DBP's "lammergeier": i7-3770K / GA-Z77X-UP5-TH : photography beast

Discussion in 'User Builds' started by DBP, Dec 24, 2012.

  1. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 24, 2012 at 2:32 PM #1
    DBP

    DBP

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    DBP's "lammergeier": i7-3770K / GA-Z77X-UP5-TH : Photography Beast

    This build post is “rather large”, so I’ve split it into several parts to avoid problems with the spam filters.
    It's also had some rework later on (e.g. setting it up to use a GTX 650 and using monitors on both the HD4000 and GTX graphics) so be sure to keep reading.

    This system is intended to be an office-bound workstation and server. As such it connects to gigabit Ethernet and I haven't needed to worry about WiFi, Bluetooth, or even sleep/resume issues. It's to be a photography processing beast, taking over from the 2010 MacBook Pro that's been my workhorse since new (it's had SSD + 1 TB internals, and lots of Firewire disks). That machine has been outclassed for grunt even by my “thornbill” i3-3225 HTPC build. So I was keen to see what I could get out of an even bigger machine.

    Every machine on our network gets a name, and it’s usually a bird: the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) is one of the bigger raptors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bearded_Vulture
    As with my thornbill build, most of my new parts were bought through a local supplier (ScorpTec). Amazon/NewEgg don’t like my part of the world.

    Components (new)

    Case: Corsair Obsidian 550D
    [​IMG]

    CPU: Intel i7-3770K quad-core i7

    Processor cooler: Noctua NH-D14

    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH

    RAM: 4x 8GB Geil EVO Leggera DDR3-1600 CL9

    PSU: Silverstone ST50F-ES 500W 80 Plus

    Firewire 800: Apple Thunderbolt-to-FW800 Adapter

    Drive bays: Icy Dock MB973SP-B "3 in 2" trayless SATA dock

    2nd monitor: LG IPS235V 23” 1920x1080

    SSD: SanDisk Extreme 240GB

    SSD: Samsung 830 128GB

    PCIe SATA: 2x Channel+ 2-port SATA-III card
    Bought at corner PC store.​

    Extra fans:


    Added later (see around post #31)

    Already owned

    Monitor: Dell U2410 24" 1920x1200

    Keyboard/mouse:
    Logitech K270 wireless keyboard
    Logitech M905 wireless mouse
    Wacom Graphire tablet

    FW400 header cable and bracket
    eSATA brackets and internal cables

    PCIe SATA: Channel+ 2-port SATA-III card
    Yes, a third one.​

    Webcam: Logitech Webcam for TV (860-000285)

    mini-DisplayPort to DVI adapter

    Drives:
    2x Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500 GB 2.5” drives
    WD Scorpio Blue 750 GB 2.5” drive
    WD Green 1 TB 3.5” drive

    External SATA docks:
    2x Newer Technology Voyager Q docks (old version)
    Newer Technology Voyager S3 dock
    http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/NewerTech/Voyager/Hard_Drive_Dock

    See below for the next section...

    EDIT LOG:
    2012-12-27: Split into smaller sections, added more NewEgg links.
    2013-02-07: Added extra GPU components, outlined later in the thread.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2016
  2. gxsolace

    gxsolace

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    Dec 24, 2012 at 2:50 PM #2
    gxsolace

    gxsolace

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  3. HyperMac5

    HyperMac5

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    Dec 24, 2012 at 5:06 PM #3
    HyperMac5

    HyperMac5

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    Really nice! I hope you enjoy it!
     
  4. DBP

    DBP

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    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
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    Dec 24, 2012 at 9:58 PM #4
    DBP

    DBP

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    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
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    Component Comments

    Case: Corsair Obsidian 550D
    I’m loving the Obsidian 550D. Physically it’s about the same size as a Mac Pro, and it has lots of storage bays. I could have squashed all this into a smaller case, but this is a comfortable size, and quite quiet too!
    The case comes with trays for all six 3.5” bays, capable of mounting 2.5” or 3.5” drives with no extras required.

