Very Good Apple Mac OS/X Lion Is Hobbled

Okay lets get the bad news off  ye Editor’s chest - a very good update to Apple’s Mac OS/X is hobbled by the fact that multi-touch and gestures are still not brought to the Mac’s full screen. They are still confined to the trackpad and “magic mice”. Steve Jobs insists that touch screen operations would ickify the screen with oily finger smears and the arm would tire out. Note to Steve J: let me, the customer,  decide, if I want to wear gloves or blatantly ickify my screens or use a stylus and get my arm workout for the day. Don’t tell me you know better – having used a Wacom Cintiq, ye Editor knows how very productive stylus based touchscreen operations can be. Note to Steve B. and Steve S: Thanks to Steve J., this is your last reprieve for Windows.

Still no on-screen multi-touch or gestures for Macs
Ye Editor can just imagine the contrasting scenes among the development teams in Redmond and Cupertino after the Apple OS/X Lion update announcement today. Redmond there were sighs of relief as many of the Mac Lion features were seen as catch up or easily duplicated – and the critical multi-touch gestures on Macs are still confined to the “magic mouse” and trackpad. This despite the fact that:
1)Gorilla glass, gloves and some very nifty styli are available for clean touch screen operation;
2)Apple’s lead could have been 2 1/2 years on Windows 7 and 8 for the ease-of-use and efficiency advantages of multi-touch screen operations; now when Windows 8 comes out in March-April 2012 Microsoft will have the lead in the desktop and laptop world which are in sleek laptop form becoming equivalent in portability, sleek styling, and battery life to the iPad and iPhone;
3)Touchscreen operations, not Touchpad or Magic Mouse, deliver so much better ease of use and speed of operations;
4)Apple’s Mac team delivered 28% growth in sales last year despite having at least double the PC price for the  exact equivalent in hardware  and maybe 1/5th of the number of Apps/Programs that Windows has. Steve, you could have given Macs a compelling and crushing advantage over Windows.
So the Apple development team would have to grin and bear it and tout some of the other Mac Lion features – fortunately there are many.

Other Lion Features

Mission Control

Mac Command Center

The above  description is a little more informative of what Mission Control is. Think of it as a Desktop view with the addition of on screen  thumbnails for all the currently running programs – 1) the running full screen apps/programs [along the top of the screen] and 2)the standard-size apps/programs in the middle.  The Program ribbon bar at the bottom of the screen remains as well. Since a desktop view can be a full screen app – this a way of creating and navigating among several desktops.

This is a welcome addition to Mac OS/X because there are times when ye Editor has gotten completely lost and has wished for a clarifying home screen where one could get re-oriented or just move along more quickly.  The new full-screen mode of operation makes getting lost even easier. Fortunately, a new three-finger downward swipe on the touchpad invokes the Mac Command Center and re-orientation is now easy.

Think of the LaunchPad as the Windows desktop++

This looks a lot like the Windows 7 desktop

But we know who is copying whom. What Lion adds to the Desktop in the form of Launchpad is four  additional capabilities:
1)The icons can spread over pages and a finger swipe reveals the next page of icons;
2)one can group icons in a subfolder which display on the screen as a clickable icon. This saves icon-spread and allows grouping of similar/co-operating apps;
3)launchpad is also the uninstall screen; just sustain clicking/tapping on on icon until it starts to jiggle, a “x” delete icon appears which initiates the uninstall;
4)Launchpad icons and the Dock iconbar can exchange icons by drag and drop.
Again, Mac makes operating in the Mac environ easier and more intuitive. This is a consistent  theme in many of the new Lion capabilities.

Which Will  Dominate  IT Market?
iDevices or Mac and Windows PCs
Note that iDevices here represents all pods, smartphones, pads, and tablets made by all vendors not just Apple.
Consider the the following comparisons:
Number of Apps: PC readily beats iDevices, Mac Lion
Number of consumable Apps[games, video, browsing, music, etc]: PC, Mac Lion , iDevices are roughly comparable
Ease of use: iDevices  multi-touch beats Windows; but Windows beats Mac Lion.

Number of creative/work Apps: PC readily beats Mac Lion beats iOS
Raw Computing Power: PC , Mac Lion beat iDevices
Raw Storage Capacity: PC and Mac Lion beat iDevices
Raw Video Power: PC and Mac Lion beat iDevices
Connectivity: iDevices beat PC and Mac Lion
Weight, size, portability: iDevices beat PC, Mac Lion
Battery Life: iDevices beat Mac Lion  beats PC
Sensor-based features: iDevices beat Mac Lion and PC
Security: iDevices beat Mac Lion beats PC
Acceptance in IT shops: PC beats Mac Lion, iDevices
Cost of Software: iDevices  beat Mac Lion and PC
Cost of OS software: iDevices  beat Mac Lion beats PC 

Does a pattern emerge here? Yes, indeed there is no clear cut winner. But in the case of  convenient media consumption and communication, iDevices as  a symbol for the broader pod, pads,  smartphone and tablet markets leads the way and by a fairly wide margin. For business and creative development, PCs and Mac Lion lead. Now how will this contest of  consumable media machine vs creative work system break out  in terms proportions of total IT spending?  The numbers are all over the place so 60%-40% split is only a first guess. But riddle me this -by how much does the total computing market grow-that is how often do consumers by both?

