Posted by: cielo | August 26, 2009

EFI-X vs boot 132 and Chameleon Update

I have been happily using my EFI-X “BPU” for about 6 months now, with very few issues, other than having it disappear from BIOS if I leave a USB stick attached while booting. My original plan was to do a side by side comparison with a boot 132 install, but I was soon lulled into complacency with the ease of use that one gets with the EFI-X, and I just didn’t feel too much need to try anything else. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

I have been reading the EFI-X forum every day since I started using the device, just to be able to stay on top of any changes, announcements or advances. During all that forum lurking, a few things came to light.

1- The people that run the company and some of the volunteer forum moderators have no idea what they are doing when it comes to customer relations/service. Every day seemed to bring new levels of ridiculousness…(What? You dare ask a question? Use the search function! What? The search function doesn’t work, and only says every word you try to search for is “too common”? Use Google to search the forum! What? ASEM has disabled the forum from being searched through Google so that people’s complaints don’t come up in Google searches? Read every single thread in the forum before asking a question! Geez, what’s wrong with you?)

2- People’s criticisms of the product and behavior of the developers and moderators started getting censored. And not just deleted, but often times a member’s whole post would get edited into something not even remotely resembling the original, with a few very childish remarks thrown in to make the poster look foolish. Eventually, the forum got so filled up with reports of dead devices and examples of the the EFI-X team’s rude  behavior, that they nuked the whole site. Boom. Gone! They claimed it was due to a change in the server, but the real reason was very obvious. Now, only a few months later the forum is once again filled with things that make EFI-X look bad, and WhiteDragon has been threatening to close the forum down completely.

3- More and more people started reporting their EFI-X devices suddenly stopped working. Some people claimed to have gone through 3 or more devices. The protocol for getting a replacement was very cryptic, and seemed to take quite some time. At first, this was blamed on people using “cheap power supplies”, but it soon became apparent that it was a problem with the actual device. They then announced the release of EFI-X version 1.1, to which they added ESD and EMI protection, hopefully preventing your device from going bye-bye. If you want to trade in your v1.0 for a v 1.1, it will cost you $100+, and you will be without a computer for an indeterminate amount of time. (a week? a month?) I am waiting to hear back from expresshd, the US retailer for the EFI-X.

This inherent unreliability of the device started making me nervous, so I began to think about a contingency plan. After all, I am perfectly capable of installing OS X on my machine in other ways. The whole point of the EFI-X device is that you are not supposed to have to worry about anything once you are up and running. The “other methods”, (ie Hackintoshing, boot 132, Chameleon) may require a little more time and energy at the offset, but when there is a problem, you are in control of solving it, not some hard-to-reach people on the other side of the world. And there are numerous forums out there where people are more than happy to assist you with the information that you need to know.

I eventually found a forum started by other EFI-X owners who wanted to be able to freely discuss the issues they were having without the ridicule and censorship. At first, its purpose was to help troubleshoot the EFI-X device, but it didn’t take long before people started coming to the realization that “Hey! We don’t need this device!” People have contributed all sorts of useful information that allows for the creation of a sort of homebrew EFI-X device, based on the Chameleon bootloader. With the methods that are being used on the forum, the bootloader, the kexts, and all the modifications needed to run OS X on peecee hardware are contained on a separate USB flash drive, leaving the OS X installation completely original, intact, and “Vanilla”. The main benefit of this approach, is you need to do little, if anything, to be able to update your system through Apple. This was one of the main selling points of the EFI-X device, but it turned out to be somewhat farcical. What they meant was, in fact, you had to wait for them to come up with the patches, and then go through the potentially risky process of updating the EFI-X device before you could update the OS.

