So the long awaited and long debated Mac OS X 10.7 Lion came out today. Naturally, I immediately installed in on both machines. I own a Mid 2010 MacBook Pro (13″, Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz, 8 GB RAM) and a Mid 2010 Mac Pro (1 CPU, 2.8 GHz, 12 GB RAM). For the MacBook, I updated from Snow Leopard version, while I did do a fresh installation from DVD on my Mac Pro.
Installation took about 40 Minutes on my Mac Pro (from DVD) and about 70 Minutes on my MBP (from Hard Drive), not including the 3.5 GB Download from the App Store.
Scrolling in Lion
One of the hot topics was the fact that Apple reversed how scrolling works – moving the wheel down now moves the screen up. This is consistent with how iOS works and works well on a (Magic) Touchpad or a Magic Mouse, but is downright weird on a Wheel Mouse.
You can disable it in the system settings by unchecking the “Scroll direction: natural” box.
In the Mouse settings you will also find a huge improvement: The tracking speed was increased. With 2 monitors and 4096 pixels vertical resolution, I want fast tracking. Snow Leopard was still way too slow even on the maximum setting, while Lion finally remedies this.
I have the somewhat controversial opinion that Mac OS X has major usability issues. On one side, it’s UNIX underneath so I get a terminal that gives me everything I really need. On the other side, it has a GUI that looks gorgeous and well designed, but has some horrible Usability issues.
Lion solves a few of them: For example, most windows can now be resized on any edge, not just the bottom right corner. Also, dialog boxes finally react to pressing ENTER (to press the highlighted/default button) and ESCAPE. I don’t know if Snow Leopard already added that, but I definitely remember a time where you needed to enable accessibility to use keyboard commands on dialogs.
There are some not so great things as well: Finder hides your System hard drive by default and tries to coax you into only browsing the predefined folders like “Desktop”. Luckily, this is only a (stupid) default and can be changed in the Finder Preferences to something sane again:
Sadly, maximizing windows is still broken. There is now a new Full Screen mode for most apps, but the green button on the title bar still resizes the window to some arbitrary size. Also, still no simple “MS Paint”-type program.
Apple finally made the leap into the 21st century with File Vault offering full disk encryption. Previously, you could only encrypt your home directory and it was creating a container file on the disk (actually a whole bunch of them). I haven’t had a look at how the new File Vault works under the hood though, but it’s good to see that they are moving forward on this. HFS+ is still the default file system, any hopes to get a modern file system seem to be just dreams, especially since Apple backed out of adopting ZFS.
By the way, Time Machine still cannot backup onto network shares.
About this Mac
The About this Mac window got a nice little overhaul, now displaying the “colloquial” name (“Mid 2010”) of the Mac and a nice graphical overview of Displays, Storage and RAM (in some hawkish looking tabs?). You can of course still click on “System Report” for the full, dry overview.
Opening the Terminal on my MBP, I was greeted with an incompatibility notice. I’m using SIMBL and TerminalColours to get sane colors.
Well, turns out that the Lion terminal finally allows to change ANSI colors!
As I have two machines, I regularly want to exchange files between them. Simple home networking is something that no OS has gotten right yet, which means I usually use SpiderOak or a USB Drive to transfer data. In Lion, Apple got sharing between machines right!
If you have two machines on WiFi near each other, you can open AirDrop in Finder and just drag files to other machines. The machines do NOT need to be on the same network. In fact, you don’t need any network configuration. As long as you have WiFi enabled, it just works through automatic configuration!
Some caveats: It only works on WiFi – my Mac Pro uses wired connection normally, so I have to enable WiFi. That also means no Gigabit speed. Also, the machines need to be near each other – even if they are on the same (wireless) network.
According to Golem.de, this works because Apple turns the machines into (secured) Access Points. This is ingenious, and it just works. Lion is the first operating system I’ve ever used where sharing files between PCs just works out of the box, with zero configuration.
I have changed the hard drive in my MBP to a 750 GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue. As owners of non-Apple drives may know, the default power savings settings are shortening the life time of the drive and causing annoying noises. The good news is that hdapm works flawlessly with Lion. Just make sure you get the 10.6.8+ compatible version posted on June 30, 2011 (or later).
Apple dropped Rosetta from Lion, which means: No more PowerPC Apps, period.
Haven’t tried it out, but open Preview, and go into Settings > Signatures. If this works, it’s awesome.
Full Disk Encryption, changeable ANSI Colors, resize Windows on every edge, fast mouse tracking speed, AirDrop – For me, Lion is absolutely worth the upgrade. It’s really polishing away some of the rough edges that Snow Leopard had. Not all of them of course, but they hit just the right pain points for me.
Some of the more controversial defaults can be changed back, and the fear that Lion would be upgrade-only (thus always requiring to install Snow Leopard first) turned out to be untrue. I cannot say anything about stability yet, and I’ve seen some app vendors warn about compatibility issues. I’m sure 10.7.1 will be out within a week or two, but the advice stands: Upgrade to Lion.
I couldn’t measure any noticeable speed difference, even on the somewhat slow MBP. Everything is just as fast (or slow) as it was under Snow Leopard.
Mac OS X Server
Server is no longer a standalone product, it’s an extension download from the App Store. Pricing is $50, which continues the trend Apple started with
iMovie ProFinal Cut Pro X – I just hope the quality didn’t suffer. I will install it onto my Mac Pro and blog about it.