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Mountain Lion Day 3

Entry 1419, on 2012-07-31 at 14:37:52 (Rating 1, Computers)

I installed Apple's latest operating system as soon as it was available. Yes that was on my main work computer - that was how confident I was that Apple would not release a buggy and incompatible operating system, and it seems I was right.

Compatibility is very good. I have about 300 applications installed on my machine and only one (Parallels) needed upgrading before it would run. I do spend time almost every day updating software and trying out new versions though, so I am probably not a typical user.

Reliability is also impressive. I have had absolutely no issues with crashes, hangs, or failures of any other kind so far, at least nothing beyond the minor issues you might get from some programs anyway. I do have some complex and extensive setups with calendars, email, and other Mac and Unix stuff, so if anyone was going to get problems it should be me. On the other hand I don't use any Microsoft products (although Office is installed) so I do have an advantage over many others because of that!

Performance is a difficult thing to measure but I do get the impression that things might be a little bit speedier in places. I wouldn't be surprised if this was totally subjective though so I would need to wait for benchmarks to know for sure. On the other hand things certainly don't seem any slower.

The new features of Mountain Lion aren't overwhelming. This is an incremental improvement rather than a revolutionary change. I guess that is the main reason that the compatibility is so good. But while many changes are subtle they are still very worthwhile. The way I measure how useful an update is is by how much I miss it when I go back to an earlier system. When I go back to 10.7 Lion there are already Mountain Lion features I miss.

So let's have a look at some of them. For many years I have had a system called "Growl" installed in my Mac. It sends notifications (calendar events, new email, etc) to the user via a small, floating window. With Mountain Lion's notification center I don't need Growl any more. I do admit Growl covered a much wider range of events but the new implementation of notifications is very elegant so I think it will become more useful over time.

A major improvement for Mac users who also have iPads or iPhones is iCloud integration. This allows email, calendars, notes, and documents to be synchronised between multiple devices. In the earlier OS this worked OK for everything except documents but now certain programs can directly open and save documents into the cloud. Save a Mac Pages document to iCloud and you can open it shortly afterwards in Pages on an iPad, for example. The key point here is the phrase "certain programs" because this is not widely supported. For people who use non-Apple software Dropbox or a similar sharing program might be a better choice.

Apple have implemented a security model similar to the iOS devices. A Mac can be set up to only install and run programs from the app store, or only from registered developers, or from anyone. The last option is what happened previously and is the one power users like me will use, but the extra security of the other two might be useful for many users. This model has worked well on the iPhone where there are far less malware threats than on the more open Android platform.

There are other, more minor improvements everywhere. The layout of Calendars (which was previously called iCal) and Contacts (previously Address Book) has changed just enough to make them far easier to use. They still look like their iPad equivalents, and many people don't like that, but at least the sources (calendar list or address sources and distribution lists) are much easier to manage now (more like they were before the changes in Lion). Safari has a unified search bar (especially useful for Chrome users like me who were inclined to type Google searches in the URL area). And Preview fills out forms and has other enhancements.

Many of the new programs have a "share" feature which allows you to quickly email a link, send a file over AirDrop, post a tweet, or in the near future make a Facebook post directly from the program such as Safari or Preview.

The Finder behaves better too. Positioning icons when moving from one view to another is more predictable, and destination icons for files being copied show a progress bar and a small cross to cancel the copy - that's cool.

There are plenty of feature lists out there so there's probably not much point in continuing to list the new features here. All I will say in conclusion is that if you have a reasonably new and decently specced Mac (mine is a MacBook Pro i7 with 8G of RAM) you would probably not regret the US$20 upgrade to Mountain Lion.

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Comment 1 (3304) by OJB on 2012-07-31 at 14:52:41:

Oh, and one more thing (I do miss Steve)...

The new screensaver modules are pretty cool. They display pictures using a variety of interesting transition effects. My favourite is "Sliding Panels".

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