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Category Archives: apple

Build complete: the new Hackintosh is a success.

OK, so I wrote about wanting a Mac Pro but not being able to afford one. Well, the deed is done. I purchased the parts, built the computer and installed Mac OS 10.9 on it. My Hackintosh (running Mac OS on non-Apple hardware) is done and it was a great success! Here’s the tale of that journey.

The parts I chose:

CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U14S 55.0 CFM CPU Cooler
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5H ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LP 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1866 Memory
Storage: 2x Samsung 840 Pro Series 128GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk
Storage: 5x Western Digital Red 3TB 3.5″ 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 760 2GB Video Card
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 (Black Pearl) ATX Mid Tower Case
Power Supply: Corsair 760W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply
Other: HighPoint RocketRAID 3620
Other: HDE 2-Port USB Rear Panel Bracket Host Adapter
Other: StarTech.com 2 Port USB 3.0 A Female Slot Plate Adapter

This set of parts were chosen after more than a month of painstaking research, a lot of it on the forums at tonymacx86.com.  This is a great resource for anyone wanting to build a Hackintosh.

I’m a big believer in RAID, so it’s no surprise I chose RAID 1 for Mac OS and RAID 6 for my other stuff.  I was a little nervous about the HighPoint RocketRAID card, since I couldn’t find anyone that had used it in a Hackintosh, but I did find that Mac OS 10.8 and later supported the card I wanted.

The most important components for a Hackintosh are the CPU, motherboard and video card.  The choices I made were for maximal compatibility with Mac OS.

Once I assembled the components into an actual machine, I tested the memory for 3 days (with memtst86) and each individual hard disk with the Western Digital diag program.  Then, it was off to the races…

First up: flash an up-to-date BIOS for the UD5H (F7, but F8 was released shortly after I got it built).  The BIOS settings I used:

  • System Information > Working Environment > Classic Mode
  • Load optimized defaults
  • Performace > Memory > X.M.P. > Profile 1
  • BIOS Features > Intel Virtualization Tech > DISABLED
  • BIOS Features > Boot Option Priorities: set appropriately
  • BIOS Features > Full Screen LOGO Show > DISABLE
  • Peripherals > Device Config > Initial Display Output > PCIe 1 slot
  • Peripherals > Device Config > xHCI Mode > AUTO
  • Peripherals > Device Config > Intel Processor Graphics > DISABLED
  • Peripherals > Device Config > xHCI Hand-OFF > ENABLED (the default, but good to check)
  • Peripherals > Device Config > EHCI Hand-OFF > ENABLED
  • Peripherals > Super I/O Config > Serial Port A > DISABLED
  • Power Management > Wake on Lan > DISABLED
  • Save and Exit Bios

I also updated the firmware on the HighPoint card.

As I said I did software RAID 1 for the Mac OS drive.  I tried doing a test install with hardware RAID 1 (with the SSDs attached to the 3620), but it didn’t work.  I wasn’t sure why, so I moved on to software RAID 1.  I was able to install, but upon rebooting after the install it wasn’t able to boot properly.  After a lot of searching, I figured out the installation had put the boot loader (the thing that loads the operating system) in the wrong place.

When you make a RAID 1 array in the Mac OS Disk Utility, the actual boot partition is a composite of the real underlying disks.  Here is the output of diskutil list:

/dev/disk0
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *128.0 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk0s1
   2:                 Apple_RAID                         127.7 GB   disk0s2
   3:                 Apple_Boot Boot OS X               134.2 MB   disk0s3
/dev/disk1
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *128.0 GB   disk1
   1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk1s1
   2:                 Apple_RAID                         127.7 GB   disk1s2
   3:                 Apple_Boot Boot OS X               134.2 MB   disk1s3
/dev/disk2
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:                  Apple_HFS mack-root              *127.7 GB   disk2

The actual boot disk is disk2 and it is made up of two parts, disk0 and disk1.  I think what happened is the installer put the boot loader on /dev/disk2 and not at the beginning of /dev/disk0 and /dev/disk1.  So, I needed to do that.  Here’s how I did it:

newfs_hfs -v EFI /dev/disk0s1
newfs_hfs -v EFI /dev/disk1s1
mkdir /Volumes/EFI
mkdir /Volumes/EFI2
mount_hfs /dev/disk0s1 /Volumes/EFI
mount_hfs /dev/disk1s1 /Volumes/EFI2
cd /Volumes/USB/usr/standalone/i386
fdisk -f boot0 -u -y /dev/rdisk0
fdisk -f boot0 -u -y /dev/rdisk1
dd if=boot1h of=/dev/rdisk0s1
dd if=boot1h of=/dev/rdisk1s1
cp boot /Volumes/EFI/
cp boot /Volumes/EFI2/
umount /Volumes/EFI/
umount /Volumes/EFI2/
fdisk -e /dev/rdisk0 <<EOF
p
f 1
w
y
quit
EOF
fdisk -e /dev/rdisk1 <<EOF
p
f 1
w
y
quit
EOF

I ran this script booted from the UniBeast USB drive I used to install Mac OS.  When you boot from the USB drive, it goes into the Mac OS installer, which allows you to get a Terminal window and execute the above script.  Once I did that, I was able to reboot normally into my newly installed Mac OS 10.9.1.

