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What the Hackintosh community wants in the new modular Mac Pro (9to5mac.com)
79 points by ingve on Apr 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments

I've got a Hackintosh as my main system, I love it.

I dual boot macOS (default) and Windows 10 on it. A nice feature is that I can use my Windows installation while I'm using macOS through virtualization (Parallels), yet boot natively to the same Windows installation when I need the full performance.

Getting the Hackintosh working properly was hard as hell though, although I kinda enjoyed it since I'm a geek. Now that I've got it working, it works flawlessly. Recommended for people who want to save money/maximize performance and don't mind the grueling effort required.

How much effort was required?

I'm curious because I've been considering building one for a while, but the reports from idly skimming eg tonymacx86 are all over the place. Some say as long as you buy from their build guide it's very easy, and some people seem to have tons of problems anyway.

My main desktop is a hackintosh.

It took maybe an afternoon to build, and then a few more hours to get running. It's been running solid ever since.

Everything works (thunderbolt 3, usb 3, sound, airdrop, iMessage, handoff, etc) except you can't use apps that use SceneKit. So iBooks, Xcode instruments and SceneKit editor don't work. You can get them to work, by using Apple's drivers, but its a pita.

Some people claim the new nvidia pascal drivers work for SceneKit, but I've not upgraded to a 1080 yet so I can't confirm.

This is my build: https://pcpartpicker.com/list/gwV6qk

SceneKit apparently works if you enable the Intel iGPU. The issue is related to driver signing; it happens on real Mac hardware too and Nvidia has acknowledged the issue.

It's fun if it is the project itself. Don't plan on using it for real work unless you like uncertainty or pain with every update, though. I would never use one outside of a hobby as things currently stand.

I use mine every day for work.

If you build using Clover only, you can upgrade as soon as Nvidia releases new web drivers (for point updates) straight through the App Store.

The only issue is SceneKit based apps.

Sounds like things have improved since I last built one. I personally still wouldn't use something with 'works except for...', but I'm glad it's working for you. And I hope the hackintosh community can push Apple to release something more oriented to the tech crowd.

Do you know if SceneKit apps also fail if you only use the integrated GPU?

Virtualization (e.g. https://github.com/kholia/OSX-KVM) can help a lot by reducing your dependence on specific parts. If you stick with an Intel CPU and a motherboard with an IOMMU and a well supported graphics card you're pretty likely to be okay. IOMMU support has gotten to be super common, even on lower end processors and motherboards.

yeah. i see the same thing.

another option besides buying from Apple or building one yourself: go on craigslist and search for hackintoshes.

you may find an experienced hackintosher who can build one for you. it's still a little dicey, but there are individuals out there who can create reliable beasts far more powerful than anything Apple sells today. (i'm certainly not one of them. much too conventional. i just buy from Apple.)

Mind sharing your build?

Gigabyte Z270X Ultra Gaming

Intel Core-i5 7600k (4,6Ghz OC)

32GB 3200MHz DDR4 RAM

Nvidia Gefore 970 GTX

Samsung 960 Evo 500GB NVMe SSD

~10TB HDDs

Nice rig, everything work? You have a BT 4.0 for Handoff?

Yup, stuff works great now. I just ordered a BT 4.0 USB a couple of days ago actually, looking forward to it arriving.

What was most frustrating about turning that into a hackintosh?

Another hackingtosh user here. There are various glitches sometimes. For example, my displays down turn on after waking up from sleep.

Also, I still haven't upgraded to Sierra, since the process is a bit more delicate than with regular macs.

All things considered, it's totally worth it for me.

How is it when it comes to OS updates?

Usually, you don't update and wait to see what people say and wait until things are supported and tested. That said, missing out on OS X updates isn't a big deal. In fact, a lot of people prefer staying in older versions until forced to.

It is a big deal when you want fixes for security vulnerabilities. As far as I understand, minor updates can also break a Hackintosh.

Definitely could happen, but it would have to be a confluence of driver and security updates in one.

Security updates and minor upgrades(Example: 10.12.1 to 10.12.2) are generally fine. I keep a checklist of the things that get nuked on OS upgrades.(Internal audio driver gets nuked; just requires reinstalling it.)

I usually wait a few days and check the forums for minor updates, but haven't had any issues in 2 years. Major updates can be a bit more work, but not too much if you're careful and do your research.

Will you be able easily upgrade OS X? for either point updates or major versions?

The last time I built a hackintosh (5 years ago), you had to go through kext hell that took about one day of hacking. I just gave up and bought a Mac.