Advances in OS File Operations

There are a number of improvements in how Lion stores, protects, and exchanges files. Here are some of the new features in alphabetical order.
AirDrop uses Peer-to-Peer Wi-Fi  to allow transfer of files between participating Mac computers and doesn’t require a wireless network infrastructure or base station. there are a number of security provisions to guarantee that the transfer is safe including ID of the tranferees, encryption of the file contents being transferred, a firewall guarding the temporary connection, and the ability to cancel at anytime during transmission. yet drag and drop operation and automatic discovery of AirDrop equipped Macs make AirDrop transfers easy to do.

Auto Save – the theory of Auto Save is that Apps developed with Auto Save can automatically save changes to your document as you work, freeing you from manual saving and from the worry that you’ll lose your valuable work if the app quits. And because Auto Save saves all changes in the background, you can work without the distraction of pauses or progress bars. Auto Save in Lion adds the changes directly into the file so there’s only one copy of the document on your Mac.

There are two cautions here. First, most Mac apps will not have Auto Save builtin – over time many if not all will adopt the Auto Save capability. Second, there are a number safeguards against inadvertently saving what you don’t want. There is a Duplicate command that allows users to easily save  a second copy of the file for later reuse. There is a Revert command that takes the file back to when it was last saved. A Lock command temporarily stops auto save until the file is unlocked. Finally, Auto Save links to the Versions system [see below] if required to get earlier version of a file.

File Vault 2 – provides Full Disk Encryption. FileVault now encrypts the entire drive on your Mac using XTS-AES 128 encryption to secure the data . FileVault 2 encrypts and decrypts your data on the fly with an imperceptible performance impact. Infact, the initial encryption is designed to be fast and nonintrusive. FileVault 2 quickly encrypts the entire drive live, so you can continue to work as it encrypts. It’s also designed to relinquish processor cycles to higher-priority user tasks like copying files or browsing.

With FileVault 2 delting or clearing data is simplified. Instant wipe removes the encryption key from your Mac instantaneously, making the data completely inaccessible. Then your Mac performs an entire wipe of the data from the disk. There is also  support for  encryption of external USB and FireWire drives.

Versions records the history of a document as it evolves. Lion records snapshots of your document as you make changes or reach important milestones. Each time you open a document, Lion automatically saves the current version indepently of what Auto Save may be doing. It also saves a new version every hour while you work, building a history of the document as you go.

Mac users can manually create a version of a document at any time by choosing “Save a Version” from the File menu.  And Lion Version is efficient saving only the information that has changed since the last version saving space on your hard drive. And  Versions manages the version history of a document, keeping hourly versions for a day, daily versions for a month, and weekly versions for all previous months.

Access to versions of a file are  easy by  browsing previous versions. Using an interface similar to that of Time Machine, you can browse the version history of a document to see how it looked at any time. A timeline shows all the versions that exist for the document. To view a previous version, simply click a specific date. There is also  a side-by-side comparison feature which allows you to see the current state of a document next to the previous one, so you can easily note the differences. Both the current and previous versions are live, allowing you to copy and paste text and images from one to the other.Finally, to go back to a previous version, just replace the current version with the earlier one.

Time Machine’s automated backup facilities got a number of improvements. Local snapshots allow users to take the Time Machine experience with you when you’re away from your Time Capsule or backup drive. Time Machine can keep a spare copy of the files you create, modify, or delete right on your Mac. Now if you accidentally delete a file while on the road, you can recover it from a local copy.
Combined timeline means when you connect your Mac to your Time Machine backup drive or Time Capsule, Time Machine automatically displays everything you did while you were away with your existing Time Machine backups. So when you enter the Time Machine interface, it will look like you never left your Mac. these local backups can be transferred readily to the main Time machine backup drive. Finally encrypted backups are readily achieved by backing up to an external USB or FireWire drive encrypted with FileVault 2.

In summary, on these improvements in file handling improvements alone, Mac Lion  will be extremely attractive to many corporate IT shops and may force the door open to a return to Macs in the corporate setting.

Mixed Results in Security, Privacy and Basic OS Operations

Finder is playing catchup to Windows in its all files and sorting capabilities. Even gestures for navigating is catchup to ideas floated in Windows 8. There are new features such as group a selection of files into a folder or keep a copy option if a file of the same name exist in the new folder a file is being moved to. But these and other Finder refinements are easily dcopied in Windows and other competing OS. Spotlight, as a part of Finder, has seen nominal improvements with drag and drop from a the Spotlight menu to a document or AirDrop plus doing Web or Wikipedia searches directly.

Networking improvements are again me-too or small scale like your Mac can wake up for services such as file sharing, backup, and more without the need to turn on the monitor or attached USB devices. Or when connecting to a network that requires authentication, Lion presents a window allowing you to log in to the network.  Lion includes support for the latest version of  NFSv4 and also provides latest Windows connectivity with DFS URLs, drill-down, failover, and reconnects.

Preview has always been a more robust than in Windows because it works with better preview tools for a wider array of text, documents and PDFs. Lion enhances this with full screen preview which takes your document full screen for an ideal reading or viewing experience, free of desktop clutter. Preview optimizes the display of the document to fit your screen; landscape documents are scaled for a perfect fit, while portrait pages are shown side by side for natural reading. Use gestures to zoom, rotate, and flip through pages and images. Smart Magnify tool makes it a snap to focus on a specific part of a PDF or image without zooming the entire document. When used with PDF documents, Smart Magnify adjusts its width to give you the best view of the text or image beneath it. New At-a-glance search results help you find what you’re looking for quickly. Preview now displays the text surrounding a search phrase. With a glance at the sidebar, you can read the text, learn the number of matches per page, and see a thumbnail of the page.

Privacy improvements are largely  driven by the recent sting in which Apple was caught storing users location data without securing permission for doing so. There are now a host of panels and procedures allowing users to opt out from such “services”.

Resume is one of those clever new features that can be easily duplicated but you saw first on a Mac. Apps resume when launched and it appears exactly as you left it. All the open windows, palettes, and panes — even the cursor position and highlighted text — come back just as they were. There is also System resume on restart Wso that Lion restores your system so everything comes back just as you left it. All the apps that were running reopen, and windows appear exactly as they were, so you can begin working immediately. Howver, Lion lets you choose a clean start, so you return to a fresh desktop after you restart your Mac.

Screen Sharing will become the delight of technical support, help and mentoring pros. Per-user screen sharing allows staff remotely log in to a Mac with any user account on that computer and control it, without interrupting someone else who might be using the computer under a different login. There is a full screen mode on the support machine so staff can observe and control a remote Mac using the entire screen. It feels as if you are sitting right in front of the other Mac. Use Apple ID to authenticate the support connection. This is perfect for giving support staff access to your Mac without creating separate user accounts. Simply add their Apple IDs to the list of authorized users, and they can log in with their credentials.There are additional tools such as Observe Only mode lets support staff watch a remote computer without controlling the mouse or trackpad movements. Also a new screen-sharing toolbar that provides access to useful tools and settings such as screen resolution, Clipboard .

Security has been most significantly enhanced with the new features in File Vault 2. But there are specific improvements such as enhanced runtime protection with Address space layout randomization (ASLR) and Application Sandboxing. However, the latter is dependent on 3rd Party applications implementing the APIs.

System has seen a potpourri of improvements. Windows migration is enhanced as users can migrate all the information from their old PC to your new Mac. Lion automatically transfers your documents, contacts, calendars, email accounts (Outlook and Windows Live Mail), and photos stored in Picasa, and puts them in the appropriate applications.

System Profiler sports a new, streamlined look that gives you key information about your Mac. Get a quick, at-a-glance view of the hardware model and serial number, installed memory, display information, and the types and sizes of files you have stored on your drive.

System admins will like Push notifications which are now sent from Lion Server for calendar events, contact updates, and device management. Profiles make it easy for system administrators to customize the settings for all the Mac computers in their environment. Simply configure the settings once, distribute the profile to the computers, and Lion sets them up.

Apple ID authentication for file sharing as seen in Screen Sharing aalos can be used to log in to a remote Mac for file sharing. If others need to access a folder on your Mac, you don’t have to create separate user accounts. Just add their Apple IDs to the list of authorized users, and they can log in with their credentials.

System Preferences allow users to control how their Macs looks, feel and perform. Most of the changes are cosmetic like control of desktop color or background image and panel for setting online connections or Magic Mouse, trackpad and scroll direction preferences.

These system and OS improvements are quite nifty in some respects like Resume and Screen Sharing. But on the whole most of the improvements are fairly rudimentary not nearly as innovative as one might hope. For, example AppleScript and Automator have seen minor improvements for developing scripts that help to run apps and utilities together on the Mac. These are better than Powershell in Windows; but that is hardly saying much.

In sum, many of the Mac operational fixes have been  incremental and catchup improvements in Mac Lion. But they do  add up to more convenience in the corporate or dispersed development environs which cannot but help Mac acceptance as Windows 8 is nearly a year away and will inevitably have to go through at least one major update, like Windows Phone 7, to get the bugs and left behinds ironed out or into the system.