We’re not done, though.  While Mac OS is running, it’s not fully configured for our Hackintosh hardware.  The next phase is to run MultiBeast and install appropriate drivers for the hardware I have.  For me, these were the settings I used:

Quick Start > DSDT Free
Drivers > Audio > Without DSDT > ALC898 (automatically checks HDAEnabler)
Drivers > Disk > TRIM Enabler > 10.9.x TRIM Patch
Drivers > Misc > FakeSMC v5.3.820 Plugins
Drivers > Misc > FakeSMC v5.3.820 KWMonitor Application
Drivers > Misc > PS/2 Keyboard/Mice and Trackpads
Drivers > Misc > USB 3.0 - Universal
Drivers > Network > Intel hnak's AppleIntelE1000e v2.4.14
Customize > Boot Options > IGPEnabler=No
Customize > Boot Options > Verbose Boot
Customize > Boot Options > 1080p Display Mode
Customize > System Definitions > iMac > iMac 14,2
Build -> Select Install Drive: Mavericks -> Install

Here’s a picture of the MultiBeast window:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.00.40 PMWhen I clicked “Install” in the lower right corner I got a popup that said

Kernel extension is not from an identified developer

The kernel extension at “/System/Library/Extensions/GenericUSBXHCI.kext” is not from an identified developer but will still be loaded.

I clicked “OK” to that, then rebooted without the USB drive attached.

The video card I have is a good  performer but it’s also pretty quiet.  It’s got 1152 CUDA cores.  However, to get the most out of it, I needed to install the nVidia CUDA drivers. After doing so, CUDA-Z shows this info:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.32.20 PMScreen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.33.04 PMScreen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.33.13 PMI haven’t figured out what I can do with this fancy pants video card, but so far the performance good.  The Geekbench 3 score for the new machine is:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 3.41.39 PMThat’s just the 32-bit score.  The 64-bit score requires paying for the app.  By comparison, the Mac Pro score is 3215 (single) / 18296 (multi).  It makes sense the multi-processor score is higher since the 2013 Mac Pro has a Xeon processor, which is much better when multiple cores are active.

What about the stats on various monitored quantities?  Installed with Mac OS (by UniBeast or MultiBeast) is a hardware monitoring program.  Here’s a screen cap of it:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.05.42 PMNote the CPU frequency was at 800MHz during the cap, instead of 3.50GHz, which is the normal, non-turbo frequency.  This shows the speed-step (or whatever it’s called in Mac OS) is working with the CPU/motherboard I have.

Finally, some pictures of the build:

20140222-0852-30-6035-5D3 20140222-0901-33-6043-5D3 20140222-0901-41-6044-5D3 20140222-0902-53-6052-5D3 20140222-0907-16-6054-5D3

UPDATE: 2015-02-07

Using RAID mirror for the operating system drive is just too much of a pain in the ass. I did a full backup, removed the RAID partition and the partitions on the two SSDs. Then, I booted into the 10.9.5 installer and restored into one of the drives.

Then, I setup a daily schedule for Super Duper! to make a copy of my root drive onto the second SSD. In the event I have a crash, I can use the second SSD immediately.

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New Mac Pro or Hackintosh? That is the question.

The new Mac Pro is really nice.  It’s also very expensive.  The base model is $3,000.  More expensive than previous generations of the Mac Pro, because it’s not equivalent to previous generations in expandability and if you require that expandability you will need to spend significantly more.  As a result, I’m leaning toward build a Hackintosh (running Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware).

