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Mac OS X Lion – Lion or Lemon?

21 August, 2011

SadFinderSo the day Lion was out, I downloaded it from the App store. It was most unlike me, since many years of experience have taught me that the initial releases of Operating Systems are usually a bit flaky and it’s often best to wait for the first wave of patches. Still Snow Leopard worked well on release and so I thought Lion would too.

Oh dear, I had a long list of I thought a complete reformat/reinstall would do the trick. After all upgrades often leave behind all kinds of legacy junk.

So I made sure everything was backed-up (twice) and reinstalled from fresh, using a DVD I had made using the download from the app store. Stupidly, the installer for Lion is normally deleted once Lion is installed (Seems Apple don’t want you to actually possess anything in the future – a post for another day), but I took a copy of the program beforehand and made an installer DVD with it. Instructions to do this are on CNET here. Only any use if you have a “legacy” DVD writer.

So a nice fresh install on the iMac. So what’s good about Lion? Nothing, yes I mean zilch. Honesty, I haven’t found a single thing that I prefer over Snow Leopard and I have a long list of things that are just not right. Edit: In the interests of fairness, yes I remember one now – you can resize windows from any corner. Whilst I like this new ‘feature’, it’s something that every other OS has supported forever.

Now this isn’t a review, but basically a moan. As far as I can tell, OS Lion is a essentially a bigger, slower and dumbed down version of Snow Leopard. It’s something that those of you might not notice on your zippy new Intel i5 & i7 machines. For those of use with older Core2 computers, get used to the spinning beach ball. I’ll post another day about what I think Apple’s intentions are, but for now lets concentrate on this lacklustre software release.

My list of gripes goes something like this. Where I have found a workaround, I’ve posted it. If you have any tips please share them below. The list is in no particular order.

1. Can’t connect to the web through web browser when machine wakes from sleep

I can ping my router and I can resolve names through DNS but I can’t get to any website using Firefox, Safari etc. Seems like this actually a Firewall issue. For some reason the Firewall by default is off. The problem is when the firewall is enabled (and really you should have it on) and the machine wakes from sleep, any web browser doesn’t work.

Workaround: Turn the firewall off, go to any old website and then turn it back on. The web browser will now continue working.

Update: This seems to have been fixed in the first set of patches released from Apple, they only mentioned Airport WiFi but the patch also seems to fix wired connections too.

2. Apps folder missing from Dock by default.

If you are upgrading from Snow Leopard you won’t notice this. But when a fresh install takes place, we are expected to use Launchpad instead of having apps in the Dock. Pleeeaze.

Workaround: Use Go->Computer from menu and then navigate to hard drive. Drag the applications folder to the dock.

3. Finder problem: Downloads folder columns not resizable or sortable in details mode

Seems to be the only window in the OS that you might want to sort frequently (say by type, size or date) and can’t. You cannot resize the view columns either.

Solution: The default option is to sort the downloads finder window by date.  This prevents the columns from being resized.  From the menu bar select View ->Arrange By->None.  The downloads window in Finder will now have resizable columns and will allow you to click on the column headers to sort in whatever method you desire.

4. Finder problem: window contents are often jumbled initially

You view the contents of a folder and the icons are all jumbled and on top of one another. Seems to happen mostly on mounted disk images.

Workaround: You have to tell the Finder window how to sort, every time. Get used to it.

5. Finder problem: does not remember view settings, and does not obey globally set values (like open details)

Workaround: None, just get used to setting it every time.

6. Finder problem: Does not remember toolbar settings

Workaround: None, just get used to setting it every time. I hope you like repeating yourself, I do.

7. Finder problem: does not relinquish control of mounted disk images. Finder must be forced to quit to eject them sometimes

If you use a third party tool such as “What’s Keeping Me” or commands in terminal to see what the hold-up is, My bet is it will be Finder.

Workaround: Use Force Quit from the Apple menu to kill Finder. You can then eject your disk image (Finder will restart)

8. Lion is much slower: Preview is painful, beach ball waiting or pauses in Finder, system memory usage is higher. Machines limited to 4GB are hurting.

Apple are a hardware company. You wanted to upgrade that hardware, right?

9. Spotlight: can’t right click and open files in finder.

In Snow Leopard you could right click on a file result in Spotlight and select Open in Finder instantly. This option has been removed. This is a big backwards step. Spotlight has gone from being THE best search tool in the Personal computer world to almost useless.

Partial Workaround: Hold down CMD key on your search result for about 5 seconds, to see the file location and then go and manually navigate there.

