MP 7,1 What is the internal USB used for ?

bxs

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Oct 20, 2007
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Seattle, WA
I note that to the left of the three ports for the J2i cage, there's a USB port. Is this for Apple diagnostics or can be used for other things? Has any one tried using it, and if so what did you plug in; a thumb drive, or something else ? Is it USB 3.1 or 3.2 or what ? Thanks... 😊

See attached image....
 

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Snow Tiger

macrumors 6502
Dec 18, 2019
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well , there's only one port so its not like Apple intended the MP7,1 to be a dongle server ( for licensing software on a network ) .

Still , USB license dongles are valuable and internally mounting one might help to prevent it from becoming lost or stolen .

On the PC side , Intel has something similar to an USB license dongle . They have a proprietary dongle for licensing bootable NVMe RAID technology called a VROC and its always internally mounted on a logic board header . My Cascade Lake Xeon Supermicro workstation has one .

Looks like this :

imgp0307_575px.jpg


Back to the Mac , I wonder if a drive can be booted from that internal USB port ?
 

ibuick

macrumors newbie
Aug 14, 2014
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For those creators use Protools, Davinci Resolve, there always be a license dongle. I use a two ports usb hub within my MP 7,1 with those dongles
 

chrfr

macrumors G3
Jul 11, 2009
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can you elaborate on that? Why is it inside the machine, and can it not be used as a general usb drive?
You can use the port for any USB device you'd like but it makes sense to secure dongles inside the computer. Vendors such as Avid put users through quite a process before replacing a lost/stolen dongle, and they can be worth a lot of money.
Software license dongles aren't used as USB drives, if that's what you're asking.
 

RyanFlynn

Contributor
Nov 24, 2006
217
147
Los Angeles
well , there's only one port so its not like Apple intended the MP7,1 to be a dongle server ( for licensing software on a network ) .

Still , USB license dongles are valuable and internally mounting one might help to prevent it from becoming lost or stolen .

On the PC side , Intel has something similar to an USB license dongle . They have a proprietary dongle for licensing bootable NVMe RAID technology called a VROC and its always internally mounted on a logic board header . My Cascade Lake Xeon Supermicro workstation has one .

Looks like this :

View attachment 888477

Back to the Mac , I wonder if a drive can be booted from that internal USB port ?
I remember reading that this internal USB is only a usb 2.0 port. Booting would be SLOW.
 

Snow Tiger

macrumors 6502
Dec 18, 2019
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I remember reading that this internal USB is only a usb 2.0 port. Booting would be SLOW.
Well , I'll test it eventually . It won't be hard to figure out its bandwidth . Most likely , its only intended as a license dongle port . But I'm surprised there is only one .
 

Polymorphic

macrumors regular
Dec 23, 2010
138
387
I could actually benefit from two of the internal USB ports. As it is, I have to decide whether to plug my iLok or my eLicenser into the internal port.
 

Snow Tiger

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Dec 18, 2019
368
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A simple "Y" splitter style cable would solve that issue very easily. Most are under $10.
Topper Here : How about this little beauty for $14 :

81fMCvkMJvL._AC_SL1500_.jpg


Just remove the three HDD Bay standoffs and gorilla superglue the hub there . I know it's a $6K machine , but if you really gotta install a few license dongles nice and secure this would be the way . Just don't attach devices that would draw a lot of juice if you're into experimenting . I don't think it can handle it .
 

deconstruct60

macrumors G3
Mar 10, 2009
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can you elaborate on that? Why is it inside the machine, and can it not be used as a general usb drive?
Some, usually relatively very expensive (and/or often stolen) , software essentially have hardware keys that unlock (and enable) the software. You don't type in a license key code into the software to be recorded on disk. This hardware dongle is the key. Without it, the software doesn't run (or doesn't run outside of demo mode). Pragmatically, the large pile of money paid is locked up in this hardware dongle.

So if i is very expensive and just sitting openly, unsecured in an external USB slot .... it may just wander away if don't have tight physical access controls. Could be damaged when moving the device around ( Mac Pro wheels option). Both of those are "bad outcomes". [ In the valuable case where parts could 'walk away' case, probably will have a physical case lock on the Mac Pro also. ]

The other somewhat problematical issue for a decent number of folks is the Mac Pro only has two Type A ports. So if have other needs for a Type-A port then don't have to don't have to somewhat uselessly allocate this to a dongle doesn't "do" much itself.


