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Sunday, July 31, 2011

OS X Lion, Part II: The cons

Let me preface this by saying that with any new operating system, there will be a few bugs — especially with something brand-spanking new like OS X Lion. And while I do feel an obligation to talk about both the positives and negatives with a product that I review, I leave it up to you to reach your own conclusions on the product’s overall qualifications.

With that out of the way, here is my cons list for
Mac OS X Lion:

Scrolling: Apple has always “thought different" … or is it differently? Whatever … From its beginnings until now, Apple has thrown some interesting and unusual gadgets and designs at its users, hoping some will stick. Among those that have “stuck,” were the optical mouse, the Mac Mini, the “dock” in OS X and the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Some things haven’t “stuck” so well: Lisa, Newton, the Cube, the “puck” mouse (oh, what a nightmare) and, here’s my prediction: backward scrolling. The new scrolling interface in Mac OS X Lion asks users to take a big leap by forgetting what they know about how a mouse is supposed to work. By default, OS X Lion works by having the user press the bottom scroll button to scroll up and vice-versa. Now, that's not only different, it's backwards.

Apple’s philosophy on this is that scrolling inherently works different on a tablet or touch-screen device, and they want people to start thinking of the desktop as more of a tablet. But it’s not. The two devices are separate, and no matter how much Apple tries to merge the two identities, I don’t see it working. The desktop didn’t kill the laptop, and the tablet won’t kill the desktop. I could be wrong here, but I don’t see the desktop going anywhere. Nor do I see it merging with the tablet world. Now, all of this could be Apple’s desire to keep up with Microsoft, which has implemented “tablet-like” features in its Windows 8 operating system, to be released in 2012. Whatever the reason, it’s a mistake. Backwards scrolling is just that: backwards. And while you can go into settings and disable it — which I quickly did — by making it the default interface in Lion, Apple is asking a lot from its users.

Compatibility: Anytime you upgrade software, you’ll run into compatibility issues, which is the case with Lion. Right off the bat, a few of my older programs stopped working in Lion. Some of these were applications I use on a regular basis and were not cheap. This has affected me so much that I had to create a dual-boot machine by keeping my version of Snow Leopard on an external hard drive. That turned out to be a wise choice. 

I now how the ability to start up in either Lion or Snow Leopard (by holding down the option key at startup), which is something I would recommend to anybody thinking of upgrading. It’s easy to do. All you need is a backup program, such as Carbon Copy Cloner. Carbon Copy Cloner is a wonderful program that makes backups a cinch. It’s also free — only asking for a donation once you’ve used the product. Once you have that program, you'll need a good external hard drive that is at least as big as your internal hard driveI recommend one with Firewire 800 — the Western Digital My Book Studio is perfect for Macs. Just clone Snow Leopard using CCC to that drive and you have a dual-boot machine.
WD's My Book Studio LX is a perfect backup option for Macs. 

The big picture: Why is that manufacturers always feel obligated to change their software? Is it money? Pressure from competitors? Whatever the reason, it doesn't always make since. Consider this: Company X produces the most PERFECT operating system. It has no flaws, never crashes and makes 100 percent of its users 100 percent happy 100 percent of the time. A pipe dream, I know. But, if that were the case, in a few years, Company X would come out with an entirely new operating system and change perfection, which creates imperfection. Doesn't really make sense does it?

And while nobody can argue that Snow Leopard was perfect, I can't help but think of that analogy here. Snow Leopard was a solid operating system. It had its detractors, and it had a few bugs, but it worked — and worked well. And while my pros list for OS X Lion outweighs my cons list, the negatives that I encountered were pretty big negatives. However, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a few tweaks. So, would I recommend Lion? Yes, with a "but". If you do take the plunge and buy it now, it’s a good idea to back up your old operating system on an external hard drive in case you have compatibility issues, and — whether you like it or not — be prepared for a "different" experience.