Operating System

What is the Deal with Hackintosh?



From birth, we are told there are two* kinds of computers in this world: Macs and PCs.  If you want a elegant, user-friendly, perfectly running out-of-the-box machine, get a Mac.  If you want unparalleled compatibility with third-party applications and an unmatched selection of bargain-priced computers, get a PC.  But what if there was something in-between?  As of Mac OS X Leopard, you can use the in-build Bootcamp Assistant to install Windows an a Mac machine.

That’s all fun and good, but what if you want to do the opposite; that is, install Mac OS X on a PC?  Doing this would allow one to opt-out of spending the extra cash for one of Apple’s artfully crafted, aluminum-clad, designer machines.  Those of you out there who would be perfectly happy with a cheap, plastic machine to throw around, but would like an operating system with a little bit more elegance than Windows, the Hackintosh may be for you.  For those who are interested in a custom-built computer and would like to have an operating system which is a bit more orientated toward graphic design and video-editing, installing Mac OS on a PC may also be suited to your needs.

So what is the deal with installing Mac OS X on a PC?  To answer that question, I actually did it.  I will be doing a little experiment to test ease of installation and use, as well as overall stability.  I will give a brief synopsis on each step of the set-up process as well as any points of interest.

*For the purpose of this article we ignore Linux.  Though it boasts intimidating compatibility with a wide range of different machines, we are looking at operating systems that are not open source and are typically preloaded on the machine from purchase.

Choosing your Machine

Though Apple cannot legally make their operating system incompatible with all PCs, there are definitely some PCs which may be more trouble than they’re worth when it comes to running Mac OS.  Those of you who are familiar with some machine-lingo, it is very very very very very very very difficult to install Mac OS on any computer with a processor made by AMD (or any processor not made by Intel).  How can you tell if your computer has an AMD or non-Intel processor?  A good way to tell is if your computer has ‘Intel’ written anywhere on it, then you probably have an Intel processor and do not have to worry.

If your computer has an Intel processor (and you didn’t buy it for $30 on, then it should be compatible with Mac OS X!  WooHoo!  However, installing Mac OS and running it smoothly are two different things and we will touch upon that later in this article.

By far, the best way to install Mac OS on a PC is to build your own PC.  There are some computer components you can use in your Hackintosh to make things run a bit smoother.  Doing a Google search for ‘hackintosh’ will being you to a whole host of websites devoted to listing compatible parts.  There are some brands, like Intel, which tend to work better than others with Mac OS and sticking to them is a good way to ensure smooth operating and easy installation.

The Installation

Installing Mac OS has become a great deal easier over the years with the advent of user-friendly softwares which create all sorts of goodies for you like installer USBs and software optimizers.  For my own hackintosh experiment I used a program called ‘Unibeast’ to make an installer USB.  Those of you who have had to make a USB for installing windows after downloading the operating system from a service like Dreamspark, this process is very similar.  Apple does have official instructions for how to make a USB installer without any fancy software, but their process requires proficiency in the command terminal (the app with the black rectangular logo in the utilities folder).  Apple’s instruction can be found here for those of you who want a bit of a challenge.  For those of you, like me, who want to play it safe and use someone else’s app to do it for you, the following installation guide can help with that.  The installation guide will cover the usage of the Unibeast application I mentioned earlier.

As for plugging in your USB stick and installing, you’ll need to change a few settings on your computer’s hardware.  This can be done in the bios.  Don’t know what a bios is? The bios is like a mini operating system that lives under Windows or Linux (or whatever operating system you choose, Solaris maybe); the bios is sometimes just text and sometimes has some nice graphics to help you out.  When in the bios, you can change the settings on your machine that have to do with how the parts of your computer are physically working.  Luckily for the hackintosh, there are not very many things you have to change.  The aforementioned installation guide goes over all the specific things that need to be changed.  If you are installing Mac OS on a PC laptop or desktop that came with Windows already on it, chances are you won’t have to change very much, if anything at all.

Once the actual Mac installer opens up on your computer and you get prompted to select a language and time zone, you are probably in the clear.  In my own humble experience, if things are going to not work, they will often not work immediately.  My first few times trying to start up the installer – bear in mind I was installing Mac OS onto a home-built computer which had to be specially configured – I didn’t even get to the language selection screen.