    DBP-L1_000042.jpg
    Here’s the side view of the case from an early stage of the build (major change since this was the addition of a third PCIe SATA card).
    Some notes about the fans:
    • The case comes with 3 Corsair 120mm fans (two bringing air across the internal drive bays, and one extractor at the back). While they're fairly quiet, I have used some quieter Noctua fans and rearranged the layout.
    • At the top rear is the supplied Corsair 120mm fan extracting air. This is connected to the motherboard’s SYS_FAN3 port, using a 75-ohm “LNA” (Low Noise Adapter) cable from a Noctua fan to slow it down.
    • The PSU is drawing its air through a filter from underneath (venting out the rear of course).
    • In front of the internal drive bays the case comes with two Corsair 120mm fans drawing air through a filter from the front. I have replaced these with Noctua NF-P12 fans. These are connected via their matching 50-ohm LNA cables to SYS_FAN1 and SYS_FAN2.
    • Forward of the PSU I’ve positioned one of the Corsair fans to draw air in from underneath (through the same filter as the PSU). This is connected to SYS_FAN4, using another 50-ohm Noctua LNA cable. It turns out I do have a fair amount of dust around, so maintaining positive pressure should help to collect the dust on the external filters rather than having it seep through other gaps and collect on the innards.
    The case has other ports that can be opened up for more airflow if required, but I’m leaving these alone for now. There’s no GPU furnace burning inside this case…
    The LNA cables slow the fans down, and drop the noise levels of each by several dB. I’ve been monitoring the system temperatures, and so far they’re well-within comfortable levels.

    Incidentally, the surplus Corsair fan has been used in my thornbill build as a quieter replacement for its PSU fan.​

    Motherboard:
    The plethora of ports on the Z77X-UP5 was a strong factor here. I was keen to have the option of Thunderbolt for interoperability with peripherals for my next Mac laptop, and this workstation is intended to last me many years.
    Gigabit LAN is essential, but WiFi was not a requirement. For now I’ve left the supplied PCIe WiFi/Bluetooth card in storage. I haven’t needed Bluetooth on this machine.​

    RAM:
    Why stuff around? I've been using 8 GB and 16 GB machines for a while, and the headroom of 32 GB will be great for my work. 16 would be ok, but RAM is cheap these days...
    The GEIL Leggera modules are low-profile and fit under the CPU cooler with no problems.​

    Processor cooler:
    I wanted both a quiet cooler and one that's actually going to keep it cool (especially as we're coming into summer and our ambient temp has been to 39 C already). The NH-D14 fits neatly into the Obsidian 550D case. It has not disappointed me in any way!
    I’ve connected the fans to the motherboard’s CPU fan plug. Currently I’m not using any LNA cables, as cooling of the CPU is paramount, and these fans are buried well within the case so their noise is less critical than the case fans.

    DBP-L1_000043.jpg
    Here you can see the RAM fitting neatly under the front fan of the NH-D14.​

    PSU:
    With no PEG GPU in this machine I wasn’t going to need a behemoth PSU, so 500W seemed fair. I was expecting the ST50F-ES to be black, but the small print online that says “Actual product may differ from image” wasn’t lying. But I’m not really fussed about the grey: who looks at the back of the machine anyway?
    This PSU has 6x SATA ports (I’ve used them all) and 3 Molex (I’ve used 2 of them).​

    Firewire 800:
    The motherboard's FW400 port is fine for the FW400 devices (and for “slow” access to FW800 devices via an adapter cable) but for normal use I want the speed of FW800. Apple’s Thunderbolt-to-FW800 adapter was an easy choice.

