Psystar: From Hell's Heart, I Stab at Thee!

Much like Khan detonated the unstable doomsday "Genesis Device" in Star Trek II before his defeat at the hands of Captain Kirk and crew, Miami-based Psystar's last deed may very well be to inflict as many casualties on Apple Computer as possible before it dies.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

Much like Khan detonated the unstable doomsday "Genesis Device" in Star Trek II before his defeat at the hands of Captain Kirk and crew, Miami-based Psystar's last deed may very well be to inflict as many casualties on Apple Computer as possible before it dies. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

In two weeks, last April's blockbuster re-imagining of the classic Star Trek series and characters will be available on Blu-Ray, on November 17th. Since buying my Blu-Ray player I've only bought a few HD discs, saving my purchases for those films I really am a big fan of and am likely to watch multiple times. Star Trekwill be one of those films, and I can't wait to see it again on my home theater system.

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Still, the ultimate Star Trek movie for me will always be 1982's Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, which was released in restored Blu-Ray format this last July. I haven't seen the newly restored footage yet but it's definitely going to the top of my Netflix queue, if my wife can ever get through the first few seasons of Mad Men.

The casting in the movie was absolutely perfect, particularly the combination of Shatner's typical overacting as Kirk with Ricardo Montalban's devious, vengeful Khan Noonien Singh, the deposed and exiled leader of group of genetically-engineered supermen from Earth's 21st century.

My favorite scene is towards the end of the film where Khan, defeated by his "two-dimensional thinking" and Kirk's strategic prowess, horribly burned by fires and battle damage aboard the USS Reliant, he speaks his final lines, right before he commits his final act and detonates the "Genesis Device", a doomsday weapon that he originally intended to use to eradicate all life on Earth as an act of revenge upon Kirk -- who marooned him and his crew on a planet that later suffered an environmental catastrophe that resulted in the death of his wife and children and many of his comrades.

No... Kirk. The game's not over. To the last, I grapple with thee... No... You can't get away... From hell's heart I stab at thee...

For hate's sake... I spit my last breath at thee!

The lines of course were written by Herman Melville and come straight out of Moby Dick, but I'll always remember them coming from Khan and a phenomenal performance by the late and ultra-suave Ricardo Montalban.

Which got me thinking about a modern day Genesis Device and a modern-day vengeful company. The tiny and beleaguered Psystar, which is engaged in protracted litigation with Apple over its perceived right to sell Mac Clones, may in fact be stabbing at Infinite Loop with Hell's Heart by selling its Rebel EFI, new software which allows anyone in theory to make their own Mac clone with plain vanilla PC hardware and a copy of Mac OS X.

I would have liked to have published a piece today demonstrating with glee that I was able to do this myself, but sadly, I cannot. After several days trying various PC configurations and attempting the Mac OS X install using various virtualization technologies I failed to come up with the right combination of hardware that would work with Rebel EFI.

Most of my PCs are AMD-based, which the firmware emulator doesn't support yet, and my two Dell systems with Intel processors failed to mount the root volumes from the Mac OS X install disc after Darwin Kernel boot. If you want to read a good piece about how someone WAS successfully able to get the software to work, I encourage you to read Frank Ohlhorst's comprehensive review in ComputerWorld.

Much like the Genesis Device, which turned out to be a technological dead-end and yeilded an "unstable matrix" on the planets it was tested on, Rebel EFI isn't yet ready for prime time. But that doesn't mean that it can't be awfully destructive towards Apple in the future.

As I discussed in my earlier pieces on the subject of Psystar, much of the effects of the Rebel EFI technology might not be felt until long after the company has "Spit it's last breath" and the the software enters the realm of the Open Source community or the public domain, perhaps as a poison pill attempt to take one last strike at Apple before the company dies.

The release of Rebel EFI itself may also further motivate similar projects such as BOOT-132 to provide a trouble-free and truly open alternative to Rebel EFI, where all a user has to do is pop in one of several flavors of boot loader CDs and voila, instant Mac on PC hardware.

Clearly, the community isn't anywhere near releasing something as integrated as even Rebel EFI, as much of the problems stem towards dealing with Darwin kernel drivers for hardware that isn't used in standard Macs, but this is not to say that significant advances cannot be made provided there is an incentive to do so.

Rebel EFI claims to be "Virtualization" technology but in actuality it is a firmware emulator and not a true hypervisor. If a true paravirtualized Darwin kernel were to make itself into the wild, much of the problems related to supporting the many hardware configurations these firmware and kernel bootstrap/slipstream techniques use to try to bypass Apple's own kernel would simply go away. Instead, we could use actual lightweight hypervisors such as Xen or KVM to do the heavy lifting.

Is Psystar "Spitting its last breath" at Apple with Rebel EFI, only to have the community pick up where it will eventually leave off? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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