OS X 10.7 Lion the Ars Technica review

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Mac OS X 10.7 Lion the Ars Technica Review by John Siracusa

Transcript of OS X 10.7 Lion the Ars Technica review

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica review

04/01/12 19:03

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica reviewMac OS X 10.7 was first shown to the public in October 2010. The presentation was understated, especially compared to the bold rhetoric that accompanied the launches of the iPhone ("Apple reinvents the phone") and the iPad ("a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price"). Instead, Steve Jobs simply called the new operating system "a sneak peek at where we're going with Mac OS X." Behind Jobs, the screen listed the seven previous major releases of Mac OS X: Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard. Such brief retrospectives are de rigueur at major Mac OS X announcements, but long-time Apple watchers might have felt a slight tingle this time. The public "big cat" branding for Mac OS X only began with Jaguar; code names for the two earlier versions were not well known outside the developer community and were certainly not part of Apple's official marketing message for those releases. Why bring the cat theme back to the forefront now? The answer came on the next slide. The next major release of Mac OS X would be called Lion. Jobs didn't make a big deal out of it; Lion's just another big cat name, right? Within seconds, we were on to the next slide, where Jobs was pitching the new release's message: not "king of the jungle" or "the biggest big cat," but the "back to the Mac" theme underlying the entire event. Mac OS X had spawned iOS, and now Apple was bringing innovations from its mobile operating system back to Mac OS X. Apple had good reason to shy away from presenting Lion as the pinnacle that its name implies. The last two major releases of Mac OS X were both profoundly shaped by the meteoric rise of their younger sibling, iOS.

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Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica review

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Steve Jobs presents the first seven releases of Mac OS X in a slightly unusual format Leopard arrived later than expected, and in the same year that the iPhone was introduced. Its successor, Snow Leopard, famously arrived with no new features, concentrating instead on internal enhancements and bug fixes. Despite plausible official explanations, it was hard to shake the feeling that Apple's burgeoning mobile platform was stealing resourcesnot to mention the spotlightfrom the Mac. In this context, the name Lion starts to take on darker connotations. At the very least, it seems like the end of the big cat brandingafter all, where can you go after Lion? Is this process of taking the best from iOS and bringing it back to the Mac platform just the first phase of a complete assimilation? Is Lion the end of the line for Mac OS X itself? Let's put aside the pessimistic prognostication for now and consider Lion as a product, not a portent. Apple pegs Lion at 250+ new features, which doesn't quite match the 300 touted for Leopard, but I guess it all depends on what you consider a "feature" (and what that "+" is supposed to mean). Still, this is the most significant release of Mac OS X in many yearsperhaps the most significant release ever. Though the number of new APIs introduced in Lion may fall short of the landmark Tiger and Leopard releases, the most important changes in Lion are radical accelerations of pasthttp://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7.ars Page 2 of 106

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica review

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trends. Apple appears tired of dragging people kicking and screaming into the future; with Lion, it has simply decided to leave without us.

Table of ContentsInstallation Reconsidering fundamentals Lion's new look Scroll bars Window resizing Animation Here's to the crazy ones Window management Application management Document model Process model The pitch The reality Internals Security Sandboxing Privilege separation Automatic Reference Counting Enter (and exit) garbage collection Cocoa memory management Enter ARC ARC versus garbage collection ARC versus the world The state of the file system What's wrong with HFS+ File system changes in Lion File system future Document revisions Resolution independence Applications The Finderhttp://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7.ars Page 3 of 106

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica review

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Mail Safari Grab bag System Preferences Auto-correction Mobile Time Machine Lock screen Emoji Terminal About This Mac Recommendations Conclusion A brief note on branding: on Apple's website and in somebut not allmarketing materials, Apple refers to its new Mac operating system as "OS X Lion." This may well turn out to be the name going forward, but given the current state of confusion and my own stubborn nostalgia, I'm going to call it "Mac OS X" throughout this review. Indulge me.