    I do have the motherboard’s FW400 port connected up also. When I started the build I had one FW400 drive, but after I remembered that drive also had eSATA (see below) this port has been idle. I’m sure it will get used occasionally.​

    Monitors:
    I already had the Dell U2410 monitor, and this is connected via DVI and a mini-DisplayPort adapter to one of the Thunderbolt ports (MDP1). It’s also connected to one of the USB2 ports (it has a 4-port hub plus SDHC card reader), and the Logitech Unifying receiver (for the keyboard+mouse) is connected to it (nice and close to the desk surface for good reception) along with the Wacom tablet. The U2410 has a decent-quality IPS panel and although I can see it’s not in the same league as some of the Eizo/NEC monitors it’s served my photography work well for some years already.

    I was used to working with the U2410 as my main display and using the MacBook Pro’s screen as somewhere to park things like Mail, Skype, Activity Monitor, etc. So I was in the market for a second display. The LG IPS235 was cheap, uses an IPS panel, and offers a decent amount of screen space. Although it’s a different size to the U2410, the pixel pitch is the same size and thus when I drag windows between the displays they do not change size. I’m very happy with this display!

    The IPS235 is connected to the motherboard’s DVI port. Its brightness has been wound back to around 70 (like most monitors these days they’re too bright out of the box) and the Sharpness has been set to 5 (the mid-point, which seems to be the “no sharpening” point). I removed the cheap stand that comes with the IPS235V, and it’s mounted (in portrait orientation) on a monitor arm just to the right of the U2410.

    Note that I regularly calibrate and profile my displays using an X-rite i1 Display Pro. One of the many benefits of this is it essentially makes them have the same colors.

    two_screens.jpg

    USB

    The GA-Z77X-UP5 TH board has “a few” USB ports. First the USB2 ones:
    • Two ports at the rear. One of these goes to the Dell monitor’s internal hub, and the other connects to the UPS.
    • I’ve connected one of the two internal headers to 2 ports on a bracket at the rear. One of these goes to a 7-port powered hub on a shelf, and this has cables to charge various devices, connect up GPS units for downloads, as well as portable USB2 drives. The other port is currently free.
    • The other header has one port connected to the Icy Dock bay (described below).
    USB2.png
    By looking in System Information at the USB device tree we can see that the rear motherboard ports are connected (via a hub) to a separate Z77 port from the header ports, and thus if I wanted I could connect a storage device to the 7-port hub and another to the U2410, and they would not compete with each other for USB2 bandwidth. (i.e. 2x-faster copies from one drive to another)

    Next the USB3 ports. Note that currently USB2 devices only work on the Z77 USB3 ports if they’re connected via a USB3 hub (although USB3 devices can go direct).
    • Four ports at the rear, which are all fed by an internal USB3 hub. USB2 and USB3 devices all work fine.
    • One internal dual-port header near the RAM slots (F_USB30_1). These ports go directly to the Z77, and I’ve left this header unconnected.
    • Two dual-port headers on the side of the board, fed by another internal USB3 hub. One of these headers is feeding the two USB3 ports on the front of the 550D case. USB2 and USB3 devices work fine here.
    So I have 4 unconnected USB3 ports for future expansion.​

    Audio:
    The analog audio from the back of the main board (the green socket) is connected via an amplifier to some 20-year-old Teac monitor speakers mounted at the back of my desk. The Logitech webcam has a microphone which works for Skype/etc as required.​

    UPS:
    The Nova (MGE/Eaton) UPS protecting this system as well as the Internet/WiFi/etc servers in the same room, is connected to one of the USB2 ports. This UPS doesn’t report runtime estimates, but OS X is able to trigger a shutdown after a specified number of minutes on battery power, without needing any special driver software.​

    See below for the next section...

    EDIT LOG:
    2012-12-27: Split into smaller sections
    2013-02-04: Experimenting with GTX650 GPU. New build photos.
     
  5. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 25, 2012 at 1:41 AM #5
    DBP

    DBP

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    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
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    Looks nice a nice bay. I use a bunch of HP ProLiant servers which have all 2.5" hot-swap drives. They're very convenient.