Other Improvements

As we have just seen, Appple Mac has consistently made small but notable improvements to its utilities. The same can be said for its bundled apps like Address Book,  iCal, iChat, FaceTime,  Mail, PhotoBooth, TextEdit- both recent arrivals and long present standbys are constantly getting improvements and Mac Lion is no exception. Some of the new layouts and features are quite attractive including such new system features as Auto Save and Full Screen mode. In contrast, Windows utilities  Notepad, Paint, Windows Explorer, Task Scheduler, Control Panel, and Task Manager are either very, very long in tooth or so confusing one wants to scream at times.

The improvements and directions for Quick Time and Safari are notable and in some respects alarming as Apple bypasses video and Web standards   in each program. As such, both will be subject to separate reviews later. However, it is important to note that Safari out performs all browsers including IE10 [but not Google Chrome] in speed, HTML5+CSS3 support plus traditional CSS, DOM, HTML4 and JavaScript Web standards compliance. On the Quick Time side it is comparable to say Windows Media Player in features and performance but runs on more platforms than Windows Media Player.

Summary

The big “feature” on Mac Lion that has been omitted so far is the integration with iOS5 and the new iCloud service. Using iCloud as a hub users can not only store many of their electronic consumables [images, documents, presentations, videos, movies, iBooks, etc] plus their apps on iCloud; but can use the iCloud as sync-central – a way to distribute media, documents and apps among all of a  user’s Apple iDevices and Macs and even PCs [minus app sharing]. And this service is available for free for up to 5GB of storage used on iCloud. There are other iCloud options but that is the subject of another review.

Readers will have noted that ye Editor has frequently referenced Windows in evaluating Mac Lion features. That is deliberate in order to show how broadly speaking, Mac Lion is consistently better and/or delivering well before Windows features that not only Apple users value but also that IT administrators increasingly like too. The rumors that Apple Macs and iDevices are getting serious consideration at big business sites, each  with multi-thousand computer orders,  has to taken more seriously than ever before with the release of Mac Lion, Os5 and iCloud.

So is Steve Jobs ushering in the Post-PC era? Or as NYTimes Nick Bilton suggests – has Apple Sounded the PC Death Knell? Well if Steve Jobs had brought multi-touch to Mac screens I might be inclined to agree with Nick Bilton. There was a natural pathway to dominating success. But as it stands now Steve J. has left Steve B. with feature room and time to maneuver  in the battle of Windows vs Mac and iDevices versus PCs.

Would ye Editor pay $29.99 in July for the Mac Lion upgrade? Absolute no brainer, worth every penny. Would ye Editor buy another Mac despite its 2 to 1 cost  premium? Depends upon the task and required programs/apps but more likely now. Would ye Editor buy AAPL stock? – wait a little while for the Budget Nonsense Debate to clarify itself but AAPL is on top of the list.

 

  2 comments for “Very Good Apple Mac OS/X Lion Is Hobbled

  1. Tracy
    July 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I disagree with you and agree with Steve Jobs about the touch screen. I spent many 10 hour shifts working on a Xerox Docutech, which sported a touch screen that was required for most of the work you did. I ended up hating it. It hurt my back. I really don’t want a touch screen on a computer. The iPad and iPhones are fine.

    • admin
      July 27, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Tracy –

      And I want choice not the closed ecosystems that Steve Jobs and Apple are rapidly building in which “Father Jobs Knows best”. Specifically I have worked with vertical touch screens for great stretches and have not experienced the problems you have.

      But there a number of potential additional solutions:
      1)HP and Acer offer desktops with sliding touch screens so users can adjust the screen to fit their best comfort zone or create a rest posture if working long shifts.
      2)Many of the most popular graphics programs like Photoshop, AutoCAD, Aperture, Lightroom plus DTP programs like Framemaker, InDesign, QuarkXpress, XaraDesigner and others have extensive sets of keyboard shortcuts and automated actions which also supply respites from having to touch the screen constantly.
      3)Finally I found changing my line of attack to the screen using stylus or not helped create new hand and arm motions. I susect just like for those trying to avoid carpal sysndrome, an ergonomic analysis could produce some best methods to reduce wear and tear.

      And users will get a chance to see that because Windows 7 PC vendors have taken up the slack and produced some very, very attractive desktop and laptops with stylus aided multi-touch screen operations. I have worked with a Photoshop+InDesign combination that is the cats meow.

      Wth Windows 8, Microsoft will bring a much fuller range of gestures to the desktop and laptop world – and then we shall get to see if Steve made a huge mistake by leaving multi-touch on desktops and laptops to the competition. Even the Ubuntu folks smell opportunity and are bringing multitouch screens and gestures to Linux.

      I know Steve can do no wrong… just occasionally slip slide into area known as “unforced errors” ;-}

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