It's really easy nowadays (if you have the right hardware), you can directly install the official combo update and then it usually only requires one extra reboot to update the graphics driver and possibly repatch sound driver for me, but that whole thing is automated and takes 2 mins extra for every point update every 2 months.

I've been running a 4790k + 980Ti since 10.9 came out, always kept it at the newest release and it's given me much less trouble than Windows in that timeframe.

As long as you have the typical well supported desktop hardware it works really well (intel + nvidia or select amd cards), only if you want it on a laptop or officially unsupported hardware then it quickly becomes a giant pain.

Sometimes it's easy, sometimes Apple breaks drivers. In general I just wait for tonymac to tell me... I really should use his affiliate links or donate.

I've upgraded the same 2010 hardware from 10.6 to 10.12. Installed a GTX 1060 and now I have a 4k-capable machine. You couldn't really do that (either install 10.12 or drive 4k) with a 2010 mac mini or imac, but you would have saved yourself the cummulative ~2 weeks of installation I've put into this over the years.

What were the biggest hurdles in getting it running?

All the dumb little stuff.

For example - I couldn't get my GPU to work so I spent hours troubleshooting it until I discovered a random post on page 45 in thread where someone casually mentioned that his Z170 Gigabyte Motherboard couldn't store NVRAM natively. I have a Z270 Gigabyte MB, so I figured his suggestion would be worth a try. I had to inject a module for my bootloader to add NVRAM support. That should have worked, but I edited my bootloader config.plist file with a text editor so I accidentially corrupted it. Then I had to boot to Windows, find out how to mount my EFI partition, open my bootloader settings file properly and fix the corruption.

Another example - This is how you enable proper USB 3.0 support. As you can see it's not that simple. https://www.tonymacx86.com/threads/guide-creating-a-custom-s...

Thankfully people are extraordinarily helpful, especially some of the moderators.

You can read about some of the problems here:


By "modular", Apple probably means that it is easier for themselves to provide multiple configurations and make updates, rather than end-users having the ability to stick in random cards/drives/memory/CPUs.

If you read the transcript [1] of the meeting closely, when Schiller mentions modular, he seems to be making the distinction that the new Mac Pro would not be an iMac Pro. That is it would continue to be a product that doesn't come with a keyboard or monitor.

Their other answers saying they want to deliver regular updates speaks to what you said, but the part where he actually mentions modular just reads to me as reassuring people that it's not going to be a higher end SKU of an iMac.

>As part of doing a new Mac Pro — it is, by definition, a modular system — we will be doing a pro display as well. Now you won’t see any of those products this year; we’re in the process of that. We think it’s really important to create something great for our pro customers who want a Mac Pro modular system, and that’ll take longer than this year to do.

>I think, as you talk about the pro user, the fact that our user base is split over notebooks, all-in-one desktops and modular desktops is important. We aren’t making one machine for pros. We’re making three different designs for pros. We’re going to continue to.

>We care about our Pro users who use MacBook Pros, who use iMacs and who use Mac Pros, who use modular systems as well as all-in-one systems, who use the pro software we make.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/06/transcript-phil-schiller-c...

I agree, I think they just mean they probably will stop the soldering and glueing of pieces that should be easily replaceable.

I hope they improve things on the iMac as well. The situation with the current iMacs is ridiculous. The 27 inch iMac has user-accessible SO-DIMM slots, but the 21 inch iMac has the memory glued on.

I'm curious, most of the people with the skills to build a hackintosh could easily build a Linux box as well and some probably do. However, is there any reason they just don't go to Linux? Is it hardware support or Adobe?

There are a lot of creative apps out there that tie you to macOS, as well as a bunch of software workflow issues—drag & drop, copy & paste, etc. work really well on macOS. Even for really boring workflows like sorting through media files I find that the stock macOS file browser is superior to specialized media management apps on Linux. Some obvious apps are Mac-only like Final Cut and Logic, and if those are the apps which you use for your creative workflow, you don't want to switch. Telling me to switch from Logic to Reaper is like telling me that I should switch from Gibson to Ibanez or something like that—it's not just an issue of features + stability + price, it's an issue of personal preference. To give you an idea of the kind of issues we're talking about here, I can't stand the piano roll editor in Reason, which is a perfectly fine DAW and lovely to use otherwise, but I adore the piano roll editor in Logic. I couldn't articulate what makes one UX better than the other, and it seems like they both have feature parity, but the differences are important to me. In other cases it is actually an issue of feature parity, like Final Cut's amazing proxy capabilities (unless I'm wrong).

Don't get me started on the poor state of creative apps for Linux in general. GIMP is literally incapable of performing half the steps in my favorite photo editing workflows (features missing which were present in Photoshop 5.0 from 1998), and Audacity makes me angry more than any other piece of software I have ever used. Inkscape and Krita are decent, though.

