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Be a Lion Tamer

Today, July 20, 2011, Apple released a new major revision of Mac OS: 10.7 Lion. If you’ve got even a few drops of Nerd blood in your veins, this is an exciting event. I’m sure you’re eager to buy and install this upgrade, but I urge you to take a deep breath and verify a few things before you take the plunge. Putting your head into an unknown Lion’s mouth isn’t usually a good idea.

Minimum Requirements

First you’ll want to ensure that your computer meets the minimum requirements for Lion:

  • Mac computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor
  • 2GB of memory or more
  • OS X v10.6.6 or later (v10.6.8 recommended)
  • 7GB of available space

You can check all of this by first selecting “About this Mac” from the Apple menu, which will tell you your current Operating System version. Clicking the “More Info” button in the same window will launch the System Profiler application, which defaults to a Hardware Overview screen. Processor and RAM are listed in that screen. If your computer is less than three years old, you’re almost certain to meet the minimum requirements.

If your processor isn’t on the list you are probably better off buying a new computer. Fortunately for you, new computers will include the new operating system, so you won’t have to bother with the rest of this guide. If you’re short on RAM, it’s possible to upgrade. Other World Computing is our favorite source for Mac RAM upgrades. If you’re running os 10.6, but not 10.6.8, you can run “Software Update” from the Apple menu and apply the queued updates. If you’re on 10.5.x or lower, you must first upgrade to Snow Leopard before upgrading to Lion. It’s available from the source itself.

If you’re light on disk space, you should think about upgrading your hard drive or getting a new computer. Trying to install with only the minimum required space available will put you into an extremely low disk space situation, a recipe for a crash.


Once you’ve qualified your hardware and operating system for the upgrade, it’s time to tackle your software. Start by listing all of the software you use. For me, that list would include Microsoft Office, 1Password, Firefox, MarsEdit, VPN Tracker, and others. Make an actual list, because you’re going to need to check items off.

Armed with your list, open each piece of software, and use the “About” item from the application menu to find your version number. Do this for each item on your software list.

For each item on your list, visit the software developer’s website to check for Lion compatibility. They may require a free update, or you may have to pay for an upgrade, or you may find in the worst case that your software is no longer supported and you have to choose between continuing to use that software under 10.6 or switching to a new software and upgrading to 10.7. Notable software packages that will NOT run under 10.7 are Now Up-To-Date, Quicken, and old versions of EP and Movie Magic Budgeting.

You may have trouble locating Lion compatibility info on your software vendor’s website. Fortunately the internet is full of altruistic nerds. A few Aussie nerds banded together to create a database of Lion compatibility experiences, available for free to the world:

If you’re using any kind of special hardware - RAID cards, video controllers or processors, PCI expansion bays - you should know better than to attempt an upgrade right away. Your computer is a workhorse, not a toy. Leave it in its current stable state for at least a few months longer.


Now that your hardware and software are in order, it’s NEARLY time to upgrade. First, double-check your backup. If you’re running time machine, verify that your backup has run recently. If you have a spare drive around, use Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! to make a bootable clone of your hard drive. Operating system upgrades are major software operations. Things can go wrong. We want to be sure that your data is safe and that you can get back up and running quickly in the event of an error, bug, or crash.


The install process itself is painless. Launch the App Store from the dock, click on the giant Lion, then click the “buy” button. Once the download finishes, you can run the “Install Mac OS X” application in your applications folder. The install will take about 45 minutes, so enjoy a coffee or an icy beverage.

Shameless Plug

If this process exceeds your capabilities, your interest, or your desire, we are here to help. We can handle the entire process for you, or help you through the sticky parts. Call (+1-310-984-6946), write, or send a pigeon.

It Took Them Long Enough

Are you a Mac user? Are you a Blackberry user? RIM has just decided that they don't hate you anymore. They've announced BlackBerry Desktop for Mac, scheduled for release in September (hopefully they mean 2009.)

Third party syncing solutions have existed for quite some time for the mac, notably Pocket Mac (purchased by RIM) and The Missing Sync. Unfortunately they've behaved more like workarounds and hacks than solutions, causing almost as many problems as they solved. Here's RIM's official feature list:

  • Sync your iTunes® playlists, calendars, contacts, notes and tasks

  • Add/Remove applications

  • Update your device when new software becomes available

  • Backup and restore your device data with such features like automatically scheduled backups and optional encryption (security is #1 as always…)

  • Manage multiple devices

I'm most looking forward to backing up and upgrading BlackBerry software without having to resort to using a PC. This software, if RIM delivers what they've promised will make our customers' lives easier and enable us to work more quickly and efficiently for them. Combined with Apple's Mac OS 10.6 native exchange support, life is about to get much easier for our Blackberry Enterprise customers too. Here's to progress!

