Insights on crunching using a MacMini 8,1

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Tigers_Dave

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Message 2922 - Posted: 24 Sep 2020, 13:48:45 UTC

For the past several months I have been experimenting with a MacMini 8,1 (ID 864357 - 3.0 GHz hex-core i5, Intel UHD Graphics 630, 4 TB3 ports, MacOS 10.15 Catalina). IMHO, it is a terrific platform for crunching GPU tasks, with some noteworthy caveats. Of course, YMMV.

1. I don't recommend crunching tasks using the internal Intel GPU; it generates tremendous heat, thereby destabilizing the configuration and potentially shortening the life span of the unit.
2. For the same reason, I don't recommend crunching CPU tasks.
3. A configuration that features 3x AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 GPUs in Akitio Node TItan enclosures is rock solid. It averages about ~17.5 M credits/day.
4. I have tried a few times to add a 4th AMD Radeon RX Vega 56 and briefly achieved ~24 M credits/day. However, that configuration was quite unstable. I believe the 4th Vega 56 was defective. I will retest once I receive the replacement unit from MSI.
5. I have limited each Collatz task to 0.25 CPUs.
6. This unit has an internal SSD boot drive. Moreover, I connect the unit to a 1080p monitor via the HDMI port. Thus, the unit is quite responsive during routine tasks, such as editing MS Office documents or browsing the web, even when the unit is crunching Collatz tasks on all three eGPUs.

Overall, I believe that adding an eGPUs is a good strategy for folks with macs that have Thunderbolt 1/2/3 ports and support Mac OS 10.14 (Mojave) or later. I have now done so with multiple MacMinis, iMacs, and MacBook Pro laptops. However, some work is required to connect Thunderbolt 1/2 ports to eGPUs - the folks at egpu.io are a terrific source of advice for doing this. Nonetheless, I am happy to share advice or insights via this thread or PM.
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Profile IDEA

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Message 2937 - Posted: 6 Oct 2020, 10:09:58 UTC - in response to Message 2922.  
Last modified: 6 Oct 2020, 10:10:10 UTC

Thanks for the info David.

Have you tried eGPUs with your older Macs?

I'm currently using a cheap Sonnet Breakout Box containing an Nvidia 1080ti attached to a Mac Pro 6,1 (running High Sierra).

The setup was pretty easy - you just need Apple's TB3 to TB2 adaptor and the purge-wrangler script and instructions that you can find here:

https://github.com/mayankk2308/purge-wrangler/wiki/Beginner's-Guide

Lack of a Mac version of Afterburner means that you can't get the same performance is you'd get running the Nvidia cards in Windows, but it's 10x faster than the fastest FirePros that the 6,1 is limited to and faster than any of AMD's cards too -- with an average time of 265s per WU.

Next move is adding a TB3 card to one of my old 5,1 Macs and running the Sonnet without Apple's TB3 to TB2 adaptor.

Worth noting that Apple & Nvidia's refusal to play nicely together is bad for end users like us as it means that we have no way of using the newer, energy efficient cards like the 1660 which are as fast as the 1080ti but use about a third of the power :(

Well done with getting Darwin to Number 13 in the Top Hosts chart ;-)
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GT85

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Message 2938 - Posted: 8 Oct 2020, 9:09:39 UTC - in response to Message 2922.  

Agreed. There was a time I had 3 vega 64’s and an rx580 plugged into my MacBook. Was getting something like 40 million a day. Vega 64’s also did tasks 30 seconds quicker when connected to the Mac than they would have in windows on max OC.
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Profile IDEA

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Message 2949 - Posted: 14 Oct 2020, 14:50:11 UTC - in response to Message 2938.  
Last modified: 14 Oct 2020, 14:50:27 UTC

What happened to your Mac setup?

Have you retired from BOINC now or just taking a rest?
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Tigers_Dave

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Message 2951 - Posted: 16 Oct 2020, 13:23:52 UTC - in response to Message 2937.  
Last modified: 16 Oct 2020, 13:25:10 UTC

Hi IDEA:

Thanks for sharing your experiences with a 1080Ti in a TB3 eGPU connected to a MacPro 6,1. I have successfully connected an eGPU to a number of older (TB1/TB2) macs, including a MacMini 6,1 (2012), a MacBook Pro 12,1 (2015), and an iMac 16,2 (2015). So, I do have limited experience with PurgeWrangler. However, I was not aware that PurgeWrangler also worked with NVIDIA GPUs. I look forward to trying that out, particularly since 1080 and 1080Ti cards are so much cheaper than AMD cards of comparable performance (RX VEGA 56 and RX 5700 XT, respectively), at least with respect to my applications. In particular, now that NVIDIA has introduced the 1660 and the 20xx series cards, the price of used 1080/1080Ti cards has plummeted.

