OS X Lion Reviews

Today Apple released it's seventh version of its OS X operating system, a.k.a. Lion. To commemorate the event I sat down and read three early reviews of the OS by [Shawn Blanc][1], [Ben Brooks][2] and [Stephen M. Hackett][3]. Of these three well known and well respected writers the consensus was mainly the same: there are more than enough polished edges and new features to warrant the $29.1

I have yet to make the switch, so all of my opinions on the subject should be taken with heaping tablespoons of salt. That said, I am excited to read about a number of features covered in these reviews. Specifically the performance increases, Filevault 2, Safari 5.1 (which is available for [Snow Leopard][4]) and Versions.

About Lion’s speed Stephen M. Hackett says:

Lion is fast. Super fast. Crazy super fast. Crazy super duper fast. … Apple is great at this. Each version of OS X has proven to be faster than the previous one.

This is the type of thing I love to hear. As a self proclaimed “power-user” I assume that most of the most visible new features of the new OS will be of little use for me. Previously, I have the Dock and Dashboard turned off (via [Tinker Tool][5]), so I can imagine that the Launchpad will be of similar disuse to me. While I can appreciate these sorts of touches, I am not what Apple had in mind when they were designed. What I do fully appreciate is that these features can exist while my system feels (or simply is) faster than before.

On the new FileVault 2 Ben Brooks says:

FileVault 2 is better than the previous versions by far. It uses government-strength XTS-AES 128 encryption to protect all the data on the Mac’s hard drive, and any external drives the user selects for protection. Previously, only the user’s home folder could be encrypted. This encryption is done in real time, in the background. Apple has designed Lion to give other tasks — like downloading files or checking email — priority, so FileVault 2 won’t slow down the computer.

Everyone who has ever used the first version of FileVault can attest to borderline crippling speed reductions and overall unease at the job it performed. Especially considering it only protected the “home” folder. I cannot wait to have full drive encryption and the option to encrypt my backup drives as well. Not to mention doing so with reasonable haste.

In an end note about the new Safari Ben Brooks says:

Safari: Much faster than before, Chrome like speed.

I must have some skewed perception because I never found Safari to be a slouch compared to Chrome. I mainly avoided Chrome for Safari due to design issues, which may or may not make me seem a little frilly.2 However, as above, I welcome any speed enhancements to my workflow.3

As for Versions, I’ll leave you with what each of these writers has to say.

Shawn Blanc:

Version control, however, is fabulous. Not that I use it often, but it is done so very well.

Ben Brooks:

Versions: this is likely to be pretty cool once apps start to support it, definitely helpful for people who don’t like to remember to make duplicates of documents before they make considerable changes. I for one can’t wait for apps like Writer and TextMate to support it. This is huge for advanced users and once ‘regular’ users get the hang of it, well user error support issues should drop.

Stephen M. Hackett:

Versions, in my mind, is way cooler. Think of it as Time Machine for individual documents that is automatic. Now, every change is backed up immediately, not just every hour. Scrolling back through previous versions is simple, and can even be used to pull segments out of older versions, and apply them to the newest one. It really is fantastic.

One feature of Lion that I look forward to and was otherwise completely unaware of is a different display handling behaviour in Lion. In Snow Leopard it is a confusing affair to hook up and unhook a monitor on an Apple laptop. With the laptop closed you plug in your display and wake the computer (either by keyboard, mouse, or remote). Opening the laptop after you have plugged in the display will do nothing, your laptop screen will remain black. Connecting the display while you have your laptop awake will cause the external display to act as a secondary display. Closing the laptop will cause both displays to sleep.

According to Shawn Blanc this behaviour is much improved in Lion:

With the laptop lid closed and the computer asleep: Plug an external display in, wake the computer, and the external display will be the only working display. If you were to then open your laptop lid, the laptop’s screen would turn on and you have two working monitors.

With the laptop lid open and the computer awake: Plug an external display in and you have two working screens. If you were to then close your laptop lid, the laptop’s screen turns off and the external monitor becomes the only working monitor.

I can only nod my head along with the conclusions reached by each of these three reviewers: $29 is a small price to pay for even a handful of these features. While most new features will go unnoticed or will be completely avoided by myself when I do upgrade, these specific enhancements easily warrant giving Apple my money.4

[1]: http://shawnblanc.net/2011/07/lion-review/ “Shawn Blanc’s OS X Lion Review”

[2]: http://brooksreview.net/2011/07/big-cat/ “Ben Brooks’ OS X Lion Review”

[3]: http://www.macgasm.net/2011/07/19/lion-review/ “Stephen M. Hackett’s OSX Lion Review”

[4]: http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1070 “Safari 5.1 for Snow Leopard Download”

[5]: http://www.bresink.com/osx/TinkerTool.html “Learn More About Tinker Tool”

[6]: http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/features.html#safari “New Process Architecture”

[7]: http://www.macworld.com/article/160943/2011/07/get_your_mac_ready_for_lion.html “Macworld: Get Your Mac Ready For Lion”

  1. Please backup your files before you decide to make the switch. For a good primer on how to prepare your Mac before hand see: [Macworld’s Lion Preparation Guide][7] 

  2. Sticks and stones... 

  3. This is speed enhancement is probably due to Safari’s new process architecture, i.e., each tab/page/application is given its own process. See: [Apple][6]. 

  4. This entire post has been a good exercise for myself, one you might wish to try and replicate. Seriously weigh your options, especially if you only have a single computer and it is your “production” computer. There is no shame in holding off until all of those features you require are implemented or if until you can reach a suitable compromise. 


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