Installing OSX (Snow Leopard) + Linux (Slackware 13.37 x86_64) on a GUID/GPT disk, with Software RAID enabled (ICH8R) - Part 1

Now that's quite a mouthful of a title. And considering that there is much to discuss, I will break this whole thing into a multipart post, so here is the first part of our series.

Introduction & Requirements

First of all, I gotta start with the disappointing news that, despite what you might anticipate from the title, this is not a guide to setup motherboard RAID (a.k.a. fakeRAID) support in either OSX or Linux (though the later is no biggie - see previous posts here for various options). The mention of RAID here is to indicate that we want to do an OSX and Linux that coexists nicely with a previous fakeRAID installation, by NOT requiring you to disable RAID settings in BIOS if they are already enabled.

In practice here, the goal is to add OSX and Linux on a separate non-RAID disk to an existing Windows 7 installation that was set to use fakeRAID (RAID 1 from ICH8R), without touching the BIOS settings.

Basically, what happened is that I recently upgraded my good old Asus P5B Deluxe based rig to a dual Samsung F3 1TB, installed Windows 7 ontop of the ICH8R RAID 1 array which I created in BIOS as a result, and since that left me with a bunch of unused SATA drives, I thought I would put one of these to good use by installing both OSX and Slackware on it (that Slackware 13.37 sure IS nice!), and use it to boot the whole lot. Sounds easy, but it actually presents a nice set of challenges, some of which include:
  • Adding extra drivers to a vanilla OSX installation media, so that it recognizes our AHCI controller even in RAID mode
  • Allow LILO (or GRUB) to boot OSes other than the main Linux system on a GPT/GUID partitioned disk (with a BIOS that is NOT EFI)
  • Installing OSX Snow Leopard from scratch, including updates and necessary drivers for your rig, but WITHOUT having to spend one's life endlessly browsing the OSX86 forums. Yes, the effort is much appreciated guys, but I have better things to do then become an expert on kexts, Chameleon, DSDT, iBoot and whatnot.
My specs:
  • Asus P5B Deluxe with 2x 1TB SATA HDDs in RAID mode (ICH8R) and 1x 320GB HDD (non RAID)
  • nVidia GPU (7950GT)
  • PS/2 keyboard, USB mouse + IDE DVD (the DVD is only going to be used for iBoot, so SATA or IDE won't matter one bit)
  • OSX Snow Leopard official installation DVD or .dmg image (build 10A421A)
  • One 8 GB (or bigger) USB key
  • An existing Snow Leopard installation. Yeah, I know it sucks, but hey.
That last item means either you need to create a VMWare image from the DVD media, or borrow a friend's Mac, but we want to create a USB OSX installation medium, which we can customize so there's little way to bypass that requirement. If you really don't have access to a preexisting OSX system, it's probably possible to create an USB key from Linux from the OSX installation DVD, but I haven't tried it so I can't comment on that. Besides, a VMWare image with Snow Leopard shouldn't be that hard to find.

My kingdom for AHCI? Surely you are jesting!

Question: What do all the hackintosh installation guides you find on the internet have in common?
Answer: They all begin with "You MUST change your BIOS settings and set your SATA controller to AHCI before you begin the installation"

Of course, this is utter nonsense. If a guide begins with "You MUST change your BIOS settings to something potentially incompatible with what you want, and risk destroying existing data as a result" (by disabling RAID mode from ICHR), then it's a lousy guide and you should stop right there. For having been a fakeRAID/motherboard RAID user for some years now, with both Intel and nVidia solutions, I'll tell you frankly: all those who say "Don't use fakeRAID: buy a dedicated RAID controller instead" are idiots. First of all, money to buy a separate controller doesn't grow on tree and secondly, with all these cores lying around, the idea that one should spend extra, when all they want is add fault tolerance to consumer grade hardware is ludicrous. We're not building an enterprise grade server here dammit! Besides, most of these solutions are rather well supported in Linux now, which means that if you screw up your fakeRAID array, you may just be able to do something about it. With a hardware proprietary non reverse engineered RAID solution on the other hand, you might not be so lucky...

