Update October 6th 2009: Check out my more recent post about Snow Leopard on the Dell Mini 9.
Update May 30th 2009: I gave my general impressions of the hackintosh after a couple months of use, including performance and compatability. The verdict is it’s comparable to a late model G4.
Update April 8th 2009: Once you have OS X installed on your netbook you’ll want to learn how to lessen its hard drive footprint. Once I deleted printer drivers I don’t need, the hibernate image, and with the help of Monolingual and Xslimmer I’m now running with 5gb free after installing the Macheist 3 bundle and a bunch of my favourite apps.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is presently the most compatible with Leopard out of all the netbooks. For twenty dollars you can upgrade it to 2 GB of RAM which makes it a very capable machine. As of this writing, everything but hibernate and external displays work perfectly after installing with a retail disk image. (There’s a workaround for the external monitor issue.) I managed to get a developer seed image of Apple OS X 10.5.2 running on my Dell Mini 9 and successfully updated it to 10.5.6. The folks at MyDellMini have some very helpful guides up. The one that I used was the DellEFI method.
The guide explains how to create a Chameleon bootdisk under Windows using syslinux. It also explains how to turn an OS X install disc into a bootable USB mass drive drive suitable for install, since it tends to be much faster and less error prone than installing from an external DVD.
What it leaves out is how to make the developer seed DMG bootable. I found out that I could do this using the demo version of Transmac. First you need to decompress the DMG. You do that by opening it by going to File and then Open Image. Find the developer DMG and it’ll ask you to decompress it. Click yes, and save it to a new filename. Next you right click on the drive you want to wipe, click Format Disk, then select Format Disk from Image. Pull up the uncompressed DMG and it’ll make a bootable image just like Disk Utility.
After that, follow the instructions in the MyDellMini guide.
Unfortunately the Hibernate function won’t work. When you try to restore from hibernate it gives you an error and cold boots. Sleep works just fine on shutting the netbook. Once 10.5.6 is installed wireless and bluetooth work. I hear that the integrated webcam works too, but I don’t have one to test.
You might have noticed by now that the Dell Mini 9 doesn’t have F11 or F12 keys. Try Fn+Z for F11 and Fn+X for F12. If those don’t work you’ll need to install the A04 BIOS.
Once you’ve got all that set up you’ll want to start saving space. The worst offender is print drivers, which easily take up 2 GB of space. Deleting folders of manufacturer’s I don’t use from under /Library/Printers saved me a ton of space, and running Monolingual to remove PPC code and a bunch of languages saved me another 500 MB. At $13 US, Xslimmer is a good buy, especially since most applications you download are multilingual Universal binaries. Xslimmer can trim this out without worrying about getting your settings wrong on Monolingual just once.
Once all that’s through check out Macheist 3! Just for visiting their website you get a free copy of EventBox. I’m happy to get World of Goo, WireTap Studio and hopefully BoinxTV and Espresso for $37.
My Leopard-running netbook is quickly replacing my ThinkPad as my primary mobile computer.
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