Posts Tagged ‘hardware’

10.8 upgrade/install on my hackintosh

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

With 10.8 coming out, I took the opportunity to migrate my OS installation from a traditional hard drive to an SSD.  (Specifically, I installed a 256GB Samsung 830-series drive).  I followed the general approach over at tonymac (I bought 10.8 online, then used his Unibeast wrapper to build an install-from-USB stick), modified for my setup.  The installation of 10.8 to my SSD went swimmingly, but I noticed something odd – I needed to upgrade my version of Chimera (the Chameleon bootloader fork), as the previous version I’d been using without problem on 10.7 just barfed.  (It rebooted immediately after starting to boot anything 10.8).  But that was easy to fix by updating my version of Chimera (which I do manually, since my loader is on its own partition on a separate drive & the tonymac auto-install tools tend to screw that up).  Of course, I also had to install fakesmc & wanted to get rid of the orange icons for my hard drives, so I also installed the ahci port-injector kext.  But, that was it.  I much prefer not to use “Multibeast” for post-installation, because it tends to crap out kexts all over that I don’t want — and which could lead to problems across software updates.  (I also just like to know exactly what’s installed).

During installation, I did a fresh, full install.  I did not do any kind of upgrade.  (In fact, my 10.7 installation is still intact on my hard drive).  However, I did want to keep my old user accounts with as little fuss as possible.  So, I took note of the user ID, group ID, and UUID settings for each of my accounts as established in 10.7.  Then in 10.8, I first created accounts corresponding to each of the existing user accounts.  But before ever logging in to those accounts, I went in and changed the user/group/uuid settings (and obviously the home directory setting, to point it to the location on the old hard drive where the user data sits).  This made for a seamless transition – accounts log in & have all of their old settings as they previously did, but I get awesome speed from having my OS and applications on the SSD.

Using xbench, I see speeds of between 350 & 425 MB/s, which is about what I expected.  It doesn’t approach the peak speeds that the interface and the disk support, but that’s because of the controller I have it sitting on.  My Gigabyte X58-based board only has a Marvell SATA3 controller, which is somewhat notorious for its inefficiency, bad drivers, and limited architecture.  Further, the Gigabyte implementation is apparently flawed & only has the controller connected to a single PCIe lane on a PCIe 1.0 link.  This limits the theoretical throughput to 250 MB/s.  So, I bought an add-in card (an Asmedia ASM1061) for about $10 on Amazon.  It’s a single-lane card as well, but installing it in to a PCIe 2.0 slot will up the theoretical throughput peak to 500 MB/s.  (This controller works out-of-the-box without any additional drivers/kexts required).  The only real problem with my resultant setup is that I’d also like this on Windows, but I have about 300 GB of applications (games – thanks, Steam sales!) on top of the Windows requirement, and I don’t really want to mess around with uninstalling/reinstalling games as I use them.  So for Windows, I’ll wait for prices to drop some more & pick up a 512 GB SSD at some time in the future.  Given that it’s been more than 2 years since I did any kind of major hardware tweak to this machine, it probably won’t be any time soon anyway.

10.7.1 update issue-free

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I continue to be impressed with the chameleon/chimera boot-loader efforts – it’s made all of my updates since first installing my hackintosh trouble-free, including this last 10.7.1 update.  Awesome.

A tale of two Mac OS Updates

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

I recently bought Mac OS 10.7 (“Lion”) for both my 2006 Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro and my i7-based hackintosh. I assumed that the Macbook Pro update would go smoothly, so I focused on preparing first for my hackintosh (after reading generally favorable outcomes online). First, I updated my bootloader from Chameleon 2 RC4 to an RC5 variant. However, the App Store would not let me continue my purchase (giving me the error “This version of Mac OS X 10.7 cannot be installed on this computer”). After reading over at tonymac that his/their variant of Chameleon (“Chimera”) was required, I installed that over my Chameleon 2 RC5 build — this did not make the App Store error go away. I was using the required MacPro3,1 system definition in my smbios.plist file, but it turns out this wasn’t sufficient – I had a bunch of other stuff in there (including DRAM information) from my Chameleon 2 RC4 install that was causing the problem. I installed the tonymacx86-provided MacPro3,1 system definition (from Multibeast), which in fact is actually just a relatively spartan smbios.plist file. That seemed to do the trick. It’s not clear if Chimera was actually required after all, but from there on out it was smooth sailing. I installed using the steps here, which include copying the installation files and kexts such as fakesmc to an installation partition, blessing it for boot, and then booting the installation partition to continue the install. The only real hitch was that my sound driver (voodoohda) was out of date & was 32-bit only, and I had switched over to using the 64-bit kernel. So, I had no sound until I installed the new driver.

