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I would like to call for a place to list some little things that surprise you about Lion. There are so many articles and lists of all the new features with information overload, I would rather focus this spot of the site on tiny delights with a note why it makes a difference to you.

Please one topic per answer, this isn't a race to enumerate everything that changed. This isn't the place for massive topics like the implications of FileVault 2 on your entire workflow - just a stroll past some little gems, fun oddities or subtle changes specific to Lion.

Answers must relate to why or how you use the feature - links to official tips and tutorials are great, but the intent is to collect little gems that affect how the system gets used. Expect answers that are not specific to lion or lack a personal use case to be heavily edited or deleted.

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I can't wait until someone wrote "Natural scrolling" as one of the answers... – Enrico Susatyo Jul 22 '11 at 13:03
@the_great_monkey I will admit to being totally comfortable with "natural scrolling", and I've only been using Lion since Friday. – CajunLuke Jul 25 '11 at 19:03
@CajunLuke me too, only took me 15 minutes to get used to. – Enrico Susatyo Jul 26 '11 at 0:06
Natural Scrolling only makes real sense if you use a trackpad, if you try that with a scroll wheel, it drives you nuts :) – Martín Marconcini Jul 29 '11 at 11:38
I'm especially happy about the price of Lion ($29.99 upgrade from SnowLeopard), but this isn't worth putting as an answer. – bneely Feb 8 '12 at 5:42

107 Answers 107

I found that iCal allows you to drag an event (so you can open another one).

Click on any event to get the popup:

enter image description here

Then click on the areas in the green boxes of that popup and drag until it transforms into some sort of "palette".

The truth is that you can drag from any gray piece, but if the popup has a scroll area (because it's too large) then dragging from the scrollable area may not work. Try creating an event and adding a very large note to see the difference.

Once you drag it, it will look like this, so you can click another event and do the same, and you can have as many as you can pile :)

enter image description here

Sorry about the blurring on the images, but there were names there ;)

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Man page viewer / smart data selectors in Terminal app

I like how right-clicking on any text in Terminal and selecting Open man Page brings up a GUI-fied manpage window. It is far easier to read and navigate the manual while still having the original context in plain view.

enter image description here

The apropos and spotlight menu items are useful as well if the man page doesn't hit the article you hoped.

enter image description here

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Since you're at the command line it might also be worth mentioning that immediately after typing a command you can type Command-Option-? to open this window. – Samuel Mikel Bowles Sep 12 '11 at 14:36

only These Three New Features

made me want Lion, and I've mitigated all of them

so I don't want Lion, nor any subsquent version of Mac OS X,

and neither should any conscientious and responsible admin

(Control is an illusion: ignoring request for one feature per answer. Sue me.)


Generally, OS X has decent memory management. But a minor annoyance that many have noticed is that, when watching in Activity Monitor while using Applications over time, the inactive memory will begin increasing, and while the system will eventually return that memory to free memory, when it does this is arbitrary and not consistent. The result is there are times when Applications need more memory, and while it should be available, instead of the system immediately returning inactive memory to the system, the application will squeeze what ever it is doing in the available memory without doing so.

The purpose of the purge command is detailed in its man page that I linked above, but a side-effect of running it is that all inactive memory will be returned to free memory. So running purge in the Terminal is a manual way for a user to free up that inactive memory.

Technically, the command first appeared in 10.6 Snow Leopard, but only if you installed the Developer Tools (xcode_3.2.6_and_ios_sdk_4.3.dmg), which is what I did to avoid the temptation of upgrading unnecessarily.

realistic New Text-To-Speech Voices

I found them to be quite amazing, especially Emily, Jill, Samantha, and Tom. Samantha, btw, is the same as the voice of Siri. I found upgrading difficult to resist for these alone, until I discovered how to install these new voices in Snow Leopard, which thankfully has entirely quelled this irrational temptation to upgrade.

full-screen Applications

Pretty much System-wide, Lion introduced the ability to take applications full-screen, hiding the Dock, the Menu Bar, and other applications. But there are only two applications that I really wanted to use full-screen.

full-screen Safari

Thankfully, Apple released Safari 5.1 for Snow Leopard, and that was one less temptation to upgrade.

