Mac OS 10.7 Lion

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Obligatory lion image

The latest version of Mac OS has, so far, turned out to be a rather mixed bucket. It adds a number of interesting functionalities, most notably Versions and Resume, but also contains a lot of very poor design decisions in the user interface, as well as the removal of some features for unclear reasons.

The good:

  • Versions makes forgetting to save a thing of the past—at least in applications that support it, which, in time, will be most.
  • Resume restores windows, documents, and other application states—again, in applications that support there.
  • Time machine backups are now stored locally until you connect your backup drive, which expedites the backup process significantly.
  • Security is buffed by way of delegating as many tasks as possible to helper processes with very limited privileges. Certain privileges are only obtained through user input, such as opening/saving files.
  • Mission Control organizes windows by application, rather than splashing them everywhere like Exposé did. It also covers multiple Spaces.
  • OpenGL 3.2 is supported (and 4.1 on the way soon), instead of the crappy old 2.1.
  • Mail, Contacts, and Calendars are now integrated with a Preference Pane. I haven’t really played much with this because I already have it all set up, but I imagine it makes things easier. The interface for Mail is also significantly spiffed up, and unlike Address Book and iCal, it can be reverted to its earlier interface if you so desire.
  • Apple System Profiler has been upgraded to System Information. Although mostly the same, it also includes a more detailed, tabbed version of About My Mac, highly reminiscent of the information provided about iOS devices in iTunes.
  • AirDrop looks pretty cool, although I haven’t run into another Lion user, and thus have not had the chance to test it, yet.
  • The implementation of fullscreen applications causes them to form their own space, which is nifty. On the other hand, I personally like to see the Dock at all times (except if I really want immersion, such as for a movie or a game, at which point I don’t want hot corners and such to work, as I might accidentally trigger them), so this is mostly useless to me.

The bad:
  • Versions may be unwanted or unnecessary. Although it seems pretty well-implemented, it’s still a little bit too much, conceptually, for many users. Time will tell, perhaps.
  • Resume may also be unwanted, especially in certain applications for which it makes little sense (such as TextEdit and Preview). However, there are ways to remedy this (disable it entirely, disable it on an application-by-application basis, or disable it on a case-by-case basis).
  • Local time machine backups can consume unwanted space, especially if you’re tight. I saw one person panicking on Apple Support Communities, asking “Where is my space going!?”.
  • Rosetta has been removed—you can no longer run PowerPC binaries. I wasn’t under the impression that it added bloat anywhere, so this really mystifies me.
  • Spaces are now linearized, which makes them less useful (no more grid of spaces, only a horizontal row). Many people initially think that you can’t assign applications to spaces anymore, but that’s not true; they’ve just shifted it to right-clicking the dock icon while in a particular space.
  • Lion is pretty RAM-hungry. You may want to get in the habit of purging inactive memory (type purge into Terminal), especially if you have 2 GB of RAM (or 4 GB if you use virtual machines).

The ugly:

