Psystar’s Rebel EFI software is more trouble than it’s worth

Wed, Oct 28, 2009


Late last week, Psystar announced that it would be releasing software (Rebel EFI) designed to enable any PC user to install OS X on non-Apple hardware.  But actually downloading the software and getting it to work is an entirely different story.

Wired writes:

“All you need to do is download a small file (7.6MB) and use it to make a bootable CD. You then start the computer from this disk and wait until it tells you to swap in your Snow Leopard DVD. That’s it.

Or, that’s kinda it. The list of caveats, warnings and workarounds that follows the short instructions shows just why Apple will never bother supporting its OS on third-party hardware: There are just too many unknowns in the various machines to consider them all. Take this example, which is the description of the Psystar Labs Approval program:

To alleviate some the incompatibility issues some devices will experience, Psystar has begun their home certification program. Once authenticated, users will be given the opportunity to send in hardware components that are not working correctly and have our engineers build a profile for the device.

Nice. You might have to send in, say, your wireless card and hope Psystar can get it back to you along with a working driver. Not bad enough? Try this:

If when booting OS X your computer hangs at a screen with the Apple logo and a “no smoking” sign, you may have an issue with a BIOS Setting. To rectify this, follow these procedures.

Uh oh! “These procedures” turn out to be a lot of rummaging in the advanced BIOS settings of the machine. But the most confidence inspiring part of all is this one, which gets its own FAQ entry entitled “‘Installation failed’ message”:

You may receive this message upon the completion of the OS X installation. Please know that this may not necessarily be the case and that it may have correctly been installed.”

Ah yes, sending in hardware components to a company on the brink of bankruptcy and sifting through advanced BIOS settings is exactly the kind of OS X experience users are looking for.

In a similar test, Computerworld also put Psystar’s new software through the ringer and concluded that the Rebel EFI software was rudimentary at best.  While it did get Snow Leopard up and running on some computers, the software comes with little to no documentation, with Computerworld noting that “you will need a bit of PC technical knowledge to pull off an install.”  Once up and running, you’re then at the mercy of whatever hardware you happen to be working on, with CW observing that after its OS X install, audio refused to work and the screen was limited to a 1024×768 screen resolution.  Cheaper than Mac hardware? Yes.  An authentic Mac experience?  I think not.

CW concludes,

It seems like Psystar still has a lot of homework to do when it comes to drivers and hardware compatibility. Psystar’s Rebel EFI is an interesting tool, but it is very limited when it comes to the selection of hardware that you can use. The company really needs to create a compatible hardware list and post that on its Web site — and it also needs to create some usable documentation.

As it stands right now, you can use Rebel EFI to build a Mac clone, but unless you stick to relatively generic hardware, you will be disappointed.

The reality is that Psystar seems to realize that its date in court with Apple is fast approaching and that it’s days of making money off of misappropriating Apple’s intellectual property won’t last forever.  So in a last ditch effort to make a few extra bucks, they’ve decided to sell a bootloader to individuals and to hardware manufacturers as well.  In addition to trying to earn a few dis-honest bucks, you can bet that Psystar is also motivated, in part, by a desire to basically stick it to Apple.

And lastly, if Psystar really cared about consumers, as it comically claims it does, it wouldn’t release a piece of software that will undoubtedly create an untold number of problems on the computers of those poor saps looking to get OS X up and running on their generic PC hardware with an amateur hack.


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