full-screen Terminal

This was the one last temptation to upgrade to Lion, and the strongest one. I was envious for a long time of this single and long-time functionality available to users of Windows and its command prompt (cmd.exe). When this feature was revealed in Lion, I nearly fell out of my chair. I was only able to duplicate this functionality in Snow Leopard after discovering iTerm2. But the MacPorts port of iTerm2 was no longer supported in Snow Leopard, and the build would fail immediately. So I edited the Portfile for the iTerm2 port to allow it to build. I'll explain how I did this for other Snow Leopard lovers below:

How to build iTerm2 on Snow Leopard using MacPorts


MacPorts is a robust, stable, mature and easy to use package management solution, for OS X. It is modeled after FreeBSD's ports system, which has been adopted as the basis of NetBSD's pkgsrc.

install Xcode 3.2.6 for Snow Leopard

MacPorts requires an appropriate version of xcode; xcode_3.2.6_and_ios_sdk_4.3.dmg is the most recent version for Snow Leopard (after registerring for a free developer account, and logging into, that link will begin your xcode download). Once the download completes, open your and complete the installation:

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ hdiutil attach -quiet -noverify -nobrowse -noautoopen ~/Downloads/xcode_3.2.6_and_ios_sdk_4.3.dmg
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/Xcode\ and\ iOS\ SDK/Xcode\ and\ iOS\ SDK.mpkg -target /
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ hdiutil detach -quiet /Volumes/Xcode\ and\ iOS\ SDK/

build MacPorts 2.1.1 for Snow Leopard

Get to know MacPorts

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ curl -Ok
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ tar xzvf MacPorts-2.1.1.tar.gz
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd MacPorts-2.1.1
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ ./configure
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ make
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo make install     # *not war!*
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd ..
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ rm -rf Macports-*
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo /opt/local/bin/port -v selfupdate
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ diskutil quiet repairPermissions /

add MacPorts to your $PATH:

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ export PATH=/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:$PATH
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ export MANPATH=/opt/local/share/ man:$MANPATH

edit iTerm2 Portfile

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd $(port dir iTerm2)
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/$ sudo cp -p Portfile Portfile.orig
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/$ cd
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port edit --editor vi iTerm2
 # change original line 36: "if {${os.platform} eq "darwin" && ${os.major} < 11} {"
 #                 to read: "if {${os.platform} eq "darwin" && ${os.major} < 10} {"
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # or just download this edited Portfile
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # and replace the original:
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ curl -O && mv download.php\?i\=51VWPySF Portfile
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ cd $(port dir iTerm2)
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/$ sudo cp -p Portfile Portfile.orig
 1337haX0r@snobox:/opt/local/var/macports/sources/$ cd
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo mv Portfile /opt/local/var/macports/sources/

build iTerm2

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -vsc install iTerm2
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # iTerm2 will appear in /Applications/MacPorts/

And you can keep everything updated simply with:

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -vsc selfupdate
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -vsc upgrade installed

If for whatever reason you are unsatisfied and/or need to remove MacPorts:

to completely uninstall MacPorts

 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -dfp uninstall --follow-dependencies installed
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo port -dfp uninstall all
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo rm -rf /opt/local  
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo rm -rf /Library/Tcl/macports*
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ # you can keep the GUI applications you built, or delete them:
 1337haX0r@snobox:~$ sudo rm -rf /Applications/MacPorts

and Overcome Your Lion-envy !!

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tmutil is a command line interface into Time Machine.

time tmutil startbackup --block is full of win.

You can now start a backup, time how long it takes, and know how much data was saved, all from the command line!

You can flush your local backup store to free up disk space as well (or enable local backups if desired):

 sudo tmutil disablelocal
 sudo tmutil enablelocal

Managing Time Machine from the unix prompt is a bit of a geeky thing, but I wanted to call out this hugely useful tool that is hidden underneath the hood. Being able to analyze the difference between the current mac and the last backup with tmutil compare is also incredibly useful. Particularly useful in addition to managing the on/off and local/remote status of Time Machine, managing exclusion lists - these few commands seem particularly useful to me (and hence make me smile broadly, perhaps Lion-like):

  • calculatedrift
  • uniquesize
  • latestbackup

The man page is great and actually teaches how the backups work and encourage exploration of local storage, inheriting previous backups and much more. Someone deserves beers or better at the next WWDC.

