Apple OS X Mountain Lion – First Impressions

You don’t have to look very hard on the Internet to find reviews of Mountain Lion, Apple’s new revision of the OS X operating system.

This review is slightly different. As a cynical, old school techie, I’m never particularly wowed by or interested in sparkly new features. All that really concerns me is exactly how upgrading my Mac’s operating system will affect my day-to-day computing life. So, that is the angle I’m coming from with this report.

On Early Adoption

I had a bad experience when I upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion. Lion slowed down my laptop and, initially, I cursed myself for being an early adopter. I should qualify this by saying that after installing a few OS revisions and upgrading my RAM to 8GB, I was once again perfectly happy with the performance of my MacBook Pro.

With this previous experience in mind, I’m not really sure why I jumped at Mountain Lion so soon after release, but a contributing factor was that the Mac forums gave me little to worry about. Many people reported performance improvements and nobody seemed to be complaining about anything of significance. So, after a good cleanup of my applications and files, I crossed my fingers and hit the download button.

Installation and Getting Started

The installation itself made me doubt my bold decision, especially as I went for an upgrade install rather than the “clean installation” that many people champion. During the installation process, the progress bar seemed to stall many times, and once the remaining time went down to “under a minute” it stayed there for over half and hour while I wore down my fingernails and cursed myself for being an early adopter once again.

My blood pressure didn’t go down after the first successful boot either. My Mac was horrifically slow at first, but this turned out to be due to the Spotlight search facility completing an initial index of my system. Once this was done, performance was back to normal.

Once I was using my Mac normally once again, I found little to initially impress me. In fact the only noticeable differences were slight graphical changes to the icon dock and the addition of the notifications bar, an import from iOS which collates notifications from various apps and puts them all in an easily accessible place.

OS X Mountain Lion Running on a MacBook Pro
OS X Mountain Lion Running on a MacBook Pro

I’m not massively sold on the idea of notifications as part of a computer operating system, but I have grown used to seeing the subject line of new emails popping up in the corner of my screen. Outlook on Windows used to do this and it is a useful timesaver. Beyond this, however, I have felt no need to click the notifications button. Still, it’s there, it doesn’t bother me and I have noticed no performance implication.

Performance

On the subject of performance, I can subjectively say that the overall “snappiness” of my system seems slightly improved compared to OS X Lion – things certainly haven’t got any worse. Boot time may be slightly faster, but it’s still not back to Snow Leopard standards. I accept that a clean install would probably change this, but have neither the time nor inclination to do this now.

New Features

In terms of additional features, there’s little that has jumped out at me to date, although I do, of course, know about the numerous subtle enhancements. I am aware that Safari has had a substantial upgrade, so I did switch all my browsing over to it for a day or two – but, as I type, I am back with Google Chrome as I adore its fast simplicity.

One feature that has truly wowed me it is the new Apple dictation facility. Having had horrible experiences with systems such as DragonDictate, I didn’t expect much from it. However, it has delivered almost 100% accuracy every time I’ve tried it. Now all I need to do is get used of forming my thoughts so that I can actually dictate into my computer without getting flustered. Once I do, I can see myself making plenty of use of this feature.

As I said at the start of this review, my move to Mountain Lion was less about trying out every tiny new feature and more about how the upgrade might improve my day-to-day experience on my Mac. With this criteria in mind, my upgrade experience is favourable if not particularly exciting.

Conclusion

While I’m aware of other features that I may eventually use, such as Twitter integration and AirPlay, for now I am simply satisfied that I did the right thing by upgrading. Apple seem to have the first iteration of Mountain Lion right, which makes me look forward to the gradual improvements across subsequent revisions.

While Mountain Lion may not be an essential upgrade, it’s certainly not one to be unduly wary of.

Is Apple Turning OS X into iOS?

Last week saw Apple announcing the arrival of the latest Mac OS X revision, Mountain Lion, which will be released later this year.

Apple’s website clearly states that Mountain Lion will have “all new features, inspired by the iPad.” These include the Game Center, Notification Center, and system-wide Twitter integration that already exists on iDevices.

A quick glance at the Apple forums reveals that this announcement has polarized Mac users, with some techies and power users rather vocal regarding the fact they don’t want to see their beloved OS X morphing further into iOS.

