Obligatory OS X Lion Installation Post

A couple of years ago, I wrote up my experiences installing Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro. With Lion out today, I’m doing the same (either as notes to self, or to help out other poor souls).

This time around I have two machines to install, so the rarely used MacBook is getting updated now, with the iMac on hold for a while so I don’t disrupt work. I’ll be well prepared for that one with both a Time Machine backup and a clone by Carbon Copy Cloner to a different portable drive!

Getting It

In my previous post, you’ll see I had some hassle getting a functional install disc for Snow Leopard. In that light, digital distribution was a welcome change – particularly being able to start downloading it in the middle of the night here as soon as it was out, and having it ready when I woke up. There were a few false starts with the App Store overloaded initially, but once it got purchased the download was fast.

You can check download progress in the “Purchases” tab – though since the store was timing out I found it easier to look in ~/Library/Application Support/AppStore/APPID. Note that this changes after the upgrade to Lion – instead being in a temporary directory (for me, it was $TMPDIR/../C/com.apple.appstore/APPID)

Once it was downloaded, I made sure to copy the install application to a thumb drive, so that I can install it on the desktop later without another hefty download. You’ll want to grab that before you actually install, as it appears to be gone afterwards. While I haven’t tried it yet, there’s plenty of instructions out there for installing from physical media – such as this one (though this isn’t necessary, as you can just run the install app again on the other Snow Leopard machine).

The Install

The install process is very similar to that of Snow Leopard, though I had no problems such as I did that time. It spent its 45 minutes installing, rebooted, and came back to the new login screen.

The Victims

Here’s what I’ve found didn’t work out of the box:

  • X-Code command line tools
  • Homebrew (by virtue of the above)
  • Java
  • Java applets
  • AUSkey (required Java applets)
  • TruePreview (Mail extension to avoid marking as read immediately, will have to live without it for now)
  • Skype had some UI glitches related to scrolling (upgrading to 5.2 fixed it)
  • The Omnifocus mail integration (re-installed from OmniFocus preferences again)
  • The Basics Growl style (text always comes up black, switched to the “Mono” theme from the same site instead)

Parallels went out of their way to email today and say that my old copy of Parallels Desktop 4 won’t work in Lion, though I’m yet to try it. VMWare only refers to version 3.1.3 being fine, but I still seem to be able to run Fusion 2 just fine as a host – though it’s falling behind on guest support. I should be able to keep using that. I’m not inclined to pay for an upgrade, so it might be time to try VirtualBox again.

Some other things that I had previously been using (like MailTags and Mail Act-on) didn’t survive the Snow Leopard upgrade, so that made things simpler. One or two (like Dovecot) I won’t find out until I try again on the iMac.

Xcode Command Line Tools

This has been a problem for a while – each new release you could get a smaller download from Software Update, or the multi-gigabyte one from the Developer Center. Putting the smaller download on multiple machines meant intercepting the download to copy it before the update got erased, though – and it felt like it wouldn’t last forever.

That seems to be the case now – with Xcode 3 not working on Lion, I bit the bullet and got Xcode 4.1 from the App Store. It’s a large download, but the good news is that after “installing”, it just puts an “Install Xcode” application in place, like Lion itself. You can then copy that around to install elsewhere (though I’m yet to try – we’ll see if the App Store still recognises it).

This installs Xcode as well as the command line tools – I’m not sure at this point if there is a leaner option.

The installer has some oddities though. First, it requires that you close iTunes even if it isn’t running – to correct that I had to kill iTunesHelper from the command line. Beyond that, it seems to get stuck at the very end of the progress bar and never ends. I closed the window and everything seems installed, but it hasn’t removed the installer application.


After updating Xcode, brew doctor seemed happy again, so nothing more to do there.


The concern about Java not being installed on Lion seemed to have died down, and it was pretty much a non-event in this case. After installation, I immediately went to a terminal and typed “java”, at which point it prompted to download it for me, and worked just fine after that.

Java Applets

It was a bit unclear at first why, but pages with applets weren’t working in either Safari or Chrome. I found that I had to go to the “Java Preferences” panel and check the box that allows applets, as they had been disabled by default.


I’m sure I’ll find several issues as I go along, but for now it has been fairly limited.

  • Chrome has the button to go fullscreen, but not the one to go back and permanent scrollbars (this has now been written about)
  • Colloquy 2.3 has the same scrollbar problem, and displays all times in UTC. The 2.4 release from http://colloquy.info/downloads/ seems to resolve them but hasn’t been announced yet (but must be close!)
  • My original desktop background disappeared on the iMac (fine on the Macbook), replaced by a starfield, and today replaced by a blank blue background. This seems to be a result of setting it from iPhoto ’09 – exporting and setting by right clicking on the JPEG worked

The Verdict

My initial impression of Lion seems to fit with the majority of the observers – a worthwhile upgrade for the price. I haven’t used it enough to really say yet. The feature I’m most looking forward to seeing in practice is the document versioning and application state restoration, but it’s not that useful when it’s only in TextEdit right now.

The UI changes make sense to me so far, though I had to forcefully hide the scrollbars for the reverse swiping to make sense again (the default for the old Macbook trackpad was always on). Honestly the UI changes don’t really excite me a lot either – it overall doesn’t feel too different to Snow Leopard.

The new 3-pane interface and threaded view in Mail is welcome, though otherwise there doesn’t seem to be too much different in this release. I might try iChat over Adium for a while again to compare, since it now supports all those old Yahoo messenger buddies I have.

Aside from that, I’m not going to bother reviewing the features, as plenty have done that so far (the most detailed as always being John Siracusa at Ars Technica).

Hope this helps someone!

One response to “Obligatory OS X Lion Installation Post

  1. Nice tutorial…. thanks !!!

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