MASON MARK (.COM)

my mac pro sucks loudly, wah

2009-04-11

Executive Summary: the über-hightech fix for the insanely annoying pulsating humming noise coming from my piece-of-shit 2008-model 8-core Mac Pro

I've previously documented some of the ways that the Mac Pro I use at home sucks, but the many initial problems with it were eventually solved, so recently it's been getting creative. First it started making this very annoying noise[1].

I really don't mind a constant noise from my workstation, but this noise is this pulsating, oscillating low bass-tone hum, something like "ooOOOOooo...ooOOOOooo...ooOOOOooo..." (that's my take on the spelling; one guy on Apple's forum described it as "ehuuuuuuu, ehuuuuuu", while another thought it was more of a "ahuuuuuuuu, ahuuuuuu").

It is not a very loud noise, but because it varies like that it was extremely motherFUCKING IRRITATING (!!!) and difficult to tune out.

Anyway, it was a somewhat long and considerably annoying process (detailed below), but here's how I fixed the problem:

fixed-mac-pro-closeup.jpg

I had been able to make the noise go away by tilting the Mac off vertical, but it would just come back. I used smcFanControl to crank up the fans, hoping to drown it out with a more constant noise, but that only sort of worked (the pulsating was still apparent).

I know now that the noise comes from the hard disk bays, but that was not obvious at first. Even when you stick your head in there, it's hard to tell, with all the other noise going on. I thought it might be from one of the fans. Or maybe the screen-glitch generator unit on the GeForce 8800 GT was having some kind of harmonic interaction with the frame-dropper/shit-eater chip on the Radeon 2600 XT.

I googled the noise a bit but got no instant gratification, so my interim 'solution' was just keep music on all the time when I use this piece of shit computer, or one of those rainstorm recordings when I didn't feel like music.

But, things took a turn for the worse the other night. The computer lives in the main room (LDK) of my Japanese apartment, which is next to my bedroom. The wall is retractable, which is cool in some ways but also makes it less noise-resistant than a normal wall.

So the fucking Mac Pro decides to wake itself up in the middle of the night and start doing it's fucking "ooOOOOooo...ooOOOOooo..." thing. Thereby waking me up[2].

Thinking I might have simply gone to bed with it on, I padded out there, wistfully rejected the idea of giving the machine a roundhouse kick to the chassis and throwing it off the balcony, jiggled the mouse, entered my password, and put it to sleep.

Of course, I was barely back in bed when I heard the fans kick in and the "ooOOOOooo...ooOOOOooo..." thing started up again.

Ugh. I had no idea[3] why this was happening, but it was the middle of the fucking night, so I shut the thing down and slept. But that left me motivated to fix the fucking problem. (It had actually been going on for a couple months.)

More googling finally led to this thread on Apple's forum, wherein a guy fixed what sounded like maybe the same problem by wedging a guitar pick between his drive sled and the ceiling of the drive bay that the sled slides into.

I did roughly the same thing, folding a piece of paper a few times, such that each fold was not quite straight. I folded it until it seemed like it would be somewhat hard to wedge into the gap, and then I forced it in, as shown in the photo.

Voi-fucking-la! No more noise. The paper thing was actually just a dry run, I was planning to go buy some high-density foam if it worked. But once the "ooOOOOooo...ooOOOOooo..." disappeared, I just decided not to touch it. I did buy the foam, though, to keep around in case any late-night acoustic repairs become necessary in the future:

jap_sponge_gomu.png

On balance, I am extremely pleased that I fixed this problem, because it clears the way for me to throw this piece of shit in the motherfucking trash (by which I suppose I mean give it to a computationally-challenged family member), and get a new 2009 Mac Pro to replace it.

I have one of the 2009s at the office, configured similarly to this shitty 2008 model (16GB RAM, 3TB internal RAID plus a 1TB backup disk), and the 2009 Nehalem one kicks ass. (At least so far.) No crashes, fastest machine I've ever used[4], no noise problems, no screen glitching, sleeps without losing all your open unsaved changes... the whole package. Knock on wood.

I had wanted to replace my home machine, too, but it just made me uncomfortable to say, essentially, "OK, Apple, your 'professional' $5000 computer I bought last year sucks so bad that I can't stand it anymore, so I'm just gonna buy your newest version of the same thing."

Now that I don't feel like my 2008 Mac Pro is forcing me to get rid of it, I think I want to get rid of it ASAP, before it starts fucking up in some new way.

KEYWORDS: my mac pro sucks, my mac pro hella sucks, OMFG you won't believe how much my fuckin mac pro fuckin sucks, pulsating, oscillating, up-and-down noise, sound, hum, buzz, hard drive noise, fan noise, boba fett, hannah montana and your mom

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[1]: This oscillating noise torture is apparently common, but not universal, with these Mac Pros when all four disk bays are full (and sometimes even when not).

[2]: It really doesn't seem like it is loud enough that it should actually wake me up; I suspect that the noise is so fucking irritating in the daytime that my brain now exhibits a quasi-Pavlovian response to the noise, whereby it dumps adrenaline and causes me to fly into a rage immediately upon hearing it, and that's what really woke me up.

[3]: Although there was maybe a clue: some error messages in the log, indicating that com.google.keystone.user.agent[1338] was shitting all over itself because it couldn't find it's invasive background update app that it silently installs when an unwitting user (in this case, me, a while back) installs one of their crappy Mac apps, such as Picasa. Of course it can't find that shit, because I deleted it immediately upon detecting it (along with Google's crappy apps). But I guess I must have missed a spot. Hey, Google? I've been meaning to tell you: go fuck yourself.

[4]: noticeably faster than the 2008 in everyday use, not only in Xcode but even in like opening MS Word (not that you'd ever wanna do that, I'm just sayin)

SUBSEQUENTLY:

2010-01-09
2010-01-13
2010-04-18
2010-04-18
2010-05-15
2010-08-25
2010-09-15
2010-11-03
2010-12-25
2011-03-09
2011-06-14
2011-08-10
2011-10-12
2011-10-12
2011-11-11
2011-12-05
2011-12-31
2012-03-16
2012-11-14