The iOS-ification of OS X began with OS X Lion, with its iPhone-like LaunchPad and natural scrolling. The thing is, quite a lot of long-term Apple users still strongly dislike Lion, feeling that is represents a consumer-focused dumbing down of a powerful operating system.

The incredible success of the iPhone and iPad has enticed many people into the world of Apple products for the first time. It makes sense that Apple would love to see some of the thousands who have swapped their Nokias and Motorolas for iPhones also swap their Windows PCs for MacBooks and iMacs. Making the operating system on these machines closely resemble the iOS that these people already know and love is a logical thing to do to hook them in.

OS X Mountain Lion
OS X Mountain Lion

Meanwhile though, some of the Apple hardcore (who have been paying premium prices for Apple kit since people had Sony Walkmans instead of iPods) are getting frustrated with what appears to be Apple’s focus on the mainstream market at the expense of the hardcore. A similar reaction was seen amongst serious Nintendo fans when, in the middle of its lifecycle, the Wii became a platform for casual games like Just Dance rather than deep gaming experiences.

Despite the vociferousness of the doubters, the increasing iOS-like feel to OS X doesn’t actually prevent anyone from carrying out any specific task on a Mac. However, it would be hard to argue that OS X Lion is as lean and slick as its refined predecessor, Snow Leopard. Shiny, user-friendly features add bloat to an operating system. It’s unlikely that writers and graphic designers want a Game Centre – they want a computer that is as fast as it can possibly be – and they don’t want Apple hiding the filesystem by default either.

The sense of anticipation that Apple manage to cultivate with their secrecy regarding new developments is this time leading some Apple fans to get a little twitchy about the future. Dropping the “Mac” from OS X is even leading some to speculate that the MacBook Pro line will cease to exist.

OS X Mountain Lion Will Drop the

For some, Apple announcing Mountain Lion when they are not perceived to have “fixed” Lion yet is a serious blow. Many users share concerns about Lion’s overall speed and stability, and dislike changes in functionality related to Spaces and Mission Control. Apple could do much to silence the doubters by putting some more work into these widely discussed issues – but the announcement of Mountain Lion, to some, seems like final confirmation that Apple intend to stick to their guns with regard to the direction the operating system is taking.

Ultimately all companies need to make money. The worst case scenario for the dissatisfied power users is that Apple have simply decided that hooking in the iPhone-loving consumers at the expense of the techies and the designers will make them more profit. The fact that Apple have seemingly neglected to update the Mac Pro line in some time only serves to add fuel to this fire.

As ever, no one will know what’s in store until Apple’s next huge announcement. Apple have been riding an unparalleled wave of success of late, but history tells us that no company is immune to an unexpected backlash. With some parties already considering Lion to be Apple’s Vista moment, what happens next could lead some militant Mac fanboys in the direction of Windows 8. It’s certainly an interesting time.

How to Add an OS X 10.5 Computer to a Windows Domain

This article will guide you through the steps required to connect a computer running OS X 10.5 to a Windows domain, allowing you to login using your Active Directory credentials. Since Active Directory is so widely used, it is useful to be able to set up any computers running OS X to authenticate through it.

Step 1: Open the Directory Utility tool, which can be found under Applications -> Utilities -> Directory Utilities or by searching for it through the Finder.

osx_windowsdomain_directoryutility

Step 2: Click on the Services tab, and make sure the Active Directory service is enabled. You may have to click on the lock in the bottom left corner and enter local administrator credentials to be able to make changes. Next, click on the Configure button.

osx_windowsdomain_configure

Step 3: Enter in the address for the Domain you wish to connect to, and a name for the computer you are working on. Under the Advanced Options, you can check ‘Create mobile account at login’ and uncheck ‘Require confirmation before creating a mobile account’ if you want the computer to cache credentials locally, allowing users who have previously logged in to login even if there is no network access. Click Bind and enter proper network credentials. The computer should now show up in Active Directory under the name you gave it.

osx_windowsdomain_domain

Step 4: Ensure that the login preferences are set to require a user to type in a username and password. This can be configured by navigating to System Preferences -> Accounts and clicking on the Login Options tab.

osx_windowsdomain_login

That’s all there is to it! Any user logging in will now be authenticated through Active Directory.