No Apple Netbook Yet? Hack Your Own MacBook 'Cloud'

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Warning: Everything I've done to create my cloudbook violates the Mac OS X EULA, trashes your Dell warranty, and in general will probably lead to other trouble. So don't hold me, InfoWorld, Apple Computer, Dell, Gizmodo, or anyone else responsible for whatever actions you're about to take. Proceed at your own risk.

With that out of the way, the process is quite simple -- I've yet to meet anyone who's had any trouble. My two bits are really just an add-on to the Gizmodo instructions, so I'm going to hit the high notes and point you where you need to go. That way I give credit where credit is due and don't get InfoWorld into any more trouble than necessary. Let's turn your Dell Mini 9 into a MacBook Cloud.

1. Get your hands on a Dell Mini 9. The Mini 9 I snagged sports 1GB of RAM and an 8GB solid state hard drive. Sounds weak, I know, but it's been a pleasure to use. You can upgrade to 2GB for a little extra scratch, but I've yet to feel that necessary.

2. Follow Gizmodo's instructions entitled "How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook." If you're thinking it sounds hard, quit worrying. I followed these instructions plus a couple of Web tips for reducing the size of Mac OS X, and had my Hackintosh up and running in less than 30 minutes.

3. Configure your machine so that no files can be saved locally. I know, you really don't have to configure anything if you just follow the rules when using your new machine, but we all get tired, are subject to proverbial bad days, and are indoctrinated by years of personal computer usage to save to our hard drives. I work 20-hour days on a regular basis and rarely know what day of the week it is, so I decided to eliminate the possibility I might (gasp!) accidentally save a file locally.

a. First, I configured my new MacBook Cloud to log into me.com upon startup.
b. Then I configured any applications that allowed me to set a working directory to save by default to my me.com iDisk (Apple's cloud storage service).
c. Finally, I created an Automator action (a type of visual Mac script) that looks for any files on my desktop and moves them to my iDisk upon sleep or shutdown.

I'm telling you, this baby's a dream. I'm an old Unix hack, so I made some of these simple modifications using cron jobs and symbolic links, but I'm not going to bore you with those here. A, b, and c should be easy enough that almost anyone can get their idiot-proof MacBook Cloud up and running. There is one more thing that might bug some of you: As cool as it is, this system only works over a wireless connection. So here's my optional step four:

4. (Optional) If you're mad as hell, and you're not going to take only being able to save files over a wireless network anymore, you've got a couple of options. There's "easy as pie" and "Oh my god, what was I thinking?" Easy as pie: Purchase a small USB key or external storage device to keep with your machine for those times when wireless is not an option. My friend Giovanni Gallucci's been velcroing a small, thin hard drive(s) to his laptop for years. This option is cheap, efficient, and sort of detracts from my store-everything-in-the-cloud motif. But do it if you must. Now for Oh my god, what was I thinking? Get your hands on a Novatel EU850D, solder several things here, tape a few things there, and voila! You'll be independent. Jkkmobile posted a set of illustrated instructions, but I still wouldn't recommend this unless you are 1) prepared to ruin the incredibly cool machine you just configured, or 2) an electrical engineer with a Weller GT7A3, a 3/16-inch' chisel tip, 700°F of pure soldering magic, and have a serious appetite for frustration.

If you haven't held two of the above, or don't own at least one of the above, just hit the local coffeehouse and save yourself the pain.

5. Revel in your mad Hackintosh-instruction-following skills. Come on now, this is pretty simple. It's not going to change your life, but it is a $200 cloudbook that doesn't contain any personal data and offers peace of mind when I think I might have left my bag in a cab, or a hotel room, or with airport security (cause for some reason they don't like me). Dan Nystedt says Apple doesn't get netbooks, and he's right. Either way, I think Apple should skip netbooks and go directly to cloudbooks. Until it does, help yourself to MacBook Cloud!

This story, "No Apple Netbook Yet? Hack Your Own MacBook 'Cloud'" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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