The poor piano roll is the main thing that keeps me from committing to Reason too. There are so many things I really love about Reason but the piano roll seems to have been frozen in time a decade ago.

Thanks for the informative reply!

Two deal breakers:

1. None of the Ui packages out there in Linux is as good as macOS.

1.5. Gestures. Though I can live without one, I've grown accustomed to the slick motions.

2. Chinese input on Linux is unusable. It was so confusing I gave up setting it up on my (was) Ubuntu installation.

I use gnome3 and think it's great.


Try Fedora.

I've tried Vietnamese on Elementary OS and have to scratch my head just to find how to get and make ibus works. I don't think all other people want to deal with things like this.

Gestures are easy. Just install libinput-gestures, make it launch on startup, and you're good to go.

You can get really close on point #1 with some work. I've never looked into gestures, and I don't write Chinese, so I can't speak to those.

Re #1: Yes, maybe I could get the main use cases to approximate OS X well. But (a) I don't want to learn how multiple windowing systems work and how to script them, and (b) then to fine tune them so corner cases are covered: how to integrate Gnome and KDE applications so their menu bars have the same shortcuts for the same operations, use the same font, have the same DPI scaling, etc... It's a never-ending set of options to fiddle with, little cohesive documentation, and no objective criteria to decide when they've been fiddled enough. Not saying it's a fault of Linux, but that's what we get in a open source ecosystem where the kernel team doesn't dictate how the desktop works.

I wasn't responding to "approximating OS X," I was saying you can get the UI to be "as good as" OS X, with some work.

I think the problems I gave examples of do relate to the UI. If not, then what we define as "UI" seems pretty trivial.

Linux isn't nearly as fluid/polished/nice as macOS tends to be, and has a severe lack of good apps.

I can't even find a good calendar app for Linux.

It's amazing just how lousy calendaring on Linux has been.

What about the Lightning add-on for Thunderbird? Has that been of any use?

There is the calendar command, I think that will tell you about stuff coming up in the day/week if I remember correctly.

Anecdote: I've been running Linux at home for 10 years, but I can see myself switching to OSX because the input methods for Chinese characters are so much better. Even googles ones are top notch.

Xcode and Safari are dealbreakers if you're a mobile developer or developing for the modern web. (Sorry guys, Safari is the mobile web, and it's mac-only.)

Other than that, I would be happy (likely happier) on linux vs. OSX or MacOS or whatever. I do not game, and living on the same basic bones as my servers is a win.

For me it's mainly because even the smoothest Linux experience isn't as smooth as macOS for various reasons. Smoothness in Linux setups is frustratingly spotty sometimes, and while it can often be fixed with some time tinkering, more often than not I just don't have patience for that these days.

Of course, this may relate to how I compute and the software I use, but it doesn't quite line up with me. Nevertheless, I keep a fedora partition around for tinkering when the mood strikes.

Recently tried out Elementary and Ubuntu before going with a Hackintosh. I would have considered keeping Linux if support for high DPI screens wasn't so bad.

> However, is there any reason they just don't go to Linux?

One of the many reasons is desktop Linux has a terrible and well deserved reputation. Most people don't have any great yearning in their loins to switch operating systems so they would prefer to keep using what works for them. Desktop Linux would have to be a lot better than macOS to get people to even consider trying it out.

I use desktop Linux and Mac OS. The latter Just Works and most proprietary software has a version that works with it.

Lately, however, I've had to janitor my Mac more than my Linux system. Experienced more kernel panics with it as well.

> I think it’s also important that Apple continues to keep the CPUs in Mac Pros socketed.#5

Honestly I wonder if this is actually the future of CPUs or if it will all be soldered in. That, and RAM too. The history of computers is a history of demodularization. Unlike, say, 15 years ago, today I expect a high-end CPU + Memory configuration to remain high-end for a few years, so I'm not worried about upgradability. That's definitely not true with GPUs.

Mac Pro represent may be 1% of Mac Sales, and in terms of volume it is likely to be a rounding error for Apple.

If this assumption is correct, I wonder why Apple doesn't make a high price but also high value machine. Aiming at Prosumers, Pro Gamers ( If they are still on Mac ) and Professionals. With starting price of $1299. The lowest config could have been done with AMD Zen 2 and non ECC Memory. And Scale up all the way to 32 Core Zen and 256GB ECC Memory. It fix the developer's need for a "Desktop" Machine to program the iPhone, or Web Development. And the years' of cry for just "Mac". And Something clearly the Mac mini shouldn't be aiming at.

