The Lion Report: Just the Facts Please!

July 15th, 2011

There’s an amazing amount of information out there in the wild about Mac OS X Lion. Apple has offered a reasonable description of the new features, buttressed by a host of articles that cover the ins and outs, even ahead of the official release. It also appears that Apple isn’t being hard-nosed about clamping down on the people who are reporting their experiences with the prerelease versions made available to registered developers and book authors.

At the same time, there are lingering questions that Apple might answer in the early days, with loads and loads of Knowledge Base documents. Other Q&As will come from hands-on experience, and quite often that information will be far more useful.

But there are already some issues that threaten to make a Lion upgrade a non-starter.

The basic problem is just getting a copy. About a quarter of the U.S. population doesn’t have broadband; some can’t get it, others don’t want it. But to retrieve a file estimated to be close to 4GB, you may have little choice. Yes, you can take your portable Mac to an Apple Store and use their wireless connection to download Lion. I expect that independent resellers will usually cooperate as well. If your nearest dealer is a long drive from your home, I suppose you can have someone copy Lion onto a DVD — and the legality of that act is questionable unless they share your iTunes account or you order a copy anyway, even if you can’t retrieve it.

Or just do without.

Another big reason to avoid Lion is the loss of Rosetta, confirmed by Intuit and others. If the apps you require for your work or leisure are strictly PowerPC, you’re stuck. I suppose if enough of you clamor for the return of Rosetta, Apple might do something, but that’s doubtful. A better possibility is that someone might license the technology, but Apple would have to offer it. That may be possible, since Intuit claims they are hoping to license Rosetta libraries to allow you to use, say, Quicken 2007 for the Mac under 10.7. But that’s just a lame excuse for a multibillion dollar corporation that’s seems unable to hire a handful of smart Mac programmers to restore the lost features in Quicken Essentials, or just build a new Intel-based version of Quicken that is otherwise identical to the Windows version.

However, logic is often lost on large companies, and I won’t exclude Apple.

When it comes to the snazzy new features in Lion, some will require a Lion savvy app, which means developers will have to update their software to support the new features. Full-Screen Apps is a key example, but don’t forget about Auto-Save. It’s a great feature, one offered by third parties for years, and it allows the OS to periodically save your documents in the background, so you don’t lose your stuff in the event of an app quit, freeze, or system hangup of some sort, if you forget the manual save. But those other auto-save utilities didn’t require developers to update their apps. It’s appears that Lion does, which will create the unfortunate situation where you will have to look for telltale indicators in the File menu to see if the only Save option is the one you’ve always had in a Mac app. Sure, some Mac apps, such as Word, provide built-in auto-save functions. But I expect some Mac users will be burning up Apple’s support lines complaining about the features they can’t find, even though it’ll be someone else’s fault.

Other features will depend on your preference. It appears Lion’s scrollbar scheme is reminiscent of the iOS version, where pushing down on a scroll bar moves the document down, which you might compare to a car with front wheel drive. But the traditional Mac (and Windows) scrollbar metaphor calls for scrolling down to make the screen move upward, which might be likened to a car with rear wheel drive. In addition, scrollbars will only appear if you touch (or mouse over) them, which may be OK in the iOS, but is otherwise a poor decision. Wouldn’t you want to know if a document’s length and breadth exceeds the screen size without need of a touch or pointing device? At least that feature will apparently be switchable.

As I said, even Apple does things that seem to strain one’s logic.

With over 250 new features, I’m sure you’ll find some that are difficult to live without. But Apple hasn’t said much if anything about Lion’s performance. Will all the eye candy and heavy-duty system enhancements bog down your Mac, or will it be as fast and fluid as Leopard? Yes, the minimum RAM requirement of 2GB, something you find in an Apple press release rather than in the current online description, may be enough to install Lion and run some apps. But will it be sufficient for snappy performance? If your Mac is stuck with 2GB, and a MacBook Air is a good example, you are going to just cope. Or stick with Snow Leopard.

Of course the real issue is whether there’s anything in Lion to entice you to upgrade. It’s cheap, and if you have a Mac with 10.6.8 and a decent broadband connection, it may be a no-brainer, assuming your apps are all or mostly compatible. Otherwise, you may wonder why anyone whould bother.

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6 Responses to “The Lion Report: Just the Facts Please!”

  1. Viswakarma says:

    Perhaps Apple might split Lion in to Files for faster downloads as they used to do with OS 7 etc. with multiple servers and reassemble the pieces after all the files are downloaded!!!