    The things I like about the bay I got include:
    • 3.5" drives: more TB (and cheaper) for my own systems than 2.5" drives.
    • trayless: with swapping drives in and out weekly/monthly, changing trays (or having spares) would be a pain.
    • 80mm fan (vs 40mm fan in the smaller unit) reasonably quiet.
    In general having all drives swappable is great for when the drives need servicing or rearrangement, and especially if you're running a system with RAID and you can't cope with any downtime. On this system I'm happy to cope with a little downtime, and it's easy to pop the sides off the case and pull out the internal trays.
     
  6. DBP

    DBP

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    Graphics:
    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
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    Classic Mac:
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    Dec 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM #6
    DBP

    DBP

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    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
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    Classic Mac:
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    Whenever I make an edit the first post keeps disappearing. :( Presumably there's something in there triggering a spam filter?
     
  7. Obvious Answer Man

    Obvious Answer Man Super Moderator

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    Dec 26, 2012 at 1:25 AM #7
    Obvious Answer Man

    Obvious Answer Man Super Moderator

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    There is a limit to the number of links in a post and once you exceed that limit the post in question needs to be approved before it can be shown again.
     
  8. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM #8
    DBP

    DBP

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    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
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    This is the 3rd section in this thread.

    Drive layout

    With a fast CPU and lots of memory this starts off as a great machine already, but the storage layout is key to having the overall system perform at its best.
    Future upgrade options center around replacing drives with bigger/faster units, but the basic drive layout will probably be similar for some time.

    Primary drives

    First the SSD drives:

    • The machine boots off a 128 GB SSD (Samsung 830). This contains the OS, Applications, the shell of /Users, and the paging file for when 32 GB of RAM just isn't enough. By itself this makes most of the machine operations very fast.
    • A second SSD (SanDisk Extreme 240 GB) is reserved for two things: Lightroom catalogs and Photoshop scratch data (more on this later).
    These are both SATA-III devices, and I’ve used blue cables to connect them to the motherboard’s 6 Gbps ports.

    Then come the four mechanical drives, all connected to 3 Gbps ports with black SATA cables. The 2.5" drives are left over from earlier laptop upgrades.
    • Two 500 GB 2.5" Seagate Momentus 5400.6 drives are each partitioned into 350 GB plus 150 GB, and then each of those slices combined into RAID-0 (“stripe”) sets:
      • The “front” filesystem (700 GB) is on the fast parts of the disks, and contains my home folder, along with a large "temp" area which is ignored by Time Machine.
      • The other (300 GB) is set aside for infrequently-accessed data, currently including my iTunes library.
    • A 750 GB 2.5" drive is split into two partitions:
      • A 620 GB partition holds one of my “media sets”: folder trees that contain images, photos, videos, etc.
      • The tail-end of the drive has a clone of the boot SSD and is updated regularly with Super Duper!. It’s a backup for when tweaking/updating the OS on the boot drive, and for general disaster-recovery scenarios.
    • A 1 TB WD Green 3.5” drive contains more media sets, which used to live on an external Firewire drive. It's not a particularly fast drive, but you'll see below why I already had a few such drives. This will be the first candidate for a future upgrade.
    I started out with a collection of FW400 and FW800 drives (containing data from my earlier system), but realised that two of these (WD MyBooks) had eSATA ports. The motherboard already has one eSATA driven by the Marvell controller, and I connected the other Marvell “GSATA3” port to an eSATA bracket on the rear panel. These ports are now permanently connected to those MyBooks, leaving one 2 TB drive on the FW800 bus.
    EDIT: One of the drives is a MyBook Studio, which dropped offline every now and then. According to Western Digital (see a post later in this thread) it's an issue with that drive and Marvell controllers, so I have since moved the drive to one of the other eSATA ports (introduced in the next section).

