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Tuesday, January 19 Front Page >> Random Rants >> NetMac... er Hackintosh... er NetMacBook. Yeah

Dec 17, 2008, 5:20pm

OSX on a MSi Wind

I was really disappointed about a year ago now when Apple announced their new MacBook Air. I think everyone was expecting Apple to introduce an ultralight yet full featured sub-notebook or even lead the way on "netbooks", something Asus did around the same time with their Eee PC lineup.

While some may love the super slim folded height of the MacBook Air, it's not a subnotebook or ultraportable - it's still difficult to use on many economy seats in airplanes, and it's still big, even if it only weighs 3lbs.

I've been using ultralight subnotebooks for years. my first was a Thinkpad X21, then a Sony Vaio T-250 (I still have it- and it's still a fast little dvd-rom installed 3lb notebook!). Then I went to the Fujitsu machines - the P series. I had a P1200, then a P2000 (didn't like), then currently a P1620 which is a full tablet PC with swivel touchscreen. It's nice and fairly powerful, but too bloody small!

What I didn't have was an ultraportable Mac. I didn't want to pay the $2,000 for the MacBook Air (up here, taxes in), and didn't like it's limited functionality - one USB, lack of ports, etc.

Then I heard about successful hacks on a new range of notebooks, including the MSi Wind. i read about them for a month. I bought one for Beata for her Birthday (to replace my aforementioned Thinkpad X21, which she was using, but suffering from the ageyness of it). The Wind is around $450 or less, has a nice 10" screen (8.9" is too small - my Fujitsu has that one, and I've seen the Acer One with that screen res, and it was too small for me), has an LED backlit screen, good upgrade options (spare slot for another gb of memory, easy to change HD and wifi cards) and most importantly for me, a big community around it, hacking away. Some hacks include supercharging the track pad, installing no brainer SSD hard drives, improving the wifi, going to N, and more.

Most importantly? It was supposedly one of the easier Atom-chip based computers to install Apple's OS/X operating system on. And most things work. So I took the leap, bought the top of the line model (U100-279US) which has wifi b/g/n, 160gb drive, bluetooth, 6 cell battery for 5-6 hours use, better trackpad, and more; and I proceeded to hack it with a spare license of OS/X 10.5 that I had with no computer to throw it onto (until now).

It took a few tries. I wanted a dual boot machine, leaving my Windows partition alive and kicking, as well as my recovery partition should I want to completely reinstall everything. I created a 4gb USB stick "install" of the OS/X, which in itself was a challenge - about 3 hours' work, including making it bootable. Following all the online discussions and instructions were hard, because people assume you know what a kext is, or a chmod, or fdisk. I didn't.

The first try went really wrong. After installing, i had a black screen with boot0; done_ and nothing else. I thought I lost my windows partition too, but after downloading a program called partedmagic and installing it (and making it bootable) on another USB stick, I was able to get Windows back. I repartitioned the intended Mac drive (I split my 160gb drive into two partitions - C: (windows) and D: (Mac OSX), set it active, and tried again.

Second time - success. By the time I was done, I had a fully dual booting machine (it uses Apple's Darwin boot loader to let you pick which OS you want each time you power on the computer), with a rockin' Apple operating system. I was able to install all updates for 10.5.4, but am afraid to upgrade it to 10.5.5 or even the just fresh 10.5.6. Screen works. Function keys work. my built in web cam sorta works (works in gmail video chat, iChat - haven't tested skype yet). Speakers work. I did a hack to make a formely not working part work - the headphone jack (it's a hack - but I built a one-click script to switch between speakers and headphones).

Even my wifi card - a new one that most MSi Winds don't have - works, but in a cludgy way.

I'd say overall that about 98% of it works. Here's what doesn't:

- Trackpad works, but no gestures or two finger scrolling.
- Built in mic or line in don't work. I can however use a Bluetooth headset to use in iChat or Google Video chat
- Speakers work, headphone jack doesn't work except for a hack I did, not an elegant one, but i can switch back and forth.
- Some function keys don't work.
- Sleep sorta works - but not quite. I think it has to do with the wifi card's program that is running. If it's not running, sleep mode works fine.

It's also surprisingly fast on this computer, even with only 1gb of memory (adding another GB next week).

All in all, it's pretty cool - I have OS/X running on a $450, 10.2" screen, 2.6lb (with 6cell battery) computer. I even feel good that it's a full blown legal copy (that of course breaks Apple's EULA, but who cares - they can't tell me what device I can run this on).

Now, I have to borrow a USB DVD drive so I can install my family licenses of iLife and iWork, and I'll be set. Meanwhile, here's some pictures of the process and the software running.

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Welcome Movie
Success! Got to the Welcome Movie screen after the OS/X install
Welcome Movie 2
Welcome Movie winds down...
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Running Windoz, Mac Drive visible
I had a copy of MacDrive for the Windoze, so I installed it on this MSi, letting me see the sibling HFS mac drive and access it in Windows.
Powering up, going into Darwin...
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Darwin will auto load OS/X after 5 seconds, but if you press enter first, it lets you choose which drive to boot off of. OS_Install is the Windows XP drive.
OS/X loading
Apple logo looks weird because Apple doesn't officially support 1024x600 displays.
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OS/X on MSi Wind
And here we go. With good video drivers (find them online - Intel GMA950), you get native 1024x600 support.
Twitter on a NetMac
Twitter's a bit big on a NetMac, but it all loads, all looks great! Woot - this tiny 2.6lb computer has two complete operating systems and almost everything works.

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