Building a Hackintosh

I have a 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display that I use as my main computer for everything I do at home, and I thought it’d be good enough for gaming. However, I started playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and there is noticeable lag every now and then, especially in big maps that have a lot of objects to render. I had to lower the game resolution to somewhere around 720p, and only had the graphics settings on medium. Even then, I wasn’t happy with the low FPS I was getting.

This made me rethink about using a MacBook as my main machine. Since it was on my desk 99% of the time anyway, I should just use a desktop computer, right? I wanted a more powerful machine that could handle gaming, I still wanted to use Mac OS X, and I wanted it to be cheap (price wise). So what better thing to do than to build my own Hackintosh!?

The first thing I did was to head over to tonymacx86.com to check out this article: Building a CustoMac: Buyer’s Guide May 2014. That article provides a list of the easiest and best supported hardware options for installing Mac OS X.

The Parts

Like I mentioned above, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on expensive parts, but still wanted it good for gaming. So the parts that I picked out are:

The total came out to be $1,259.55… which is a just little above what I paid for my MacBook.

The Installation

For the most part, it was pretty straightforward using this guide: UniBeast: Install OS X Mavericks on Any Supported Intel-based PC

To summarize my installation steps:

  1. Download Mavericks from the App Store on existing MacBook.
  2. Plug in a USB flash drive to make an OS X installer.
    • Make it 1 partition, set the option to Master Boot Record, format it to Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
    • Run Unibeast and let it put the Mavericks installer in the flash drive.
    • Copy MultiBeast into the finished flash drive.
  3. Turn on the newly built computer and change some of the UEFI settings.
    • Loaded Optimized Defaults.
    • Set X.M.P. Memory Profile to Profile1.
    • Change XHCI mode to Auto instead of Smart Auto.
    • Set EHCI to Enabled.
    • Set XHCI to Enabled.
  4. Boot up from the USB flash drive.
  5. Open Disk Utility and format the SSD.
    • Create 1 partition, Option: GUID Partition, Format: Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
  6. Install OS X Mavericks to the SSD.
  7. Now OS X should be running, open MultiBeast to install some drivers and tweaks to make the Hackintosh run better.

The End

This entire process took about 3.5 hours. Here’s the rough timeline of my steps:

  • I started building the computer around 5pm and finished building around 6:30pm.
  • The UniBeast part took ~20 minutes. I should’ve had this step running while I was building the computer.
  • Changing the UEFI settings took ~10 minutes. I was getting a kernel panic while booting into the installer, so I had to search online to see which settings worked.
  • Installing OS X took ~20 minutes.
  • MultiBeast took ~10 minutes. I looked online to see which checkboxes other people with a similar build had enabled.
  • I transferred Counter-Strike: Global Offensive files (~8GB) from my MacBook to my Hackintosh, which took ~20 minutes.
  • By 8:30pm, I got on Steam and was able to play Counter-Strike in 1080p on high graphics settings. And. It. Was. Smooth!

Overall, it was a pretty painless process and I am very happy with my new Hackintosh.

HackPro

P.S. Although the Logitech C920 webcam captures crispy clear images, it has a TERRIBLE microphone… it makes me sound muffled and far away. I will definitely replace this webcam with one that has a better mic, which is what I really care about because I talk online with my friends in Mumble everyday.

Cisco VCS Insecure Password in Use

We had a Cisco TelePresence Video Communication Server on version X7.1. The newest version is X8.1.1, so my task was to upgrade it, which went very smoothly! The only warning alarm that popped up was this message: “Insecure password in use – The root user’s password is hashed using MD5, which is not secure enough”

vcs-alarm

The solution is quite simple — we just have to SSH into the VCS with the root user account and change the password. On Windows you can use Putty. Since I’m on a Mac, I can open up terminal and type: ssh root@<ip-address> Type in the current password to log in, then type passwd to create a new password, and you’re done!

vcs-ssh

The reason is that after version X7.2, Cisco changed the hash method from MD5 to SHA512. Administrator account passwords are automatically rehashed after the upgrade, but not the root account.

vcs-fixed

No more tickets now!

Scheduling PHP Cron Jobs with Parameters

I was making a PHP script for reading a resource account’s calendar from an Exchange server and then saving the data to a MySQL database. This script was going to be a cron job on the web server set to run every 2 minutes, and I was going to have multiple cron jobs for reading different resource account calendars.

Instead of having separate cron files for reading each account, I made one cron_rooms.php file that I could use with the HTTP $_GET variable. The PHP script worked great through the web browser, and the URL was something like this: http://website.com/cron_rooms.php?room=[name]

To schedule the cron jobs, I added them easily through the webmin web control panel in the browser.

webminCron

To do it through command line in SSH, I’d run this command: crontab -u <username> -e

Then I’d enter the lines below for updating my 5 rooms every 2 minutes.

So anyway, all is good and ready to go, right?… Wrong!

When the cron job runs, it’s giving me these errors:

Why was the script working in the browser, but not in cron? Simple, the script I made was using HTTP GET requests that works for URL’s. When running in command line mode (which is what cron is using) I need to pass the parameters using arguments.

Solution: I replaced the $_GET[‘room’] variable in my script with $argv[1]. Then change each line in cron from this:

to this:

In command line mode, $argv[0] will always contain the path of the script: “/var/www/cron_rooms.php”

And $argv[1] would be the first argument after the path: [name]

If we had more arguments, we can access them with $argv[2], $argv[3], etc.

Video Conferencing Endpoint Not Saving CDR in TMS

There was this one Tandberg VC endpoint, that we call SGP, on our network that would not save any call detail records into our TelePresence Management Suite.

VCreachableLAN

This particular endpoint was set up with a public IP address facing the public internet, so we thought maybe there were some firewall rules blocking the CDR being sent to TMS. Before asking the network engineers to look at the firewall and network rules, I tried playing with every single setting on the endpoint that I could think of. Nothing that I changed would get the CDR to save.

One day, while I was looking at the settings for a different device in TMS, I noticed a tab called Connection. In that area, there was a “System Connectivity” dropdown menu with “Reachable on LAN” chosen. Then I thought to myself, what if I change it to “Reachable on Public Internet” for the SGP VC endpoint? Because SGP was facing the public internet after all…

VCconnectivity

Solution: I went to SGP’s Connection page in TMS, changed the connectivity to “Reachable on Public Internet”, pressed Save, and made a test video call to the endpoint. Lo and behold, the CDR was sent to TMS!

VCcallLogs

Now we can finally start gathering CDR for this VC endpoint after years of deployment, and we can give proper usage reports to our managers.

Bash Script Not Writing to File

I was making a bash script, cron_its_servicenow.sh, that uses cURL and regex to grab 6 chart images (that are encoded in base64) from 6 ServiceNow published reports, and then writing them to a file, page_its.php. Here’s the code:

It was working fine when I was running it in SSH like this:

No errors, and the page_its.php file was getting the data written to it.

But then I logged into the web control panel and set up the Scheduled Cron Job, all these errors popped up when I ran the cron job:

Execute Cron Job
Output from command /var/www/dashboard/it/cron_its_servicenow.sh ..

What??

I couldn’t find out what was wrong. I was trying things like changing echo to cat, adding tee, using sudo, etc. It turns out that it was such a simple mistake… I forgot to set the file permissions of page_its.php to be writable.

Solution: I did chmod 666 page_its.php, and all is working well now.

Execute Cron Job
Output from command /var/www/dashboard/it/cron_its_servicenow.sh ..

Excellent!