  • Address Book and iCal are skeuomorphed to hell. Their design implies functionality that they don’t have, misleads you about some functionalities that it does have (such as the “bookmark” in Address Book), and overall makes the interface less efficient than it could be. There’s tons of space on my screen, Address Book can afford to have three columns. Why the hell doesn’t it?
  • Animations have been taken to a bit of an extreme, most notably in switching spaces (by the arrow hotkeys) and iCal (switching months, tearing pages)
  • Apple has unleashed the color vampire once more. Color and contrast are good things, I don’t understand why Apple continues to wage war on them. There’s a reason color displays were an upgrade from grayscale, and a reason why people pay more for LED-backlit LCDs than normal LCDs (they have better contrast, particularly blacker blacks). In each version of Mac OS, switching the display to grayscale makes less and less of a difference.
  • Mission Control doesn’t show minimized windows or window titles; applications with many windows open end up with a small pile of windows rather than tiny windows nicely spaced out, making it hard to pick through.
  • Launchpad sucks. I guess some people love it, but as an experienced user I can get to an application hundreds of times faster by using Spotlight or hotkeys. Luckily, you can ignore it.
  • Scrolling has been reversed, to conceptually match pulling/pushing on the document. While this makes sense on a touchpad, the way we’ve been trained to think of input on computers for decades has been in the mirror paradigm; the corresponding virtual object moves in the same direction as the input device. While you COULD think of the mouse as a lever (see Y-inverted mouse control), it’s more natural to think of it as a physical representation of the cursor, right? Of course, when it comes down to it, this is really a matter of preference and what you’re used to. On the bright side, this can be disabled in System Preferences.
  • The Library folder is invisible by default. This is presumably to protect it from the noobs.
  • The sidebar has been rearranged. Granted, the arrangement in Snow Leopard wasn’t the best, either, but this one really irks me. The notation I’m using here is “top > middle > bottom”— now, it’s Favorites > Shared > Devices. Before, it was Devices > Shared > Favorites (more or less, although it also had some searches in there). Ideally, I’d like it to be Devices > Favorites > Shared, as to me those represent the most basic, localized levels at the top, and the most distant/abstract levels at the bottom, which approximately corresponds to how I use them.
  • Dashboard is now shown as its own space—this isn’t an “ugly” for everyone, though.

The remedies:

  • Resume, if it bothers you, can be disabled entirely from System Preferences (General). It can also be disabled for a given application with some Terminal magic (defaults write com.apple.Preview NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false), although you’ll have to dig up what the name is by looking in ~/Library/Saved Application State/. Furthermore, you can intentionally quit an application and not save the state by holding option when you do so—this works both as option+command+Q and as holding option as you select it from the menu. Oddly, for certainly applications (I’ve only noticed System Preferences so far, although also for applications where you’ve disabled it through Terminal), holding option causes it to keep the windows, where it otherwise would not. There are several other ways of managing it, too.
  • The Library folder can be made permanently visible by typing chflags nohidden ~/Library into Terminal. There are also a great deal of other ways to access it.
  • Local time machine backups can be disabled with the Terminal command sudo tmutil disablelocal. You will need to enter your password (sudo, or ‘superuser do’ is the command-line equivalent of requesting administrative privileges, more or less).
  • The Dashboard space can be removed in System Preferences (Mission Control).
  • Although you can’t rearrange the categories in the sidebar, you can move certain things between categories, such as hard drives (including your internal hard drive partitions).

Other nice tweaks (most existing since 10.6 or before):
  • Enable the improved list view for Dock stacks: in Terminal, defaults write com.apple.dock use-new-list-stack -bool true; killall Dock (note, for any that use killall Dock, you can leave it out until you’re done enabling dock behaviors, as this just restarts the dock, putting the new behaviors into effect)
  • Enable mouseover highlighting in stack view: in Terminal, defaults write com.apple.dock mouse-over-hilite-stack -bool true; killall Dock
  • Enable dimming of hidden applications in the dock: in Terminal, defaults write com.apple.dock showhidden -bool true; killall Dock

Things I wish I could change but haven’t figured out how to do (if they’re feasible at all):

  • Rearrange the sidebar to be Devices > Favorites > Shared, and put AirDrop in Shared.
  • Grant the gift of color back to the sidebar. The icons now appear to be generated by taking the CoreTypes icons and using them as a mask over the sidebar. Conceptually, you can think of this as taking the icon’s shape and stamping it into the sidebar, rather than just slapping it on like a sticker.
  • Mission Control. Currently, it clusters an application’s windows in a little disorganized pile with the application’s icon badged over it, labeled with the application’s name. In my opinion, the name there is superfluous; you can easily recognize the application from the icon. Additionally, I’d like to be able to see the windows more clearly, as well as the window titles. Ideally, the way this would be implemented would be by showing the window title and bringing the window to the front of the pile on mouseover.
  • Standardize the internal naming: a number of features clearly got renamed partway through development (Mission Control and AirDrop being ones I’ve noticed so far). Internally, they’re still referred to as Exposé and MeetingRoom, which makes looking for some of their more hidden features pretty annoying.

