Six Months with a Hackintosh Netbook

Over at Wired Gadget Lab, they’re taking a look back at several people who’ve gone to a bunch of trouble to hack up and deal with the pitfalls of netbooks running OSX. As the story’s title states, it ain’t pretty. In a nutshell, they found that even if you load a nice OS onto a cheap, tiny computer, you still have to deal with the inherent downsides of a cheap, tiny computer, and when you run an Apple OS on a non-Apple machine, you’ll have some software problems. I read this article with great interest, because a few months ago I bought an MSI Wind (the same netbook that this guy used) with thoughts of putting OSX on it. But this article set me to thinking about netbooks, the mythical Apple netbook, and Apple’s Newton legacy.My netbook hackintosh story ended early, since the MSI Wind I bought arrived DOA, and MSI instructed me to return it to Amazon (I was surprised that they didn’t offer to send me a replacement, because after getting the chance to think about it, I decided I had better things to spend my $279 on, and didn’t order a replacement). I found the small form factor and the overall feel of the Wind to be quite appealing. I never got a chance to really use its notoriously small trackpad, though.

When I looked into what I would really need to make the install, I realized that I didn’t have an external USB DVD drive, so I was trying to figure out how to do it with a thumbdrive, and reading about the various drivers and problems that people were having with Wi-Fi and I just realized that this was going to become one of those notorious all night, or even multi-day hacking sessions that I get myself into far too frequently.

Here’s a summary of what you need for OSX on the MSI:

  • MSI Wind Netbook
  • External USB DVD drive
  • Windows XP bootable CD
  • MSIwindosx86 iso disk image (google it)
  • The official OSX 10.5.4 delta upgrade here (Do not use the other combo package)
  • Realtek wireless driver/utility (forum link/direct rapid share link)
  • fixed intel 950 GFX drivers for correct 1024×600 resolution (Attached, extract the .pkg file and run it)

Last week I wasted two hours trying to figure out why my shredder wasn’t working. Every time I do that, I kick myself. But I can’t help it! Oh, but this time I could help it. I sent the Wind back, and I’ll spend my energies speculating on when Apple will release a proper netbook/tablet and stop with the sideshow about how the iPhone is their netbook.

To be honest, I’m pretty sure I would have stuck with Windows on the netbook. I’m not that big of a Mac zealot, though I have never used a non-Apple laptop for more than a couple of months. My side trips with Sonys and Dells have always ended in tears, and though I’m very happy with my $400 home-built Quad core Windows machine (with Vista, no less), I really like Apple notebooks. My usage of the iPhone would almost qualify me as the poster boy for the iPhone-as-netbook claim. I’m on the iPhone constantly, and not just reading email and the web. I’m on RSS, I compose long text passages for various projects, I connect to and participate in my company intranet, buy things online, do banking, instant message, post to Facebook, make VoIP calls, and all the other stuff that “there’s an app for.”

So why do I still want a real netbook? Probably for the stupidest reason of all: just because I think they’re cool and cute. I have this fantasy that when I travel I could leave my 15″ Macbook Pro behind and go lighter weight, but I bet that wouldn’t happen. I’d just bring them both. But probably the biggest reason is because there are times when I could use my iPhone for something, but the iPhone just doesn’t quite cut it. The website uses Flash, or I have a bit more typing to do that I’d want to do on the dinky keyboard, or I need to cut and paste, or to attach a document to an email, or, as is most likely, because my iPhone battery is dead because I’ve been using it all day.

If you’ve been reading OSNews since 1997, you’d know that I was a big fan of the Newton Messagepad 2000/2100. For over a decade, I’ve been waiting for Apple to revive the pocket-sized, but large, touchscreen, but with detached keyboard, net-enabled, powerful processor, stripped down, intuitive OS, tablet/PDA hybrid that was the MP2K. MP2K I don’t have any inside information about what’s percolating inside Apple, but I have a pretty strong feeling that the MP2K successor is on its way, and it’s Apple’s answer to the netbook. I can easily imagine a thin touchscreen tablet, like an iPod Touch about three times the size, running either the new iPhone OS or a simplified OSX (I’m thinking iPhone, but hoping for OSX) with a detached or detachable wireless keyboard, plenty of network options (3G/4G built in, of course). And it would cost $500-700. I mean, how could Apple come out with a Netbook that wasn’t twice as cool and twice as expensive as all the other netbooks, right?

So would I buy one of these? I’m not sure I would. It might be like the Macbook Air; something I was really excited about until I took a hard look at the specs and the price and realized that it wasn’t really for me. It might be that the empty space between my iPhone and my laptop couldn’t be dramatically narrowed by a slightly smaller laptop and some important software improvements to the iPhone.


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