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January 2012

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Mac Lion Still Needs Some Taming

by Glen Emerson Morris
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Without doubt, Mac Lion is the most controversial OS in years. Numerous posts have compared Mac Lion to Vista, citing reports of crashes, dropped network connections, and numerous other problems. Other people report Lion working fine. As usual, the cold hard truth lies somewhere in between. One thing is certain. There are several reasons why a new Mac could be a very questionable investment for people in advertising and the media at this point. Generally the release of a new Mac OS is a time for celebration. Unfortunately, Mac Lion is a different animal. Some four months ago we purchased a new Mac Mini with Lion for our product test lab, and had hoped to be using it to be reviewing new products at this point. Unfortunately, it's proven to have compatibility and functionality issues to the point that developing or testing Web based applications is simply impossible. Accordingly, this column will take a look a the issues a new Mac Lion owner will face. First we'll look at the known compatibility issues, and these are major for Mac Lion.

Lack of Rosetta support
Mac Lion is the first version of OS X from Apple that doesn't support applications written for the PowerPC. This means that the actual acquisition cost of a new Mac will also include the cost to upgrade all necessary PPC applications. This amount is going to vary widely from case to case, but it can add up to more than the cost of the Mac, so do your homework before you buy. These are applications known to be incompatible with Mac Lion:
  • Logic Studio 8 (won't install or run at all)
  • Bryce 3D (won't install or run at all)
  • Microsoft Office 2004 (won't install or run at all)
  • Microsoft Office 2008 (installer is for PPC)
  • Quicken (any version except "Quicken Essentials")
  • FileMaker Pro 7 or earlier (won't run at all)
  • Adobe Creative Suite CS2 or earlier (including CS2 versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.) won't run at all
  • AppleWorks (won't run at all)
An obvious solution would be to install both Mac Lion and Snow Leopard on the same Mac. Unfortunately, there's a catch if you just bought a new Mac. The new Macs will not boot earlier Mac OS versions including Snow Leopard. Macs have always been like this, but it's rarely an issue. Usually the problem is getting new Mac OS versions to run on earlier Macs, and in this case that's not much of a problem. Any Mac that shipped with 10.5 or later should be able to run 10.7. However, no Mac that shipped with Mac Lion is able to boot from any Mac OS prior to Mac Lion.

Mac Lion supports virtualization for server OS editions only.
Another theoretical solution to the Mac Lions backwards compatibility problem would be to use virtualization software to install a version of 10.6 or earlier on Mac Lion, but there's a catch. You can only run the server versions of the previous Mac OS versions, and the Mac X Server goes for $500.

There are issues with using two monitors.
There seems to be a potentially major problem with using two monitors. I was unable to to verify the reported problem because I was never able to get my new Mac Mini to work with more than one monitor at all. The reported problem is that when you use two monitors the current application will grab both monitors. This means that you can't be watching a video on one screen while using a word processor on the other, which a lot of people do in the media and advertising industries.

Mac Lion Functionality Issues
While Mac Lion appears to be working most of the time for most of the people, a significant number of people are reporting a variety problems, and we believe them. Our new Mac Mini with Lion has several problems that make it impossible to effectively develop or test Web pages with Safari. These problems include:
  • Safari can't find server (frequent)
  • Some, or all, of the page graphic images are missing (frequent)
  • Pages lose formatting (frequent)
All of these problems were reported by a number of other Mac Lion users, and no real pattern to the problem has emerged. In my case, I'm using a Mac in a wireless network behind a business firewall, leaving plenty of room for problems the average user might not face. Still, all five of my other computers are showing absolutely no problems on the same net. In addition, there were a number of minor annoyances reported by other users that should be considered. These can include:
  • Networked Macs Don't Show Up In Finder Sidebar
  • LaunchPad Crashes When Renaming or Adding Items to a Folder
  • Apps Randomly Disappear from Mission Control
  • Application crashes consistently when trying to initiate a screen sharing session. Finder Sidebar Items Become Inactive (or disappear)
Mac Lion is one of those milestone releases that mark a before and after point in the history of the Mac OS. Lion is the first pure Intel Mac, and it offers many incredibly useful features, some in a more developed state than others. However, the same qualities that make it breakthrough also make it problematic.

As is, Mac Lion is buggy, somewhat unstable and it comes with a huge set of compatibility issues. Mac Lion's current problems make it impossible for me to recommend Mac Lion for any class of business user at this time. Unless you have a compelling reason to buy a new Mac, I strongly suggest you avoid 10.7 and wait for 10.8. That will give Apple time to resolve the issues and you won't have to shell out a fortune to upgrade your software collection (at least for now).

The bottom line is, after four months with a new Mac Mini running Lion I'm ready to trade it for an older Mac (seriously, reasonable offers will be considered). Mac Lion has a lot of promise, but businesses don't run on promises, they run on performance. At this time Mac Lion is worth watching, but it's not worth buying, especially if it comes on a new Mac. Spend your money on a new iPad instead. You'll be happy you did. If you buy a new Mac with Lion, you're just taking your chances.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law. He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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