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OS X Lion "Versions"  (Source: Apple via 9 to 5 Mac)

Remote multi-login in OS X Lion  (Source: 9 to 5 Mac)

FaceTime HD  (Source: Apple via 9 to 5 Mac)
Apple looks to be attempting a major direction shift with OS X Lion

Apple's latest operating system effort, OS X 10.7 "Lion", was recently released in preview form to developers.  The operating system looks to be a major departure from past versions of OS X in several ways.  Most notably the entire OS is shifting to iOS' (iPad, iPhone) model of an experience built around an app store.  Even the applications launcher has become "more iOS-like".

Now some of the other new features -- finer details, so to speak, have begun to be discovered by the Mac enthusiast community.

I. New Features Galore

A major news item is the fate of OS X Lion Server has been spelled out.  Like Windows, Apple releases a server edition accompanying nearly every major release.  While there aren't a ton of Apple server customers, for those out there, they will be excited to know that Lion Server is built into the base OS X 10.7 Lion distribution and is entirely free.  This might tempt Mac enthusiasts to try to set up their own backup storage servers.

Apple describes:

Lion Server guides you through configuring your Mac as a server. And it provides local and remote administration — for users and groups, push notifications, file sharing, calendaring, mail, contacts, chat, Time Machine, VPN, web, and wiki services — all in one place. 

Apple has also dropped the PowerPC software support that is available in Snow Leopard via Rosetta.  The move is calculated plot to force users away from PowerPC entirely.

Another useful feature on the firmware level is the inclusion of "TRIM".  This feature only applies to users of solid-state drives.  Basically, it's an improvement to the SSD firmware that revamps garbage collection to prevent write speed degradation on blocks you previously wrote to.  The net result should be a bit snappier SSD performance over time.  Windows users can enjoy a snicker here as TRIM has long been supported in Windows.

Yet another relatively "big" improvement is to the popular "Time Machine" feature, which is somewhat akin to Windows Restore.  Previously the feature required an external hard drive to take recovery snapshots.  Now you can enable the feature to use your internal drive.  In this mode snapshots are taken nearly every hour.

The new feature goes hand in hand with "Versions" which acts something like an automatic skinned SVN client, saving copies of a document every time you make a change to it and displaying them, if you wish to revert a file to a previous point.

Another new feature is "Air Drop"; a little app that allows you to transfer files over wireless networks by a simple drag and drop interface.  It actually looks pretty slick -- you can auto-locate nearby users with Air Drop enabled.  Of course it also seems like a bit of a security risk.

Apple has added the ability for multiple users to be remotely logged in to a machine at once.  Previously if another account was logged into your remote OS X machine you could only enjoy a movie of what they were doing.  Now you can do that or log in in parallel via your account.

FaceTime HD also comes loaded in the developer build.  Essentially Apple's take on a Skype/chat service, the app features full 720p mode.  It isn't free; Apple will be charge exactly $1 in what is likely less a bid for direct revenue and more of a bid to get customers entered into the new Mac App Store system (if they haven't been already).

Another new app is Podcast Producer that was previously only available to "pro" paying server users.  The app is similar in nature to Garage Band and its ilk, allowing you to quickly and (relatively) easily create podcasts.

IChat has added support for Yahoo IM accounts.  And the client now offers hover-over previews for your convenience.  Another minor tweak is the inclusion of hover-over-to-play in iTunes’ album art screensaver mode.

Another handy new feature is "Signature Capture" a little app that lets you to write a signature (on paper) and then hold it up to the system's web cam.  A shot is then capture and interpreted into a filtered image file.  That image can be added to make your PDFs, etc. all official.

The latest version of the email client, Mail 5 has been revamped and looks much more iOS-like.  Support for Exchange 2010 is built in.

The new build also offers clues in its file system that points to a "Find My Mac" feature, similar to "Find My iPhone", being included in the final version of Lion.  This feature is not currently included, but the telltale signs are there.

In the mystery department, Front Row, Apple's media center, has disappeared from Developer builds, leading to speculation that Apple is working on a replacement product, possibly built-into iTunes.

Another minor change that has some OS X fans spooked is the change in the default settings of the scroll [video].  9 to 5 Mac describes the shift as leading to "a very difficult transition".  This again seems to get back to Apple's desire to make the OS more iOS-like.  Scrolling up moves the page up (moves your position down the page), just like it would on a smart phone or tablet.  Fortunately for those unwilling to change their ways, Apple has built in an option to revert this setting to Snow Leopards default (scrolling down to move position down/move the page up).

