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Russell Standish
Russell Standish

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Living la vida Hackintosh

Like many, I make a living from open source software development, which I develop on Linux, but then build on Windows and Macintosh. I do have a Mac, a rather cute Mac mini, which is a cost effective way of owning the platform, however it does have a couple of disadvantages:

  1. I need to test my software on a minimally installed user machine, not my developer machine, to ensure I have bundled all the necessary dynamic libraries required for my software to run.
  2. I need to build a 32 bit version of the software for maximum compatibility, whereas my Mac mini is 64 bits
  3. I’d like to have my Macintosh environment with me when travelling, without having to throw the mac mini in my suitcase, along with montor, keyboard etc.

Yes, I know, I could buy a Mac laptop, but I don’t particularly like MacOS for my development environment, so it would still be an extra piece of hardware to throw into the suitcase.

The answer to all of these questions is to load MacOSX onto a Virtual Machine, such as Oracle’s Virtual Box, available as Freeware. Initially, I loaded the MacOSX Snow Leopard distribution provided with my Mac Mini into Virtual Box. This worked on some versions of Virtual Box, but not others, so I was constantly having to ignore the pleading to upgrade Virtual Box. Then I discovered I could run the Vbox image on my main Linux computer, provided I didn’t need to boot it, as MacOSX checks that it is running on genuine hardware at boot time only. This was a great liberation – I could now do the Macintosh portioon of my work from the comfort of my linux workstation.

Then, unfortunately, upgrades happened – both the Mac Mini to Yosemite, and my Linux machine to OpenSUSE 13. With the upgrades, Virtual Box also neeeded to be upgraded, with the result that the VMs would only run on the Mac Mini. Unhappy day.

But now I have discovered the iBoot tool from Tony Mac This great tool allows one to install a “Hackintosh”, Macintosh operating system running on a virtual machine anywhere – exactly what I need. Whilst Apple seem to take a dim view towards people running their software on virtual machines – really that is exactly what I need to do, and all other alternatives don’t cut the mustard.

To get iBoot to work took a little bit of getting used. The most important points were:

  1. Ensure EFI boot is disabled. Virtual Box will enable it by default if you tell it you’re loading MacOSX.
  2. Other settings to be selected are PA/NX, VT-x/AMD-V and Nested Paging
  3. Under display, select 3D acceleration, and about 20MB of video memory
  4. Make sure the SATA type is AHCI
  5. The other item that really tripped me up was getting the correct version of iBoot. Initially, I downloaded iBoot-3.3.0, which did not work. What I had to do was consult my processor information in /proc/cpuinfo, which told me:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4770 CPU @ 3.40GHz

Then I looked up Intel chips on Wikipedia, and found that chip’s model number on the “Haswell” page. So I needed to download iBoot-Haswell-1.0.1, which did the trick.

With the iBoot.iso file, put it into your virtual DVD drive, and boot up your virtual machine. If you already have MacOSX installed in your VM, you can use the right arrow key to select it and boot it. Since that is the situation I found myself in, that is what I did. However, if you don’t, you just replace the iBoot.iso image with a MacOSX install disk, and boot that instead.

That’s it. I’m now in the processing of cloning one of my VMs and upgrading it to Yosemite! Wish me luck.

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