The mumblings of a Christian autistic husband, dad, IT guy and amateur radio operator - Will Brokenbourgh / AF7EC
The Mac Pro 2013
In 2021 I wrote a post about switching from Linux to something else. I think the point in that post was that Linux is becoming less like its Unix roots and more like Windows or something. Well, I don't have an unlimited budget and only have a couple of computers available for my use, so I can't just cycle through five or ten computers until I find something that actually works.
Later that year, I was in the hospital, very very close to death, but God's mercy and Jesus' blood healed me! Thank you Lord! After getting back home, I was not in the condition to lug around a bunch of computers to try them out, anyway. I had a 2012 Mac mini i7 available to me, an open-frame Pentium machine my good friend blessed me with or a very underpowered AMD A6 system. Oh yeah, I had my older 2012 Mac mini i5, but that thing couldn't get out of its own way and was being used by family members when a mobile device didn't cut it for some reason. Then we ended up moving out of our house and had to live in a motel for a while until our other house was ready for us. Lots of stuff happened in a short span of time!
Fast-forward a little bit to today: We now have been in our current house for a few months, God has continued to heal me and make me stronger (thank you Jesus!) and I now have another computer I can try to use, but unfortunately NOT for Linux. So the only systems I can really try to use now are the open-frame Pentium, which is 'so-so' or a base-ish-model 2013 Mac Pro (the cylindrical one, not the old cheese-grater or newer cheese-grater). The open-frame computer has become more and more glitchy with each passing month, so my only choice right now is the 2013 Mac Pro, and macOS Monterey.
Here's where the fun begins
I know a lot of people like to call the 2013 Mac Pro the "trash can" Mac. In terms of engineering and Apple's part choices, the 2013 Mac Pro is not one of Apple's outstanding products. Add to that issues with constantly resetting video, crashes, etc and the 2013 Mac Pro could probably be called something just short of a disaster. Why on earth would I want one then? Because when I made the choice to purchase a 2013 Mac Pro, I did not know all of the issues it had except for the thermal issues from heavy use. So I thought "Hey, since I can't even come close to affording a newer Mac, why not try an older 'Pro' model?" I also thought it would be okay since Apple still officially supported this model (grumble, at least at the time I purchased it).
I eagerly ordered my 2013 Mac Pro from a leading Mac-centric company, well known to long-time Mac users. I won't use this company's name here because: 1) I don't really want to give them any advertising and 2) I don't want retaliation from them. I must not have had my wits about me yet (from my very sick time) because I didn't notice this Mac-centric vendor's 'F' rating on the BBB website. Anyway... I finally received my 2013 Pro and it was 'eh' performance-wise. I didn't have stellar expectations because: "2013". I used this Mac for about a month without issues. Then one day (six days after the returnable date) I was filling out a bug report for some open-source project and Firefox stopped responding to my keystrokes. I clicked on a visible part of the desktop to see if focus would change, and it did -- once. Then slowly, one by one, all of my open apps stopped responding. The Command-Option-Esc shortcut that brings up the task killer didn't work and I couldn't get my Caps Lock light to turn on (the Num Lock indicator doesn't turn on with Macs usually). Finally the mouse cursor disappeared, so I knew something icky had just happened. So after waiting a bit, I forced off the power, waited a few seconds then turned it back on. It came back up and functioned properly, but I was not pleased by that experience. I chalked it up to a random hiccup and got back to what I was doing.
The next day, I was watching a YouTube video of Jeff Geerling or Gary with Mac Most, and then the video froze, though audio was still playing. I again clicked around, seeing if everything was going to die on me like the day before. Sure as shock-absorbers, the system locked up hard and I had to do a power force-off again. Now I was perturbed and wondered what in the world was going on. I looked in the system logs and found that a few gpuReset events were showing. I wondered what caused those because I wasn't doing anything stressful with the GPUs at all. Yes, the Mac Pro has two GPUs, but only one is being used if you're only connected to one screen. Long-story-short -- Mac Pro 2013's have a long and storied tendency to reset their GPUs. There's a huge multi-year thread on MacRumors where folks have shared their experiences and decried Apple's failings with this issue. Apple eventually caved and offered a repair program for affected owners except FirePro D300-equipped Mac Pros. How wonderful for us who have these wonderful machines! </sarcasm>
After it had done this once again, I contacted the Mac-centric vendor I bought this 2013 Pro from, and they dragged their feet and took as long as humanly possible to keep from dealing with the matter. Thankfully I had purchased an extra-protection plan before any of this happened, but they sure didn't want to make good on it right away. After much communication and giving as much detail as I could about the issue, they issued an RMA and I returned the thing back to them.
