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Review: Apple Mac OS X Mountain Lion 10.8

- August 14th, 2012

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After all the buzz and announcements regarding Apple’s Mountain Lion, or OS X 10.8 the OS X’s 9th major release and the over 200 new features it would bring, I couldn’t wait to take it for a test drive. I quickly recalled the events of a year ago during the last major release, Mac OS X Lion. It was then l made the unfortunate choice of sitting and watching the screen anxiously as the new OS downloaded and proceeded to install. So this time, acknowledging the comprehensive update of Apple’s latest cat, which weighs in at a hefty 4.05GB, I decided I would do it a little differently.

 

More iOS Look, Feel & Seamless Integration

What I like about this update in general is it brings further iOS look and feel to the Mac and adds more sense of uniformity across all Apple devices, a trend that began last year with Mac OS X Lion. More specifically, the deeper iCloud integration also allows you to keep your documents, contacts, reminders, alerts etc., in sync, so you can easily access what you need regardless as to which device you’re using and when you’re using it. I like the fact you can save your documents directly to the cloud via iCloud, a feature I enjoyed in DropBox, and that they’re automatically pushed to your online devices.  With iCloud, it’s great that you can start writing your article on your iPhone or iPad while on the road and continue on your Mac when you get back.

After running Disk Utility and completing a full backup, I headed off to the Mac App store, fired it up and went off to sleep.  In the morning, I simply completed the install and within about 1/2 an hour, I was ready to rock. Upon reboot, I noted that very little had changed.  The default Galaxy desktop wallpaper was somewhat more bluish, but the one thing that dawned on me was how much peppier the system was upon startup. It booted faster, launched Safari, Skype and even Microsoft Word quicker than before.

It would be virtually impossible to cover all that Mountain Lion has to offer, so we’ll look at just some of the highlights and my observations. One thing to note is that Mountain Lion will not run on all Macs and not all models that run Mountain Lion are capable of taking advantage of all the 200+ features. Refer to an earlier post, here at CanoeTech – What You Need to Upgrade to Upgrade to Mac OS X Mountain Lion, for more information.

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Airplay

I have to admit the first thing I tried, as I was sitting in my living room, was Airplay, another iOS feature I had become accustomed to on the iPad. Finally, the ability to mirror your entire screen, not just selected photos or videos, and wirelessly run it to your HD TV via Apple TV is so cool!

It’s likely your TV screen and your Mac’s display are not exactly the same so you may need to fine-tune to effectively mirror. You can configure Airplay via System Preferences or when a compatible device like the Apple TV is detected; the Airplay icon can also be configured to show up in the menu bar. You can chose to display a resolution that best matches your built-in display, best for Apple TV or scaled for the best output. As an aside, with Airplay appearing in the menu bar, I noticed you no longer have the option to have your Display settings there.

Beyond video, Airplay also allows you to stream just audio as Apple TV now appears as an Output option in the Sound Preferences.

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Notifications

Notifications is now also a part of the Mac OS. Like the iPhone and iPad you can now get a all your messages, calendar reminders, Mail and Safari notifications and the like, right there in a bubble, like Growl, on the upper right of your screen without having to be taken away from what you’re working on. To see all your Notifications, click the icon situated at the top right corner of your menu bar. It’s the Mac OS answer to the iOS pull down shade. Selecting it will display a drop down of all notifications temporarily shifting everything on your screen an inch or two to the right. You can also enable your trackpad to bring up Notifications with a two-finger swipe “left” from the right edge.

Centralizing notifications, especially on your main computer without being taken away from what you’re working on is key to remaining productive. Being able to customize and control your notifications down to the app level, most via the Notifications Preferences panel, further enhances this.

There are two major setting for Notifications. You can configure Notifications as banners. They pop up and then gently fade away. In the case of need to know, rather than simply nice to know, you can also configure them as alerts, forcing you to physically acknowledge them. You can further choose to display the badge icon and configure whether or not you want a sound to play when receiving.

safari

Safari 6.0

Safari introduces a few new nifty features and one of them is a unified search bar so you can type web addresses and search terms in the same field. If you’ve ever run Google Chrome, this would be familiar to you.