InstallationLion's system requirements don't differ much from Snow Leopard's. You still need an Intel-based Mac, though this time it must also be 64-bit. The last 32-bit Intel Mac was discontinued in August of 2007; Apple chose a similar four-year cut-off for dropping PowerPC support, with minimal customer backlash. Time marches on. But sometimes time marches on a bit too fast. Though this is the second version of Mac OS X that doesn't support PowerPC processors, this is the first version that won't run PowerPC applications. In Snow Leopard, the Rosetta translation engine allowed PowerPC applications to run, and run well, often faster than they ran on the (admittedly older) PowerPC Macs for which they were developed. Lion no longer includes Rosetta, even as an optional install. No one expects eternal support for PowerPC software, and any developer that doesn't yet have Intel-native versions of all its applications is clearly not particularly dedicated to the Mac platform. Nevertheless, people still rely on some PowerPC applications. For example, I have an old PowerPC version of Photoshop. Though Photoshop has long since gone Intel-native, it's an expensive upgrade for someone like me who uses the program only rarely. The PowerPC version suits my needs just fine, but ithttp://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7.ars Page 4 of 106

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica review

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uses the program only rarely. The PowerPC version suits my needs just fine, but it won't run at all in Lion. Another common example is Quicken 2007, still the most capable Mac version of Intuit's finance software, and still PowerPC-only. This is clearly Intuit's fault, not Apple's, but from a regular user's perspective, it's hard to understand why Apple would remove an existing, completed feature that helped so many people. In reality, every feature has some associated maintenance cost. This is perhaps even more true of a binary translation framework that may have deep hooks into the operating system. I'm willing to give Apple the benefit of the doubt and assume that disentangling PowerPC-related code from the operating system once and for all was important enough to justify the customer inconvenience. But it still stings a little. The future shock continues with the purchase and installation process. Lion is the first version of Mac OS X to be distributed through Apple's recently introduced Mac App Store. In fact, the Mac App Store is the only place where you can buy Lion. Apple's decision last year to sell its iLife and iWork applications through the Mac App Store was not unexpected, but the presence of Apple's professional photography application, Aperture, caught some people off guardas did its greatly reduced price ($80 vs. $200 for the boxed version). The developer preview releases of Lion were also distributed through the Mac App Store. Apple's developer releases have been distributed digitally for many years now, but the switch from downloading disk images from Apple's developer website to "redeeming" promo codes and downloading new builds from the Mac App Store raised some eyebrows. When Apple announced that its new Final Cut Pro X professional video editing application wouldyou guessed itbe distributed through the Mac App Store, and at a greatly reduced price, even the most dense Apple watchers started to get the hint. And so we have Lion, priced at a mere $29 (the same as its "no new features" predecessor), available exclusively through the Mac App Store. It's an audacious move, yes, but not unexpected. Apple is so done with stamping bits onto plastic discs, putting the discs into cardboard boxes, putting those boxes onto trucks, planes, and boats, and shipping them all over the world to retail stores or to mail-order resellers who will eventually puthttp://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7.ars Page 5 of 106

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: the Ars Technica review

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those same boxes onto a different set of trucks, trains, and planes for final delivery to customers, who will then remove the disc, throw away the cardboard, and instruct their computers to extract the bits. No, from here on out, it's digital distribution all the way. (This, I suppose, marks the end of my longstanding tradition of showing the product boxes or optical discs that Mac OS X ships on. Instead, you can see the installer application icon on the right.) Lion is a large download and fast network connections are still not ubiquitous. But new Macs will come with Lion, so the most relevant question is, how many people who plan to upgrade an existing Mac to Lion don't have a fast network connection? The class of people who perform OS upgrades probably has a higher penetration of high-speed Internet access than the general population. I also suspect that Apple retail stores may be willing to help out customers who just can't manage to download a 3.76GB installer in a reasonable amount of time. [