The Leopard dead end

Finally got it, trapped myself into a dead end. This afternoon, I wanted to get AdBlock Pus back into my own account’s Google Chrome on the Mac. I found out that extensions wouldn’t install unless I update my Google Chrome. I tried it, but that stupidly installed a version of Chrome incompatible with Mac OS X 10.5 and I just cannot revert back to the old Chrome. It cannot be downloaded anymore from Google and apparently anywhere else. So I end up with only Safari as a browser on this machine. I cannot get Chrome anymore, no matter how hard I try. However, one hour ago, after I put away this damned machine, I found out I was able to get Firefox 16, the last Firefox usable on Mac OS X 10.5. This wouldn’t get me access to Sync for my bookmarks and history (now requires Firefox 33 or something), but at least I would get a browser I’m used to and that supports HTML5.

Well, at worst, I can live with Safari as the only browser, but getting blocked to Mac OS X 10.5.8 is a more and more an handicap. It prevents me from getting Firefox with Sync, Chrome, SmoothMouse or Razer Synapse, I don’t have access to the Mac App Store so cannot get back my screen capture utility I started using on my Hackintosh, and cannot obtain XCode, which I would need to obtain MEncoder through MacPorts. MEncoder would be useful to encode videos into the QuickTime variant Final Cut Express prefers for optimum performance, as soon as I find this out, and assuming there is such an optimal format that would avoid lengty rendering or at least reduce its length.

The golden upgrade path: from scratch to Yosemite!

I was imagining an upgrade path capable of leading me to Yosemite. I was over-enthousiast with this, thrilled by the possibility it may be doable. The idea would be the following:

  1. Backup as much as I can the data from the hard drive.
  2. Optionnally replace the hard drive with a 120Gb SSD I don’t use anymore.
  3. Install, from scratch, the Mountain Lion I got during my Hackintosh venture.  The USB key Unibeast produced me is just a wrapped up prestine Mac OS X installer that can boot on MBR-based PCs. The Mac’s EFI will just ignore that part, find the EFI loader from Apple and boot that, bypassing the hacked part of the media. I was thus hopeful to get a fresh Mountain Lion system installed from my hacked USB stick! After all, I paid for Mountain Lion, so it was nice to be able to get a return over investment.
  4. Upgrade to Mavericks through Mac App Store, maybe even directly to Yosemite.
  5. Update to Yosemite through Mac App Store if I had to go through Mavericks.
  6. Find a way to get back Final Cut Express, maybe I will be able to copy it back from backed up hard drive, maybe not.
  7. Enjoy!

Unfortunately, things didn’t go so great. First, installation of a SSD would be a great undertaking, requiring almost tearing apart the whole laptop. Then I found out, by running uname -a from a terminal, that Apple did the same stupid mistake as all other manufacturers until Windows 7 comes out: supply a 32 bits OS on machines with a CPU capable of 64 bits operations!

But Apple went one step further: hard-code the EFI to boot only 32 bits loaders!!! There is apparently no work around. A PC with a 32 bit EFI could be worked around by using the legacy boot, which would allow an OS with 80×86 code to switch the CPU into 64-bits mode. But Mac’s EFI can only boot EFI executables, and EFI executables are incapable of switching the CPU mode, at least as far as I know. I didn’t get confirmation of this from EFI spec, so I may be surprised later on. So if EFI is 32 bits on a Mac, that Mac an only run 32 bits OSes!

Why is it so bad? Well, Mountain Lion and later versions only supply a 64-bits kernel, so they won’t run on a 32-bits EFI, no chance it can happen. So not only I am blocked to Mac OS X 10.7, but I don’t have the needed media to jump there.

This afternoon, I confirmed this theory by attempting to boot the Mac off my hacked Mountain Lion USB stick. Although the EFI displayed the loader from the USB stick, that simply resulted in a forbidden sign, no more.

From Leopard to Lion

Without an access to Mac App Store, getting my hands on Lion will be as hard as getting Mountain Lion. I would have to install an hacked version of Mac OS X into VirtualBox or rebuild my Hackintosh, use Mac App Store to download Lion (assuming it would let me do so without meeting requirements) and transfer that onto a USB stick or DVD.

Any Google search leads me to the need for purchasing the retail DVD of Snow Leopard from Apple Store. That would require ordering the disk online, waiting for it forever and it will be delivered to me while I am at work (unless I spend the whole week working from home, and maybe even then). Ideally, I would purchase a download link to an ISO image and burn it.

However, things are not as simple. This afternoon, pissed off beyond imagination, I tried to search for a Torrent that would allow me to grab that damned ISO. It found several, but I discovered that the ISO file was 7Gb large, so doesn’t fit a DVD. So even if I could download the ISO legally from Apple, I wouldn’t be able to burn it on a DVD. Somebody managed to unpack the ISO on an iPod Classic and installed Mac OS X from that through a Firewire port. Wow! I don’t have such an artillery, nor the iPod classic, nor the Firewire cable. Would I get some luck with a USB stick or external hard drive? Maybe, maybe not.

I kind of lost hope at this point. It seems that a Mac either works out of the box as it is, or requires divine intervention from an Apple technician. But getting an Apple technician to work on the machine is another headache, requiring scheduled appointment, probably during day time, so I would have to interrupt my work day to get that damned computer checked, and probably the tech, when looking at the empty battery slot, would stop there and simply recommend I purchase a brand new Macbook Pro, that would have not just Snow Leopard but prestine all-new super-great super-cool Yosemite. Yeah! But that would cost me more than 2000$, and still no more Final Cut Express.

I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m oscillating between switching gears and reinstalling my Hackintosh, ordering this damned Snow Leopard DVD and see or getting it (illegally, unfortunately) through BitTorrent and fiddling with external media workarounds to accomodate the oversized media. If I can get my hands on a couple of dual layer DVD+-R medias, maybe my burner would be able to write the large ISO on that, maybe not, I never tried.

I finally decided to try ordering the retail DVD. I tried upgrading to expedited shipping to make sure to get it a day I know I would be at home. I also found out that upgrading to Lion would require bumping up memory to 2Gb, so I will have to figure out how to replace the SO-DIMM modules before going from Snow Leopard to Lion.

Note that I also found out that the Mac has a 120Gb hard drive. As a result, if I later on switch to use my 120Gb OCZ Agility 3 SSD, I will have the same amount of disk space, with more speed.

Can this Mac be saved?

If I cannot get a more supported Mac OS X, can this machine be freed from this limiting plague which seems to be Mac OS X? The best thing I could install it is probably a Ubuntu version of some sort. But searches about this are not so positive. Some people succeeeded, but they used an hacked Ubuntu version. Some people are telling it is possible to install a 32-bits version of Ubuntu 14.04 from a DVD or USB stick (EFI could boot the live CD), some didn’t have success unless they used an hacked 12.04 DVD and jumped to 14.04. So this promises to be a very frustrating weekend (and maybe even whole Christmas holidays) of trial and errors! I’m not sure I want to venture into that.