Mac on the cheap: The Hackintosh

Lisa1This is typical Lifehacker, they point our something incredibly useful after I’ve already gone with the expensive option! The idea is pretty simple, since Mac OS X now runs on Intel gubbins, you buy your own PC hardware, cobble it all together and then install Leopard on it. And call it the Hackintosh. Top idea you’d think? Well no, not really. The article is full of crater sized holes.

It’s based around the premise of spending less than $800 but that’s just on hardware and it’s a cheat at that. The author uses coupons to bring the price down since the parts are actually over $800 ($842.90 at the time of posting). 

Plus you need a patched version of Leopard, because by default it only installs on Apple hardware, which is fair enough. The article describes two methods of acquiring said patched Leopard, one is to go download a copy via Bittorrent or the alternative is to manually patch your copy of Leopard… but there is no mention of having a copy already. It’s just kind of assumed. It’s another $129 if you don’t have it or free if you pirate it.

Shuttle N00bAnd it’s at that point I think it’s a lot of work for not much gain. Why would you build a Hackintosh if you’ve already got a Mac with Leopard on? Why would you want to go through the pain of building your own box? (I don’t want to have to do that again!) Why would I want to bother with either spending hours downloading a hacked copy of Leopard or laboriously making one myself? Do I want a fugly PC looking box again? 

The answer is no, I don’t. The reason I switched to Mac was to make things easier. To use software that designed to work with it’s hardware from the beginning. In cost terms, yes, it is cheaper to go down the Hackintosh route, it’s less than a $1000 where as my iMac comes in at $1,799. (I’m using dollars as the comparison since that’s what Lifehacker uses.)

But as they say, time is money, and now I would rather pay extra for a proper Mac and then waste my time more wisely on other things :).

These two comments sum it all up for me:

BY CDC AT 11/13/07 01:22 PM

I think people miss the point with getting a Mac. The idea behind the Mac is that it is an experience not only with software, but with hardware as well. Having both the software and hardware talk to each other and get along makes that user experience. Once you take Mac OS X out of the hardware, even though it is still a great piece of software, you lose the whole experience. And Apple Hardware isn’t that much more expensive than PC’s if you compare apple’s to apple’s (pun intended)

The emphasis on this next comment is exactly what I think:

BY BRIAN LITTLE AT 11/13/07 01:41 PM


I don’t want to discount the creativity of this project, which is impressive. I was a system builder for many years, so I know how much fun this can be. This is why it probably says a great deal about me that I just don’t see any point in doing this kind of thing. Really.

When I was 18 years younger and single, with more or less unlimited free time and a lot of discretionary income, I might have done this and enjoyed it. But I have a kid and a mortgage, and have better things to do with my time. I have come, lately, to see the value of my time versus the value of my things.

Which is to say that the time you spent hacking together a machine that will be a maintenance nightmare is time I get to spend with my daughter. Money you saved in the short term is money that I spent up front to get a machine that works right, right out of the box.

All things being equal, I think I came out ahead. But that probably means I’m not part of the audience you’re writing to, doesn’t it. :)

Nice piece of work, even if I do agree with your critics that you aren’t being up front about the complete costs

So all said and done, I’d much rather have my shiny iMac any day.

There’s some fun benchmarks on how well the Hackintosh runs, which, amusingly, is better than actual Macs do.

A month with Leopard

LeopardBoxI didn’t want to be left out from the other 2 million or so that purchased Leopard, so I took the plunge and upgraded from Mac OS X Tiger to Leopard a month ago to the day.

I was pleasantly surprised that my copy arrived on launch day, Friday 26th October, at bang on 12pm via TNT (as a topical aside, they did a better job with my one disc than they did with a certain governments two discs). Anyhoo, from the email Apple sent me, Leopard shipped late Thursday night and was giving an estimated delivery of the 29th / 30th (i.e. Monday / Tuesday the following week).

As it turned out, it arrived in a small cardboard box and when unwrapped, was in a further dinky but very cool and metallic looking box (which looks great in person, but terrible when photographed, hence the lack of. There are some good ones here though). That opened up to show the Leopard DVD with the manual being tucked anyway in a compartment behind. That’s the cool thing with Apple stuff, they get the first impressions right.

I decided to upgrade since that’s what the default choice seemed to be (Lifehacker has a good guide on the process) and I thought if worst came to the worst, I could just a nuke it anyway since I’ve only been running it for a couple of months. As it turns out, it was a painless process. I popped the DVD in, restarted, answered a few questions and off it went.


It took about 20 minutes to do a DVD consistency check and then the actual install fired off. It’s unlike any Windows install I’ve done in that after you’ve done the first bit, you can leave it completely unattended. Initially it was saying it was going to take an hour and twenty minutes to run which seemed to match up with what I’d been reading (i.e. that it was about a 2 hour job).