II. Downloading and Installing the Preview -- Requirements and More

After Apples announcement of the developer preview was made last week, the logistics of its distribution slowly trickled out.  It would be delivered via the Mac App Store with a redeemable code sent to developers.  For those who aren't OS X developers and aren't sure quite what an OS X "developer" is, it's a simple $99 once-yearly subscription fee that gives you access to previews and other goodies.  

Unsurprisingly, not everyone wanted to pay that fee and it took little time for the OS to hit torrents. (Beware, developers, the OS reports back to Apple at -- unless you block that domain you risk discovery and possibly getting booted from Apple's developer efforts.)

Speaking of crackdowns, Apple also has begun to issue copyright notices to try to take down OS X Lion videos on YouTube.  Though it may be a futile effort, Apple sure is trying.  Posting videos is a violation of your developer contract, so beware the wrath of Steve Jobs and company.

The OS has plenty of requirements/installation notes.  Among the highlights are:
- You must have a Core 2 Duo or better
- Installing to a software Raid configuration is not currently available and may render your volume unusable (wow, at least they warn you!)
- Lion Server (if you plan on installing it) must be installed on an empty disk
- You cannot be running an iMac (circa 2006 -- iMac support will likely be added for the final release)
- You must disable FileVault in Snow Leopard before upgrading to Lion.  Lion has replaced this feature with a new version of encryption software.
- Your volumes will not be readable by past versions of OS X
- If you plan on using Boot Camp, you need version 3.2 or later.

Primary Source: [source]

III.  Summary

To officially get Mac OS X Lion:
1.  Go here to sign up for a $99 Mac Developer account.
2.  Grab your redeem code for OS X Lion.
3.  Download it off the Mac App Store.

The new features in Lion, currently known or coming soon are:
+ Built in Lion Server support
+ TRIM SSD support
+ Launch Pad (app launcher)
+ Mission Control (app preview)
+ Remote multi-login
+ Versions, and local-disk Time Machine
+ Air Drop
+ FaceTime HD
+ Podcast Producer
+ Signature Capture
+ Front Row replacement
+ "Find My Mac" and dropbox storage -- coming soon in MobileMe
+ Yahoo Chat support
+ Revamped email client
+ Revised encryption (full disk XTS-AES 128, wow)

Notable missing features are:
+ Front Row (likely to be replaced)
+ PowerPC software support (will not be added)

While Windows users enjoy many a joke about Apple's frequent OS updates this release appears a bit bigger than Apple's average fare.  If nothing else it represents a major paradigm shift for Apple, moving away from a "traditional" PC operating system and trying to capture a bit of the app-driven fire from iOS.

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By Conner on 2/28/2011 11:49:19 AM , Rating: -1
Well if you haven't gone to engadget to catch up on the mac vs windows debate, its about to start here.
I TRIM - Mac doesn't destroy the SSD without TRIM go to anandtech
II Dropping ppc support - is about cleaning up the code base for os x so it doesn't become bloated not screwing people over. So Apple drops support for things from 2006...
III airprop - wont be a major security risk. you can drag and drop files through iChat mac to mac, no security risk there. It will probably be based through email like facetime together with push notifications.
IV facetime a bid to get customers entered into the new Mac App Store - you can get facetime with lion when it comes out, no NEED to use the mac app store.

RE: News?
By quiksilvr on 2/28/2011 12:29:39 PM , Rating: 4
1) As Anand points out, this is due to that particular SSD's resilience, not the OS. That is a very unique Toshiba controller and they (Toshiba) did one hellova good job making it.
2) Didn't they already drop PowerPC support with snow Leopard two years ago?
3) Not knowledgeable enough on the subject enough to comment.
4) Okay cool (again, not really a debate, video chat has little to do with Mac vs. Windows)

RE: News?
By BZDTemp on 2/28/2011 6:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
2) Yes and no. Snow Leopard won't run on a PowerPC machine but it will emulate a PowerPC CPU for the programs that need it.

RE: News?
By omnicronx on 2/28/2011 12:42:08 PM , Rating: 3
1)First of all, you are completely wrong on this one, and perhaps you should read more than the first paragraph of an article before posting it as proof. "The resulting performance drop was noticeable, but not unbearable" -From the article linked, discussing random write torture tests. (i.e what TRIM would mitigate). All current OS's are designed to work with conventional hard drives and ALL of them have the same deficiencies when it comes to random writes/read performance over time. Apple clearly did some work with the firmware, as they have tried to mitigate the issue, that said, they also have seem to have done this at the expense of performance. My 2 year old SSD whipes the floor in random Read/Write performance. Considering Apple was on the forefront of using SSD's (especially in the AIR), they had little excuse to not add TRIM until now.

