Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh

Thanks to a kind soul, I’ve been fiddling around with this since earlier this week:

Mini 9 - About This Mac

A Dell Mini 9, refurb from the Dell Outlet. 1024×600 screen, 16G solid-state disk, and an Atom N270 CPU. I’ve upgraded it to 2G of RAM, and just today installed the “US-International” keyboard to have a more “standard” layout.

I used this method to install Mac OS X on the system. It runs great – for the sort of things that I use it for, the performance is just as good (not as fast, but “just as good”) as my circa-2006 Core Duo 13″ MacBook.

Apple does not condone “hackintoshing”, but I would buy an Apple portable in this form factor if they would release one. I’ve owned thirteen different Apple systems in the past ten years.

The Mini 9 was discontinued a few weeks ago, but Dell replaced it with the Mini 10v. Three guys from my Masonic lodge have now ordered Mini 10v systems after seeing my Mini 9 earlier this week.

Home Mac desktop upgrades finished

Tonight I upgraded my Mac Mini here at home with a new hard drive and went from 3G to 4G of RAM.

The old disk was a 120G, 5400rpm and 8M of cache. The new disk is a Western Digital “Scorpio Black” 250G, 7200rpm and 16M of cache.

The RAM upgrade swapped a 2G SODIMM in place of an existing 1G. It adds 1G of memory, but only around 350M of that is usable due to x86 chipset limitations and address space. I figured I might as well max out the system while I had it open, and the memory was only $20.

So far I’ve noticed that boot time was a lot quicker, and applications seem to launch a lot faster. Will run some actual disk tests once I finish tweaking some Time Machine backups.

Update: XBench disk scores have almost doubled compared to the original internal drive.

Disk Upgrade Done, More Projects Ahead

Upgraded the disks on my home setup today. Went from a pair of Hitachi 500G Deskstar drives to a pair of Western Digital WD10EADS “Green” (power-saving, cooler-running) disks.

One disk is primary external storage, while the other is the Time Machine backup disk for both my internal hard drive on the Mac Mini and the data on the other 1T external disk.

Tomorrow’s project is to move my Windows gaming PC back into the “lab” room where it belongs, clean up the dining room, and then setup the clamp lights I bought today as a cheap DIY photo studio for experimentation.

I bought an Apple TV

I finally broke down last night and bought an Apple TV. I got the $229 model with a 40G hard drive as I don’t need much local storage.

Got it home, got it setup and working in less than ten minutes, and then proceeded to follow the directions on the atvusb-creator web page and make a USB “patchstick”.

Once the unit was patched and SSH enabled, I was able to SSH in and install NitoTV Take 2. NitoTV has built-in installers for the Perian codecs and other utilities. After that was done, I shared my “TV Shows” and “Movies” directories on the Mac Mini via SMB and mounted them via the GUI interface on the AppleTV.

Now, to watch any of my DivX/XviD/MP4/AVI movies, I just pick “NitoTV” from the main AppleTV menu, then go to “Files” and then browse the “Movies” or “TV Shows” directories and hit PLAY.

It couldn’t have been any easier to setup (certainly easier than other “hacks” I’ve seen for commercial devices) and the output looks great on my 42″ plasma TV (an Akai PDP4206EM – it’s not HD, but does 480i “EDTV”).

Giving up on the Mighty Mouse

I’ve given up on the Apple Mighty Mouse, having gone through two of them since 2005. I finally got fed up with having to completely dissasemble it to properly clean the ball rollers every couple of months, and then either glue or tape the “retaining ring” back onto the bottom of the mouse.

In my opinion, Apple really should have made the scroll ball optical instead of mechanical rollers and Hall-effect sensors, and they should have designed it to be easily cleanable. Apple’s suggestion to “Roll the ball vigorously while cleaning with water” while holding the mouse upside down” is NOT an acceptable solution. More than once, I had to completely take apart the Mighty Mouse, unscrew the “ball module” from the top shell, and then take THAT module apart to be able to clean the gunk from the tiny rollers with magnetic ends.

I tried every solution in the book to avoid dissasembly, but none of them worked for long. Saliva, Windex, tiny adhesive tape strips wrapped around the ball, etc. I had moderate success with Hoppe’s #9 gun-cleaning solvent, but even that only worked for a week or two before the rollers started gunking up again.

If the Mighty Mouse wasn’t $49, it might be a different story – I’d just go buy a new one every six months. For now, I’ve replaced it with a $25 Logitech LX3 optical mouse. The only problems I’ve ever had with Logitech mice were their microswitches wearing out after four or five years of heavy use.

As a final note, I’ll say that the Mighty Mouse is only the second piece of Apple hardware that I’ve “given up” on – the first was the original FireWire iSight camera. I bought one in 2004, and returned it for a refund the next day – for $150, I expected much better audio and video quality than I got from the camera.

The MacBook Returns

… with a bonus.

I sent it off to get a dead hard drive and a discolored top-half fixed.

It came back with a new hard drive (OSX 10.4 preloaded of course), new top-half (still with the protective plastic cover on it), and a couple of other minor recall issues fixed.

However, I sent the machine off with a single 512M SODIMM installed.
It came back with that 512M SODIMM *and* a 256M SODIMM installed.

Would be a nice free bonus, if I didn’t already have two 1G SODIMMs here waiting on it – I just put the “official Apple” 512M SODIMM in it when I sent it in for service, as Apple gets really picky about third-party memory and my 1G SODIMMs are Crucial-brand.

Happy Ending to my AppleCare experience

Someone from the Apple Store called this afternoon and said that my iMac was repaired and ready for pickup.
Both the 20″ LCD panel and the SuperDrive were replaced (under warranty).

Thanks to Aaron and the other hardware techs at the Houston Galleria Apple Store (just no thanks to the particular Genius I dealt with on Sunday afternoon when I dropped the machine off).

Interesting fact: LG makes the LCDs for the 20″ Core Duo iMac systems.