Being too quick to shoot the Lion

What is it with the world these days, Apple releases a new version of their operating system and the world goes nuts? Heck I remember when Windows 95 was released, there were people sleeping overnight in the queue at Harvey Norman. Ah, those were the days.

I installed Mac OS X 10.7 ("Lion") on the first day it came out. I wasn't going to, then I just caved in and went for it. Installing any new operating system on Day One is risky. You always wait for everyone else to get the bugs out before you switch. I think I forgot that. Oops.

There are plenty of glowing reviews of Lion out there. Every skilled journalist worth the ink is writing them. Feel free to read Macworld and the likes for the technical stuff. Here's my experience.

The download is huge. Something like 1.5Gb, but frankly now I have real broadband, I just didn't notice. If you are on wireless or limited download, this will be an issue for you. And no, you can't buy Lion in the shops or on CD or anything else, you have to download it.

Installation is easier than you can possibly imagine. You just go to the Mac App store, click on Lion and hit "buy", $32 Aussies later it starts downloading. Then you get a pop-up and the actual installation part begins. Go have dinner, this bit takes about 30-45 minutes. You are not required, you did your bit already.

On first boot up, everything has changed. The login page is grey instead of blue,prettier, but grey. The photos are round instead of square and I'm sure there are other visual differences, but heck, I just want to log in and see if all my stuff is there or not.

Next comes a video lesson on scrolling with the mouse. I'm sorry, are we saying I don't know how to drive a mouse? Excuse me? But wait! I can't drive a mouse. I scroll down and the text goes the wrong way! What the photon? Oh, this is the new "natural scrolling" - hate it. 10 seconds later, I'm in System Preferences, Mouse and "bull crap scrolling" is turned off.

The first time I open iTunes, it does some conversion and all my stuff is where I expect. Looks prettier and I think slightly faster/smoother. Main thing is it works. Podcast downloading works, my Internet is fine, I'm happy.

Safari is good, but there is no right click to get 1Password. Oh crap, how do I log into my blog? A quick trip out to 1Password, an upgrade and push the Safari plug-in again, nothing. Google to the rescue and Oh crap, Agile haven't down that bit yet. Yep, there is no right-click. Not happy John. Yes, I can still click on the 1P icon on the menu and it fills my passwords, but that isn't how I roll.

The biggest shock is that my "server" is not showing up on the desktop or in the Finder side bar. It is saying "wrong password" but several attempts with the right password, still nothing. Crap! Again Google and the answer is bad, really bad. Apple has upgraded the NFS (Network File System) and I need my NAS people to upgrade the firmware to keep up. And 3.2 of Synology is in Beta still so no NAS. Luckily I can still fudge my way to my files with SMB (Finder, Go, Goto Server, SMB://SERVER )

Most show-stopping was my Cisco vpn no longer worked. I absolutely have to have this to connect to work. If I don't fill in my time sheet, I don't get paid. As I don't get a company laptop (I prefer my Mac) I need that vpn and I need it now. This was the one app I forgot to check for Lion compatibility. I can't believe I did that, so stupid. The bigger bummer is that Cisco keep their software behind a login and I don't have a password. No corporate contract with Cisco, no software. One desperate email to a friend later and he politely reminds me that a Mac can do Cisco out of the box, no software required. Duh! (Makes Homer Simpson noise) Sure enough the networking section under System Preferences has Cisco as an option and scant minutes later I am vpn'ing without Cisco, thank you Andrew. There is a little trick and I'll blog the how-to shortly. See This article. during the meanwhilst.

My last gripe is that no one told me the mouse will no longer wake up the Mac when it has fallen asleep. You have to hit a key on the keyboard. This is like the scrolling thing, a muscle memory I just do without even thinking. When I walk in to the office, I wiggle the mouse as I sit down and the Mac wakes up, but alas no longer.

People bruise Apple for being the dictator, making you do things their way or the highway. And I suppose you could get that impression. I'm not out for a conspiracy theory with every thought about every Apple product. I've got plenty of conspiracy theories in my life (don't get me started about Kennedy or the Moon landing) so I just choose to believe that Apple doesn't really care what I think and so they are not really out to get me. They just want it to be better and if a few of us don't like that, sorry, we can put it back to the old way if we must. I could be wrong.

Bottom line, Apple clearly has done a lot of work on making the Mac easier to use. They have made it faster (yes folks, this is an upgrade so it runs faster on the same hardware. They have made it prettier. In short it is better.

Should you upgrade yet? No. My advice is for you to wait a few weeks. I had done my homework (to as much extent as I could) and then I foolishly jumped early, I still don't know why. It could have been ugly, my Mac could have stopped doing stuff I actually need it to do on a daily basis. I could have been stuck with a dud. I do not suggest you take this gamble today. But you are going to love it when you do.

Don McAllister had a great screencast on preparing for Lion. Beyond the obvious precaution of doing a backup, he went into great depth about what to expect and what to check for. That prepared me and maybe that was the reason I popped my cork a bit early. It pays to have friends.

Talking of friends, I had an email from Carbonite (my online backup) that went like this;

"Dear Carbonite Mac user,

We noticed that you’re using the new Mac OS X Lion (10.7). At this time, Carbonite is not yet compatible with Lion. Any files previously backed up by Carbonite that have not been modified since switching to the new operating system will remain safely in your backup. However, it is likely that any files you’ve created or modified since upgrading to Lion may not be backed up. We expect to release an update to our software in the next few weeks that will address the issue and automatically back up the files you’ve created or changed since upgrading to Lion. This update will occur automatically and we will notify you when it happens.

In the meantime, we recommend that you use an alternate form of backup (such as a USB drive or external hard drive) for any files you’ve created or modified since upgrading to Lion.

We value you as a customer and regret this inconvenience. In appreciation of your patience as we work towards making Carbonite fully compatible with Lion, we will automatically add a free month to your subscription.

Please visit our Mac OS X Lion FAQ page for more information about using Carbonite with Lion.


The Carbonite Team"

Now there's good customer service for you. Someone else breaks their system, they fess up straight away, warn me of the danger, tell me what they are doing about it and give me a gift. 11/10 Carbonite!

Always best to finish on a good note, so I will.

Blew my diet

I went and blew my Microsoft Diet really badly. Not just a nibble or even a snack, a whole bloody suite of new Microsoft.

I installed Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac. Bugger!

Ok, first impressions, the install was quick and easy, it didn’t ask any embarrassing questions until the end. I didn’t even have to enter the product key until later, although it does phone home to Microsoft to check the key. They’ve been doing that on Windows for years. You can’t cheat anymore, one copy, one Mac.

It was huge, over 1.3Gb of software and then the first patch download was 365Mb, that’s a heck of a lot. And it left the old version in place. I had to browse to my Applications folder and delete Office 2008.

It also broke my Microsoft Remote Desktop application, but a simple re-install of that fixed it again. Luckily I kept the download of RDP in my DropBox for easy access.

Next impression is speed. Way, way, way faster than Office 2004 and noticeably faster than Office 2008. Of course 2004 was a bit of a dud anyway.

The new icons look good, more stylish than before, Microsoft is starting to get look and feel. Also the programs themselves are better looking. Not too far removed from my beloved Office 2003 but still updated with new menus and the new ribbon interface.

Things seem easy to find. Word works. I think I’m happy.

Bottom line: recommended upgrade