Building a Hackintosh for Music and Teaching Use

Last fall, I built a Hackintosh. “But why….Apple makes computers that are cheap right?” you say. Yes, they do. I was using a 2006 iMac for recording and driving two monitors for teaching (the other monitor is used to display music, smart music, etc). But, it had gotten slow. Real slow. I upgraded the drive, fresh OS installs. It didn’t help. The aging Core2Duo chip at 2 gigahertz just was not cutting it. Nor was being limited to 3 gigabytes of ram. The machine was fine for basic recording, but just was not cutting it anymore. Maybe cause I was spoiled at home having a 2008 MacPro.

So, I looked into getting a MacMini or another iMac for the studio. Except, I really liked having multiple drives in the case like my MacPro has. That computer is nearly silent. And fast. So, I had seen a couple of things on LifeHacker and other sites about building a Hackintosh. I originally was interested in a Hackintosh to power my Webserver (for Jazz-Sax) and to be used as a server for time machine backups and iTunes storage. But installing OS X on Atom CPUed computers seems a big issue after 10.5. Plus the little computer just wouldn’t perform as well.

Anyhow, after reading many of the posts there, I figured out that for a little less than $1K I could get a machine that performs about the same as my MacPro. Plus it could easily drive two monitors, and would have a ton of drive bays for storage.

So, threw caution to the wind, and bought the stuff to make the Hackintosh. It turns out it worked just fine. This was using 10.7 (Apple is now on 10.8). Dual monitors worked. Sound worked. Ethernet worked. Performance is as good if not better than my 2008 MacPro. USB Audio interface works fine. Logic runs flawlessly on it, as does Finale. Digital Performer 7.24 does not though, which is sad. I like Digital Performer. Supposedly getting a graphics card instead of using the built in HD3000 graphics would fix that problem. Maybe Digital Performer 8 doesn’t have this problem. I briefly used ProTools 10 as a trial to export projects I had done. Decided I didn’t want to play Avid’s huge upgrade price for ProTools to work on 10.7 (version 9 of ProTools did not work on it).

Things I have learned about running a hackintosh…..BACKUPS.

Generally, the Hackintosh is rock solid stable. I think I can count on one hand how many of unexplained crashes I have had on it in a year. And most all of them were on 10.7. Moving to 10.8 made things even more stable. BUT…..system updates are a crap shoot. Anytime Apple releases a system update for OS X, be it a security update or a .X version of the OS, you need to be careful. The update from 10.8.1 to 10.8.2 fried my Hackintosh. Resulted in it not booting. This is where you need to have a backup plan.

Since I wanted near Zero downtime, I decided to do a clone of my system drive to another drive. Then, if I do a system update, and it fails to boot, I can reboot into the clone drive and at least get through the day. Failing that, you can use the Unibeast USB drive you make when making a Hackintosh and simply reinstall the OS. Generally, ever single program you had installed and it’s data will be fine and you won’t lose anything. I’m going to say it’s a sure thing, but I had such a huge issue with 10.8.1 to 10.8.2 I ended up having to reinstall the OS several times on my main drive and I did not need to reinstall a single program. Logic 9 worked, Finale, SmartMusic, Sibelius… problems.

Second thing I learned…….get the hardware parts right.

On the TonyMacX86 there is a recommended build list of boards, chips, etc. Get one of those. Don’t think that you can get something similar, or close. Get what other people have successfully built a Hackintosh system with. I chose a Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 board. It offered enough video ports and other ports for me. There are plenty of other choices, but pick something they recommend there. I can’t tell you how many people get some no name board or pre-made computer and want help getting OS X on it. Running and building a Hackintosh is not for the faint of heart, but do yourself a huge favor and start off on the right foot. The choice of board is essential. The chip, memory, case, power supply…..not as essential.

Final Thoughts

I saved a TON of money building this. A MacPro is a great machine. I have one. But as of right now, Apple is sort of letting the line of computers languish. For those of us who want a ton of storage in the case, and the ability to have a ton of ram……a MacPro is the way to go. I would totally build another Hackintosh. In fact, probably a year from now I will depending if the current one gets slow (I don’t see this happening) or if there are Thunderbolt audio interfaces that seem to warrant me getting (probably not). If you are a little tech savvy, or are a quick study, you can easily get yourself a MacPro at a third the price with a little elbow grease.

Looking for the Best Indexer of PDFs and Documents

I’ve been doing a project for several years now…..converting paper material to digital. I wrote about this a while ago, and the process still holds true for me. Since getting an iPad, and also since basically converting my teaching studio to being centered around electronic display.

