The Hackintosh

I commented the other day about Apples new lineup of desktop hardware. I talked a lot about price and where to get the most bang for your buck. I come from the PC background. Particularly that background of cracking open the case and fixing/replacing anything and everything inside. That is really how I got into the Tech business in the first place. Apple takes that power away with their integrated fully closed systems. It isn’t all bad because what they do they do well, but still at its core I have a hard time purchasing what amounts to a in place laptop. I mentioned yesterday that I would prefer to buy a tower, but that their current option has more power than anyone could possibly need.

There is another option. Way back there was a project called pearpc. Its goal was to emulate power pc chips on intel hardware. Think of it as a virtual computer just so you could run OSX on your windows or Linux box. Really it didn’t do that good of a job. It started by emulated the PPC3 chip which wasn’t that powerful. The other problem was that it was a virtual machine which means it takes a lot of resources to begin with. I used it with very limited success. When Apple switched to the Intel chips hackers immediately tried installing on non-Apple hardware. Today there is an entire movement dedicated to what is called Hackintoshes. The Ars article is very good at explaining the main purpose for this movement it is to fill a market need. I can speak first hand about this. I want a tower desktop under $2000.

To be sure the Hackintosh has its problems. First you have to make sure that you have friendly hardware (hardware that has drivers and such ready for installation). Another problem is that installation isn’t going to be easy and in some cases you may have to put up with bugs or quirks that have no fixes (the article notes that on the Dell Mini 9 you can’t use hibernate). One other major problem is that Apple doesn’t like this practice so they often send out updates that break the Hackintosh. If that happens it usually only takes a few weeks for the fix to be released, but still it can be a constant burden depending upon patch cycles for Apple. I don’t want to discuss the legal issues, but the EULA does state that you are not permitted to install OSX on non-Apple hardware, so far in court EULA’s hold about as much weight legally as a noodle strainer holds water. In other words I don’t think Apple has much of a legal argument given that you cannot even see the EULA until after you purchase the software and who is going to catch you doing it anyway. Apple may be suing Psystar, but that is different given that the company is trying to sell products. As the end user you should be safe.

What are the benifits? Well you can build a machine running OSX for under $1000. Given that the mini is barely under $1000 (if you include monitor and such) this is a pretty good deal. Again I think this represents a market trying to tell Apple what it wants. If Apple were smart they would listen.

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