Saturday, 25 July 2009

First Steps to a Hackintosh - tuning into the concept

I've been hooked on the idea of an Apple netbook for a while. Many years ago I owned a Psion 3 and later moved up to the Psion 5. I actually dragged the latter out of a corner of my office the other day, blew off a considerable coating of dust, inserted a couple of batteries and 30 seconds later the system was up and running. The backup battery had long since died so all my data had evaporated into the ether, but everything else was working fine. I fondly remembered the days when this was my workhorse and used to go everywhere with me. My iPhone now performs most of those day to day management tasks with a bit more style, but when it comes to more "office" like work there's no way that I'm going to use my iPhone for anything more than quick and dirty emails, simple calculations, the odd to do reminder, and some low web browsing.

My 15'' MacBook Pro goes along with me for any journeys out of town but sometimes it really is a lot of hassle to get it up and running, especially on crowded trains, jolting buses, and stations and airports with limited space to work (or often even to sit). I've lost rack of the number of times that I drag my laptop across the country, stuffed into my backpack along with all the USB modems, wireless mice, portable drives etc., only to get pulled out on my return home without being switched on. The only thing to show for the effort is sore shoulders and an aching back.

So with the Psion experience fresh in my mind, aching bits from a recent trip to London and some time on my hands, I decided to investigate building a Hackintosh netbook of my own. The first task was to consider my requirements. I wanted a machine that was light, small enough to be usable in some of those situations described above, and easily convertible. Although I used to be a programmer, and I'm not phased by taking the backs of machines and replacing bits, I'm not a real hacker so I wanted a reasonably simple set of instructions to follow. The other criterion was that it needed to be relatively inexpensive. After all, it's really only an experiment, and if Apple do finally make their own netbook or tablet it'll be fairly high on my shopping list.

Over the past few days I've trawled the web for potential candidates, building instructions and success stories. The thing that finally sealed it for me was the Andy Ihnatko video , where he was showing off a Dell Mini 9 netbook running OS X 10.5. This also turned out to be the most suitable commercially available machine to convert, and with about the best set of instructions I could find. In fact the only better set of instructions were for the RunCore SSD replacement drive for the Dell Mini 9. So the hardware pretty much chose itself.

Final configuration that I selected was a refurbished Dell Mini 9 with 2Gb RAM, and a 16Gb SSD pre-configured with Windows XP and a 32Gb RunCore SSD with on-board USB connection. I also purchased a new retail copy of Leopard OS X 10.5.6 to avoid the piracy police.

Next time I'll go through the build process, before a final posting on using the machine (hopefully, written on the beast itself!).

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