John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Hackintosh review

I should start out by saying I am an Apple newbie, so if I don’t get this exactly right I hope you will understand.

Sometime ago Apple took a major detour. They abandoned the PowerPC processor and moved towards the Intel platform and more industry standard hardware (sort of). Recently the newly announced version of OS-X announced it will only be available for the Intel platform, abandoning the old PowerPCs.

When Apple moved towards the Intel platform a new possibility was born. Hackers found a way of taking the MacIntosh operating system and running it on non-Macs. OS-X is based on Free-BSD a Unix platform. As with any fringe OS, the key is to figure out what of the hardware that makes up your machine will and will not be supported. I learned this way back in OS/2 days. Ideally wanted to play with a laptop because in my house there are no desktops! A laptop is the worst choice to be honest, since your chances to change out things like the network card, video card etc are limited.

I first tried with my IBM T23, then my IBM T41 and got no where. My attempts to get it to run on Vmware were equally unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. I later found out that you had to leave the CDROM in the disk always to boot with Kalyway. DOH.

Recently I bought a used Dell Latitude D620 and there were reports that Hackintosh ran well on it so I thought I would try again. All told I have probably been trying to get this to run for well over a year now with little to no success, until now. You will often read how easy this is, that certainly is not my experience. It is a frustrating, time consuming, experience.

There are a number of different distros that have been created. Kalyway, Leo4All, Jas, and iATKOS to name the ones I have heard of. These are freely distributed (pirate ware of course) on P2Ps. Each one is around 4GB and there are a number of different versions of each. So your internet connection will get a work out. In the end, for my hardware iAtkos worked the best. But there is no one best. It’s a matter of what fits best with your hardware.

If you read a web site and it says I’ve got this working or that working, don’t believe all the hype. In the background it has likely taken the person untold amounts of time to get it running. All this to save buying a Mac J

So after a number of tries I got the furthest ever. I got the OS up, the display up and I was cooking with gas. So what didn’t work? No multi processor, no audio, no PCMCIA, no sleep, no HP Laserjet 1020 (no mac drivers) and no NICs. Damn. What use is a machine without a network card. After doing some checking it seemed like the PCMIA slot was not working but USB was. Alas my final solution. One of my colleagues had a D-Link DWL-160 USB card that actually had Mac drivers. Seems Apple pressures companies to not do Mac drivers to keep their monopoly on Airport cards. Dlink did it anyway and they actually work. Not entirely stable, but they do work! Woohoo. The drivers do not fall into the “Airport” design so there is an ap that allows you to do the selection of the wireless network.

I am actually typing this now on my Hackintosh.

I found a Microsoft produced RDP client that will allow me to connect to Windows computers and servers! The initial version was really bad but I found V2.0 on the Apple downloads web site which works perfect. Firefox is available for the Mac too. Greasemonkey works fine. There is a verison of Office for the Mac as well as an Open Source Office (Neooffice) tool set. iTunes is of course available for the mac. Even my new GPS came with a Mac version of the program! Microsoft have also released a version of Windows Live for the Mac that works well. There is a program called parallel that will allow you to run Windows VMs on top of the mac for those programs you can’t find a way to do.

So get this, I always hear criticism about Wintel and how large their updates are. So after I installed 10.5.4 I did a check to see what updates are available. Get this 60.3MB quick time, 79.3MB itunes, 136MB java mac, and an astonishing 737MB mac os updates. Holy crap.

There are very few anti virus programs for the Mac. This is because to date virus writers have largely ignored the Macs. Given the browser portability between Windows/Mac this actually surprises me. But without anti virus the Mac is a pretty Zippy environment. The GUI is quite different from Windows and I find myself being clumsy with it. I am use to pressing end to get the end of a line, home to get to the front, ctrl-insrt for copy etc and maybe it’s because I am not using a mac keyboard but they don’t work. As well the mac has a dedicated control key that is used in their shortcuts which of course I don’t have.

Out of the box I was able to connect to Windows shares over the network but not to the hidden shares (c$ for example).

Every time I have used Linux or another non Windows Operating System I have run into a road block that means I can not use only that OS. With the Mac it seems quite probable that it could be a keeper.

You can find some free programs linked off of which is where I found the RDP client, Firefox, updated iTunes, Java for the Mac etc.

While the Mac supports multiple users, I have not found anything like switch user that Windows has that allows one users stuff to stay up and running while some one else logs on to do there stuff.

Here are a number gotchas that caught me:

– More than once I did the install and the display would go blank. Turns out it was using a resolution/refresh rate my laptop display could not show. I hooked it up to an external display to get it up

– A number of the distros are not compatible with the Core 2 duo processors in PCs. I had to disable one of the processors to get it running.

– As mentioned before you may need to leave the CD in for the boot.


June 23, 2009 - Posted by | Other reviews

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