Thursday, December 15, 2011

MacOSX Lion

Come out of things unsaid
Shoot an apple off my head and a
Trouble that can't be named
A tiger's waiting to be tamed

Only now, right at the end of the semester, have I dared to upgrade to the latest operating system (Lion) for my Macbook.

One reason is that it basically takes an entire day or two. And if everything is working fine, why disturb what ain't broken?

And as a university professor, I'm always working on slides, talks and papers. My life seems to revolve around show-and-tell, from teaching to academic conferences. Plus as a software developer, I hate instability. So downtime is not acceptable until the very last class is done.

Nevertheless, our high-tech world moves forward rapidly, and we must keep up if we are to enjoy new software functionality. Plus as older systems are deprecated, security and other bug fixes won't be available.

However, as any experienced professional knows, upgrades sometimes have unforeseen consequences. And some old software won't run anymore (here; anything that requires Rosetta). And upgrading those rarely used packages, e.g. Adobe Illustrator, sometimes will cost major bucks.

So I'm never an early adopter. I wait at least a minor revision or two until the cost/benefit ratio decidedly tilts in my favor. I'll let others be the guinea pigs. Being slightly behind the curve also means I can Google any minor issues I run into during the upgrade, and chances are, someone has documented and had a chance to work around them.

Even then, I commit only one laptop at a time to the upgrade, so I can punt the entire process without downtime.

MacOSX 10.7, aka Lion, literally takes gigabytes. Then there are gigabytes of incremental updates that Software Update will download after the initial install. Plus the Xcode software development environment.

Let us not do things by halves. I may hesitate and wait and see, but once I'm committed, I'll jump in with both feet. So I might as well go all in and upgrade all the applications as well. It makes sense to install the very latest versions of Apple's iLife and iWork software suites since they probably take advantage of any new functionality provided by Lion. And I'll upgrade to Microsoft Office 2011 also while I'm at it.
(Fortunately, due to site licensing arrangements, those packages I've mentioned above are freely downloadable for me.)

We still need a large and fat pipe to the internet. So I did this from my office. I achieved an impressive 1Mbyte/second download rate (equivalent to about 10Mb/s) when simultaneously downloading MacOSX Lion, iWork, iLife and Office 2011:

Even at this (sustained) speed, it still took hours. There's 8Gbytes of software to be downloaded before installation can begin. Those without fast broadband must have the patience of Job.

And although, we are downloading each package at around 250 KBytes/s, even when it's down to a single package, the download speed doesn't scale linearly. So it makes sense to download everything simultaneously. For example, at one package left to go, I'm only up to 440KBytes/s, see below:

Here is a graph of the bandwidth I experienced during the download orgy:

I also decided to purchase and install Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. This is professional grade software and normally goes for $1000.

The university edition goes for $200. I'm using it more and more, so I think I can justify spending the money.

After a few more rounds of updates, we achieved fixpoint and I'm done.

Do I notice many changes to the operating system? Not really. Some user interface elements are different, when I hit F3, I see Spaces has been redone (see below).

Other changes, e.g. the scrolling direction and squared-off buttons, seems rather gratuitous.

Actually, I'm much more excited with the useful enhancements to application software. For example, Powerpoint has a neat new Presenter mode for talks. It also has a broadcast function now. And the full version of Photoshop does HDR (High Dynamic Range) images and also has content-aware fill/replace. Can't wait to try those out.

I notice the upgrade has nuked some of the license keys for other packages I own, e.g. AutoPano Pro, which now won't start. Fortunately, I have all keys saved in a special mail folder. And I notice I might as well grab the latest version of that application.

After 2 days of upgrading, am I up-to-date? Unfortunately, not. I notice Apple wants me to transition off MobileMe onto iCloud soon. But that requires iOS 5, and for various technical reasons, I'm not yet ready to upgrade to that on my iPhone.

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