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,, 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 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, 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’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.