Virtualization, homelabs, eBay rack servers and a 2008 Mac Pro

I’m fascinated with installing different OSes to see what they’re about. At one point on VirtualBox I had about 20 different VMs with all sorts of guests from OS/2 to many different Linux distros. Somewhere on my internet travels I ran into the Reddit Homelab group, a community of sysadmins who run virtualization on older, used rack servers (and other hardware), to experiment with configuration of VMWare ESXi, and other virtualization software like Proxmox VE.

Window shopping on eBay, you can pick up various used Dell or HP rack servers with dual Xeons and several swappable harddrive bays for around $100 to $200 depending on the specs. I was getting close to picking up one of these, until I wondered if you can run ESXi on a Mac Pro. Turns out you can and it is even supported hardware on VMWare’s HCL list. Trouble is my eBay 2008 Mac Pro is not on the supported list for current ESXi versions, so I’m not sure if a current version would install and work ok, or whether I’d have to go back a few versions.

My MacPro currently has 20GB RAM, and I’ve got 3 empty drive bays. Watching a few YouTube videos such as the ones below, I feel a weekend project coming on 🙂


Apple’s product design and attention to detail (the 1st gen Mac Pro)

There’s no mistaking Apple is second to none when it comes to product design. Their attention to detail can be seen throughout the design of their products, both inside and out. Sir Jony Ive was knighted for his service to the design industry in 2012.

Some details are surprising when you see them first hand, and the lengths that Apple goes to. Take for example the unique design of the case for the Power Mac G5 and first generation Mac Pro. It’s uniquely recognizable and even could be described as iconic. The design of the perforated ‘cheese grater’ grill is more than just aesthetics, it provides an essential purpose in the design of the cooling of the machine, allowing air to be pulled through the front grill in a number of distinctly controllable cooling zones through the case and allowing exhaust to exit the rear of the case.

At the rear is something interesting though, and maybe even overlooked. Power cords commonly called ‘kettle cords’ have been used to supply power to PC desktop cases for years, but what’s interesting about the power cord for the Mac Pro is that the plastic is molded with a flange that allows it to fit flush to the back of the case when inserted. A minor detail, but a perfect example of the lengths Apple goes to.

Here’s the cord/plug,

showing the surrounding flange at the back of the plug molding:





The plug inserted,

fitting flush to the back of the case:

Simple details, but details like this leave a lasting impression.



Adding an extra 16GB to my 2008 Mac Pro

I while back I wrote about my eBay purchase of a 2008 Mac Pro. Since it only came with 4GB, I purchased an additional 16GB from a vendor on eBay to bump it up to 20GB.

The 2008 Mac Pro (and I think more recent models up to but not including the current trashcan design) has two slide out trays that each take 4 sticks of 800 MHz DDR2 EEC DIMMs, up to a max of 64GB. Here’s the inside layout – the modular and easy access to every part of the insides of the machine still amazes me – it’s clear Apple put just as much thought and effort into designing the inside of the Mac Pro as they did the iconic outside. When’s the last time you opened a PC desktop case and were taken back by clean and logical layout of the inside (inside of seeing a rat’s nest of multicolored cables stuffed inside a box):

  • top left: optical drives
  • underneath: 4x 3.5″ slide out drive bays (no cables to attach to the drives – just slide out the tray, screw in the drive to the tray, then slide it back in to attach it)
  • center right: 4x PCI-e slots for graphics cards etc (two PCIe x4 slots and two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots)
  • lower left: fans
  • lower center: the 2x Xeon 2.8GHz quad core cpus
  • lower right: the two slide out RAM trays


Sliding out the two trays, here’s the original 4 x 1GB DIMMs spread across the two memory boards – looks like there was the original stock 2x 1GB, and then another 2x 1GBs added:



Here’s the new 4x 4GB sticks ready to insert – note the hefty heatsinks:





And here’s the newly inserted DIMMS along with the original 4. I’m not sure if this is the optimal arrangement as I’ve read you’re supposed to stripe them across the two boards in pairs, so I’ll do a bit more reading and work out if I need to re-arrange them:


Windows audio drivers for Windows 10 on a Mac Pro 2008

Windows 10 runs surprisingly well on my (new) Mac Pro 2008. The Bootcamp driver download from Apple though is no longer supported on a 2008:

The main feature I’m particularly missing is the Bootcamp systray app in Windows to allow you to pick your boot drive, i.e. to select to boot back to MacOS from Windows. As long as you can get to the boot screen and pick which partition to boot from then this is ok (although since I’ve also added a PC version (unflashed) of an Nvidia 750 Ti, whenever I want to switch OSes, I have to switch my monitor cable between the stock Mac ATI card, and then switch it back to my 750 Ti after I’ve picked which OS I want to boot).

Without getting all the Windows drivers installed in one go from Bootcamp, the only other thing I missed initially (before finding this post), was Audio drivers. Windows 10 had installed some default drivers but the volume control didn’t have any control over the speakers plugged into either the front or rear audio out. Downloading the Realtek drivers direct from this site fixed this though. After installing the drivers, the names of the audio out devices changes on the volume control too:

Now I’m all set 🙂