Panasonic Toughbook meets OS X

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doug-doug the mighty's picture
Joined: Apr 14 2004
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This is one of those *could I* questions with a real world intention...

I am fixing to deploy to one of our more desert-terrained geo-political hotspots where US Army folks get sent. I want to have a laptop for personal use. I want a Mac. I do not want to spend money on a nice new Mac and risk it getting ruined. From an environmental perspective, I need a Toughbook and have already settled on that.

So my question is this, how hard would it be to install OS X on one of these and has anyone done so?

Any constructive feedback is greatly appreciated.

TIA
--DDTM

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eeun's picture
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same price?

From the prices I see in a (brief) search, the Toughbook prices seem similar or greater than the price of a low-end Mac laptop.
I have a great respect for the Toughbook, but wonder if any notebook isn't going to be susceptible to sand (and you don't mention it specifically, but I have a suspicion where you're going may involve...sand).

My great sanity-saver during my recent time in the hospital has been my eeepc. Cheap as dirt, capable enough compared to a full laptop for just about everything save games, and cheap enough that you could replace it four or five times before the cost equals that of a Toughbook or Macbook. Plus, you can get silicone covers and screen protectors for them, so that offers some extra protection to the keyboard and screen from, er...small gritty particles of dirt.

OS X installation is possible on the eeepc, though depending on the model there may be some speed bumps and incompatibilities, but probably no different that what you'll encounter on the TB.

Regardless of your final decision, if you're going to install OS X on a non-Apple product, I'd strongly recommend having a dual or triple boot setup with Win or Linux also installed, in case your OS X install encounters any unexpected hiccups while you're deployed.

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Eudimorphodon's picture
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Constructive...

I suppose "don't do it" doesn't count as constructive, does it? Well, maybe it does. Let's get that out of the way:

As you may of seen, Apple recently modified the OS X kernel in order to "brick" every single "Hackintoshed" Atom Netbook in the wild who's owners were dim enough to think they were safe running "Software Update". (After all, with the new EFI-emulation method of hackintoshing you don't need custom kernels anymore, right? So it's OK to run Software Update, right?) Yes, the hackers fairly quickly discovered methods of working around the problem by installing old/custom kernels, but in order to install the fixes anyone stuck with a brick obviously needed *another computer* to generate a boot disk or USB key, lost a few days of use of their computer, and from now on has to live with the realization that Apple *is* out to get them.

Anyway, the point of this is that by using a "hackintosh" you *are* flouting the will of a corporation who actively doesn't want you to have a good user experience with your (in their eyes, and to some extent the eyes of the law) "illegal" computer. It doesn't matter how innocent, pure, or practical your motives, there's always a chance that Apple will do "something" next week that will brick your computer and quite possibly take all your data down with it. I dunno, personally, I have too many other things to worry about to possibly think that adding a Hackintosh to my life is a "good idea", and... I dunno, is it something you want to have to think about yourself?

Anyway. As to the actual question, in quick Googling I saw at least one forum post where someone said they'd installed a hacked Tiger distribution on a Toughbook of some description, so I'm sure it's "possible" to some extent. Do you have a *particular model" picked out yet? Asking about "OS X on a Toughbook" is sort of like asking about, I dunno, "OS X on a Sony". There's a whole line of them with varying specs and different guts. From a quick look at the specs of the "Semi-rugged" and "Mil-Spec" ones (ouch, $3500) it looks like one constant is they tend to use Intel wireless chipsets, which from a quick Google appear to be *very poorly supported* by hacker drivers. (The model in all the Toughbooks I've looked at doesn't look like it's actually supported *at all*, which would leave you either trying to buy a used one or attempting to swap the wireless card.)

One more note... If you're actually looking at the $3500 Mil-Spec Toughbook, in terms of performance specs it basically matches the very bottom-end 13" MacBook. You could go through almost 3 MacBooks pimped out with silicon keyboard covers, screen protectors, and padded carry sleeves for the price of one Toughbook. Unless you're planning to drive nails with your laptop while you're not online that might be a more practical choice.

Dr. Webster's picture
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I'm with Eudi; I'd just buy a

I'm with Eudi; I'd just buy a white MacBook and then drop $150 or so on a Pelican case (which are waterproof, so I'd imagine they'd survive sand).

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TheUltimateMacUser's picture
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pelican...

Just to clarify... Pelican cases are water-resistant. Big difference there. I travel with some very expensive camera gear in pelican cases, and although they have never let me down, i have noticed 'moisture' on the inside of the case on occasion, after traveling through a wet area. They have a "moisture proof" valve on them that is supposed to equalize air pressure without letting moisture through (for air travel) and that valve, although quite effective, is not 100% so.

They are good at keeping your stuff dust free and relatively dry, just, don't trust it to survive immersion in water.

