Friday, September 21, 2007

Apple's OS X on a Dell Notebook

I remember hearing a long while back that a couple of guys had got OS X to boot up on generic Intel based hardware. It was a lot easier considering Apple ported their operating system over to the Intel platform with the intention of only using it for their specific machines (now with Intel processors). When it happened, it excited a lot of people. But the guys who put it together said "don't get your hopes up ... it barely operates".

Since then, there have been many late nights for a growing pack of nerds that insist on making OS X available for any old Intel based PC. While the process of getting OS X onto your PC may still be rather tricky, it's certainly getting easier. I probably spent 10 hours or more throughout the week going between two different hacked together distributions. I would boot to the DVD okay, get all the way through an installation, and then hit a big brick wall.

My frustrations were echoed by the thousands in the posts of other nerds who were also wasting away hours trying to make this work. "I get the white and gray Apple logo screen ... then it goes black". Me too. "After the install, it just stops at a blinking cursor". I've had that. "I got it installed, but nothing really works". Amen.

By the end of the day I had a fully working installation of OS X Tiger, with sound, and network support. The marriage between a Dell notebook and OS X was a rocky one, but I was surprised at how well it worked. The animations were a bit sluggish but web browsing with Firefox was quite impressive. In my mind I was thinking "this emulates really well!". But alas, there is no emulation here. This is OS X running natively ... on a Dell. How fun. Yet there is something a little weird about seeing such an elegant and well crafted operating system appearing over the "DELL" logo.

The question does remain though, "so you have OS X on your laptop ... now what?". The Intel based OS X has not been around very long, so there is a limited set of applications that work on it. If you were to buy an Apple computer, with the new Intel OS X installed on it, you would have an application called Rosetta. Rosetta makes it possible to run all of your Classic Mac applications by making use of some old Apple CPU tricks. Because you don't have those extra components in an Intel based PC ... you are not likely going to have Rosetta running smoothly (or at all) for some time.

In the mean time though, I can say this. Having OS X at arms reach in the office put a smile on my face. And while my co-workers were unimpressed, I was able to point out a few things like "Expose" and say "Here's that feature that Microsoft stole for Vista ... but didn't implement nearly as well".