Tue Jul 26 15:54:27 PDT 2011

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: First Impressions

I installed Mac OS X 10.7, Lion, on Wednesday morning, not long after it was released. I'd done a complete backup of my machine the night before, so when I got to work and got the installer, I was ready to go. The install went fairly smoothly, with no real surprises.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with Lion. Apple has, again, dramatically changed the way that the Exposé features work. I've found that those changes have had a definite impact on my workflow, as I had been able to pop back and forth between distant Spaces very quickly, and Spaces now sit on a line, and can be paged to one at a time, with an abrupt stop when you hit either end. Lion also adds full-screen applications, which occupy an entire Space all on their own. Annoyingly, those apps are not accessible via the Control-number key bindings, so the only way to get to them is to use the Command-Tab application switcher (if you have the default settings, which assume you don't have windows from applications scattered around in different Spaces), by swiping to get there, or by using Mission Control to show all the Spaces and clicking to switch directly to them.

You may have heard that Apple changed the direction for scrolling with a trackpad and has dropped the scrollbars from windows, both of which are true. I expected to find the lack of scrollbars really annoying, but at some point I realized that I didn't miss them as much as I thought I would. (You can turn them back on if you want to, at least in this version of the OS.) And while I had a lot of trouble with the scrolling direction during the first day, after sleeping on it I found that I was able to scroll around just fine so long as I didn't think about which direction to go, and that's continued to improve as time goes on.

I was also not sure about the dimming down of color throughout the interface, but I've gotten used to it and now think that the user interface seems much cleaner and slicker looking without really losing anything.

Another big win for me is that the Lock Screen command (in the padlock menu-bar applet available from the Keychain Access preferences) now works on my 27" Apple display; in Snow Leopard that worked great with my old machine on my Dell monitor, but broke with the new machine and new monitor.

Bugs

There are also bugs. The single most annoying problem so far is related to the way that Lion handles window positioning when plugging in a larger external monitor or when opening a laptop after it has been disconnected. That all worked pretty well under Snow Leopard, but the new version moves windows around, and, at its worst, resizes them arbitrarily. So if you're like me, and you have a specific set of Terminal windows that you use all the time, you'll be extremely annoyed to find that coming from home and plugging everything in gets you a stack of tiny Terminal windows (23 columns by 5 rows, curiously) near the upper-left corner, no matter what size or position any of those windows may have been before you started.

Another issue is with changes to the way that the Finder interacts with SSHFS-mounted filesystems, which you might use with MacFusion to get access to server directories. New security features mean that you can't copy files back and forth, or delete them, which is very annoying. (They work fine from the shell in a Terminal window.) You'll also need an unofficial 64-bit build of MacFUSE to even get this limited functionality.

I've also seen issues with Spotlight (the metadata server using huge amounts of CPU time) and Time Machine (related). My machine is running much hotter than it did, which makes it a lot less pleasant to use. (Not installing Flash when I got this new machine, which came without Flash, caused it to run much, much cooler than my previous machine.)

Other Minor Issues

After the install, my MacPorts ports still worked fine, but they all wanted to be updated to work with the new OS. Which wouldn't be a problem, except that not all the ports build properly on Lion, and that means you can't just issue a simple command to rebuild them all. The MacPorts developers are collecting bug reports and issuing new portfiles that include fixes for many of these problems, so it's mostly a question of waiting until they filter down.

If you have old PowerPC software that ran under Rosetta on Leopard and Snow Leopard, it won't run any longer. I only had a couple of applications that were affected, none of which I really use these days. The most significant of these is Fugu, an SCP/SFTP application that we used to install as standard software. The MacFUSE/MacFusion solution is a much better way to interact with server directories, anyway, so it's not a big loss.

I also found a couple of personal apps no longer worked properly under Lion. There were updates for these that I installed (and, in one case, purchased), and those problems have mostly gone away, although I expect that there will be more updates to address some lingering issues that the developers will learn about once people really start using their software on the new OS.

