Friday, August 10, 2012

Chronicles of Service: Mac Pro

At least they seem to be; because it may be entirely different ... "Mackie" was studio technician at a major reseller for 10 years, from 2001 to 2011. A unique position to observe the Apple machines from another angle that of their small or large seeds and defects. Here is the first of these columns on the summer "SAV Mac".

"Apple and its great migrations, remember there was the transition from 68K to PowerPC, Mac OS to Mac OS X and now Apple announced mid-2005 color: the abandonment of PowerPC chips in favor of Intel. The Power Mac G5 and Xserve G5 begin to be replaced in summer 2006, completing the migration processor led to the charge since January of that year. In this case, the Mac Pro that interests us.

Aesthetically, there were few changes facing the Power Mac G5. The most visible was the addition of a second bay for an optical drive, moving the power supply toward the top of the case and a change in connectivity. In short, everything was done to not rush the customer more and make this transition on a foundation of evil known. Not developments inside and also in the best sense. For a technician, and depending on the model, it was no longer necessary to remove the processor from the system board to conduct a simple replacement of food!

It will remain a few quirky elements, born of a devious mind. Why had he had the idea to do a cover which snaps as processor cache on the first generation, and difficult to remove. Why the memory modules were they placed on "risers" (media as daughter cards to be inserted on the logic board), while the Intel reference design does not include the (betting on a desire to better cool the bars) why the AirPort antenna cables and Bluetooth were they hidden by the SATA cables (admit it was cleaner, but what a waste of time to access these two cables). And why we found three antenna cables to the AirPort card while the module was expected Apple to only two?

From the perspective of the SAV, the Mac Pro was a good machine, with pilot lights on all sides. It was simple to test power without having an advance supply or alternatively, whether a memory was faulty. But the logic board was still as inaccessible. You can not have everything.

On a purely technical level, the first batch was divided into two Xeon "Woodcrest" each with two hearts, a logic board amended by Intel for Apple's needs, Nvidia or ATI video cards with a special firmware and DDR memory -2 ECC.

The second batch meets the sweet name of "Mac Pro 8-core" will not make difference as "visible" as its dual Xeon "Clovertown" that little feature, called for the use of a specific thermal paste: DuPont Krytox . A paste which requires gloves (it is corrosive), which has a maximum exposure limit in air of a few tens of minutes and requires the affixing of the surface as clean as possible.

But here, on this ultimate Mac Pro and the first generation 8-core, a problem began to dawn: many machines arrived in VAS trouble video distorted or completely absent.

Apple, in its discretion, will first take care of these machines without saying anything definite. I keep on seeing these processions pass machines affected by the same evil, we learn that there is an internal memorandum on the subject ... but inaccessible to service centers (how many notes of this type have not been released ... ?). We only had to contact the appropriate service for a support, and especially since the cards down had one or two swollen capacitors. Apple will take several months before sharing this note with its partners, and then it will take several months before it is finally released ...

But on these two lines of Mac Pro, another video card will also pose problems. If in the first case it was a series mark the chameleon, in the second the failures came with a Radeon XT1900 ATI. And history repeated itself identically with Apple customers will soon be dropping in for repair; they leave with a care, but without any information from Apple.

Inevitably, one thinks that this time the explanations are in a confidential and ... indeed. It will follow the same path as the previous one, always over several months. That wasted time! Neither one nor two and come in threes, this will again be the case for the Mac Pro "Early 2008".

At that time, the tower receives a major overhaul work. Almost everything changes. The processor becomes a "Hapertown 'memories go from 667 MHz to 800 MHz, PCI Express evolves and makes it incompatible with this new generation of Mac Pro video cards and the older generation processor cache can be removed much better, he is now magnetic.

Let's look at video cards, especially the Radeon 2600XT core. At first, as always, everything was fine, then after a year, the first worry came quietly. And when, in the same day, a technician replaces four video cards of the same series for the same range of machines, there is something to wince. We then made some research on the "Global Service Exchange" Apple and we discover that half of the failures that the center has treated for this type of machine for 1 year was only for this single Radeon 2600XT!

An Excel table later, where I compiled all the machines involved, I try to get support from Apple with these statistics in support. The request will be denied me, and the short game will last almost a year. This will force me to charge customers out of warranty since the Apple side; there is no recognition of a problem with these cards. As I learn at this time, technicians in other brands and around the world have taken the same step. This persistence eventually paid off, however, since Apple will begin to send clients for 2600XT Mac Pro down, and then recognize the problem with service centers, then to the public. But this little song, you already know ...”

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