PsyStar: Attention-seeking whore of the tech world
October 26th, 2009 by scaredpoet


You know, there’s a part of me that really wants to like Psystar. On the face of it, their motives seem nice enough: allow anyone with a commodity PC to run Mac OS X, without having to buy the pricey Mac hardware currently required to run it. Legal? The jury appears to still be out on that. Moral? Well, you’d certainly think that’s an awfully nice thing to do, right?

Unfortunately, I keep having to question Psystar’s motives, and logic. And the answers don’t seem very comforting.

For the past year or two they’ve been selling the Open Computer, a line of desktops and servers that will run OS X…. or Windows or linux, if that’s what you really want [wink wink]. Problem is, for all their touting of how they’ve broken the Mac closed-hardware model wide open, there’s still a lot of hassle involved in getting a Psystar machine to work. They send you a real, genuine OS X install disc, but you don’t actually use it on your Open Computer. Instead, you have to rely on Psystar – who’s already declared bankruptcy once as a legal tactic to try and dodge Apple’s lawsuits – to provide you with hacked-up, patched up versions of OS X for updates and upgrades.

But it gets better! Psystar isn’t really doing the grunt work here… they’re actually borrowing a LOT of code and development effort from the OSx86 project, which offers solutions for booting OS X on home built PCs. With a little customization and having to put up with the inconveniences of waiting for hacked-up version of OS X updates, you can do the same thing that PsyStar gives you, for less.

The OSx86 developers, by the way, have said that PsyStar hasn’t gotten permission to use their code, and reworked their license to prohibit commercial use.

Okay, well… stealing from Apple might be seen as a good, noble, Robin-hood kinda thing in some circles. But pissing off open source developers and stealing off their efforts is a third-rate, asshole move right there, regardless of how you look at it. Even so, PsyStar still sorta made sense in a way. There’s a segment of folks out there who would like to use a Mac, aren’t able or are perhaps unwilling to spend the premium to buy mac hardware, but lack the time, motivation or skill level to assemble their own kit. if they’re willing to put up with the Hackintosh annoyances, they might just flock to PsyStar.

But you see, PsyStar just isn’t done being an asshole yet!

Just this past Friday, they released Rebel EFI, a program that permits – wait for it – anyone to use a home built PC to boot OS X. Sound familiar? Rebel EFI doesn’t really provide anything different from the OSx86 solutions. You still have to deal with wonky updating issues. Various PC configurations still aren’t supported or tested, so there’s really no guarantee that the hardware you have will truly work. But, there are some important “enhancements” though:

  • Rebel EFI is free to try and download, though it will have limited hardware functionality and a run-time of two hours. So your hardware will only run for two hours at a time, and you can’t really test out if your machine will truly work thanks to the “limitations.”

  • To get a fully unlimited version, you have to pay PsyStar $49.99 for them to send you an “Activation key.”

A little irony here: To get OS X Snow Leopard, you pay only $29, and it’s not locked by a key. Don’t have Apple hardware? Well, OSx86 will do the same thing, no charge. And, it’s probably the same thing you’re getting from PsyStar at a premium, anyway.

So uhhh, what exactly is the benefit here to buying Rebel EFI?

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