Friday, August 12, 2005

Mac Hacks Allow OS X on PCs

Wired News reports Imagine if your next Mac cost you only $300, and ran faster than any G4 or G5 you've ever used. That future may already be unfolding: Hackers have found a way to bypass a chip designed to prevent the Mac OS from running on non-Apple PCs, which are often cheaper than Macs. Some of the hackers are running the tweaked version of the operating system on their PCs natively. Others are using the system with VMware, which allows the Mac OS to support more PC hardware.

I bet Apple is ticked off.
Hackers and curious computer users this week have been downloading the tweaked Mac OS X for PCs, nicknamed "OSx86," from several websites connected to the BitTorrent file-distribution system. OSx86 is designed to run on Apple Computer's next generation of hardware, which some call "MacIntels" and others "MacTels" because the machines will run on Intel microprocessors rather than the PowerPC processor used in current Macs. The hacked version of OSx86 is based on pirated software, which came from copies of the operating system sent to participants in the Apple Developer Connection. The ADC participants also received MacIntel computers for testing and development. Now the hacked version of OSx86 is running on Dell laptops and other PCs with Intel and AMD microprocessors. "Mileage varies depending on what kind of hardware you're using, but it (OSx86) is working on several PCs," said "Mashugly," a college student majoring in communications who manages the OSx86 Project, a community of developers interested in the new operating system. No one knows exactly why OSx86 appears to be running faster on the PCs than the Mac OS does on today's Macs.
I suspect the Macs need to run a hardware interpreter on the Intel instruction set.
"To be honest, we're not sure," said a hacker nicknamed "cmoski," who said he works for a large software company. "Some in the Pentium camp want to say, 'Because a Pentium is faster, of course,' some want to say (Intel chip architectures are better than Apple's) and some in the PowerPC camp just want to say that it isn't full OS X (running on the beta systems)." The hacked OSx86 bypasses a chip, the Trusted Platform Module, or TPM, that is intended to prevent the system from running on ordinary PCs. "We have even gone so far as to remove the TPM kernel extension called AppleTPMACPI.kext entirely," said cmoski. The impact of the OSx86 hack on Apple's hardware brand could be severe. The hack shows that Steve Jobs' company will be turning out machines indistinguishable from any other PC, or "white box," said German hacker Michael "mist" Steil. "Apple wants to avoid the word getting out that (MacIntels) are just PCs, and that (OSx86) works on PCs," said Steil.
Apple could have had a much larger segment of the market if it had been as bright as IBM was. IBM was content to just skim the cream off a huge market, selling to customers that would pay more for the IBM name, but Apple made sure that its software would only run on Apple Hardware, thus giving it the complete, but much much smaller pie.
Steil made a name for himself hacking Microsoft's Xbox game console. He has seen the hacked OSx86 running on a PC, and has been watching the conversations at the OSx86 Project website. But he said he is not hacking the operating system himself.

No comments: