Building a Hackintosh!

Standard

So, I hate Apple with a passion. They make great hardware, but you are limited in choice and if something breaks you can bet your sorry ass that your system is under repair for a couple of weeks.  I run Ubuntu, thank you very much.

But, my wife Maaike Appels has to work on a Mac, Lightroom/Photoshop isn’t available for Linux and a requirement for a professional. So, for her I’ll put the hatred to rest and find a solution.

She has a Mac Mini, but clearly, the thing just isn’t coping with the usage. And those pictures are not getting any smaller I can tell you. The joys of tech.  What she needs is a Mac Pro, do you know what those things cost? 3000 euro, and then you get a whopping 8GB of ram. Nice, if you only need to edit your holiday pictures.

So, after much internal debate, the only thing that is left to build a true high end system, without selling the car is to make my own.

Hardware

I already have a case, an old Dell Desktop that I’ll happily gut, as the mainboard never did play nice with Ubuntu installs. So I’ll replace what’s bad (Mainboard/Memory/CPU) and keep what’s ok (Case/Power/Burner)

Shopping List based on the Tony CustoMac Page.

  • Gigabyte GA-Z68MA-UD2H-B3 – mATX Mainboard – € 131,45
  • Intel Core i7 2700K/3.5Ghz – CPU – € 271,00
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 – Videocard – € 121,00
  • Corsair XM3 Quad Channel 4x 8GB – 32GB Ram Total – € 217,00
  • OCZ SSD Agility 3 Series – 180GB SSD HD – 159,95

Total cost € 900,40 – Should run circles around a Mac Pro, and run OSX just fine

Software

Get a copy of Lion from the App Store, one of the benefits of a mac being handy. As I never used the App store on the Mac Mini it had to be configured first. After typing in my password for the 10th time and searching for Lion about 8 times it allowed me to buy the software and start the download.

After this I followed the Unibeast instructies to create the USB Stick, this worked perfectly without any issues. And has helped a lot in making this install a lot easier.

Building the system

So, if you have ever build a computer system then this isn’t going to be that hard for you. Simple clean the case, insert hardware and make sure it’s hooked up properly. Really didn’t need to look up anything for this. But if you have problems with this I recommend finding a friend who has done this before.

You might notice I have the SSD non-attached here, was still waiting for a bracket for that one, and expecting an extension cable for the case fan tomorrow. But except for that everything is all here. And nothing is stopping me from atleast doing the install.

Installing the OS

Nothing I can tell here that you can not already find in the Unibeast Install guide, just take your time and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

After installing the OS you need to run Multibeast to get the drivers configured, make sure you read beforehand how this works. I made a few critical mistakes and that made my system very unstable. The quickest fix if this happens is to just reinstall again. Don’t forget to wipe the disk before doing so.

To use Multibeast this guide  is essential, read it, then read it again and actually understand what’s doing what.

Make sure you understand what UserDSDT files are, and where to put them. (Hint on your desktop with a special name). They will make sure your system is running fine.

Once this is done, system should boot up fine and most things should be working.

Stuff I had to fix

Dual Screen with the ATI HD 6850 Card

So this required a little digging to solve, but it seems all related to framebuffer. In short I have to tell the bootloader to have GraphicsEnabler=no, simpelest way to do this is to just type it in during boot. (Really, just start typeing at the boot screen)

Once you are sure that it works fine you can update the boot config. A nice guide for picking the right framebuffer is this one

Boot no longer working

Seems I have broken my bootloader somewhere along the way, I’m still debugging this but for now using the USB stick to boot helps to get things going. Think I made a typo in a configuration file somewhere.

Overall Impression so far

Once it’s up and running you can get mighty impressed, I mean this beast is flying all over. Ofcourse, you do notice a few small cracks, there seem to be some stability issues when putting the system in sleep mode. And as Maaike discovered, Adobe isn’t to keen to help you out when you got issues.

Timemachine to the rescue

So, I totally broke everything last week. Not my best moment and one that only got solved because I had a timemachine backup on the QNAP already.

Select Time Machine Vault, pick last backup, restore…

Wait for an hour and presto, back to pre-break-tweaking.

Tips

  • Pick your hardware carefully
  • Take your time and read
  • Don’t be afraid to re-install
  • Make sure you have an external drive or QNAP to keep a time machine backup handy.
  • When updating boot configuration, make backups and don’t try to change to much at once.

Performance

Geekbench Score  11435  –  http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/829720

Not as good as I would have expected, but then again it was build to have ton’s of RAM and not CPU power. If you care about your system feeling snappy, get the SSD drive, get the extra RAM. You might not win speed tests, but everyday use will make you smile.