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Apple cloner or scammer?
April 18, 2008 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Recently, Psystar Corporation announced the Open Mac, now renamed "Open Computer," a $399.99 Mac clone. Besides violating Apple's EULA, and the license for the emulator that allows Leopard to run on commodity hardware, apparently the company itself seems a bit... shady. Metafilter's own Woz, on the other hand, says he might get one.
posted by MythMaker (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Steve Job's army of impeccably designed attorneys will shut this down by this time next week.
posted by space2k at 2:29 PM on April 18, 2008


To heck with the price, at least it has an option for a real graphics card. I'm developing tourettes from the ever-present dropped frames on my Mac Mini just trying to render the Dock. If Psystar's box has a graphics card I will buy their computer, then ritually burn the mini.
posted by mullingitover at 2:33 PM on April 18, 2008


WHERE'S YOUR MESSIAH NOW, APPLE-CAN-DO-NO-WRONGERS??
posted by DU at 2:35 PM on April 18, 2008


From the Gizmodo link:
"Reader Robert did some more digging in the Florida Corporate filing office, and it seems that Psystar's principles are Rodolfo and Roberto Pedraza [PDF], who are officers or agents on a whole crapload of companies. Only one of these companies besides Psystar is currently active: Floridatek. As Robert says, 'These guys are obviously clowns.'"
From ZDnet:
"Charles Arthur reported in the Guardian that the address on the company’s website changed from 10645 SW 112 St, Miami to 10481 NW 28th St, Miami. And as of this writing the address is 10471 NW 28th, which appears to be right near the Miami Airport.

Gizmodo readers have scoped out the first two addresses and found the first to be a residence and the second to be a T-shirt shop, where the owner has never heard of Psystar.

...Gizmodo also features a screen shot of numerous companies registered to Pedraza, noting the only company that appears to be active is FloridaTek. But when I called the number at FloridaTek, I heard laughter and a man answered 'Hello.' Not the most professional greeting. I asked for Rodolfo but he said he wasn’t available right now.

At a minimum a hoax. But to what end? More likely a fraud to suck in gullible Mac fans, if they are in fact processing credit card numbers. Tom said he ordered a machine and paid more than $500. He might want to contact his credit card company. As for me, I’m checking in with the Florida Consumer Protection Agency tomorrow."
Yeah -- seems 'shady' to me.
posted by ericb at 2:41 PM on April 18, 2008


these guys are completely bogus and are just taking advantage of the free software that's been developed to convince osx to run on bios-based x86 motherboards.

what they would have sold you couldnt have been a turnkey solution anyway, so you're better off just using google to discover the sites that have information on the topic of building hacks.
posted by joeblough at 2:44 PM on April 18, 2008


Steve Job's army of impeccably designed attorneys will shut this down by this time next week.

Who knows. EULAs that are not read before buying are usually crap. Toss in the fact that I cant even return the OS for a refund if I disagree. This whole "dont virtualize or install our precious OS on other equipment" is on shaky legal ground and anyone who actually believes in consumer rights would never buy it.

Sounds like an excuse to trash this restrictive EULA once and for all. Hopefully, Apple will lose any potential lawsuit and this will become a precedent and a wake up call for the industry.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:54 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"...why hasn't anybody heard of the company before? Neither the Better Business Bureau nor the Chamber of Commerce have any information on Psystar....Most of [the Pedraza's companies are now inactive, save for FloridaTek. But there, clicking on some links brings up an executable, called floridatek.exe. It is not known whether this could be a possible phishing scam."*
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on April 18, 2008


*[the Pedraza's]*
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on April 18, 2008


Although I suspect this will all end with a DMCA smackdown. "You cant circumvent our protection, terrorist!"
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:01 PM on April 18, 2008


It sounds pretty straightforward to roll your own FrankenMac. Maybe these guys really did intend to release a very low priced PC, add the OSx86 hacks and sell them, but they were just incredibly inept.
posted by jaimev at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2008


Woz said he "liked the price... and may get one."
I think that is pretty cool for a guy who has more money than [insert your deity here].
posted by Dizzy at 3:07 PM on April 18, 2008


Metafilter's own Woz....