But as it turned out, some 25 minutes later it had done the business and rebooted into a shiny and new Leopard installation. In total it took less than an hour. There was a bit of hard disk grinding to start with as Spotlight got into it’s stride, but that it was.

Index_spaces_20071016The full list of the 300 changes just boggles the mind and one of the first things I started using was Spaces, which is a fantastic implementation of the multiple desktop within one screen mechanism (aka Virtual Desktops). It’s hardly a new thing, Linux in it’s various incarnations has had it for ages and I remember trying to run some Norton crap back on Windows 95 that did a similar thing, but that didn’t work since Windows / my hardware at the time wasn’t up to the job.

I really like about it is how you can bring it up to view all your desktops and then still use Expose to untangle your windows. The implementation is excellent. I also like the ability to assign what desktop various apps will load up in. However I have found that when viewing all your desktops at once it does get laggy if you have lots of windows and apps open, which can be a tad jarring.

Timemachine_icon20071016Time Machine is also excellent. I plugged up a 250GB external USB drive and set it up just for Time Machine to use. In fact I didn’t have much choice in the matter since Leopard pestered me into it! Any external drive I connected before configuring Time Machine, it wanted to use. That said I like the whole idea of automated backups and I was pondering on how to manage my backups, now I no longer need to bother. It just works in the background. 

Plus Apple have done the amazing and made a backup app interesting. The whole way Time Machine looks is just so damn cool. You can be in various apps like Finder, iPhoto 08 and just load up Time Machine and window then slides upwards and appears in a weird sort of timeline in space. From there you can then zoom back and forth in time, looking at old files and restoring them.


That said, I can totally see why some people wouldn’t want to use it since it isn’t the most configurable thing in the world. It keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and then weekly backups for anything older than that. It’ll keep doing that until you run out of space. And that’s your lot, no tweaking outside of that schedule. My initial backup was about 110GB and it’s used further 10GB since then. For me, I find it ideal.

I did find it kind of quaint that a sizable group of Mac users on the Ars Technica forums still do full drive images using things like SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner. I remember doing that a few times, yongs ago with Norton Ghost, but I never really found it practical with Windows. I’m more than happy with doing a fresh Leopard install then a Time Machine restore if I have hard drive failure. The key thing is keep your data safe.

Desktop_stacks20071016The new dock is interesting, I like it’s 3D style but I’m not so sure on how it highlights apps that are running. In Tiger you got a black arrow pointing upwards from beneath the icon, now you just get a blue coloured orb that isn’t much of a contrast different from the dock. There is a hack to put it back to the Tiger way of working, but to be honest, after using it for a while, I’m not that bothered that’d I change it. I can’t say I take much notice of them.

Stacks I’m not so sure on. I like the way they display things when clicked, arcing upwards from left to right, with the newest items at the bottom (although this depends on how you’re sorted your stack). The main problem I have with though is their lack of visibility on the Dock. You’d expect it to show some kind of folder icon to distinguish them, but instead its one of the items stored in the stack, which does change, so there is no consistency. So I’ve used the following hack to get round my little problem. It’s not prefect, but it does help!

I like the option of Cover Flow in the Finder… but I don’t tend to use it much. I much prefer Quick Look, which is where you can be browsing through files in Finder and can just press Space which then shows a preview window without having to load anything up. You can then quickly navigate though files in this mode.

Bootcamp_assistant20071016Bootcamp is also cool, but most people who were interested in it probably downloaded the beta on Tiger, got whatever they needed working done and left it at that. All I’ve done since going to Leopard is let Bootcamp update it’s various drivers and leave my Vista partition as is.

Networking seems more stable to Windows boxes too. I’d been connecting my Mac to Vista laptops and found it a bit unreliable at times on Tiger. That’s not the case anymore. If the connection is lost it seems to gracefully recover instead of showing the spinning beach ball of death. (Gom, my question the other night was because that was the first time I done Vista to Mac, i.e. the other way round).

SpotLightSpotlight has had a ton of tweaks too. Two that I find really useful is that by default now, Spotlight puts Applications at the top of it’s search results which for me has effectively replaced the use of QuickSilver. That said I still use QuickSilver, I’m a big fan of app launchers on Windows (Slickrun and Launchy) and I’ve been tinkering with various plug-ins for it. The other tweak is that you can now do calculations in Spotlight, which I find really useful!

Overall, it’s definitely been worth the upgrade for me. I didn’t have a proper backup strategy in place so Time Machine was a must. Plus I love the whole Spaces virtual desktop thing. And I’m a sucker for a new look and feel, so I’m sold :)

The Ars Technica review is the thing to read if you’re interested in a full review of Leopard.

How to lock Mac OS X

One thing I do miss on Mac OS X is the ability to quickly lock a machine. In Windows you just press Windows Key and L and it’s job done. On OS X no such option exists by default, however there is a relatively simple way to set it up.

