The Intel NUC really is a remarkable little device. The NUC I have (NUC6i5SYK) contains a Core i5-6260U containing 2 physical cores supporting hyperthreading clocked at 1.8Ghz base frequency up to 2.8Ghz turbo. Into that little box I’ve recently packed 32GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe SATA drive (I’d use PCIe, but macOS compatibility isn’t great for PCIe NVMe drives), turning my NUC into an excellent, power-sipping little home server and workstation.
To that I’ve also added a Behringer UMC202HD U-Phoria USB audio interface and a DI box, which turns thing into a very nice little audio recording workstation. Of course, it looks a little funny because the NUC is actually smaller than the audio interface!
Some things I’m planning to do with this:
- Recording workstation. Nuff said.
- Home backup server. I’ll expose the storage as a network drive that our Windows laptops can use as a backup storage location.
- Torrent server. Transmission is an excellent, OSX native torrent client, and with 1TB of storage, my NUC is a perfect place to run it.
And more generally, this could be a useful place to host VMs as needed, and… well, really anything else I could imagine using a home server for (custom DVR for my IP camera system? Hmm…).
Is this all overkill? Maybe. But hey, that’s just how I roll…
So I’m nearly a week into my Hackintosh build, and so far the novelty has definitely not worn off. As a person who’s never previously owned a Mac, and has minimal experience with OSX, I have to admit, the whole platform is pretty darn slick. Everyone knows about Apple’s legendary polish, but the whole machine is incredibly snappy and feels much faster and more responsive than the same hardware with Ubuntu on it. I’m sure that’s all perception, but Apple really does know how to tune a system to increase the perception of performance.
In terms of more specific experiences, so far I’ve used my new machine to:
- Create a site plan for my house in OmniGraffle.
- Watch video content (VLC, Netflix) in my office without distracting the wife.
- Assist a friend in some Linux administration and light software development work.
I’d place these in order of advantage to the Mac. OmniGraffle is Mac only, and an absolutely fantastic piece of software. The rough equivalent might be Visio, but honestly, I think OG is the better product for my use cases. It’s fast, powerful, and really very easy to use.
As a media device, the Hackintosh is excellent! Video playback is absolutely perfect, in VLC and in Netflix through Safari. The next step is to give a Steam game a try to see how that works (many of the games in my library have Mac ports).
For development work, honestly, my laptop would be a perfectly suitable solution, but the Hackintosh is a bit of a novelty at the moment, and I’ve enjoyed using it for this purposes as well.
Of things I haven’t done yet, but plan to:
- Record some music in Garage Band or equivalent.
- Edit images or photos (in a product I haven’t identified yet).
- Do some real intensive development in Xcode or Intellij.
At some point, if I’m really going to commit to this path, getting a real Mac keyboard and mouse or touchpad seem like good ideas. But I’ll wait a couple of months to see where my usage shakes out before I go there.
Random side benefit: because my NUC is a desktop machine, I’ve found myself using my office a lot more, which I’ve really rather enjoyed, particularly when I need focused time. In the end, I think the NUC as a workstation may make a very nice complement to my laptop… which has a certain irony, given how much time I’ve spent trying to untether myself from a desk. Then again, I could be wrong! Time will tell.
Early in the year, on a bit of a whim, I decided to pick up an Intel NUC. These things are actually pretty slick little kit computers. The model I purchased sports:
- Intel i5-6260U Skylake CPU
- Four USB ports
- HDMI and DisplayPort
- Built in WiFi and Bluetooth
- SDXC card reader
- Audio output jack
All in a box that’s 11x11x5cm.
As it’s a kit, you’re responsible for adding storage and memory, so to this I added 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD I had lying around.
Now, the main purpose of this thing was to replace the old computer I was using for idle guitar recording and so forth. To that end, I loaded it up with Ubuntu Studio, installed Ardour, Guitarix, and a few other bits and bobs, and called it a day. But I haven’t been playing much lately, and recording not at all, so there it sat.
And then, on a whim, for reasons I honestly don’t recall, I figured, hey, I’m bored and that NUC is just sitting there… why not descend into the depths of hell and try turning this thing into a Hackintosh?
“A what?”, you say?
Well, Mac OS is only shipped and supported with Apple hardware. But ever since Apple switched to Intel for their machines, there’s been a busy little community of masochists hacking the operating system and getting it to work on non-Apple hardware. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you like to tinker and self-torture, it’s an interesting challenge.
You can imagine why this piqued my curiosity. Tinkering? Masochism? I’M IN!
My first crack at this, last weekend, involved trying to install El Capitan (macOS 10.11) with a standard recipe on tonymacx86.com. This… did not go well. To this day I have no idea why it didn’t work, but it consistently failed to boot into the OSX kernel when I tried to load the installer from a USB stick. I’m pretty sure I briefly went insane. And the muttering. My god, the muttering.
But, because I’m not one to give up in the face of adversity, even when the project is nearly pointless, I soldiered on.
And then it came to this: My hail mary. Screw El Cap, why not just jump straight to Sierra and see what happens? So on a Tuesday night I downloaded Sierra (macOS 10.12) directly from the App Store and tried it one last time.
And I’ll be damned, it worked very nearly flawlessly! I had to drop in some additional tweaks to get the Intel graphics chipset to work properly, but otherwise… it… just works. I’m not 100% sure this isn’t all an hallucination as a result of sleep deprivation.
So, let’s define “just works”. The things that do work:
- Accelerated Intel Iris 540 graphics (I’m running this on a 1920x1080 Samsung TV).
- USB ports
- Onboard Ethernet
- HDMI audio
Of the things that don’t work (and I knew these ones going in):
- WiFi and Bluetooth
- SD card reader
Fortunately I wired ethernet into my office years ago, and have a far more capable USB SD card reader, so none of these things much matter.
And beyond that, this thing is working great! It’s snappy as hell, and seems pretty darn stable. Overall, after going through struggles with El Cap that made me want to tear my hair out, once I switched to Sierra the process ended up being incredibly easy (thanks to a great community with lots of resources and recipes). As a result, I now have a very capable little Mac with the most recent version of macOS running on it. Want proof? Here it is!
To this I’ve added recording software, drawing/diagramming tools, development tools, etc, transforming my languishing NUC into a very capable little multimedia authoring workstation.
Thanks Hackintosh community!
Just updated to macOS 10.12.6 using Apple’s stock updater. Flawless victory!
It’s official: We’re now responsive! Until I find bugs…