Tedium - Hackintosh In The Pastintosh? 🍎

If Hackintosh is dying, it served its purpose.

Hunting for the end of the long tail • March 19, 2024

Hackintosh In The Pastintosh?

If the Hackintosh ecosystem is about to fade away, it’s because it fulfilled its purpose as a way station between two vastly different eras of Apple.

If you think about it, the period in which end users worked around the limitations of Apple’s ecosystem to build their own things was bound to be temporary.

Eventually, the company would force them to either get back on the good ship Macintosh or move on entirely.

So I’m not totally surprised that word is starting to spread that the Hackintosh is starting to reach its technical limits, finally, after all of these years, something expanded on over the weekend by blogger Aleksandar Vacić.

The thing is, Apple has been dropping hints that it is about to leave much of its legacy behind for years. It is a company that throws legacy aside as if disruption is not a thing. It has been building new software architectures for common tools like cloud computing platforms, gumming up the works for existing players, and it has been working to deprecate kernel extensions (kexts) for a long time, in favor of updated protocols.

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The most recent version of Sonoma, is breaking a ton of legitimate use cases, including USB hubs and Java processes. Apple has a recent track record of busting significant older features with smaller point releases, and a big part of this comes down to a tendency to downplay legacy wherever it can. It rarely, if ever, talks about past innovations like the Apple II or Newton, and it drops old stuff in its codebase as a point of routine.

Vacić says that the real death knell of this cosmic wrinkle is not the loss of processor access, but wireless cards:

In Sonoma, Apple has completely removed all traces of driver support for their oldest WiFi/Bt cards, namely various Broadcom cards that they last used in 2012/13 iMac / MacBook models. Those Mac models are not supported by macOS for few years now thus it’s not surprising the drivers are being removed. Most likely reason is that Apple is moving drivers away from .kext (Kernel Extensions) to .dext (DriverKit) thus cleaning up obsolete and unused code from macOS. They did the same with Ethernet drivers in Ventura.

Those particular cards were the key ingredient to many fully functional Hackintosh builds for simple reason: they worked out of the box with every single (so-called) iService Apple has: Messages, FaceTime, AirDrop, Continuity, Handoff—you name it. Everything worked. Despite the valiant efforts of OCLP crew to make workarounds, those cards can work in Sonoma only if you seriously downgrade the macOS security.

This strikes at the heart of the moat Apple has built for itself in the form of messaging—and perhaps why it fought Beeper Mini so hard recently. Apple’s business model benefits from a closed ecosystem, but the problem is that if the company fails to meet your use case, you’re stuck working around them. I think it’s kind of at the point that the edge-casers that tried to make Hackintosh work for a while are going to start looking for an alternative.

(Or maybe what will happen if that these users will mostly stick to one platform, but then invest in the Mac in a less-ambitious way. Apple’s decision to turn the M1 MacBook Air into a Walmart-level budget machine, honestly their best decision in a while, speaks to this.)

OpenCore Legacy Patcher, a popular tool for allowing old Macs to use modern versions of MacOS.

Now, there are folks who will try to work around these limitations. For example, it is possible to run MacOS on AMD processors these days, despite Apple themselves never using AMD, because of work the community has done to reverse-engineer the OS to work on the Ryzen architecture, and community efforts to allow Intel Wi-Fi cards have made life a bit easier for folks willing to forego iMessage.

But at some point, keeping on the treadmill is going to prove impossible. Apple, whether it was trying to or not, has largely taken the hint that they need to make better products if they don’t want users to stop buying its machines. And while entire market segments are largely being ignored (particularly people who want a desktop with expandability that costs less than $6,000), they presumably have made the bet that most users don’t care. All that said, the Hackintosh era, as long as it ended up being, was ultimately a good thing for Apple. It created a community of people who were willing to go to extremes to get what they wanted from the Mac. And Hackintoshing’s innovations made it easier to keep older machines alive. Those factors likely pushed Apple to make better Macs that better solved the problems these users were having. It was a niche—a small one, but one that was vocal and not afraid to test accepted norms in the Mac ecosystem in the name of a better experience. At a time when the Butterfly keyboard and high heat were problems on the MacBook Pro, it gave crazy people like me an offramp—and the company had to work to win them back the hard way.

There are still gaps—the lack of non-Apple GPU support is an obvious one. The fact that Thunderbolt is still slower than PCIe is another. But most people who like MacOS can find a home with the Mac in 2024.

The ones that will never switch over to a Mac, though? If these folks haven’t yet moved to Windows or Linux, the likely option in the short-mid term is probably going to be a move towards kernel virtual machines (KVMs), which utilize a high-speed virtualization technology on top of a lightweight Linux interface to give you most of the performance of a full-fat Macintosh, while abstracting around the features it does not support. If we start seeing high-speed ARM processors escape the Apple ecosystem, this potentially becomes a compelling use case long-term.

Tinkerers will always find a way. They’re the ones who make all these gadgets interesting, honestly.

Edge-Casing Links

In a bit of good media news, a bad owner was separated from a great brand. May Sports Illustrated thrive.

I don’t particularly care about the royals, but I would like to remind you of the plot point that made King Ralph into a reality.

Car washes are the new mattress stores, according to Bloomberg. There’s a reason for that.

--

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