Wednesday, August 24, 2011

OS X Lion Bites



Almost everything I heard about OS X Lion was bad. So I stayed away. But a couple of days ago, curiosity got the better of this cat, and I downloaded it. And installed it. And surprise surprise, I discovered that everyone was right.

In return, I got a taste of Apple's laptop future. Spoiler alert: it's suspiciously iPad-like. I'm also first in line for Apple's cloud services. Worth it? Not really.


Update the update

OS X Lion isn't a major release. Basically, Apple is making you pay for a large update (sound familiar?). There are literally hundreds of improvements in Lion. But first things first, get Lion from the new App store and download. This felt weird, as I've bought hardly anything from the App store, but downloading, installing, and updating (to 10.7.1) after installation turned out to be a breeze. I expected nothing less from Apple.

After installation, restart your Mac and prepare for…error messages. Oh joy.


Everything's upside-down

Aside from the error messages, the first thing you'll notice is that scrolling up now makes the screen scroll down. Yes, everything is inverted. You can shut this off, of course, but this inverted way of scrolling is now Apple's prescribed method of getting around because it's exactly how people navigate on the iPad and the iPhone. This should give you some clue as to what Apple is trying to achieve here.


What didn't work

Before anything else, let me rant about all the things that suddenly stopped working on my Mac thanks to OS X Lion. I know, I know. This happens in new operating systems. To some degree, I expected it, which is one of the reasons why I bravely jumped in despite all the warnings. What I didn't expect was that it would be this bad.

NTFS-3G
Loudest to complain app goes to Tuxera's NTFS-3G, an app that lets you read and write to NTFS discs from OS X. -- This one had a fix available.

Vintage emulators
PowerPC programs are no longer supported by Lion. So I lost all my game console emulators except for one. I guess Apple is keeping up with the times and all that. But oh the hassle.

Windows XP
XP is no longer supported by Bootcamp. It only works with Windows 7 now. I still have some games I want to play in my Windows partition, but now I have no way of getting to them. Boo.

Quicktime
Now QT turns every AVI I throw at it into a slideshow. It plays the video one frame at a time. Supposedly, this can be fixed by installing the 10.7.2 update, which is available for developers. I am not a developer. This particular bug really upset me. Video playback is basic stuff. Good thing VLC still works.

Media Link
A little app I use to stream media to my PS3. DOA in Lion. -- Fix available.

The list just goes on and on, and I'm discovering new problems at every turn, from Loginox, a little app that changes the default Apple photo at login, to my media streamer completely losing track of my Mac on the network (still haven't found the cause of this but I have found a workaround). None of this makes me happy. I really expected more from Apple. Now Snow Leopard...THAT was how you do an upgrade.


Mission Control is the shiznit

If this cloud has any silver lining, it's Mission Control -- a new feature that's kind of like Spaces and Expose on steroids. Favorite part? With Mission Control, you can have multiple desktops. I place my browser and all my web stuff on one desktop, then I place my word processor on another desktop so I can work without distractions. This, I really like. Good kitty.


Mixed feelings about Launchpad

Launchpad, meanwhile, is Apple's attempt at merging the worlds of iOS devices and Macs. You can now browse all your apps just like you do on your iPad, move them around, swipe through the pages, you know the drill. This feature feels shoe-horned on top of your usual Mac interface, and frankly just feels weird, like Apple placing a Windows-esque Start menu when the Dock used to be how to get things done.

To be fair to Lion, you don't have to use Launchpad at all. Still, as a sign of intent from Apple, Launchpad has me worried. I don't want my Mac to work like an iPad.


Other Improvements

Like I said earlier, there are literally hundreds of improvements in Lion, and just like the bugs, you'll keep bumping into these improvements on a daily basis. 

iChat
Now works with Yahoo. Yahoo!

Mail
Not as bare-bones as the old Mail, this comes as a welcome upgrade.

Safari
Supposedly has a lot of improvements, but I never got around to it. I'm a Chrome user, sorry Apple zealots.

iTunes
Now works in fullscreen mode, Apple's new prescribed method of doing things.

New gestures
Four-finger pinch to launch Launchpad.

Spotlight
All kinds of goodies.

Finder
Clean Up by Kind/Name. At last!

Blah blah blah…

Implementation of Apple's iCloud is of course the big draw of Lion and it won't be up and running for a while to come. So you'll have to satisfy yourself with the one thousand and one (not the actual number) small improvements Apple has made. And that really is the long and short of it. The big jump in functionality that Lion promises is yet to come with iCloud. Right now, Lion is a jumbled of mess of bugs, incompatibilities and yes, improvements big and small. The updates, workarounds, and fixes will come later rather than sooner, as it goes in the world of computers. So if you're holding out on Lion, save yourself the hassle, and hold out some more. You're not missing much.

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