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Mac OS X on a Dell Vostro A90 (Mini 9)

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

mac vostro openOver the summer I had a little argument with a coworker about the “Mac tax.” I was telling him that a Mac uses pretty much the same hardware you will find in a “PC” (that word, PC, used in that context annoys me because PC is Personal Computer, so technically as Mac is a PC, but marketing prevails I guess) but Mac’s are a lot more expensive. So in an attempt to prove my point, I tried to install Mac OSX on to my HP laptop. After about 15 tries, all I could get it to do was finish the installation. Never got it to boot. I gave up, moved to California, bought a MacBook Pro because I wanted a Mac and the USC Bookstore was having a sale.

Very happy with my MacBook Pro I did not pursue ihackintosh any more. Then after the netbook craze, I found a lovely Mac OSX netbook compatability chart and noticed everything works on the Dell Mini 9/Vostro A90 (they are the SAME computer). A Mac netbook, that would be cool!

I waited, trying to save up some splurging money. Meanwhile I helped two of my friends pick out netbooks for themselves (both were HP Mini 10, one with solid state and one without), which made me want to buy one. On top of that I found some Dell discounts from a friend, and I went to the Dell Outlet and bought a Vostro A90 with 16GB SSD and Ubuntu for $280 delivered.

Since I am going to be hacking and all that, I figured I would buy a nice retail copy of Mac OSX 10.5.6 (which I also got at the USC Bookstore, seeing as they sell it for $99).

With my new-to-me netbook and fresh retail copy of Mac OSX, I went home and stayed in on a Friday night, to bump up my geek cred!

This is not meant to be a full tutorial, there are many many online, but more of a checklist of items needed and the guide I followed, and some road blocks. And a little review of my Mac Vostro A90 at the end.

I only had one issue worth noting. After I booted off of the DellMiniBoot 8.02b1 and swapped the disc for the retail Mac OSX install disc it took a few tries for the OSX installer to load. The Vostro didn’t recognize the install disc right away after I swapped the discs. I had to wait about a 15 count before I hit ENTER on the boot screen after I put in the retail Mac OSX install disc. So if you get stuck and the intaller will not load, just keep trying! It took me about 10 minutes of fiddling before I go it to load the installer. Other than that, follow the guide to the letter, they do a very good job of outlining what you need to do.

UPDATE: To get to the BIOS hit 2 at boot up, and hit 0 to get to the boot menu.

UDPATE: ***For sleep to work you must deselect usb wake from sleep and usb legacy mode in bios***

mac vostro closed


I have been using my Dell Vostro for about 2 weeks now. I took it on a trip to Chicago, and it played about 4 hours of TV shows from a USB stick on the plane ride. Which is pretty good considering its a refurb and I know that batter is not at 100%. The computer is very small though. The screen is nice, but the resolution is only 1024 x 600. Most web pages look fine, and you kinda get used to it. It does have a VGA port if so you can hook up an external monitor. I got it to play relatively smooth streaming video from Hulu at 1280 x 1024 full screen. The biggest issue I have with the computer is the keyboard layout. The quote ( ‘ ) is not in the normal place by your right pinky, but down below the period next to the spacebar. So I hit enter instead of ‘, which is really annoying when you are IMing.

Most of the time I use it at work, I have Synergy installed on my work Windows XP machine, and SynergyKM installed on the Mac Vostro. Mich is great for testing websites. Just copy the URL and move my mouse down to the Mac Vostro and paste it in and see how it looks! Aside from that, everything works, runs quite smooth, and quiet. Overall, I am really happy with it.

My Homebuilt HeNe Laser Lamp

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

When I was in middle school, I read all about Light Amplification by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation (lasers). I saved up almost $100 for a crappy laser pointer (now they are practically giveaways). One book, the Laser Cookbook, was all about projects you could do with lasers. One, which every middle-schooler would love, is making a laser gun (a harmless one, but cool nonetheless). But it required a Helium Neon laser tube, and some fancy circuitry for a power supply and a big-ole hip holstered battery pack. But after spending all my lawn mowing money on that crappy laser pointer I couldn’t afford to build the laser gun. Thus the interest slowly faded away…

Many years later, I found a Desktop Helium Neon Laser Lamp Build tutorial on Hack N Mod, and BAM! I got so excited! I new where to get most of the parts, but not the laser. After searching the webs, I found Meredith Instruments which had good information and the parts I needed. But the everything there new, and more money than I wanted to spend. Searching the internets some more, I kept seeings “Sam’s Laser FAQ.” So I read that to learn how to actually put a laser and power supply together. Then I found his HeNe Laser Kit 2 and saw the price! It was just what I needed, and it had those brackets I could not find anywhere.

So I bought one of those kits, went to Hastings Plastics Co. and got my acrylic mirror sheets cut so I could mount the laser. I also got acyclic solvent from them to glue the pieces together. I lined up the laser on the acrylic and drilled some holes to mount the brackets. Glued the pieces together. Soldered the switch to the power supply. Connected the project box base to the mirrored stand. Done.

I made a complete parts list of all the parts I used and where I got them. I pretty much copied the Hank N Mod tutorial. Though my wall power adapter came already connected to the power supply. Finally, here is the pic of my HeNe Laser Lamp:

HeNe Laser Lamp

Now where the heck do I put it?