Conclusions

I'm mostly pleased and impressed. For a .0 release, Lion is more stable and usable than I was afraid it might be. After a bit of time to get used to the interface changes, I've been able to get back to work and do almost everything that I've wanted to do (that Finder/FUSE bug is pretty annoying, and the window size/position bug is infuriating, but everything else is working fine). There's a 10.7.1 update due out pretty soon; presumably Apple is busy packing as many bug fixes as they can into that release, even as they've seeded 10.7.2 to developers to introduce new features for testing. I can only hope that my bugs will be fixed in that release.

I haven't yet had a chance to do any testing with NFS volumes, which is a major concern for our desktop Macs, as they mount home directories and other server shares over NFS. Snow Leopard, of course, introduced some annoying bugs into the NFS locking code, and I have no idea whether it's been fixed in Lion.

As noted previously, we will not be installing Lion for a while. Depending on how things go, it's possible that we might reconsider for the winter break, but given the interface changes, we will probably hold on until next summer. I might be willing to entertain the idea of some particularly courageous faculty giving it a try on their laptops over winter break, but we'll definitely have to see how things work out.


Posted by Claire Connelly | Permalink

Tue Jul 19 16:09:35 PDT 2011

Mac OS X Lion (10.7) Plans

Mac OS X 10.7, AKA Lion, is due out any day now, possibly as soon as tomorrow (July 19). I expect that I will upgrade my machine and start working with it to get a better sense of how it will work in our environment, but given the history of issues (e.g., the NFS problems in 10.6) and known incompatibilities with some software that people rely on, I do not expect that we will be moving to Lion before the winter break, if then.

RoaringApps has a table showing software compatibility with Lion, based on reports from people working with the development releases of the OS. If you use software outside of the core software that we install, it would be useful for you to take a look at the table to verify that your software still works on Lion.

A key issue with 10.7 is that Apple is dropping their "Rosetta" software, which allowed older PowerPC code to run on Intel systems by emulating the PowerPC processor. So older PowerPC-only software (e.g., old versions of Photoshop and other Adobe tools) will not work on Lion.

10.7 is also meant to run in 64-bit mode, while still supporting 32-bit applications. In some cases, however, some 32-bit only applications may not be able to run on a 64-bit system and will need to be replaced, assuming that's possible. (One such application is MacFUSE, which some of our laptop users use to access directories on our servers.)

Finally, there are some significant differences in parts of the user interface, especially Exposé and Spaces, that will change the way that you work with your Mac, and that we probably don't want to foist on you at the start of the semester or in the middle of the semester.

If you have questions or concerns, as ever, please let me know.


Posted by Claire Connelly | Permalink

Wed Jul 13 14:43:46 PDT 2011

New Copier Is Here!

We recently took delivery of mrfusspot, a new Sharp MX-M753N copier to replace our six-year-old Canon imageRunner 8070. Like wuffles, the old copier, mrfusspot can produce stapled and hole-punched output. Unlike wuffles, mrfusspot can

  • Scan in color to PDF or other image formats, and e-mail those files or save them to a USB drive that you connect to the front panel.
  • Allow you to type short messages on a built-in keyboard that slides out of the front of the machine.
  • Produce sharp, clear, high-resolution prints both as a copier and as printer.
  • Produce saddle-stitched booklets or folded pages.

The Sharp copier's interface is a bit different to the Canon interface, and, frankly, it's a bit more complicated. We will be arranging for training for interested folks at the end of the summer or early in the school year, and Jocelyn and Joyce should also be able to help you figure things out. Even better, if you use the copier as a printer, you can go through a print dialog that's very similar to that of the old copier.

For right now (mid-July), the new copier is in Olin 1256 (AKA "the CS workroom") while we arrange to have the old copier packed and shipped back to Canon. Once the old copier is out of the way, we'll have some electrical work done so we can plug the new copier in, and then move it to its permanent home in the "math workroom", Olin 1264.

The new copier has all the standard departmental copier codes programmed in, and the code you have for wuffles should work on mrfusspot. I have installed drivers on the math machines that I manage (Mac and Linux); for other machines, and for other departments, I have drivers and instructions for configuring them available on mrfusspot's support page.

If you have a copy job to do, please try out mrfusspot. More information about wuffles decommissioning will be shared when we have it, but it will most likely be gone by mid-August at the latest.


Posted by Claire Connelly | Permalink