So it’s a few weeks since I got my little Asus EeePC 701. And I’m pleased to say I’ve now got it transformed into a little baby Mac!
In the end I found that the Leopard install wasn’t really going to fly, so I went for a Tiger install and that has worked out really well. I’ve now got a really nice little OSX netbook that is super portable and actually surprisingly usable. Plus it was very cheap
Here’s the Tiger desktop, the Eee’s 7″ screen runs at 800×480:
Unlike Vista, OSX’s 3D acceleration works great even on fairly low end GPUs. Dashboard and ExposÃ© are fluid and perfectly usable. Screen updates are super slick, just like on a normal Mac. Here’s Firefox 3 running:
And this is iTunes 7 running. Works fine!
The thing that really surprises me is just how well OSX runs on this thing. It’s only an Intel Celeron of about 600MHz in real terms, with a fairly meagre Intel GMA900 integrated graphics chips, but OSX feels pretty snappy on the 701.
One very minor downside is that the system clock runs slow, apparently due to OSX incorrectly picking up the Asus’ actual bus speed. This results in the clock drifting out of time, and couple of system animations running slow, however apart from that everything seems fine. The clock is fine on startup since the CMOS clock isn’t affected. Speed of apps etc is not affected at all.
Secondly, the Eee’s internal WiFi card isn’t supported under OSX. Like everyone else, I just bought a Dell mini PCI Express card on eBay for about £13, opened the machine up and replaced the WiFi card. I also upgraded the memory from the standard 512MB to 1GB, as I had a spare 1GB module left over from my recent iMac upgrade.
Also, the 4GB solid state drive doesn’t leave lots of room after a bare Tiger install, just over 1GB. I wanted to install Xcode (the developer tools) to see if they would work, however the Tiger versions of Xcode will only install to the boot drive, and need more than 1GB. In the end, though, I was able to clone the SSD to an 8GB SDHC card using the excellent SuperDuper. When booting the Eee, you can enter the OSX Darwin bootloader and choose to boot from the SDHC instead. Amazingly, performance isn’t a *lot* slower than the internal SSD, and I was able to install Xcode to the SDHC. Even more amazingly, I could create a test Cocoa project/application, run Interface Builder, and so on. I wouldn’t want to use it *too* much with such a small screen and keyboard, but it’s nice to know you can get an install to run off SDHC and give you more room for certain apps that depend so much on the boot volume.
Of course, I had to add one final touch Ages ago I bought a lot of 10 old rainbow Apple badges from eBay, the sort they used to put in the little square bezel on the old machines. I actually wanted to cut out the rainbow apple from the square surround, until I realised these old badges are made of metal and the apple is pressed out. Seemed like too much trouble so I went with the whole badge…