Yet Another Lion Review
July 31st 2011
Fanboy that I have become, I installed Lion on the laptop pretty
much as soon as I was aware it had been released - probably some hours
after that occured. Since then I've had a little bit of a play around
with it, and I've also, as of this weekend, upgraded my Mac Mini's OSX
Server installation (and for those of you sniggering at the back, yes,
I'm still picking up the pieces after that...). So I figured
I'd write up a few notes on how it's all going so for.
MacOS X Lion
The non-Server install is pretty neat. Go to the App Store, click
on Lion, agree that $29.99 or local equivalent (for some fairly odd
values of "equivalent" if you live in Ireland) is a fair
price to pay, and it starts downloading a DVD-sized installer. Once
that's ready, it closes all apps for you (although it got stuck on
one, which I can't recall, but which may have been Eclipse) and
reboots into the installer. There's very little Q&A; if I recall
correctly, it asks little more than which disk it should be installed
on, and off it goes. Once it's done, You've Got Lion. And what do I
think of it?
Spaces has no more vertical movement - it's all horizontal
movement. And it's got no more wraparound, so once you've gone all the
way left, you can't go left again to wrap around to the right-hand
edge. This is mildly annoying, but to be honest the biggest problem
I've had with my decade-old virtual desktop setup (four columns by two
rows, arrow keys plus two nearest modifier keys to navigate from one
to another, some apps nailed to specific desktops while others are
not) is that it's easy to "lose" an application and find
yourself flipping randomly around desktops to find it. Cmd-tab or
Mission Control may finally wean me off this, although I'll need to
find something equivalent on the Linux desktop I use so that I don't
have to change brains when moving from one to the other.
"Natural" scrolling is dumb. I'm glad you can turn it
off, but seriously, it makes no sense unless you're dragging your paw
across the screen, and let's face it, if you're doing that you're not
on a desktop or laptop system.
Possibly a coincidence, but Safari appeared to forget all
my login cookies around the time I upgraded, which was annoying.
As a result of the mass logout, I found myself logging into some
random part of Google (Gmail?) and was a little surprised to be
prompted to add my Gmail account to iCal, Mail & iChat. I accepted out
of curiosity; it completely failed to notice I had existing settings
for same, and duplicated them. It also failed to identify special
folders (Trash, Spam, Drafts), so I had to clean up that mess. On the
whole made a worse job of setting up email than I'd done myself.
I got a similar prompt when I tried the Yahoo website; the email
account didn't show up in this instance. There was no prompt from
LiveJournal to set up chat, despite the fact that they support it.
Checking the Mail, Contacts & Calendars preference pane later
on, I noticed that it completely failed to match my actual Mail
setup. I'm surprised at how crappy this is, given that a lot of the
complaints made about Lion have been along the lines of it dumbing
things down - in this case, it seems to have made things more
complicated because it's apparently creating a distinction between
Preferences-managed accounts and Mail-managed accounts.
The new shutdown/restore stuff (go read the Ars Technica review or
similar if you want details) is pretty neat. Restoring Screen Sharing
was quite impressive since it returned right to where I'd left it;
connection established, etc. Full screen mode is a godsend for Screen
Sharing since I'm forever getting the wrong Dock to pop up when I'm
connected to the Mac Mini.
MacOS X Lion Server
This has, so far, been a fairly painful experience. For the record,
here's what I started out with:
- A Mac Mini
- Snow Leopard Server
- Two accounts: me and her.
- Some file, print and scanner sharing.
- A MySQL instance, slightly modified from distribution to allow me
to build the Perl mysql driver (something that doesn't appear to be
required in Lion, or perhaps my modifications persisted)
- A mail server, which includes a proper SSL cert.
- A web server running one "default" server, which
essentially hosts MRTG and little else, and a clone of www.waider.ie
where I can test stuff out and verify updates before pushing them to
the real server. This also sports a proper SSL cert. Note
that this means, in the Server Tools view, there's actually four
servers: default on port 80, default on port 443, waider.ie on port
80, and waider.ie on port 443.
- DNS & DHCP servers.
- A few CPAN modules installed in /sw/ for compatibility with Fink, which I don't run on the
- XCode, to facilitate building CPAN modules, i.e. to provide a
make binary and occasionally the C compiler.
