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Issue 8.2


A "Hackintosh" Project

Issue: 8.2 (January/February 2010)
Author: Dave Mancuso
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,859
Starting Page Number: 11
Article Number: 8205
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Full text of article...

A colleague of mine recently mentioned a side project he had made a few months ago. He installed Mac OS X Leopard on a netbook and tested it in daily use. This kind of project is completely unsupported by Apple and breaks the end user license agreement. In fact, Apple has removed support for this kind of thing from current versions of OS X. Still, it's interesting to review from a project perspective. The "Hackintosh" project involved a few interesting tweaks and turns.

A different colleague of mine used a Dell for this project, but the Acer Aspire One was used for the project I reviewed. The Aspire One uses an Atom main processor at 1.66GHz, and sports 1 GB of RAM with a 250 GB hard drive. Its screen is 10.1 inches. My colleague worked with a friend as a team to install OS X on the netbook and deal with issues along the way.

To install OS X the team used a MSI Wind installer. They built an installer on an external drive (the Aspire has no optical drive) and installed OS X. If you're interested in the details, search for Aspire One and MSI Wind on the web. The steps are there, but it's a fairly involved process. The base install booted and worked, but several issues were immediately apparent. Most were dealt with by installing Acer drivers to get things working. After that, the main issue was wireless. The Acer wireless card didn't work. Luckily, the team had access to an Apple 802.11g wireless card in a MacBook. They pulled the card from the MacBook and installed it in the Aspire. This hardware step was admittedly a pain, but it worked. Wireless was now ready and stable on the Hackintosh.

Unfortunately, one last issue remained. The Hackintosh froze when it tried to sleep. It generated an OS X kernel panic. The team "fixed" this by installing a utility called Caffeine to prevent the Hackintosh from going to sleep. The netbook was ready for testing in regular use.

The Hackintosh worked well. It had to be shut down instead of going to sleep, but it started up fast enough that my colleague didn't mind. It was taken to meetings, used for notes, ran Macintosh software fine (e.g., iWork), and became a good tool for light work. Any time my colleague had to run out of the office, the Hackintosh became a good tool to grab on the go. It was eventually given to a coworker, and it's still used months later. It will likely be dismantled at some point, but my colleague definitely considered the Hackintosh project a success.

In the end the netbook was upgraded to Mac OS X 10.5.7, but there it stays. Apple has removed support for Atom processors, so this is an orphaned machine. However, the project showed that a Mac OS X netbook fills a need if Apple ever decides to enter that part of the market.

End of article.