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My experience with Lion on a 2009 mini

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 3:15 pm    Post subject: My experience with Lion on a 2009 mini Reply with quote

For those of you contemplating taking the plunge to Lion, you might find my experience interesting. I decided to download Lion and install it on an external drive so as to find out what if anything it would cause a problem with. I did this with a Seagate Go-flex 1tb FW 800 drive connected to my 2009 mini, with a fresh clone of the internal drive and two other blank partitions. The first thing I found out is that a GUID partition scheme must be used on the drive/partition where it gets installed. I don't know why, but that drive wasn't formatted that way; maybe the default isn't GUID for an external. So reformat, re-clone and start over again. This time all partitions on the drive were seen as installable by the Lion installer. I chose the clone partition rather than a blank so as to see what would have happened had I done the internal. Lion installed relatively quickly (1/2 hour) without incident, so I booted up the external with Lion on it.

Next step was to try all software, although no more than to open files with it. Here I was pleasantly surprised, expecting more things not to work. The only two pieces of software I use regularly that were marked by Lion as ppc (circle and line through it) was the Canon scanner software (an old LIDE 30) and my JMP statistical software (2 or 3 versions old). There is a scanner program called VueScan that works fine with my model, but is $40 shareware. The FinderPop menu utility didn't work either, but there was a beta version for 10.7 that worked fine. Even MaxMenus worked, and I don't think it has been updated for a few years. The only other problem I had was with Apple Mail, which started and then promptly quit at the import stage. Doesn't matter; I don't use it anyway. Even my old DeltaGraph charting package (version 5, one version old) worked fine, though again, I didn't test anything beyond opening files (except for MS Office 2011, all of which worked fine). The other neat thing I hate the 3-D shelf and had installed a utility to change it to 2-D in Leopard. And it kept the 2-D in Lion.

Most of the big changes in function brought in with Lion either appealed to me or I was neutral about them; nothing really irked me. I like the full screen apps, though moving them back to get to other things seemed cumbersome. There may be key commands to accomplish this; I didn't have time to check. Speed seemed as good or better than in Snow Leopard.

So of course the big issue for most people is how to operate software that requires Rosetta, and that's what took me the most time to figure out. One can of course dual boot, but I prefer a more instant solution, as I do use my JMP statistical package pretty often. The recommended solution on many Mac sites is a virtual machine running Snow Leopard, and the web is littered with suggestions on how to do this and the trials and tribulations of people who tried. I started with VirtualBox (4.0.12), because Vmware Fusion won't let you install a non-server version. My version is a 10.6.0 install DVD (family version) that I purchased from Apple. My 2009 mini is old enough to accept that version. The condensed version is that you can install it on VirtualBox, and even upgrade the vm to 10.6.8, but the tools don't work, operation is slow and the mouse is jumpy. This could be specific to the mouse attached to my mini (a Mattias), and it was certainly related in part to the amount of installed RAM (4 gb), because it did work better when I gave the vm 2 gb instead of 1. While that made the vm work better, I froze the Mac on several occasions, and I think this was related to RAM. I'm sure it would work better with 8 gb installed. Not happy with this, I went to the net for another solution. Turns out that both Vmware Fusion and Parallels can be tricked into installing a non-server version of Snow Leopard, which Apple now permits. I downloaded a small freeware Terminal program to modify the acceptable version for Fusion, and was able to execute it once I made myself the root user ("sudo s" in a Terminal). After that, Snow Leopard installed easily in Fusion, and I installed Rosetta at the same time. I had no problem updating the version to 10.6.8, nor in installing Vmware Tools to give it better functionality. I then tested it by installing JMP, and it worked fine. So as far as I could tell, the combination of Lion plus Snow Leopard in a Vmware Fusion virtual machine gives me access to everything I had working before (for the additional cost of $40 for the VueScan program, as I was not able to get the scanner to run in the virtual machine).

That's as far as I went. I made my tests, and then went back to Snow Leopard. I will upgrade when the next update for Lion is released, but there is no compelling reason to do so sooner.

If any of you have had experience running Snow Leopard as a vm in VirtualBox, I hope you will post about this. I realized after I was finished that I wasn't using the latest version, and maybe that made a difference.

Edit: I solved the Mail problem by repeatedly restarting (as per a post on this). Works fine now. As for VirtualBox, running the latest version makes no difference; the SL virtual machine I created runs very slowly (unlike on Vmware Fusion).
Mini 1 (2011): 2.3 ghz Core i5; 8 gb RAM, Corsair 240gb SSD, 500 gb Seagate XT
Mini 2 (2009): 2.26 ghz Core 2 duo, 8 gb RAM, 500 gb Seagate used as HTPC
Also a Cube, 13" MacBook Air, 20" 2.66 ghz iMac & 11.6" Acer 1810TZ running Ubuntu & Crunchbang

Last edited by Fox on Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for taking the time to post your point of view, it is always interesting to read a first hand impression...
Mac Mini i5 2.5 GHZ, 16GB Ram.
Macbook pro 2009 Core 2 Duo, 240GB SSD, 2.66GHz, 8GB Ram
Dead PowerBook 180, M4440 33 MHz, 8 MB ram.
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