Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Tips, Tricks and Disappointments

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…

iCloud Integration

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.

Facebook in OSX Mountain Lion Safari

Facebook in OSX Mountain Lion Safari

Facebook in OSX Mountain Lion Notifications

Facebook in OSX Mountain Lion Notifications



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”.

Facebook Sharing - No, You Can't Yet!

Facebook Sharing – No, You Can’t Yet!

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.

Google Integration

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.

Notification Center

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!

AirDrop in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

AirDrop in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

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.

Safari Improvements

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.

Voice dictation

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!

AirPlay Mirroring

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!!!

PowerNap

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 efficient

Power Nap works whether your Mac is plugged into an AC power outlet or is using battery power.

Silent operation

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…

Comments

  1. says

    I have a 2GHZ I7, 8GB, Macbook Air that was upgraded to 10.8. Its terrible,.. It hangs while typing. Video playback is very poor ,.. with colored squares instead of video,..

  2. James Moser says

    Mountain Lion mail has some serious issue with Exchange server at the moment. If you use an Exchange Account with Mail, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading just yet. The Rules don’t really seem to work consistently either. If you use your machine for work, I would recommend waiting in general anyways…. Mountain Lion has dumped me to the Login screen a couple of times for no apparent reason and would not allow me to log back in, had to reboot.

  3. says

    I make heavy use of some less common tools like gpg for Mail.app, FUSE with encfs, etc. . Many of them did not work a long time when I upgraded from leopard to snow leopard so I stay with snow leopard as long as I can and hope that there are working versions when I have to upgrade. Just to be sure I will switch to Fedora Linux wherever I can but I might not be able to do that everywhere.

  4. Chris says

    The lack of audio for airplay is a little sad. I like to airplay my movies and doing that outside of iTunes would of been nice.

  5. says

    I’m annoyed that they won’t let most people access Lion on the App Store anymore.
    To bar me from downloading and installing an app I PAID for (and only a year ago!) is complete baloney. Apple needs to restore my purchase to the app store so that their customers can install this on older hardware (or if they simply want to).

    • James Moser says

      If you purchased Lion, it should still show up under “Purchases”. Did you accidentally hide it? You can check by under “Store => View My Account”, then login, under “iTunes in the Cloud” (I don’t know why its named that way… someone didn’t bother updating it from the itunes account page info???) click on “View Hidden Purchases”

  6. friqle says

    I tried iCloudTabs, but it seems it will just work with iOS 6 in autumn, right now it is not working for me ;(

  7. says

    I really love the dictation on the Mac. I think it is really great. Also the twitter integration is very good.

    Does this mean that we don’t need growl at all any more because of notification centre ?

  8. Randall Sexton says

    This sucks big time! Downloaded Mountain Lion and now my Safari window fills the entire screen. No way to reduce it? Can’t go anywhere. Even when I restart it pops right back up. What gives?

  9. Bill Eisenman says

    Well, It sure was difficult to actually download and install Mountain Lion in the first place. I have a Mid 2009 MacBook Pro and when I tried to purchase and download Mountain Lion I rec’d this error message which state that We could not complete your purchase. The product distribution file could not be verified. It may be damaged or was not signed. Obviously, that error was complete hogwash because others were downloading and installing Mountain Lion all ove the world. I for one have several Macs and so I was successful in purchasing and downloading the Mountain Lion Install on my 8 mos old Macbook 13 Air. However since I couldn’t even download the purchase to my other MacBook, I cheated a bit and copied the Install Media to a USB external Hard Drive and Ejecting prior to performing the install. After Installing it on my MacBook Air, I booted my Mid2009 MacBook 17 and copied the Mountain Lion install media to the applications directory from the USB Hard Drive and again ejected the Drive. Finally I executed the install media and installed Mountain Lion without a hitch. My only problem was the fact that Java for OSX is not installed by default. This is a problem as my company uses Juno Pulse for Secure VPN access. To remedy this you must download and install JavaForOSX from Apple and then after toggling the Allow Application downloaded from Anywhere on the General Tab of the Security & Privacy Settings in System Preferences, I was able to install Junos and All of the other software from my company to run the secure VPN correctly. After, just to be safe, I reselected the Allow Applications downloaded from to be Mac App Store and identified developers (the default). Overall though, I like Mountain Lion So Far.

