Lion Installation Problems and Early Impressions


I started to install Lion onto my 5 month old Macbook Pro via the Mac App Store on Wednesday evening. The download took about an hour. Quite reasonable, in my opinion, especially in light of Apple’s announcement of over 1 million downloads in the first day.

I ran the installer app, chose the install disk, agreed to the EULA, and off it went. As described by John Siracusa’s excellent Lion review, the installer partition was created and my Macbook Pro rebooted into the installer.

It was at this point that the problems started. The installer gave me an error message saying that my disk was damaged and could not be repaired. My laptop would not boot either, repeatedly alternating between a couple of different icons upon boot. When I tried booting from a restore DVD, the laptop would repeatedly play a serious of three beeps, indicating a RAM problem.

I connected the drive to my old laptop via target disk mode and used Disk Utility to try and fix the problem, with no success.

Fortunately, I had a clone of my hard drive, created using SuperDuper, a brilliant backup program that I can’t recommend enough. It costs $27.95, and whether you use it occasionally to make backups before upgrades1, or for nightly backups2, it more than pays for itself should you ever need it. I restored the cloned version of my hard drive and verified the disk with Disk Utility.

I restarted the installation process and this time, it completed without a hitch. Apparently the RAM issue indicated by the three beeps was a false positive. I was impressed that the installation completed in about 35 minutes.

Initial Impressions of Lion

I’ve been running OS X as my primary OS since the initial public beta in 2000. I think OS X Lion brings the most radical change to the user experience since this initial version. A couple of core pieces of functionality feel very foreign to me:

  • Reversed scrolling direction using trackpad gestures
  • Lack of visible scroll bars
  • New layout in Mail

To some degree, all of these can be reverted back to their Snow Leopard behavior, but I don’t expect I’ll do that. This is apparently the future of OS X, and I’m hesitant to fight it.

I expect that the changes to Mail will be easiest to adjust to. I do like the concept of the favorites bar. I also like keyboard shortcuts for both viewing folders in this bar and moving messages into these folders.

The only problem I have with the lack of visible scroll bars is that it takes away three pieces of information from me:

  1. Whether the current view is scrollable
  2. An approximate size of the current view (from the size of the scroll thumb)
  3. My current scroll position in the current view

If my computing life was limited to Macs running Lion and iOS devices, I think the scrolling behavior change would not be an issue. However, I spend all day working on a Windows PC at my job. I’m worried about switching back and forth. Perhaps the fact that I generally use a track pad on my Mac and a mouse with a scroll wheel on the PC will help with the differences.

There are many small improvements that I like about Lion, but overall, I still feel a little uncomfortable using it. It’s very early days though; we’ll see how I feel in a week or two.

Lessons Learned

Things to do before upgrading:

  1. Always have a complete backup of your system
  2. Use Disk Utility to verify your hard drive