Fire up System Preferences and select Expose & Spaces:


In there change one of the Active Screen Corners to Start Screen Saver. I’ve selected Bottom Left.


Next go back to System Preferences and select Security.


In Security, make sure the General tab is selected and then tick the top option of Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver.


That’s it! So when you want to lock your Mac, just move your mouse to the Active Screen Corner you picked and the screen saver should fire off and effectively lock your Mac.

Edit: Damnit looks like OS X Daily has the same info as my post. And there’s me thinking I was a smart arse…

After our Euro 2008 exit…

I got this text message:

Q. What’s 9 inches long and dangles in front of a c*nt?

A. Steve McClaren’s England tie

So no love lost there then! Still you can’t knock a guy too much for sticking to his principles… he said he wouldn’t quit even if we got kicked out of Euro 2008. And neither would I if I knew I was going to be paid £2.5 million when they fired me!

Anyhoo, looking on the bright side, as someone who detests footy, it will mean next year that the TV schedules won’t go to pot!

I am evil

Gom joins #hardcheese:

[13:30] * GomJabbar_ has joined #hardcheese
[13:30] * Vondur sets mode: +o GomJabbar_

[13:30] * GomJabbar_ slaps Pauk around a bit with a large trout
[13:30] <GomJabbar_> IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT
[13:31] <Bal_> =(
[13:32] <GomJabbar_> Pauk’s, not yours mister Stordeur
[13:35] <Bal_> =)
[13:35] <Bal_> so how’s assassassassassin’s crossing gom?
[13:35] <GomJabbar_> First of all it’s Assassin’s Creed, not crossing
[13:35] <GomJabbar_> Additionally… I don’t know
[13:36] <GomJabbar_> Because…
[13:38] <GomJabbar_> Got it on Thursday, managed to watch the intro and play the tutorial, went to a Diplomacy con on friday, returned on monday and BANG! Red Ring of Death! :(
[13:46] <Bal_> ack
[13:54] <GomJabbar_> So… what I played was nice… awfully I didn’t play much :(
[13:54] <GomJabbar_> Even the sci-fi twist isn’t as bad as I thought it would be
[13:56] <Bal_> ok
[13:56] <GomJabbar_> Strange at first but kinda interesting
[13:57] <Bal_> so getting your xbox replaced now?
[13:58] <GomJabbar_> Yeah, it’s packed up and everything, just waiting for UPS to pick it up
[13:58] <GomJabbar_> They told me it’ll take about 3 weeks but well, what else to do
[14:00] <Bal_> get a wii and mario
[14:00] <Bal_> buy a pc and TF2
[14:01] <GomJabbar_> :(

I notice his slappage a few hours later:

[20:16] <Pauk> hahaha
[20:16] <Pauk> goms 360 blew up
[20:16] <Pauk> hahahahahah
[20:16] <Pauk> hahahahaha
[20:16] <Pauk> haahahaha
[20:16] <Pauk> hahahaahahaha
[20:16] <Pauk> hahahahah
[20:17] <Pauk> ahah
[20:17] <Pauk> hah
[20:17] <Pauk> ha
[20:17] <Pauk> ah
[20:17] <Pauk> welcome to the club
[20:17] <Bal_> meany =)
[20:18] <Pauk> i’m might go buy assassins creed and blog about it all week

Sorry Gom :D

iPhoto 08 Fixed

I did a quick update on Saturday morning to my previous post on iPhoto 08. The long and the short of it is that it looks like the random lockup / crash I was experiencing when rotating images has been fixed with the 7.1.1 update.

I can say that pretty much for definite since I’ve just been going through the wadge of photos from our weekend in Whitby and rotatorised a good few with no issues at all. So yay and stuff!

I’ve got crabs!

Two in fact:



The one on the right is female and the one on the left is male. The difference, apparently, is in the apron which is the bit in the middle on their bottoms / fronts shown in the second photo. The females is bigger and tends to be furry round the edge, which is nice.

Anyhoo, we (the royal we as in wifey and I) were up in Whitby for the weekend visiting relatives. We popped round to see Kate’s Grandad who had just received shipment of 20 fresh crabs and was in the process of boiling them (which takes about 15 minutes I think). This is what they look like before:


And this is what they look like after:


They’re not something I’ve come in contact before so I had a good gander. They’re certainly not cute things. And the whole hairy, spidery type legs are disgusting. Unlike Kate’s Grandad, I’d make a lousy fishermen.



We were kindly given a couple to take home with us and when we did, Bob went ape shit since he could their fishy goodness. He had a good sniff, but wasn’t right impressed that he couldn’t open them via a ring pull like his Whiskers (cracking them open will be a job for tomorrow with a rolling pin and tea towel).


And I suppose I should finish this wonderfully titled post with something related:


“Balding man strokes ginger pussy into ecstasy”