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Month: January 2020

Building a Hackintosh

Have you ever built a computer? It’s pretty easy. You select the parts you want, do a little bit of homework to make sure they work together, purchase the parts, and then put them together. You put the processor in its slot, you put the GPU in that slot, and you put the RAM in those slots. Everything has a place where it fits. From there, you install Windows (also pretty easy) and you’re off to the races, free to do whatever it is people do with computers. Anyone with just a little technical aptitude and some attention to detail can figure out how to build a computer in an afternoon or so. Did you like building legos as a kid, especially those Technics kits with the gears that turned into cars with working steering columns or whatever? Then you can build a computer. It’s actually kind of fun and pretty satisfying.

Now. Have you ever tried building a Hackintosh?

That is an entirely different beast.

A “Hackintosh”, for those not in the know, is a PC built with off-the-shelf parts that runs MacOS.

With a normal PC, all you have to do is make sure your parts work together. There’s quite a lot of wiggle room. With a Hackintosh, you not only have to make sure your parts work together, but also that all your parts can be made to work with an OS that does not natively support them. But that’s not all! After putting it all together, you have to then trick the computer into thinking it’s a Mac running native, supported hardware. You’re right, that does sound hard!

Oh, wow, these Threadripper Hackintoshes look neat! Oh. No. Creative Cloud doesn’t work.

Maybe I’ll go x299 over z390 for the extra juice! Damn. Documentation is sparse.

Do I need to buy a new power supply? Seems like the draw math works, but you don’t really know until everything’s plugged in.

Is it time to replace my ancient Firewire 800 audio interface so I can remove the PCIe card I had to add to make it work? The less stuff plugged in, the less there is to troubleshoot.

Are there native drivers for my chosen GPU? Nope! Nvidia and Apple are in a fight, so AMD is the only choice.

Will the Samsung M.2 SSDs work? Nope! MacOS hates the chipset that runs them. Time to find some M.2 SSDs that don’t use that chipset.

Should I reuse the tower CPU cooler I already have? Maybe, but it’s pretty big and I have no idea if the new RAM will clear. But will MacOS drive the AIO watercooler I am looking at?

What settings do I need to include in my DSDT? My SSDT? ACPI? What kexts? How do I set up the bootloader? OpenCore or Clover? Which UEFI settings? There’s a forum guide for slightly different hardware for the previous OS, so maybe that will help?

And so on and so on and so on. The questions never end. It’s an absolute nightmare.

I bet you’re asking yourself the smart question “Why on Earth would anyone subject themselves to this torture?” Price. The price to build a machine is often just a fraction of what Apple would charge for something roughly equivalent. Of course, with Apple you’re getting reliability, a warranty, and some premium touches. We don’t need those!

However, Apple has a tendency to let hardware languish for years without a refresh. Look at the trashcan Mac Pro. They released it in 2013 and gave it a single, modest spec boost once before the new 2019 Mac Pro was released. One specification update in six years. No good. There was no way to update that little machine either. You were stuck with what you bought. You can update a Hackintosh (if you like opening the gates to Hell).

And I’ve done this before! Back in late 2013 I started down the Hackintosh road. In fact, the computer that resulted from that is the computer I am typing this on right now. I built it to replace an aging Mac Pro that could no longer handle the HD video footage I threw at it as part of my job. This machine, affectionately named “The Dark Tower”, has served me pretty well in that regard these last few years.

It has never worked perfectly, though. I suspect that a lot of that is to do with my inexperience putting it together seven years ago. Maybe I didn’t pick exactly the right parts. Maybe I skipped some crucial, but tiny, step in the install process. Maybe the hardware is slowly dying after all this time. Who knows! I’ve taken it apart, rebuilt it, and reinstalled both Windows and MacOS many times since then. I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.

It is also stuck on High Sierra because Nvidia is no longer producing MacOS drivers for the 980 Ti GPU I have. My High Sierra install is crunchy and unstable no matter how much I do to fix it. The Dark Tower has had it’s day and now its time to replace it. I have some potential video work coming up and this machine is not up to the task.

Now I have a few questions to answer.

  • Do I stick with the dual boot Windows/Hackintosh format?

  • Do I go Windows-only? Most of the software I run works on both platforms, though I still prefer the Mac for work.

