I’ve been really busy for the past couple of weeks, so I haven’t had the chance to blog about Lion. I didn’t think I would even have the time to install it, but geeky impatience overcame caution (and sleep) and I took the plunge. I decided to install on my new MacBook Air1, as it is the newest Mac I own and closest to the stock configuration, so I thought it would probably be the least troublesome. It’s also not a computer I have to use every day, so if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be stuck without a working machine.
Apple’s system upgrades have got progressively easier over time. I remember the days when you had to pile up your stack of floppies (yes, I have been using Macs that long), and set aside hours (or days) to restore all your files and settings afterwards. It was a huge pain. The Migration Assistant has been making upgrades easier for a few iterations now, but I was a bit nervous (as many people were) about the prospect of downloading a major OS update and it installing in place. That just felt weird. Anyway, I’m happy to say it was all a piece of cake. I think the whole thing took about 40 minutes from start to finish, with no intervention required on my part except to demonstrate that I understood the whole reverse, sorry — natural — scrolling thing. I think that the only thing I had to fix afterwards was to install the new XCode 4 so that I could continue to install command line stuff using homebrew. I’ve since also upgraded an old white plastic iMac and a newer iMac, and it has all gone well. Lion seems to run well and swiftly on all of them.
While I was keen to upgrade2, I wasn’t overly excited by any of the features that had been advertised beforehand. However, I’m really enjoying Lion. I think that the subtle visual changes are generally a big improvement, and make the UI less cluttered and more tranquil. I’ve even got used to the lack of visible scroll bars, although I do admit that if I’m readying a really long academic paper in PDF form, I do ‘scrub’ with the cursor to see how much more of it I have to endure. I took the advice of several knowledgable people and stuck with the ‘natural’ scrolling. It hurt my brain a lot at the start, particularly when I had a mixture of computers on Lion and Snow Leopard, but I think I’ve adjusted to it now. I appear to be in the phase of motor re-programming now where my brain can cope with dragging the page up to scroll up, but it is then completely at a loss to know how to deal with dragging the scroll bar itself. I find myself dragging the scroll bar up when I want to go down. It’s all very confusing, but eventually my poor old synapses will reconfigure themselves.
Mission Control is much nicer than I thought it would be. I rarely used Expose before, but I like having Spaces and Expose combined in Mission Control. It’s a big help when I temporarily mislay a window, which I tend to do quite often, as I work with 9 spaces. That brings me nicely to the new gestures. Since I got my MacBook Air, I’ve been enjoying the larger trackpad, and the new gestures are particularly nice on it. When I used my desktop machines with the Magic Mouse, I felt I was missing something. So I splashed out on a Magic Trackpad, which I take to and from work to share between my work and home machines. When they first came out, I thought I wouldn’t like them, but now going back to a mouse feels awkward. Lion seems to be reprogramming me in all kinds of ways, but I’m enjoying the experience.