  2. mysterian1729 says:

    > I suppose if enough of you clamor for the return of Rosetta, Apple might do something, but that’s doubtful.
    Apple may not be able to do anything. Since IBM bought the creator of Rosetta there have been no licenses available, i.e. IBM uses it internally and does not license it. I suspect IBM simply rejected any offer from Apple or made the cost too high. Since Lion is 64 bit Rosetta has to go.

  3. Louis Wheeler says:

    What is the price of progress? We must let go of the past to gain something new.

    Some people don’t want progress, so they should not buy Mac OSX 10.7. Apple owes no one the right to upgrade; It traditionally cuts off hardware which is older than five years. When Apple uses software to aid in a transition, like Rosetta, it must go away, too.

    We old time Mac users understand that our current systems will become legacy and then obsolete. Should we cry about that? No. We got our money’s worth during the five year life span.

    Mac OSX is considerably cleaner than Windows which has flaws going back to Windows NT. This was intentional; Microsoft wanted avoid losing customers, so it fostered a long technology tail. This policy has ramifications. Microsoft still does not yet have a modern, modular, object oriented OS. The Longhorn OS failed because of latency problems after five years of development. Microsoft started over with a clean copy of Windows Server 2003 for Vista. This carried forward many security issues from Windows NT.

    Mac OSX is not perfect, but it is state of the art. Programmers sometimes quibble about Mac OSx, but they will say that Windows is an embarrassment. It is 25 year old software which has been turned into spaghetti code to run at all. Who knows how long it can be extended?

    Meanwhile, Apple has extended Mac OSx to its entire product line, with modifications to enable hardware, such as touch technologies. Lion will add these to the desk top, after proving them on the iPhone and iPad.

    We can disagree with Apple goals, but usually we are allowed to ignore them. Apple is not chasing yesterday’s markets. Microsoft sewed them up long ago; the PC wars are over. Instead, Apple is designing devices, like the iPhone and iPad, to appeal to new markets and users who would never buy a PC. Computers were too hard for them to use, but an iPad isn’t.

    Even Microsoft is forced to move on. It has declared that Windows XP will end in two to three years. Windows XP is a huge segment, 60%, of PC’s. Since most hardware running XP must be replaced as well, then users are presented with the option of going to a Mac. An iPad might, by then, be fast enough to replace Windows XP computers.

    We do live in interesting times. Only Apple knows where they intend to take us. The path will be different and sometime difficult to adjust to, but grasping after the past does not take us to any place interesting. Mac Users shouldn’t want to be Luddites.

  4. SteveP says:

    Jeeze, this sounds like a rehash of your post from a couple days ago!
    Why the big deal about Rosetta? 10.7 is for the time being an UPGRADE. That means you already have a copy of Rosetta in whatever OS you’re currently running. Just keep that OS on your drive and Rosetta’s there. A bit inconvenient, but not the great end of the road you make it sound like. Time to move on?

    • @SteveP, Leaving a second OS on your hard drive is doable, but inconvenient. This is especially true if you need to constantly switch back and forth between PowerPC apps and Intel apps. It almost makes sense not to bother with Lion until or unless Apple or the publisher of the app in question comes up with a better solution.


  5. dfs says:

    It seems to me that we have a single OS upgrade that has been released in two installments. The first half, consisting almost entirely of under-the-hood stuff that makes the Mac run better and faster, was contained in Snow Leopard. Okay, that was great, a definite step forward is OS technology. Now we have an upgrade consisting almost entirely of interface tweaks and new utilities and, evidently, nothing more substantial. So the question really boils down to how valuable these new utilities are to the individual user. Well, okay, what are we actually getting? There are already auto-update utilities on the market (admittedly ones that leave a lot to be desired), but, better yet, if you feel the need for archived backups you can always get a free DropBox account which can handle files created by any program you care to name in its present form. You can already move files between Macs on a LAN very easily with DropCopy. If you happen to be a trackpad fan, there are already are plenty of third-party utilities that expand and customize the repertoire of trackpad gestures. Want to enhance your desktop with a layer of instant-access icons to make it work like an iPhone? Try Overflow, you’ll probably love it as much as I do. When you start thinking about it, the list of genuinely new features starts shrinking until you’re left looking at not much more than Resume. So a lot of us are going to ask whether it is worth losing the ability to run some apps like Quicken or be required to buy upgrades of others, to gain so very little. Maybe early adopters will rave about Lion to the point I get hooked, but at the moment I must say I’m asking myself some very serious questions about whether the upgrade makes any sense. And with an Apple OS upgrade I’ve never had to ask myself this question before, it’s a very strange feeling, And I can’t help thinking that, if Apple wanted to release an OS upgrade consisting exclusively of new utilities and interface changes, it would have made a lot better sense to ask Mac users what innovations they would like to see and allow themselves to be guided by consumer demand. The result would probably have been a lot more interesting.

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