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OS X Lion : to upgrade or not?

A few weeks ago, the new release of OS X (without the "Mac" now) called Lion, was made available in the Apple App Store (no DVD or boxes to buy!) for the small sum of $29.99. If you are using a Mac and have the hardware to run it (intel, recent processor), you can easily upgrade.

However, having "some" experience with upgrading Operating Systems (from Windows 3.1 till 7, from MacOS 7 till 9, from OSX 10.3 till 10.6, from several Ubuntu and other Linux distros), I know that thing can and will go wrong. Not with the core software from the manufacturer (e.g. Microsoft Office when upgrading Windows or iLife when upgrading OSX). So I started to look around a bit. Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6) still took a while before some of my hardware was supported (some still isn't).

I compiled a list of some of the expected problems for some of the applications I use. I advice you to do the same. Beware, running on the new OS does not imply that applications will support the new features of it (e.g. full screen apps, automatic saving and resuming, new gestures).

There is a nice site that collects user experiences:

What is expected to work without much problems

  • The Mac-version of Rhino3D is regularly updated and has been announced to work for the most part without problems. As this is a pre-beta version, you can not expect full compatibility until it is officially released, but they are working quite well on it.
  • Cinema4D r12 should work fine. I don't expect any problems with the new r13 when it becomes available in September.
  • iStuff from Apple : don't expect too much problems, unless you use really old versions.
  • Screenium screen recording software should work.
  • Unity3D is fine, when you upgrade to the newly released r3.4 (free update).

But then we get into more troublesome areas...

  • Parallels (the software to run Windows or Linux inside OSX) requires a non-free upgrade to release 6. As a free alternative, you could try VirtualBox, which seems to be running well in Lion.
    • I still need MS Windows for Rhino + Grasshopper, for Revit, for Ecotect, for Tekla BIMSight and for Trackmania. Well, I can live without most of that, but prefer to have Grasshopper still available, until it becomes available for the Mac-version of Rhino, which can still take some time.
  • ArchiCAD has problems with Lion (e.g. with slow font rendering). There are some known troubles and you are suggested to wait until they get fixed. Don't count on older versions than 14 to work fine.
  • SketchUp appears to have some problems still: 
    • Previews with Background images
    • Syncing scenes when there is only 1 photomatch scene
    • using the 3D Warehouse
    • some of the pins to set phototextures
    • different scroll behavior
    • the snapping of dialog boxes
    • loading previous scenes behind the welcome screen
  • Ableton Live (I use this for all my music) needs a new upgrade, which is not ready yet. This is software that requires realtime performance and thus speak well to the underlying system.
  • Adobe CS 4 (which I still use) is said to have some problems. I assume CS5 and 5.5 will have updates to run on Lion.
  • MS Office for Mac? As long as you upgrade an existing installation, it should work fine. But Lion removed Rosetta, which is the PowerPC emulator required to run older software. The Office Installer uses that and thus stops working. Some people also had serious problems with Excel (which I use quite a bit) and Entourage (which I stopped using). I guess 2008 and 2011 will both be made compatible with new service packs.
  • AutoCAD for Mac is NOT compatible, but they are working on it. The update is now in beta on the Autodesk Labs, as announced on
Things I don't know, but which causes serious problems in the past when upgrading to Snow Leopard:
  • I have an older Canon Scanner (Lidescan 30 or 50 IIRC), which never worked well on Snow Leopard. I don't expect Canon to update their drivers... Damn. And I already stopped buying HP Scanners as they don't update their drivers for older hardware.
  • My POD X3 Live is a floor board with Guitar FX and Amp Emulations, which you can also connect to the computer. It took quite some time for drivers to be available for Snow Leopard, so I expect some delay for Lion as well.

So all in all, while the new release is promising and is probably required when iCloud gets released, I'm waiting a bit for the major problems to get solved. I guess I'm getting a bit older, as I used to be very quick on migrating to new releases in the past and live with the problems that caused.


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