  10. Peter says

    Lost the use of VMware Fusion. The release I was running was not supported and the app was moved to an “Unsupported Application” folder. Neither the upgrade or VMware made me aware of this incompatibility until after I upgraded. Now I’m not sure how to get to the supported version installed without losing all of the data I had in the old VM.

    • Jeff says

      I have the same scenario. I have been reading forums of what steps to take next to preserve my previous windows setup from VM3. No information found and the hold time at VM is ridiculous.
      Please advise if you have any fortune with preserving the previously installed windows partition and files.

  11. Ashton says

    So this guy doesn’t know how to use email and also didn’t know the Facebook wasn’t coming until the fall? Pretty sure everyone and my 2 year old nephew knew that…

  12. says

    Look out for the legacy systems gotcha’s if you plan to upgrade. Certain 3rd party apps need updating e.g. Parallels, and that whizzy AirPlay mirroring does not work on any kit bought before 2011. Have a read of all the unhappy upgraders on the Apple website. Have to say I find my Office 2004 apps run faster on a G4 Silverlight tower under 10.4.11 (Tiger) than some of the newer versions on newer kit with newer versions of the OS.

    • says

      I was excited about that AirPlay, but found out quickly on the Apple support forums (after the upgrade) about the cutoff on the hardware. Wasn’t too happy about it, but not a deal killer.

      To those interested AirParrot (http://airparrot.com/) will do the AirPlay as an alternative on the older Macs. It will cost additional $9 or $10 though.

  13. says

    I have to disagree with you on the GMail comment. I run 5 different GMail (Google Apps) accounts inside Mail.app and they work fine. You do have to do a little work telling each which GMail folders to use for trash, spam, etc but that takes just a few minutes at first and then you forget about it. Trying to deal with multiple accounts in the browser interface is just awful so I’ll take Mail.app any day.

    Other than that, I’m really enjoying the update. I did 4 laptops here yesterday without a hitch (3 in-place upgrades and 1 wipe and install).

    • says

      I found that the built in Mail.app is kinda kludgy when dealing with Gmail’s alternative implementation of IMAP and general lack of features. Sparrow is a far superior Gmail desktop client than Mail.app, but sadly it is no longer in development as of last week. Hopefully Google buying Sparrow will mean they will release an actual Gmail desktop client someday.

  14. Tyler says

    You can’t ever delete default apps on the iPad, iPhone, iPod, or the Mac, why is that a surprise?

  15. Florin says

    I’m liking Mountain Lion a lot, but there is one thing that I’m really missing, which is the support of RSS feeds. I got a long list of RSS feeds in Safari, which are now useless.
    I know that there are many RSS clients in the App Store, but they all act as a separate app, I wan’t something that shows the new articles in the notification center.
    Suggestions for a good RSS solution are welcome.

  16. Dylan says

    You can use Terminal to get rid of required applications. That’s how I got rid of iTunes.

    For Photo Booth:
    sudo rm -rfd /Applications/Photo\ Booth.app

  17. says

    You mentioned they didn’t add the “Save As” back into Mountain Lion but they actually did, although they made it hard to find. I guess they didn’t want to screw up other people’s workflows who got used to using “Duplicate”.

    To use “Save As”, click “File” and hold down the Option key; the Duplicate command changes to Save As. Or you can use the shortcut Option-Shift-Command-S.

  18. Jon C says

    See that triangle next to Gmail — click it, and you will likely see your messages.

  19. Oz says

    The PowerNap thing does seem to be working. I was just freaking out listening to the Time Capsule hard drive churning while the little Air was closed up until I realized what was going on. The massive post OS backup did in fact kick off while the machine was sleeping. As for the other bits that are supposed to work while napping, I got nothing.
    – oz

  20. Kristoff says

    Save As is back…
    But you have to hold down the “option” key and click File.

    • James Moser says

      Actually, you can get Save As back AND disable auto save. Open Terminal and enter:

      defaults write -g ApplePersistence -bool false

      Exit any of your Apple Apps (TextEdit, Preview, .. ) and reopen. I was so happy to find this!! It doesn’t seem like a lot of people are aware of it so I make it a point to try and spread the word. =)

      • Tim says

        You are my absolute hero of the day! Without your particular approach, the new “Save As . . .” did not really work as it should. It would end up altering the original document. Not a good thing. Your approach, however, appears to make things actually work as they should. Thanks much!