Monday, August 8, 2011

First Experiences with Mac OSX Lion

Generally, I do not upgrade my operating system until at least the first major service pack is released and the industry has declared the software stable and secure.

However, many people have been asking me about Mac OSX Lion and I installed version 10.7.0 (that's version zero) on my personal Macbook Air so I  could answer their questions from personal experience.

Here's an excellent MacWorld overview of its features.

The upgrade for me required a major decision - Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have used PGP Whole Disk Encryption (PGP WDE) to support Massachusetts mobile device data encryption regulations and Federal best practices.   PGP WDE does not work with Lion.   Although PGP has been a great product, it has had issues with Mac OSX upgrades in the past.

Lion now includes native whole disk encryption, FileVault2 as part of the operating system.

I could have decrypted my existing drive and removed PGP WDE (not easy), a process that would have taken hours.

Instead, I simply backed up my files (my digital life is so cloud-based that I keep just a few hundred megabytes of personal files on my laptop), repartitioned and formatted the hard drive, did a fresh install of Snow Leopard, then installed the Lion upgrade.

Apple has chosen to make Lion a $29.99 download from the App Store rather than providing a DVD, so there is no easy way to directly install Lion on a blank hard drive at present - making the Snow Leopard reinstall/download Lion the easiest installation path.

Of interest, the $29.99 download license covers all the Macs in your household.  Since each member of my family has a Mac laptop, that's a real deal.

The installation went flawlessly.   As soon as it was done, I turned on FileVault  and my entire disk was encrypted in the background in about 2 hours.  I also turned on the host-based firewall.

I configured Mail/iCal/Addressbook and my entire historical data set synched with BIDMC's exchange servers in about 30 minutes.

The only applications I use other than those which are native to MacOSX are Keynote, Pages, and Numbers - the Office Suite from Apple that is bundled as iWork '09.  I installed those applications and the end result was a complete new, fresh Macbook Air with Lion, iWork, my personal files, and a local copy of my email.

A few first impressions.

Lion is extremely fast - booting, browsing, and emailing were noticeably faster for me.

The new user interface includes many iOS gesture features and it appears that Apple is converging MacOSX and iOS to make it easy to for customers to use any Apple product without significant retraining.

The major gestural change is that the Macbook trackpad now works just like an iPad. You can zoom/shrink with a pinching movement and scrolling is reversed from previous OSX versions. If you move two fingers up, you push the document up and you see the content that had been offscreen.

Mail/iCal/Addressbook have been significantly upgraded and they are now superior to Outlook in appearance, usability, and functionality.   In its standard configuration, Mail works just like gmail and maintains threaded conversations rather than just individual email messages.

In summary, I've now retired PGP Whole Disk Encryption, and use no other software in my digital life other than Mac OSX Lion and iWork '09.   All appears fast, stable and secure thus far.

It will take time for IT organizations (including mine) to train internal staff sufficiently to support Lion, but for those early adopters who have the confidence to install and manage Lion for themselves, the experience seems entirely positive.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Apple seems to have gotten more serious about security. From what I'm read this version has a much improved support for ASLR. Nice overview here:

According to reviews of FV, the new version is much improved but there are some significant gotchas. See for example: