One week with Lion

A hype update, so far.

The real story of Lion.

While committed Mac OS X users have little choice but to update to Lion sooner or later and, at $30 it’s hardly a big deal economically, how much better is Lion than its rock stable predecessor, Snow Leopard?

I think there are two answers to this. For the casual user who grew up with iOS on the iPhone or iPad and who has a Mac laptop or is willing to spend another $80 on a trackpad for his desktop Mac, Lion probably works well. Many of the familiar iPad gestures are there, software is available by download only from the Mac store and eye candy in the guise of Mission Control and the like is there in abundance. Further, if you like the rendering of ‘Conversations’ in Apple iOS Mail, where it’s easy to scroll through a thread of exchanges, then you will also like this added feature in Lion.

But for longer time users Lion is nothing more or less than a pain in the you-know-what. You lose all your prized PPC applications, Apple having deleted the Rosetta emulator to force those with PPC iMacs to upgrade their hardware and software, making Lion the most expensive OS upgrade ever for these users. If your broadband is slow or bandwidth limited, forget about downloading the OS and many of the larger apps from the App Store. Life is too short and the telcos and cable companies too greedy. And if you use peripherals which require dedicated drivers, then you are going to be hunting around for these – or waiting for them to be released – before your hardware can be ‘un-bricked’. This happened to my external USB wireless dongle and my third display driven by a USB-to-DVI adapter. Mercifully, both vendors were really on the ball, and new drivers have been installed and functionality recovered. Also, thankfully, my Brother HL-2170W and HP DesignJet 90 printers continue to work every bit as well as they did with Snow Leopard.

Those suffering from confirmation bias – you paid for it so it must be good – will regale you with tales of how much faster Lion is than Snow leopard. Utter nonsense. Objective test measurements show it is 2-5% slower and your machine will run 5-7F hotter. Good luck if you are using one of Apple’s cooling-challenged iMacs where sleek design has made CPU and GPU cooling an afterthought. And if you choose to install your own SSD, search out TRIM Enhancer for garbage management because Apple has made sure that Lion’s built-in TRIM capabilities will be denied you, reserved for Apple-installed overpriced SSDs only. An indicator, if ever one was needed, of the growing ‘make a buck at any cost and squeeze your customer until the pips squeak’ mentality becoming increasingly pervasive at 1 Infinite Loop.

And those same long time OS X users will find they have to spend time reversing all the garish, dumbing down of Lion to make it look and feel like what was so well done by Snow Leopard. I address many of the more common issues here.

So what’s good? After one week of intense use with many applications I have had no lock-ups or glitches on any of my HackPro (Core2Quad 2.83gHz, 8gB RAM, Nvidia 9800GTX+ graphics, 2 SSDs, 2 HDDs), MacBook Air (11″ mid-2010 Core2Duo 1.4gHz, 2gB RAM model with integrated Intel 320M graphics. SSD) or Mac Mini (2010 model, Core2Duo, 5gB RAM Intel 320M, HDD). On my main work machine, the HackPro, hacking Lion for installation was the easiest yet, Hackintosh support having improved mightily in the past few years. Further, running a half-dozen big apps simultaneously is no big deal. This includes Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3, iPhoto, Safari, Firefox, iBank, Word 2008, Excel 2008, Numbers, Pages, you name it. Just like Snow Leopard.

For that we should be truly grateful. Most of the other ‘enhancements’ are simply a waste of time – the time it will take a demanding user to reverse them. But if you do not want to be locked out of the Apple ecosystem and its upcoming iCloud, updating to Lion becomes a requirement.

Lion with three Dell 2209WA displays.

2 thoughts on “One week with Lion

  1. While Lion is inevitable, nothing forces one to be an early adopter. When the 0.1 version is available is the earliest for upgrade.

  2. One other (to me, important) feature that’s gone from Lion (as far as I can tell) – the ability to increase/decrease volume in quarter step increments. Earlier you would do a Shift+Option Volume Up/Down to get this.

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