So THAT's what he's famous for!
posted by rokusan at 3:28 PM on April 18, 2008


Apple couldn't ask for a better outcome than to have these guys be either fraudsters or even just bunglers who'll have trouble fulfilling the promise of the product. Part of Apple's shine is a smooth overall experience for their target customer. If Pystar's offering turns into any kind of debacle, then this will reinforce the value of the Apple brand.

That said, Apple has a couple of problems this highlights. One is that the product Pystar ostensibly offers really could fill a niche Apple doesn't really have a product for.

The other is that if Apple continues to grow their marketshare, eventually someone else who is legit is going to want to do this, and though IANAL, I don't think it's clear that Apple can enforce their demands that OS X be installed only on Apple hardware. I'd bet they will send lawyers into the breach in any case, to increase the cost of doing business for their would-be clonin' competitors. But I don't think they can count on winning, and I think they have good reasons to fear a losing precedent: the strong desire Jobs embodies to shape and control their products, and the problem they had 10 years ago: competing with manufacturers who only have to copy and therefore don't have their R&D expenses.

Things are different, though, than they were 10 years ago. Then Apple faced cloners who were cannibalizing a shrinking market. In a time where they're growing, perhaps decisions and consequences could be quite different.
posted by namespan at 3:34 PM on April 18, 2008


Metafilter's own Woz....

All posts are © their original authors. All posters are their own as set forth in Amendment XIII.

posted by namespan at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2008


I doubt its a hoax. I built my own Hackintosh, and they're probably just doing the same thing and reselling. I don't hate them for this. What I hate is companies telling me what I can do with property I have purchased, and Apple is getting as bad as microsoft in this regards. If Leopard can run on a PC, why in on earth should I not be allowed to do whatever I want within my own personal sphere of use?

I had a few people ask me about building them a hackintosh too, so its not surprising someone would decided to do this commercially. I just wish apple would come around and offer an out of the box PC version of Leopard. With the failure of Vista, now would be the time to grab a huge market share out from under microsoft's noise.

Sadly, I don't think that will happen. Maybe some day adobe will come out with its design suite for Linux, and I can say goodbye to BOTH ms and apple.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:40 PM on April 18, 2008


I understand the company intends to change its name to Shystar Corporation. It's very Miami.
posted by rdone at 3:45 PM on April 18, 2008


What I hate is companies telling me what I can do with property I have purchased, and Apple is getting as bad as microsoft in this regards.

I understand the feeling but this isn't technically correct. OS X is not property that you purchase, it is intellectual property that you license. It seems you have issue with this underlying convention, which is very much beyond the scope of Apple to address.

I don't think it's clear that Apple can enforce their demands that OS X be installed only on Apple hardware.

I can't really see where you're going with this. What compelling reason would there be for any government to force Apple to allow their operating system to run on non-Apple hardware. Just because OS X may be popular is not a compelling reason. It's Apple's property. Such a restriction does not prevent you from acquiring a different operating system for your non-Apple hardware.
posted by effwerd at 4:00 PM on April 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


namespan writes "One is that the product Pystar ostensibly offers really could fill a niche Apple doesn't really have a product for. "

I can see exactly one niche that this fills, namely the appallingly bad integrated graphics on the Mini. (grind grind grind)

Really though, is Apple's gear overpriced? I seem to recall people pricing out the equivalent to a Mac Pro, and the bottom line figure actually showed that the Mac Pro is a bargain. Apple has a number of products across the spectrum, from low-end laptops and desktops to high end. I really don't blame them for limiting their OS to their own hardware. It cracks me up when people call this 'monopoly' since there's a healthy array of alternatives and Apple isn't doing anything to unfairly hobble their competition.