Some folks have key storage dongles ( so could keep some cryptokeys there if don't trust T2. )

Similarly could boot some embedded/dedicated OS variant like a Hypervisor or FreeNAS. A relatively small OS that would reboot very infrequently and largely could load up "everything" for usual workload into RAM. ( a slow "general usage" drive would work OK in that context. Only long running storage to the drive is just small text log files. Everything else is primarily "read only". )

In short, it is meant for something you stick in once and then don't take it out of the socket for perhaps years at a time. It is relatively immaterial that it is "hard to get to". And if don't need something of that type just ignore the socket.
 

deconstruct60

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Mar 10, 2009
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Just remove the three HDD Bay standoffs and gorilla superglue the hub there .
Some of these dongle locks are finicky about hubs. The hub has to power the locks. Some will be pulling power from two locks from the single port and somehow getting that routed out the multiple hub ports. The cheapest option possible may not pull that off.

Unpowered hubs are not recommended by iLok .

"... If you need to use a hub, choose one that has a dedicated power supply adapter. This ensures each of your connected devices will get enough power from the hub. ..."

Minimally would want to check before superglue the thing in there.


I know it's a $6K machine , but if you really gotta install a few license dongles nice and secure this would be the way . Just don't attach devices that would draw a lot of juice if you're into experimenting . I don't think it can handle it .
But in part that the point of the lock dongles. Small, cheap (i.e. older tech) computer running its own crypto . Tend to be skewed to the max power that USB 2.0 would give them (at least in bursts ).
- - Post merged: - -

....
Back to the Mac , I wonder if a drive can be booted from that internal USB port ?
Not with the default settings. But if external drive booting was enabled there is no good reasons why the internal USB socket wouldn't work as well as the Type A USB socket on the rear. The PCH has to "spin up" USB 2.0 ports to get the type-C ports working. So it isn't like the firmware can just sit there and ignore initialization of all the USB 2.0 ports on the PCH.

Putting a failover recovery drive inside the Mac Pro could be a yet another usage here. In a failure mode, so something (even USB 2.0 boot speeds) is better than nothing. If have an up to date installer and/or an image with custom diagnostics. ( even more so if the case is physically locked shut and getting it unlocked is going to take alot of time. )
 
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Snow Tiger

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Dec 18, 2019
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Some of these dongle locks are finicky about hubs. The hub has to power the locks. Some will be pulling power from two locks from the single port and somehow getting that routed out the multiple hub ports. The cheapest option possible may not pull that off.

Unpowered hubs are not recommended by iLok .

"... If you need to use a hub, choose one that has a dedicated power supply adapter. This ensures each of your connected devices will get enough power from the hub. ..."

Minimally would want to check before superglue the thing in there.




But in part that the point of the lock dongles. Small, cheap (i.e. older tech) computer running its own crypto . Tend to be skewed to the max power that USB 2.0 would give them (at least in bursts ).
- - Post merged: - -



Not with the default settings. But if external drive booting was enabled there is no good reasons why the internal USB socket wouldn't work as well as the Type A USB socket on the rear. The PCH has to "spin up" USB 2.0 ports to get the type-C ports working. So it isn't like the firmware can just sit there and ignore initialization of all the USB 2.0 ports on the PCH.

Putting a failover recovery drive inside the Mac Pro could be a yet another usage here. In a failure mode, so something (even USB 2.0 boot speeds) is better than nothing. If have an up to date installer and/or an image with custom diagnostics. ( even more so if the case is physically locked shut and getting it unlocked is going to take alot of time. )
Well , I think I have a jerry rigged solution to install an internally mounted , powered USB hub for several software license dongles .

Since Apple has that proprietary 10 pin power connection in the HDD Bay area , I don't think we're going to find adapters for it anytime soon . So , let's build our own .

Onboard 6 or 8 pin PCIe power booster connection > 4 pin molex power > 12V jack power > USB Hub's DC booster power connection .

This is messy , but it should work . Someone would need to test this first , before making it permanent , as this is just a rough , unproven design .

Here are the parts :

StarTech.com 7 Port USB 3.0 Hub ( model ST7300USB3B ) . ( you just need the hub , everything else can be discarded ) .


COMeap (3-Pack) 8 Pin (6+2) Male PCI Express to 2X Molex Power Adapter Cable 9-inch(23cm)


4-Pin Male Molex Connector to 12V DC 5.5mm x 2.1mm Plug 12" LED Power Cable


And of course , gorilla superglue to fasten the hub to the logic board once it operates satisfactorily .
 

bsbeamer

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Sep 19, 2012
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If you are seriously going through all of that hassle, why not just find PCIe USB 2.0/3.0 card with internal port(s) or mod the card so the ports go inside vs. outside? Most have low-profile brackets available and could even snake extension cable(s) through the side if you don't want to solder anything.
 

