Lion OS – Same cat, hipster haircut

I don’t know how many of you remember back when the first iPad was launched, but one of the key points that many (myself included) used to slam the product was the decision to use the mobile platform (iOS) instead of good old OSX. Why would we want to just have a big phone? Why not use the much more customizable and flexible Snow Leopard? Why the fuck are any of us surprised at Jobs and the gang dragging us away from what seemed to make more sense at the time? As the months rolled on and the sales went through every conceivable roof, the clamour stopped. Once again, the Cupertino marketing machine had been vindicated through irrefutable dollar signs. And now, as thousands of Mac users the world over – again, myself included – shell out a few bucks for the upgrade it’s becoming clear that the tablets looking like the iPhone wasn’t enough. Even the laptops now have to work towards a mobilesque platform. Let’s have a quick peek at my (highly inexpert, I’m not used to all this apple business) take on the change in the new version

First and foremost, GUI. Macbook users have all been stickypantied over the multi-touch gesture thing for quite some time now, with last years models carrying a four-input magic touchpad as standard on all pro models. With the new update, four fingers appears to be too many to use at once (i can hear the sigh of relief from bassists the world over). There’s a bit of learning here guys, the biggest difference is that now scrolling “up” moves pages “down”, more like moving a PDF page or (start counting) like the iphone. This Will Drive You Crazy…for a while. With a little practice it can be adapted to with the minimum of effort, or simply switched off and back to business as usual. There’s been a new feature added called “mission control” which is effectively putting a name to the old app-switching function performed by scrolling with four fingers. Significantly, dashboard now exists over to the “left” of the dekstop (like the search function on the iphone”, and multiple desktop screens can be created. Apple seem also to have developed a massive hard-on for fullscreen applications, as ever trying to reinvent an old idea and make it look somehow new and magical. What is quite nice though is the ability to switch between them without re-sizing or (vomit) using the keyboard. I’ll bet the new iPhone supports more than two inputs for just this purpose, but time will tell. Another small but adorable addition is that scroll bars no longer obscure the page (on apple native apps) unless the page is being scrolled. More workspace, less GUI intrusion. Doublefinger tap to zoom in stages (like the iPhone) works quite well to supplement pinch to zoom, however in the early days i’m finding it a little unreliable in Safari of all things.

Here’s one for the MS heads. Back in the long, long ago, my family picked up their first home computer. It was an old 286 running windows 2.something. A certain nameless but obnoxiously precocious 12 year old decided that “Format A:” and “Format C:” were the same thing, and killed it almost stone-dead within hours of arrival. If I could somehow find the money for a flux capacitor and nick a DeLorean, I’d go back in time and teach him the error of his ways. Anyhow, I digress. The reason I bring this up is that even back then, windows were resizable by grabbing any corner and dragging. Now, 2 American presidents and a hell of a lot of drinking later, Mac users can do the same. Amazing, I know. High-five Steve!

Applications wise, i can’t speak as any kind of knowledgable source. The new Mail app seems to merely rearrange its tiles to optimize space without adding significant functionality. Facetime kinda crashed the party on my dock and decided it lives here now, even though I doubt anyone wants to see me as well as hearing me THAT much. AirDrop is a new feature which allows P2P file-sharing through wifi without use of a router, but then again why would you have your wifi on in a non-wifi area? I don’t see a whole bundle of people planting themselves down in People’s Park to swap documents of a sunday evening. Launcher is a new presentation of the Applications folder, which presents rows and columns of apps on pages that scroll left and right (like the….shit, would anyone believe me if i said anything OTHER than iPhone? Let’s just say it’s like something else).

What’s the point? Oh, that’s simple. Lion presents very little in the way of new, but quite a bit of slickening with how it’s presented and navigate, which is really the whole point of an operating system. All the old tricks can be pulled, most of the new tricks do nothing more than expose what seems to be the new Jobs agenda: amalgamate all apple devices to a single platform. It really won’t be much longer from what I can tell, and whether you love them or hate them, Apple are making it easier than ever before to do things quickly and with the minimum of effort. The whole concept of “saving” has been laughable for quite some time, yet Lion does the smart thing and just takes away the redundant button. Even basic things like clicking (seriously) while browsing the net are feeling more and more archaic. For anyone that’s used a mac in the past (even the newcomers) this is the logical next step. For anyone that hasn’t, I’d highly recommend trying it out. Most importantly, for anyone whose usage of a laptop is predominantly for the basics (ie the vast majority of the people that don’t read blogs, unfortunately), it makes Windows look like the computers you used to use. For anyone that wants the customizability, gaming, and sheer familiarity of a PC, it just looks like more flashy hipster douchey horseshit. Because there’s more chance of Israelistine winning the world cup than there is of agreement between the die-hards, and those in the middle are few and far between.

Game-changer? Far from it. Worth 20 bucks? More so than a bottle of gin, sure.

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Lion OS – Same cat, hipster haircut

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