Please keep us updated on your efforts to connect a TB3 eGPU to a MacPro 5,1 using a TB3 card. Given that my two primary "work" macs (one at home and one at work) are MacPro 5,1s, I am very interested in strategies to maintain the useful lifespan of these rigs. I can't afford an iMac Pro or a MacPro 7,1, and my MacBookPro is too limited to use as a primary work computer.

Finally, thanks for recognizing that my MacMini is in the top 20 of Collatz@Home hosts. As much as I would like the productivity gains that would arise from swapping out that unit's three RX VEGA 56s for three 1080Tis, I don't want to lose the plug-n-play convenience of the RX Vega 56s with that machine. Thus, I am thinking about buying a used Akitio Node Pro, which has a pass-through TB3 port, to see if I can use it to connect two eGPUs to a single TB3 port on my MacMini. Any thoughts on that idea?

Regards,

David
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Message 2952 - Posted: 16 Oct 2020, 16:03:31 UTC - in response to Message 2951.  

Please keep us updated on your efforts to connect a TB3 eGPU to a MacPro 5,1 using a TB3 card. Given that my two primary "work" macs (one at home and one at work) are MacPro 5,1s, I am very interested in strategies to maintain the useful lifespan of these rigs. I can't afford an iMac Pro or a MacPro 7,1, and my MacBookPro is too limited to use as a primary work computer.


I'm using a Sonnet Allegro 2-port USB-C PCIe card.

It works in the 5,1 Mac Pros and I can also use it on Windows boxes too.

Neither need any special drivers as both the Mac OS and Windows 10 recognise the card and you can just plug your breakout box in and start playing (although, with your Mac you need to do the usual preliminary work to get it to recognise Nvidia cards).
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Tigers_Dave

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Message 2987 - Posted: 27 Nov 2020, 5:18:34 UTC
Last modified: 27 Nov 2020, 5:20:38 UTC

I bit the bullet and bought a used Akitio Node Pro eGPU enclosure. This has a pass-through TB3 port, which allows me to connect two eGPUs to a single TB3 port on my MacMini < https://boinc.thesonntags.com/collatz/show_host_detail.php?hostid=864357 >.

I initially installed an RX 580 in the Node Pro, meaning that I had two Vega 56s connected directly to the MacMini and one Vega 56 daisy-chained to the RX 580. This yielded >23M credits/day. More recently, I installed a Vega 64 in the Node Pro. This is yielding ~27M credits/day. I don't see any loss of productivity by the Vega 56 that is daisy-chained to the Vega 64. This is surprising, as the pass-through TB3 port in the Node Pro is rated for only 10 Gb/second.

Still not seeing any stability or heat issues with the MacMini. So, I am pretty happy with this setup. Can't decide whether I want to experiment further with this setup by adding additional Node Pro/Vega enclosures.
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Message 2989 - Posted: 27 Nov 2020, 15:03:19 UTC - in response to Message 2987.  
Last modified: 27 Nov 2020, 15:04:22 UTC

Using a pass-through port interests me -- even with 3 pairs of TB2 ports on the 6,1 I can run out of ports. I've been running a 6,1 Mac Pro with two eGPUs attached. One with a 1080ti and the other an RX580. They perform exactly as expected even when the other TB 2 ports are busy with RAID arrays attached to them. It's currently in 3rd place, behind your two Darwin hosts:

https://boinc.thesonntags.com/collatz/show_host_detail.php?hostid=817142

Didn't seem to be any way of using different .config files for different types of ATI GPUs, so disabled the built-in FirePros and switched them to a different project.

Q: Do you or anybody else know if it is possible to run multiple .config settings when using two different GPU models from the same manufacturer?

