Everything in that shot came via Amazon, except for the CPU heatsink/fan at the back right. That required more driving around than I’d care to admit (one business gone, one out of stock, another unexpectedly closed for the day), but I finally found something I liked. And with that, I had everything I needed to build the machine.
Note:This page contains an updated list (with links) of the parts I’m using in the project.
Now that I had the parts, it was time to try to turn them into a computer…
Below is the total cost1Not actually the total cost; see footnotes below. to build my Hackintosh, which I’ve given the thrilling name Frankenmac 2017. The objective was to build a “Mac Pro like” machine, with lots of room for internal expansion and great performance, though using a desktop-class, not Xeon-class, CPU.
Not included are the cost of a keyboard, mouse, or display. I have all of these available, but if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need them as well.
The link for the Fenvi WiFi card points to AliExpress, not Amazon, though I bought the card from Amazon. However, the Amazon link from my actual order now leads to a much cheaper, non-AC card that I have no experience with. I have no idea what happened to the product on Amazon’s site, but you want the Fenvi T-919 (that link goes directly to the Fenvi web site). Do not buy the two-antenna card that the Amazon link goes to as of April 15, 2017.
Back then, I built and used one, then wrote about the machine for Macworld, and they even lab tested it, where it held its own against real Macs costing much more.
Fast forward to 2017, and I’ve decided to tackle the project again. Why? Oddly, because there is a new Mac Pro coming, but it’s a ways away. I want something I can use in the interim, without spending a huge amount of money on. When the new Mac Pro ships—assuming it’s not an enhanced trash can design—I plan on upgrading, and the homebuilt Mac will become a gaming PC.
As I’m not writing about the project for Macworld this time around, I’m going to document things here on the blog as I go along. In today’s installment, I cover the first steps in the process: online resources and parts decisions.
Note that I am not in any of the target markets for a typical Mac Pro buyer—I don’t crunch huge scientific data sets, I don’t render massive 4K movies, and I’m not compiling huge programs on a daily basis. But I have always been a fan of the Mac Pro for one reason (up until the most recent one, at least): Customization. Having a customizable Mac means it can last longer, as you can make changes to keep up with technology. I have owned both the Motorola and Intel era Mac Pros, and they were truly excellent machines.
One Mac to rule them all
The older Mac Pro (and its predecessors) were—as I recently wrote—wonderful machines, because you, the user, could do so much to them. You could add RAM, of course, but you can do that to most any current Mac.
You could also choose up to four hard drives to put inside the case—no messy cables, no need to worry about a child or pet disconnecting your drive while it’s rendering a movie, etc. If you outgrew them, you could easily replace them. In my Mac Pro, I had an internal Time Machine drive (in addition to the external Time Machine drive.)
Fourteen years ago today, I launched Mac OS X Hints, with this simple post. The Mac OS X 10.0 Public Beta was only a couple months old, and many Mac users (myself included) were feeling lost in the land of Unix and Terminal. (Despite anything Apple said at the time, Terminal was very much a required aspect of using Mac OS X in those early days!)
At the time of launch, I knew nothing about content management systems or PHP; I knew enough HTML to be dangerous, and very little about anything else—including design, as you can see from the image at right.
That image, courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, was taken one month after launch. Could it be any brighter and uglier? Probably not. While I did many things wrong during that launch, I did get a few things right…
The site was all about the community; it was my intent from day one that it would be a users helping users site, not a “me telling the world what to do” site.
The content management system I chose, Geeklog, has proven to be very long lived—fourteen years on, and it’s still what powers the site. In all that time, we had (I believe) exactly one hacking incident. Not bad.
The site had a laser focus on hints; I’d do a pick of the week, but outside of that, it was all about the hints.
In looking back, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the site would flourish to the point where it would actually change my career. But it did, and for that, I’m eternally thankful to everyone who helped make macosxhints.com what it was. So happy birthday, Mac OS X Hints!
So the iPhone has been out for a couple months now, and I’ve pretty much left mine alone–no hacking of any sort, beyond trying out Ambrosia’s new iToner. Then today, fellow Macworld staffer Chris Breen pointed me to Nullriver’s Installer.app beta. Using this program, “hacking” your iPhone is amazingly simple. Run the Installer.app on your Mac, then switch to your iPhone and use the new Installer icon on the home screen. From there, choose which packages you’d like to install, and you’re off and running.
So what’s available? Quite a lot, actually. There’s a screenshot app, which I used for the images you see here (click on each for a larger version). In the shot of the main screen, you’ll notice there’s a new row of icons on the phone; those were all added with the Installer.app program. There’s a BSD subsystem, so you can ssh into your iPhone, and use scp (or SFTP in something like Transmit) to get files to/from the phone. There’s a functional NEC emulator, complete with sound. The Apache web server. A terminal emulator. Perl, python, and ruby for the ultra-geeks. And lots more.
If something goes wrong (and it hasn’t for me yet, but I tested the following to make sure it works), you just use iTunes to restore your iPhone, and you’re back to a fully functional (and non-modified) iPhone. However, you are responsible for your own actions. I am not responsible for any damage that may result to your iPhone if you choose to try this out!
We’ll have a lot more to say about this over on our iPhone Central blog next week, so tune in for much more detail. But if, like me, you’ve been waiting for iPhone hacking to get easier, a bunch of very very very bright people have made it so–if you’ve used a package manager on Linux (or something like Fink or MacPorts on OS X), you’ll be right at home with Installer.app.
In a way, this work really could be considered embarrassing for Apple: a bunch of volunteer hackers have created a fairly amazing, professional-looking, and very easy to use third-party applications manager for the iPhone–all without any help from Apple, and it’s done before Apple has even announced anything about official third-party application support.