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  #1  
Old 12-13-2008, 04:57 PM
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Hack of the Clones: Why Apple Can't Stop the Copies

blog.wired.com, December 12, 2008:

Just hours after announcing plans to sell a high-end Mac clone, niche electronics reseller EFI-X changed course in order to avoid a nasty legal confrontation with Apple.

"We certainly don't want to get into a legal battle that's over a couple thousand dollars," an EFI-X spokesman said. "Potentially Apple could have a legal issue there. They may not have a legal issue, but with all the money they have they might try to make one."

Despite the sudden turnabout, it's getting harder and harder for Apple to guard the most precious jewel at the core of its success: The Mac operating system.

Apple forbids Mac OS X from running on anything but a Mac. But in the past year, an army of Mac cloners has emerged, their rise facilitated in large part by Apple's 2006 decision to switch to Intel chips. The most prominent example is Florida-based Psystar, a startup selling Mac clones, which has been in legal battle with Apple since July. Shortly following Psystar's lead were companies with similar offerings: OpenTech, OpeniMac and Art Studios Entertainment Media.

Friday morning, AppleInsider reported that EFI-X was going to start selling custom-made PCs with the USB dongle included inside. But in a phone interview with Wired.com, EFI-X said it was going to cancel this deal, in fear that Apple would construe this offer -- a computer shipped with a Mac OS X booter -- as a Mac clone.

HR&O attorney Eric Overholt said the dongle will likely face legality issues with Apple. He explained Apple could potentially allege piracy and copyright infringement in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, because the Taiwanese company is essentially copying the Mac BIOS and putting it in a chip (the dongle).

"My thought is that this company will face the same type of lawsuit and claims that Psystar is facing," said Eric Overholt, an HR&O attorney with HR&O. "This dongle tricks the clone into thinking that the clone is actually a Mac. There will also most likely be claims against [the company] for 'reverse engineering' the Mac BIOS in order to create their 'dongle.'"

Art Studios Entertainment Media's dongle shows how the definition of a "Mac clone" has become blurry. And that gives away just how easy it's become for manufacturers to steal Apple's operating system -- and market it in different ways in order to dodge legal bullets.

"I would say that one of the things that's happening to Apple is that it's less able to keep secrets than it used to be because it has broader supply chain and broader distribution," said Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies.

Apple wasn't always opposed to Mac clones. For a brief period in the 1990s -- when Steve Jobs was still exiled from Apple -- Apple CEO Michael Spindler licensed the Mac operating system to several manufacturers: Power Computing, Motorola, Umax, APS, Radius and DayStar. When Jobs retook the helm in 1997, one of the first items on his agenda was to destroy the clone program and eliminate these cheaper alternatives to Apple's goods.
But in 2006, Apple opened itself up to attack again (knowingly or not) when it ditched its own Power PC processors in favor of Intel's more power-efficient CPUs. Because Apple then had to code OS X to run on Intel processors, it opened a door for hackers: They could modify the operating system code to run on any Intel-powered, non-Mac machine.

The Intel switch gave birth to an underground community of hackers dubbed OSX86, who anonymously contribute to a wiki that details the techniques required to get the Mac OS to work on other Intel machines. The OSX86 community is what made Psystar and all the aforementioned companies possible, and it's also what enables people to install Mac OS X on a netbook, a popular hack.

"People were talking about Apple coming out with a laptop under $800 for the first time, and someone already made one and it's a [hacked] netbook," said Brad Linder, blogger of Liliputing.

Although running OS X on a non-Apple machine may violate Apple's software license agreements and copyrights, and may be a violation of the DMCA, the new crop of clone makers have plenty of tricky moves to evade legal trouble.
One of the trickiest moves comes from Taiwanese company Art Studios Entertainment Media. The company isn't selling a Mac clone, per se. It's manufacturing a USB dongle that lets PCs boot up any operating system, including OS X. Conveniently enough, Art Studios Entertainment Media calls the product EFI-X, and is selling the product through EFI-X USA, the reseller that no longer wants to be known as a maker of Mac clones. The Taiwanese company is urging EFI-X to avoid marketing the dongle's primary feature as booting computers off OS X -- even though that's what most customers likely want it for.

Confused yet? EFI-X USA says it is too.

"We get somewhat mixed signals on what [Art Studios Entertainment Media] would really like to accomplish," said an EFI-X spokesman. "They produce the device and want to sell it, but somehow they don't want it to come out that the primary function of the device is that it allows people to run OS X on generic Intel hardware."

Another company with a creative plan to put out a Mac clone was OpenTech. The Florida-based company launched in July, promising to sell computers together with a how-to kit on installing the operating system of your choice, including Apple's. A spokesman for OpenTech made bold statements, saying, "Our legal team has come to the conclusion that we wouldn't be violating any copyright laws or any other laws." But just a month later, OpenTech shut down its operation and put it up for sale.

Apple continues to battle Psystar, a Florida-based company that started selling PCs hacked to run OS X in April. Apple in mid-July filed a lawsuit alleging copyright, trademark and shrink-wrap license infringement. And much to Apple's surprise, Psystar's legal team is fighting back, leading the corporation to believe the small company may be receiving help from other parties -- perhaps another competing corporation.

