My current computer is an iMac that I bought in December 2009 when it came with Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and iLife ’09 installed. I really only use one iLife application, iPhoto, so when iLife ’11 came out in October 2010 I didn’t really think it was worth paying for the whole new suite of programs. In July 2011 Apple released OS X Lion, which was only available for download from the Mac App Store (the App Store itself only came online in January 2011 with the 10.6.6 update to Snow Leopard). Whenever I have upgraded a computer to a new major version of OS X (10.2 to 10.3 on my G3 iBook and 10.4 to 10.5 on my first iMac) I have done an erase and install because I like to have a completely fresh start. Since Lion did not come on physical media there was no simple supported way to do an erase and install and that is part of the reason I was still running Snow Leopard until this week – that and the fact that although I like to keep up to date I had no particular need for any of the new features in Lion. I had thought I might get round to upgrading in the New Year and this week I finally made the transition.
Although I keep a Time Machine backup on an external drive I was starting to think I should have an off-site backup too, so before getting started I copied my home directory on to a new 500 GB portable hard drive and took it away for safe keeping. I had never used the App Store (or indeed the iTunes Store) but buying Lion was pretty straightforward. It took an hour or two to download but once that completed the installation was fairly quick. The individual iLife applications are available on the App Store so I also treated myself to the latest version of iPhoto.
I make extensive use of a number of command line tools that I install using MacPorts so it was important to get it up and running. Basically I deleted the whole MacPorts installation, grabbed the new Xcode (a free download from the App Store) and installed that, then downloaded the Lion package installer from MacPorts. Once I had the MacPorts base system installed I started installing packages – mutt, msmtp, gnupg etc. It all went OK until I got to lbdb (Little Brother’s Database) and there was a problem which prevented it from installing. I use lbdb to query the OS X Address Book from within mutt so I will either need to solve the problem or find another way of doing it.
After using the new system for a few hours I decided it was time to back it up so I connected my Time Machine drive. It should have backed up automatically but the process appeared to freeze and when I tried to gain control the drive icon vanished from the desktop with a warning about not unmounting. This had happened to me a couple of times before and I responded by turning off Time Machine temporarily, starting up Disk Utility, and clicking on “Repair Disk”. However, when that seemed to be taking ages to do anything I felt more drastic action was required so I erased the drive and let Time Machine start afresh with a full backup. That means I have lost the ability to restore old files but it is fairly unlikely that I would have needed to. It also made me glad I had started out by making an additional backup of my home directory.
One of the first things you see when you upgrade to Lion is a message about the change in scrolling behaviour, you now have to swipe up on the surface of the Magic Mouse to scroll down! This is not as crazy as it sounds but it takes some getting used to. Basically you have to think of it as if you are pushing the text up with your finger rather than moving the cursor down. A major reason for this change must have been to achieve consistency with iOS behaviour on touchscreen devices.
Other surprises included radical changes to Address Book and iCal. It seems like a lot of people were pretty upset about the new Address Book but I think it is fine. I have also been using the “Faces” feature of iPhoto and Address Book has a way of choosing photos from Faces to use as custom photos for people.
I have not yet explored the new Launchpad or Mission Control features and I am sure there are all sorts of other enhancements to discover. In fact I should now probably go back and read the Ars Technica Lion Review to remind myself what to look out for.