Mac OS X Lion: A First Look

OS X Lion in the Mac App Store
OS X Lion in the Mac App Store

Today, Apple released Mac OS X Lion ($29.99 store | web­page). The oper­at­ing sys­tem is the sev­enth update in the OS X series (ver­sion 10.7), and it packs some of the most ground­break­ing changes into it.

For the first time in his­tory, a widely dis­trib­uted con­sumer, pro­sumer, and enter­prise oper­at­ing sys­tem is not avail­able on portable media. The only offi­cial way to get Lion is to down­load it from the Mac App Store, or buy a new Mac­in­tosh with the OS pre-installed. The OS installer is quite large at 3.49 GB, and will take a while to down­load, even on high-speed con­nec­tions. (Apple is offer­ing to let peo­ple use its high speed wi-fi in its stores, should they be lucky enough to live near one.)

While Lion is touted as being rev­o­lu­tion­ary — and it does in fact feel like a large change — the sys­tem is solid, depend­able. For many users, though, there will require some time to get used to some of the user inter­face changes. Instead of scrolling your fin­gers up to go up on the track­pad, you scroll them down to go up. Sim­i­larly, you get to the left by mov­ing your hand to the right. This seems counter-intuitive, though it is what peo­ple do on the iPhone and iPad. As you start doing it, you might feel like you’ve gone down Alice’s rab­bit hole; if you decide you don’t like it, you can go to Apple > Sys­tem Pref­er­ences > Track­pad (and/or Mouse) and turn off “Scroll direc­tion: natural.”

Among the key fea­tures Apple is tout­ing, there are some of note:

  • Mul­ti­touch — The oper­at­ing sys­tem sup­ports using ges­tures with sev­eral fin­gers to per­form com­plex tasks, such as open­ing Mis­sion Con­trol (three fin­gers up) or change full-screen appli­ca­tions (three fin­gers to the right or left).
  • Full-Screen Appli­ca­tions — Many Apple appli­ca­tions, and prob­a­bly many appli­ca­tions in the future from other soft­ware devel­op­ers, take advan­tage of a new fea­ture that has the appli­ca­tion take up the whole screen. This is espe­cially pow­er­ful in Apple’s Mail and iPhoto applications.
  • Mis­sion Con­trol — This dis­plays all of your active desk­tops, includ­ing the Wid­gets desk­top. It has never been eas­ier to man­age mul­ti­ple work envi­ron­ments and switch between them. I may actu­ally use this, while I found Spaces to be con­fus­ing and dis­ori­ent­ing. It will be easy to have a browser open in one desk­top and a geneal­ogy soft­ware pack­age open in another, and switch back and forth.
  • Launch­pad — All of your installed appli­ca­tions appear on a list that expands infi­nitely to the left and right. This clearly mir­rors the iPhone and iPad appli­ca­tion nav­i­ga­tion method, and looks to be an eas­ier way to get to your pro­grams than either the insanely small icons in your dock (if you have as many there as I do!) or sim­ply nav­i­gat­ing to the Appli­ca­tions folder. You get to Launch­pad either with the Launch­pad icon in the dock, or using a pinch with thumb and three fingers.
  • Spot­light — One of the true inno­va­tions of Mac OS X, which has only recently had com­pa­ra­ble func­tion­al­ity on Win­dows in recent releases, is Spot­light, sys­temwide search. The new ver­sion of the OS adds pre­views to the search results, help­ing you see if this item is what you were look­ing for.
  • Air­Drop — Sim­ple, no-configuration-required wi-fi file shar­ing. This will be handy if you are work­ing with some­one and just want to give them the cen­sus image for their grandfather’s house­hold in 1930. This will allow a lot of peo­ple to leave their thumb dri­ves at home.

I am very pleased with Lion. While I can­not agree with Apple’s pre­dictable hyper­bole, it looks to pro­vide a lot of short­cuts to allow me to get from one appli­ca­tion to another with­out los­ing my place. It’s well worth the $30.