    Using disktester's fill-volume to generate the data, here's the read and write speeds of the 1 TB WD drive, and the striped pair of 500 GB drives. Those little Momentus 5400.6 (yes, 5400 rpm) drives aren't too bad.
    striped_perf.jpg


    Secondary drives

    I’ve installed three 2-port PCIe SATA cards (which use ASM1061 chips). Although these are billed as SATA-III (6 Gbps) ports these have a pair of ports on each PCIe x1 card, which will limit the achievable throughput. If I was putting multiple SSDs on these I would be looking into PCIe x4 cards, but with HDDs I should be fine. I can always upgrade these cheap cards in the future if I feel the need.

    Four of these ports are connected (with red cables, just to be different) to the Icy Dock MB973SP bay I’ve installed in the case. This has hot-swap bays for three 3.5” drives, plus an eSATA port and a USB2 port. Tracking down the MB973SP in Australia was a challenge: at first I could only see it at Newegg (who don’t ship outside the US). Eventually I found it at ISAdirect.

    I have the dock’s rear 80mm fan set to “Automatic” and it only spins when drives are powered on. However I realised once I got the bay and the 550D case together that the front ventilation would be blocked by the 550D’s front door when closed (the front case fans further down draw air from the sides and the bottom, not from the front). But at least the bay sits flush and will let the door close. So far I haven’t noticed any cooling problems, but can leave the case door ajar while drives are mounted if I’m worried. I’ve connected up the eSATA and USB2 ports because I can, but I can’t imagine that I’d leave things connected to them long-term. Note that some portable eSATA devices can be powered by a USB port, so it makes sense to have both ports available in the same area of the case.

    The 80mm fan supplied as part of the MB973SP has been replaced with a Noctua NF-R8, which is much quieter (not that the original was “noisy” as such). However I did have to change the arrangement of the pins in the NF-R8’s 3-pin plug to match the non-standard pinout of the OEM fan’s connector.

    Here you can see the MB973SP dock in the case:
    DBP-L1_000052.jpg DBP-L1_000053.jpg DBP-L1_000056.jpg

    The remaining two ASM1061 ports are connected to the rear as more eSATA ports. These currently go to two Newer Technology Voyager Q drive docks (the older model with eSATA/FW800/FW400/USB2). At the same time a Voyager S3 dock is connected to one of the USB3 ports.

    sata.png

    So, all-up I have:
    • 3x front-panel bays (for 3.5” drives)
    • 3x external bays (for 2.5” or 3.5” drives)
    • I also have some other USB2 docks if I need them.
    That’s 6+ docks. Why so many? Backups!​

    Backups

    I have a setup that uses rsync to maintain copies of each media set (and the Lightroom catalogs) on external drives. Each set is copied to several externals (with the software smart enough to skip drives that aren't connected at the time). Thus I regularly connect a set of SATA drives into the docks, run the sync, then put the drives back in storage. In fact I have rotating sets of daily/weekly/monthly drives.

    Usually the sync runs quickly as only the changed data is copied, but when I reorganise folder trees and move large chunks of data around the backup can involve serious data volumes. In those cases with my old machine I would just kick off the backup and let it run overnight (sometimes well into the next day for big changes) but this new machine has shortened the times dramatically. The faster I/O with this new system has also made it easier to run full file-verification checks more frequently.

    Does this sound extreme? I think the only people who are serious about data backups/restores are the ones who've been burnt. There was a time that I lost ~6 months of work (back when this was only hundreds of megabytes) because I only had one backup of my files, and after that I got serious about backups.​

    Also Time Machine is backing up the boot drive and home directories to two drives. With multiple drives in Mountain Lion if they're all connected Time Machine will "round-robin", backing up to each in turn. In my case one of the drives is offsite, and swapped with the other every month as part of the offsite backup swap. EDIT: See the next section of this thread where it talks about the networked Time Machine backups from laptops that are stored on this disk too.

    Not counting the Time Machine disk, my backup set is currently 4 drives. It changes over time, and I always try to make sure that the backup drives are bigger than the "primary" drives so I don't get surprised by running out of space during the backup.