As for their hesitancy to run their OS on any machine you can cobble together, I can't blame them for a second. They'd add a blinding number of new variables to account for and it would be a monumental support clusterfuck.
posted by mullingitover at 4:10 PM on April 18, 2008


Effwerd, just because Apple's lawyers make the claim that OS X is licensed to a consumer rather than purchased as a good does not make it true. Read up on first sale doctrine. While those rights are being eroded, it is still a matter of contention.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:15 PM on April 18, 2008


namespan writes "eventually someone else who is legit is going to want to do this, and though IANAL, I don't think it's clear that Apple can enforce their demands that OS X be installed only on Apple hardware."

That day has come and gone, Dell came a-knockin' years ago and Steve sent them home with the proverbial blue balls.

BrotherCaine writes "just because Apple's lawyers make the claim that OS X is licensed to a consumer rather than purchased as a good does not make it true. Read up on first sale doctrine. While those rights are being eroded, it is still a matter of contention."

Uh, this wikipedia page doesn't help your argument. First sale doctrine doesn't have anything to do with the licensing terms for the OS, and you can't play without consenting to the EULA. Saying "Opinions differ" is about as relevant as saying that opinions differ about the roundness of the planet.
posted by mullingitover at 4:51 PM on April 18, 2008


I can see exactly one niche that this fills, namely the appallingly bad integrated graphics on the Mini. (grind grind grind)

Really though, is Apple's gear overpriced?


I don't think most of it is particularly overpriced, especially when you consider every purchase includes an OS X license.

What I think they're missing is a general case of your specific trouble: a mid-range tower, something between the mini and the pro models, that makes a point of component swapability (and maybe as a secondary benefit has a bit more RAM, disk space, and or faster CPU).

What compelling reason would there be for any government to force Apple to allow their operating system to run on non-Apple hardware. Just because OS X may be popular is not a compelling reason.

It's the same reason I believe the government has said that manufacturers have limited power to erect legal barriers to using replacement parts from another manufacturer. Or for that matter, why manufacturers might have limited power to say what you can and cannot due with a purchased product in general. So this is not a statement based on the idea that one day, someone in the government might arbitrarily force apple to do anything because their product is popular or for any other reason. It's a statement based on the idea that there are already social/economic policy decisions that Apple's dictum against installing on non-Apple hardware might run up against.

It's Apple's property.

It's true that Apple has certain rights to the OS, rights that are often placed under the imprecise but more or less working classification referred to as intellectual property.

But it is certainly not true those rights boil down to "It's Apple's property, they can do what they want with it." Even concrete property law has some unexpected twists that are designed to strike certain balances, and copyright and patent law in particular have departures on top of that.
posted by namespan at 5:09 PM on April 18, 2008


My suspicions that Psystar was just going to put together a well-known good Hackintosh configuration and slap some osx86 distribution on it was validated by this report that the osx86 project doesn't like Psystar either. Personally, I'd much rather go out and get the parts for a Hackintosh myself—but then that also applies to Windows/Linux PCs.
posted by chrominance at 5:13 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"What compelling reason would there be for any government to force Apple to allow their operating system to run on non-Apple hardware"

Or one might ask, what compelling reason would there be for any government strip consumers of rights to the property they own.
posted by aerotive at 5:21 PM on April 18, 2008


Effwerd, just because Apple's lawyers make the claim that OS X is licensed to a consumer rather than purchased as a good does not make it true. Read up on first sale doctrine. While those rights are being eroded, it is still a matter of contention.

I'm willing to accept that this may well be the case but the EULA is common practice among software makers and as public corporation, I believe Apple reasons they would be remiss in their duties if they did not utilize this kind of model over first sale as means to protect their IP and brand appeal.

The implications of being forced to use the first sale model are a bit too much for my tastes. Apple is a hardware company. Their competitive model relies on differentiating their hardware from the "beige box" market through design, software, and integration. Forcing Apple to accept releasing their OS into the wild exposes them to a variety of risks they shouldn't be forced to bear. Support their OS for systems they can't guarantee will work? There goes their reputation for customer service, justified or not. Sharp decrease in hardware sales and those well-designed profit margins? There goes the existence of OS X after Apple closes its doors.
posted by effwerd at 5:23 PM on April 18, 2008


namespan writes "But it is certainly not true those rights boil down to 'It's Apple's property, they can do what they want with it.' Even concrete property law has some unexpected twists that are designed to strike certain balances, and copyright and patent law in particular have departures on top of that."