Notes:

  • A fresh install (restoring from Time Machine after installing doesn’t count) will probably perform much better than an upgrade install; this was certainly true in my case.
  • How to do a clean installation. This will probably perform better than an upgrade install; it did in my case, at least. However, if you just restore everything from a Time Machine backup afterwards, it’ll be useless, so I suggest manually copying over the just things you want to keep (don’t forget (~)/Library/Preferences if you did a lot of fancy configuration).
  • How to install Lion over Leopard. I suggest skipping to the “Quick-but-techie way”.

If you think I’ve left something out, feel free to comment and I’ll see if I can work it in.

Adventure Compilation

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My sister’s first graduation ceremony was last Wednesday, in St. Louis, MO; my last exam was the preceding Tuesday, on Long Island. I was more or less packed and ready to leave by the time my last exam came around, so my mother and I set off for our house, about 6 hours away. After enjoying an early Afghan dinner, we were admiring the torrential rain pouring down our entire route. This admiration quickly turned to loathing when a central section of the exhaust pipe disconnected from the muffler. Our car pulled into a volvo dealership, I lay on my side in the pouring rain, sheets of water passing over the pavement and into my back, reaching with one arm (that’s all that would fit) under the car to try to duct tape to pipe back together… While after about 20 minutes of working on it, I was able to get the pipe to stick, in the time it took me to go inside to wash off a bit, it had fallen loose again. I remained soaked for the hour and a half it took the tow truck to get there, and quite wet during the hour it took for paperwork to be filled out and our car to be temporarily repaired with a muffler, and pretty damp for the rest of the ride home. We eventually arrived at 0100, and I noticed my feet had been numb for the entire second half of the drive. Oops.

Our flight at 6:30 gave us a comfortable 2.5 hours of sleep after we’d packed, but at least it was uneventful—the same cannot be said for the return trip. We were scheduled to leave midday Sunday, but the plane never got to the airport, so we would’ve missed our connection—but all was good, we just stayed the night at my sister’s apartment. We got up early for our 6:00 flight, which then turned out to have a fuel leak, prompting another rebooking, which involved a tremendous line containing everyone on the plane. For some reason, although it appeared the airline had already rebooked everyone to the next slot, it took 10 minutes and an unseemly amount of computer interaction for each set of boarding passes to be printed out. I felt melancholy regarding the people at the back of the line, as being towards the front, it still took us almost an hour to rebook. As frustrating as these complications were, they at least netted us a substantial number of food vouchers, which we were able to use to buy both breakfast and a sushi lunch (!)—and good sushi it was (for some reason, every sign in the Detroit airport has a Japanese translation, and it appears this correlates with the really good sushi place there).

St. Louis itself was pretty awesome. We went from delicious restaurant to delicious restaurant, including a place offering a frosty, bottomless mug of root beer, a tapas place, an ethiopian restaurant, a turkish restaurant, and a hotel with a restaurant and rooftop bar featuring a spinning moon, the whole place decorated with a mixture of classiness and kitschy space-related … objects. I liked the atmosphere much better than other cities I’ve been to; it seems to avoid the cluttered and, well, “huge” feeling that many cities exude. Between the various graduation ceremonies and restaurants, we visited places like the Arch, the zoo, botanical gardens, and the City Museum. While the arch and zoo were cool and the botanical gardens featured enormous fish that would literally rise out of the water to take food from your hands (this is not an exaggeration), the City Museum was incredibly awesome. It’s like a giant, 11-story playground or jungle gym filled with odd sculptures, weird and recycled materials, ladders, slides, tunnels, and secret passages. Oh, and caves… caves filled with dinosaurs.

Packing and Leaving

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I always get in a very strange mood when it’s time for me to move the majority of belongings from one place to another. It’s almost like I cannot fathom what implications it might have on my life… nobody can predict what interactions will occur, what people you might meet, how the altered surroundings will alter you. I think back… the last time I moved, what was I like? Have I grown since then? How? I don’t… feel different—but, surely, I must be. Perhaps I’ve become more cultured, rediscovered my Nintendo childhood, become aware of some of my limitations. Somehow, I never seem to be able to pin it down.

I also wonder, what of the people I am leaving behind? It feels like it was just yesterday that we were awkwardly stumbling into each other’s social space as we adjusted to life in a dorm, but at the same time these people are now a part of me. I’ve learned about myself in contrast and comparison to them. Who am I without that reference point? Will I talk to them again? I tell myself that I’ll try, but it’s so hard to communicate with someone whose presence you haven’t soaked in for months.

As I will attempt to say in Lojban, .a’ase’i .ua joi .uanai

An Apology to the Blog-Spirit

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I apologize to my blog (because I don’t have any readers to apologize to) for neglecting it for such an extended period. With the death of my last computer at the hands of the nefarious strawberry milk and its Ancient-defending conspirators, the continuity of my blog function was irreparably assaulted. That is to say, I stopped posting because I spilled strawberry milk on my computer while playing DotA, and never got around to starting again with my new computer (in my defense, I was without a computer for a good 2 months).

So, I’m sorry, blog. I hope I can be a better blog writer for you, now. I promise (to try) not to abandon you to the terrifying expanse of the Internet.

A Heterogeneous Mixture

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, but because nobody reads it anyway, that’s okay. Well, perhaps that’s not true. In the interest of keeping a log of any sort (be it a blog, vlog, tlog, flog, clog, ln, or log2), I am told it is good practice to be consistent. I guess the benefits include a general trend of improved writing, a false sense of companionship, and a paper (or data) trail.

Among the things that have happened since are a C+ paper1, a triplet of decent2 midterm grades, and mediocre performance at a rather frustrating programming competition3.

I have also partaken of so-called “naked burritos“. The immediately previous statement is a lie. On the two occasions that I have ordered “naked burritos”, which, according to the description, are said to be the contents of a burrito sans the tortilla (in greater quantity, of course, to compensate for their nudity), I have gotten (first) a less scandalous burrito, and (second) a meat quesadilla. That being said, both the burrito and the quesadilla were quite delicious.

Another highlight is one of the “rape trails”. This one begins and ends on rather steep slopes leading up to the “forest”4 that surrounds Tabler (the quad in which I live). My first venture on said trail was at night, accompanied by a rather edgy guy and a girl who has become my best friend, here. Littered with beer cans and duct tape (I’m still at a loss to explain the latter), crisscrossed by decaying logs, it was, indeed, quite creepy and perilous. Traversing it once more this morning (five croissants and three bottles of chocolate milk in-backpack), I found it rather scenic, excepting the litter detailed above.

Finally, I have seen an umbrella lying in the rain on a cold day, crushed and alone, its broken bones sticking out at weird angles. We took a moment to sing a requiem for our fallen comrade, before stepping onto the bus that carried us home5.

1 The paper, being on the same topic for the entire class, was a bit of a bore, and the first graded object in the class. Considering how the professor advocated for the keyhole essay, I suppose I expected more leniency… I’m a bit worried about that other piece I handed in before getting the essay back.

2 I use this humbly. I guess they were actually pretty good. In order of ascending decency, they were Biomedical Engineering, Linear Algebra, and Computer Science (GUI/Design).

3 It was the New York Regional ACM competition. There were 9 problems, and we got 3 in the first half-hour. Unfortunately, we didn’t get another until the last half-hour, bringing us to 27/50th place, but 4th in the freshman/sophomore category. Contributing to our mediocrity was a bout of abdominal pain that steadily grew more distracting as the 5 hours grew longer. Cornell got all 9 in about 1/3 of the available time (almost needless to say, they won).

4 It’s about 100 meters thick at its thickest. I guess that qualifies for a “forest” on Long Island.

5 Technically, it only carried us to the feet of the steps that lead up to the path that leads to the entrance of the building in which we live.6

6 I really need to cut down on this hyperfootnotism. I highly doubt all of these things could really be footnoteworthy.

The Curious Case of the Missing Midterm

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Today I woke up at 7:30 once again (it’s a trend!*), this time to make coffee in preparation for a Linear Algebra exam at 8:05. Coffee in hand, I got there five minutes early, and steadily sipped coffee and read the last chapter of the book we covered until my mug had dried up.