    On my old machine the Voyager Q docks were the fastest, managing ~70 MB/s over FW800. Now that’s relatively slow! The Voyager S3 managed about 30 MB/s over USB2. Now with eSATA, USB3, and the internal SATA docks it's definitely the drives themselves that limit the speed in most docks.

    But in the past where most of my primary storage as well as the backup docks were all on the Firewire bus, that itself imposed an upper bottleneck on the system. Now when the backup sync runs things in parallel the bottlenecks are much higher, even with a couple of slow backup drives in the mix. This new machine has moved the performance limits up in all sorts of areas, so I expect that future drives I purchase will be faster than in the past. Keep in mind that for each terabyte of filespace I add to my system I'm actually adding 4 TB of disk: one primary copy and 3 secondaries. So I just needed lots of big drives that were reasonable performers over Firewire and USB2 (and thus I had that 1 TB WD Green available to drop into the build: at one point 1 TB was big).

    If I do fill up the internal and external “primary” drives, I have the flexibility to put a “primary” drive in a SATA dock. If I accidentally unmount it I can just eject/reinsert it (just as I have with Firewire drives in the past). The docks don’t have to only be for backups.

    Apart from the speed issue, eSATA docks have another advantage (even over USB3 docks): they expose the drives’ SMART data, which is not normally accessible via USB or Firewire. This is giving me more peace of mind through giving me feedback on the health of the drives which are holding all my business data (as well as my existing checking of file integrity).​

    PCIe slots

    With three PCIe x1 cards, it's worth thinking carefully about which slots they go into. The motherboard has three likely-looking x1 slots, but it turns out that these are switched together onto a single PCIe lane heading to the Z77. Trying to squeeze up to six 6 Gbps SATA ports down a single lane is sure to cause a bottleneck.
    Instead I've put one card into a x1 slot, one into the x4 slot, and one into the x8 slot. So each card gets a lane to itself. Unfortunately this does mean that the x16 slot will only run at x8 (this happens on this motherboard as soon as you put something into either the x4 or x8 slots), but as I'm not using a GPU card this isn't a fuss for me.​

    See below for the next section...

    EDIT LOG:
    2012-12-27: Split into smaller sections
    2013-01-04: Added note about Marvell SATA controller and WD MyBook
    2013-01-17: Added note about PCIe lanes
     
  9. DBP

    DBP

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1,028
    Mobo:
    GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, -Z77-D3H, -H77N-WIFI, and Macs
    CPU:
    i7-3770K, i7-3770, i3-3225, i7-620M
    Graphics:
    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
    Mac:
    iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, Mac Pro
    Classic Mac:
    eMac, iBook, iMac, Power Mac, PowerBook
    Mobile Phone:
    Android, iOS
    Dec 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM #9
    DBP

    DBP

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1,028
    Mobo:
    GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, -Z77-D3H, -H77N-WIFI, and Macs
    CPU:
    i7-3770K, i7-3770, i3-3225, i7-620M
    Graphics:
    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
    Mac:
    iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, Mac Pro
    Classic Mac:
    eMac, iBook, iMac, Power Mac, PowerBook
    Mobile Phone:
    Android, iOS
    Installation

    After constructing the machine, I checked the BIOS version. It was F8 (or was it F4?), whereas the latest non-beta I could find on Gigabyte's site was F11. So I downloaded the EXE file, extracted the firmware image (I used Win7 in a VM), loaded it on a flash drive, and updated the firmware to F11.

    In the BIOS:
    Start off with the guidelines suggested by thelostswede.

    BIOS Features
    Boot Option #1P0: (Samsung SSD) Note that the Boot Options list changes depending on the Hard Drive BBS Priorities and the Boot Mode Selection choices further down this screen.
    Hard Drive BBS PrioritiesOnly care about the first two devices in the list: The boot SSD, then the backup drive with the clone partition (and Chimera bootblocks) on it.
    Intel Virtualization TechnologyEnabled Need this for VirtualBox to work
    CSM Support
    Boot Mode SelectionLegacy Only
    Storage Boot Option ControlDisabled Without this I would find drives in the hot-swap docks appearing in the boot list and causing boots to fail.

