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Why I Love My Hackintosh


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#1
coolied

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There are several reasons I love my Hackintosh (due to the utter versatility), and most of the reasons also relate to why I wouldn't replace it with a real Mac; maybe Apple should take a look at how Hackintoshes work and change the way they do things (I'm not saying they need to start licensing OS X for non-Apple HW, that's another topic all together) and people such as myself might actually consider buying one:

- with my Hackintosh, I have the versatility of an ATX case with a full-sized ATX single-socket motherboard and several expansion slots. This is the type of configuration i've been using for years, and it totally suits me. Why am I either locked into A) a mini-sized system with basically no expansion to speak of; :D a system that's built into an LCD monitor and uses laptop parts; or C) a system that has what I want in a motherboard, PLUS way more {censored} I don't need (multi-socket; workstation/server chipset; registered RAM) - where is the crucial mid-tower that the average consumer would tend to buy? The type of system that made Dell as popular as it is now? I know, it's totally MISSING from Apple's line-up. A nice mid-sized ATX tower (even a reduced-scale version of the Mac Pro case) with a decent ATX single-socket mobo and a few PCIe slots would sell nicely, in my opinion. It could be shipped sans monitor but with KB and mouse ALA Dell for around $800 or so given reasonable HW specs (heck, they could even use a newer Celeron and make a $599 model); if Apple could write a working x3x00 GMA kext for desktop use, the default system could use onboard graphics, or a PCIe x16 accelerator card. Which leads me to:

- My Hackintosh can use any type of video card there is a working kext/injector/EFI string for. Why does Apple absolutely need to use a special version of the graphics card when obviously it really doesn't need to be that way? Is it specifically so they can sell you a 8800GT for double it's actual worth? Why exactly ARE Mac 8800GTs so much more expensive? I believe the PCB and silicon are exactly the same.

- Which leads to my next point. Why Bootcamp? With my Hackintosh I can NATIVELY boot Windows and the EFI bootloader for OSX on the same system (actually Easy BCD editor did it for me). And when i'm in Windows, I can use drivers I download from my HW manufacturer's website. By being able to use a vanilla 8800GT card, I am not locked into special Bootcamp drivers provided by Apple, I can use the latest nVidia drivers off their site. Couldn't the Mac bootloader be modified to work like the Vista one is on a Hack?

- And finally, why would I replace my Hackintosh? Like people say about Mac, it just works. Sure kexts may have to be installed, but i'm an old school DOS/Win user from back in the day. The average Windows driver is harder to install that the average kext, the worst i've ever had to do to get a kext (that was known to work with my HW) working was to add a device id. I've had Windows drivers that wouldn't even install at all due to a messed up .inf or something; at least the worst that can happen with a bad kext is the need to boot into single-user mode/from the install DVD to remove it. And unlike some folks, when i'm using my Hack it doesn't make me nervous about it's stability and doesn't feel rigged together. It feels like any other Mac i've played with in a Apple Store (about as speedy as a low-end Mac Pro OS wise, faster graphics wise) and updates don't make me nervous either. After all, I can wait a week or so and see how other people's luck went, and by then there is usually a working install hack out. The only thing i'd gain by buying a real Mac would be the need to buy a new 'special' 8800GT, the need to use 2 PCs to run 2 awesome OSes without resorting to Bootcamp and special drivers, and a need to buy a bigger desk (since i'd basically need 2 towers instead of 1)

Now this post isn't meant to invoke arguments between fanboys and Apple-haters, nor to inspire any bad comments about Apple/MS/OSX/Vista/etc; it is simply a newb's viewpoints and a few questions i'm genuinely interested in knowing the answers to. This post is meant to provoke peaceful discussion, not fighting, so please keep it civil. Also, as stated, I AM a NEWB so if some of my points are totally incorrect, please correct me.

#2
justvisiting

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Philosophically or "weighing qualitiy of service/ support / business cost issues", apple most likely will introduce a mid-level user expandable desktop. too bad.

