A Few Months with a Hackintosh

hackintosh rambling

It's been a few months or so now since I installed OS X on my self-built desktop PC. During that time, I've used OS X as my main operating system, rarely if ever booting into either Windows or Linux. I figured now was a good time to go over what the experience of using OS X on a Hackintosh PC has been like. And it will include my general impressions as someone who never used OS X for anything serious prior to this.

Keep in mind that my set up is using hardware that is all known for working really well with Hackintosh's.

What I Like / What Works Well

  • Pretty much all the hardware works well. Audio, graphics (including 3d acceleration), input devices (mouse/keyboard), USB, CD/DVD, hard disks, general system speed/responsiveness. I've had a little bit of trouble with a USB headset only using certain USB ports on my PC, but I haven't tested this extensively as I'm somewhat convinced my USB headset is on it's last legs.
  • OS updates so far haven't been a problem, though there haven't been any major ones yet, unless you count 10.7.3 (semi-major perhaps).
  • Excellent dev tools available. Things like GitHub for Mac, SourceTree and Sequel Pro and others I find I miss quite a bit when I switch to Windows or Linux. Lots of other apps I used on Windows/Linux also tend to have OS X equivalents too which is nice.
  • "Unix-y" command line with most typical GNU or BSD-equivalent tools available. Win.
  • Support for more games then Linux (and without needing to resort to using Wine). Less rebooting and OS switching is a big win in my books.
  • Homebrew. When you compare to any package management system in any Linux distribution, Homebrew really falls short in my opinion. Same for MacPorts, etc. However, for installing things like open source libraries and tools, Homebrew has been a giant timesaver. For example, I needed to install Assimp. After looking at the website and documentation, I realized that installing this so it's ready to be used in code was going to be a giant pain in the ass on OS X. Decided to check Homebrew with brew search assimp and sure enough, there is a formula for it. Then all I needed to do was brew install assimp and it was good to go. Easy.
  • Mostly consistent user interface across different apps. Developers seem to take pride in making OS X versions of their apps which conform to standard OS X user interface conventions. Obviously doesn't apply to X11 apps, or most apps that run on Java/Mono.

What I Didn't Like But Like Now

  • To get GCC installed, you needed to install XCode in it's entirety. This is a biggish download, which by itself doesn't really bug me, but more the fact that I'm being forced to install an entire development package and IDE (XCode) which I have no intention of ever using just to get a compiler. With the latest XCode update this has been changed and now I can uninstall the bloat (XCode) and just get GCC itself. Much smaller download too.
  • Font hinting / anti-aliasing everywhere. Typically the first thing I do in a fresh Windows/Linux install is set fonts which don't have hinting enabled or find some other way to turn it off for most/all of the operating system UI. I've kind of warmed up to it now since you don't really get a choice in the matter in OS X. However, I still go out of my way to disable hinting in my code editors and IDEs.
  • Single menu bar. To be honest this still irks me somewhat. Especially if I've moved a window over to the other monitor so that the window and menubar are on different screens. However, I notice that it bugs me less and less now. Guess it was really something that I just had to get used to.

What I Don't Like / What Didn't Work Well

  • Most media keys on my keyboard are not recognized at all my OS X. Not even just a keyboard remapping issue, the operating system doesn't detect the keys at all. The only keys that work are the Play/Pause, Volume up/down and Mute which thankfully are the most important ones to me. My keyboard is a cheapo Dynex one so I guess I'm not entirely surprised by this.
  • Sleep/Hibernate/Resume doesn't really work. I haven't spent much time troubleshooting this. It certainly didn't work out of the box, but some quick research indicates that it should definitely work with my hardware. This hasn't been a priority for me since I never would sleep/hibernate my computer with Windows or Linux anyway.
  • Customizability. OS X is definitely a "use it my way or not at all" kind of operating system. Limited customizability in most things. For example, I really hate the way that the Finder sorts files and folders. I like folders to appear first regardless of what my sorting method is (alphabetical, by type, etc.). This isn't possible with the Finder. In order to fix this I had to install a Finder modification (TotalFinder).
  • The Finder. Just in general, it doesn't impress me. Feels like a really, really watered down Windows Explorer.
  • XCode. Also just in general it left a bad taste in my mouth. Glad I don't do iOS development. I'd probably cry myself to sleep at night.
  • OS X seems to run my CPU and graphics card about 10 degrees hotter then Windows/Linux. Not really sure why, I guess it's taxing them slightly more (even when idle)? Also not sure if this is specific to my set up being a Hackintosh. I'd be interested to try this on a real Mac dual booting to Windows or Linux and see how it compares.
  • Lots of apps cost money whereas most equivalents in the Windows or Linux world are free. Not the end of the world, but it can be somewhat annoying when I know of a great and free equivalent app for Windows/Linux but need to pay for the same thing in OS X, especially if it's got a smaller feature set on OS X.

Conclusion

Overall I've been very impressed with the current state of Hackintosh-ing. With the right hardware it certainly does seem to leave you with a very functional and stable system. I haven't had OS X crash on my once, and I've certainly been doing a lot more heavy things with it then reading email and browsing the web.

As far as OS X in general, I have to admit that I kind of like it. I did the Hackintosh thing in the first place because I was looking for a "unix-y" operating system which also had better support for games then Linux does. OS X lacks customizability in a lot of areas, but none of them so far have been deal breakers for me. Also I really, really like the fact that it's also a developer friendly operating system like Linux is. In some ways even moreso then Linux with respect to helpful and easy to use developer tools. I would Hackintosh my laptop if I could. However Hackintoshing a laptop is almost always a futile exercise. Paying the "Apple Tax" for a MacBook is not going to happen. I don't really play games on my laptop anyway, so Arch Linux + Gnome3 is fine.

Looks like I'll be sticking with OS X for now. Until Apple finds a way to enclose it in their walled garden crap anyway.