So, in the process of going all “Digital”, you need to have some sort of “backup” plan. For years, I have been running a Infrant/Netgear NV+ to hold all my iTunes music and books. It worked great for many many years, but it is slow. It’s like 6 years+ old now. I recently purchased a Synology DS1512+ to replace it (the Netgear unit is now a RSync clone of the Synology that is stored off site). It works well. iTunes runs great on it and things are safe (RAID5). BUT….iTunes isn’t very good at all for managing PDFs.

Most everything I have is text searchable PDFs. Or text files. What I am looking for is a program to program like DevonThink that can keep track of all the PDFs and stuff, and you can search for text in the PDFs. BUT….I don’t want all the PDFs mashed into a single library file. Why? Cause I like having a play-along in iTunes that also has the book in a Playlist. If I had DevonThink handle all the PDFs, it would put them all into a Library file and I’d lose that ability.

I’ve looked into Yep, and that would be AWESOME for PDFs…..except it only works with Spotlight enabled drives. All the PDFs would have to be stored locally. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a NAS and RAID5. The other contender is iDocument, which is probably going to fit the bill. It is flexible in how it handles the PDFs, and doesn’t require you to keep them all in a single Library file (though you can), and doesn’t only work with a Spotlight drive.

Anyhow, it’s not a perfect solution, but it is getting there. Ideally, I’d love something like Evernote but that you can run locally without any of their limits in file sizes or bandwidth. Maybe Synology will come up with something for their units. They already have iOS/Android Apps that allow you to stream music or video from your NAS WHEREVER you are (home, on the go). It’s pretty darn cool. If they come up with something similar to Evernote for their Synology line…..that would be amazing.


Seems Samsung is not the only company that copies others. PGMusic’s Band-in-a-Box is clearly the target of BandMaster‘s photocopier.

BandMaster is $29 accompaniment software solution for Mac. No idea how it sounds (no videos or audio available), but it does have some minor interface improvements compared to Band in a Box (i.e.: Time Line).

With no audio or video, I’d be a little concerned about how this program is going to sound. Band in a Box is STILL the leader in the sort of program, and still my hands down “GET IT” choice.


UPDATE:4 Days left, they also included Firetask and Printopia to the bundle.

Ok, probably aren’t into the games. But the two things that are of tremendous value are DiskTools Pro and Evernote (1 year and 3 months of the Premium). For $29.

Evernote premium is $45 a year. That right there is a good reason to get this bundle. The DiskTools Pro also has a very nice disk defragmenter for those of us who work with big files.

Back to Evernote. Consider how much time you spend on the web. You find something useful, interesting, insightful, or whatever. You bookmark it. You might as well have thrown it away. Are you going to remember WHERE you put the bookmark? What was the site called? Nope. Forget about it. That bookmark has gone to the same place where the missing socks go.

Evernote, for me, has an AWESOME Web Clipper (or you could set up a bookmark script in Safari, or even email the link to your evernote account) that will grab the articles, sans ads and crap. Then you can tag it with somethings to remember what it is. Say music, psychology. And/Or put it in a binder, say called Misc Music Stuff, or just put it in the default place.

Ok, now you are saying “But isn’t that just as bad is bookmarks”. NO. Sit down Skippy. Take another drink of your juice box. It is NOT the same. Why? Cause you can search EVERYTHING in Evernote. The PDF you put in, the Webpage you just clipped. It’s all searchable. Every……single…..word. So if you saved a webpage dealing with Garbonzo beans, you can search Garbonzo in the search, and it will find you ALL THE ARTICLES that have that word.

I’ll wait while you pick your jaw up off the floor……….ok?

Plus you can take pictures and put it in Evernote. Or voice memos. Tag it, organize it. Once it’s in there, it’s available on your computer or phone (Android/iOS)

Pretty cool? It appears you get UNLIMITED storage in Evernote, but you can only transfer in 1 gig a month. So after 13 months you’d have 13 gigs of searchable crap. Not a mess of bookmarks.

$29… you get some games (Strongbad game is funny), an art program, and a Recipe program (which comes with a ton of recipes).

So consider it….soon. 6 Days left to get it. My math skills say that that is 1/2 price for an Evernote account. Evernote has been a good value so far for me. I had a TON of interesting articles saved in Google Reader (that is a whole OTHER story how that is cool) that I have clipped into Evernote and can actually find and use now. Now if I could just find those socks I’m missing…..

SPAM Problems/Registrations

Running is site is a pain sometimes. Basically, its SPAM. People/BOTS register and start flooding the site with links to crap. In an attempt to fight off the SPAM/BOTS, I installed a few WordPress plugins to deal with it. It seemed to drastically cut down on the amount of fake registrations and spam the jazz- sites where getting.

However, it seems that something has run amok. I can’t even seem to create a new user anymore using the standard registration form. So, I have disabled some of the plugins for right now. We will see how it goes. If I start seeing the activity logs flooded with “low cost pursues” and other crap, I might reenable the plugins or make it more difficult to register.