Pirated version of MacOS for x86 available for install

An unauthorized version of Mac OS X for Intel or AMD's chips could be downloaded from several sites on Friday.

Instructions on how to install Apple Computer's Mac OS X operating system on any PC with a chip from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices were posted to the Internet last week.

Apple has announced that Mac OS X will run on Intel's x86 architecture chips starting in 2006. The Cupertino, California, company has been working on a version of Mac OS X for Intel's chips since 2000, even though Macs currently use PowerPC chips from IBM Corp. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs told developers in June that a switch was necessary to take advantage of the low-power chips Intel is expected to release in the future.

At the time, Apple executives insisted that Mac OS X would only run on x86 chips used in Apple-developed hardware. Intel PCs distributed to Apple developers with the x86 version of Mac OS X used a security chip to prevent developers from copying Mac OS to other Intel PCs, according to several reports this week from Mac enthusiast sites.

However, several enterprising hackers have figured out ways to bypass the security chip and run the developer's version of MacOS for x86 on any x86-based PC, according to a posting on the Web site of The OSx86 Project (http://osx86project.org/). Posters on that site as well as other sites within the Mac community claim to have used the instructions to run Mac OS X on their Intel or AMD PCs, with some posting pictures and videos of x86 PCs booting Mac OS X.

The process requires a copy of Mac OS X version 4 (Tiger), VMware Inc.'s virtualization software, the PearPC emulator that can run operating systems written for PowerPC on any architecture, Apple's Darwin 8.0.1 software, an x86 processor that supports SSE2 (Streaming SIMD Extensions 2), and two files created by an independent developer that can be downloaded using the BitTorrent file-sharing system.

As of Friday afternoon, detailed instructions were available in a wiki created by The OSx86 Project. (http://wiki.osx86project.org/wiki/index.php/Vmware_how_to) Another site (http://www.xplodenet.com/) had posted instructions for installing Mac OS X without using VMware's software.

Users must be willing to download pirated software, as the two files have been modified to get around the security technology in the developer PCs, according to The OSx86 Project Web site. The site insists that The OSx86 Project does not support the use of illegal software but wishes to offer a forum for users interested in running Mac OS on x86 chips.

Mac OS X users praise its user-friendly design and the scarcity of viruses developed for the operating system. Aside from a brief flirtation with licensing the operating system in the mid-1990s, Apple has maintained control over its operating system by restricting it to hardware made and developed by the company.

However, there is a sizable group of PC users that like to build their own systems using hardware from Intel and AMD, and many users in that group have itched for a way to run Mac OS on these low-cost machines.

Dell Inc. Chairman Michael Dell also expressed interest in selling a Mac OS X Dell PC after Jobs announced the switch to Intel's chips.

An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the issue. However, Apple has said many times since the June announcement that Mac OS X is designed to work only with Apple hardware, whether that hardware uses PowerPC chips or x86 chips.

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Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
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