Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lion Experiences, part 2

While I like some of the features, I do not like the changes to Spaces. It is now too easy to accidentally invoke a screen shift while difficult to drag items from one to another. I also find it increasingly obvious that this is not really ready for prime time and one should wait for 10.7.1, at the earliest. I am seriously thinking about blowing off Lion and returning to SNL myself. I discovered that now that I can no longer use Eudora, I really hate AppleMail.

Recently I had my first repair call for a Lion installation gone bad. Recovery from this is much worse than I imagined. First the warning:


Even a TimeMachine backup is not sufficient because full recovery from them is very difficult. You want to be able to boot off of your backup drive and clone it all back, killing Lion completely.

This client had broken all the rules. He left his startup items in place (System Preferences, Accounts, Login Items) instead of deleting them all. Each restart automatically launched incompatible apps, causing crashes. He did not do a Repair Disk and Repair Permissions with Disk Utility first.

He did this on his production Mac Pro, without a clone backup. All of this made his Mac's Murphy chip glow hot with excitement. If he had the clone, the chip might have let his installation succeed, but due to the other factors he would still have had problems. Without a clone it is impossible to return to Snow Leopard without erasing the drive before installation, and since TimeMachine had already run, all he could have recovered were his documents.

Lion installs an emergency recovery partition on your drive that contains a copy of Disk Utility and a minimal system. You access this by holding down the Option key at startup and choosing it from the icons that immediately appear. At the moment that is the ONLY repair program available; DiskWarrior will need an upgrade to work on a Lion system.

Oh, the icing on the turd: his drive was 98% full. You should never let a startup drive go beyond 80% because the rest of the space is needed by virtual memory for swapfiles, printing for temporary spool files, caches and the like. I was able to get him down to 92% full, which helped, and set him about clearing off the rest of the space hogs to an external drive. Then I had him go buy another drive for SuperDuper and get that running. I believe, but am not certain, that SuperDuper's latest version is compatible. (2.6.2 is not.)

Disaster story

Speaking of that Murphy chip, another client has suffered hard drive failure on a production iMac with NO backups. This is not repairable due to actual disk damage. I am able to rescue files with DiskWarrior, but that particular iMac does not use industry-standard drives (special heat sensor built onto the drive) so I could NOT keep the old one for later recovery (which I had started to do using DiskWarrior). To fix under warranty Apple wants the dead drive back immediately as an exchange or they want $340 cash for the new one. They give only 48 hours slack for the old drive to be returned. Mac shops do not keep extras of this drive in stock. Oh, and she had deadlines to meet. Those deadlines are now dead.

Most of you already know this and are doing it now, but for those of you who are not, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Would you feel badly if your Mac woke up dead and you lost every document on it, including your email, web bookmarks, Documents folder, iTunes music, etc.? Some people only use their Macs for Web browsing and email and keep the email on the server (Gmail, for instance) so they could lose their data without worry.

Do you use your Mac for production? Could you do without it for a week? With a clone backup you can boot from the clone and finish critical work before taking your Mac in for repair, or move it to a 2nd Mac, if you have one. That 2nd Mac would need to be able to boot from the same drive, impossible if your main Mac is Intel and the other one is PPC. You might have problems launching applications from the clone on the 2nd Mac if the registration is tied to the machine (Adobe is the killer here).

Do you have a lot of documents you do not want to lose, but can do without your Mac while it's being repaired? A TimeMachine backup is sufficient for you. A daily clone is much more convenient because a TimeMachine backup will still require you to reinstall your applications. If you have CS5 purchased as an upgrade from an earlier CS version, you will need the older disk, or at least the serial number, to install the upgrade. Can you find it?

The answer for all Mac user except the extremely casual user cited above is this: Go buy an external drive now. If you want to combine TM and Clone on the same drive, it should be a terabyte, partitioned into two volumes. Check your internal drive now - how much data is on it? Highlight it with a click and type Command-I. It will tell you the capacity of the disk, how much data is on it now, and space remaining. If you have a 500Gb or 1Tb internal drive but less than 100Gb full, a 500 will do you. The clone volume can be 200Gb with the other one serving TimeMachine, which does not delete older versions of documents and needs more space. Powered drives are usually 1Tb and are cheaper than unpowered portable 500 drives, but if you have a laptop and want to take your backup with you, the portable is better. Be aware that both could be stolen! Better to leave the backup drive at home or have ANOTHER cloned backup stored elsewhere. Hardcore paranoids rotate backup clones each week, keeping one in a safety deposit box.

It's your data. DriveSavers charges $1500 and up to recover a dead drive. How lucky do you feel?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Experience with Lion, part 1

Getting Ready for Lion

My original intention was to just forget about Lion for a few months, letting others do Apple's field testing for them. Then I realized I should go ahead and do it because I need to learn as much as possible, in preparation for those clients who will need help with it. But to give it a go, I had to do a lot of preparation.

A Twin System

The recommended way is to make a clone backup of your Snow Leopard (SNL) system so if things fall apart, one can just boot from the clone and copy it all back, wiping Lion off the map. This is always good, and I always run a clone (SuperDuper) backup in addition to my TimeMachine backup.

Since so many of my necessary programs die under Lion I decided I need to have a 10.6 system always around, which is easy to switch over to. Programs I lose under Lion include Eudora, AppleWorks, Word 2004 and Quicken 2006 (and 2007). The only Quicken that runs under Lion is Quicken Stripped Of Any Usefulness, aka "Quicken Essentials." Intuit doesn't care; they are in the business of helping Microsoft sell as many computers as possible and they couldn't care less about their Mac clients.