The first thing that sucks is the installation itself. Go to App
Store. Click on Lion. Wait for the 3+GB download. It launches, then
pops up a message box which says, approximately, "waiting for
Server Add-Ons. To see progress go to App Store Purchases
Page". The thing is, there isn't a Purchases page. There's a
Purchased page; a small difference, but an uncharacteristic
one for Apple who normally have the user experience nailed down pretty
solidly even when the underpinnings are still being sorted
out. Anyway, the Purchases page shows me that Lion is installed, much
to my surprise. After much clicking about I eventually resorted to
Google, and eventually found my way to the Lion Server page in the App
Store. Attempting to install this (which required more unequivalent
dollars for Apple) resulted in a confusing series of dialogue boxes
wherein the App Store first told me I'd need to purchase Lion, then
gave me an error to say I'd already done so, and then started
downloading the Server Add-On. Hurrah. But wait, we're not done
yet. Possibly because I had, at this point, quit the Lion installer, I
was left with a Server installer sitting in the Dock. When I clicked
on it, it complained that it wouldn't run on "this version of
MacOS". Restarting the Lion installer got things underway; select
install destination and restart the computer and, because I had other
things to do, leave the house for a few hours.
I came back some hours later to discover that there were more prompts
to be answered. It wanted to know what language to use and what
keyboard layout (there was some mild confusion here where I clicked
"ok" on a screen that hadn't finished downloading the
content I was supposed to select from) and eventually I got my server
I've generally managed the server in the past by using the server
tools running on the laptop, because the Mini spends most of its time
being an unobtrusive headless server stowed in a spare room. When I
launched the (upgraded) server tools, however, my first reaction was,
"wait, where's everything gone?"
In particular, my HTTP server appears to have disappeared. Poking at
the logfiles, I figured this was down to the fact that I'd configured
Apache to load some Perl modules which it could no longer find, so I
wrote that off as error on my part and looked at what else I needed to
fix. DNS and DHCP thankfully appeared to be working normally. Mail,
for some reason, wouldn't let me log in until I disabled CRAM-MD5
authentication; I still haven't figured out what's wrong here.
A good number of servers appear to have simply vanished from the
control panel: no web server, no mysql, and no print server, for
example. The latter two don't appear in the Server control on the
server itself, either, suggesting that the only reason I've got a
functioning MySQL setup is the binary overwriting thing I did to make
The web server config is... broken. There's no other way to describe
it. Firstly, it moved the default document root and didn't bother
moving any of the existing docroot files to follow it. Secondly, it
had some unspecified issue with migrating the SSL settings, which was
what was preventing it from starting up - I wound up simply disabling
the SSL versions of the servers so I could at least get something up
and running. As noted above, there's no web server config in the
remote admin tool. And the on-server config tool? Wow. Breathtakingly
bad. The default web server is entirely grayed out, so I can't edit
any of its settings, and the amount of stuff I can edit on
the waider.ie clone is so minimal that they may as well not have
Aside from all that... the virtual hosts don't
appear to work at all. Connecting to my local clone of waider.ie on
port 80 redirects me to the default server on port 443. waider.ie
presents the default server's SSL cert. Bizarrely, the CGI directory
on the latter does work, which means at least I can read my
It's really tempting, at this point, to just toss the entire web
configuration and start over from default. Gotta be annoying if you
actually run a website using this, though.
Other weirdness: I have, as noted, two accounts on the server. One of
them (mine) apparently has some sort of Mark of Cain on it that
prevents it from showing up in the Server user management unless I
enable "Show system accounts". The other has a warning that
tells me that unspecified services can't be accessed using it unless
it's allowed store the password in a different and less secure way - I
can only assume this is referring to Windows Sharing, but since it's
giving me no detail other than "It's Technical, You Wouldn't
Understand", I can't really say.
Having to reinstall XCode is an annoyance, not least because it's
another DVD-sized download. It'd be nice if Apple took note of which
of their stuff I've added on, and included it as part of the
Once again I've lost my cvs pserver setup. I'm sure I'll get it
reconstructed after another round of "which libraries does this
binary need in the chroot again?" (August 6th update: did this!)
The server stats are no longer visible in either the Server manager or
the Server Admin Tools. This may well turn out to be linked to the
And that's it for now.
September 6th: I noticed when doing a software update that it
complained that some packages were missing a path, and therefore it
was skipping them. One of the packages was com.apple.Server. This
definitely doesn't look right, and may account for some of the
weirdness I've seen. Still, though, there's a huge discrepancy between
what shows up in the command-line server admin tool vs. the desktop
tool vs. the remote tool, and it really feels like this was pushed out
the door before it was finished, which is very unlike Apple and
frankly pretty disappointing.