Reading List, a feature introduced with Safari 5 has been enhanced to allow you to read your selections offline. So now when you save them, in most cases even if the entire article spans multiple web pages it will be stored on your computer for later reading even if you’re not connected to the Internet. This is awesome for traveling on a plane or if your connection becomes unavailable.

Safari 6 also introduces Tab View, shown above, allows you to see the contents of all your tabs. A two-finger swipe moves between them. This is much nicer than having to select each tab separately – although I would have liked to have seen a list feature so you need not have to swipe through each one sequentially to get through them.

Two more things – although there are more than that – are the iCloud Tabs, making all your tabs on open devices immediately available as well as the ability to rename a bookmark in the bookmarks bar by simply clicking and holding it. A big thanks for this one!

On another note, the “Empty Cache” function has disappeared from the Safari Menu, something I like to do especially after doing any banking online. However, you can get it back if you enable the Develop Menu. This can be done by selecting: Preferences–>Advanced–>Select: Show Develop menu in menu bar.

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Gatekeeper

In light of all the security breaches we hear about, even with LinkedIn and Dropbox or fake malware masquerading as legitimate software, sometimes having Big Brother watching what’s being installed on your system, may not be a bad idea. Apple wants to help you make sure you are safe from rogue applications and Gatekeeper is a security feature designed to do just that.

To configure, visit the General section of the Security & Privacy Preferences and you can select one of the 3 options:

Only allow apps from Mac App Store; allow apps from App Store plus those that have been recognized by Apple and have been signed and identified with an Apple Developer ID; or you can select “Anywhere” which has no restrictions at all. You will be alerted if an attempt is made to install an App without a valid ID. If you so choose, you can stop or manually override it.

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Sharing

A share button has been added to a number of apps and that means more than being social by simply tweeting or emailing. For example, Preview allows you to email, message and tweet as well as send to Flickr or add to iPhoto. In Safari, you can email, tweet or message a page. Even Quicktime allows you to do this plus go as far as sharing on Facebook, Vimeo and Airdrop wirelessly to another local computer without exiting or changing applications. Sharing options will vary between apps.

Power Nap, available only to the MacBook Pro with Retina Display and late model MacBook Air computers, allows your computer to perform tasks while it sleeps. Like little elves, your computer can perform Time Machine Backups, grab email, calendar and iCloud updates and download Software Updates during your downtime, so you can save time and be ready to install first thing in the morning.  Makes you wonder what the cat can do while the mice are away.

 

Renaming Within Document

The ability to rename a document without having to exit to the Finder is another welcomed addition. In apps like TextEdit and Preview, moving the pointer to the document title reveals a drop arrow and selecting it gives you a menu. Clicking on rename highlights the file name allowing you to change it. Other menu items include duplicating, locking the file and browsing previous versions. You may also move the document to another location including iCloud.

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Other Changes

iChat has been punted and replaced by Messages which takes on the characteristics of iMessage, which allows you to send text, photos and even video to other Mountain Lion or iOS users. Address Book and iCal are replaced with Contacts and Calendar while Reminders and Notes have been pulled from Mail and Calendar and like the iOS versions, stand alone.

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Launchpad has added a search option, helping you find apps quicker and eliminating the need to shuffle through windows. As you begin typing an app’s name, it narrows down the choices available. And if you can’t get enough gaming, Game Centre is no longer restricted to the IPhone, iPad and iPod touch, allowing Mac users to get into the game, too!