  • Do I build a 12-core monster or an 8-core smaller-monster? We’re talking about maybe a $600 difference. Significant, but not game-changing.

  • If I go Windows-only, do I build an AMD Threadripper machine? Price is roughly the same as upgrading to the 8-core machine.

  • Do I just buy an actual Macintosh desktop computer?! This is by far the most expensive, but least stressful option.

So much to consider. Wish me luck. I’m diving in. Me and Colonel Panic are going to be getting real intimate.

The Theme for 2020: Wonder

Cynicism is a shackle.

Cynicism is a shackle and being jaded is uncool and dumping on people who are putting themselves out there is a drag.

For too long I have indulged this sort of needless negativity and I feel pretty done with it. It’s a habit I (and many others) developed as a teenager and so thoroughly internalized that it’s become a dominant personality trait. But that sucks! When you have a bad habit, you try to undo it, right? Drinking too much? Cut it out. Get soft around the tum-tum? Go to the gym. Being a cynical jerk about stuff? Embrace wonder. I limit myself and the potential richness of my life by immediately writing things off that maybe aren’t the best. Or things that I perceive might not be the best. How might my life now, as a 37 year old man, be fuller if I hadn’t spent so many years thinking things were stupid because it made me feel cool? It’s terrible, and if that makes me cynical about cynicism, then so be it.

I want to get to a place where I can just be excited about things without tempering that excitement with a bad attitude. I want to go to an open mic night and genuinely think to myself, You know, that was pretty good. I want to see a dad-rock band at a local festival and not roll my eyes. I want to read the clumsy poetry of the world and not dismiss it out of hand. I want to like things because I like things and not justify my tastes. I want to take pleasure in the weird experiences that I find myself in all the time. I want to find the magic in creating things that are not masterpieces. I want to welcome the broken and wonky into my heart. I want to silence that damned voice that says so many terrible things to me. I want to embrace the joy of small, imperfect things because life is full of small, imperfect things and dismissing them robs you of so many chances for happiness.

The theme for 2020 will be:

The Year of Wonder

Maybe I mean something closer to “the year of positive attitude” or “the year of not being a judgy dickhead” or “the year of just giving it a damn rest already with the negativity”, but none of those are as punchy as The Year of Wonder so that is what we are going with.

It seems to me that embracing wonder comes in two distinct flavors: inward and outward. That is, am I directing my bad attitude at myself or am I directing it at others. I think this differentiation is pretty easy to follow.

My struggles with being creative are legendary and well-documented. I have written about it extensively before here on The Black Laser. I am sure all this results from this persistent negative voice inside me. I am sure that the same sense that makes me think someone else’s work is worthless is the same sense that makes me think my work is worthless. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right?

Why beat myself up for the imagined failures of work I am not producing? It is better to produce and release 85% perfect work, than it is to beat myself up forever because the work isn’t 100% perfect and then never release anything at all. Get over it, Joe, and just be happy that the 85% work is out there. If I consider every single thing I’ve ever created professionally, there might be a handful of works that were in the 85% to 90% range. The rest were lower than that for whatever external reality causing issues. And I made a living that way! The world isn’t looking for works that are 100% perfect. That is impossible. Just do your best and people will respond.

And this attitude is never limited to just myself, either. Why can’t I just accept that someone has worked hard on something and is doing their best to share something of themselves? Perhaps they don’t sing with Bing Crosby’s syrupy voice, or perhaps they don’t shred like St Vincent, or perhaps they don’t craft the taught, lurid prose of Shirley Jackson, but so what? The creative drive is within all of us. For the most part, I really believe, people are just doing their best to express their own truths. Why poo-poo that? Encourage people to live their lives. That starts with not being yet another negative voice in a sea of negative voices. Negativity is easy, but negativity is lazy.

It’s a bad behavior it and it needs to stop.

This year is the year I work to stop it. I imagine it will be a difficult path, one from which I will stray regularly. You don’t change 37 years of bad behavior in a single blog post. But, it is something I want to work on. Just getting over the mental hump that kept me away from The Black Laser for so long is the first step. Christ, it’s not like I haven’t had anything stewing in my head the last few years. It’s just that the voice was so loud, so persistent, that I felt stuck.

Well, I’m back. Hi. Missed you too. Let’s be positive this year.