One. Month. Later... (and tons of frustrating e-mails back and forth from their support department)
I receive the Mac Pro 2013 back, without any advanced warning that they were sending it. It was just sitting inside the shipping box on my porch. No e-mail saying "Hey, we're sending it back to you" nor did they tell me what they did to fix it. It was all this big mystery. I was very displeased because: 1) Our neighborhood is good, but there's always the random person who passes by and does naughty things and 2) WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO TO 'FIX' THIS??? Now I know why they earned the 'F' rating on BBB. The computer was now a bit slower, more chuggy and laggy and it seemed like my 2012 Mac mini could run rings around this 2013 Pro. I got tired of how sluggish it was and just stopped using it, instead using Linux on the open-frame computer until I could sell the Pro or give it to someone else who might have a better experience.
The Pro just sat there for weeks, unused, and I finally just prayed about it, backed it up and then wiped it, installing a new copy of macOS on it. After I did the initial setup and created an account for the next owner, I did some screenshots of the "About this Mac" and noticed something wrong. It showed I only had 24 GB of RAM when there should have been 32! I let out a "huh!" then pondered about why this would happen. I shut the computer down and removed the 'helmet' cover to gain access to the RAM. I carefully pulled each stick of RAM out, then put it back in firmly. I turned the computer back on and it was a night-and-day difference! Suddenly it was zippy, not very laggy at all! So UPS must have bashed the crud out of it when they shipped it back to me, and a RAM stick got knocked out of place (Pre-Jesus memories of Jim Carrey kicking a box around as a parcel delivery guy in a certain movie comes to mind).
Back in the cylindrical saddle again
I now am using the Mac Pro 2013 full-time again, and apart from some graphical glitches in TextEdit it's been okay. There is one odd thing, though... I can no longer run LibreOffice on this computer. So after some troubleshooting, I filed a bug report. I went back and tried versions from three years to today, and every single one of them doesn't work right. No one commenting on the bug-report has had an issue, either. It is the strangest thing, because just about all other apps work fine. So did the Mac-centric vendor do something hinky to my 2013 Pro so that certain graphical toolkits freak out? Does the D300 GPU need something special to run LibreOffice? I do not know, and will never know until someone else experiences the same thing. What really stinks, though, is now I must use LibreOffice in either a Windows or Linux virtual machine until there's some breakthrough. (sigh)
I have to praise God and thank him for there not being any other issues. I am disappointed that the next version of macOS, Ventura, will not run on this machine, but to be honest, nothing lasts forever. I'm sure Apple isn't going to just drop security updates for 2013 Pros or macOS Monterey tomorrow, but hey, this is Apple we're talking about -- they could just stop supporting any Intel machine and tell us to go take a hike. As long as I get most of my money's worth of usage from this machine, and that it doesn't start freaking out again, I'll be okay. As for any computing alternatives, Linux, in general, has gone down the tubes lately, and I plan to write a post about that shortly. Linux on this 2013 Pro, you say? Not gonna happen -- I've tried recently, and it's a no-go, thanks to whatever trickery Apple does in macOS to make these things tick. I even posted on some Linux forums and filed bug reports to no avail and no progress. Hours and hours of troubleshooting later and the final verdict: macOS only on this bad boy.
If you happen to use the same 2013 Mac Pro with FirePro D300 GPUs as I do, I'd like to hear from you. Can you run LibreOffice? Have you encountered the same hardware issues as I have? Please leave a comment to share your experiences. I'd say "Like and subscribe" but this isn't YouTube, although I think you can still subscribe to my XML feed .
God bless you, and thank you for reading!