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Dictation

I’ll end my review with Dictation, a new feature that allows you to use voice instead of a keyboard to enter text. You simply need to enable it in the System Preferences. You can access it from the Edit menu or use a shortcut (default is “Press Function Key Twice”). This will bring up a mic icon and wherever you have a place to type, simply speak your text instead. While it’s not as full-featured as Dragon Dictate, it does work although you might need to pause to allow uploading if you are dictating large amounts of text.  Special item to note, like Siri, it does require you to be connected to the Internet and if you read the privacy statement, you’ll note that everything you dictate is recorded and transmitted to Apple, because that is where what you say is converted to text.

Just a few

We’ve just touched on some of the 200+ new features in Mac OS X Mountain Lion. While it does have the odd quirk, like getting used to iCloud’s way of storing files and accessing from within the app, the update is still superb! If you have the right Mac model and you can use even one of these or other features, then it’s worth every penny of the $19.99 and then some. Just a reminder, if you did purchase a qualifying Mac after June 11th, you can save your $20 as the Mountain Lion update is free. Grab it now from the Mac App Store.

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Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.

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10 comments

  1. Steve | August 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    They should’ve called it ‘Still Catching Up OS’…. sooooo cool ! And only costs $20 ! Not getting ripped off at all. Apple sucks.

  2. Greg Gazin | August 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Sorry you feel that way, Steve. It’s certainly not a complete rewrite but what can you really buy for $20 these days?

  3. Jeff J | August 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Really Steve? Honestly, do you work for Apple or what? This is nothing more than another review that is so positively lopsided it doesn’t really count as a review, it’s advertising. Why don’t you point out what it doesn’t do or what Apple has changed or removed altogether, because that has been their mandate for the last few years. All the new software is geared towards getting people to buy buy buy from the App store. Stop wasting our time by calling this a review. I’ve been using Apple computers for 20 years, and they are really letting me down. Enjoy the toys kids.
    JJ

  4. Greg Gazin | August 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Jeff,

    There are so many new features, it would be impossible to go through them all. For the most part, they are all good. I however did note that Apple removed the Display Settings from the menu bar as well as the Empty Cache feature from Safari which I used frequently. I also pointed out that you are required to have an Internet connection to get Dictation to work and that everything is transmitted to Apple. So it’s not all Apple Fanboy verbiage. I’m sorry you feel the review is lopsided, but I’m actually quite happy with the update. As for the Toys & Kids comment, work wise, I’m quite productive with my Mac and I am over 18 years old. And one more thing, who is Steve? Do you mean Jobs? Thanks for reading and for your comments.

  5. Steph | August 18, 2012 at 1:05 am

    I personally like this review, it’s well written and informative. It’s not perfect but who cares! It’s a free review that provides good information.

    People of the net are so cynical!

  6. Greg Gazin | August 18, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Thanks Steph! Glad you enjoyed it and found it informative. I never claim to be perfect, but as a lifelong learner, I always strive to improve!

  7. Steph | August 19, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Hey Greg,

    Quick question for you (I know it’s not the place but I can’t find your email).
    I have a macbook Air that I love but not surprisingly it does not have enough disk space. Should I go with the pricy Time capsule (2 TB at 300$) or something like the WD My Book Essentials at almost half the price (also 2TB)? I can afford paying the difference… I just hate spending money if it’s not worth it.
    Big thanks.

  8. Greg Gazin | August 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Steph,

    Click on my name at the bottom of the post and you get my email address.

    In short, to answer your question, Time Capsule is a hard drive plus a lot more. It provides wireless backup for all your networked devices, drive sharing and it acts like a dual band Airport Express.

    Specs here: http://www.apple.com/ca/timecapsule/specs.html

    To answer your question: if you would like to have wireless capabilities and can possibly use some of these features, then Time Capsule will fit the bill. If you are simply looking for backup at a low cost, go with a hard drive. For future considerations, I would suggest one that is either USB 3 or upgradeable to USB 3, as it looks like things are going that way and USB 3 is much faster.

  9. Steph | August 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I bought the WD My BooK live and will hook it up on my router.

    Thanks for your advices.

  10. Greg Gazin | August 21, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Steph, backups are always a good thing, enjoy!

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