All told, it was actually a pretty smooth transition, as far as hackintosh operations go. My only real beef with the process is that the “Multibeast” installer is very opaque about what exactly it’s installing and where they go. For example, I have my boot loader on a separate partition from my system drive, and I then chain-load Mac OS from Chameleon/Chimera. The installer basically takes a volume as a target & emits the files to assumed locations, and it doesn’t tell you which files are getting written out. To hunt and peck through the process of getting only what I needed (and then manually updating my loader partition after the fact), I had Multibeast install its various pieces to a scratch volume (a USB stick, actually), and I tested the various pieces using a separate USB stick with my loader & basic kexts (ahci port injector, openhaltrestart, and voodoohda). Once that was stabilized & working with 10.6, I updated my loader partition for the 10.7 installation process.

In contrast to the quirky-but-functional hackintosh update experience, my Macbook Pro got hosed by the upgrade. I’m still not sure exactly what happened. My Macbook Pro contains a non-default hard drive (the previous one was too small), but I didn’t do anything crazy there — I initialized it using the Mac OS (10.6) installer several months ago when I installed the drive, installed Mac OS, reinstalled my applications, partitioned using Boot Camp, and installed Windows 7 on there as well. So I started the 10.7 installer/upgrade process, and midway through (after a reboot into the 2nd phase of the installer), I get “Mac OS X Lion couldn’t be installed, because the disk is damaged and can’t be repaired” (where is obviously the name of my 10.6 partition). It then told me to re-try the installation (which wasn’t very helpful, given that I was stuck in an installation loop booting back in to the 10.7 installer which wouldn’t complete). It also suggested I get the data off my hard drive and do a clean install. Brilliant! Various reports online attempted to attribute this to hardware failure – which is incorrect. I booted my 10.6 installation DVD and attempted to repair the volume – same issue. I reset PRAM – no luck. I checked for SMART errors – none. The only thing I can attribute this to is my non-factory hard drive on the machine, but it definitely isn’t failing. I booted Windows, copied the data off using the HFS+ driver that Boot Camp installs, booted the 10.7 installation DVD (which I made prior to attempting the installation, just for this sort of eventuality), erased my 10.6 partition, and then did a clean install. This worked, as did restoring my data. But it took many hours & brought me quite close to data-loss disaster. If I’d have had this experience prior to installing on the hackintosh, I don’t think I’d have attempted the hackintosh installation so soon (or at least, without backups in triplicate – admittedly, I operated somewhat without a net when doing the hackintosh update).

Anyway, those are my experiences with the update – all I can say is that I’m glad I at least didn’t lose my Windows partition as well, which I’ve read that others have experienced.

iMac (late-2006) hard drive replacement success

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

My late-2006 era Core 2 Duo iMac’s hard drive died recently.  Though I don’t use that machine that often, fixing it was worth the effort given that I could probably sell the thing on craigslist for $500 if I really wanted to.  (But, I actually do use it in our guest room when I’m working from home, because it’s quiet there).  Anyway, disassembling an iMac of this era is *not* trivial.  It’s not as bad as the newer (“Aluminum”) iMacs, which involve using a toilet plunger to suck the glass off the LCD.  But, it’s still no treat.

Overall, I followed this guide over at, who also had the guide for replacing my Macbook Pro’s keyboard that I’d used before.  As with the Macbook Pro teardown, you’ll want to read all the way through the instructions prior to starting and have some containers around for the screws at every step so that they’re clearly organized for reassembly.

However, the trickiest part by far was releasing the clips that hold the front bezel on to the main part of the chassis.  Though the guide accurately describes what has to be done, it was really helpful for me to actually see a video of the process so I knew what the release was supposed to behave like and how the case came apart once released.  This video from the Small Dog Electronics folks was really, really helpful – you probably want to check this out if you’re going to attempt this same repair (or upgrade, as the case may be):

Remember to fire up disk utility & partition your disk after completing the repair (during re-installation of Mac OS). The installer won’t recognized the uninitialized disk by itself – you have to partition it first, then resume the installation.

