OS X Lion

OS X Lion, formally announced on June 6, 2011, is the seventh significant update to Mac OS X, Apple's UNIX-based desktop operating system. It became available exclusively from the Mac App Store on July 20, 2011, bypassing traditional distribution channels.

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) supports OS X Lion for its clients, including off-campus students. ISC recommends OS X Lion only for Apple systems with Intel Core 2 Duo or newer processors (this excludes Core Duo and Core Solo Macs) that have at least 2.0 GB of RAM. Note that 2.0 GB of RAM is the minimum required amount; ISC recommends 4.0 GB for a substantially improved experience. The full installation of OS X Lion uses approximately 4.5 GB of disk space for the download and installation depending on the type of Macintosh and choices made during the installation.

OS X Lion is available as an upgrade from Mac OS 10.6 for $29 from the Mac App Store. There is no direct upgrade path from Mac OS 10.5 to OS X Lion, so users upgrading from Mac OS 10.5 must first purchase and install Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard ($29) from the Computer Connection and then upgrade to Lion from the Mac App Store after updating to 10.6.8 or above. It is expected that the Computer Connection will continue to stock Snow Leopard, but for how long is unknown. Apple will also release Lion on a USB thumb drive in August for $69; whether this will require 10.6 preinstallation or not is unknown.


There are a number of known issues with OS X Lion, several of which are especially relevant to Penn's Macintosh users:

Supported Applications

  • All current versions of University-supported Macintosh applications work without issue in OS X Lion.
  • However, in a change from previous OS X releases, Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is not installed by default and must be installed by the user. Without JRE, several applications cannot be run, including XpressConnect, Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP), and Adobe Creative Suite. As XpressConnect is the standard means of connecting Apple computers to AirPennNet, and SEP is the University-provided antivirus/malware suite, installing Java should be taken into account when deploying and supporting OS X Lion systems.

Other Applications

  • Rosetta is neither installed nor available on OS X Lion. This prevents any program compiled only for PowerPC from running on OS X Lion. Notably for some University constituents, this includes Quicken 2007.

Changes in OS X Lion

OS X Lion is a major release with over 250 new features, including a number of significant changes from previous iterations. Below are some changes that may be of interest to the Penn community:

  1. Whole Disk Encryption via FileVault 2: As of OS X Lion, FileVault has been changed significantly enough to warrant a new version number. FileVault 2 now provides whole disk encryption using XTS-AES128 (previously, FileVault only encrypted a user's home folder).
  2. Full-Screen Apps: OS X Lion includes support for full-screen use of applications. This makes significant use of multitouch gesturing and is a desktop replication of the iOS user experience.
  3. System-wide integration of multitouch gestures: Building on the overwhelming success of the touch-based iOS interface, and given that almost three-quarters of Macintoshes sold are notebooks, Apple has significantly expanded the integration of multitouch gestures into the operating system. These gestures are available to any Macintosh with an integrated trackpad, a Magic Trackpad, or a Magic Mouse. Gestures such as tapping and pinching are available in all applications and gestures allow moving between applications and navigating through the OS.
  4. Resume: A new feature called Resume allows applications to be restarted from the previous Quit point with windows, positions, menus, and other user-manipulated elements as they were at the time of quitting. This significantly improves the experience of power users who are particular about their program environments.
  5. System-wide Auto-save: There is a system-wide auto-save feature that stores versioned copies of files as they change. The interface to retrieve previous versions is similar to that used in Time Machine.
  6. AirDrop: A new file-sharing tool called AirDrop allows users to share files directly between OS X Lion computers over a WiFi network.
  7. Launchpad and Mission Control: Exposé and Spaces have been replaced by a unified application called Mission Control that significantly refines the functionality of the original programs, while a new application-launching interface called Launchpad has been introduced. The Launchpad UI draws significantly on the iOS app interface, and both Launchpad and Mission Control are accessed with multitouch gestures.

A note on distribution

Apple's use of Mac App Store as the primary distribution channel for OS X Lion significantly changes and complicates how providers upgrade Mac OS computers at the University. The Mac App Store was released with the Mac OS 10.6.6 update and is only available on Macintoshes with at least that version of Snow Leopard. Apple has announced alternative purchasing paths for Education and Business customers, but this applicable only to AELP customers, which the University currently is not. Additionally, the current scarcity of physical media will complicate the OS re-installation process for providers, requiring creation of an operating system install disk from the Lion download. The release of Lion on a thumb drive has alleviated many of these concerns, but it comes at more than twice the cost of the version available in the Mac App Store.

Other features of note to LSPs:

  • A recovery partition is included that contains the utilities previously found on Mac OS installation disks. This will allow OS X Lion to be reinstalled from Recovery Mode on disks with a previous OS X Lion installation, whether pre- or user-installed.
  • OS X Lion implements Address space layout randomization (ASLR), randomizing the memory location of key data areas. This closes a vector of attack in which the attacker predicts the location of these data or looks in known locations for it. Applications are also sandboxed to limit interaction between applications and the operating system. Overall, OS X Lion is significantly more secure than previous versions of Mac OS.
  • SMB with DFS is now supported for connecting to Windows file servers; NFSv4 is also now supported.
  • OS X Lion includes a Windows migration assistant along with the Mac-specific Migration Assistant.
  • There are significant improvements to Asian language support and allows the displaying and typing of vertical text used in Japanese and Chinese languages.
  • FaceTime is installed with the operating system allowing video calling with other FaceTime-enabled devices. For Mac OS users, this is a potential alternative to Skype for long-distance calling.
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Date Posted: July 20, 2011 Tags: Supported Product, Apple, OS X, Lion, Technical Info

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