My 2ç

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gsmcten's picture
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Panasonic Toughbook meets OS X

Doug-Doug,

Watch your six and come back safe.

Steve Smile

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doug-doug the mighty's picture
Joined: Apr 14 2004
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so...

...rethinking my strategy, if I were to have a good case (i.e. the afore mentioned Pelican-variety) and to limit my usage to times when I would not be directly in the elements...

...I could get away with a Mac laptop considering the cost of my original idea v. practicality.

So let me reboot this and try it from the other end:
I need an inexpensive laptop. I will ultimately intend to use it for email and internet. I will likely do video-chat with it. I prefer to have a dual boot for some 9.2.2 things I cannot/will not let go of.

What is most likely my best route?

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Dr. Webster's picture
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If you need to natively boot

If you need to natively boot OS 9, that limits you to select few machines that are new enough to handle a relatively recent version of OS X but still be able to boot OS 9. You'd probably want to avoid the iBook series due to the GPU BGA solder issues, so you're pretty much limited to a PowerBook G4.

I'd just rely on emulation for the stuff you can't let go of in OS 9. SheepShaver seems to have decent support these days.

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themike's picture
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I imagine it would be hard to

I imagine it would be hard to find parts/repair services for any Mac over there, but I would also imagine it would be nearly impossible for such an old machine as an iBook G3 or even G4. I'd suggest simply going with a used or refurb Macbook or Macbook Pro...

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Eudimorphodon's picture
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Re: so...

doug-doug the mighty wrote:

So let me reboot this and try it from the other end:
I need an inexpensive laptop. I will ultimately intend to use it for email and internet. I will likely do video-chat with it. I prefer to have a dual boot for some 9.2.2 things I cannot/will not let go of.

What is most likely my best route?

I guess the question is, what is "inexpensive"? (IE, what is the budget number?) Anything under the $1000 ballpark is going to require some fairly serious compromises.

First off, to second Dr. Webster: forget anything that can natively boot OS 9. That restriction limits you to laptops *at a minimum* seven years old. Even the best constructed laptops don't age that well, and Apple laptops of that vintage are not amongst the best. The newest OS 9 capable laptops are the last of the original body style Titanium G4 Powerbooks, which are *incredibly* fragile, and the last G3 iBooks, which were all affected the well known motherboard issues. Even if you found one of these brand-new in-box it would be a poor choice for a machine that needs to last several years in a harsh environment, let alone one with seven years of wear on it. Unless you plan to buy five of the same one and carry them around with you in a suitcase so you'll always have parts mules this would be a *very bad* way to go.

If you redefine "runs OS 9.2.2" to include "Classic" support under OS X (Tiger or earlier) then that takes you up to the end of the Aluminum PowerBook and iBook G4s, the last of which rolled off the assembly line about 4 years ago. Again, both of these machines have tended to not age gracefully, with iBooks continuing to have problems with chips popping loose and Al Powerbooks suffering a number of ailments such as ram slots failing and suddenly losing the ability to charge batteries. All these problems require a logic board replacement to fix, and may happen at any time. (The battery charge problem recently spontaneously happened to the early 2005 vintage 1.5 Ghz Powerbook I use as an MP3 player in my kid's room. Guess it doesn't matter for that application...)

In addition to the "it's an old laptop" mechanical problems something that applies to *any* PowerPC machine is that rapid phaseout of operating system and software support for these machines. Apple has already released several rounds of security updates for Leopard/Snow Leopard without matching Tiger releases, and that's the best sign that official support for Tiger has ceased. (Unlike Microsoft, Apple never makes official end-of-support announcements anyway.) You can't run "Classic" on Leopard, but even if you dual-boot Tiger and Leopard the situation is grim. Adobe has already stated that the next version of Flash Player will mark the end of PowerPC support, the latest version of the Xcode tools won't install on Leopard, half of the iLife suite won't run on G4s, you can't use video in iChat on G4s... the writing is on the wall, and it's in all-caps. There's no future in these machines anymore. They'll undoubtedly be useful for running old software for a few more years, but they're a really poor choice for your only computer.

So, really... don't think about a used PowerPC. It's a *bad idea*.

My personal suggestion, if you can aim for around the $1200 ballpark, would be to go with a new or refurb polycarbonate MacBook, or 13" Macbook Pro. For sand and grit protection add a keyboard skin, protective screen film, a trackpad cover, and possibly a stick-on protective film for the whole case. All this before finally picking out a good padded/hard-skinned carry sleeve, of course.

One advantage Apple has over nearly every other manufacturer is there's a huge network of aftermarket suppliers which make protective accessories *specifically* to fit their laptops. With most other laptops you have to get something generic and "make it fit". That ironically may make them one of the best choices to take into a harsh environment, despite their "as-built" durability being about average.