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The best feature of tmutil, in my opinion, is tmutil disablelocal. – LaC Aug 2 '11 at 15:10

Wi-Fi Diagnostics are pretty and useful

Option-click the Wi-Fi status menu to reveal options such as Wi-Fi Diagnostics …

Wi-Fi Diagnostics

It's very good for monitoring and testing wireless networks.

If you prefer to not show Wi-Fi status in the menu bar, then to find the app:

  1. Finder
  2. Go
  3. /System/Library/CoreServices
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Launchpad Background Wallpaper Effects

Being able to change the Launchpad background effect with Control + Option + Command + B in 10.7.3 and 10.8, or + B, is pretty cool. You can make any Desktop Wallpaper black and white, blurred, sharp, color, or any combination of those. It only is capable of using your current desktop's wallpaper however, unless any of you know how to specify a different wallpaper just for Launchpad. It's really a nice customization option!

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QuickLook now shows the pages of a PDF in scrollable sidebar:

I just found this one and it is really helpful. I don't really need Preview anymore, as Quicklook suffices for almost all my PDF needs.

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Safari being two processes

When a site has some javascript that hangs the web content process, I can still add new tabs, navigate in other tabs, etc.

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Clamshell Mode simplified for external displays

In Lion, if you want to use an external display with a closed notebook (also known as clamshell mode), you can do the following:

  • Attach the external display and power adapter to the notebook.
  • Close the notebook.
  • The external display stays on!

The process is much easier because Lion assumes that closing the notebook doesn't mean "put my Mac to sleep" if you also have an external display attached.

Lion also assumes that opening your notebook means that you want to use its display, so there's no need to manually force display detection.

In Snow Leopard, if you wanted to use an external display with a closed notebook, you'd need to do the following:

  • With the notebook open, attach the external display.
  • Close the notebook. Wait as the Mac goes to sleep, and the external display goes dark.
  • Wake the notebook from sleep (using an external keyboard or mouse) to activate the external display.

If you then opened the notebook so that you could use its display as well, you'd need to force the Mac to detect displays.

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Woah. I thought this was a bug in Lion. Because, naturally, when I close the lid of my MBP, I want the secondary display to go off as well. Thanks for sharing. – ayaz Aug 1 '11 at 19:42

Rich Text welcome banners for labs or corporate settings

I have to manage Macs at work, and it has always been a challenge to have an acceptable use login banner for people to agree to before logging in. Either editing .plist files, or downloading 3rd-party software was required. However, now Lion lets you put a text or rich-text file in /Library/Security and it will show up at login. Apple even puts a little example for you on this webpage

This is a very welcome development!

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The loupe magnifier in Preview (is smart and context-aware)

Preview now has a magnifier. Select Tools → Show Magnifier to activate it. Its exact hotkey will depend on the localization being used; if using US-English, the hotkey is `

Open up an image and the magnifier will be a circle, open up a PDF and the magnifier will be a rectangle.

Definitely something that caught me by surprise.

What is even more elegant than prior loupes, is the smart loupe will detect content and re-size itself to show you entire objects of interest rather than be bound to a static size.

Also, you can pinch to increase/decrease the size of the loupe.

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Backtick key isn't underneath Esc on all keyboards, btw. On my UK keyboard it's above Ctrl. – scottishwildcat Oct 7 '11 at 16:43

Authentication dialogs shake when you enter your password incorrectly

The "shaking head" animation that has long been used in OS X's login screen to indicate an incorrect password has been added to the authentication dialogs present throughout the OS. I love this! It's so clever and you immediately "get" what it means.

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QuickLook in Mission Control

When in Mission Control, you can invoke Quicklook on a certain window that your cursor hovers by pressing space.

enter image description here

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In Snow Leopard, once you hit space, you could mouse around and it would zoom whatever window your cursor was over. In Lion, this no longer happens. I can't decide if I prefer this or not... – daGUY May 16 '12 at 15:42

Accessing accented characters has been made a lot easier.

Just hold down the letter and a list of alternatives will show. Awesome.

Example of OS X Lion accented characters popup menu

By pressing the number and continuing to type, the desired letter replaces the e and alows you to keep your fingers on the keyboard. Double Awesome.

