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Building a Hackintosh, Part 3: The Aftermath

hackintosh part3 1 Building a Hackintosh, Part 3: The Aftermath

Welcome to the long overdue third part of the Building a Hackintosh series. In the first part we went over the parts and other essentials to build a hackintosh. In the second part we discussed the actual build. In this final part I’ll tell you how life has been the past 5 months using the hackintosh as my primary workstation. I’ll break it down for you as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to keep things as simple and as clean as possible.

The Good

The main reason this third part has taken me so long to write is because the system works so well it’s almost hard to find something wrong with it. There are so many good things about it that it’s hard to narrow it down to a key few, however here’s what I have as the good (or probably the “best”):

It’s fast. With the SSD and 16GB of RAM this thing flies. It boots up in a mere 45 seconds and applications launch in less than 5 seconds. Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 run perfectly and have handled everything I’ve thrown at them with ease (panoramas, HDR, so on and so forth) and barely put a dent in the CPU and memory utilization.

It’s cheap. Before considering a hackintosh I was looking at the 27″ iMac. With a comparable processor, memory and storage configuration it would have easily cost me double what I paid for all the parts to get this running myself as a hackintosh. So what did this thing cost me? Less than $1,000 USD. $881 USD to be exact (before taxes and shipping). Once I learned it would cost over $2,000 USD for the same thing from Apple the choice was easy.

The Bad

There’s really not much to complain about, however when running a hackintosh there are a couple of thing that I would consider “bad”:

It isn’t a real Mac. That should go without saying, but I have to keep reminding myself of that when it comes time to install new hardware. Case in point- I have a Logitech Performance MX mouse that comes bundled with special software to customize some buttons on the mouse. Once I installed the software my hackintosh became extremely unstable (kernel panics, random reboots, freezes, the whole 9). Once it was removed, voilà, everything was back to normal.

Upgrades can be tricky. Adding components to the system can be a bit tedious. It is very important to make absolutely sure the component you want to install is 100% supported natively (or with a kext) in Mac OS X. For example, on my previous PC (which was running Windows 7) I had my Drobo hooked up via USB. This configuration was very flaky, so when I decided to move to Mac I knew I wanted to move the Drobo to Firewire. I did copious amounts of research to make sure the Firewire PCI card I chose was supported (and natively at that). It was a bit of a gamble, as the card I chose apparently has two different versions with the same model #, but I lucked out and it worked perfectly out of the box.

The Ugly

There is one piece of the hackintosh puzzle that is downright ugly. I think a lot of people would agree that this is the biggest problem with running a hackintosh these days. Granted, it’s gotten a lot better, and easier, but the ugliest part of running a hackintosh is:

Updates. Plain and simple updates suck. Every time a OS X Update is released I go through a mini ritual that consists of cloning my boot hard disk to a partition on my scratch volume, downloading the combo updater directly from apple (which means not updating using the App Store), installing the update, running Multibeast, praying and then rebooting. I fudged something up only once (so far), but boy was it nerve wracking trying to get things back in order. Luckily I was able to without having to do a fresh install, but it was a very big lesson in how volatile this whole thing really is.

The Plug

One thing I learned while sourcing parts for my hackintosh was that it is extremely hard to find a comprehensive list of compatible hardware. That led me to create HackintoshStore.com, which is an online storefront that lists only hackintosh compatible parts and accessories. I personally scour the various hackintosh community websites to find the compatible components and get them listed all in one place. Hopefully it is something the community appreciates.

The End

So, where does that leave us? Am I happy that I went down this path? Absolutely! Is it for everyone? Sadly, no. It is much easier now than it was a few years ago. I have many, many years of building PCs under my belt and I knew what I was getting myself into and I was comfortable with everything that needed to be done. If you choose to take the plunge be warned, it’s frustrating and awesome all at the same time. What do you think? Have you built a hackintosh? Will you?

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iOS 7 for Photographers

home camera header iOS 7 for PhotographersOn Monday June 10 Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with one of their legendary keynote speeches. During the keynote iOS 7 was introduced with its radical new user interface. Fortunately for us photographers iOS 7 contains many new goodies and enhancements in the camera and photo apps. Here’s an overview of what to expect. (Note: this overview was written while iOS 7 was still in beta. I will do my best to keep it up to date through the beta and final releases.)