Common Pitfalls

We see computer and technology problems every day. These are the greatest hits and they're in heavy rotation. Do us a favor -- avoid these common problems and give us more interesting problems to solve.


Backing up data is important. Hard drives are machines that break. When they do it can be very expensive if not impossible to recover the data they contain. Fortunately, it is possible and affordable to make exact copies of digital information. The question is not whether you can afford to back up, it's why you think you can afford not to.

Square Peg, Square Hole

Computers use different connectors for different purposed. Displays are connected via VGA or DVI, Keyboards and mice via PS/2 and USB, and copper ethernet networks are connected via RJ-45. Unfortunately IT is not a realm in which it is safe to adopt an “if the shoe fits, wear it,” or “if the connector fits, plug it” mentality. It's common for both ends of one wire to end up plugged into a switch or hub, which creates a loopback on the network and generates infinite traffic and breaking the network. It's also common for multiple routers to be connected to a network via their LAN ports, often with identical IP information, defeating the network's ability to properly route traffic to the internet. Improperly connected network hardware and cables is a big cause of network downtime and can be extremely difficult to track down.

Reset Button

Reset =/= Restart. Restarting or rebooting a network device is a common troubleshooting technique. Routers and switches and wireless access points are actually little computers. They sometimes crash too, especially less robust models. In that case, rebooting can be a quick and easy and effective fix. Resetting the device, however, reloads the factory default configuration, which is probably not appropriate for your network.

Email and Scope

Email is the first indicator. There are many problems with the same symptom that people notice before anything else. When email stops flowing, our phones start ringing. These problems can exist at any step along a long chain. The local computer, local network, network perimeter, ISP, and the mail server itself are all required for email to flow, and a hitch in any one of them can cause the same symptom. Some of these problems might require professional help to solve, some you might be able to handle yourself. To determine where the problem lies, or at least a likely candidate, run down this list:

  1. Does rebooting my computer solve this problem? If yes, it's probably something on my computer that's acting up.

  2. Can I print to a network printer or see file servers on my local network? If yes, the local network is probably healthy.

  3. Do I get a response from my router if I type its IP address into my browser? If yes, the perimeter is probably OK.

  4. Can I open web pages? If yes, the ISP is probably in good shape.

  5. Can I access my email via the webmail login? If yes, the mail server probably isn't broken.

Knowing the answers to these questions might not fix your problem, but it will certainly help us fix your problem.


Businesses are internet addicts. Financial information, email, research, data shared with customers, data shared with vendors, business web presence, instant messages and more all require a working internet connection. It's relatively inexpensive to upgrade your office to a dual-WAN configuration with automatic failover. Save yourself the worry and hassle of internet downtime in your office and make this small investment.

Preventative Medicine

One client insisted that their server's hard drive was being backed up. It turns out that it was not. Data was recovered, but at a cost of $2,400. Another ignored our recommendations for managed switches. Network downtime cost three-quarters of a day of productivity. Both of these problems could have been identified and mitigated in advance for much less money than the eventual cost of cleaning up after a disaster. Rebuilding the levee is cheaper than rebuilding the city.

Google / Desktop Integration

Most of us are used to software that runs locally - we use Mail or Outlook for our email, Office for our word processing and spreadsheets, and iCal or Outlook for our calendars. Google Apps, Gmail, and the Google Calendar duplicate much of the functionality of these desktop programs, but they require an internet connection to work. The engineers at Google and some enterprising independent developers have come up with a few tools we can use to more closely replicate the desktop application experience even when NOT online.

Top Tools and Software

We use a variety of software and services to keep our business and our lives up and running. These are the heavy hitters in our list - the software that we use daily. In the web 2.0 world, not all software is installed and run on the desktop. The majority of this software is accessed via a web browser. There are several players in each of these fields, but these are the choices that work best for us. Get in touch with us and we can find the right matches for you.

Cloud Computing Pitfalls

Outsourcing software and services can be a great boon to efficiency and productivity. The trend toward Web 2.0 SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud computing is simplifying once complex software and licensing issues. Your business is only a few clicks away from implementing a secure intranet, online accounting software, or a unified office, calendar, and email suite.

There are, however, things that can go wrong. It's the responsibility of every business and business owner to mitigate risks that threaten business continuity and integrity. Responsibility and accountability cannot be outsourced. If your business relies heavily on cloud computing, there are a few things you can do to reduce the damage done by outages and problems in the cloud. I'll use Google Apps as an example, but these principals apply to any hosted software.

Data Continuity

It's the responsibility of every business owner to ensure that their business can survive disasters. As our businesses become increasingly dependent on technology, the potential for damage when technology fails increases. I've prepared a list of questions to which you should both know and be satisfied with the answers.