First, my requirements:

  • SSD RAID 1 (mirroring) for the OS
  • RAID 5 for extra storage (music, photos, videos, backups, etc) using regular spinning disks — must hold at least 4 disks, more would be nice
  • Mac OS X 10.9

Aside from the new Mac Pro not meeting the first requirement, as it has a single SSD.  That means buying an external enclosure that supports RAID 5 (Mac OS X itself does not support software RAID 5, only 0, 1 and 10).  Because I don’t believe USB for this situation is sufficient, it has to be Thunderbolt, which the new Mac Pro has.  Here are the options (this is a good summary of all the hardware available):

The Promise is actually sold by Apple, but it’s a really crappy choice because 1) it has 4 slots and 2) the max size of the disks is 2TB.  The Drobo I’m not thrilled about because it comes with their own RAID and it’s basically a huge software layer between me and my disks.  For people that don’t want to do full-partition encryption and other stuff, it’s probably fine.  Also, I found a lot of people on Amazon complaining about Drobo’s support and quality.  That leaves the Areca.  Indeed, it looks like a very nice unit and it has excellent reviews and seems to offer very good performance.

That puts the price of the Mac Pro at $4,420 (without disks, tax, shipping, etc).  I want to point out, previous generations cost about the same and you did not have to spend more money to get expandability for 3.5″ disks.

Let’s look at the alternative, a Hackintosh.  There’s a fantastic community over at tonymacx86.com which has all the information you need to build a Hackintosh.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K Quad-Core Processor 3.5 GHZ 8 MB Cache
  ($337.98 @ Amazon) 
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U14S 55.0 CFM CPU Cooler  ($69.99 @ Amazon) 
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5H Z87 LGA 1150 ATX Motherboard
  ($219.99 @ Amazon) 
Memory: 2x G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1866 Memory  ($139.50 @ Newegg) 
Storage: 2x Samsung 840 Pro Series 2.5" 128GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
 ($121.99 @ Amazon) 
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX760 2GB GDDR5 256bit Graphics Card
  ($249.99 @ Newegg) 
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 (Black Pearl) ATX Mid Tower Case  ($111.98 @ Newegg) 
Power Supply: Corsair 760 Watt ATX Modular Power Supply AX760
  ($159.99 @ Amazon) 
Other: HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL 8x PCI-E 2.0 x8 SAS/SATA RAID Card
 ($150.00)
Other: 2x HighPoint Internal Mini-SAS to 4SATA ($15.00)
Other: StarTech.com USB 3.0 Adapter
Other: HDE USB 2.0 Adapter
Total: $1,852

Some notes on the parts:

  • The HighPoint RocketRAID 2720SGL works fine with Mac OS X, but this hardware isn’t very good for SSDs.  The SSDs would go directly on the motherboard and run software RAID 1, which Mac OS X does fine.
  • The case supports 2 2.5″ disks and 8 3.5″ disks.  Plenty for my needs.
  • Xeon motherboards (socket 2011) aren’t as well supported, and sleep doesn’t work, which  is pretty important to me.

So, it comes down to a Mac Pro for $4,220 or a Hackintosh for $1,852?  Here are the pros for each:

Pros for Mac Pro:

  • Mac OS X compatibility
  • Xeon processor
  • ECC RAM
  • Thunderbolt 2 for expansion (though I have no immediate need for it, other than the RAID)

Pros for Hackintosh:

  • Price
  • +18GB of RAM
  • 2x SSD RAID 1 for the OS boot drive

I’m pretty convinced the tonymacx86.com forums will help with any upgrades of Mac OS X.  When a new version of Mac OS X comes out, upgrade guides are published pretty quickly.  I would like ECC RAM, but this isn’t a deal killer, by any means.  Not having Thunderbolt isn’t, either.  For Xeon vs i7, it really comes down to Adobe Lightroom performance.  I think the extra 18GB of RAM will beat out the bigger cache on the Xeon.

So, it really comes down to the price, and are the pros for the Mac Pro really worth $2,568?  I really don’t think so.

I really like the new Mac Pro design, but I think Apple really made a huge mistake not insuring low-cost expansion units for regular, spinning disks.  All the previous Mac Pros had room for extra disks at the price of the base unit.  There is, essentially, a $1,500 tax to purchase the new Mac Pro.  That tax goes up to $2,500 if you need 6 disks instead of 4.

Why I hate iTunes and the iPod

I’ve been a user of iTunes (on Windows) and the iPod for 4 years now. I hate them both. Let me qualify that. I have been really, really annoyed by iTunes and the iPod over the years. I don’t know if there is something better, but it doesn’t matter, since I already have the iPod. I’m not going to switch at this point, unless something else is clearly better. I haven’t heard of an iPod killer out there. A lot of wannabe killers, though. (I’m talking to you, Zune.)

iTunes

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back (and caused this rant) happened last night: I was on a mission to make a playlist of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Many of the songs I already owned. A bunch more I had to buy (not from iTunes, but from allofmp3.com… more on that later). So, I’m painstakingly making this playlist. Why was it so painful?

