Behold: The Mac Pro

My "New" Mac Pro

At least it’s new to me. A first generation Mac Pro.

One of my pet peeves is our increasingly disposable culture. Perfectly good products are simply thrown away because of planned obsolescence. I hold onto things. Like the PowerBook, or my Blue and White G3, or the 486 before that (my dad’s IBM PS2 is still running). I use an iPhone 3G that was given to me. Sure it’s a little slow, but it works fine.

One of my wife’s pet peeves is the amount of junked electronics gear in the house. But now I have an office.

And that office now houses my latest acquisition: a first generation Mac Pro.

It’s a base model, running on relatively pokey (by today’s standards) dual 2Ghz Xeon processors with a paltry 1GB of ram. I picked it up at the school surplus sale for $350. A quick check on eBay showed similar systems had sold for close to $500 (plus another hundred in shipping), so it was a bit of a deal. It was also used in the Education department. What they would need a Mac Pro with a only a gig of ram for boggles the mind (wouldn’t be surprised if it was a glorified desktop).

So what am I gonna do with it?

Not much in it’s present state.  But before I bought it, I stumbled upon this thread on MacRumors. Basically, I can swap out the lowly 2Ghz dual-core CPUs and put two quad-cores that run faster to boot. I do a lot of video work, and I work on an older version of Final Cut Pro (specifically Studio 2). Two quad-core chips running at 2.6Ghz would make the system pretty capable. Certainly more than my Mac Mini which I use for basic offline work.

So this is the first post of my Mac Pro Project. I’m going to document how cheaply I can get this behemoth of a computer to comparable performance by upgrading the memory, CPU, hard drive and eventually video card. My hope is for it to cost me less than $500 total.

If I pull it off, systems like this could be quite attractive for non-profits and even groups that work with troubled youth (just two examples off the top of my head). Video and graphics production skills are severely lacking in many communities, and a powerful system for $500 could go a long way.

Let me know in the comments if you want me to test anything out. I’m currently doing a Handbrake test to see how long the stock system takes to rip a DVD.


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About Ryan

I'm a writer-performer originally from Montreal, Canada where I performed stand-up and sketch comedy. These days I'm an Instructor in the New Media Department at the University of Lethbridge where I indulge in my fascination with creative media and technology. I've written and directed two web series and always seem to have a new project lined up. Busy is good.

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  1. Mac Pro Update « This Old PowerBook - February 21, 2013

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