The actual installation process, once it gets rolling, should be pretty simple and should leave you at your shiny, new Mac desktop.  However, be warned that there is one more thing you have to do before things will work.  Mac is very picky about which computer parts it likes to work with and will need some finessing.  Luckily, the same developer as Unibeast has made a pretty app that will finesse for you; it is called ‘Multibeast’ and should be able to get your hackintosh up and running.  Just fire the program up and select all the different parts on your computer.  If you select nothing else, make sure you click on the right button to get your internet working.  My best suggestion for this process would be to, in advance of installing, find out what is in your computer in the first place.  Opening the Windows start menu and going to ‘system’ should give you a brief overview of what’s under to hood, but it is often the case that Google can be of assistance if your machine has a manufacturer.

Once you’ve hit the button on Multibeast that says ‘build’ and restart your computer, you should be good to go.  Naturally though, things may not go as planned.

When Things Don’t Work

Hackintoshs are often plagued with things not working.  On my own hackintosh experiment, I was not able to get sound to come out of the computer’s headphone jack for a period of time after installing the operating system.  For this problem, I simply Googled it and thew everything I could find at my computer until it started working.

That is the unfortunate nature of the hackintosh.  As Apple does not support anything they do not make; things do go wrong and it is not always clear how to fix them.  My best advise would be to simply be patient and work at it.  A hackintosh can be a wonderful machine but it can also be quite an undertaking.  The best way to get one up and running is to know when to take a break.

When you’re done with your break, Google and Reddit’s hackintosh subreddit are excellent resources and will often have exactly what you need.

So How is It?

Well, after my own hackintosh experiment experienced its last apparent issue, it has been quite an experience.  As a long time user of Apple computers (and a long time user of outdated Apple computers), it is a breath of fresh air to be in such a comfortable and familiar operating system and have it be so blazing fast.  Apple does make some fantastic machines, but unless you are a graphic designer, architect or some other professional who has to use one for work, you are probably experiencing a slightly older MacBook.  Sometimes it is a good thing to have to wait for things (like iTunes to open) but it is also nice to not have to wait at all.  With configuring done correctly, the hackintosh can become a fast and proficient machine.

Want proof?  I could run some benchmarking software, like Cinemench, but I’d rather just say that I have written this entire article on the very experiment which I had so prided in this article.  Paired with a nice IPS monitor (see Julian’s excellent article on monitors for more on that) and a slightly pre-used Apple keyboard, the hackintosh is more-than-comfortable working environment.  I suppose with tasks like word processing, there wouldn’t be so much of a difference between the hacked machine and MacBook; though I could be rendering a feature-length film on Final Cut Pro in the background and not notice.

The Final Verdict

Though the hackintosh is fast, affordable, and an excellent project, it is might not be for everyone.  I will admit my bias toward the hackintosh as an IT guy; some of the troubleshooting skills I take for granted which really help with making a hackintosh may not come to all users right away.  Sometimes things don’t work; computers are increasingly complicated machines and can experience all sorts of problems.  Purchasing a machine with OS X or Windows pre-installed can alleviate many of the issues which come with installing the operating system yourself.

Ultimately, it’s about user preference.  If you’re willing to put in some hard hours to get an excellently fast and customizable machine up and running, then the hackintosh may be the beast you’re looking for.  However, if you just want everything to work (which is completely fine), then I think Apple has you covered; and might I add that you are in very good hands.


You Should Learn How To Program

Whether you are a power user or only use a computer to check your email, you should learn the basics of programming a computer. This skill will not only help you understand what goes into making an application, but you may also find that you enjoy the technical problem solving that is required in programming. Computers and programming are becoming more and more pervasive in every day life, and have changed the workflow of many careers. Instead of giving you a lesson I want to provide you with multiple resources that both me, and students whom I taught how to program, have found useful.

Learning Resources

The Hour of Code

The Hour of Code was created by, a charity designed to expand computer science outreach. The Hour of Code was created to encourage everyone to learn and experience the thought process that goes into programming. As a simple introduction, this program will teach you the basics of a block based programming language that was inspired by MIT’s Scratch.