Since the Mac clones market is young, it's difficult to tell how much these clone makers and netbook hackers are actually cutting into Apple's sales. Given the difficulty of getting the hacks to work, or even of getting a clone maker on the phone, total sales of Mac clones probably miniscule. And it's unlikely we'll see Mac clones break into the mainstream anytime soon, given Apple's ruthless legal team.

Even so, Apple's clone problem is unlikely to go away any time soon. As long as OS X runs on Intel hardware, and as long as the developers behind OSX86 continue their work, it will be difficult for Apple to stop cloning altogether.
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  #2  
Old 12-13-2008, 08:23 PM
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nfoav8or nfoav8or is offline
 
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The Clone Wars are here!

I'm glad you did a piece on EFi-X and EFi-X USA with a little comparison to Pystar and OpenTech... I don't want OSx86 commercialized to be honest... thats not what it started out being and that shouldn't be how we go out (although for those of us determined enough, it will never "go out"... just get harder).

People trying to capitalize on technology modifications such as OSx86 are playing a rough game against a swifter and more powerful opponent (who also happens to have a lot more money to throw at legal issues than any of them). This isn't a case of David vs. Goliath and we can't be outspoken on this because it can come back to bite us in the bum.

Bhast2 posted about AppleInsider's thread yesterday regarding EFi-X USA kind of putting their foot in their mouth with the statement: “According to [our] engineers, there is no way Apple can disable the EFi-X card without disabling their own Intel Macs,” the spokesman further points out. “There is no way that Apple can disable the EFi-X card because it utilizes the same open firmware that [its] own boards use and thus would render all of [Apple's] own desktops useless as a result.”

This is blatant open-war and I for one don't want to see an end to OSx86 for my own (non-capital) reasons. Its a hobby and it should stay that way.

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Old 12-14-2008, 03:34 PM
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ritalin ritalin is offline
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I find it hard to believe that Apple couldn't lock their OS into genuine Apple hardware if they wanted to. I'd say the hole OSx86 thing has happened because Apple wanted it to happen (or at least didn't mind it happening), but competitors selling cloned hardware is something else. nfoav8or hit the nail on the head, OSx86 is a hobby and it should stay that way. Commercialising OSx86 will lead to it's death.
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Old 12-14-2008, 09:26 PM
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nfoav8or nfoav8or is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ritalin View Post
I find it hard to believe that Apple couldn't lock their OS into genuine Apple hardware if they wanted to. I'd say the [w]hole OSx86 thing has happened because Apple wanted it to happen (or at least didn't mind it happening)
I can see this being a possibility... They want their product out there and might think that if more people try it on their PCs they might switch over to real Mac hardware. These companies trying to capitalize on OSx86 are causing a backfire of sorts to this (supposed) thought by Apple... hence the lawsuits.

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  #5  
Old 02-01-2009, 05:48 AM
christianmoche christianmoche is offline
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no one can stop piracy at least for now.
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Old 02-01-2009, 12:00 PM
throttlemeister throttlemeister is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ritalin View Post
I find it hard to believe that Apple couldn't lock their OS into genuine Apple hardware if they wanted to. I'd say the hole OSx86 thing has happened because Apple wanted it to happen (or at least didn't mind it happening), but competitors selling cloned hardware is something else. nfoav8or hit the nail on the head, OSx86 is a hobby and it should stay that way. Commercialising OSx86 will lead to it's death.
I could agree more with that. I have been running OSx86 only for a short while now to learn about OSX, and I already contemplate saving money to buy a Macbook Pro. In general I do not like Apple, both for some of their business ethics as the zealotism of a lot of their users, but I am impressed enough by OSX to want to run the real thing with all features and speed.

Last edited by throttlemeister; 02-02-2009 at 06:39 AM.
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Old 02-01-2009, 10:57 PM
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nfoav8or nfoav8or is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by christianmoche View Post
no one can stop piracy at least for now.
no one is saying that OSx86 is trying to be stopped (full-force anyways)... by stating that Apple could make releases that double check hardware, etc., etc. we are only shown how open to us they are. But we aren't the ones selling the hardware with THEIR operating systems on them and promising no hiccups. They won't stop the copies because it doesn't hurt them in the long run.

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Old 02-09-2009, 05:34 PM
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ScottXK ScottXK is offline
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As an individual, you are not doing (that) much harm to a company the size of Apple, when you however are making money of another company's pride & joy, thats when things turn nasty, especially when the OS has been evolving over 20+ years and thousands of hours and a tonne of money has been put into it too. I don't want to see people making money of someone else's stuff, its unethical, and a really big shame.

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Old 02-09-2009, 09:27 PM
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I still have a Power Computing Clone from the 90s running OS 8. I can't believe it's happening again.

Lenovo D20 8 Core Thinkstation:
[Intel 5520 Motherboard | Two Intel Xeon E5504 @ 2GHz | 4GB DDR3 RAM | Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.3 (running in full LP64!) | nVidia Quadro FX 580 Dual HDMI + DVI 512 MB| DVD +RW DL]

iBook G4:

[14" Mid 2005 | 1 GB RAM | 80 GB HDD | SuperDrive | Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.5]

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  #10  
Old 02-21-2009, 08:56 AM
martin15s martin15s is offline
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I agree - it does seem odd that Apple cannot/have not introduced a lock into OSX - having said that I was able to hack my old Dell laptop very successfully and would still be using it if the thing had not died - not an economic repair so I finally bought a used iMac and finally have what I have wanted for years - a genuine Mac.



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