Thursday, 6 August 2009

Working with the Hackintosh - First Impressions

Well, the easy bit's over. I have a fully converted Dell Mini 9 netbook running OS X 10.5.7. What's the verdict from the jury after the first few hours?

First impressions are very positive. The machine itself is really cute, but it appears well constructed. I've customized the netbook appearance with a rather garish iSkin which makes it stand out from the crowd.

The two most obvious limitations are the size of both keyboard and the screen. I have pianists fingers so the small cramped keyboard and keys don't really cause me too many problems, and I can type almost as quickly as I can on a full size keyboard. It's not touch typing but I do manage to use three or four fingers on each hand. The keys have a slightly spongy feel as they are depressed, but nothing I can't live with. My keyboard is UK configured and some characters are still a bit elusive, most notably '#', and '@' so I've configured the input menu to keep the keyboard viewer handy during these first few days.

The lack of screen real estate is more of an issue. I've elected to keep the dock on the side of the screen and have turned on auto hiding. Both of these are significant deviations from my normal display, but the change is necessary for quite a few applications, and especially for the System Preferences dialogs. I have some Terminal commands that I can invoke to adjust screen scaling factors to mimic higher resolution, but most of the time I prefer to keep the standard screen. I'll keep a look out for alternative long term solutions.

There is one real gripe. The webcam active light flashes as soon as the machine boots. It can be turned off by running iChat, running the video options and then closing the iChat programme, but a permanent solution would be better. Good news is that the webcam works fine with iChat as does the internal audio system.

Wireless, Bluetooth and USB connectivity all work as expected, and I have successfully used Time Machine to backup the system. My Vodafone USB stick modem also worked without any problems.

The unit does get a little warm, but realistically I don't think this is any worse than other laptops I've owned. The upside of no internal fans is that the machine is beautifully quiet.

I've fitted the expanded battery as standard and the battery monitor indicates a battery life of 4-5 hours, with both Bluetooth and Wireless enabled. It's too early to tell whether this is realistic.

I'm delighted with my Hackintosh. I expected some niggles, but overall the experience has been much more positive than I dared hope for. I feel sure this is going to be a fantastic addition to my electronic toolkit.

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