Codeacademy specializes in teaching its students with actual programming languages such as JavaScript and Ruby. Unlike reading a guide or a book, Codeacademy steps it users through each assignment with automatic feedback to help guide learning.


There are also online classes on Coursera and EdX which will teach you various aspects of programming. Here at UMass Amherst you could alternatively take either CMPSCI 119 or 121 as an introductory course for programming.


Code Combat

Intended for pre-college audiences, Code Combat is a puzzle game where you control a character around a game world. The game gives you the option of programming in Python or Javascript programming languages gradually teaching the user the basics of programming as new obstacles face your character.

Light Bot

Less childish then Code Combat,  Light Bot is a simple game where you control a robot to light up squares around. Light bot is more about solving a logic puzzle then teaching you how to program however these puzzles are designed around Core Concepts needed to program such as recursion (which Light Bot explains elegantly) and Debugging.

Steam Games

Along with those two free games their are also a couple paid steam games that involve or aim to teach programming listed below:

  • Hack N’ Slash – A Zelda inspired game created by Double Fine Productions where you can change attributes of certain objects in the game world to solve puzzles.
  • Else Heart.Break() – An Adventure game where you are tasked to program a solution to solve the games puzzles.
  • Human Resource Machine – A puzzle game that uses code blocks to build code that starts with simple programs  and gradually gets harder as new concepts are introduced.

Game Engines

Others find the best way to start programming is through gaming whether you mod an existing game or create your own. There are many game engines that allow new-comers to learn, while still being powerful enough to be used to create a commercial product.

  • Unity – A 3D Game engine created by Microsoft. Click here for a more in depth article from another blog on this site.
  • Gamemaker – Gamemaker is a mix between program either using scripts or a drag and drop interface, making it intuitive to newcomers.  Indie games such as Risk of Rain, and Hyper Light Drifter were made using Gamemaker.


I will conclude this article with two tips when programming. First, as with most problems in life, use google (or any other search engine) if you are having trouble with a concept. Secondly, programming doesn’t have to be a singular experience. Joining a team and working together can be often times be the most enjoyable moments you can experience while programming. There are also programming competitions, referred to as Hackathons, that encourage programmers to work with and meet new people to create a product. We have an article for about our schools hackathon, HackUMass here.


Operating System

Google Nexus: Smart Phones and Tablets

Never heard of Google Nexus? You are not alone. Most people have never heard of it because Google is not big into advertising the Nexus or making deals with cellular companies. However, if you meet someone who has heard of it or has a Nexus, chances are they are extremely loyal to it.


The Google Nexus is a line of phones and tablets that are sold by Google and made by various companies. The Nexus is superior to other tablets and phones for several reasons. The software is pure Android, the hardware is advanced, and the price is always very low compared to similar technology on the market. There is also a certain amount of pride to be an owner of a Nexus.

The operating system is Android, however, most companies take the operating system and change it to include the company’s (i.e. Verizon and Samsung) proprietary applications. You know those annoying apps that you never use and cannot delete? Those are not present on pure Android. Every app, except those essential to the operating system, is deletable and fully in control of the user. Most importantly, it is a lot harder to run out of space on your phone or tablet. Pure Android is fast without the extra software.

The Nexus phones are also guaranteed operating system updates for two years, and security updates for another year. The Nexus owners are the first to get the new Android versions, which makes their device the most up-to phones and tablets in the market.

The hardware for the Nexus devices is, in many ways, superior than any other similar device from the same year. The Galaxy S4 came out the same year as the Nexus 5 2013. They are similar in size, weight, and screen quality. They are some of the first phones to obtain wireless charging. The S4 has a slightly better camera and the Nexus 5 has a slightly better processor. They’re hardware specifications are essentially the same. However, the Samsung costed $699 (MSRP) and the Nexus costed $350. Two great phones at very different prices. More about the specifications are at:,Samsung-Galaxy-S4/phones/8148,7597


Almost every fall includes a new Nexus phone or tablet. If you are looking for the latest technology with software and hardware, look no further than the Nexus that comes out every fall. Looking for a phone or tablet that is the most up-to-date with security at a reasonable price? A Nexus is very likely to have what you need. Many companies use the phone to test their apps and use it as a model on their websites. This goes to show that this phone is the ideal environment for most Android apps. Pure android matched with good hardware and a good price makes for my favorite smart phone on the market.


