An Ultra Portable Mac

Writen by: Hank Wethington

Posted on 22 April 2009

I did the funnest little project over the last day; converting a new Dell Mini9 (Inspiron 910) to a Mac NetBook! Thankfully, there is a great write up for the conversion project as it would probably have never been done without it. How those guys figure it out is amazing.

So first thing is, we start with a working Mini9 running Windows XP. Thanks to Jamie for the hook up!

1st boot

1st boot

  • Intel® Atom Processor® N270 (1.6GHz/533Mhz FSB/512K cache)
  • Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition
  • Glossy 8.9 inch LED display (1024X600)
  • 1GB DDR2 at 533MHz
  • 32GB Solid State Drive
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950
  • Wireless 802.11g Mini Card
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Integrated 1.3MP WebCam
  • SD Cardreader

Here it is running Windows XP before we get started.


I didn’t get a CD drive with the Mini9, so before I borrowed a friends, I tried the USB install instructions. So first I needed to download the Linux start-up and put it on a thumbdrive and make it bootable. The next step took much longer than anticipated; make a working OSX install image on a thumbdrive. Making the image itself went quickly enough, but putting it on a thumbdrive took over 5 hours!

After the thumbdrives are ready, the both get put into the the Mini9 and it boots a Linux kernel. It was at this point I ran into my first problem. Of course, reading all the instructions are normally considered a good move, I just skimmed them to get started. As would be expected, I totally missed how to get the Linux system to boot the OSX thumbdrive! After re-reading the instructions, it started to boot the install.


The install went smooth enough.


Soon I found myself looking at OSX on the Mini9! The screen resolution wasn’t quite right, but I knew that the updates needed to be done.


Finally, all was setup. I installed iLife’09, iWork’09 and ran monolingual to remove the languages and other unnecessary items to slim down the installed OS. The 32GB drive now has almost 18GB still avail and it runs great.

So how cool is it? First, all the hardware works; from the webcam to the SD reader. Second, it’s light, has great battery life, and with a SSD HD, there’s no moving parts and is very tough. It does great watching Hulu and AVI files, but not good at showing 720p MKV files.  The 1 thing I miss is the 2 finger mouse control. I also didn’t get the AT&T wireless option, which I might do if I was buying another, but I don’t know if it works with OSX. (update: the 2 finger scroll is now working thanks to this site. I’ve also verified the 3g WWAN works with the Mini9!)

How am I going to use it? Well, it belongs to work, it’s not mine, so it’s going to make a great IT portable. I’d love to get one for me, well, really for Harrison, as it would make a very inexpensive Mac to be his first computer as he gets ready to enter Jr. High.

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