One warn­ing: Power PC appli­ca­tions no longer run with OS X Lion, which drops the Rosetta tech­nol­ogy that made these work­able in pre­vi­ous ver­sions. To see what you will be leav­ing behind if you upgrade, log in as the Admin­is­tra­tive user, then type Option-Apple and select Sys­tem Pro­filer. Go to Soft­ware > Appli­ca­tions. Any­thing with “Pow­erPC” or “Clas­sic” (that is, OS 9) will not run in Lion.

Cloud Management — Primadesk

PrimadeskPri­madesk, a new web­site in beta, allows you to man­age your cloud con­tent in Google (GMail, Google Docs, Picasa), Yahoo (Yahoo Mail, Flickr), Drop­box, Box.net, and about twenty other services.

This looks to be a pow­er­ful resource, though it will need to be faster for power users. One of the most pow­er­ful fea­tures promises to be the abil­ity to move images from one ser­vice to another. How many of us have per­sonal images scat­tered across mul­ti­ple sites such as Flickr, Pho­to­Bucket, Snap­fish, Smug­mug, and so on. Now, we will be able to quickly migrate images from one site to another.

This fea­ture is not yet avail­able for pho­tos, but it is for doc­u­ments that you might want to move from Box.net to Drop­box, or from one account to another.

Pri­madesk allows you to search across mul­ti­ple accounts, backup mul­ti­ple accounts, and — finally! — man­age pro­lif­er­at­ing cloud accounts.

On my wish­list are Ever­note and Office­drop inte­gra­tion. It would be great to be able to man­age what’s in Ever­note, what’s in Box.net, what’s in Drop­box, and so on from one inter­face. Files that I man­age in Ever­note, I might want to share with peo­ple in another ser­vice; this would be a quick way to do that.

Accounts are free, though the may cost some­thing once it leaves beta. More likely, is that the site would fol­low the freemium model that has been so suc­cess­ful for Drop­box, Ever­note, and other lead­ers in the field.

North Carolina Voices: The Civil War

WUNC North Carolina Voices: The Civil WarRaleigh’s WUNC Radio aired episodes in a series, North Car­olina Voices: The Civil War, dur­ing the mid­dle of June. The series includes pieces on the impact of the war on North Car­olini­ans and their fam­i­lies from the time of the Civil War until now. Thank­fully, the episodes are avail­able for stream­ing and down­load­ing from the WUNC website.

Among other pieces, there is an episode with inter­views the liv­ing daugh­ters of Con­fed­er­ate vet­er­ans. There is also an inves­ti­ga­tion of the reli­gious his­tory of the Civil War (“Whose Side is God On?”), which inter­views George C. Rable, author of God’s Almost Cho­sen Peo­ples: A Reli­gious His­tory of the Amer­i­can Civil War (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010) and Regi­nald Hilde­brand, author of The Times Were Strange and Stir­ring: Methodist Preach­ers and the Cri­sis of Eman­ci­pa­tion (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­sity Press, 1995.

There are two inter­est­ing pieces about African Amer­i­cans in New Bern, North Carolina:

There are also shows about re-enactors, bat­tle­fields, and sev­eral other top­ics. Take a listen!

Ancestry’s 4th of July Free Access Weekend Continues

James Graham - SAR Membership ApplicationsThere is one more day left in Ancesty.com’s free access week­end for the 4th of July. Ances­try is mak­ing appli­ca­tions to the Sons of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion appli­ca­tions, 1889 — 1970. These appli­ca­tions pro­vide detail about the ser­vice the ances­tor is reported to have per­formed to advance the cause of the Rev­o­lu­tion. (For SAR mem­ber­ship, as is true for the Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, the ances­tor did not have to serve in the mil­i­tary, but could have pro­vided other forms of assis­tance to the cause.)

The appli­ca­tions also include doc­u­men­ta­tion for the descent from the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War-era ances­tor to the appli­cant. While most of the appli­ca­tions are not doc­u­mented in ways that com­ply with mod­ern genealog­i­cal stan­dards, they can still pro­vide a wealth of infor­ma­tion that a patient and thor­ough researcher can use as a start­ing point for ver­i­fi­ca­tion, debunk­ing, and extension.

In my case, my 5th great grand­fa­ther, James Gra­ham (1741 — 1813), seems to have no fewer than 28 appli­ca­tions opened by descen­dants. There will be a fair amount to go through.… I am look­ing for­ward to it.