Apple has copyrights, trademarks, and patents (I agree that 'Intellectual Property' is misleading newspeak) which cover their operating system and its functionality. The access to the operating system is governed by a contract between the person licensing the operating system and Apple. The EULA is a cornerstone of software distribution, and if somehow it was called into doubt by a court case, you can bet dollars to donuts that corrective legislation would be crafted and passed through congress quicker than disaster relief.
posted by mullingitover at 5:23 PM on April 18, 2008


Really though, is Apple's gear overpriced? I seem to recall people pricing out the equivalent to a Mac Pro, and the bottom line figure actually showed that the Mac Pro is a bargain. Apple has a number of products across the spectrum, from low-end laptops and desktops to high end.

I think the issue was that there's no real option for someone looking for a cheaper Mac Pro configuration, really. Mac Pro configurations start at $2200—bargain or not, that's still a very expensive machine, and not everyone needs or wants a quad-core CPU (never mind for now that I built a quad-core system with fairly comparable specs for a friend a year ago with a final price tag of $1500).

iMacs may not be the right choice for someone who, say, already has a monitor, or wants better graphics than the HD2600 Pro can provide (I don't remember if Apple's still using laptop GPUs in its iMac range, but if so then it's even slower than a desktop HD2600). It pretty much comes down to whether you think Apple should be offering something besides the iMac at the $1000-1500 price range.
posted by chrominance at 5:25 PM on April 18, 2008


That day has come and gone, Dell came a-knockin' years ago and Steve sent them home with the proverbial blue balls.

This is fairly different. Dell certainly made an overture but not an issue of it. What I'm saying is that if Apple continues to expand its marketshare, at some point, there will be someone who is willing to make a legal and technical fight of the issue.

This is obviously not an inevitability. I don't claim to know what this magic point is. I don't know that it's clear Apple's primary ambitions include significant PC marketshare expansion, for that matter. Nor do I think it's inevitable that if challenged on the OS X installation point they would necessarily lose.

But if they continue to grow, and if the installation point remains murky enough, eventually, the potential money to be made in competing with Apple on their own turf will be enough that someone will take the risk and invest in challenging them.
posted by namespan at 5:26 PM on April 18, 2008


Apple has copyrights, trademarks, and patents (I agree that 'Intellectual Property' is misleading newspeak) which cover their operating system and its functionality.

I don't think anyone questions this. Well, they do, but those people go after Apple's money not by making competing hardware, but via patent licensing and litigation.

The access to the operating system is governed by a contract between the person licensing the operating system and Apple.

This is the questionable part. Like any contract, not all of its provisions may be legal, binding, and enforceable.

if somehow it was called into doubt by a court case, you can bet dollars to donuts that corrective legislation would be crafted and passed through congress quicker than disaster relief.

This is also a possibility, but sometimes, U.S. law really does side with the consumer.
posted by namespan at 5:33 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's the same reason I believe the government has said that manufacturers have limited power to erect legal barriers to using replacement parts from another manufacturer. Or for that matter, why manufacturers might have limited power to say what you can and cannot due with a purchased product in general. So this is not a statement based on the idea that one day, someone in the government might arbitrarily force apple to do anything because their product is popular or for any other reason.

Well, I'm not a lawyer either, but I'd like to see the language behind those kind of rulings to get a clearer idea of its scope and rationale. I just don't know if replacement parts equate to a key aspect of Apple's competitive position.

Also, despite not liking the licensing model myself, I've come to see it as justifiable. Look at it this way: how much is OS X worth? It is worth far more than $200 US. I would put it in the billions. There has been a lot of money, research and development, and engineering involved in creating this product. If anyone can buy a copy of it, hack it, then resell it as OS Y, Apple is going to have to charge $2 billion (for example) to buy a copy. Again, hello bankruptcy.

