Protogo and the bootable iPod

Earlier today, Micromat announced TechTool Protogo, a $135 Mac OS X application that turns an old FireWire-compatible iPod into a bootable troubleshooting device for PowerPC or Intel Macs capable of running Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

Those who have followed along here for the last long while understand that creating a bootable iPod is, for the most part, no big deal. FireWire iPods—from the original iPod on up through the 4G iPod and everything in between—have been able to boot a Mac. Just attach the iPod to your Mac via the FireWire cable, select it as the destination for the OS X installer, install the OS, boot from the iPod, install any utilities you like on it, and troubleshoot your attached Mac like there’s no tomorrow.

Protogo’s system requirements specifically request an external FireWire device but iPod booting is possible with a 5G iPod and an Intel Mac as well. My Playlist article from last year, The Return of iPod Booting, explains how it’s done (and no, regrettably it’s not nearly as easy to do as installing OS X on a FireWire iPod).

Given that booting from an iPod isn’t rocket science, what’s the advantage of using something like Protogo? First of all, if you don’t already own Micromat’s TechTool Pro 4, TechTool Classic, and DiskStudio, Protogo gives them to you for $64 off the retail price ( purchased separately from Micromat the TechTool Pro 4 & Classic bundle runs $150 and DiskStudio costs $49).

Secondly, Protogo appears to offer a smart installer—one capable of creating either a minimum install of OS X or OS X installs that are far more full featured. And it lets you create custom profiles for installing just the tools you desire. And, from the looks of the screenshot, it can not only create separate partitions for installing multiple versions of the Mac OS (OS X and OS 9), but it gives you a notion of how much space the various install options will consume—helpful when you’re installing to a low-capacity device such as an iPod mini.

Although I’m pretty well set when it comes to the iPod-as-troubleshooter—I have plenty of high-capacity, FireWire-capable iPods and loads of troubleshooting tools (including those from Micromat)—I’m interested in seeing Protogo in action at next week’s Macworld Expo. When I lay hands on it I’ll let you know how it goes.

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