Mac IT Guy: Old parts, remote connections

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Two questions this week, one about finding parts for old Macs, the other about remotely connecting to Macs on a network.

HDMI from an old Mac Pro

I’m not an IT specialist and certainly not trained. But (stop me if you’ve heard this one) as a Mac proponent I’m the de facto Mac IT guy for our office. One particular request that has stumped me so far came from one of our artists.

Overall he’s pretty content with his original Mac Pro tower, even though it’s a few years old. But he can’t figure out how to get HDMI video out to the giant TV he uses for demos. I think the best solution would be to add a second video card (his current card is already supporting two monitors) and get a DVI to HDMI adapter cable.

My question is: how do find a compatible video card for an old Mac? I’ve talked with the sales support team at my local Apple Store, and they don’t seem to have anything that’ll suit it. I thought about getting the exact same card the machine came with, but ATI doesn’t make them anymore. Any sugggestions?

According to the always-marvelous Mactracker, your particular model of Mac Pro, (the one called just Mac Pro, model identifier MacPro1,1) had a wide range of video cards to choose from: The GeForce 7300 GT, GeForce 8800 GT, and the Quadro FX 4500 from Nvidia, or the ATI Radeon X1900XT.

Unfortunately, as you’ve probably already noticed, it can be hard to find parts for older Macs. The frequency of model updates—especially in the Intel era—makes it hard for vendors to sell old video cards (especially those that aren't made anymore). To make things even more fun, the version of PCI bus in the original Mac Pro isn't the same as in current models, so it’s possible a current video card wouldn’t even work in that old Mac Pro.

You might have some luck asking a local Mac repair shop to order one from Apple. But that’s not always an option (depending on the shop), and the price may be a bit more than you’d want to pay for a discontinued video card. There’s always, of course, eBay, but caveat emptor in the extreme there.

However, you do have another option: If all you need is an HDMI output, rather than trying to dig up an old video card, and then going DVI-to-HDMI, you can just get an HDMI card. A quick check on Google turned up Blackmagic Design. That company makes PCI HDMI cards for different platforms, including the Mac. One of those cards, the Intensity Pro, features HDMI in and out, and has a list price of $199. That might be a better option for you in the long run than trying to find older parts.

Connecting to other Macs

I just set up an office with a Mac mini running OS X 10.6 Server. I’m having problems accessing other computers on the network. I can access the main server just fine, via Static IP and Apple file sharing. But I can’t connect to the other Macs. I’ve used the Airport Admin tool to assign a local mac’s MAC address to a DHCP reservation, but that didn’t help.

One of the things that can really trip people up when connecting to a Mac OS X client machine is that, by default, file-sharing is not enabled. This may seem annoying, but from a security point of view, it makes a lot of sense and means your Mac is less easily attacked by default. But if you don’t know that, you can really bang your head against a wall trying to connect to a service that’s not turned on.

What you’ll want to do, then, on each of the client Macs, is to go into System Preferences -> Sharing. In that preference pane, click on the Options button and look at the various file and remote access options: Apple file sharing via AFP, FTP, and Windows file sharing via SMB. (That's the order of options in Mac OS X 10.6; the layout and options differ in earlier versions of OS X.) Are any of those boxes checked? If they aren’t, turn the services you want on, and try to connect again.

If those services are indeed enabled and you're still unable to connect, let us know either in the comments or via e-mail (at macitguy [at], and please reference your original question), and we, or one of the Very Smart People in the forums, can try to help you more.

[John Welch is IT Director for The Zimmerman Agency, and a long-time Mac IT pundit. Have a question about Macs and IT? E-mail us at macitguy [at] macworld dot com.]

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