#3
Headrush69

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Your post isn't anything new that has already been discussed time and again.

Bottom line is people that need that type machine are not Apple's target market. (includes me)
There are distinct advantages to catering to just people that are satisfied with an iMac or Mini type machine. For your "average" home user these "closed" Apple systems are more than adequate and do have the expansion options these users would need. (Firewire for extra storage)

For all those Dell systems, a huge percentage of users never upgrade anything and even those that do the majority are unlikely to buy from Dell as they overcharge just like Apple for upgrades. (so how much more does a company make for upgrade peripherals?)
In addition, Dells have been notoriously {censored} for upgrading with 3rd party parts, that's not what made them popular.

Not sure what the big issue with bootcamp is. There are technical advantages and disadvantages to using EFI and I don't seeing this as a huge problem.
As long as Apple provides decent drivers, (there are only a few machines types they have to worry about), the need for using manufacturers drivers isn't really a big deal since you can't add 3rd party type cards anyways. (Basically video is the only one, but again its in Apple best interest to have all Bootcamp users using the same driver than everyone using different versions from all over.)

As to video card differences, there are hardware differences mostly related to supporting EFI instead of BIOS. (my guess is you won't understand the technical reason.) Now they are overpriced, you are correct and they do it because the can and people will still buy it. (makes perfect business sense, maximize profit.)

where is the crucial mid-tower that the average consumer would tend to buy?

Apple's ahead of the curve here. Even with laptop classified components, these systems are generally more than enough for the "average" home user.
You are already starting to see some PC manufacturers moving in this direction also.

I'm not saying I agree with Apple's decision, but I understand it.

#4
coolied

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As to video card differences, there are hardware differences mostly related to supporting EFI instead of BIOS. (my guess is you won't understand the technical reason.)


Actually, please do explain the technical reason. Your guess that I won't understand the technical reason was wrong, when I say I am a newb, I mean that I am a newb to OS X and the current Mac scene. I am no stranger to computer hardware and technology, i've been a computer hardware and networking technician for going on 11 years and have built upwards of 30 computer systems. My post wasn't meant to be anything new or revolutionary; as I stated in the original post "it is simply a newb's viewpoints and a few questions i'm genuinely interested in knowing the answers to."; so if you could link me to something that explains why an EFI can be emulated on a PC using a BIOS, but the same thing couldn't be done in reverse (using a BIOS-based video card on an EFI Mac) I am all ears, part of the reason for this post is I haven't had too much luck using the search function on this forum.

As far as Dells not being off-the-shelf upgrade friendly, that may have been true back in the day; but as of right now the only thing that is proprietary is the motherboard form factor itself, a Dell mobo just won't fit into a standard ATX case; and vice-versa. Even the PSUs are no longer proprietary and use a standard ATX pinout instead of the old Dell version of ATX.

Finally, you can argue that the average home user is okay with the closed-formfactor of the iMac/Mac mini; but look at all the upgrades (offered by Apple themselves) that are unusable in these closed machines. The ONLY way I can own a Mac with an 8800GT is to A) buy a Mac Pro; or :) build a Hackintosh - I chose ;) since $600 in PC parts was much more in line with my budget than $2,000 - $4,000 for a Mac Pro; if the Mid-tower Mac that I envisioned was available, my second PC right now could have very well been a real Mac.


Apple's ahead of the curve here. Even with laptop classified components, these systems are generally more than enough for the "average" home user.
You are already starting to see some PC manufacturers moving in this direction also.


Yes, but those PC manufacturers also tend to keep their mid-towers in their lineups as well as offering all-in-ones. I know HP makes a touchscreen all-in-one machine right now; but they also offer several mid-tower models, as well as small-formfactor desktops and towers. If the demand wasn't there, the big PC makers wouldn't still make towers.