This behavior can be turned off. Turning off this new feature allows the traditional key repeat function to work for all keys as shown in the keyboard system preference window. keyboard

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wha? I get the letter reppeeeeeeeeeeeating – Joel Spolsky Jul 20 '11 at 20:49
Looks like it depends on the app. It's working in Word but not in Chrome... – Joel Spolsky Jul 20 '11 at 20:50
Its WORKS for comments in Safari. Like these: áôćÿ :) – jm666 Jul 22 '11 at 10:08
Actually this was the first thing I HAD to disable :) Never used accented chars and it keeeeeeeeeepsssss me from the repeating stuff :( – bisko Jul 22 '11 at 10:58

Mail now displays custom header


Mail->Preferences->Viewing->Show Header Detail->Custom

enter image description here

you can specify custom headers that will be presented to you above the mails: enter image description here

share|improve this answer now supports 256 colors.

You can test this yourself by running the “Colortest: xterm 256 color test and visual colors list” script.

Before (screenshot taken under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard):

After (screenshot taken under OS X 10.7 Lion):

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OS X Lion comes with Vim 7.3 installed.

Older OS X versions had Vim 7.2.

$ vim --version
VIM - Vi IMproved 7.3 (2010 Aug 15, compiled Jun 24 2011 20:00:09)
Compiled by
Normal version without GUI.  Features included (+) or not (-):
-arabic +autocmd -balloon_eval -browse +builtin_terms +byte_offset +cindent 
-clientserver -clipboard +cmdline_compl +cmdline_hist +cmdline_info +comments 
-conceal +cryptv +cscope +cursorbind +cursorshape +dialog_con +diff +digraphs 
-dnd -ebcdic -emacs_tags +eval +ex_extra +extra_search -farsi +file_in_path 
+find_in_path +float +folding -footer +fork() -gettext -hangul_input +iconv 
+insert_expand +jumplist -keymap -langmap +libcall +linebreak +lispindent 
+listcmds +localmap -lua +menu +mksession +modify_fname +mouse -mouseshape 
-mouse_dec -mouse_gpm -mouse_jsbterm -mouse_netterm -mouse_sysmouse 
+mouse_xterm +multi_byte +multi_lang -mzscheme +netbeans_intg -osfiletype 
+path_extra -perl +persistent_undo +postscript +printer -profile -python 
-python3 +quickfix +reltime -rightleft -ruby +scrollbind +signs +smartindent 
-sniff +startuptime +statusline -sun_workshop +syntax +tag_binary 
+tag_old_static -tag_any_white -tcl +terminfo +termresponse +textobjects +title
 -toolbar +user_commands +vertsplit +virtualedit +visual +visualextra +viminfo 
+vreplace +wildignore +wildmenu +windows +writebackup -X11 -xfontset -xim -xsmp
 -xterm_clipboard -xterm_save 
   system vimrc file: "$VIM/vimrc"
     user vimrc file: "$HOME/.vimrc"
      user exrc file: "$HOME/.exrc"
  fall-back for $VIM: "/usr/share/vim"
Compilation: gcc -c -I. -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=0 -Iproto -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -g -Os -pipe
Linking: gcc -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -o vim -lncurses

(That “Compiled by” line looks awesome.)

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Finder remove (cut) happens after move is complete

I love that you can move items in the finder by using -C to copy and --V to move. Kind of like cut and paste (which doesn't work), but it doesn't cut the original until the new one is pasted.

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This isn't new at all... – Tim Büthe Aug 3 '11 at 7:53
I don't know, but Tiger and Snow Leopard did that too. BTW: Windows does that as well I I guess Linux distros / Desktop environments as well. – Tim Büthe Sep 2 '11 at 9:55
@Tim Büthe - Leopard and Snow Leopard and prior versions of OS X never did this, of course Linux and Windows did it using CUA shortcuts (C-x, C-c, C-v) That's not of use/interest when you're not actually talking about one of those platform. Please cut down the noise, we want signal here. The shortcut on Lion is new, and it's designed in such a way that it addresses Apple's "semantic issue" with "Cut", and instead is copy / move, and not cut / paste. – Slomojo Sep 5 '11 at 1:47
The cut/paste method we had previously on Finder was drag/drop (for same Volume move) or drag/Cmd-drop (for moves to external or network volumes) - There was no keyboard equivalent. – Slomojo Sep 5 '11 at 1:54

App Exposé shows all windows of an application even windows in other spaces and full screen apps!