  • [nit#1] I was using the search feature of iTunes a lot, as you can imagine. There is no single keystroke that takes you to the search widget. None that I could find. This is really annoying, but that leads me to…
  • Many times the first click or keystroke in the search widget is completely ignored. Here is the sequence I had to repeat 100 times: click in search widget, [bug#1] click again in search widget to make sure the focus is there (so what I type doesn’t go in to the great void), type Control-A to select all the current text, [bug#2] type Control-A again to actually select all current text, and now type what I wanted to type. Do they test this stuff before they release it? And, this series of bugs has been in iTunes for as long as I can remember.

[bug#3] There appears to be no way to stop iTunes from downloading album artwork. I’ve looked for an option, but can’t find it. I bloody don’t want the damn artwork!

[nit#2] When iTunes is doing something it puts up messages in the rectangular area below the “Apple” logo. I should say it teases me with messages. They appear, and disappear, and appear, and disappear. Countless times I wanted to actually see what iTunes was doing. Actually doing. I would love an option that would either leave the status there or put it somewhere permanant. No, I would demand it, if I could.

[nit#3] iTunes is a huge resource hog. I have an Athlon MP 2800+ with 1GB RAM. It is noticably slow on my system. Each release of iTunes makes it slower and slower, too.

[nit#4] Speaking of slow, when I upgraded to iTunes 7 recently, I was really surprised at a few things. When I first started iTunes after the upgrade it starts going through my collection of 6500+ songs and doing something. Apparently it had to do with gapless playback. What was it doing? Would I like what it was doing? I have no idea, since Apple decided to keep me in the dark. I do know that the next time I sync’d my iPod it copied more than a 1000 songs to it. What in the hell did it do to those 1000 songs? I have no idea.

Score: four bugs and four misfeatures.

iPod

Almost the first problem I had with my iPod was with playlists. If you make a large playlist for your iPod, once you sync it over and start using it, it is fairly useless. Yes, you can play the songs on the playlist, but can you display the playlist by anything but song name? No display by Artist, Album, etc? No. For me, this severely restricts the usefulness of playlists.

Unlike others, I haven’t had severe problems with battery life, though I definitely think it never got the advertised number of hours (I tested it when I got it, but don’t remember the advertised number nor the number I got).

iTunes Store

I’ve purchased 100+ songs from the iTunes store. It really annoys me for a few reasons.

  • The selection is poor. Sometimes a single song is left off an “album” just so you can’t buy the whole thing. This might have more to do with the companies that Apple gets the music from than anything, but it’s still annoying.
  • Once you buy a song from the iTunes store you are locked into their format and DRM. Yes, there are programs that will remove it, and at some point I will use them. However, I shouldn’t have to use programs on off-shore servers that are considered illegal in the US to get access to music that I bought.
  • $0.99 a song is still too much. That price is just support for the prices of the old distribution mechanism for music (buying a CD in a store). The management companies that take so much of what an artist brings in are really becoming irrelevant. We should be moving to an artist to consumer model, and some artists are pushing hard on that (Prince comes to mind). I want artists to get a larger share of the pie. I also don’t want to pay $15 for a CD. In fact, before iTunes and allofmp3.com, I had almost completely stopped buying music. I would only buy a CD if I was both sure I would like it and sure I would like it a lot.

Conclusions

Aside from the business issues with the cost of music, I gotta ask one question: do the Apple developers that make this stuff actually use it? It feels like they don’t. If they do, however, then it speaks volumes for the process in place at Apple to actually, you know, improve their product: it sucks.

Overall my feeling about Apple’s job on iTunes can be summed up like this: it barely works, and when it does it is slow and unpredictable. If I had authored this software, I’d be embarrassed.

Update 1/7/07 12:52 PM: [bug#4] I forgot one really annoying feature of iTunes: when you minimize it it does not go to the bottom of the Windows z-order. It goes to the top. It means when you minimize and then do Alt-TAB, the “next” window is the iTunes window! It should be last.

Update 1/7/07 06:38 PM: [nit#5] every single time I do “Add Folder to Library…” it checks 681 files to find the album artwork. They haven’t changed since the last time I ran the command.

Update 1/8/07 11:06 PM: [nit#6] would it have killed them to implement bookmarks? If I turn off my iPod in the middle of a song, and turn it back on before some period of time elapses, I’m at the same point I was at before I turned it off. However, if I turn it back on a little later than this period of time, I start fresh at the main screen. It makes it all but impossible to listen to audio books or long speeches, unless you really listen a little every day. Also, even if I listened every day, I’d still like bookmarks so I could switch to other stuff for a while and come back.