OSX On My Dell Mini 9!

I have always wanted to try out OSX. i’ve heard only good things of it, and I’m just simply curious. What’s so good about it?

One of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity to purchase the Dell Mini 9 is because it is one of the few netbooks where OSX can run without a hitch. I got the the netbook with the default specs. It has a default 8GB of SSD storage. Of course, it wasn’t enough for anything but XP (and Ubuntu). I decided to swap it for a Runcore 64GB SSD, which costs the same as the netbook itself! Lucky me, it was a worthwhiole upgrade; read-write speeds was much faster than the old brand, and everything zipped around, despite the much-maligned Atom processor.

At this point, I’ve been reading up on how to run OSX on it. However, all of the guides pointed out that an OSX 10.5 Leopard retail disc was needed. So I scrapped that idea for the time being. I whacked Windows 7 on it and was surprised at how well the netbook handled it. It felt much more responsive than Windows XP for some reason. Is it the snappier Runcore SSD? Probably. I was too happy with Windows 7 running perfectly on it to care too much about trying out XP on it.

And then Snow Leopard got released.

One of the huge perks of Snow Leopard when it arrived is the fact that an upgrade disc costs only S$48 (US$29)! My interest in OSX perked up again and I scoured the MyDellMini forums for news and updates on installation of Snow Leopard. So far, there were some problems with getting audio to work, so it was a big deal breaker for me.

Last week, I decided to check up on it again. This time, there were many reports of people getting it to work. There was a new release of NetbookInstaller & NetbookBootMaker, version 0.83 RC3, from mechdrew, the software responsible for making this work. Then, it was a simple matter of following instructions (which I have long since realised is a very difficult task for some people.).

And lo and behold, I now have a 9″, 1kg laptop running OSX 10.6.1 Snow Leopard!!

OSX is running very smoothly on this small Atom-powered netbook. I guess the 2GB ram and 64GB Runcore SSD upgrades helped tremendously in this regard. Another surprise is the fact that the touchpad is capable of multitouch! It supports up to 3-finger touch/swipe. I am absolutely fond of 2-finger scroll. It makes life so much easier on the touchpad.

Of course, there were some things not working out of the box. Sound is only available through the in-built speakers. To get headphones and the microphone jacks working, VoodooHDA is required. There are problems with hibernate, but sleep is fine. So after installation of SmartSleep, I needed to disable the hibernation and only enable sleep. Using an external monitor, I am not able to mirror, else both screens will be garbled. The older kexts (something like drivers in Windows, but for Mac) for the Intel GMA950 works, but graphical performance is a bit sluggish. There’s no fix for that yet as of now, except to use the older kexts, which I don’t recommend.

Other than that, everything else works! From the in-built webcam to the some special function keys, like volume. The whole thing just rocks!

Of course, being a purist, I am now bugging my wife to get an actual real-life breathing Macbook. A nice 13″ Macbook will do nicely. The Macbook Pro line isn’t necessary, since now even the Macbook has a 9400M as its graphics adapter.

I do hope that such projects will thrive and Apple will leave them well alone. Because of them, I manage to try out OSX with relative ease and without actually having to buy another laptop. A big thanks to mechdrew and all the guys over at MyDellMini forums!

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