DDR4 Memory vs. DDR3

It’s new! It’s fast! It’s 4!


DDR4 memory has been on the market for some time now and looks to be a permanent successor to DDR3L and older DDR3 memory.  However, other than being one more DDR than DDR3, what is the difference between the old and the new?  There are a few key differences, some good and some bad.  This article will give a broad overview of the costs and benefits of DDR4 memory.


Increased Clock Speed


Every component in your computer has to have a clock, otherwise the seemingly endless sequences of ones and zeros would become all jumbled up and basic logic functions would become impossible.  Memory, though it does not perform any logical work on the data which lives in its vast arrays of binary-junction transistors, does still use a clock to govern the rate at which the aforementioned data is overwritten or refreshed.  With faster clock speeds, DDR4 can be written to, and read from, far faster than DDR3 or DDR3L.  This gives a big advantage to those out there using blazing fast computer processors which are held back by the speed at which they can read and write to memory.  However, users looking to purchase a laptop with DDR4 memory may not experience any noticeable speed increase from DDR3.


Lower Power Consumption 


With new versions of computer components, often times manufacturers are able to boast about improved power efficiency.  With DDR4 this is the case!  Older DDR3 memory sticks would require about 1.5 volts to run; the new DDR4 memory sticks can run off about 1.2 volts.  This may not seem like a whole lot, but the amount of power needed to store data in memory is very very minuscule so a large amount of excess power is turned into heat.  Anyone who has spent a few hours playing video games on a laptop will know just what excess power consumption feels like when it’s going into one’s legs.  A hot computer doesn’t just cause mild discomfort; transistors, as non-ohmic resistors, are impeded in their ability to switch electric current on and off when they get hot.  This means less ability to perform the mathematical functions that are at the base of all computing and, therefore, a slower computer!  Less power consumption means less excess power, a cooler machine, and a faster computing experience.


Higher Cost


Moore’s Law has two components to it: computing power will double roughly every 18 months, and the cost of existing computer components will be halved in the same amount of time.  Sometimes we reap the benefits of the halved cost; sometimes we don’t.  At the moment, purchasing DDR4 memory for a new computer is a costly endeavor.  DDR4 memory can work more than two times faster than DDR3 but there is a considerable cost premium.  This is to be taken into consideration when choosing whether or not to make the leap into DDR4: is the improved speed and efficiency worth the price.  That question lies well beyond the scope of this humble article.

FURTHER READING – Corsair’s performance comparison using Intel Skylake CPU


NO Backwards-Compatibility

With modern computers, we enjoy an unprecedented level of flexibility.  Computers now are more modular than ever.  However, just because different components can fit together without being modified, that does not mean they will work together.  With DDR4, you need, with only a few exceptions, brand new, top-of-the-line components to work.  This means, if you are to purchase or construct a computing using the fast, new memory, you need a fast, new CPU and a fast, new motherboard.  For those of you out there who have no interest in building a computer, you will be paying upfront for a laptop or desktop fitted with the latest version of everything.  This will further up the cost of purchasing a machine fitted with DDR4 memory.


So What’s the Deal?

With all new things, there are costs and benefits.  With DDR4, yes, you will experience faster read and write speeds and overall faster computing, but it will come at a cost.  For people who use their computers for browsing the internet and word processing, there will be a very small noticeable difference.  However, for avid users of applications such as Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, DDR4 will yield a substantial speed increase.

Ultimately, it is up the use whether or they want to take the leap into the new realm of faster read and write speeds.  Yes, you will get to have a blazing-fast computer that you can brag to your friends about, but it will come at a cost.  You will also run the risk of spending more money and not really getting all that much more speed if you are using mostly memory non-intensive programs.  However, if you are like this humble IT guy, and spend much time video and photo editing and want a computer that is not going to start hissing when you open Photoshop, then DDR4 is the memory for you!