So, I spent the last few days getting my system up and running, completely free of the EFI-X device. It was quite a chore, I admit, but I really learned a lot during the process. I now have a fully functioning system, and the only two small issues I have were in fact also present when using the EFI-X device. That is, no auto sleep, and getting a “this device was not removed properly” when waking from sleep with a USB stick inserted.  I am trying to upgrade my EFI-X device to a v1.1, and am going to watch to see if/when Snow Leopard support is added, the longevity of the new revision, and how well it works with the supported core i7 hardware. I may give it another shot and build myself an i7 system if these things pan out. Otherwise, I may just sell the little guy on ebay.

I even got my hands on a USB header-to-female USB adapter so that my flash-drive-boot-stick is attached right to the motherboard and not sticking out of my computer, just like the EFI-X device.

Here’s the thing: I will put up with uncertainty, idiosyncrasies, and all sorts of minor issues, if I feel like I am part of a positive movement, surrounded by positive energy and camaraderie. I will not, however, put up with the sort of BS that I have witnessed on the EFI-X forums, even if it did mean a 100% stable system. If I like something; a product, an app, or a website… I will do all sorts of things to promote it, just because I believe in it and want it to succeed. On the other hand, if I feel like a company or individual is ill-intentioned or has done me or one of my friends wrong, I will pass that information on with an equal amount of zeal. EFI-X has been teetering on the edge between these two categories.

If EFI-X is going to make it, WhiteDragon needs to stick to whatever it is he does behind the scenes and hire someone to run the customer relations side of things. I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the problem may be a the language barrier…what seems like rudeness may just be his sense of humor. I really can’t pass any judgments on  him, since I don’t know him personally. Anyway, the point is that ASEM needs a more polished and professional approach to support and customer relations.

My conclusion? The question of whether to use the EFI-X device vs a Chameleon Hackintosh may come down to whether you like troubleshooting and problem solving or not. Tinkering with my computer is kinda my hobby, so it is a fun challenge for me at times. On the other hand, I have gotten pretty good performance out of my EFI-X device, and I admit that this latest install has worn down my patience a little bit, making the idea of just plugging in the EFI-X BPU to some new core i7 hardware and being up and running seem appealing. So, we’ll see what happens….

Coming soon: I am going to work on a step-by step guide on how I got my system up and running. I will probably wait until after Snow Leopard and make sure it all works with the new OS. There are also rumors of a new version of Chameleon right around the corner, including Snow Leopard support. In the mean time, check out the EFI-X Users Forum (with the emphasis on “x-users”) to learn about getting an EFI-X free system up and going.

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Responses

  1. Great comments. You nailed it with a perfect description of WD and the forums. I hope more people realize what is really going on over there and come over to our side.

    R.

    • It’s sad that there even has to be “sides”. I think that even with the information on how to build your own “Chameleon Stick” being freely available, that the EFI-X could still be a viable product for those who just want to plug it in and go. However, if you start treating people badly, they will lash out at you and resent every dollar they gave you. Heck, people wind up doing this even if you don’t treat them badly. Without a good rapport with your customers, you don’t stand a chance.

  2. Thank you for the great article. I was “a proud EFI-X owner” for about half a year… But there was more and more clear, that the company does not play a fair game. EFI-X is a big scam, just encrypted USB stick full of – stolen – open source software… If anybody has built a PC according EFI-X HCL, the only thing he do not heed is just the overpriced and buggy EFI-X device… I was asking a lot of questions, reported problems, tried to help the others , but the only result was I have been PERMANENTLY BANNED from this forum… Thank you, White or Whatever Dragon, I have perfect, clean and “EFI-X free” Snow Leopard on my HackPro! Let this be a warning for every people thinking of buying such device from company like this.

  3. Did you see the post from weaksauce12 to the story that the Efi-X guys used some heavy hands to take down the posting on the site you link to? The posting where the module is disassembled and shows that the software is unattributed open source? Man, I even thought of buying one of those things but they were too expensive for a friggin’ dongle. I knew it was too good to be true… glad I didn’t send them my money.

    http://j.mp/CwHkS


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