I already have a keyboard, mouse and 24" Asus display. I also have a MacMini that serves the TV set. So I bought an IOGear KVM switch (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) that supported DVI plugs, which both Macs do, with an adapter. Price: $99. So off to Frys I go.

This one also has sound ports, so I can, with a single button press, switch screens, sound output and USB devices. That's the idea, anyway. Setting it up I learned that while the video and sound switches flawlessly, the USB would not switch. I called the company to find out why, and the tech, who didn't really seem to know much, told me that their device did not support USB hubs, powered or otherwise, contrary to the page in the manual which shows how to set it up. He even tried to convince me that the mouse had to go in the mouse-marked port and the keyboard in the KB port.

With a lot of trial and error I finally managed to plug the keyboard in and get that switching, and then got the mouse to work plugged into the keyboard. Since the Air has only two USB ports I did not want to use them both to feed the KVM switch because I could get the hub to work by manually switching the plug between the two Macs when I wanted to print something or run the backup drives.

So I almost got what I want and it works well enough to use. That is good because KVM switches that have DVI are uncommon; most of them are VGA, which costs a quarter of what the DVI one cost. Projectors, the most common market use for KVMs are perfectly happy with VGA output since they are not capable of high resolution images.

Downloading Lion

It was the first day, so there was no other way but to buy and download it from the App Store. It took almost 10 hours because my house is located in 2001 where the best DSL signal I can get is 1.5 Mbps. One mile north and I am in 2011 with 20Mbps. I could, of course, hand over 33% of my soul to Concast and get a good signal from them, but I'd rather have my eyes sucked out by lampreys. (Using Concast's TV costs another 33% of your soul, with the final third going for their phone service. You are allowed to keep 1% of your soul for other purposes.)

Anywhilst, late that evening I had the Lion installer on the drive of my MacBook Air, so I quit everything and started it up. I violated several of the rules I and other techs insist on, just to see what would happen. I did not remove my startup items from Account Preferences, and did not repair permissions first. I had already run Disk Warrior so I knew the Air's "disk" was okay. Installation took just 20 minutes.

By the way, Apple claims that you need 10.6.8 in order to get Lion from the App Store. That is not true. You can do it with 10.6.6 or 10.6.7. All that is necessary is that you be able to access the App Store, which was introduced with the 10.6.6 update. People on Leopard 10.5 will not be able to get Lion until Apple makes it available on a Flash drive, rumored to be out in August some time.

Using Lion

I was pleased to learn that a lot of my most important utilities (Dropbox, SMC FanControl, Little Snitch, You Control) worked fine. I did have to give up Remember, which popped up reminder messages when configured to. The one that comes with iCal does not work as well.

The other issue I had trouble with was actually on the SNL Mini. I could not get screen or file sharing to work, even though both Macs were on the Internet and all the IP addresses were correct. I called AppleCare, and after an escalation to a network specialist, we found the problem was actually incorrect preferences in Network. There were two AirPorts, one of which had an Ethernet icon. She had me clear them all away and create new ones, one for Ethernet connection and one for AirPort.

That fixed it. Screen sharing works perfectly now.

For those of you who have never used it, screen sharing allows me to display the screen from one Mac on another, and operate it remotely. (I wish that worked well enough over the internet that I could use it with my clients!) But since I now have a laptop that will not run the primary programs I have on the Mini, Screen Sharing means I don't have to go to the desk and run the Mini to enter something in Quicken or read/write mail in Eudora. This was the last barrier to using Lion full time.

I can always use Safari to access my email when on the Air, which is what I do anyway when I am away from my Mac but have access to another one.

The differences in how Lion works compared to SNL are pretty interesting. Scrolling with fingers on the trackpad or using the arrows (or the Magic Mouse) are backwards. Instead of dragging in the direction you want the scroll bar to go, you instead drag in the direction you want the page to move. It's more intuitive once you get used to it. Scroll bars disappear when not being used. Check your own use of scroll bars: When you want to move up screen the text is actually moving downward as you drag upward. Bet you never even thought of it as being backwards before.

Windows that always have a scroll bar, like your Documents folder, work the same way when you drag the bar, but to drag downwards with two-finger dragging on the Pad, it moves the opposite way. It's difficult to visualize and describe, even when I have one hand on the Mini's slider and the other on the Air's. Get used to using the arrows on the keyboard more; in Safari and reading email, among other things, they make it much easier.

Sites you should visit to learn more about Lion, including reader reports include the Lion section of Macintouch; the App Compatibility Table; the Lion FAQ on Macintouch; and MacUpdate, State of the Apps. Want more? Google is your friend.

New Macs

Along with the release of Lion, Apple shipped two new Macs: an upgraded Air with the i5 and i7 chip that is in the rest of the MacBook/iMac line (almost twice as fast as the Core 2 Duo at the same clock speed) and a new Mini. Both have the ThunderPort that can drive an external display (not including Apple's current model) and various external storages devices which will begin to show up in the stores soon. The new Air, with the biggest SSD and most RAM appears to be $100 cheaper than the last model.

If you have an older Mini now and you have the software that you need to use upgraded to Lion compatibility, this looks like a great buy. It does not have an optical drive, like the Air, so you will need an external USB drive for that. Apple's is $79 and works only with the Air and the new Mini. The Mini can have either a 500 (standard) or 750Gb hard drive, or the 256G SSD that the Air uses and is unbelievably fast. The base model is $599 but has only 2Gb RAM, so you would want to expand that, at least. It will take up to 8Gb. (4Gb add $100; 8Gb add $300.) Visit the Apple Store online and have fun with their configurator so you can see just what your unit would cost with all the add-ons you desire.