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Even Apple Can't Keep a Good Hacker Down


Broken Snow Leopard hack to be resurrected soon.

Any hacker or modder worth his salt knows to wait a week or two before applying a software or firmware update. Only after the hack is specifically confirmed to function after a version upgrade may the user proceed -- lest their unauthorized alterations to a program or device fail to work.

Such was the case this week for the Hackintosh -- a PC modified to run Apple's (AAPL) Mac OS X for a far cheaper price.

Tech blogs and Hackintosh comment threads confirmed the rumor that a recent update to the Snow Leopard platform eliminates support for a PC-specific processor, thus dropping any compatibility for Intel (INTC) Atom-based computers. That included models from Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Samsung, EEE, and Lenovo.

If anyone running a Hackintosh upgraded to 10.6.2, they found their computer failed to boot after the gray Apple logo screen. Unless they also partitioned the hard drive to run Windows 7 (MSFT) as an alternative, they were looking at a very expensive paperweight.

But as Apple already knows -- given how quickly the iPhone is jailbroken after a new upgrade -- you can't keep the hacker community down.

One of the designers
who simplified the Hackintosh mod into a user-friendly installer was on the case immediately and offered a quick fix. In addition, he stated that a full-blown fix will be available in "a few weeks" -- barely enough time for Apple to enjoy its "silver bullet."

As incredible as the speed and diligence of the hacker community is, even more astounding is the notion that companies are able to fully control how their products are run once they're sold.

No matter how many safeguards and legal threats a company makes, a little intuitive tinkering will always make short work of them. Preventative measures are simply a waste of valuable time and resources.

Open source projects like Google's (GOOG) Android platform, Mozilla Firefox, WordPress, and Linux already know this. Why can't the rest?

Apple is far from the only company to see its products modified to run differently than the way it intended. Along with the jailbroken iPhone and the Boxee-enabled Apple TV, TiVos (TIVO) and Xboxes were modded to feature larger hard drives, the Homebrew hack for the Nintendo Wii enabled DVD playback, Sony Playstations (SNE) were modchipped to play burned discs, and the Palm Pre (PALM) was modified to allow iTunes syncing through "spoofing" an Apple device.

No device, big or small, is hackproof.

As long as there are no legal ramifications, development teams should always glean from popular hacks what to officially implement in their products. Would it be so bad if Apple TV allowed AVI files, the Wii played DVDs, or Palm Pres synched with iTunes?

Despite company entreaties, hackers already have the answer: No.

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