Snow Leopard on Acer Aspire One AOA150/ZG5
Over the past few years the equipment I take on holidays (vacations) had shrunk to a Canon HF100 video camera, Panasonic Lumix LC3 camera and Macbook. The cameras are compact and capable of excellent results, but the Macbook while not enormous is still bulky. Since my holiday usage is storing photo’s and video with a bit of email and web browsing the ideal replacement would seem to be a netbook.
myMacnetbook.com have a great compatibility chart for running Mac OS on a range of netbooks, clearly showing what works. I was interested in getting a used netbook from eBay and after watching prices for a few days settled on an Acer Aspire One ZG5. While not the most compatible netbook (sleep and the card readers don’t work), it’s good enough for my requirements and cost me just over £100. The Dell 10v is probably a better choice but these are currently selling used for £175-£200. Crazy money since a new one direct from dell is £250.
The spec of the Aspire One is fairly standard for a netbook, 1.6Ghz Atom processor and GMA 950 graphics, 1Gb ram and 120Gb hard drive. The biggest failing is the lack of compatibility with the Atheros WiFi card, but that’s easily fixed as I will cover later.
In a recent post I detailed my updated 10.6 install using a bootCD so this time I tried another method. This involves copying the Mac OS install DVD to a USB pen drive or USB hard drive and making the necessary modifications to boot the installer on PC hardware. I chose a 60Gb USB Hard Drive since the only 8Gb Pen Drives I have are very slow on my main hackintosh. This guide is based on a guide and files by Neodymium at Insanelymac as a starting point, with modifications to reduce the amount of terminal work.
Before starting you need a few things:
- Mac OS X 10.6 install DVD, or an image of this
- The aa1.zip file from the bottom of the first post at Insanelymac
- A USB pendrive or USB hard drive of at least 8Gb
- Chameleon 2 RC4
- A Working Mac or Hackintosh from which to create the install media
1. Put the Mac OS X Install DVD in your optical drive and start Disk Utility. Select the Mac OS X Install DVD part of the disc as shown below.
Click File>New>Disk Image from “Mac OS X Install DVD”
Select the location to save the image file
Once the image creation has finished select the image file listed in the sidebar
Click Images>Scan Image for Restore
Connect the USB Pen Drive or Hard drive and format with one partition using GUID Partition Table (click the options button to choose this).
Restore the Mac OS X Install DVD image to the Pen Drive/Hard Drive using the restore option.
2. Install Chameleon 2 RC4 to the pen Drive/Hard Drive. Make sure the install destination is changed to Mac OS X Install DVD. Once completed the Pen Drive/Hard Drive should contain a boot file and an Extra folder.
3. Decompress the aa1.zip file. This should give the folders shown here:
The DSDT.aml, com.apple.boot.plist and smbios.plist are copied to the Extra folder on the Pen Drive/Hard Drive. All the kexts are copied to Extra/Extensions. The Mac OS X Install DVD drive should look like this when done.
4. Plug the Pen Drive/Hard Drive into the Acer Aspire One and turn the power on. Press F12 to select the startup drive.
When the Boot Option menu is displayed select the USB Pen Drive/Hard Drive
Allow Chameleon to load and start the Mac OS X Install DVD. Once the Installer has started proceed as normal, using Disk Utility to format the Acer’s hard drive then install Snow Leopard. The trackpad didn’t work for me so I used a USB mouse to complete the install. The trackpad worked fine once the install was completed.
5. When the Installer has finished and the computer restarts press F12 again and select the pen Drive/Hard Drive again, NOT the Aspire One’s internal hard drive. When the Chameleon selection screen is shown press one of the arrow keys and select the Aspire One’s internal hard drive. The image below was take after I had setup the Aspire One so I have a backup partition as well. Hit return/enter to continue. Go through the welcome screens and setup your account, after this the Aspire One should show the Mac desktop.
