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Checkpoint: Snow Leopard


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When you just saw that title, you were probably thinking one of three things:


A. Damn, I wish I had it running in 64bit mode...

B. Tiger to Leopard, Leopard to Snow Leopard, same stuff. Life goes on.

C. I don't know, and I don't care. Now, can somebody help me with this network card that isn't working?


While A and C are admirable, B would be the incorrect option. Why? Because Snow Leopard is a totally different bucket of fish for our community. There are numerous benefits to Snow Leopard, but not the least of which is the foundational enabler that lies in the 64 bit switchover. I could delve into technicalities of the difference, but in this particular post I'm more interested in the practicalities; there are well written articles already dedicated to the former.


Do you remember once upon a time when Apple didn't really care about, or acknowledge, our community? I'm thinking about the 10.4.3 era and a little bit beyond. Apple would "carelessly" release drivers that were left over from their internal testing, and we all benefited from the extra hardware compatibility. I put "carelessly" in quotations because there are one of two options. Either Apple didn't really care about who got them and underestimated the ability or popularity of our project, or they were simply giving their silent blessing. Proof of this, you ask? AppleVIAATA. Let see, what Apple Intel-based product was that with the VIA SATA controller? Hmm. Another? Universal drivers for numerous chipsets that were only packaged in PPC machines.


In most cases Leopard can use the same drivers as Tiger. If there is a limitation, it usually stems from interaction with other kexts and bundles that have been updated. However, with the transition to Snow Leopard we do not have this functionality. 32 bit drivers DO NOT WORK in Snow Leopard. That's right, it ALL starts over. What does that mean? Well, I have an ASRock 775Dual-VSTA motherboard that uses a VIA 8237A ATA controller. This otherwise Snow Leopard capable board will never see Snow Leopard because Apple will most likely not release AppleVIAATA again. This kext, I believe, has been absent since releases in the 10.4.5 area. Another? AppleIntelX3100FB. There are a number of us that rely on the 10.5.2 (pre-graphics udpate) framebuffer to get some X3100s and the X3000 to work. Apple changed something in versions since which prevent the desktop from fully loading. If Apple continues this trend, we may just be out of luck for support of those two integrated graphics solutions.


What can we do? Prepare. If you want to buy a new machine, buy with an eye to the future. Get an nVidia graphics card. Use an Intel chipset and not VIA or nForce. Don't buy an AMD CPU. Get Realtek network and audio chipsets. There are many variations that are fairly compatible, these are just an example. The goal is to use only chipsets that were used in real Intel Macs. You may ask, well where is the fun in that? Well, the fun may start to die down very soon.


Apple has an opportunity here to either silently bless us again, or say, "Ok, we're glad you're hooked, your playtime is up." I'm not saying the community will die, far from it. There are too many smart and determined people here for that to happen. And, I don't think that Apple would really want to do that. However, they may want to keep Tiger and Leopard there as appetizers for those who are ambitious and interested in OS X, but save Snow Leopard and on for the customers that do it their way. Who knows, they may even throw in a few more Leopard drivers to that end being that it wouldn't steal from Snow Leopard and could only increase marketshare. But, Snow Leopard gives them an opportunity to tighten everything up... if they want to.


There are some kexts that are still universal that don't need to be, and others that with slight modification could cause significant headaches for a while. An example of the later is the BCM 575X kext. It obviously works for real Macs, but we have had a devil of a time getting it to work for a broad variety of similar chipsets. One of our only forms of recourse may be for those drivers which Apple has open sourced. However, that will require a significant contribution from somebody to attempt that porting.


Snow Leopard is the weathervane for Apple's approach to the Hackintosh community. If you see them release very compatible drivers (What, our framebuffer works with the X3000, X3100, and the X3500? Doh!), that's a sign. If you see some drivers in the beta and first RTM builds for hardware that hasn't been in Apple's Intel machines (How could we be so stupid as to release that Intel 8256X kext?!), that's a sign. But again, I wouldn't take too many chances with new hardware purchases unless you are entirely satisfied with Leopard for the rest of your hackintosh's days.



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