Camera

Upon launching the camera app you immediately notice the entire interface is different. Gone are the raised buttons and toggles, and in their places are “hotspots” to enable and disable the flash, front facing camera and shutter. You will also notice a sleek carousel-like selector to pick between video, photo, square and pano shots.

There are bugs, however, as expected. One of which is clearly visible above. The grid doesn’t modify itself when the “square” photo option is selected. I’m sure it’ll get worked out before the final release this fall.

In addition to the new square format, iOS 7 includes built in filters. The filters can be applied at the time of capture (with an iPhone 5 or later) or after capture through the edit button in the Camera Roll or the Photos app. There are 8 built in filters, and they all appear to be named after the post process technique they mimic. The filters are named: Mono, Tonal, Noir, Fade, Chrome, Process, Transfer & Instant. Examples of each are below.

Of course the features from iOS 6 and earlier are still retained (HDR, panoramas, auto enhance, red eye reduction, cropping, etc).

Photos

home photos iOS 7 for PhotographersThe Photos app also received a pretty big overhaul. The main “Photos” area has been reworked to display your photos in “Years”, “Collections” and “Moments”, each one more granular than the last.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the Photos app, however, is the ability to share your photos and videos selectively via iCloud. You can create multiple streams for various events or subjects and share them with the people you select. Those people can then also share photos or videos to that stream and everyone can comment on each others contributions. It’s like your own private photo sharing site.

That about wraps it up for the new iOS 7 Camera and Photo features and enhancements. So far I’m enjoying the new goodies, and am looking forward to what future versions have to offer. As the release continues to mature I’m sure many of the glitches and bugs I’ve seen will get worked out. Have you had a chance to try out iOS 7? If so, what are your thoughts?

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Building a Hackintosh, part 2: The Build

iHack 1 Building a Hackintosh, part 2: The Build

Welcome to the second part of a three part series about building a Hackintosh. In the first part we discussed what goes into a Hackintosh, and why I decided to build one, as opposed to buying a Mac directly from Apple. In this part we’ll go over the actual build process and the installation of Mac OS X on the system.

Assembling the Components

The assembly of the components is no different for a Hackintosh than any other standard PC build, if you’ve ever done one before. It had been a while since I’ve done a PC build, so I was a little rusty. That said, it still only took me an hour to an hour an a half to actually do the assembly.

First, take the motherboard out of the box and out of it’s static wrap. Place the wrap on your work surface, and then place the motherboard on top of it. If you have an anti-static strap now would be a good time to put it on and attach it to something metal. If you don’t have one, be extra cautious when touching the static sensitive components of your build (ie- all of the components). Touching a bare piece of metal frequently during your build to discharge yourself is a good idea, and a step that shouldn’t be overlooked.

iHack 3 300x300 Building a Hackintosh, part 2: The BuildWith the motherboard on the table (on the static wrap) carefully unbox your processor. It’s way easier to install it on the board outside of the case, so that’s what we’ll be doing now. Attach the processor as per your motherboard and processors instructions. It’s usually as simple as dropping it on the pins (carefully) in the appropriate direction and then pulling down the arms to hold it in place. Afterward attach your CPU cooler of choice following the directions that came with your cooler. For me, I used the stock Intel cooler, so it was a matter of lining up the pins with the receptacles on my motherboard, and then pressing down firmly.

Next up is the memory (RAM). Again, it’s easier to do this outside of the case. Open up your memory and put it in the slots. If your motherboard has color coded slots (two of one color, two of another) put your RAM in the same colored slots. If it’s they’re not color coded check with your motherboard’s manual to see if your board supports dual channel memory, and if so install your memory according to the instructions to achieve the best performance.

It’s now time to start working on the case. The first thing we need to do is install the power supply. Open up the case and remove the power supply. Install the power supply in the appropriate location and use the included screws to attach it to the case. Follow the instruction manuals for your case and power supply for more details.

Now we’re ready to drop the motherboard, with the attached CPU and RAM into the case. Assemble the motherboard stands (if necessary) in the appropriate formation to hold your motherboard. Next, attach the IO plate that came with your board to the opening at the back of the case. Once snapped in, carefully place your motherboard on the stands and attach your board with the included screws. Make sure the IO plate is lined up correctly before screwing everything down.

iHack 2 212x300 Building a Hackintosh, part 2: The BuildOnce the motherboard is installed we need to hook up the power. There should be two connectors on your motherboard for power. One big one and one small one. There should also be corresponding cables from your power supply. Take each cable and carefully plug it into the appropriate spot on your board.

Now comes the most tedious part of the install, snaking all the case wires to the pins on the motherboard. Locate the bundle of wires coming out of your case somewhere. There should be about 6 or 8 little wires that are labeled like “SW RESET”, “PWR+”, “PWR-”, “HDD”, etc. You should see a similarly labeled group of pins on your motherboard. Plug each of those wires into the appropriate place. Look at your motherboard’s instruction manual for greater detail.

If you have a separate graphics card or any expansion cards, now’s the time to install those. For the graphics card, you typically want to use the fastest PCI slot on your board. For me, that was the top slot, so I removed the corresponding plate(s) from the back of the case, and gently pushed in my GPU. Once properly seated I screwed it into the case using the included thumb screw. I installed my firewire card in the same manner.

Last, but not least, comes the installation of your storage media. I have 3 hard drives (two regular one, one solid state) and a DVD writer/reader. I mounted the DVD drive in the top most 5.25″ bay, and then each of my HDDs in the appropriate spots in my case. I plugged in my SSD into a 6 GB/s SATAIII port on my motherboard, and the other 3 drives into the 3 3 GB/s SATAII ports.

The Moment of Truth

It’s time to close up your case, and hook it up to some power. Plug in the cable from the wall in to your power supply and hook up your monitor, keyboard and mouse. If you have a graphics card, some suggest to use the on board video for the installation of Mac OS X. I didn’t, and I didn’t have a problem.

Once you have everything connected, press the power button, and with any luck you should see (and hear) your new toy turn on. Sit back and marvel at your handiwork and your geek prowess for a second.

The BIOS

When you’re finished marveling, reboot the machine and head right into the BIOS. In your BIOS you’ll need to configure a few parameters before you can start installing Mac OS X. If you chose a Gigabyte motherboard as I did, here’s a handy guide to configuring the BIOS for Mac OS X.

AHCI

Locate the HDD or storage area of your BIOS and look for HDD or SATA mode. You will be prompted with several options, like RAID, IDE and one of those options will be AHCI. Select AHCI.

Boot Order

You’ll need to select the drive that you intend to install Mac OS X on. For me, it was the SSD, so that is the drive I selected to boot first.

Installing Mac OS X

There are many different methods to install Mac OS X on a PC. I chose to use tonymacx86′s UniBeast method as I believe it is the easiest, and most widely used method. The only problem with this method is you must already have a working Mac to build the UniBeast USB drive. I have a MacBook, so this wasn’t a problem for me.

To install, register at tonymacx86.com and download UniBeast and MultiBeast. Run the UniBeast installer on your preexisting Mac, and select the Mac OS X Mountain Lion installer (that you legally obtained from the Mac App Store). The USB creation will take about 30 or 40 minutes to complete.

Once the USB drive is ready plug it in to your new Hackintosh and power it up. Press the correct function key on your keyboard to enter the boot order (F12 for Gigabyte boards), and select “USB-HDD” to boot from the USB drive.

You should eventually see a multi-language welcome screen, which is the installer for Mac OS X.

From there, follow tonymacx86′s guide for getting Mac OS X installed. When the installation is finished, come back here for the next steps.

Configuring MultiBeast

Like UniBeast, MultiBeast is a tonymacx86 special. It makes selecting the appropriate drivers for your hardware a breeze. If you have a second USB drive, copy the MultiBeast installer to it from your other working Mac, then copy it to your freshly installed Hackintosh. Once copied to your Hackintosh, run it and select the appropriate options for your hardware.

If you have the same hardware as I do, here’s what you’d select:

NOTE: If you don’t have a dedicated nVidia graphics card, be sure uncheck the box that says “GraphicsEnabler=No”.

As far as System Definitions go, you can choose whatever you’d like here, but I went for “iMac13,1″, which is the equivalent of a Late 2012 iMac with an i7 processor. The reason I chose this definition is because it was the closest match to the hardware I have (notably the i7 processor), and because it offers the best compromise of performance and features (such as AirPlay Mirroring).

Once your MultiBeast settings are configured, remove any USB drives and reboot. In a few seconds (or minutes if you don’t have a SSD) you should see your Mac OS X desktop! Congratulations! You successfully built a working Hackintosh!

Troubleshooting

It’s not uncommon to run into a few issues when attempting to do a Hackintosh build or installation. Fortunately, I only ran into one, and it was an easy fix. I was getting a “boot0″ error when attempting to boot from my hard disk, and luckily it was a very common problem. Check out this guide for help resolving it, if you run into it.

For other problems, I wholeheartedly recommend you join the tonymacx86 forums. There are a bunch of other like-minded folks doing the same thing you are and can help you solve any problems or provide guidance. If I hadn’t done my research on these forums prior to doing my build and installation I don’t think I would have had as much success as I did.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up this second part in my three part series on building a Hackintosh. So far, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go down this path, and my system is performing wonderfully. I’ll report back in a month or so with the third and final installment in this series. For now, here’s a time lapse of the build:

[Part 3: The Aftermath]

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Building a Hackintosh, Part 1: The Components

8266265044 165f35b093 b Building a Hackintosh, Part 1: The Components

Welcome to the first part of a three part series about building a Hackintosh. In this part we’ll go over what a Hackintosh is, and the parts I am using to build this system. The second part will be about the actual build of the system and the installation of Mac OS X, and the third part will be about a month or so after the build as an update to how things are running, etc. This series will be mainly geared toward photographers, as the main reason I am building this system is for my photography.

So, what is a Hackintosh?

A Hackintosh is a computer built out of readily available PC components that runs Mac OS X. The components chosen are the same, or very similar, components found in real Macintosh computers. The end result is a much cheaper “Mac”, that often out performs the real Mac you are trying to replicate.

Is it legal?

Probably not, but the cost for Apple to bring you to court would far outweigh the benefits of them doing so. I happened to obtain my copy of Mac OS X legally (from the Mac App Store), so I have a legitimate license to use the software, I just happen to not be running it on Apple branded hardware. LockerGnome and OS News both have very good articles about the legality of building a Hackintosh.

Why?

Because I love Mac OS X. I’ve been a Macintosh user since the Mac Plus back in the mid-1980s. Over the years I gradually obtained more Macs. In college I started building my own PCs, and as a result running Mac OS was out of the question. I ended up running FreeBSD for many years, and then Linux and then ultimately turned to the darkside and started using Windows when XP came around. While my desktop systems ran Windows XP (and eventually Windows Vista and then Windows 7) I kept up on Mac OS by owning an iBook and now a MacBook. Now, my 7-year-old PC (the first PC I didn’t build myself) is getting old and slow, so it’s time for something new and better. I figured now is the time to get back to my PC building roots, and this time I have the ability to run Mac OS X instead of Windows.

What else?

I’m building this as my primary photography workhorse and local backup destination. As my photography workhorse I need it to run Adobe Photoshop CS6, Lightroom 4, LR Timelapse, Photomatix Pro and other associated plugins and software. For my local backup destination, it needs to be able to run CrashPlan and store local backups from mine and my wife’s laptops on a Drobo. In the future, I may start using this system to edit DSLR video, now that I’ve upgraded my camera to a Canon 5D Mark II.

The Components

My goal is the build a system that somewhat mimics what is found in a recent model iMac. Claiming my Hackintosh as an iMac will give me the best balance of features vs. performance when it comes to Mac OS X (more on that in part 2). Next to each component will be links to both Amazon and Newegg, which I find are the two retailers with the most reasonable prices (plus, if you purchase from those links I get a little kickback, which I would certainly appreciate!).

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77-DS3H (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Memory: Corsair 16GB XMS3 DDR3 SDRAM / CMX16GX3M2A1600C11 (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GeForce GT 640 / GV-N640OC-2GI (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • SSD Boot Drive: SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD / SDSSDX-120G-G25 (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Backup/Scratch Drive: Western Digital Black 500GB / WD5003AZEX (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Media Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB / ST1000DM003 (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Optical Drive: Sony SATA Internal DVD+/-RW Drive / AD-7280S-0B (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Firewire: Syba Low Profile 1394b/1394a Card / SD-PEX30009 (Amazon)
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX600 600W ATX (Amazon) (Newegg)
  • Case: Corsair Vengeance C70 Arctic White (Amazon) (Newegg)

Shameless Plug: You can also find many of these parts, and a bunch of others, at my new webstore: HackintoshStore.com. HackintoshStore.com only contains parts and components that are known to be hackintosh friendly and compatible.

There you have it! I will be acquiring these parts over the next few weeks if/when they go on sale. Once I have all of the parts I will put everything together, install Mac OS X Mountain Lion and document my progress in part two. Heck, maybe I’ll even make a time lapse of the build, too!

Questions? Comments? Do you think I made some bad component choices? Let me know in the comments!

[Part 2: The Build]

[Part 3: The Aftermath]

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3 Things Apple Fixed in iOS 5

A few months ago I made some feature requests for iOS 5.  Yesterday Apple kicked off it’s annual WWDC and it looks like a few of my wishes have been granted:

  1. Notifications. The new notification system looks really, really slick.  It looks very similar to the way Andriod handles notifications.
  2. Over the air updates & syncing. Plugging in for updates is now a thing of the past for iPhone users.  iOS 5 will also wirelessly sync your iTunes library, and with the addition of iCloud you can now sync you music, photos, apps, calendars, contacts and a bunch of other stuff across multiple devices.  Cool!
  3. Improved camera app. Apple has decided to add some new features to the default camera app.  These new features will be very welcome on my iPhone.  They started by making improvements to the autofocus, added a little grid love and exposure lock, and made the volume up button a shutter button.  They’ve even added a shortcut to the lock screen so you don’t have to unlock your phone to launch the camera app.

Gizmodo and BGR have nice, in-depth hands on reviews that are worth reading.

You can watch the entire WWDC keynote address on Apple’s site.

All said and done I can’t wait to get my hands on iOS 5 (and whatever iPhone gets announced later this summer/fall).

Update: Looks like apple also updated Mail to allow searches in the body of the message!  Hooray!

Update 2: Looks like the dictionary is editable in iOS 5 as well!  That means 5 out of my 7 wishes have been answered!

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5 Things I Hope Apple Fixes in iOS 5

I have been an iPhone user for 2 years now. I still have and use my iPhone 3G and will be upgrading to the iPhone 5 once it is released this summer. Over the past 2 years I have watched iOS evolve into what it is today. It’s a good OS, especially for a mobile device, however there are some features that need fixing. Here are my top 5 things I hope Apple fixes in iOS 5:

  1. Notifications. The iPhone notification system is pretty bad. Every notification gets popped up in the middle of the screen and the most recent notification wipes out any previous ones. It’d be nice if there was some sort of notification bar, or box where all recent notifications are stored.
  2. Over the air updates & syncing. Apple, it’s 2011 already. We live in a world of cloud computing and abundant wifi. Please get with the program and let me update to the latest iOS patch over the air. While you’re at it let me sync my iTunes library and apps over my wifi connection too.
  3. Mail search. Why can I only search the To:, From:, and Subject: fields of an email? That’s stupid. Most of what I’m searching for is in the body. Please let me search the email body in Mail.app.
  4. Editable dictionary. I understand iOS hase some sort of “smart dictionary” where it learns words and names you use frequently and that are in your contact list, but it isn’t good enough. Sometimes it just doesn’t learn and I’d like to be able to add my own words directly to the dictionary. I’m tired of iOS always correcting my corporate userid to “mortice”.
  5. Calendar colors. I sync my Google Calendar with my iPhone, which is really handy and I don’t think I could live my day-to-day life without it. The problem is I have 5 calendars synced and each one has a special color (blue for my personal calendar, pink for my wife’s, gray for my kids’, green for my lawn and garden activities & yellow for my home brewing), but the calendar app on my iPhone assigns a random color to each synced calendar. I’d like it to either a) sync the colors with the colors found on Google Calendar, or b) let me specify the colors myself.

… and a couple of bonus wishes:

  1. Improved camera app. As a photographer I rarely, if ever use the built in camera app. I almost always use an alternative app- Camera+, Hipstamatic or Instagram. All of them have built in filters for instant gratification and other nice features. Camera+ had a feature that made one of the volume buttons the shutter. Apple found out and rejected the app of course, but it was and is a good idea! Let the app developers use the hardware in unique and innovative ways, it’ll make the user experience better!
  2. Improved folders. The folders feature of iOS 4 was a very nice addition. I was able to condense my 8 pages of apps down to 3. The problem is that it seems that the feature was kind of hacked together. The folders themselves only allow 12 apps in them. As a result I need to have 3 folders for games. Why can’t they be scrolling? Also, the home screen folder icon shows 3 rows of 3, and then when I open it it shows 3 rows of 4. That means only the first 9 app icons get displayed on the home screen icon. Why even have the icons displayed at all? Wouldn’t a generic folder icon be just fine?

What do you hope is fixed in iOS 5?

[Update: Looks like Apple fixed a few of 'em!]

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