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Pinch to Zoom

Snow Leopard had this feature, but it didn't work in every application. With Lion, this works in pretty much every application. A major one for me is Final Cut Pro. Being able to pinch to zoom makes video editing so much easier.

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System Preferences is so much faster when loading a preferences pane. Click on a pane and it loads almost immediately. I'm constantly amazed at this one every time I go into System Preferences.

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Multitouch gesture to activate the dictionary/thesaurus/Wikipedia

A three fingered double tap will highlight the tapped word and then bring up a nice sheet with all the results relevant to the selected word.

enter image description here

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Control + Command + D has always done this. – X-Istence Jul 31 '11 at 21:31


This feature migrated from iOS brings the home screen of iOS to the mac.

I have a few applications that I do not want sitting in the dock as they aren't used often. But I hated having to go through finder to find them. With Launchpad, I can tap a button which opens up a swiping iOS style menu where I can easily find an app I want to use, and open it with just the one click.


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L opens the Downloads window in Finder

In Snow Leopard, this key combination was recognised by Safari.

In Lion

Before Lion, I often used the orderly and sizeable downloads window of Safari as a tool for organisation, so the disorderly popover in Lion was a shock to the system. I particularly hate the disorder. Also I often thought to myself … "One day, I'll accidentally click Clear … that button's far too near the scroll bar.".

When eventually that accident occurred I cursed, loudly. It was comparable to losing a list of to-dos.

I no longer hate the popover in Safari, but I haven't learnt to love Finder (it fails to find most folders that I seek), so I'm in limbo, somewhat disorganised.

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Terminal is more keyboard accessible

Those are Apple's standard keyboard shortcuts for moving the cursor from word to word.

And so on …

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Lion allows you to create user names containing dots.

The lack of this frustrated standardisation with our corporate networks back in Leopard. Now I have the same user name over Mac, Windows and Unix.

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I don't know whether this is lion exclusive feature or not:

three fingers momentum drag

  1. select three finger dragging in the trackpad gesture panel.

  2. place 3 fingers in the trackpad still on the item you want to drag.(I use forefinger middle and ring finger)

  3. use only one finger( I use forefinger) swipe like nature scrolling, you'll see the item move momentum
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Motion Blur in Mission Control

While Mission Control is open, press +M to enable a motion blur effect.

You can see the effect when application windows gather/disperse to/from Mission Control and, also, when changing desktops (in Mission Control).

To disable it, press +M again.

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Mission Control enables new workflows

(whilst frustrating some existing workflows)

My wife was very positively pleased with how Mission Control improves her workflow. MC window grouping, MRU in App Exposé and Spaces management are exactly what she wants.

I have been very negatively surprised at how much Mission Control is a regression for my workflow. It feels like I'm back to the awkward Tiger/Leopard days. I was really flying at window management with Snow Leopard Exposé and App Exposé, minimized windows in app icons and fixed spaces. I find Mission Control lacking in many areas (see my questions for details).

Mission Control fails to scale if you have many windows per application as windows get align-stacked with more than three windows per application. Spreading an application windows with the zoom-in gesture ought to help but does not as they don't spread apart enough nor show minimized windows. Besides one can't work around those limitations by going to the full-spread out App Exposé from Mission Control or preventively handle windows by minimizing them and having them show in Mission Control.

The primary downside is for workflows that expect to go to a space by number or place in the ordering. This is a big interruption for people that don't want Mission Control reordering spaces.

Luckily this reordering can be disabled and you can assign shortcuts to go to existing spaces too.

enter image description here

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The Zoom ⊕ button will attempt to maximize

The Zoom button on the windows behaves more like Maximize on Windows OS rather than the old behavior where it usually made the window smaller (or the alternate saved/previous size). Be sure to experiment with the shift key when using the Lion controls.

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I think you'll change your mind once you plug in a second monitor :( – Nick Bedford Jul 27 '11 at 22:46

protected by Community Aug 8 '11 at 18:17

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