Key Remarks from Siracusa’s Review of 10.7

You should read the 19 page review on Ars. Especially if you are at all interested in the technical aspects of a very shocking install, recovery and overall experience of Lion. Here are some of the more interesting and notable tidbits:

  • On Page 2, John notes that a recovery partition is made after installing Lion. This recovery partition includes the Disk Utility. Also:

There’s also an option to get help online, which will launch Safari. Including Safari on the recovery partition is a nice touch, since most people’s first stop when diagnosing a problem is Google, not the Genius Bar.

  • On the login screen, the menu bar status icons are still visible. This is on top of a brand new look with the linen texture we are familiar with from iOS 5 notifications or Dashboard widgets that come preinstalled on a Mac. Having the status icons are fantastic and a great way to get a measure of battery life other than from the side LED lights.
  • By default, Lion scrolling is inverted like scrolling on the iPad. This makes intuitive sense on an all-touchscreen device — the content moves with your finger. On a computer, however:

The effect is extremely disconcerting, as our fingers unconsciously flick at the scroll-wheel while our eyes see the document moving the “wrong” way.

Lion’s scroll bars are a microcosm of Apple’s new philosophy for Mac OS X. This is definitely a case of reconsidering a fundamental part of the operating system—one that hasn’t changed this radically in decades, if ever. It’s also nearly a straight port from iOS, which is in keeping with Apple’s professed “back to the Mac” mission. But most importantly, it’s a concrete example of Apple’s newfound dedication to simplicity.

  • Resizing from any side is now possible, as was noted in the Lion keynotes. What is interesting is the pixel space used to make this effect work. So really, the space that a scroll bar takes up is replaced by the invisible border you can target. You do save about 10 pixels all the way around, though. Page 4:

Two to three pixels doesn’t make for a very wide target, however, which is why Apple has chosen to appropriate pixels from both sides of the window border. Four to five pixels outside the content area of the window are also clickable for window resizing purposes. Clicks in these areas don’t get sent to the window (they’re out of the window’s bounds) and they don’t get sent to whatever happens to be behind the active window—you know, the thing that you ostensibly just clicked on. Effectively, Lion windows have thin, invisible borders around them used only for resizing.

  • There are a lot of animations that may seem overwhelming to the user. I saw this on Chris’s GM seed. When switching from space to space, there is a consistent sliding motion, as if I was watching a Powerpoint. This is pretty eye-candy, but can get pretty annoying. Siracusa does not note any place to disable them. Perhaps this is a Terminal command.
  • You can learn what a skeuomorph is.
  • There is a great deal of time spent on how the physical metaphor hasn’t completely translated on Page 5. For example, iCal looks like an actual desk calendar, but there are no gestures to “rip” the pages out or “peak” at the next page. Similar woes occur with the Address Book. I feel that the only great UI change in the core apps was Mail, which takes advantage of two-pane navigation and “conversation” views beautifully.
  • Regarding Spaces on Page 6:

The biggest limitation of this new arrangement is that Spaces are now confined to a one-dimensional line of virtual desktops. Four-finger swiping between spaces feels great, but there’s no wrap-around when you hit the end.

  • You no longer have to manually save a document; documents are saved as versions if the application supports the API. There are several tradeoffs and benefits described on Page 7. But here’s a quirky one:

Putting it all together, this means that you can log out or shut down your Mac without being asked any questions by needy applications and without losing any of your data or window state. When you next log in, the screen should look exactly the same as it did just before you logged out. (In fact, Lion appears to “cheat” and briefly presents a static image of your earlier screen while it works on relaunching your apps and restoring your open documents. Sneaky, but an effective way to make state restoration feel faster than it really is.)

  • In general, I find the save feature to be much better, but I didn’t find an explicit mention on the trade-offs for disk space. I remember that these saves are delta saves, so only the differences are kept. In theory this means only incremental changes in file size, at worst.
  • Chris noted in the Lion podcast that the small dots that indicate if a program is on is no longer present by default. Siracusa notes that this is because of a new feature — Automatic Termination:

 Lion will quit your running applications behind your back if it decides it needs the resources, and if you don’t appear to be using them. The heuristic for determining whether an application is “in use” is very conservative: it must not be the active application, it must have no visible, non-minimized windows—and, of course, it must explicitly support Automatic Termination.

  • This sounded like it was taking a page from iOS. In fact, it sounds like it is like permissions that are more implicitly expressed:

In Lion, the sandbox security model has been greatly enhanced, and Apple is finally promoting it for use by third-party applications. A sandboxed application must now include a list of “entitlements” describing exactly what resources it needs in order to do its job. Lion supports about 30 different entitlements which range from basic things like the ability to create a network connection or to listen for incoming network connections (two separate entitlements) to sophisticated tasks like capturing video or still images from a built-in camera.

  • Page 9 through 13 are not for the faint-hearted — a detailed look at the file system and security within Lion. Importantly, there are latent protections provided with the encryption software in FileVault, but also implicit ones with sandboxing (described above).
  • Page 14 covers a new HiDPI model for resolutions, which preps the future of displays to allow for resolution independence.
  • Page 15 covers the finder, and it is nice to see that the “capsule-style” searches are present in Lion.
  • Mail has three panes!
  • System wide auto-correction. Apparently, this is something you should disable immediately.
  • About This Mac got a major facelift.

In all, the last sentences sum up the future of Mac OS:

Over the past decade, better technology has simply reduced the number of things that we need to care about. Lion is better technology. It marks the point where Mac OS X releases stop being defined by what’s been added. From now on, Mac OS X should be judged by what’s been removed.

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