Project: Sierra on a headless 5,1 Mac Pro with HiDPI 1080p 60hz

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by timothevs, Mar 31, 2018.

  1. timothevs, Mar 31, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018

    timothevs macrumors 6502


    Nov 17, 2007
    I realize I may be the only crazy one here (hopefully not). Long read, but here's my latest project du jour. Warning - wall of text incoming.

    I have a macOS Server at home that I connect to via VPN, and Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) (pfSense FTW). It is running macOS Sierra 10.12.6 on a Hackintosh Core i5 with HD 630. Most of my work on the road is done via ARD on the server - code/push to prod, etc. Also, it runs a Plex Server, NFS, and Caching server for home. It runs headless and is always connected to via ARD. Even when I am at home, I connect to it via an iMac/MBP.

    Now I LOVE HiDPI, once one has used it, there is no going back. Never. The fonts and the screen just look a-mazing IMHO (no offense to those using non HiDPI). SO, in order to have that via ARD, I am using an HDMI EDID simulator which allows me resolutions up to 1920x1080 in HiDPI at 60Hz. I can remote in at HiDPI and having a Gbps connection at home, the screen via ARD is as good as if I were actually sitting at the machine. Fast, clear, sharp. Everything works well.

    Well, almost everything. The Hackintosh is just not cutting it for me anymore. I don't have the time to go searching for Kexts and fixes when a .x update happens. The last time I was away, I accidentally pressed update and lost the server because some Shiki and IntelGPUFix kexts needed to be updated. My bad. Really. I can't afford too much downtime anymore. It was a fun project then.

    The Project
    I have decided to replace it with a Mac Pro 5,1. I used to have one before I built the Hackintosh to replace it. It's a Hex Core 3.33GHz with 32GB RAM, SSD etc.

    I have looked far and wide on the forum to understand my options. And here's what I found:-
    1. Stick with a Mac EFI GFX card (ATI 5770). Only problem is that there is no HDMI port to allow for EDID simulation. I could do a Displayport EDID simulation - but that limits me to 1280x800 HiDPI. Also a lot of power draw for a headless system.
    2. Get a card from MacVidCards, paying twice what I paid for the Mac Pro. uhhh - not sure if that is smart for a headless system.
    3. Get a cheapo Pascal nVidia card. Cheap, gets the job done as a Headless system. Problem: no boot screen, not sure how to install OS. :/
    If you think I chose 3, ding, ding, ding! I bought a $60 Pascal GT 1030 for this project. It meets the criteria:-
    • Cheap ($60 on Amazon)
    • Fanless (woo - low power draw)
    • 4K HiDPI (won't ever run it at 4K HiDPI, but yay)
    • HDMI port
    • Reference design
    Nothing ever is as easy though. Here were some immediate problems and some solutions I found.

    Problem: How to load the login screen the first time, or enable Remote Desktop? I need to have SOMETHING to allow me to install the nVidia drivers.
    Solution: SO, I popped out the Sierra SSD and booted off it on my MacBook Pro, as an external drive. Installed the nVidia drivers on it, and popped it back in the Mac Pro. I had a login screen. Yes, I could've popped the ATI 5770 back in. That would've been better (in retrospect).

    Problem: Once headless, how to get 1080p 60Hz HiDPI: Well this one was a doozy. The HDMI EDID simulator didn't work. For some reason the system would NOT recognize that there was a HDMI EDID simulator attached to the HDMI port. It didn't think there was any display. Ordinarily it should show a Screen and some options in the Display Preference Pane. But nada. RDM app would change the res, but the headless system over ARD was working abysmally. Lagging a few seconds behind the mouse pointer. Just wow. To the point of being unusable. The system WAS using nVidia drivers. What's more a changed resolution would revert back to non HiDPI 1024x768 upon reboot. UGH.
    Solution: It required a physical monitor. I connected it with my Dell 22" monitor over HDMI, and changed the res over RDM app to 1280x1024 HiDPI. Then, I unplugged the monitor and plugged back the HDMI EDID simulator. Voila, it seems to have done the trick. Now it is buttery smooth over ARD/VPN, and I can set the resolution to 1080p at 60Hz HiDPI. The Display Pref Pane shows Dell 28" monitor attached to it, and all the options are available. It is as if the Mac Pro needed a physical Monitor to show it the way. Phew.

    Problem: How the heck do I reinstall the OS? I have been asking on different posts about this. Not having a stock EFI card, how do I get into the installer menu? I have traditionally used a USB key with a terminal command to create a bootable USB, and then I press option to choose the OS from the screen. At least on a Mac. Hackintoshes were different (easier?). No boot screen, no option workie, as I understand.
    NO Solution: Use another Mac/Hackintosh or plug the OEM GFX card back in. (Edit).

    I am really looking forward to a low(er) maintenance server. For if I do mess up and update by accident, I will still be able to remote into the headless system and fix things :{)

    A very niche use case scenario, I realize. But oh well.
  2. timothevs thread starter macrumors 6502


    Nov 17, 2007
    Well, turns out the only way to reinstall the OS with a non-EFI nVidia card is to attach the SSD/HDD to another Mac/Hackintosh or plug the OEM GPU back in. I ended up with Option 1. All is well.
  3. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    timothevs, I have no idea if this is pertinent to your situation, but I just wanted to plop it here as it might be another useful tool in your toolbox.

    How to do an EDID override in MacOS:

    (Note the override file location changes depending on MacOS version, and that information is in the comment thread.)

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