    Peripherals
    XHCI Hand-offEnabled
    EHCI Hand-offEnabled

    Power Management
    Wake on LANDisabled
    Soft-off by PWR-BTTNDelay 4 sec.
    AC BACKMemory

    Then install using a UniBeast stick. I made this on a machine with a freshly-downloaded copy of Mountain Lion (which was thus 10.8.2). Prior to booting I'd also copied the MultiBeast 5.2.0.pkg file onto the USB stick.

    When running MultiBeast I used these options:

    MB_lamm.jpg

    Remove sleepimage

    Unlike Apple systems where "desktop" systems default to not using "hibernate" mode (where the contents of RAM are written to disk so you can remove power and still resume later), my CustoMacs seem to default to having this on.
    Code (Text):
    sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0           # Turn off hibernation
    sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage              # Reclaim 32 GB of space on the boot SSD

    After this I started installing software. One of the first was Super Duper!, which I use to copy the boot volume to the dedicated clone partition. Thus if I'm later changing kexts, using MultiBeast, etc, if something stuffs up I can boot off the clone to recover. Rather than relying on the bootblocks on the UniBeast stick or the boot drive, it's easier if I use the Chimera installer (downloaded from this site) to install the bootblocks on the clone partition's drive.

    HWmonitor issues

    HWmonitor reports on all sorts of temperature sensors in the system, including the SMART-capable drives. However there doesn’t seem to be any way to refresh the list of sensors (e.g. after swapping drives in docks).​

    OS X Server and Time Machine

    I have installed OS X Server (from the App Store) which went smoothly as expected. The primary reason for doing this was that I've used it to establish two network Time Machine stores, and have the other machines on the network (the "thornbill" HTPC and a couple of MacBooks) backing up their Time Machine to both of these (and in some cases also local disks). Mountain Lion can have multiple TM destinations, and backs up to each in turn.

    Each of these locations is on a 2 TB removable drive, and one at a time will be stored offsite (swapped monthly). That way at the end of the month I don't need to make copies of TM drives to store offsite: I just swap over the single 2 TB drive. In fact these drives also have a partition used as a TM destination by the server itself, so everything's on one drive.
    This drive will die eventually, but when it does I'll still have the other drive which will be at most a month old, and in any case I should be able to replace the failed drive and make new Time Machine backups before anyone actually notices!​

    Software configuration

    Lightroom 4 settings:
    The catalogs and their preview databases live on the 240 GB SSD (actually some older ones have been migrated to one of the HDDs) and this brings a huge speed jump.

    Settings in each catalog include:
    • Standard preview size: big enough for my monitor so it doesn't have to calculate or use 1:1 previews unless I zoom in. Don’t auto-delete 1:1 previews.
    • Don't update metadata. Don't get bogged down saving every metadata change to the image files. I do have the catalogs regularly backed up, after all.
    Global settings:
    • Export as uncompressed TIFFs, not PSDs.
      This results in bigger files, but with decent disks the performance penalty of this is better than the penalty of tying up the processor compressing data. There’s no functionality loss with TIFFs versus PSDs.
    Camera Raw cache (shared with Photoshop) is set to 20 GB, on a folder on the boot SSD. This was chosen both because it is fast and because it doesn’t contain much else that is accessed at the same time.
    However, with DNG files containing “fast-load data” the cache is instead stored with the image, which is another driver for wanting all disks to be fast. The cache folder is still used for other files though.​

    Photoshop CS6 settings:
    In the Performance preferences, allow Photoshop to use up to 20 GB RAM. This actually the default (~70% of physical).
    This still leaves ~10 GB free for other software including Lightroom, even when processing huge panoramas. Do note however that sometimes Photoshop will use memory in addition to its allocated pool (CS5’s Content-aware Fill was bad for this) so it can be good to have some available overhead.