#5
kitkat54

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An EFI video card has to have different firmware than a BIOS based card. You know how when you boot a PC, you get a video card splash screen? The same class of thing has to happen for an EFI boot, but it's different, which means that nVidia or ATi (or Apple) have to write, test, and maintain a different firmware revision that gets used in only Macs. This, as you might imagine, costs money. Apple sells a lot of computers, but they still are a much smaller percentage of the overall computing market, so there is not the same economy of scale that the BIOS version has.

Also, there is a very small market for upgrade cards in the Apple world, since the Mac Pro is a relatively small percentage of Apple's sales, and the older rev Mac Pro is the only machine Apple sold that takes a graphics card as opposed to having the chip on board, that can also use an 8800GT, that wouldn't have had it be availible at purchase time. Since I assume you're comparing the cost of the card sold seperately rather than the cost of getting one in a new Mac Pro (since it's hard/impossible to break out the cost of the card when bundled with a complete computer), the card you're looking at is priced based on being a special manufacture run to package it for upgrade for a very specific and very finite market. Without a markup in price, nVidia likely wouldn't even make back the cost of packaging the cards for upgrade sale(*). It's still pricey, but a lot of that is because there isn't a large market for it.

-Josh

(*) without delving too deep into industrial engineering, manufacturing cost can (in very simplistic terms) be expessed as A + Bx, where x is the number of units, B is the cost per unit, and A is the setup cost. A does not change -- it's the same if you make 10 00 units or 10,000,000 units. What this means is that if A + Bx is your total cost, the cost per unit is A/x + B after you divide by x. To put in in perspective, let's say that it takes $200 worth of materials to make a 8800GT, and $100,000 to setup a manufacture run. The cost to make a 10,000,000 8800GTs would be $200.01 each, and the cost to make 1000 would be $300.00 each. These are made up numbers, but it shows how just economy of scale can account for a wide price chasm between seemingly similar parts.

#6
coolied

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Ahh, I understand now. It's just that I read somewhere online (can't remember where) that the 8800GT series and above were already both BIOS and EFI capable out of the box. I'm beginning to think that what they mean is the flash chip has enough capacity to handle an EFI flash, and not that the code is already in there. And yes, to clarify, I was talking about the price of buying the card itself from Apple ($289 last time I looked) vs. buying one from Newegg (seen them as low as $140); one thing still confuses me though (maybe you can explain, kitkat54) and that is this: if a vanilla 8800GT isn't EFI capable out of the box, how in the world does using a EFI string vs. using an injector work? Where does the EFI string come from in the first place?

#7
kitkat54

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The simplified explaination (because I'm sure others (netkas for instance) could give a much better tech explaination than I can) The EFI string from PC-EFI places in memory what a real EFI 8800GT would have placed there for the OS in firmware before loading the kernel. The injector works on the same principle, except that it dumps the information for the kernel at run time rather than pre-boot. Because of this, the EFI-string is more "natural", but as the injector kexts load early in the boot process, it mostly works out the same. Eventually the native OSX drivers expect to be working with real EFI hardware, so they look for this information when they get loaded, so in order to use a vanilla card you need to force the EFI data with either EFI-string or an injector. Note that it is theoretically plausible to use a BIOS based video card on a real mac pro by using injectors, or by running bootcamp/PC-EFI, tho I have not tried such a thing.

-Josh

#8
coolied

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Thanks for the explaining that so clearly, Josh. From what I gather, it seems like there is no reason why a vanilla card couldn't be used in the real Mac then, one could use nvkush or nvinject. I wonder if generating an EFI string would work, like it does on a Hackintosh? Would the real Mac understand the device properties key added to the com.apple.boot.plist file or whatever it's called? Or would the real Mac just ignore it, or worse yet, hang? Anyone know? Is the PC EFI V8 program the thing that deals with EFI strings?

EDIT: by the way, is the EFI string that the gfxutil program generates based on the information in the video card's BIOS? I am assuming so, since it has to know it's clock speed, etc.