10. Home folder missing by default

Doesn’t it make sense to have your home folder on the Dock? Maybe not and it’s just me…

Workaround: Use Go->Computer from menu and then navigate to hard drive. Drag your Home folder to the dock, right click and display as Folder

11. You can’t see the library folder

Yeah so it’s a system related folder. I thought Mac users were tech savvy. Seems like you are in fact too stupid to be trusted with seeing this folder so Apple have kindly hidden it. Side effect is that some third party apps have broken or require workarounds (e.g. VMWare Fusion)

Workaround: Hold down Option / Alt key to see this in the Go menu in Finder

10. Mail: Tries to auto configure mail and fails.

Workaround: The new mail program tries to set-up mail accounts and partially fails. For NTL/Virgin media Follow my instructions here to fix.

11. Versions/Autosave.

You are too stupid to remember to press save. Therefore Apple have removed the option for you. What’s that? You didn’t want to save your file? wait, you wanted to call it something else? You should have thought of that first, stupid. Am I the only one who doesn’t like this? Why can’t I choose when to save things? at least give me the options.

Workaround: None

12. Startup time is slower than Snow Leopard.

Even when applications are not set to re-open. The saving grace is that OSX doesn’t need rebooting too often.

Workaround: None.

13. Spaces (Virtual Desktops) are less functional

I like to have multiple desktops. In Snow Leopard I could select the virtual desktop I wanted by selecting it from the top right of the screen or jump to a specific desktop with a key combo. I could also send an app to another desktop by clicking the title bar and pressing ALT+desktop number. Nope can’t do that now. Seems that now, I am supposed to press F3 and bring up “Mission Control” and then select the desktop I want. Sure I can drag windows from one desktop to another but it’s all less efficient.

Workaround: CTRL+LEFT ARROW or CTRL+RIGHT ARROW allow you to switch to another desktop. There is no workspace number indicator.

14. The other Apps that don’t work properly on Lion

…such as Firefox which is now completely unstable (versions 5.x and the new 6.x). Yes, this last one is of course not the fault of Apple but it helps drive me nuts. Time to find an alternative browser.

In Summary

To me, Snow Leopard feels like a dumbing down the OS with bonus added bugs. The upgrade is only around £20 but frankly, if you have Snow Leopard I think you are paying for a downgrade. Do yourself a favour and spend the money on something else.

Update: Here is a good piece on Gizmodo that I came across. It pretty much sums up of everything that is wrong with OSX Lion. Saves me repeating the same thing

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 September, 2011 12:01

    Hi I’m not sure if 10.7.1 added/fixed these but:
    “3. Finder problem: Downloads folder columns not resizable or sortable in details mode”
    Actually you can. For a resize. Grab the handle on the column separator on at the very bottom of the window just above the Status bar. As for the sort: View>Arrange. Or even better. Customize the toolbar, if you are still showing it, and add the Arrange pulldown button.

    Finder windows and toolbar do remember your settings now.

    8&12. My Finder is Snappier. Not slower. I read your intro. and you said that you did a fresh install. You formatted the disc before Lion go a hold of it or did you let Lion do a disc wipe and reformat? Did you make sure its SMART status was ok first. Is it a slower RPM HD? Or it could be a case of .0 bugs, because I’m fine with 10.7.1.

    “9. Spotlight: can’t right click and open files in finder.”
    You can Command-Click on the Document to do this. Or you can also Option click on it to move it.

    Good read. I totally agree about the Library, that bugs the hell out of me — see my latest post. Thanks.

    • 11 September, 2011 10:47

      Thanks, I will take a look at your tips. I manually formatted the drive and the SMART status is OK. Most likely a bug.

  2. 12 September, 2011 14:47

    Hi. I have updated the post regarding item #3:

    Solution: The default option is to sort the downloads finder window by date. This prevents the columns from being resized. From the menu bar select View ->Arrange By->None. The downloads window in Finder will now have resizable columns and will allow you to click on the column headers to sort in whatever method you desire.

    • 14 September, 2011 10:08

      Yeah, I was looking at a different view, (column view) when I suggested that. After checking I see the problem with all views that are sorted with column details. I wish the Finder would remember your sort choice on a per view basis. That would be helpful as well.

      It will take time to get used to but all in all I’m liking 10.7 more and more. (plus I figured out how to move Apple Apps out of the Applications folder by modifying their permissions. I’m still trying to find the custom ACLs to edit them properly though.)

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