I was among the first people to download and install the newly released Mac OS X version 10.8, codenamed Mountain Lion, today when it first came out. As a result, I waited for hours and hours for the 4+ GB file to download, then spent another 45 minutes or so actually letting the system go dark while it installed and updated everything. Oh! And I already downloaded and installed the first system patch, just hours later… Question is, was it worth it?
For many people today’s $20 operating system upgrade is absolutely worth it. Especially if you skipped the previous 10.7 (Lion) update. Mountain Lion will be a culmination of hundreds of updates all rolled into one, for a measly $20.
And although you can only get the update through the built in App Store, you’ll be able to install it on multiple computers with a single purchase – as long as those computers are attached to your Apple account.
There are so many updates, and I don’t want to bore you with things like the fact iMessage is built into the OS. (Seriously, use Skype or Adium or something cross platform). So I’m just going to focus on some of my favorite features and we’ll skip the rest, Ok? Thanks. Here we go…
If you’re an Apple user through and through, and especially if you tend to use Apple default services, iCloud is going to be great for you. Take a picture on your iPhone and it will sync it to your laptop and iPad. Update a document in one place, it changes everywhere. This is the promise of “the cloud”, realized.
Of course, Apple only gives you 5GB for free. And it’s ONLY going to work on your Apple devices/software. And you can’t really control which folders are syncing, or where they are syncing… So, why not just use Dropbox? You can get up to 18GB of free storage, it integrates with iOS, Windows, Android, Blackberry… heck even the Kindle Fire. iCloud does work with the AppleTV though. So you gotta give it that.
Twitter and Facebook integration
Apple’s marketing department is clearly really excited about Facebook’s 800 million users. If you view their Mountain Lion video they make a huge deal about it. I count multiple instances in that one video where they demonstrate Facebook integration.
So, imagine my surprise when I searched and searched for how to turn on Facebook integration, only to later read the very fine print and discover this feature isn’t coming until “fall”.
Oh well, I’m not that into Facebook anyway (friend me here). But at least Twitter is integrated! (follow me here). The strange thing is that in order to add your Twitter account you have to go to SETTINGS ==> Mail, Contacts and Calendars.
Isn’t that strange? Vimeo, the video sharing service, is also in there. Why didn’t they make a Social Media settings area? I can see it now… people are going to have a hard time finding their Twitter settings.
Apple added Google integration in Mail, Contacts and Calendar. Or at least they theoretically added it. The good news is that Calendar syncs with your Google calendar. The neutral news is that contacts just don’t sync. The bad news is that Gmail support is nothing short of awful. Here is what my Mail looks like after sitting open for about 15 minutes:
Yep. Just empty. The IMAP functionality should be displaying what is on the G-Mail server, but its just not. So stick with the gMail.com web interface.
In order to get any sort of system wide notifications in the past we used to use a little app called Growl. It was something you had to download and install. But with Mountain Lion there is a built in notifications system.
You have the option to select how notifications act. For example, you can turn them off, or receive banners that go away after a while, or alerts that stay on screen. You can also send a Tweet directly from here, and later I suppose make a Facebook update.
AirDrop Wirelessly Transfers Files
Ok, ok, I know this is from the 10.7 upgrade. But a lot of people skipped that one! So be aware that MacOS now includes a nifty feature that lets you turn on WiFi and see any machine around you!
Then, just drop a file on the icon and – voila! It works great. Of course, if all of the machines you want to share between are your own, you can accomplish this with Dropbox as well. So it’s probably best for sharing with other people.
One area where I see some great improvements is in the Safari browser. Though I still recommend Chrome for a variety of reasons, Safari is my backup browser and I use it all the time. One feature I really enjoy, though there isn’t a particular need, is the ability to pinch and swipe between tabs.
Imagine the way an iPad scrolls through multiple tabs. You pinch the screen, and then the window kind of backs out to reveal multiple pages as you swipe the screen to scroll through them sideways. Just do that on your trackpad. It works. Well.