    The scratch disk is set to be the 240 GB SSD. There's typically 50% free at the moment. Even with 20 GB of RAM allocated to Photoshop, it does tend to reserve chunks of scratch space as you work. Having it on an SSD can only help the performance, and we don’t want to fill the boot SSD.
    I once made the mistake of having the scratch disk on an 8 GB machine set to the boot SSD (which is obviously shared with VM paging and lot of other stuff), but when it eventually filled up during an overnight job various programs aborted. Best to leave the boot drive with plenty of free space.​

    PTGui Pro settings:
    Check the Preferences under Folders and Files: I use a temporary/scratch folder on the 240 GB SSD. While processing a big pano I’m unlikely to be stressing this disk with Lightroom catalog activity, and I don’t want it filling up the boot SSD (this folder can get fairly big).
    I add this folder to the Privacy panel in the Spotlight Preferences, so the system mds process doesn’t fire up and compete with PtGUI for I/O during processing.​

    Sundry notes

    Photoshop CS6 Performance

    With a swanky new machine, of course I wanted to run some sort of benchmark to gauge its performance. I can open up and work on my own huge panoramic images, but that’s a bit subjective. Lloyd Chambers over at MacPerformanceGuide.com has a set of Photoshop benchmarks you can download for free.
    http://macperformanceguide.com/OptimizingPhotoshopCS6-Benchmarks.html

    Running these on my (non-overclocked) system for 10+ iterations I get:

    Test seconds
    Speed1 14.6
    Small 4.95
    Medium 9.3
    Huge 146


    I think these are seriously-impressive numbers, especially for the price I paid for this machine.
    Lloyd has measured the 6-core 3.33 GHz Mac Pro at 18.2s for Speed1, and the same machine with a super-fast PCIe SSD for scratch space has come in with the Medium benchmark at 11.4s, which seemed to get Lloyd very excited.

    At the same time, Geekbench checks in at 14500 (64-bit).
    EDIT: Overclocked the CPU from 3.7 to 4.2 GHz: Geekbench went up to 15800.
    EDIT: Make that 4.4 GHz: Geekbench went up to 16375.​

    Noise:

    There’s a steady low hum from the fans in the machine, but it’s at a very low level. Even though the Obsidian 550D case is billed as a quiet case, noise does escape from the rear exhaust. The Noctua fans are quieter than the Corsair fans, but using the Noctua LNA adapters has definitely had a big effect. I’ve now replaced the fan in the nearby UPS as it had become the loudest thing in the room.​

    Upgrade plans:

    The only upgrade plans I have in mind are gradual increases in the speed and size of the disks in the system. But there’s no hurry for that right now!​

    Maintenance:

    Every month I’ll be shutting the machine down and cleaning all the air filters. At least the dust is only collecting on them, unlike in the nearby ReadyNAS box which gets dust everywhere! And yes, the fan in the ReadyNAS is also a Noctua.​

    EDIT LOG:
    2012-12-26: Fleshed out BIOS configuration.
    2012-12-27: Split into smaller sections. Added section about OS X Server and Time Machine backups.
    2012-12-30: Overclocked CPU to 4.2 GHz.
    2013-01-13: Added notes about sleepimage.
     
  10. gestrella

    gestrella

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Mobo:
    not sure
    CPU:
    not sure
    Graphics:
    not sure
    Dec 28, 2012 at 3:10 AM #10
    gestrella

    gestrella

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Mobo:
    not sure
    CPU:
    not sure
    Graphics:
    not sure
    Great and very detailed build. Thank you for taking the time and should be very useful for a ton of people.

    I am curious if you have hot swapping on the dock ? I have tried in the pass with no luck so curious and never found an option about a year back when tried it.

    thanks, Gus
     

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