I've repurposed my older Mac Minis in the last fortnight and they are now running Ubuntu. Annoyingly, Ubuntu works perfectly with an eGPU attached to a Mac Mini, but I can't get BOINC to recognise and use the attached GPU. They were CPU crunchers anyhow and I decided to make the switch because crunching in Linux earns a lot more credit than the Mac OS in one of my projects ;-)

But, if anybody else has got experience of eGPUs and Linux, I'd like to know how it's done?

I do clean the Mac Minis regularly by taking the fan out and giving the blades a brush. Haven't had to disassemble the fans yet, but will probably need to at some point to oil the bearings.
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Tigers_Dave

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Message 2993 - Posted: 29 Nov 2020, 4:10:31 UTC - in response to Message 2989.  

For the past 6 months, I have been tracking the 20 most productive Mac crunchers on Collatz - both RAC and Total Credit. So, yeah, I have been watching your MP 6,1 (817142) make its way up the leader board. I surmised that you had added two eGPUs to that rig.

As to your question, I don't know of a way to run multiple .config settings when using two different GPU models from the same manufacturer. This has not been an issue for me, because the same .config settings work for my RX 580s, VEGA 56s, VEGA 64s, and 5700XTs. I am guessing that is because all of those boards have 8 GB memory. Thus, I don't think that the same .config file will optimize production by the RX580 AND the D300s of your MP 6,1.

Bummer about not being able to get BOINC to recognize an eGPU connected to a MacMini running LINUX. Unfortunately, I can't help you with that, either. I am hoping that the new M1 Mac Mini's will drive down the price of used Mac Mini 8,1s - those 4 TB3 ports are great!

Well, back to my "real job" - I have a project due on Sunday night and I have a lot to do before then.

Best wishes!
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Message 2997 - Posted: 30 Nov 2020, 16:09:57 UTC - in response to Message 2993.  

If you're tracking the Macs then you'll notice that both ID: 817196 and ID: 825690 have stopped crunching...

These are the two most prolific Mac hosts on BOINC (74th & 81st) -- with you currently in 88th position?

Both are now running Ubuntu and crunching other projects (and still doing Collatz every so often).

The drives are stored in a safe place, so they may return again one day...

Top Mac spot is yours for the taking now. Could be yours in two months ;-)
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Tigers_Dave

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Message 3006 - Posted: 5 Dec 2020, 13:57:46 UTC - in response to Message 2997.  

Yes, I had noticed that 817196 and 825690 had stopped crunching. However, I am delighted to see that you have repurposed the hardware. I am doing something a little similar - I have given three MacPro 3,1 boxes (153579, 143026, and 845717) to a dear friend who has found new uses for them.

Thanks for recognizing that 864357 is making its way up the total credit rankings. And, to bring another topic into this thread, thanks for suggesting that I buy a TB3 PCIe card for a MacPro 5,1. Mine is supposed to arrive early next week. I can't wait to post my impressions.
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Tigers_Dave

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Message 3262 - Posted: 31 Mar 2021, 3:28:09 UTC

Quick update on MacPro 5,1 upgrades. I have installed a Gigabyte GC-Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 PCIe card in three of my rigs. I purchased them from eBay seller Superchief9, primarily because they sell a version that is flashed for use in MacPro 3,1/4,1/5,1 units. These are PnP: Turn off the computer, install the card, connect the card to a GPU/eGPU enclosure using a TB3 cable, turn on the eGPU, and boot the Mac; the TB3 card and the eGPU will appear in the <About This Mac/System Report>. Sometimes it will take a restart or five for the GPU in the eGPU enclosure to be recognized. Make sure to use high-quality TB3 cables - this setup is very sensitive to signal fluctuations. Throughput from the GPU/eGPUs is comparable to the throughput of the GPUs installed inside the MP chassis. PM me for assistance/advice with this setup. By the way, the TB3 card supports two TB3 devices!
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Tigers_Dave

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Message 3296 - Posted: 8 Apr 2021, 13:31:56 UTC - in response to Message 3262.  
Last modified: 8 Apr 2021, 13:40:29 UTC

One very nice advantage of this setup is that I can install a Mojave-compliant (translation: cheap, old, and slow) NVIDIA card as the internal boot card and use faster, unflashed (translation: cheaper) AMD cards in external TB3 enclosures. For example, my home computer is a MacPro 5,1 running MacOS 10.14.6 Mojave. It boots using an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 and it is connected via TB3 to two AMD RX 580s, each installed in an Akitio Node eGPU enclosure.
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