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Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

Mountain Lion makes your Mac a bit more like an iPad

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2012 First published in Business in Vancouver August 9, 2012 Issue #1189 High Tech Office column

A few years back, Apple dropped the word “computer” from its corporate name, a reflection of the growth of mobile devices. In the company’s 2012 third quarter, Apple sold 43 million iPhones and iPads versus four million Macs.

Mac sales, however, are continuing to grow at a time when sales of PCs overall are flat. Now Apple has fast-tracked development of the OS X operating system for its Macintosh computers, releasing the latest version – OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – on July 25, just a year after the previous version, Lion.

Lion added features to make desktop and notebook Macs look and feel more like iOS-powered iPads and dropped compatibility with some older Mac applications. Quite a few Mac-users resisted its charms, choosing to stick with 2009’s OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

Mountain Lion continues the iOS-ification trend. Some of it is simple renaming: what used to be “Address Book,” “iCal” and “iChat” are now “Contacts,” “Calendar” and “Messaging” like on the iPad and iPhone. New on the Mac are iOS Reminders and Notes. iPad-like AirPlay Mirroring lets users wirelessly display presentations, videos and more on an HDTV screen (making use of Apple’s $99 iTV) – but this only works on recent Macs.

Save a note on your Mac and it appears on your iPad via the iCloud service – one of the ways Mountain Lion ties Macs and iOS devices together. Contacts, calendar entries and Safari bookmarks are similarly synched. Apple applications now offer to save documents to iCloud’s Document Library.

Also new to the Mac but familiar to iOS device owners: a Sharing button in application toolbars. Click on this icon to share current content – to an email message, a social media site or other options. Apple has integrated Twitter support throughout Mountain Lion; Facebook support is promised. Both the Sharing button and iCloud saving should appear in third-party apps soon.

Among what Apple claims as 200 new features is system-wide dictation, giving users the option to speak instead of typing into any application. Important caveat – this only works when the computer has an online connection. Security feature Gatekeeper limits software installations to those applications sold by Apple and its registered developers.

Like Lion, Mountain Lion does not support Mac applications developed for older PowerPC processors. If you rely on these you should either avoid Mountain Lion or look for replacement for those applications.

I had some applications that ran fine under Lion – including Parallels virtualization software and the utility to connect to DropBox’s online storage – that failed after I installed Mountain Lion; downloading newer versions corrected these incompatibilities. (RoaringApps.com is collecting compatibility reports and may be worth a visit first.)

You won’t find boxed versions of Mountain Lion for sale at retail outlets; it’s only available as a four-gigabyte, $20 download from Apple’s App Store (or pre-installed on a new Mac). A purchase for personal use can be installed on as many Macs as you own. Upgrading is smooth and takes an hour or two.

Mountain Lion is a relatively modest evolution of Lion. In my tests, it seems faster and more stable. For those reasons – and the low price – I recommend it for any Mac owner running Lion. If you’re still running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, you can upgrade directly to Mountain Lion. But if you chose to avoid Lion, you may choose to avoid Mountain Lion as well.