Another nice feature is iCloud tab syncing. If you choose to, you can have Safari tabs synchronized between your devices. So if you have tabs open on your desktop you can leave it for your iPad and, like magic, the tabs are open there too! Chrome has this same ability buried in the options, so its nice that two major browsers support this feature. Of course, Chrome will also do it across platforms – Windows, Mac, etc.
I’ll admit, I bought the Mountain Lion upgrade for this one feature alone. The promise of eliminating typing for a number of tasks is tantalizing. I really enjoy voice commands on my Android phone, so I was anxious to try it out on the Mac.
I can’t say I used voice dictation to narrate this entire post, but I have done quite a bit of it. And it’s working pretty well. I think it works better than my experience with Siri, and I put it on par with anything I’ve experienced on the android platform.
Very simply, Mac OS X allows you to double tap FN to dictate. Just start talking, then single tap when you’re done.
To improve quality, the internal fans spins down while you’re talking. But I’m guessing that really doesn’t matter if you are in a noisy environment. The fans aren’t going to be the thing to get you. And of course, there are a lot of places where you can’t use it. Like anywhere other people are within earshot!
One very nice feature is the ability to beam your screen to a bigger TV nearby if you happen to have an AppleTV connected to it. For this reason alone, every boardroom in the world should have an AppleTV for presentations. Oh, and put one in your living room for games and movies!
This has to be one of the best executed features I found in the new updates. When an AppleTV is in range, a little icon appears at the top of the screen, and you simply choose it.
The sharing simply takes over the TV with no ado. The best thing is that full motion video works fine, and audio is also transmitted through the TV. So you can absolutely watch movies wirelessly via your TV. Brilliant!!!
This is the freakiest of the new updates, but it only works for a few hardware platforms. Luckily the MacBook Air is one of them. I haven’t yet been able to try this out, but apple claims:
Ready when you are
With Power Nap, your Mac sleeps but your applications stay up to date. So you have the latest information — such as mail, notes, reminders, and messages — when your Mac wakes up.
Backups and updates
Power Nap performs Time Machine backups to Time Capsule and downloads OS X software updates while your Mac sleeps, so you can begin installing as soon as you wake it up.
Power Nap works whether your Mac is plugged into an AC power outlet or is using battery power.
Power Nap refreshes the data on your Mac silently; no fans or lights come on.
I can’t wait to see how these things work, and hopefully if I leave my computer asleep but not plugged in over night I won’t wake up to find a dead battery!
Things I Still Hate
- At the top of the list is Autosave. Yes, for those of you who skipped 10.7, Apple took away the SAVE functionality in favor of an automatic saving “feature”. Even the SAVE AS command disappeared. This is something I use a lot when I have an image and I resize it or want to convert it to another format. Instead, now you have to EXPORT it. It’s just the stupidest thing ever. It wasn’t broken before, but that didn’t stop them from fixing it anyway. They claim the SAVE AS is back, but I don’t see it in Preview. So it’s not.
- Time Machine. Uugh. Love the concept! A machine that is basically just always backed up? Fantastic. But they didn’t make it any easier to backup to a network. They didn’t allow us to change the damn frequency so that it’s not perpetually hogging up resources (I don’t need an hourly backup!). They just need to pay some attention here. Big time.
- Lack of ability to delete preinstalled CRAP. Like Photo Booth. Really?!? It’s required?
Ok, I’m going to wrap it up now. Suffice it to say that you should definitely spend the $20 and do the upgrade. It doesn’t seem to have hurt my machines in any way, and it added a lot of little things. Despite my whining here and there I still think that for home users or people heavily centered around media creation (photography and video) Macs are the way to go. Though Windows still rules the corporate environment and that ain’t changing any time soon.
But that’s a debate for another day… If you upgraded how about contributing your thoughts for the good of the many? And if you didn’t, tell us why you’re holding out? Because I know it’s not over $20…