Get Lion

July 20th, 2011

Today Apple released OS X Lion, aka Mac OS X 10.7, the latest in the decade-long run of incredible updates to Mac OS X.

I encourage everybody to upgrade to Lion. I’ve been running it for months in pre-release form, and even while the bugs were being ironed out, I found the experience of using it to be (mostly) superior to running 10.6.

If you want a more detailed analysis of Lion’s features, sit down with a tall glass of your favorite beverage, and read John Siracusa’s famously detailed review. If you’re looking for a quicker overview, check out Jason Snell’s Macworld review, or my developer buddy Matt Gemmell’s guest appearance at the Guardian UK.

Supported Systems

We have known for some time that Mac OS X Lion would drop support for a number of Macs. In particular, all Macs that do not support Intel’s 64-bit memory addressing are not qualified to install the OS. But I was curious to know a bit more about how Apple makes this determination when, say, a user is browsing the Lion “product” in the Mac App Store.

As I described in an an earlier post, you can learn a lot about a product in the App Store by inspecting the HTML that makes up the product page, and by manually loading the references resources. In the case of Lion, the “Buy Now” button contains a number of parameters intended to inform the Mac App Store client about whether a sale should be allowed, and what some of the conditions of sale are. In the case of Lion, here is the raw HTML:

<button is-rental="0" dk-id="30" is-pre-order="0" preflight="
065/Purple/cd/82/29/mzm.tvvarwmu.pfpkg" item-name="OS X Lion" bundle-id="" version-string="10.7" buyparams="productType=C&amp;price=0&amp;salableAdamId=444303913&amp; pricingParameters=STDRDL" large-icon=" lion.170x170-75.png" is-install-button="0" is-update="0" check-is-osx-server="" is-free-download="0" adam-id="444303913" metrics-leaf="1" metrics-loc="Buy" class="button-area" aria-label="Install, OS X Lion, Free">    <span class="price">Install</span>    <span class="left-cap"></span>    <div class="inner"><span>Install</span></div>    <span class="right-cap"></span>  </button>

If you load the “preflight” URL content from the command line, and unarchive it with the “xar” tool, you get a few files including a file called “Distribution”:

% mkdir TestFolder; cd TestFolder
% curl -O
% xar -x -f mzm.tvvarwmu.pfpkg
% more Distribution

Inside you will see a number of constant constraints such as hostArchitectures=”x86_64,i386″, but also more nuanced tests that, for example, test the current computer’s motherboard model ID with a fixed list of allowed values. Presumably this will prevent the App Store from allowing (without some hacking) downloading Lion and installing it, for example, on a Dell PC that happens to meet the ostensive hardware requirement.

Perhaps the most heartwarming bit of code in this relatively complex document is a small function call from the start of the test for whether the install should be allowed on this computer:

function isSupportedPlatform(){

        if( isVirtualMachine() ){
                return true;

It has already been announced that Lion 10.7 will finally support virtualization, e.g. with the use of products such as VMWare or Parallels. This install-time test seems to drive home how true that is.

One Response to “Get Lion”

  1. vector Says:

    people can (and will) argue all day about apple”™s choices in just about anything/everything, but i think we”™d all have to agree that they”™re as fair as fair gets when it comes to the pricing and licensing terms for a non-free OS.

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