The March of the Hackintosh

I have long been interested in different operating systems. I had a number of different computers growing up, usually hand-me-downs a few years behind the current hardware. I enjoyed installing different OSes on them and trying to get them to do things that other people’s newer computers could do (playing a video with sound output through the internal speaker as I didn’t have a soundcard comes to mind). I also enjoyed the hand-me-down OSes such as GEM, early versions of RedHat and FreeBSD, and Windows of course.

At the turn of the century I became interested in emulating different architectures on my computer. One hardware/operating-system combination that I was interested in emulating was the Acorn Archimedes RISC OS as I had fond memories of it from school; another was Apple’s OS X.

For a while it was only possible to emulate System 7 up to OS 9 using programs such as Basilisk II. System 7 was even available as a free download from Apple.

Then in 2004 the ‘impossible’ was accomplished, when Sebastian Biallas released his PowerPC emulator called PearPC that was capable of running OS X Jaguar and Panther. I played with this for a while, but at the end of the day, it was not fast or stable enough to be used seriously.

In 2005 I began to hear about a method of running OS X Tiger natively on a generic Intel processor-based PC. The infamous “Deadmoo” image spread through file-sharing sites, communities such as The OSX86 Project were established and the term “Hackintosh” was coined.

As I did not have a reliable internet connection, I did not manage to get my hands on a copy of this until late 2006 when I found a copy of tiger-x86.tar.bz2 on a password protected Chinese FTP site and convinced a friend to download it for me. The first time booting into OS X running natively on your bog standard PC is thrilling. Okay so hardware support was terrible and hardly any programs would actually run, but the geek factor was undeniable.

I finally got myself a semi-reliable ADSL connection and tried a few different versions of Tiger, but at that time none of them were really useable for any serious purpose. Then came Leopard. I started with a standard copy of 10.5 which I patched using the Bofors method; then I moved on to Kalyway’s 10.5.2 release, with which I managed to get all my hardware working, including full Core Image and Quartz Extreme support. I ran this installation for more than a year, during which time I lost all interest in Windows or Linux and started saving for a real Mac.

Last year I finally got a second-hand 17” PowerBook G4. Although I haggled for a lower price, I later found out that we paid about double what it was worth, except perhaps taking local availability into consideration, especially as the battery and DVD drives were both lemons. My Hackintosh is now running iAtkos 10.5.5 upgraded to 10.5.6 but only as a headless file server, while my PowerBook is my main work machine. The only limitation I am finding with it is that I cannot run iMovie, which I am eager to start using.

I’ve recently also helped others set up their own Hackintoshes. One of whom was so impressed with the experience, a few months later they bought a 15” PowerBook G4 and a 12” PowerBook G4, both of which turned out to be good reliable machines. They’re now pricing up Mac Minis to replace their Hackintosh as well, and eyeing MacBooks to replace the PowerBooks which are already beginning to feel a bit slow. I am happy with my PowerBook; other family members have also caught the Apple bug and invested in their own Macs.

A number of colleagues of mine have also bought MacBooks after being impressed with the ease of use, speed and looks of my 6-year-old PowerBook. 

None of us would have bought our Macs if it were not for the initial exposure that some of us gained from experimenting with Hackintoshes. I don’t question the illegality of downloading hacked versions of their operating system, nor do I question their right to forbid running of even original copies of Mac OS X on generic hardware; and I fully understand their displeasure with people like Pystar trying to make money out of it. However, I do believe that they can only serve to gain customers by turning a blind eye to people running Hackintoshes.

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