If your budget doesn't stretch to about a thousand bucks, I'm not quite sure what to recommend, honestly. There are way too many PC models out there to be able to pick one and say "that's your guy!". Best I can suggest is go to Best Buy or whatever and poke and prod them all and see what feels sturdiest. :^/

I don't know what it is in OS 9 you can't leave behind but to second Dr. Webster again, Sheepshaver seems to be pretty good at this point. I use it occasionally on both OS X and Linux and I haven't had it crash yet. At least, not crash in any way that wasn't attributable to MacOS 9.0.4 simply being what it is. In some ways its superior to Classic on Tiger+PPC. (For instance, it allows you to change the color depth of the emulated machine independently of the host OS, and supports oddball settings like 1/4 bit that OS X won't support *at all*.)

--Peace

Dr. Webster's picture
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Re: so...

Eudimorphodon wrote:
doug-doug the mighty wrote:

If your budget doesn't stretch to about a thousand bucks, I'm not quite sure what to recommend, honestly. There are way too many PC models out there to be able to pick one and say "that's your guy!". Best I can suggest is go to Best Buy or whatever and poke and prod them all and see what feels sturdiest. :^/

If you can swing $850 plus tax, Apple has refurb unibody white MacBooks available.

I still stand by my recommendation for a Pelican case, not just for its water/sand-tightness, but because of its hardsided construction. If you go with a neoprene sleeve and something lands on the top of the machine, your LCD is toast...and I doubt there are many Apple-Authorized Service Providers in Afghanistan. Here's a decent model for about $100.

Another thing to keep in the back of your head is that if you really expect whatever machine you get to be bumped around a lot, you might want to swap out the hard drive for an SSD.

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Pelican case

I just had to pipe in, here. I've noticed moisture inside the case, on occasion, too, and it's usually been because of dripping when I opened the case. Anyway... I just wanted to defend pelican. I got my case, and I personally tested it by sinking it for half an hour on three occasions, and there was no moisture inside at the end. Beyond that. I'm not sure how what other people get the cases for, but when I get a submersible laptop case, it's not because I intend to constantly sink the thing. For one thing, they float. My sink test took three huge paving bricks to sink the thing, and I've floated it, with laptop, many times. My case is so I can take it with me wherever, and not worry about it getting fried if it starts raining, or, if my kayak overturns, (or it falls off) (yep, took my laptop kayaking for two seasons with me, never had a problem [it's dead, now, but that's because of an onboard video problem that... ehem... I believe I caused Sad on one of the last few dismantlings Crying ] )

Point is. Yes, pelican cases will survive submersion. Mine is rated for half an hour at a yard under. If anything more than that happens, chances are it's stuck with something underwater, and you're not going to get it back, anyway. In most conceivable circumstances, it'll fall in the water, and just bob on top till you can retrieve it, unless you're trying to go diving with it... and you shouldn't. Maybe get an iPhone with an H2Oaudio diving case http://h2oaudio.com

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Dustin

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Sorry

about all the duplicate postings, I wasn't getting any feedback from clicking "post comment" at all, then it posted that mess. I'm currently editing all the duplicate posts down to one ".", since I can't find a "delete" button in the editing area.

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Re: Sorry

vieuxnez wrote:

about all the duplicate postings, I wasn't getting any feedback from clicking "post comment" at all, then it posted that mess. I'm currently editing all the duplicate posts down to one ".", since I can't find a "delete" button in the editing area.

Got those cleaned up.

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TheUltimateMacUser's picture
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Ah...

Ah... So this explains why i had eleventy quintrillion topic reply notifications on my iPod this morning. In future, you only need to click the button once.

Cheers!
-Ult

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themike's picture
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I've gotta ask, why would you

I've gotta ask, why would you need to bring a laptop on a kayak? Or an iPhone, diving? It really seems like asking for trouble IMO.

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TheUltimateMacUser's picture
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..

It does seem kind of silly to me too.

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One vote positive

Yeah, it's against EULA, and yeah, you have to watch out if you ever do updates, and yeah, you might have to physically swap out the WiFi card, but I've been using a hackintosh for quite a while and I love it. If you are competent enough to do thorough web research and follow online instructions closely, you shouldn't have any problem getting OS X working on your Toughbook. A quick Google shows plenty of other people have gotten it working on various Toughbooks. The installation process is a little more involved than a vanilla OS X install, you need a custom install disk (available on the interwebs) but most if not all hardware features should be working fine. I've got a 10.5.6 Aspire One and it's great. The flash-card slots are finicky and sleep doesn't work, and I also had to swap out the WiFi card. But it's loads better than paying half an arm for a nice Mac, especially as they don't even make netbooks. (And don't even say anything about the iPad re: netbooks, thanks.) Anyways long post short, if you don't mind violating EULA, and don't mind putting in a little extra work, you shouldn't have many problems running OS X.

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Alternatively, find a used, l

Alternatively, find a used, low-end or broken Toughbook, gut it, and mount MacBook components in it.

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