Therefore, the hell with changing your BIOS settings to AHCI! If Linux doesn't bat an eyelid about accessing SATA HDDs with an ICH controller in RAID mode, why should OSX be the exception? Therefore, we'll keep our ICH BIOS settings to RAID, thank you very much, and ignore all this AHCI brainwashing.

Now, since the OSX installation media has not been designed to support ICH8 in RAID mode, if you try something like iBoot and an unmodified OSX installation media, then unless your HD is plugged on a JMicron SATA controller (which is an actual possibility on the P5B Deluxe), the OSX installer will not see it. This basically means we're gonna have to modify the OSX installation system so that it sees our ICH8R controller as AHCI ICH8 and that's also where doing the install from an 8GB (or more) USB key, that we can modify on the fly, will come real handy.

But first, we gotta create the base vanilla installer on our key.

Creating a vanilla OSX installation USB key

To do that, you need to be in your existing OSX system (VMWare, soon-to-be-ex-friend's machine, etc.). I'm going to assume that you have the vanilla OSX disk as a .dmg. The steps to create the key then are as follow:
  1. Plug in your USB key. Don't worry if it automounts.
  2. Open the OSX disk utility (Applications -> Utilities ->Disk Utilities). You should see something like "8.02 GB Generic STORAGE DEVICE Media" or something, as your USB volume
  3. Click on the "Partition" button on the left, to access the partition tab, then click on the "Current" Volume Scheme button so that you get a dropdown, and select 1 partition
  4. In options, under the partition diagram, make sure you select "GUID Partition Table". For the Format, you select "Mac OS Extended" (though it shouldn't matter)
  5. Click Apply to partition & format the USB key
  6. Once formatting is complete, select the Restore button
  7. Now double click on your OSX .dmg image to mount it (or insert your OSX DVD). A "Mac OS X Install DVD" icon should appear on your desktop
  8. Drag that icon onto the Source field of the Restore parameters in Disk Utility until a green '+' sign appears, and then drop it there
  9. For the Destination field, just drag and drop the "Untitled 1" partition, or whatever you called it, from your newly formatted USB stick
  10. Click the "Restore" button. You will be prompted for the system's administrative password.
For those who want to see it for themselves, the whole process of creating an OSX installation USB key is demonstrated by the first part of the video below (credits go to stellarola - you can ignore the Stella Magic part that comes afterwards):

The restore process will take a few minutes (15-30 mins), but, once completed, will give you the ability to install OSX from USB using iBoot.

Installing a text editor

Because we're going to do it the hard way, a must have for our USB key is a text editor, so that we can tune the USB key to our needs during the installation process (more about this in the next post). As a UNIX veteran, I swear by vi, but I do understand that not everybody is confortable with vi sequences, so to alleviate the editing process, we'll go with the more intuitive GNU nano.

One might wonder why there is no default editor on the vanilla OSX installation media, but the answer is that Apple obviously considered an installer to be read-only affair, so it made little sense adding vi or nano to the installation utilities. On the other hand, we will very much require the ability to edit files on USB, so we need a text editor for OSX. Of course, since GNU nano is GPL and therefore, anybody can legally publish a nano OSX binary to copy onto an USB key, I'm not going think twice about putting the one I conveniently recompiled from source (using Xcode 3.2) and that I am putting online here.

Once downloaded, just drag and drop the "nano" file onto your USB stick folder (where you'll see the OSX installation paraphernalia). As long as it's on the key, we're good - no need to worry about placing it into bin/ or usr/bin/ just yet. Once it's copied, you can eject the USB, as at this stage, we won't need to access another OSX system: we'll just do everything we need from USB.


Finally, the last piece we need for the installation is the latest iBoot CD (bugmenot). And while on the iBoot download page, you might as well download MultiBeast, as it will come handy to finalize our installation.

The iBoot zip basically contains an ISO which you should burn to a CD. Note that if you can't use a CD, you should be able to use that ISO image to produce an alternate iBoot loader (eg use a second USB key or TFTP), but I'm not going to detail that.

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