I still believe there is at least another 5 - 10 years of life in Mac before we sunset it, and unless Apple will be moving to ARM Mac ( which i doubt they will ), there is no better time to bring some of these people into the Apple's ecosystem. Whether it is iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

What distinguishes the Mac ecosystem over other PC OS'es is that the small number of supported hardware configurations makes it possible to do much more thorough system-level testing and optimization. The result is a much more stable and secure OS. As soon as you start letting users swap out components without restriction, you're going to see user experience decline.

EDIT: I'm still fully expecting Apple to allow change-outs of key components through Apple-supplied upgrades.

I've been using a Linux workstation for the past year and actually feel like I could go with a Linux laptop too. I was contemplating Hackintosh but no need. I only miss the Magic Trackpad.

Atom + Chrome (with a dozen extensions) makes web development a breeze. I can do a lot of quality front-end work.

You're also not stuck with god awful Homebrew for installing dependencies. OS X is a pretty hostile place for developers who don't live out of XCode.

I've only used Homebrew to install Node and that went well. What're the areas Homebrew gets ugly?

Install a modern Bash and set it as your default shell. When Homebrew updates (which it does automatically now) you might be locked out of your Terminal.

`brew --prefix package` returns the latest installable package, and not the version you actually have installed.

Also things like: https://github.com/Homebrew/brew/issues/2402

It tries to do too much and ends up being a never ending surprise from hell.

(The solution to the Bash issue is to hard code the path for chsh, etc.)

I've never had issues with Homebrew, and no one I know has either.

I have had apt refuse to install npm because of a full /boot partition (Imagine if Homebrew refused to run because I couldn't update OS X)

I think it's ironic you say homebrew is the one trying to do too much...

What. I've seen issues with Homebrew at every company/team I've worked with since it came out. The solution is always the same: Use vagrant and chef/puppet for your development environment.

Meanwhile, apt packages are incredibly stable, install the same way every time, and are exactly what you'd run on the server anyway. You can use PPAs if you need bleeding edge versions.

I really don't know what to tell you then, because I've yet to see a Homebrew installation that couldn't install packages, but many times I've had apt break and require either fixing something unrelated to installing my packages (like failed upgrades) or copying and pasting some dpkg invocations until things weren't broken anymore. And when I mention the latter most Linux users I've spoken to say PPAs are a great way to end up doing that (I don't want to start vetting PPAs when I need software, I've never had an issue with a Homebrew installation, be it bleeding edge or old as dirt and requiring finding an old version).

I have no idea how you'd compare Vagrant to... homebrew. Sometimes it's convenient to have software on my actual machine, not a VM...

Talking about trackpads, I toyed with a MS Surface Pro at a store. I hate trackpads with a passion (unlike trackpoints) but I felt different about the MS SP one. Extremely precise and right material. I wonder if the latest Mac have a similar grade device.

Conventional wisdom is that Mac laptops have had the best trackpads since the 2006 macbook pro. When did you last try a Mac trackpad? On the other had, only recently has Microsoft started build/licensing well tuned trackpads.

I probably touched a few between 2006 and 2010 but not sure. Also since these were Macs Im not sure I wasnt ignoring it because it's the level I expect from Apple. Unlike Windows machines.

What do I do about Lightroom and Photoshop CC?

Maybe get a system with 2 GPU's and do GPU passthrough of an OS X VM?

Have a MacBook Pro on the side because time is expensive and you need a laptop anyway.

Also known as "please tell us how you might try to make our system more open so we know where to close it off."

I wouldn't mind if the CPU remained soldered - I don't think I've ever done an upgrade that didn't require a new chipset too.

Give me standard ram, m2 slots, and pcie graphics card slot, and I will order on day one.

"Here's what people who don't buy Macs want Apple to do"

These people would probably be buying macs if they could get more out of the hardware. Macs are losing the power race, which is fine for most people, but not for some.

I didn't find it very difficult to make the switch from OS X to Windows. It's not like Apple have built some hyper revolutionary operating system that is years ahead of the competition. They're all similar and people complain about the little differences, like driving on one side of the road or the other. Really it's just minor things and you get used to it.

It's so much better being on the side of the fence where you have more control of your hardware. I don't think I could ever go back to a Mac desktop now I'm used to having so much control.

What extra control did you get?

Being able to use both major brands of gpu, being able to adopt tech when it comes out not when Apple rolls it out.

Alternatively how about being able to get a flexible modular upgradable desktop starting at 500 instead of starting at 3500.

This list could easily be a mile long.

