Mac OS X Clean Install

August 2nd, 2011

You need to be braveheart to do a clean install of OS X Lion. Both Yes and No. For one thing – you’re bound to lose all your preferences and settings that you loved in Snow Leopard (or the earlier version of Mac that you were using).

Today, I did a clean install of the OS X Lion on my MacBook Pro (The Late 2008 Edition) and must say, that just about a week and half back, when I downloaded the OS X Lion from the App store (which wasn’t the slickest of my downloads), I was aware that my hardware is perhaps the last version of equipment that is supported by the OS X Lion.

Just to give a background of what I am running…

  • Apple MacBook Pro 15.4” Unibody Design (Late 2008 Edition)
  • 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo Processor
  • 6 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500 GB Hard Disk spinning at 7200 rpm

I downloaded OS X Lion for $29 on the night of 21st July 2011 (India time) (which did take about 17 hours to complete, and I followed instructions to create a USB stick for myself – for safekeeping. (Instructions available at: http://mashable.com/2011/07/20/lion-clean-install-guide/)

For the past days, after installing Lion on the existing Snow Leopard Installation, I wondered how it would feel to actually have a clean installation of the OS, like I have always had, whenever a new OS has been released – be it Windows or in the later years, the Mac (as in Snow Leopard). And so, today, I set myself on the task of actually doing it.

Must mention, that some sites did mention the idea in the tone, that one needs to be braveheart to run a clean install, so I am considering myself one, now that I have done it. Do we like it or not, and will OS X Lion really be the definitive operating system of the future, only time will tell. For starters, the OS X Lion is radical in its user interface. For many of the standards, which were considered “standard” for desktop operating environments have been changed. Are these really going to be “future standards”?

The Scroll Bar and Natural Scroll. On a mobile device, a user “naturally” feels that a page would be having more content to scroll to. A scroll does take up space on the screen, where real-estate is limited. So “natural scroll” and a “scroll-bar-less” screen pretty much work. When apple first introduced it on the iPhone, it was good. Not because there was a “natural feel” to the whole concept, but because it was radical – in terms of being a touch-screen phone that worked without a stylus, with the entire interface being designed with the user in mind, and not the computing engine that’s running the device.

Macintosh-Plus-Wide

Now, apple has taken this concept and applied it to their desktop devices (and laptops included). And what feels strange at first is, you’re not using the same standard as you would if you’re also using windows or linux or any other machine that runs a different operating system other than the OS X Lion. It feels even more awkward while running Parallels or VirtualBox. Because the guest operating systems don’t understand, “naturally”.

What adds to the discomfort is, the mismatch in speed of scrolling. While you’re using an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, the scroll is actually natural – the page moves along with the finger. While on a computer, this will change according to trackpad settings in “System Preferences”.

Multi-Touch. And perhaps this is the only discerning factor, that could take forward the radical changes in the scroll-bar and natural scroll, for Apple, and others. Over the years, I’ve used trackpads, and not another computer has come close to match the feel of the glass trackpad that the MacBook Pro has to offer. They took multi-touch off the iPhone, ported it to the Mac, and launched the Magic Mouse, then the bluetooth trackpad. For desktop users, the fingers had just started dancing, when the genre of music has suddenly changed. A question again, if it will be worth it.

For my part, I always prefer to tap rather than click. Which means, I am also a fan of “Tap and Drag” which is no longer a default feature of the OS X Lion. If you had “Tap and Drag” enabled inside Snow Leopard, and you installed Lion as an upgrade, you’ll probably not notice that the feature has changed. However, on a clean install, it simply doesn’t work. And the setting needs to be changed under “Universal Access” inside “System Preferences” if you want it to work the way it worked earlier.

Inside iPhoto, things are way out of hand. I’ve read a few blogs about this already, and people don’t seem to be quite happy. I am hoping Apple will fix this in one of the many updates, that are constantly coming. For example, flipping over to the next photograph just doesn’t work anymore with the three-finger swipe, which has other control features available from the shell of the operating system. If you’ve been used to it, like I was, it’s time to change. By the way, the left and right cursor keys still do the trick.

For Exposé, I was pretty much used to the four finger drag to the bottom on the trackpad, and click and hold on the dock icon for App Exposé, which were relatively new features. And yet again, things have changed with “Mission Control”, an almost unnatural thumb and three finger spread (which doesn’t seem to work all that well), and a host of other multi-touch features that yet do not exist on the mobile devices.

Library Folder. The user’s library folder is hidden by default in the Finder. If you’re in any way ahead of a novice, which I still don’t consider myself – and need to access the Library folder, you can now do so so, by hitting “Go” in the top menubar with Finder active, and clicking on “Go To Folder…” and typing “~/Library/” in the window the pops up.

Applications Stack. When I got this machine, with Leopard loaded on it, the Applications stack did not exist in the dock. Back then, I did not miss it. But, I did find it a useful feature of Snow Leopard. Yet again, if you’re upgrading, you won’t find this feature missing in Lion, but with a clean install, you’ll find the Applications Stack gone. This has a couple of other connotations as well.

App Store Installs. The newly downloaded Apps would reach the dock and the Applications folder.  This was earlier. We now have something called LaunchPad. Which looks great in itself, but needs a while to get used to, since the new applications go straight into LaunchPad, and are not visible on the Dock.

LaunchPad. This is where I can say, things start to get a little exciting. Yes, LaunchPad looks and feels great. Makes the laptop feel like a giant iPhone or iPad. You can move your applications around the way you want them to be, and also organize them into folders.

Facetime. It’s integrated into the Operating System by default. I am happy I don’t have to pay for the App.

Mission Control. The new Exposé. If you’re in the habit of working with a lot of Apps, then you might like Mission Control. It brings Exposé, Spaces and all your Widgets into one simple interface, and makes your windows a lot easier to deal with. Only if the changes in Multi-touch weren’t so radical, this would have been easier to use. The dock icon for Mission Control is actually pretty welcome.

Things I still have to figure out. The Status Bar in the finder window for example. I am missing it. I like to know how many files are there in the folder, and the free space available on a drive. Without the hassle of “Get Info” and so on. Auto-Clean-Up and Auto-Arrange – they get activated easily. Its good if you like systemic help to arrange your icons, but I like to sometimes arrange icons my way. Its like your favorite parking spot at the mall near the elevator. Park-assist can perhaps find a parking spot, but you may not like it or find it convenient. It’s the same with the icons. I just preferred manual clean-up.

These are some of the features and changes that I encountered in my 12-day tour of OS X Lion. Please feel free to leave your comments and corrections to my blog post.

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