6. Making the Aspire One’s hard drive bootable uses the same steps as making the install drive bootable. Copy the aa1.zip file and Chameleon installer to the Aspire One, using the USB pen Drive or Hard Drive. Run the Chameleon installer and select the Aspire One’s internal hard drive as the destination. Copy the DSDT.aml, com.apple.boot.plist and smbios.plist to the Extra folder in the root of the hard drive. The kexts are copied to Extra/Extensions. At this point the hard drive looked like this:
The display of the Aspire One was looking stretched at this point as it was using an 800×600 resolution. Open a terminal window, type sudo su and enter the account password. Next drag the patch27ae.command from the gma_patch folder (it was in the aa1.zip archive) onto the terminal window and hit return/enter. This should patch the GMA950 drivers to allow 1024×600 resolution.
The final step is to set permissions on the files and generate new kext caches. The following commands should be entered into the terminal window. This is direct from the original guide, so thanks again to Neodymium.
chmod -R 755 /Extra/Extensions
chown -R root:wheel /Extra/Extensions
chmod -R 755 /System/Library/Extensions
chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions
kextcache -a i386 -m /System/Library/Caches/com.apple.kext.caches/Startup/Extensions.mkext /System/Library/Extensions /Extra/Extensions
kextcache -a i386 -m /Extra/Extensions.mkext /Extra/Extensions /System/Library/Extensions
chmod 755 /Extra/Extensions.mkext
chown root:wheel /Extra/Extensions.mkext
chmod 755 /System/Library/Caches/com.apple.kext.caches/Startup/Extensions.mkext
chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Caches/com.apple.kext.caches/Startup/Extensions.mkext
Rather than typing these into the terminal window I have them saved as a text file (permissions.txt in the first screenshot) so I can just drop it onto the terminal window to execute all the commands. You could also cut and paste the lot from this browser window.
7. Shutdown the Aspire One and unplug the pen Drive/Hard Drive. Restart and the netbook should boot into Snow Leopard with most things working fine. The only OS I haven’t got working are the card readers and sleep. I mentioned at the start of this guide that the Atheros WiFi card is not Mac compatible, so while ethernet works great there was no WiFi. A search showed many hackbook users are replacing the Atheros card with a Dell one that works fine. I searched eBay and found a seller with new Dell DW 1390 mini PCI-E cards for £9.99 including delivery. Mine arrived a couple of days later, and following the guide at aceraspireuser.com I soon had it fitted in the hackbook. Snow Leopard picked the new card up with no further tinkering and works great.
8. Snow Leopard 10.6.2 broke Intel Atom compatibility, so to upgrade to 10.6.2 and beyond requires using a patched kernel. I downloaded the 10.6.2 version from Insanelymac, thanks to teateam for this. The new kernel was unarchived, named mach_kernel_atom2 and placed in the root of the hard drive. Next the com.apple.boot.plist was edited to use the new kernel, as shown here:A restart showed the new kernel was working fine so next was the 10.6.2 combo update, and everything still worked. I’ve just used software update to upgrade to 10.6.3 (still using the patched 10.6.2 kernel) and all appears well. The patched 10.6.3 kernel also just went on and looks to be working fine.
The end result is a hackbook with plenty of storage available for photo’s and video, with the only limitations of sleep and the card readers not working. I use a USB card reader so that’s not really a problem, and rarely use sleep on a portable device. Since I’m using the Panasonic LX3 I wanted to install the latest Apple Camera Raw updates but these would not install unless iPhoto or Aperture were present. On went iPhoto, and it works well despite the small screen. One interesting thing I found is that Mac OS is clever enough to not position buttons off screen, as shown below.
The top of the Software Update window is cut off so the buttons at the bottom are on screen. Just a little touch, but it shows the amount of thought that goes into Mac OS.
The biggest question will be how usable the hackbook is. I’m off the New York for a few days in May 2010 so that will be the test. Before Installing Snow Leopard I tried Linux Mint 8 and was very impressed. Everything worked after a couple of minor tweaks so if Snow Leopard on the Acer Aspire One causes any problems it will be replaced with Mint 8, shown running through remote desktop. With the card slots working.
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