Analysis of the $800 Hakintosh

Life Hacker posted an article called Build a Hackintosh Mac for Under $800 on Tuesday this week. It’s quite a work of art, in my opinion–not Jonathan Ive kind of art mind you, but a form of art for sure.

When Apple first released the developer version of Tiger when they announced moving to Intel hardware, I didn’t own a Mac, or more accurately I hadn’t bought a new one since college and then the last OS I had was OS 7.5 on a a Motorola 68040 processor. I always loved the Mac, even in the pre-OSX days, and I had been been wanting to get back to the platform ever since college, but alas I could never justify the cost since all my work has been done on Windows (until a few months ago when I finally got a MBP).

When I discovered that the developer version of Tiger was available on bit torrent back then, I downloaded it–bought a separate internal hard drive that I could swap out with my Windows XP drive in my Dell. I made my own hakintosh out of a Dell Inspiron 5150. I was amazed at how easy it was and it worked “out of the…. torrent?”.

But here’s the trouble (and all of these points are mentioned in the comments of the Hakintosh article) and this summarizes what I found in my own experience:

  • I’ll get this one out of the way first. It’s illegal. The “patched” version is not legal. That’s why you have to go search bit torrent for it. If it were legal, people would just host it for you on their websites
  • Any time you want to update to the latest software or hardware, you have to hack the updates to get them to work if you could get them to work at all.
  • Certain hardware when plugged into the firewire or USB 2 ports would cause a kernel panic and crash the system. Maybe this is working on the Life Hacker Hakintosh, but this pretty much kept me from ever importing video or photos or connecting to audio hardware for GarageBand recording. In other words it completely eliminated any of the usefulness of the iLife suite
  • If you build a system and then add a legitimate Leopard license ($129) and 20″ LCD screen ($180 +/- $30), you’re now up to $1160 (not counting Adam’s rebates on the Life Hacker Hakintosh).

At that point you’re close to the cost of the least expensive iMac. Given, you don’t get anywhere near the same specs as far as performance, but what will end up happening if you go this route is what happened to me–I got tired of fidgeting with trying to get updates to work and the computer was all but useless to me on the creative front since all my peripherals would crash the system. No home movies, no photo management, no music composition–no point to it.

I’m sure you will hear a number of people–true hackers–who will decry the point here as they have successfully gotten everything to work “just fine”. I write this, not for them, but for people like my friend who pointed the article out to me. He is competent enough with computers where he could get this system put together and probably have some decent initial results, but to maintain the system and to be ensured all his peripherals will work, he would be heart broken when I would tell him that he needs to mess around with kernel extensions and plist files. Blank stares, and probably tears, would abound.

The Hakintosh is a really fun project for hacker types. I enjoy it myself, however, it’s simply not practical for the average or even above average user to get a working system. For those who think that that they can get a cheap Mac system this way, please beware–you may be up to the challenge at first, but it will burn you out in the end and you, like most Windows Vista users, will end up installing Windows XP on your system and making it into a file server.

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