Mac OS Upgrade

Those of you who care about such things might have heard that Apple recently released a new version of it’s desktop OS, 10.7, code-named Lion.

It was inevitable that I would upgrade my current system (a mid-2009 model MacBook Pro) eventually, but I wanted to put it off for a while. I’ve talked before about my love/hate relationship with upgrades; they’re often a big improvement, but at the cost of a lot of unnecessary grief, and I have work to do. But Lion included some features that sounded very nice, and one that I found irresistable: new versions of FileVault (the disk-encryption software) and Time Machine (the automatic backup program) that work properly together, rather than the Snow Leopard versions where Time Machine was crippled if you used FileVault as well.

As mentioned before, I do very little on the Mac OS side of things; the only programs I generally run on it are VMware Fusion, Skype (because it doesn’t work well in virtual machines), and a to-do list program called Things. Most of my work is done in Linux or Windows virtual machines. That turned out to be a major benefit for this upgrade, because there was far less to go wrong; so long as those three programs continued to operate, my work wouldn’t be disrupted, and reports indicated that the latest versions shouldn’t have any problems that would affect me.

Despite that, I waited until Friday (yesterday), so I’d have three days to recover if anything went seriously wrong, and began.

(Of course, Friday morning a friend of mine — who I won’t name, but who comments on this blog regularly — helpfully sent me a link to a bunch of complaints that Lion caused major instability in many systems. And I’d recently seen the same complaint on The Register’s review of it, though that one was fixed by a clean reinstall. The clean reinstall route was my plan B if the system couldn’t manage an upgrade; plan C was to go back to Snow Leopard via my Time Machine backups, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to use it.)

I’d read somewhere that in order to get the FileVault benefits of Lion, you had to turn off the old FileVault and then turn on the new one, so I decided to turn off the old one before I upgraded. That required a great deal of free disk space, so I had to move about 150GB worth of virtual machines to my NAS drive (which took several hours), then decrypt it (which took several more, and I couldn’t use the machine while it worked).

That done, I followed the steps here, including uninstalling VMware Fusion (because VMware recommended reinstalling it after the upgrade anyway, for stability), fired up the Mac App Store (for the first and possibly only time), bought it, and downloaded it. The download took quite a while; it’s nearly 4GB of data, which is twice what we normally use in a full month, but we have a fairly fast connection and plenty of bandwidth allowance that we never use, so I wasn’t worried. I didn’t install it immediately; instead I made a backup of the installer and created a clean-install boot disk on an SD card, as described here. Then disconnected my Time Machine drive (just in case) and let the installer rip.

It took about 40 minutes. I sat through the last three minutes of it, then crossed my fingers while it rebooted and I logged in…

It came up without any problem. 😀

Turning the new FileVault encryption on was a lot easier than turning the old one off — it worked in the background, and apparently encrypted everything in place, so it didn’t need all the room that the old one required. I’ve temporarily lost my third monitor, because the USB video adapter I use for it doesn’t have a stable Lion driver yet, but I knew about that ahead of time. And every hour now, if I’m in the office, Time Machine automatically backs up all the changes that I’ve made since the last backup.

Unless something goes wrong in the next week or so, I’m calling it a success. 🙂


  1. Had some USB trouble with VMware Fusion tonight, but reinstalling it (over the existing install) seemed to clear it up. Not sure if it’ll recur or not, but as long as I have a work-around until VMware releases a fix, I’m happy enough.

    Suspending virtual machines, and re-awakening them, seems much faster now. It was unbearably slow before, to the point that I wouldn’t even use it. That might be specific to my setup though.

  2. I’m happy to report that the USB problem in VMware Fusion did not recur. There have, however, been a couple other instances of instability, though thankfully no system crashes so far.

    This morning, I came into the office and found that even though the OS claimed that my Bluetooth keyboard was connected, it was ignoring any input from it. That’s the second time that has happened. This time I told the OS to disconnect it, through the Bluetooth Preferences screen, and the entire Preferences program locked up — endlessly spinning beach ball.

    Force-quit worked (and asked me to send info on the problem to Apple, which I did), but the only way to get the keyboard working again was to remove it from the OS’s list (unpairing it) and then add it again, which is how I fixed it yesterday as well. A pain, but a small one, so long as Apple fixes the problem soon.

    I also had a curious instance of something taking up 4GB of my 8GB of memory this morning. Fortunately, suspending virtual machines works ridiculously well now, so rebooting didn’t cost me anything but a few minutes, and cleared up the problem.

    I’ll keep an eye on it and report any other curiosities I see.

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