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Frankenmac 2017: The devil is in the details

My Frankenmac project has reached the point where all the easy stuff is done, and only the hard stuff remains. To put it another way, the machine is 95% functional, but that last 5% is going to require more effort than anything thus far, I believe. Today, a look at what was easy (relatively speaking) and what’s going to be hard.

The easy stuff

Going from nothing to a basically functional Mac was all relatively easy, save for a few moments of self-induced pain. To me, these were the easy parts of the project.

  • Buying the right hardware: Compared to nine years ago, when I last built a hackintosh, this part has gotten much simpler. If you stick to the hardware on the tonymacx86.com Buyer’s Guide, you’ll have the right hardware for the job.
  • Building the machine: If you’ve built a PC before, this step is pretty simple. You’ll need to watch out for some gotchas, especially if you’re trying to use a nine-year-old case and power supply, but it’s still pretty simple.
  • Installing macOS: Nine years ago, I remember this step taking me a long time. Today, thanks to programs like UniBeast, Clover, and MultiBeast, it’s relatively straightforward. You’ll want to follow the guide closely, and you may hit an odd issue or two—USB ownership in my case—but getting macOS running was still relatively easy.
  • Using an upgraded video card: Thanks to NVidia’s release of Pascal drivers for the Mac, getting my GTX 1080 video card running was a breeze.
  • Sleep/wake: I didn’t have to do anything here; it just worked.
  • Handoff and Continuity: With the proper Fenvi card, this should just work…and it did for me.

At this point, I had (and still have) a machine that will boot MacOS and run just like an actual Mac—for most things. It’s the “not most” parts that constitute the hard stuff…

The hard stuff
  • Audio: Maybe you’ll get lucky and your audio will “just work.” That didn’t happen for me; looking at the Sound System Preferences panel, I saw no output sources listed. Before Frankenmac’s temporary death, I did manage to make some edits to my config that got sound working, but only until the Mac slept—on wake, it would be gone again. Sadly, the page I used to enable sound was bookmarked on Frankenmac, and vanished with the rebuild (because I hadn’t yet figured out how to back up a hackintosh, nor had I enabled any bookmark sync services). Update: Using the info in this post, I was able to get audio working…but it fails after wake-from sleep. Current status: Half solved.
  • iTunes protected video: Due to copy protection on iTunes video services and certain motherboards or video cards (apparently those with DisplayPort connectors), iTunes purchased videos may not play. There’s supposedly a fix in the form of a kernel extension called Shiki, but I’ve had no luck with it and my GA-Z170X-UD3 motherboard / GeForce GTX 1080 video card. That’s probably due to the issues covered in this thread, 99% of which goes straight over my head. Current status: Unresolved.
  • Messages support: To use Messages for true Apple messages (as opposed to AIM or other third-party provider), you need to do some configuration gymnastics. There’s some scary stuff in there, and a big heads-up if you’re using an Ivy Lake hackintosh with an Nvidia card: You may wind up with a black screen after boot—as I did before, and as I did again today. This time, however, I had better “search fu” and found the solution, which required installing Even More kernel extensions. However, after all those gymnastics, I not only fixed the black screen, but I have fully functional messages. Status: Working!
Other stuff
  • Storage: When I bought my motherboard, I basically forgot that I’m using a Thunderbolt 2 RAID on the iMac…and I bought a motherboard without Thunderbolt support! At the time, I thought I’d have to return it, which would have been problematic given it was assembled and in the chassis already. So I started thinking about other solutions. Adding on Thunderbolt support seems iffy at best, and I really don’t want to start over with a new Thunderbolt motherboard. I have about 4TB of data to store, so I’ll probably find a solution using one or two 8TB internals and some form of mirroring or near-live duplication.
  • FaceTime: I just realized today that I don’t have a camera for FaceTime on Frankenmac. It looks like that won’t be much of a problem—I’ll just need to buy a third-party camera—but I haven’t looked into exactly which one is best as of yet.
Wrap up

As I’ve worked through this project, it’s pretty obvious why Apple doesn’t seem overly worried about the hackintosh market: It’s not for everyone. That was really true nine years ago when I built my first hackintosh, and despite the advances, it’s still not for everyone. I’ll have more to say on this subject in the near future. But for now, back to figuring out the last two big issues—audio and iTunes video playback.

2 Comments

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  1. How nice that your WiFi/Bluetooth “just worked”! And the same for Sleep/Wake – in the past those seem to have been notoriously problematic area on H’toshes.

    You mention issues with Messages – how is the state of iCloud syncing stuff like Bookmarks, Notes, Keychain? I remember iCloud authentication being fussy because it was based on motherboard GUIDs or something like that. Could possible muck up Back To/Find My Mac too.

    As for Thunderbolt (which I’ve never used) I naively thought that there were PCI cards out there that would provide TB interfaces, but I guess it’s not that simple?

  2. iCloud sync seems to be working fine. And there are Thunderbolt PCI cards, but apparently they’re motherboard-specific and the motherboard itself needs some kind of hardware to support Thunderbolt, which not all have.

    -rob.

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