Snow Tiger

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Dec 18, 2019
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If you are seriously going through all of that hassle, why not just find PCIe USB 2.0/3.0 card with internal port(s) or mod the card so the ports go inside vs. outside? Most have low-profile brackets available and could even snake extension cable(s) through the side if you don't want to solder anything.
1 ) That would involve discovering if there are drivers in macOS Catalina to support the PCIe USB Add On Cards you'd desire . Only Apple writes USB drivers , so this is not guaranteed . In fact , most USB cards are not going to have support ( or worse , have intermittent support ) with our Macs .

2 ) I thought the project goal was to provide several internal ports ? How many internal ports do you suppose those PCIe Add On cards will have ? Probably just one each . Two , if you are lucky . But again , you'd have to discover what USB controller chips are supported in macOS Catalina or those cards won't work .

That's the nice thing about hubs . No drivers required .

By the way , speaking of drivers , I discovered that the Mac Pro 7,1's I/O PCIe Card has state of the art USB controller chips from Texas Instruments . I ran a search on the chip designation . I couldn't discover any other products out there that use this chip . So no good using those drivers Apple wrote for the I/O card , for any other PCIe Add On Card . At least , not for now .
 
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bsbeamer

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Sep 19, 2012
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Nearly every single card that works in MP5,1 will work in MP7,1 in Catalina. Many are running hacked or modified installs of Catalina on their MP5,1's and can attest to USB support working 100% fine.

ALL of the Sonnet USB cards work in MP7,1 and are advertised as compatible directly on their website.

 
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deconstruct60

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Mar 10, 2009
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I remember reading that this internal USB is only a usb 2.0 port. Booting would be SLOW.
Conceptually there are unused USB 3.0 lanes on the PCH ( C621 ) and Apple ran two SATA 6 Gb/s "lanes" over to the same place. They are probably using 12+ USB 2.0 lanes, so probably did get "tried" of routing. I think it is simpler power wise too.

The PCH is loaded down with the T2 , both 10GbE ports , the two SATA 6 Gb/s lanes . and wi-fi. (and how many of those were dual-use USB 3.0 or PCI-e lanes) . The high configuration T2 all by itself it get pretty close to saturating the PCH's bisection bandwidth. Additionally, if concurrently use a high fraction of all the of the other stuff not going to get much out of a USB 3.0 connection anyway even if there is one (or more ) left.

The rest of the Mac Pro is so over engineering in some sense would expect USB 3.0. But then again have all that other "over engineered " stuff and USB 3.0 is yet another set of wires to route through the board from the PCH.
 

Snow Tiger

macrumors 6502
Dec 18, 2019
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Nearly every single card that works in MP5,1 will work in MP7,1 in Catalina. Many are running hacked or modified installs of Catalina on their MP5,1's and can attest to USB support working 100% fine.

ALL of the Sonnet USB cards work in MP7,1 and are advertised as compatible directly on their website.

How many of those cards have internal USB ports ? I only found one on that list . And it did not have a Type A port , either , which the license dongles require .
 

bsbeamer

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Sep 19, 2012
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There mods for several of those cards if you search these forums. Some have used a few of them to replace the MP5,1 front ports. Follow along those reports. You won't need to do half of the work they did since you're just bringing ports inside.

It really is not that hard to route USB extension cables back inside the machine if you absolutely must have the dongles inside and find the single internal port problematic or have USB power concerns with a "Y" cable or USB hub.

Between the one built-in port and even a two-port USB card with low profile adapter, that's three license dongles really easily shoved inside the machine.

...or just get the rack mount version of MP7,1 and lock the entire thing inside a rack case with access door(s) if you're that concerned about theft of 3+ dongles.
 

bsbeamer

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Sep 19, 2012
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For those not willing to go the USB PCIe internal route AND need more dongles locked, reach out to SEH to see if this works with MP7,1 as you're intending:

If not, consider making a box with powered USB hub externally to basically do the same exact thing for a LOT less money. A vented project box should be able to handle and can physically lock or secure that somewhere, via tamperproof screws and/or other methods.

If neither of those work, you're basically going to "need" something like this:
 

Snow Tiger

macrumors 6502
Dec 18, 2019
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For those not willing to go the USB PCIe internal route AND need more dongles locked, reach out to SEH to see if this works with MP7,1 as you're intending:

If not, consider making a box with powered USB hub externally to basically do the same exact thing for a LOT less money. A vented project box should be able to handle and can physically lock or secure that somewhere, via tamperproof screws and/or other methods.

If neither of those work, you're basically going to "need" something like this:
A $900 dongle server for a single personal workstation ? Are you forgetting people here like being frugal ? 😂 . And you'd still need to secure the dongle server because all those licenses are worth megabucks .

My messy solution ( if it works , and it should ) only costs $60 and a little sweat equity .