EDIT2: Sorry, 1 more dumb question. The PC EFI V8 program itself.... is that basically a translation layer between the BIOS and the OS that intercepts EFI calls and translates them into BIOS calls? Or does it simply extract everything it needs from the ACPI table?

#9
methamp

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But you don't have Apple Care or a shiny store in your neighborhood to call your "shrine."

#10
coolied

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But you don't have Apple Care or a shiny store in your neighborhood to call your "shrine."


No Apple Care????? Wow, the horror!! (i'm the guy who told my boss not to pay for onsite service for our work PCs and just have the parts shipped to me cuz I like fixing them myself) *LMAO* As for the Apple Store, actually, I still enjoy going there from time to time. Was just there a short time ago to purchase my copy of Leopard.

#11
kitkat54

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Thanks for the explaining that so clearly, Josh. From what I gather, it seems like there is no reason why a vanilla card couldn't be used in the real Mac then, one could use nvkush or nvinject.


theoretically yes. I havn't tried it tho. Note that you probably would not have video on bootup until the driver loaded in the OS because there wouldn't be EFI to use before the kext loads. In the PC/hack world, the BIOS allows display before the driver loads. Of course, you could always use a vanilla card as a secondary card, and have the original card to display during boot.

I wonder if generating an EFI string would work, like it does on a Hackintosh? Would the real Mac understand the device properties key added to the com.apple.boot.plist file or whatever it's called? Or would the real Mac just ignore it, or worse yet, hang? Anyone know? Is the PC EFI V8 program the thing that deals with EFI strings?


EFI-string probably(*) will not work in a normal mac bootup because it requires the PC-EFI bootloader, which is a PC/BIOS thing. It could work in bootcamp, but then you'd be running full on hackintosh on real Apple hardware. And yes, the EFI-strings are part of netkas's PC-EFI boot loader.

(*) that said, you might be able to load it on the disk, and it might work on a real mac... there is a part of PC-EFI that installs to the boot part of the OSX partition, and is a replacement for the normal OSX boot loader. Someone with a deeper technical understanding of pc-efi would have to answer that.

EDIT: by the way, is the EFI string that the gfxutil program generates based on the information in the video card's BIOS? I am assuming so, since it has to know it's clock speed, etc.


probably something like that... sadly, while I am booting vanilla kernel with PC-EFI, I am also still using nvinject because it works, and I see no reason to muck with the efi-strings.

EDIT2: Sorry, 1 more dumb question. The PC EFI V8 program itself.... is that basically a translation layer between the BIOS and the OS that intercepts EFI calls and translates them into BIOS calls? Or does it simply extract everything it needs from the ACPI table?


My understanding is that PC-EFI minimally emulates a few calls the vanilla kernel makes to EFI enough that the kernel can boot. Once that happens, the system doesn't use EFI (other than hardware drivers that use it to mine data). Windows does the same thing -- the BIOS is just enough I/O to get the system up and running and use native drivers. As such, I don't think PC-EFI even looks at the hardware. That's why you have to give it strings (constants) if you want it to pass hardware info through to the OS.

-Josh

#12
coolied

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Thanks Josh, all this info has been vastly informative and interesting. I appreciate your time and answers. Also to the others participating in the thread, thanks for your words and criticisms. One more dumb question: Would an Mac Pro videocard work on an EFI PC motherboard (such as the MSI that supports EFI)? Will EFI videocards be required once PCs switch from BIOS to EFI universally? If so, i'd think most of the recent cards would end up having a flash upgrade to support EFI booting, would they then be Mac compatible?

#13
nickhe

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well hackingtosh always seems faster then original macs at for my i got a intel core 2 duo 2.4ghz mac with geforce 8400m and 4gb ram that i won and my dc7100 runs faster then it ands it's a singel core 3.2ghz with 2gb ram and XFX PV-T86J-ZAFG GF8500GT 1024M PCI-E TV-out, DVI





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