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Apple finally uncaged OS X Lion in the Mac App Store on Wednesday, and as is typical with most new operating system releases, early adopters are already scratching their heads trying to work around some oddities introduced by the big cat. Here are a few suggestions for taming the new king of your Mac jungle.
As humans, we fear change. Nothing quite gets us shrieking in terror like a major new operating system release, especially one such as OS X Lion, which touts more than 250 new features -- and plenty more than that, if you count the small undocumented stuff that lurks in the nooks and crannies of the eighth major overhaul of Apple’s next-generation software.
Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to see what the early adopters of OS X Lion are having trouble with -- and thankfully, there are already solutions for most of these issues. Here are six troublesome quirks that are keeping folks up at night with cold sweats, and how to tame the big kitty so he (or she) behaves properly in their new home.
One of the problems that seems to be popping up across the internet rears its ugly head before Lion is even set loose from its installer. If your hard drive uses a Boot Camp partition, you may fire up the OS X Lion installer, only to discover that your Macintosh HD is unable to be selected -- with the nonsensical error, “This disk cannot be used to start up your computer.” Yeah, we know: Ironic, considering that you wouldn’t be seeing that error if you hadn’t been able to start up from said drive.
The only sure-fire way to get rid of this issue is to back up your entire hard disk and reformat it prior to installing Lion -- but thankfully, Apple has a support document suggesting a workaround that will cause you to pull out less hair. The full details are posted on Apple’s website, but the short version is to repartition your hard disk using Disk Utility (you won’t lose any data), making it slightly smaller (approximately 128MB will do) and allowing OS X Lion to be installed.
Once you’ve gotten your hard drive to take Lion, you may have another nasty surprise in store. We had a moment of temporary panic on Wednesday morning -- after a 45 minute download and more than 30 minutes of actual install time, OS X Lion rebooted our mid-2010 iMac and we were greeted by a near-immediate kernel panic that required turning the system off and trying again. Thankfully, starting the system again got things working as they should, without another kernel panic in sight.
We’d recommend a handy utility like Lion Cache Cleaner for repairing permissions and other maintenance prior to an OS install, as well as flushing your system of all cache files used by the previous Snow Leopard installation, just to be safe. Better yet, run this maintenance a second time after the big cat is roaring, just to be safe.
A lot of what Apple introduced with OS X Lion are ways to hide some of the complexity of a Unix-based operating system, taking a nod from the ease of use iOS owners have enjoyed. But that also means tucking away some features even casual users depend on, like seeing at a glance how much hard drive space they have left.
By default, OS X Finder windows no longer display the status bar at the bottom, which shows not only how much hard drive space a particular volume has available but also how many items are in the selected folder. Now that you’ve been scratching your head trying to figure out how to monitor your disk usage, allow us to reacquaint you with this “missing” feature. From the Finder, select View > Show Status Bar and like magic, your old friend comes sliding down, hanging to the bottom of all open Finder windows.
If you’re using a third-party network-attached storage device with Time Machine for your Mac backup, you may have discovered that things aren’t really working out for you after installing OS X Lion. That’s because Apple’s latest cat is using a newer version of Netatalk, the free, open source implementation of the older AppleTalk protocols -- rendering third-party storage devices that use it suddenly incompatible.
What to do? Well, unless you want to invest in a Time Capsule (or attach an external USB 2.0 hard drive to your AirPort Extreme), patience may be your only option for now. Popular NAS maker Drobo has already acknowledged the problem on their website and promises a fix with the “next official firmware update” -- whenever that is. If you’re using a Synology NAS, the good news is the company already has a beta fix of DiskStation Manager 3.2 that can be downloaded right now.
One of the new tentpole features uncaged with OS X Lion, Launchpad appears to occasionally have some problems remembering which apps it contains, usually after installing software not purchased from the Mac App Store. Thankfully, Erica Sadun over at TUAW has found a solution that involves rebuilding the database files from the Application Support folder, which appears to do the trick.
From the Finder, select Go > Go To Folder and type “~/Library” (no quotes). Open the Application Support > Dock folder inside and you’ll see one or more files ending in .db -- drag them all to the trash. Now launch Terminal, which is found in Applications > Utilities and restart the Dock by typing “sudo killall Dock” (again, no quotes), hitting the Return key and then entering your administrative password. The .db files will be regenerated, and you should now see all of your apps in Launchpad.
By default, OS X Lion now attempts to get you back to work sooner by opening the files you were last viewing upon launch. While it’s a nice feature for many apps, there may be cases where you don’t want prying eyes to see what you were last viewing. The System Preferences > General tab has an option for getting rid of the feature entirely (simply uncheck “Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps”), but there’s a better way to handle it on an app-by-app basis, courtesy of developer Wil Shipley.
First you’ll need to know exactly which app you want to kill this feature on -- we’ll use Preview as an example, since it may not be desirable to have it restore documents in most cases. Fire up Terminal again and use the following command without quotes: “defaults write com.apple.Preview NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -int 0”. For other applications, simply replace “Preview” with the name of the app -- when in doubt, visit your Preferences folder to confirm how the app name appears in the “com.apple.XXXX” file this is modifying.
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