Looking at my watch, I saw it was 8:30, and the TA who was supposed to proctor this exam had still not arrived. Classmates began asking if this was a case of the so-called “25 minutes rule”** (I’m not sure how they came up with that number… it seems like 30 would be more appropriate, or 15), to which I responded that I was a bit more worried about leaving on the day of a midterm than an ordinary class.

The TA arrived about ten minutes later, mumbled something about the professor not emailing him something, and students began to get up in droves to leave, while a cluster remained around the TA. Investigating the cluster, I saw we were putting our names and ID numbers on a sheet. I wonder what happens to those who didn’t seem to notice there was a sheet?

Behold! Breaking news: I just received an email from the professor. Excuse me a moment while I go read it.*** Apparently his car broke down, and the midterm has been shifted to Monday. Looks like the sheet will be of no consequence.

I am less than enthusiastic about that time, given that I’ve been planning on spending the weekend with my boyfriend while he’s nearby. Maybe I’ll return on Sunday night, instead. *sigh*

* Actually, it’s what my alarm is set to.

** If the professor/proctor has not arrived for 25 minutes, you are free to go, without fear of penalty.

*** Yes, I know you don’t read this in real-time.****

**** Shhh.

Hello, Blogosphere! Goodbye, Flu!

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My first venture into the world of blogging begins at 1:49. Wait… that’s the counter on my computer’s battery. Let me try this again.

My second venture into the world of blogging begins at 3:34 AM on a crisp October night. While I find that time aesthetically pleasing, like most people who view it in a contemporary context, I would rather be sleeping. Unfortunately, circumstances don’t always permit such luxuries.

About 24 hours ago, my fever broke. Unfortunately, my first bout of flu in a few years (thanks to yearly vaccinations) has still left me with a souvenir. Having slept through most of the time spent catching up with my long-lost friend, I also have a pile of homework, which is what leads me to this particular endeavor.

About a month ago I started a course (well, a minicourse, to be specific), which, at least from its description, appeared to be centered around blogging. Having attended it for several sessions, it turns out it’s actually about writing in general, but I won’t permit that to befuddle my aspirations.

My mission here is simple, and somewhat lame. Considering that this is my first post, I doubt anyone who isn’t obligated won’t be reading this anyway, but I apologize nonetheless. I aim to produce two or so paragraphs of beautiful writing. Given my majors of Biomedical Engineering and Computer Science, I’m quite likely to fail, but I suppose it’s worth a try.

I woke up at 7:30 this morning, a feat that surprised me; I was still sick and had slept for little more than two hours. Bundled in my bearmonster hoodie, I set out across campus, armed with my Linear Algebra homework and my wallet. The sunlight trickled through the trees that shroud the stairs leading out of the quad, making my unsteady march a unexpectedly pleasant.

Reaching my classroom, I set the single sheet of paper on the glossy table that had historically been the receiver of our modest labor, turned, and left. There were four students sitting at the time, and I wondered what they thought of my jaunt, if anything.

Reaching the student health center, I hesitated for a moment: the sign seemed to indicate that this building offered only counseling. On a closer approach, I saw a bulletin regarding flu vaccines, and decided to enter. Once inside, I was treated with a humbler cousin to the typical clinical paperwork, and after a brief repose, was led into a small examination room.

I recounted, for the first of three times, the tale of my chills, fever, and aches, and in return received the examiner’s tale of a headstrong daughter who overestimated the resources provided in college. Then began the long absence, ten minutes into which I decided the proper course of action was to nap. I was quickly doused with regret when my reverie was interrupted by the second examiner, and after a similar exchange and absence, a doctor.

I left far from empty-handed. Tightly clutching a paper bag filled with meds, I padded back to my room to gloat over my victory and nurse my sore throat.