building a hackintosh

April 27th, 2008

Steve Jobs’ Waking Nightmare of Complete and Total Inelegance

So I hit up and got my ~$200 worth of parts together — the nifty Shuttle KPC case, 2 GB RAM, and a 1.8 GHz Intel Core Duo chip (I already had a 250 GB IDE hard drive and Netgear WPN311 Wifi PCI card lying around) and I was going to write this big long honking thing about building a Frankenmac/Hackintosh but then Rob Griffiths from Macworld already beat me to it.

Bottom line: Building a Hackintosh is probably not worth your time. It’s amazing how much stuff “just works,” but here are the major problems:

  1. Updates. Point software updates (10.5.2 to 10.5.3 etc.) won’t happen unless you get updates via Bittorrent from Some Dude Who Has Already Fucked Around With Them. No offense to Some Dude, but this strikes me as a really bad idea.
  2. Wifi. This was the big fat stopping point for me — after four hours of what I will charitably describe as “dicking around” with .plists and .kexts I never got my Netgear PCI card to stop freezing after choosing a wireless network. Apple is in the enviable position of having to support only a couple wifi cards, and while the Netgear is super “out of the box” compatible with Windows and Linux, Mac OS X doesn’t need to know about it. So it doesn’t.
  3. Sleep and boot. Neither worked great, requiring kernel fiddling and partition twiddling and boot DVDs left in the the drive.
  4. Install. Installing from an IDE DVD-ROM drive was a pain in the ass thanks to not being able to install a hacked Mac OS X via USB DVD-R drive, so I had to have cables and junk strewed all around. Also, Some Dude has tricked out the Mac OS X 10.5 install, “helpfully” adding apps to /Applications and modifying the background colors, icons and dock. This is analogous to getting your car back from the shop and having “Grape Job!” scratch-n-sniff stickers “helpfully” added all over your leather dashboard.
  5. The Mac Mini. Frankly, if you figure it out by the hour, unless your time is worth absolutely nothing, the amount of time you’d spend on hardware and then dicking around with a hacked mac during its lifespan would total up to way more than just picking up a new $600 Mac Mini. And then everything would work out of the box and keep working.

Stats: I Xbench’d the Hackintosh, and performance was pretty good for a $200 machine:

Results 115.24
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.5.1 (9B18)
Physical RAM 2048 MB
Model Mac Pro
Drive Type Maxtor 6Y060L0 Maxtor 6Y060L0
CPU Test 104.29
GCD Loop 212.34 11.19 Mops/sec
Floating Point Basic 102.59 2.44 Gflop/sec
vecLib FFT 83.55 2.76 Gflop/sec
Floating Point Library 83.83 14.60 Mops/sec
Thread Test 132.61
Computation 136.39 2.76 Mops/sec, 4 threads
Lock Contention 129.03 5.55 Mlocks/sec, 4 threads
Memory Test 124.75
System 121.03
Allocate 170.66 626.74 Kalloc/sec
Fill 125.49 6101.37 MB/sec
Copy 91.25 1884.64 MB/sec
Stream 128.71
Copy 120.45 2487.77 MB/sec
Scale 120.40 2487.40 MB/sec
Add 138.49 2950.23 MB/sec
Triad 137.93 2950.75 MB/sec
Quartz Graphics Test 157.95
Line 125.77 8.37 Klines/sec [50% alpha]
Rectangle 166.61 49.74 Krects/sec [50% alpha]
Circle 135.69 11.06 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha]
Bezier 129.68 3.27 Kbeziers/sec [50% alpha]
Text 381.51 23.87 Kchars/sec
OpenGL Graphics Test 278.54
Spinning Squares 278.54 353.35 frames/sec
User Interface Test 171.48
Elements 171.48 787.00 refresh/sec
Disk Test 42.54
Sequential 54.36
Uncached Write 49.55 30.43 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 51.27 29.01 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 58.41 17.09 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 59.62 29.97 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 34.94
Uncached Write 12.89 1.36 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 76.65 24.54 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 78.06 0.55 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 90.38 16.77 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Anyway. As a computer, the Hackintosh is a shambling failure, but as a fun learning experience it was a success — I now know way more about the inner workings of .kexts and /System than I ever thought I’d have to know, and the Shuttle KPC will be a lovely PC or Ubuntu box, just not a Mac. Speaking of, Ubuntu 8.04? Literally everything worked out of the box.


11 Responses to “building a hackintosh”

  1. netgear says:

    and Linksys, also make base stations to those specifications. Again, practical service speeds are well below the … Friday’s Winners & Losers: Progenics ( Shares rise 26.8% after the company gets U.S. approval for Relistor.building a hackintoshSteve Jobs Waking Nightmare of Complete and Total Inelegance So I got my ~$200 worth of parts together the nifty Shuttle KPC case, 2 GB RAM, and a 1.8 GHz Intel Core Duo chip (I already had a 250 GB IDE hard drive and wifi PCI card lying around) and I

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  3. John Smith says:

    Okay maybe not related. I have been playing around with hackintosh a lot and have done lots of reading on it. I know many people do this for a challenge or because they cannot afford a real mac. But when it is all done, in just about all the cases that I have read about, you end up with a pretty crippled version of Mac. Why would anyone want to bother doing all this messing around only to end up with a crippled version of Mac. Given the choice, I would go with Ubuntu 8.04 where everything just works out of the box, with less fiddling than hackintosh, or even Windows Xp.

  4. Jese Dorland says:

    I am able to install os x 10.4.3 on my pentium 4 machine, and it works like a charm. However, I have agree with, it’s not worth wasting time on a cripple machine. I really want a mini mac, and I will go and buy a new one box in three months or so.

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  7. Derek says:

    Hmm I don’t really agree with the “hackintosh is a waste of time” statement. Built a close equivalent to a Mac Pro for $500 and it runs final cut with no hitches. Audio was a little tricky but if I was really a pro I can easily for over a few hundred for a professional sound card. This has become a very solid HTPC and I use it daily with plex. I understand this was posted a long time ago but there are upgradable hackintosh flavors now. Particularly iAtkos v5i is a solid solution or iDeneb is very solid and fast (but not upgradable OOB). Just my $.02

  8. James says:

    Building a hackintosh is pretty easy, getting from the retail disc is a little harder but i still managed it. My Sony Vaio has full leopard 10.5.4 all youneedis to find the right kexts. I took some kexts from Leo4all and installed just the kexts. toupdate I just backup my kexts, update and then reinstall kexts and repair permissions

  9. Roberto says:

    I built a hackintosh, i can run finalcut, motion, soundtrack, the adobe suite, logic… y can use my MIDI interface with almost 0 of latency… i’m a motion graphics artist and i have Leopard and Windows XP, but Leopard is faster than XP in my computer… Two month ago i have the idea to buy an IMAC, but when i built my hackintosh i changed my mind… now i’ll buy a mac book pro for some fun stuff… sorry my english….

  10. Richard says:

    These days it really is easy. True there is no WiFi but that's not such an issue since it's my studio computer and ethernet works just fine. Bottom line is I built a music production machine that benchmarks the same as the latest top of the range iMac for a third of the price. All my software works beautifully and if any hardware fails (which happened quite a bit with Macs I've owned over the years), I can replace and / or fix it myself without having to deal with Apple. I can also upgrade as I go without being reamed for Apple-specific hardware. Awesome.