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:

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 back.

Well, kinda.

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 Perl happy.

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 clone is so minimal that they may as well not have bothered.

Aside from all that... the virtual hosts don't appear to work at all. Connecting to my local clone of on port 80 redirects me to the default server on port 443. presents the default server's SSL cert. Bizarrely, the CGI directory on the latter does work, which means at least I can read my RSS feeds...

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 upgrade.

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 webserver brokenness.

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 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.