2)Yada Yada Yada.. More proof that OSX has all but ditched anything but the consumer market. (which is not a bad idea, but certainly pretty much cements the platform as not being usable in the business space)

3)Yet another way to share files on a Mac.. which can only be used Mac to Mac.. Basically just homegroups for OSX.. Though I do agree, I don't really see it as any more of a security hazard.

4)I don't see where you are going with this one.. Are you trying to play it out as though getting customers ready to pay for stuff as a good thing?? FaceTime was free, why should anyone be excited that they are now going to have to pay for it, and this is what users should expect in the future?

RE: News?
By amanojaku on 2/28/2011 1:28:22 PM , Rating: 2
The Mac OS dropped PPC hardware support with Snow Leopard. The PPC software library was still supported via Rosetta so that you wouldn't have to dump your existing PPC applications when you got an Intel Mac. Rosetta did have its limitations, however.

For once I agree with Apple: there's no point in supporting a dead platform. Unlike Windows, Apple has a small application set. The Mac world will be just fine without PPC applications. Intel Macs have been available since 2005; if you were a PPC Mac developer or consumer and hadn't switched to an Intel Mac... that's probably because you're on Linux or Windows. I do agree that Apple is clearly not a vendor for businesses; the lack of server hardware and software speaks volumes about its customer base.

RE: News?
By omnicronx on 2/28/2011 1:39:56 PM , Rating: 2
I already stated its a good idea from a consumer space perspective. The vast majority of users won't be impacted, and most users don't even have a PPC based mac anymore.

My point was more or less their commitment to backwards compatibility, which is a must in the business space. Nobody is going to poor money into in house software development if they continue on this path, and essentially cement themselves as only being consumer based devices. (which as I stated is not a terrible idea they are making money just fine without the business space, it just further pushes them into a specific niche which could limit growth.)

RE: News?
By quiksilvr on 2/28/2011 2:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair though, it's probably a good idea to migrate away from 5+ year old tech. I still see computers in university labs running Pentium IV processors. I'm all for backward compatibility and breathing new life into old machines, but you reach a point when you have to say it's time for an upgrade.

I tried (god have I tried) to justify keeping my old zd8000 from May 2005. I have used it my entire undergraduate career and a year and a half after. Upgrading the RAM to 2GB and upgrading to Windows 7 really made a phenomenal difference, but the simple fact remained: The CPU was terrible, the GPU, though good, was showing its age and the damn thing had an 180W power adapter (on a laptop!)

I think the magic number is around 5-6 years. I commend Windows 7 for making me not search for random drivers for my old laptop, but perhaps cutting things off can help us move forward technologically.

RE: News?
By omnicronx on 2/28/2011 2:45:51 PM , Rating: 3
Pretty much everyone in the business space would disagree.

5-6 years is more than enough for the consumer space, certainly not enough in the business space.

Software can take years to develop, the idea that it should be thrown away after a few years is absurd.

PPC can clearly be deprecated, its hardly used in the consumer space let alone the business space and is will certainly make it easier to advance the platform. That said, its still a clear sign of Apples plans. They've all but dropped server support and added it back to client machines. They are clearly abandoning the business space (at least the traditional client server desktop model, who knows where the plan to take the iPad), which was all I was trying to point out.

RE: News?
By Chocobollz on 3/1/2011 10:36:19 AM , Rating: 2
keeping my old zd8000 from May 2005

What is a zd8000? Zed Duo 8000? Zdell 8000? Be more specific please :p

At first I thought you're saying about Zilog Z80 (it does bear a lil resemblance right? :D) but then you say something about 2 GB RAM and Win 7 and I'm thinking, "Oh hell no! It can be! A zilog could run Win 7!? WTF????" And I'm not joking LOL

RE: News?
By MeesterNid on 2/28/2011 1:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
Though I agree that Apple is not a business vendor that's in a traditional sense. Honestly with the proliferation of cloud computing and virtualization a hardware vendor becomes less relevant and services provided become more important. The same can be said on the client-side with thin-client and mobile devices.

Granted the "business" world is not the bleeding edge and does not adopt new technologies/paradigms overnight, but the momentum does finally catch up.