So in lieu of charging everyone $2B and some change for OS X, with a Mac or not, they enter into a licensing agreement, and under the terms of this agreement, you are limited in how you can use the licensed product.
posted by effwerd at 6:04 PM on April 18, 2008


I don't think most of it is particularly overpriced, especially when you consider every purchase includes an OS X license.


The hardware for my hackintosh came to about $1300 for the hardware. An equivalent mac would have run me close to $5k, hence my decision to try to build one. The OS is good, but its not THAT good.

Effwerd, I'm currently aware I don't own my copy of software, I own a license. But I strongly feel this is an example of big businesses forcing a model on consumers that given a choice they would not go ahead with. No one is suggesting apple should just allow their software to be copied willy nilly. But once I own a copy, I should be able to do what I like with it.

And if you think software is the only place this happens, Think again. Apple's got the market cornered on locking down their hardware too. (though maybe with the ADK for the iphone that is changing). Cell phone providers modify phone software so you have to buy services (ringtones but one example) from them. Microsoft went after people modding the first xbox to run linux.

not that its surprising in the US today that the government is siding with corporations. At least the EU is starting to go after big companies (yes, you, microsoft) for abusing the consumer. Maybe someday we'll catch up to them in the rights department.

[/derail]
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:23 PM on April 18, 2008


If anyone can buy a copy of it, hack it, then resell it as OS Y

This isn't the proposition -- I don't think there's *any* question that wouldn't be legal.

PyStar, whether or not they are frauds, is instead offering two propositions:

(1) A fully assembled machine made from commodity parts (as here) that will run OS X, sold without OS X. A consumer may then choose to purchase their own retail copy of OS X install on this machine (or, change their minds and put Ubuntu or XP on it instead).

(2) A retail copy of OS X, plus the machine in #1, and the service of installing that retail copy of OS X on #1.

Note in either case, nobody's talking about selling illegitimate or hacked copies of OS X -- indeed, Apple would receive the same revenue from OS sales as if a consumer purchased and installed OS X as an upgrade on a suitable older Mac.

No one is challenging Apple's copyright. The challenge here would be primarily over whether Apple can legally stipulate, as part of the license agreement, the hardware that purchased software can be installed and run on.
posted by namespan at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2008


If you buy a legitimate Leopard disk and Apple sells it to you, they don't have the right to tell you you can't stick it up your bum, use it as a coaster, fling it at the neighbors cat, scrape the old caulk from around your bathtub with it... or try to run it on unsupported hardware.

What they can do is say that they won't support it, fail to promise that the system updater will actually download updates, or won't download updates that will bring it screeching to a halt. In other words, they can say you're on your own and (probably) even include updates that will break it, provided you assent to the installation of those updates and indicate you've read the fine print, which includes a mention that this or any other aspect of the operating system may fail on unapproved hardware.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:39 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


This isn't the proposition -- I don't think there's *any* question that wouldn't be legal.

Yeah, I thought I was taking that too far (conflating your position with Psystar's, or an extreme variation of it). I blame the RDF.

The challenge here would be primarily over whether Apple can legally stipulate, as part of the license agreement, the hardware that purchased software can be installed and run on.

Well, I don't disagree that there's a case for individuals not engaged in resale without permission. Nevertheless, I think Apple or any computer maker should be allowed a reasonable measure of control over their product. Apple is saying that every copy of OS X is sold with a Mac. Every boxed version of OS X is an upgrade and can only be applied to an existing Mac running a licensed version of the OS. The Mac brand is the hardware plus the OS, they are not two separate products. This seems reasonable. This and the licensing model in general are not without their problems and compromises but I don't think that's a reason to dismiss them.

Now, I'm sure there are far reaching implications I'm not taking into account but I don't see this kind of rental-style model for software as some undue abridgment of an individual's rights. How are you harmed? You are not denied access to operating systems. You don't need to use OS X.

