linux or FreeBSD, or maybe even virtualizing macOS under (one of) them. I only really need macOS for audio work; everything else this machine does can be done with with a regular OS. I wonder how virtualization will affect audio latency. It might prove unworkable, but I can’t yet say.
I need to get an Apple SSD to M.2 adapter at some point, before they aren’t sold anymore.
I can’t see getting another Mac after this. Maybe if they can be configured with enough memory without costing $10,000.
Like almost everything else in this world, the Mac gets worse with each passing day. Hooray.