I'd like to announce to you all, my latest Mac. Surprisingly, it isn't an Apple product but rather a 4GB Asus Eee Pc. Baffling, I know. But allow me to explain why it made sense to buy this $400 sub-notebook rather than a Macbook or - God forbid - Macbook Air.
I recently sold my Macbook that had just past it's one year anniversary and had a dead battery needing to be replaced. I fetched a very surprising $950 for it on eBay despite the battery issue that I made sure to communicate.
Of course, I had been meaning to rid myself of that Macbook for some time as I was not at all willing to buy a replacement battery from Apple that typically runs about $120. But what really pushed me over the edge to sell was the huge expectations that were being lined up in anticipation for MacWorld where everyone was convinced we were going to see something of a sub-notebook from Apple.
Macworld came and went. Disappointment ensued among the masses. And I was left with no laptop. Enter Eee Pc.
I must admit that I would have never even considered this purchase at all if it weren't for Brian's own purchase of the Eee and his high acclaim followed by a very intriguing article that caught everyone's eye in the Mac community involving running OS X Leopard on the Eee. (We'll revisit the nature of this article later.)
That being said, there was a very specific function that I was looking to fulfill with this laptop. It's not as if I really need a laptop to take to classes with me. Most of the time I can deal with simply using the school's computers for in-class work. So running the Adobe Master Collection is not a huge concern for me on the Eee.
What I did need a laptop for was convenient browsing of the internet in a more functional form than the iPhone. The iPhone is a great portable browser but is really only useful for quick information checks and not really meant for casual browsing. I was also looking for a laptop to do quick web development on as well. It would be nice to be able to make blog tweaks on the go or do other forms of programming.
The Eee is incredibly small. And small in a very different and important aspect compared to the Air. Because although the Air is utterly remarkably thin, it doesn't change the fart that it's still the same length and width of an ordinary laptop. All this really changes for most people is now you could comfortably fit two Airs where you could otherwise only fit one Macbook.
The Keyboard is also small and must be in order to fit the small form factor of the Eee. I'd like to report that it although others find the keyboard very difficult to get used to, my experience has been a rather smooth transition largely due to my recent Dvorak experimentations.
Which transitions into my first big disappointment. Because the keyboard had to be shrunk to such a ludicrous size, Asus decided to cut some keys smaller than others and as a result, if one wanted to re-arrange the layout to either Dvorak or otherwise, they'd be out of luck as the keys simply weren't designed to fit in that way.
The price is right. At a little over $400, how could I go wrong? I'd be spending roughly half the return I made on my Macbook and getting a laptop that is entirely functional for the niche need that I needed it to fulfill. Not to mention the fact that the Eee is also a major show-off product much like the Air, but people will not see you as a rich snob for buying one.
Installing OS X
So, as I mentioned earlier, I do in fact have OS X running on the Eee. However, contrary to the impression that the aforementioned article at Uneasy Silence led me to believe, you can not install Leopard on the Eee. So I've had to settle for Tiger.
I did not realize how much I had grown accustomed to Leopard since the upgrade from Tiger was so seamless. But now that I am revisiting Tiger, I can appreciate the subtlety of Apple in their many acclaimed features of Leopard.
Just like any hackintosh, I ran into several issues attempting to properly operate the Eee under Tiger. All of these issues revolve around driver conflicts with hardware. Not surprising as Apple has only ever written drivers to support their own hardware.
I had complications with screen resolution and getting the Eee to accept 800x480 as the native resolution as opposed to 640x480. I also had difficulties getting the webcam to register and - in fact - still have issues trying to get QuickTime to record a movie through the webcam.
Other notable issues that have yet to be resolved involve the Ethernet adapter entirely useless as it has no drivers available for it. The audio output works fine only through the built-in speakers and doesn't register when headphones are plugged in. The microphone port still doesn't work at all and due to a weird glitch in the way the Mac reads processing speed and the Eee's internal CPU clock speed and FSB, each second registers as 2.6 seconds roughly so anything involving timing within the OS has faltered. This includes everything from the clock, to video playback with the exception of music which is very odd and still not entirely understood.
The most glaring issue I have though, is the WiFi. The onboard chipset on the Eee does not have proper drivers written for it and therefore also remains undetected. There are two ways around this:
1) Buy a USB WiFi adapter and install 3rd party drivers. (This is what I've temporarily opted for.)
2) Buy a Dell 1390 Mini PCI-E WiFi card to replace the onboard chipset currently in the Eee. This apparently is natively recognized as an Airport card by OS X.
The second method is one that I will be looking into over this reading week and hopefully successfully performing.
All in all...
The Asus Eee is a fantastic hobbyist computer and makes for a great experimental Mac if you have very low-end tasks that you'd prefer to carry out in OS X rather than Xandros Linux.
I've also decided that since I've stirred up a considerable amount of interest among classmates and teachers at school with this project of mine, I'll be using this hack as the basis for my culminating video assignment at school where I will be offering in-depth instructions on the installation of OS X on the Eee and distributing it on this site when finished.
Look forward to more updates on future hacks with the Eee and that video sometime in April.
Update: I just ordered the Dell 1390 WiFi card and it should be arriving by the end of the week. So I'll have it installed and finally be rid of the kludgy USB dongle before school is back.
Update #2: The Dell WiFi card is now installed and working beautifully under OS X Tiger. Although now that I've taken apart the Eee, I can't help think about how nice 1GB+ of RAM would be campared to my current 512MB...
Update #3: I've just now completed the upgrade to 1GB of RAM. I can't think of any other hacking that I could possibly do now. Maybe I'll try running some virtualization software and see how that goes.