Tuesday, 8 November 2005

The virile way to the Macintosh…

This spring I was almost psychologically ready to buy myself a Mac mini. Then Steve Jobs announced the switch to the Intel processor. Can’t spend 500 EUR for a soon to be obsolete PPC machine, no can’t do. In August the new 10.4.1 Intel/PCC developer kit OSX was leaked, patches were produced to run the OS on some specialized PC hardware and/or virtualizers like Vmware or more generic PC systems. It is now possible to run 10.4.1 OSX on a PC with practically all the features of the Apple Developer kit with.. 1) a SSE3 Celeron/P4 processor (with a Prescott Core), 2) an Intel 915 chipset motherboard (now sadly discontinued, but mobo still available, the best seems to be the Intel GUXL with a 775 socket) 3) generic hd/dvd/dvd-rw/case/psu Even a SSE2 CPU (but not lower) and a non 915 chipset mobo will do, but with lower performance, especially in the graphics department. For the details on how to do it a very good starting point is www.osx86project.org and www.win2osx.net. I built myself a good “hackintosh”/”macintel” system with: a 60 EUR Asrock P4 Dual 915-GL a 70 EUR socket 478 2.8 GHz Celeron D CPU, two 35 EUR 512 mb DDR DIMMs, a 30 EUR stylish but cheap iTek case  and an ‘old’ 60 gb IDE HD and DVD reader. I’ve also tried a Sparklan WL-660GS  wireless nic as an almost plug-in Airport replacement (it uses the same broadcom chipset)  with good enough results. I chose the 478 socket over the newer 775 socket because I’ve mostly 478 machines at home and at work I can eventually cannibalize something from – the Asrock mobo has a strange PCIX-AGP combo slot in addition.


I can use (a bit slowly) most PPC OSX apps with the Rosetta emulation – Office, Macromedia Studio, the Adobe suite all run. All the HW (sound, ports, networking, and usb) works. The newer universal binaries run very fast, the lowly Celeron clearly outperforms the Mac mini. I’ve doubts about the longevity of the whole hack – the 915 chipset, being discontinued, won’t appear in retail Intel Macs, and possibly won’t be supported by the new, final Intel OSX, newer builds of OSX for Intel have added protections against running on standard Intel hw (tough rapidly developing work is being done at least for the latest 10.4.3 build), but it’s a great way to test and play with the Macintosh system anyway. If the ‘hackintosh’ won’t be able to run OSX in the future, it will always be useful as a second or third PC, and newer and better Mac minis (hopefully minis you don’t need a special tool just to open them) will be on the market. Here are some photos. The wireless keyboard/mouse is an el cheapo Nortek system (the mouse eats battery power like a McDonald punter, the keyboard is still running on the included batteries), the screen is 15’’ LG LCD monitor.