posted by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Sep 2009 08:44 UTC, submitted by Cytor
IconThere are several options out there if you wan to run Mac OS X on your non-Apple labelled computer, but one of them appears to be in serious trouble. It has been uncovered that the EFI-X module is nothing more than a USB stick with a DRM chip, with code from the hackintosh community on it - without attribution. On top of that, its firmware update utility uses LGPL code - again, without attribution.

Supposedly, the EFI-X module was a specialised piece of hardware, with a processor and lots of RAM to provide a fast and efficient EFI solution for normal personal computers. You plugged the module straight onto one of your motherboard's USB connectors, set your BIOS to boot to it, and be on your merry way. An EFI-X module set you back 280 USD.

Back when the device was first introduced, it received positive responses from the media as being the easiest solution for those of us who want to exercise their rights and run Mac OS X on non-Apple labelled computers. Contrary to the software-based solution of the Chameleon bootloader and boot-132, EFI-X required little to no manual labour.

However, the modules began to show problems all over the web. Firmware updates from ASEM, the parent company, usually only introduced new problems instead of fixing them, and the hardware itself began to fail for a lot of people too. Complaints from customers were removed from the forums by ASEM moderators.

That was not the biggest issue. Members from within the OSX86 community - from experience, a very friendly, active, and helpful bunch - started to realise that the EFI-X module seemed a whole lot like a basic USB stick with a Chameleon/Boot-132 bootloader, and some DRM to conceal it all. Suspicions grew stronger as the EFI-X module had the exact same problems and compatibility charts as the software-based solutions. On top of that, issues fixed within the OSX86 community were fixed on the EFI-X modules shortly after. ASEM denied all of it.

Within the community, a user by the name of AsereBLN started the frustrating task of taking a module apart, to see what's really inside of one. ASEM didn't make it easy for him: the outer casing is easily removed, but the PCB is covered in a thick layer of black epoxy to conceal the chips inside. And as it turns out, it's nothing special: a USB stick, nothing more. These would cost no more than 10 USD to produce at volumes of 1000.

That's not all. After analysing the syslogs and kextstat outputs from Mac OS X, AsereBLN found out that the EFI-X module uses kexts taken straight from the hackintosh community, without attribution. The kexts have been patched to conceal their origins.

AsereBLN's tinkering did not go unnoticed by ASEM. They sent him a cease-and-desist letter, and together with his lawyer, he figured out a solution. "Together with my lawyer we have worked out a acceptable solution," AsereBLN writes on his blog, "Unfortunately this solution demands that I never again can say anything negative about EFI-X or ASEM. I'm also demanded to remove all posts and articles about ASEM and EFI-X in my Blog, in different forums and even in Google." He further explains that he is sorry for complying in this manner, but that he is only an individual and doesn't have the means to take all this to court.

To make matters worse, after analysing the 32bit Windows driver which aids in updating the EFI-X module, it was revealed that it contains code released under the LGPL, namely from libusb-win32. However, the EFI-X mdule does not come with the source code, a copy of the LGPL, or a description of the modifications. All references to libusb have been replaced with EFI-X.

The final nail in the coffin which proves that the EFI-X is nothing more than an elaborate scam is that despite promises to the contrary, the original EFI-X module, version 1.0, will not be able to run Snow Leopard. For that, you'll have to buy the upcoming EFI-X module version 1.1, for yet another 280 USD.

All this is of course very sad for those that spent money on the EFI-X module, but nevertheless it's good that all this is now out and in the open. Let's hope ASEM gets a thorough beating about all this, so that unsuspecting customers are no longer scammed. It also confirms that the best way to run Mac OS X on a non-Apple labelled computer is to make use of the excellent code put out by the hackintosh community.

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