I think in the end it doesn't matter who the manufacturer is, but rather who can provide the most reliability and processing power at the best price.

RE: News?
By PrezWeezy on 3/1/2011 3:34:45 PM , Rating: 2
at the best price

That precludes Apple right there. They are not about price, they are about perception.

RE: News?
By nikon133 on 2/28/2011 4:10:49 PM , Rating: 3
Because Apple users love giving their money to Steve Jobs. All they need is some sort of excuse. Anything will do. ;)

RE: News?
By KoolAidMan1 on 2/28/2011 5:42:44 PM , Rating: 1
Considering Apple was on the forefront of using SSD's (especially in the AIR), they had little excuse to not add TRIM until now.

The answer is actually very simple: Snow Leopard is old.

Blame it on bad timing of OS releases. Snow Leopard came out before Windows 7, which was the first Microsoft OS with TRIM. Same with Linux distros that currently support it.

Either way, they mitigated speed issues by using drives with aggressive garbage collection. The downside to that is potentially shortened lifespan, so TRIM finally showing up in OS X is obviously a good thing.

RE: News?
By name99 on 2/28/2011 2:40:31 PM , Rating: 3
So much ignorance here, in the comments and the post.

- What is being dropped is NOT PPC code in the OS. It is support for PPC emulation.This is likely not especially hard to maintain one way or another, but Apple does not like to keep dragging on support for obsolete hw/sw way past its end of life. The main consequence for most people is that they will find they have maybe one app on their machine that they didn't even realize was PPC, and which they will have to update or replace.

Apple being Apple, I imagine that in the final release the installer will, before installing, scan the connected drives, tell you if you have any PPC-only apps, and warn that you should get them updated before you continue with the install.

You may or may not like this attitude, but that's the way Apple has always done things. Yes it's different from MS' theory that some app written for DOS 1.0 should still run today --- we're all well aware of that.

- The Core2 Duo requirement most likely means support for 32-bit x86 is on its way out. The OS will no longer install on 32-bit Intel machines, and will doubtless include no 32-bit code in it --- which will allow Apple to once again shrink the OS footprint, to everyone's advantage. Of course 32-bit apps will still run (though perhaps not 32-bit drivers and plugins --- Apple served notice, with Snow Leopard that people shipping those should get their act together and move to 64-bit).

- Saying that certain functionality is like certain Windows functionality is less than helpful, especially when done in a snide manner. What matters with most of these issues is how well a feature is implemented, the subtle details. The difference between Air Drop and Window Bing Live Mesh 7 Pro, for example is not just that it has a name that everyone understands, that makes sense, and that will not be changed in six months as part of some incomprehensible new marketing plan. It will undoubtedly do one thing, do that well, and be simple enough that people use it. It will emulate DropBox (and thus be successful) and not DropBox's many competitors (all of which do 10x more things, none of which are successful).
Likewise for Time Machine, which is the first backup scheme with truly mass adoption, primarily because it IS so simple (and thus not "full-featured").

Given that none of us know the details of these features will be implemented, firing up the snide machine is more than a little silly.

RE: News?
By omnicronx on 2/28/2011 3:07:26 PM , Rating: 2
Didnt realize they were dropping Rosetta support, nice catch there.

Though I'm not too sure about dropping 32 bit, as I don't see that happening yet. Far too little driver support (especially 3rd party uses such as printers) to do so right now.. Not too mention native apps such as iTunes that have no current 64 bit plans and require massive rewrites. Though I do agree they are definitely going to push it sooner rather than later. This does not really impact anyone, as PPC support was already dropped. Its only the few using the early Intel dual core Mac's that will be impacted.

As for AirDrop, its not an online service. Its no different than any file sharing method except for the fact its Mac to Mac, and the user needs to accept the incoming file. (Native windows file sharing is very similar minus the password, though as we all know you can have public shares and private shares). In my opinion this is just confusing, there are far too many ways to share files in OSX, simply tacking on more 'features' does not make things easier, it just makes it more convoluted as to what you are suppose to use in what situation. They need to revamp file sharing general, put it all in once place, and make it easy to use.

Lastly I find it kind of funny that you think the masses use time machine.. I've never met a non power user that makes use of it. Constantly backing up locally (which is what they added) is hardly enticing to me either, as if the HD fails you are SOL anyways (which I find is far more likely on the Mac environment than the OS itself crashing). I find it easier to just make a full disk image every now and then using the built in disk utils.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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