Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tip Tuesday: Mac OS X on non-Apple Hardware

Okay, so this whole Psystar Thing has got me in a bit of an X86 mood. I have not tried this, nor am I advising you to try it. I am merely pointing out the process by which this whole thing works.

And I'm not going to give you a walk through on how to build one of these, as it is much better detailed elsewhere.

The x86 project is based on a simple premise. Mac is now running on Intel x86 chips, which are basically the same chips they are running in Windows boxes.

How come Leopard won't run on non-Apple hardware as a general rule?

Apple has been (and you might want to be sitting down for this revelation) fairly controlling about what hardware their software can run on. If you have a Leopard install disk for an iMac and try to install it onto your Macbook, it's not going to work, because it's not the right hardware. While the disk is not tied explicitly to that one machine, it is tied to that machine's configuration. They have something called a Trusted Platform Module, a computer chip inside the Mac that prevents Leopard from installing on the wrong device. When you put in the Leopard DVD and try and install, it talks to the TPM. If it finds out that the software and the hardware don't match up, it won't install.

As non-Apple devices don't even have a TPM, there's not a chance of installing the Operating System on it.


Unless you can create a software patch that bypasses the OS's call to the TPM.

A note from the X86 project:
In building your "Hackintosh" however, you may want to keep as close to the hardware configuration of Intel-based Macs for the best compatibility. Intel Macs use (or have used) either a Core Solo, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, or Xeon processor. For graphics cards, Intel Macs have seen Intel's GMA950; ATI's Mobility Radeon X1600, Radeon X1600, and Radeon X1900 XT; and nVidia's GeForce 7300GT, 7600GT, 8600M GT or Quadro FX4500. . . . . .

This is not the first time this has been tried. PearPC was a port of osX back in the PowerPC days, but it was slow, clunky, labourious and more work than anyone would want to do other than as Proof of Concept.

At the heart of the x86 project is the TPM bypass. There are other tweaks and hacks, and the project keeps maturing, making it easier and easier to install Leopard on non-Apple Hardware. While it is getting more stable, you are still running a Hackintosh, and things will break, sometimes catastrophically so.

Why do people want to do this? Why drop a Lamborghini's engine into a Fort Focus? I suspect it is a function of the Mac starting to attract the attention of the hacker community that once was over on the Windows side of things.

I have a friend who was a passionate hater of all the Apple. We'd get into long, long religious discussions about Mac vs Windows, and neither of us made any sort of concessions...until Leopard. Then he got interested.

He even priced out a Mac system, but the Mac Pro was too high-end, the mac mini too low end and the iMac just not customizable enough, especially what with the built-in monitor.

He wanted a Mac. A mid-range machine between the low end and the high end. Something that was customizable, but not too expensive. The Mac equivalent of the beige box.

And of course, there was nothing for him. So instead of biting the bullet and going for a Mac Pro, he decided he was just going to build a hackintosh. As a Windows hacker (in the sense of one who hacks around on Windows machines to see what it could do), he was already used to playing around and digging into the guts of a system. And he was used to reasonably priced hardware. So he had no qualms about building his own x86 system, even it it was unstable it was probably no worse than Vista....

Which raises an interesting issue for another day. How are these people going to fit into the Mac community? They come with certain expectations of how things operate, and that's not how the Mac community operates. There are some people who fit in quite nicely, and have enriched the Mac community. And then there are people....

But that, as they say, is for another day.

No comments: