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Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος
(Greek Linguistics)

2009-03-29

[GEEK]: eeePC travails #1: Macintoshification

Sitting on the floor outside the duty free shop, oh so long ago (two weeks ago, in fact), I paid my £4 wireless access to find out whether a Linux eeePC could network with a Mac. Instead, I found that a Linux eeePC could be transmogrified into a Mac, with what seemed like not much more than an afternoon's surgery. Enthused at the prospect, and at how cheap the machine was going for, I surrendered my plastic to the man.

Well, in principle, sure you can Macintoshify your eeePC. It voids the warranty, and Apple will be really unhappy with you, though I doubt they can imprison you. If they do try to imprison you, the little trick the hackintoshers do, of putting an Apple sticker on the eeePC (so it can qualify as "Apple-labelled hardware") may not be completely compelling to their lawyers. But, let's momentarily continue on this hypothetical.

If you have a 901 or a 1000 eeePC, Gregory Cohen has some très slick bootdisks that actually let you install OSX Leopard right off your generic 10.5 system disc. (Not the disc that comes with a new computer: they're always loaded with model-specific stuff that will not talk to another Mac model, let alone an "Apple-labelled hardware, end scare quote".) The bootdisks come with some BIOS tweaks to the eeePC that are apparently needed to improve performance, and let the thing boot up in 20 seconds as opposed to 7 minutes. Something to do with DSDT and ACPI (fooling the machine's enrgy saving mode into thinking the machine is still an eeePC and not a Frankenstein, or something like that); and if I wanted to know about BIOS, I would've gotten an XP netbook and been done with it. My Linux–non-hating colleague at work blanched when I mentioned BIOS...

... but I didn't get that far. First, I realised that no slick BIOS patch for the 900 model was forthcoming. Then, I realised it was just as well none was forthcoming. The 900 has an earlier chip than the 901, one that Leopard was not compiled for. Moreover, Leopard is a dead loss for the 4+16 GB flash drives: it is problematic at best to get a 4 GB drive to accommodate Leopard, and the 16 GB drive will be too slow to be usable. This meant there'd be no installing straight off the Apple discs for this model: the BIOS patch would not have helped. I don't know if the difference in chip is why there's no patch, I just curse and move on.

The slick patch and native installation from Gregory Cohen promised just about everything would work smoothly—even wireless; the one sacrifice of functionality seemed to be the webcam, and that seemed a reasonable price to pay. With the new state of affairs, I was back to the altogether spelunkingier universe of Tiger installation. (Even the brave soul who first installed Leopard on an eeePC ended up reverting to Tiger.) Tiger installation means torrenting a hacked version of the OS, to make it chip and size compatible.

Doing without the native chip also means sacrificing a *lot* of functionality: the "What's Working" [and What Isn't Yet] section of the Tiger eeePC wiki cheerfully noted I'd be doing without webcam, Ethernet, Sleep, audio in, audio out (unless I had a Bluetooth headset—and I wasn't getting one for this), a clock that wasn't undergoing Time Dilation by a factor of 2.5, and I'd have to buy a new wireless card to get anywhere. On eBay, because the shops don't sell Dell offcuts. And all this, with half the already pathetic battery life, because OSX chews up the cycles.

So I'd be going from an unfamiliar OS which makes it impossible to add anything new, but at least the packaged software did some stuff, to a familiar OS where half the familiar software wouldn't do anything, I'd have to go begging for a Dell offcut to get online with a *netbook*, and I'd have no end of flakiness and asymptotic functionality to look forward to.

I salute the people who have Macintoshified their eeePCs. Seriously, thank you for your pains, and great show. But I won't be joining their number.

... So it's Linux. Mpf.

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