Apple ignores glare-averse customers again

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Apple announced updates to three different lines of macs yesterday (the mini, the macbook, and iMac).  As previously mentioned, I’m in the market for a new desktop computer, but I’ve been waiting to hear what might come of the previous rumors about updated iMacs.  Apple did a few things yesterday with their announcement that are just plainly frustrating to me.

First, it’s highly irritating that Apple continues to basically jam shiny, eyestrain-inducing, glossy, pro-glare displays down their customers’ throats.  None of Apple’s 13″ laptops (neither Macbook Pro nor Macbook) offer an “anti-glare” display option (the opposite of which is most obviously pro-glare).  None of their newly announced iMacs have an anti-glare option, either.  My office has some ambient light — it just does.  Also, because I’m not blind, I can see reflections from ambient overhead lighting in any glossy display.  I realize this apparently doesn’t bother some people, but there are a lot of us out there that it does bother.  I’m willing to pay for the option, and I’m glad that Apple offered it on the macbook pro, but it’s disappointing that the option hasn’t spread throughout Apple’s lineup.  Frankly, the glossy displays make no sense.  Even people who tout the benefits of glossy displays (better contrast ratios) on TVs will tell you that strict control of ambient lighting is key.  Basically, to do it right, you have to operate your home theater with thick curtains & strict adjustable low ambient lighting.  In other words, you have to operate the thing in the dark, and then it’s pretty stunning.  I have some friends that prefer the “cave” experience for computing, but I am not one of them.  Call me weird — I like to have the lights on, and sometimes I even open the blinds in my office.  I am not a Morlock, and I’ve been led to believe by Apple marketing that their hipster-douche customers in their commercials are also not strictly basement-dwellers.  So what the hell is up with this display lineup?  I’m glad for other people that eyestrain is not an issue, but I’m also irritated that Apple ignores the rest of us.

The other odd thing about the latest lineup is the pricing.  Apple announced that a (mobile/”Clarksfield”, I believe) 2.8 GHz version of the Core i7 (“nehalem”) processor will be available in the 27″ iMac for $2199.  The Mac Pro features the older 2.66 GHz Core i7 and starts at $2499, and features no display at all.  What.  The.  Fuck.  Yeah yeah, the Mac Pro has a Xeon in there (uselessly, I might add) which jacks up the price, but Apple’s stated intention for putting the i7 in an iMac was to give “home professionals” an option when they didn’t want to get a Mac Pro.  Is this really an option?  Despite the garish 27″ display that comes with the higher-end iMac, wouldn’t it be smarter to get that?  Apple is basically charging an extra $300 for expandability, while simultaneously removing the bundled monitor.  And it’s great & all that Apple’s willing to take a stand against the US Chamber of Commerce on the cap-and-trade proposals, but how exactly is this “environmentally friendly”?  They’re encouraging people to ditch computers sooner rather than encouraging modularity that would allow both choice and upgradeability.  Then again, I suppose that might hurt Apple’s sales — which is the real reason behind all this bizarre pricing, I think.

Finally, and I realize it’s a nonissue for many customers, but what the hell is up with the obsession of building a desktop computer that’s “thin”?  Who the hell cares?  Are you taking it somewhere?  Make the damn thing 2″ thicker where necessary, put some appropriate curves on it to draw the eyes away from the thicker portion, and boom, you can put a desktop Nehalem (retail price:  $280) and possibly even desktop graphics in the lower-end iMac.  Instead, this fetish with “thin” computers absolutely hamstrings the design.  I’ll be curious to hear the reports on how loud the fans on these new iMacs may get and how often heat is a problem.  I’m betting Core i5 and i7 variants of the iMac may see significant issues with heat-related defects.  Bye-bye soldering!  You’d think that Apple might’ve learned this lesson from Microsoft with the Xbox 360 (overheating leading to soldering coming apart, leading to complete unit failure — caused by jamming a lot of hot parts into a tiny box that cannot dissipate the heat being generated), but instead Apple appears to be running head-on into this train.

Fuck it, I’m building a hackintosh.