BitDepth 792 - July 26

Why Apple's new OS, Lion isn't on the agenda for me.
Lion on a leash
Along with Lion, Apple released a Thunderbolt connected monitor and a very desirable new Macbook Air. Photo courtesy Apple.

Last week, Apple released the newest revision of its operating system, version 10.7, codenamed Lion.
In many ways, it’s an evolutionary rewrite of the software, adding some popular features from the mobile version of Mac OSX that runs on its iOS powered iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices.
In some critical ways though, it’s very different.

This is the first operating system release from Apple that won’t be sold directly anywhere except through the company’s App Store for Macintosh computers.
Apple’s cut the optical disk loose and declared it nonessential to the distribution of its most important and profitable software product.
There are already tips online that explain how to create a bootable disk from the software download, but beware, anyone who tries to sell you a copy of Lion, has pirated it. A version on a USB drive will be available in August from Apple.

To buy it, you’ll need to be running 10.6.8 or later on your Mac to have access to the Mac App Store, a cousin of the iTunes store for iPhone and iPad users that runs in an application that only shows up in the newest revisions of the software.
Mac users in Trinidad and Tobago will have to leap the additional hurdle of being able to actually buy the software through the online store. iTunes gift cards can be used as currency to buy Lion and you’ll need $30 worth for the upgrade.At 4GB, you’ll want to run this download on a fast connection.

In the one gracenote of the whole convoluted process, every Mac you own that can run the upgrade (up to a maximum of five) can update to Lion using your account for a single payment.
I’m not normally skittish about upgrading to a new version of MacOS X, I’ve even lined up to buy the product on opening day, but Lion has me frozen in my seat. There are some neat new features in the new OS, including some gestures for my trackpad that I’d love to play with, but I don’t dare pull the trigger on the upgrade.

Apart from quite sensible nervousness about updating a production machine until all the bugs are worked out, this is one of those watershed upgrades that people who work with Macs will need to be cautious about.
If you’ve only been using Macs for a couple of years, move right along, there’s nothing to concern you here. All the software you’ve been using will probably work fine on the new OS so go on, mess around with Launchpad and AirDrop, it’ll be fun.

If you have an older system, say from 2006-2007, take a close look at the system requirements. Your Mac, even if it’s got Intel inside, may not be able to run the OS at all.
Like Leopard, which dropped support for Classic mode, a software wrapper that allowed pre-OSX software to run, Lion drops another legacy emulation, Rosetta, which allowed software programmed for Motorola’s PowerPC chips to work in the Intel environment.

The poster child for this issue is Intuit, which has developed a modern version of its personal finance product, Quicken, which runs in Lion, but many discerning users prefer an older version, which won’t.
But there are dozens of little products and code hooks in larger releases that must be tidied up in older software in order for them to run properly in Lion.

Want to find out if Lion won’t work for you? Click on the Spotlight icon at top right, it looks like a magnifying glass, and type “activity monitor” in the little search box that drops down. Click the app icon that appears to launch the software.
Start every mission critical application you use and then switch to Activity Monitor and scroll down the list of running applications, looking specifically at the row “kind.” Anything that reads PowerPC won’t run in Lion. Upgrade to Intel native versions of these applications or seek alternatives.

There’s a scanner in my office that only runs on PowerPC drivers and the Mac that’s attached to it won’t be running the new OS anytime soon.
I’m writing this on the day Lion was released and by now there are likely to be forums full of horror stories of what happened the day Rosetta went away. All are avoidable with a little patience, restraint and commonsense.

I’m betting on the really clever Unix programmers swimming in Apple’s pool these days. Three times a week, I launch the long deprecated OS9 in an emulator called Sheepshaver that allows me to run one app I need to deliver work to the Guardian.
With luck, somebody will do something similar for old PowerPC software, perhaps licensing the Rosetta architecture. It would be a curious kind of weird if I can’t use older Mac software in Lion, but I can run Windows 2000.
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