My First Day With Mac OSX Lion (GeekDad Weekly Rewind)

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If you’ve been following the computer industry news over the last day or so, you know the latest iteration of Apple’s Mac desktop operating system is out. And if you’re actually interested in this kind of news, you’ve probably already read the reviews and know the details (I like Andy Ihnatko’s review). So this post won’t be some kind of in-depth travelogue through the new and updated features of the OS. Rather, I just want to share some of my impressions as a daily user.

First, so my allegiances and predilections are clear, I work with Windows every day. I have for the last 18 years. I’ve torn apart and re-built PCs, and installed more copies of Microsoft’s OS than I care to admit. But my personal computer is a Mac laptop, and I’ve made sure every member of my immediate family uses a Mac, simply because as the family tech-support, it makes my life a heck of a lot easier. Does that make me a fanboy? I don’t know. I like to think it makes me an informed and shrewd consumer.

Here, in no particular order, are my takeaways from my first day with Lion:

  • It’s a bold move to make scrolling in the opposite direction than any desktop user is currently used to the default from a new install. However I can see that it’s a band-aid ripping-off kind of challenge. Anyone with an iPhone or iPad understands the idea of pulling a document in the direction you want them to go, rather than dragging a scroll bar in the converse direction. It makes sense, and unifying the user experience in this respect makes sense. But it will take getting used to, and I wonder how many people will suffer through the adjustment period?
  • I like the linen look, and the login screen is really very simple and clean. There’s a minimization of distractions all the way through.
  • I don’t like how the window buttons (maximize, minimize, close) have shrunk.
  • I do like how other buttons have been squared off. Better use of space.
  • Swiping left and right through Spaces is fun, and while it may not be quite as fast as CMD-Tab overall, the orderliness of one program in each Space, and swiping between them, is attractive.
  • Full-screen apps are cool. I find it ironic that we’ve gone from the old days where one application ran at a time, and it owned your screen, through super-multitasking with as many windows going as you wanted to flick through, and back again to the concept of one app owning the entire screen for distraction-free work. But this is a happy medium, since you can still have multiple apps running (swipe right or left to get to them), and there’s always Growl to remind you when something needs your attention. A good compromise.
  • The Dashboard is more accessible. When it first came out, the Dashboard and it’s plethora of interesting single-purpose widgets, held a lot of promise. In many ways, it was the proto-iOS. But developers did not flock to it, and being hidden away requiring an F4 keystroke to access made it seem like a Joss Whedon series relegated to Friday nights on FOX. But now, by default, the Dashboard has a Space all the way on the left, so it’s right there, active, waiting for you. And yet there are still so few interesting, useful, or up-to-date widgets. If only they allowed folks to port iOS apps to the Dashboard…. Almost seems like they might be planning something.
  • Except that Launchpad shows you all your “normal” applications in an iOS-like interface, complete with folders and everything. So, if they start porting iOS apps to the Dashboard, it’s going to get very confusing. I’m not sure what’s going to happen here, but having the Launchpad will at least make you go through all your old applications and clean things up a bit (I had lots of aliases and old versions that needed deleting). But considering I’ve fallen in love with Alfred as a super-fast (and FREE) keyboard app-launcher, I probably won’t use Launchpad much at all.
  • An interesting thing I noticed about Spaces that I’m not sure is an update or not. I have random wallpapers on my desktop that rotate every few minutes. I’ve noticed that in Lion each space will have a different random wallpaper on it (goes along with the fact that you can assign specific wallpapers to specific spaces to help you organize your workspace). I like that. It’s not important, but it’s a nice touch.
  • A few annoying early-adopter items: I need software/firmware updates for my secondary monitor adaptor, for Airfoil (which I use to push music all over my house), and my Drobo for Time Machine compatibility.
  • I’m really going to enjoy having this on all the computers in our house, so trading files around will be a piece of cake with AirDrop.
  • I’m also going to love the autosaving feature – if only for how much work will be recoverable on my boys’ machines after they accidentally shut them down.

That’s it so far. If I haven’t mentioned something big, it’s probably because it hasn’t impacted me too significantly one way or another. Right now, I’m still exploring, trying to separate the shiny from the truly useful. But for now, I’m happy with the upgrade, and excited to see what else builds out from it in the future.

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