And as obnoxiously one-sided EULAs can be, I think the hardware restriction is a fair distribution of risk and compromise since Apple really can't monitor and control violations among individuals.
posted by effwerd at 8:46 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


But who is "hurt" by someone buying the Apple OS and installing and using it on non-Apple hardware? Certainly not he consumer, who should know that Apple only certifies the OS's use on Apple hardware. How is this different from someone buying Windows XP and building a machine to run it on? There's lots and lots of gotchas and hardware incompatibilities that can crop up that way. Yeah, you can build it and have some problems with Windows XP on our home brew, but is MSFT harming the consumer because the OS doesn't work 100% on some combination of hardware? Are you committing a crime by doing that?

If Apple ever gets a much larger market share, will consumer-friendly governments "force" it to open up to non-Apple hardware?

For me, I'm just not technical enough or patient enough to (at this point) buy something that may or may not work with the Apple OS and take a chance.
posted by paddbear at 4:42 AM on April 19, 2008


Metafilter's own Woz, on the other hand, says he might get one.

Quick, someone get Obama to post a single response here so we can lay claim to him too!
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:05 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe some day adobe will come out with its design suite for Linux, and I can say goodbye to BOTH ms and apple.

because MS and Apple are evil soulless corporate behemoths, but Adobe - man, they're made of sunshine, lollipops and kittens...
posted by russm at 6:17 AM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


because MS and Apple are evil soulless corporate behemoths, but Adobe - man, they're made of sunshine, lollipops and kittens...

Heh, nope. Just because I need them to do my job. I have a laundry list rant about Adobe too if you want to hear . . .
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:34 AM on April 19, 2008


Someone has demonstrated that it is possible to run OS X (Tiger, Leopard uses too much juice) on an ASUS EEE (for less than $400 you too can have an OS X subnotebook!)

This hackintosh is the real Mac killer if it is even modestly functional. I've been waiting for Apple to release a true micro mac for ages, and the iPhone ain't it. An eee with OS X would be it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2008


But who is "hurt" by someone buying the Apple OS and installing and using it on non-Apple hardware?

Apple.

How is this different from someone buying Windows XP and building a machine to run it on?

Apple does not offer OS X as a separate product from the Mac. What right do we have to force them? If you don't like the terms you don't have to buy into it.

Again, any individual might still break the agreement but this is the risk that Apple takes in return for a harmless concession from the rest of us who hold to the terms. And this risk can get bad for them. After all, it may turn out that their legitimate market is eventually surpassed by those who break the agreement and Apple is then forced, by these conditions and not by the state, to change. For all we know, Apple may eventually find that iPhone so dominates their revenue that the computer market and its ever shrinking profit margins isn't worth it any more and they unbundle OS X anyway.
posted by effwerd at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2008


Apple does not offer OS X as a separate product from the Mac.

Actually I could walk into an Apple store and buy a copy without buying a Mac. What I really think is shady here is that this company stole someone else's EFI emulator.
posted by hellphish at 1:30 PM on April 19, 2008


You can build yourself a pretty nice mac clone hardware that the Prystar used. They use an Asus case, but there are ones that look like a mac cases, like the linkworld case.

I bought the linkworld , 33 bux and a 500 watt power supply, good deal i think. Cheap but works.

59.99 ASUS TM-211 White 0.6mm SECC MicroATX Mini Tower Computer Case 300W Power Supply
or
32.99 Linkworld 431-06 C.2828 Silver SECC/SGCC rustproof and galvanized steel available ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 500W Power Supply

49.99 ASRock Wolfdale1333-D667 LGA 775 Intel 945GC Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
is a good motherboard for the price, not quad but supported and has onboard video.

70 bux for memory, 80-100 for HD, 80-150 for CPU, walk away with a clone for around 400 bux. If you get a 8600 for another 80 bux or 8800 for 200 bux (recommended) you have a very nice system for osx or windows. The nvidia drivers (nvinject) work great.
posted by IronWolve at 2:25 PM on April 19, 2008


Macworld has an article out about making your own sub-$1000 Frankenmac.
posted by MythMaker at 11:06 AM on April 21, 2008


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