Two ‘trash can’ Macs form core of nerdy workstation built to last [Setups]

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Those two
Those two "trash cans" at upper left prove core to this setup.
Photo: XTJ7@Reddit

Redditor XTJ7, a programmer and photographer based in Germany, knows how to make a setup last and do just what he needs it to do. As his recent post declared, his setup’s core is two “trash can” Mac Pro towers from 2013 plus a racy gaming PC.

Yeah, you heard right: That’s two computers running from 2013 to now. Eight years might as well be a few decades as far as computer performance goes. But he has his reasons to wait on the upgrade.

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‘Trash can’ Macs just need to hold on a little longer

Dual monitors and a blazing-fast gaming PC round out the setup.
Dual monitors and a blazing-fast gaming PC round out the setup.
Photo: XTJ7@Reddit

XTJ7 is getting enough out of those notorious old Macs for the time being and doesn’t want to upgrade to Mac minis until Apple comes out with a version with 64GB of memory and an M1x chip, or when the mini Pro comes out. (It’s expected next year.)

“So I hope my trusty trash cans will last just a little while longer,” he wrote in his post. “And that upgrade will then last me many years again.”

So be advised, Apple Store. Sometime in the 2030s he may need to visit you again. You know, for the Mac you’ll implant in his neck, or whatever you’re doing by then.

Two trash can Macs and single-core performance

XTJ7’s Mac Pros are both six-core machines, one with a 2TB SSD and 64GB of RAM and the other with a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM. He needs a lot of RAM to work with photographs and edit video.

He said he thought about upgrading the CPUs but decided against it.

“6 cores / 12 threads is really the sweet spot for me and I would rather have as much single core performance as I can get, compared to having more but slower cores,” he wrote.

Rounding out the setup

The rest of XTJ7’s setup is an interesting mix. The third large-format computer is for gaming. It’s an AMD Ryzen 3700X with 32GB DDR4-3600, a Zotac RTX 3090 and a 2TB MP600 SSD.

“It is very fast and a lot of fun,” XTJ7 said.

His displays are two 32-inch Dell U3219Q 4K screens on a dual-monitor arm. He also uses a space gray Magic Keyboard, a Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse, a Logitech C922 Pro Webcam and a Fifine K669B Microphone.

More complicated than it seems

An Android tablet serves as a control center.
An Android tablet serves as a control center.
Photo: XTJ7@Reddit

“The setup is slightly more complicated than it seems at first glance, because I am a bit of a nerd,” XTJ7 noted in his post, before launching into some very long descriptions that could be described as, well, “nerdy.”

Like this one, on running the whole show on a budget Android tablet:

To switch between the three systems, I have an Aten CS1944DP dual monitor, 4 port, 4K capable KVM switch. This can be controlled via a custom dashboard on the Android tablet in front of me, as well as the light. I needed a custom solution because the KVM can only be remotely controlled via RS232, so I hooked a USB adapter up to a raspberry pi, created a dashboard that speaks via websockets with the server running on the raspi and that’s how it feels quite snappy. I have a few more features that I started working on, but that’s for another day.

And he goes on like that, and more so, in multiple places in the comments section. It’s kind of a feast for nerds, really.

His lengthy description of how he wrote a keyboard proxy for his Raspberry Pi just so he could keep using his old Apple keyboard — and no other keyboard — is a thing of beauty. He induced the Pi to act as a wireless USB keyboard, receiving and outputting instructions via Bluetooth so he could seamlessly use his old keyboard on the fly with his various systems, including gaming.

Audio and storage notes

XTJ7 uses two sets of headphones, one wired and one wireless. His Acoustic Research AR-H1 set connects by cable to a Sound Blaster X-Fi. To go wireless, he uses a Corsair Virtuoso Gaming Headset. For speakers, he slums a bit with an inexpensive pair of Logitech Z200s, as he relies more heavily on the headphones.

Finally, he employs a managed switch from TP-Link to ensure the systems are isolated from one another.

For storage, he relies on a Synology DS1812 NAS for RAW photos, video files and Time Machine backups.

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