I am waiting to see what iMacs Apple announces. I'd rather pay a premium and buy a legitimate Mac, but, if they don't announce anything for a few more months, or if the specs disappoint, I might build a Hackintosh.

me too. one of the things I'd like to see them do with the iMac is offer overclocking and better cooling (i do a lot of work that doesn't benefit much from multiple cores. i need single-thread speed.)

i doubt they will though.

Give Windows 10 a try, it's pretty good.

That's what I have now. Windows 10 is OK-ish, but I miss macOS a lot. My plan is to buy a very strong iMac for my home office, and keep my Dell XPS 13 laptop with Windows 10 for when I am mobile.

Yeah, that was my first thought too. Has Apple ever seen a single dime from the "Hackintosh community"? Why would they care about what people who by defintion are not customers want?

>Has Apple ever seen a single dime from the "Hackintosh community"?

My first three Mac systems as a poor student were Hackintoshes. Couldn't afford a real Macbook. The first one was a Dell Mini 9, which was a $200 netboook that could somehow run Snow Leopard flawlessly (with significant contributions from the community of course).

As a working professional, I have spent close to $10k on Apple hardware in the past two years. I've also helped them make quite a bit of money through their App Store cut.

I recently put together a dual-booting Windows 10/OSX system for usage at home, used for both gaming and development. I spent about $1200 on it, and I couldn't even get an equivalent desktop from Apple no matter how much I spent. My ceiling would have probably been around $3k.

> My ceiling would have probably been around $3k.

That gets you real close to buying an iMac for development and a PC for gaming. I think this is part of the reason Apple has pulled back from the high end. Hardware is cheap enough that we can use different devices for different purposes now. There are often some good advantages to doing it too. I like having my workstation in the office, my gaming PC in the living room, and a tiny little laptop for travel. That would have cost me close to $10k a decade ago!

Nobody would run a Hackintosh unless they were enthusiastic about Apple's software and Apple in general. Otherwise, why put up with the trouble? I think that most of these people have a long history of buying things from Apple and really are customers. The issue here isn't piracy, but whether Apple is willing to listen to people who use non-Apple hardware. And since Apple's PCs aren't selling all that well, why refuse to consider input from people who love your stuff and can suggest slightly different approaches?

Even people who never bought anything from Apple before are customers by definition the moment they do buy something from Apple. If Apple is trying to make money, it doesn't seem smart to take a dogmatic stance that the money of new customers isn't worth having. Everyone is by definition a possible future customer.

Apple has a long history with tactics like gluing things shut, obfuscating software, enforcing walled gardens, banning the GPL, and an unusual degree of legal aggression toward people trying to interoperate with their products. There seems to be a well-established groupthink among Apple and its fans that this is the only possible future for Apple.

But when Apple is more extreme on these tactics than almost any company that's still in the PC business, yet is not selling all that well, it really proves the viability of softer approaches. Apple can make money, depending on its execution maybe even a lot more money, by leaving this playbook behind. They could end Windows, taking all their existing fans, and adding new ones. But they can't do it until they can learn some humility from their epic steamrolling by the IBM PC clone market in the 80s and 90s. Apple swallowed their pride about PowerPC and started using the "Intel" from "Wintel" so why does it have to keep re-enacting the anticompetitive tactics from the dawn of the personal computer?

If Apple's products really are the best on merit, it shouldn't be necessary for Apple to lock everything down at a technical level or at a licensing level or to use the law aggressively against people who just want to interact with Apple products.

Back when I built a Hackintosh in 2007/8, all the tutorials I saw encouraged people to buy a legitimate copy of OSX (and I did - $79 seemed fair to support the OS I wanted to use). Do I can definitely answer "yes" to this question.

Might be an opportunity to make them into customers. A lot of these people are probably people they alienated with their last Mac Pro generation.

I don't know. I know some Hackintosh users, who do Hackintosh because real Macs are too expensive for them.

I think for many people (including me), the Mac Mini was the next logical step, since it was affordable. Especially when it was still expandable (memory and disk). I think they make a mistake with making the Mini so unattractive. It may not be a blip on their radar, but I think it was a gateway machine for many people who later buy more Macs. However, now it's so unattractive that I can't see anyone buying them.

You could say the same thing about people who pirate Adobe software as teenagers/young adults. If they're using the software all the time they're likely to get good enough with it that they'll want to make a job or a business out of it. At that point they become a customer. If Adobe software were somehow impossible to pirate then maybe they would've used and learned with an alternative.

Doesn't that assume they'll never be customers? If Apple provide the hardware they want, I don't see why that would be the case.

It seems Apple is pushing away more and more of the "Pros," just take a look at the latest macbook pros. The only way I use MacOS anymore is with a hackintosh.

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