Building the imperfect beast, part III: The agony of victory


— 9:49 AM on March 8, 2010

And so we come to the end of the beginning. When I last left you, I had finally attained a successful POST on my Hackintosh. This was no small feat in itself, but I wasted no time in geekish celebration. For getting your Hack to boot into the BIOS is one thing. Getting it to spool up a sweet stick o' Snow Leopard is quite another.

So, with the Antec Sonata III still agape, anti-static bags littering the floor, and no small amount of thermal paste keeping the undersides of my fingernails humming at 40°C, I proceeded to set my BIOS config according to Adam Pash's Install Snow Leopard on Your Hackintosh PC, No Hacking Required post on Lifehacker.com. I popped in the OS X 10.6 installation USB drive I had created, lo, those many days ago.

And it worked.

No, really. The machine booted from the USB drive and installed Snow Leopard as if on a Jobs-approved, Ive-designed chunk of aluminum chock-full of eco-friendly pixie dust and assembled by 15-year-old Chinese kids. Suh. Weet. As the installer plowed through the 6,376 keyboard maps (except Dvorak because, well, seriously), I wondered to myself, "Self, I wonder what grandness awaits me in this new reality of quad cores, enough RAM to house my own MCP, and enough hard drive space to store the collective works of Berkley Breathed, Charles Shultz, Bill Watterson, and Darby Conley scanned at 18,000 DPI?"

Drunk with such thoughts of using great power with great responsibility, I lapsed into a fugue state that only ended when the dog attempted to teleport through the Zalman CPU Cooler & Stargate Opener Upper. Thankfully, the install had finished. I rebooted.

And lo, there was much rejoicing.

Yes, the Hackintosh booted on its first attempt. Obviously, the machine was now sentient and did so only to lure me into a false sense of security (little did it know that's the only kind I ever have). Nonetheless, almost everything worked straightaway. Only three things were a touch funky:

  1. Bonjour printing didn't work. I could find other computers via Bonjour, but not my Brother MFC-8860DN. I could print via IP printing, but I didn't really want to go that route. I solved this issue by running a little something called SnowR1000, which installed a modified kext file. Sweet.
  2. Sleep wouldn't work. I knew this would probably be the case since the boards were full of fixes, patches and incantations for getting sleep to work in 10.6.2 on various Hackintosh configurations. None of them worked for me. While I'd like the machine to be able to go to sleep, it's not really that huge of a deal for me. Boot time is pretty fast, so I'm not missing a whole lot. Would still like to fix it, just to see if I can get wake-over-network working with my Airport Base Station Extreme Boogaloo. Nonetheless, I spent many hours over several days reinstalling kexts, the entire system and an old version of Deluxe Paint IV in a vain effort to get it to work.
  3. The drive I was using for Time Machine would spontaneously unmount. I don't think this had anything to do with the Hackintosh install, though. After swapping cables and plugging it into a different SATA jack on the mobo, all is good. For now.

And that's it. Or was it? In my zeal to find an answer to the sleep riddle, I installed something(s) that now cause the machine to go to sleep even though Energy Saver is set to never sleep. This blows. I like to leave the Hack (or The Supreme Hackintosh as it is officially known—inside joke between me and, umm, one other person) on while I'm at work so I can tunnel in via screen sharing when the need arises. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a massive new business pitch when I decided to do the kext-file tango and can't remember exactly what I did and when to cause this problem. Dumb, yes. And I'm paying the price. I actually tried reverting back to a near-original set of kext files via Time Machine just a couple of days ago. This caused my machine to immediately go all freaked-out Redenbacher upon reboot. (That's a kernel panic for the joke-challenged among us.) Finally got everything restored and working, but the sleep issue remains. Yay.

Even though this isn't a review, I know many of you will want to know how fast this thing is. Geekbench in 32-bit mode (which is free, unlike 64-bit mode) gives scores that vary between 5670 and 5890, which is right in line with a Mac Pro of similar specs, so that's good. I have the CPU running at 3.6GHz, for those into such things. Is the speed everything I hope it would be? Almost. On most things the Hackintosh sizzles like a fat man on asphalt in July. When transcoding AVCHD files to Pro Res, it's a lot faster than my old MacBook Pro, but still annoyingly pokey.

Would I do this again? Yes. Just not the next time I need a new Mac. Building a Hackintosh isn't the hardest thing to do, but it takes a decent amount time to set up correctly and troubleshoot all the bugs, some of which may only be relevant to your specific combination of components. And you have be ever-vigilant of upgrades from Apple that may render all your previous hard work moot (when in doubt, don't upgrade). While definitely cheaper than a Mac Pro of like performance (I figure all parts and whatnot to be between $1,300 and $1,500), the time spent building and maintaining must be taken into account. I my case, the time spent is time I could either be writing for money or with my family, so it's not really worth it in the end. Ten years ago, yes. And ten years from now, yes—when one of my kids shows an inclination for computer construction, I'll be right back on the Hackintosh train.

For now, I'm enjoying the new machine, even with the niggles and oddities. But when 10.7 eventually hits, check eBay to see if I'm offering a lightly used miniature Stargate generator for cheap.

Later,

Fox

   
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