OSX Mountain Lion

July 25th, 2012, Apple released the latest upgrade to their operating system (OSX) named Mountain Lion. This update has over 200 new features and/or enhancements to the previous major release, OSX Lion. The upgrade is available via the Mac App Store on Macbooks and desktop systems alike for $19.99. But what does an average user gain from this upgrade? Are there any features we absolutely need or will find useful? I’ll go over a few I find cool, interesting and useful below – and in no particular order.

But first, let me point out that this upgrade has really improved my system performance. I have a mid-2011 13″ Macbook Pro, and since installing Mountain Lion, I can tell a huge difference in the way my laptop runs. Right off the bat, it boots up faster, runs smoother when launching and switching between multiple applications, my internet speed is faster, the Safari browser is lighting fast now and hasn’t hung on me once. Not only that, but shut down and restarts are executed in the blink of an eye. This Macbook wasn’t that fast and smooth when I first took it out of the box. Seriously!

Now as far as all those new features and improvements. I’m not a hardcore computer user. I may on occasion burn a CD, hardly ever mess with DVDs of any sort, play a few games, use word processing and browse the web and a couple of social networking sites. So right off the bat, the first thing I notice is Twitter integration. I now tweet more because it can be done at the click of a button. By clicking your mouse on the Message Center icon on the toolbar, you have instant Twitter access. My tweet productivity has increased, not that that is a good thing.

The Notification Center is pulled from the mobile OS of the iPhone and iPad. Same use – all your messages and notifications show up there with a little toast that pops up when something new arrives. It is accessed  by an icon located on the far right of your status toolbar. Clicking on that slides your screen over to reveal the Notification Center. It would be nice if it automatically pulled messages in like the iPhone and iPad do, but to get Mail alerts, Twitter alerts, etc, those programs have to be running in the background from what experience I’ve had so far to tell.

Airplay Mirroring is a pretty slick trick. Even my wife liked it! Airplay Mirroring is the ability to wirelessly stream the image on my Macbook to another Airplay enabled device. In my case, I can sit on my couch, turn on my Apple TV and activate Airplay Mirroring on my Macbook, and our 47″ television become my monitor. It’s pretty sweet, a cool little gimmick. The only issue I had was when trying to test out graphically intense – by my standards – software, such as games or videos. The streaming gets a little jerky, lags and even freezes at times. Still, that could possibly all fall to how I have my network set up, I suppose, so I’ll accept some blame on that one ;)

iCloud is everywhere you click in Mountain Lion. I clicked on my Pages icon to bring what I was working on to the front window yesterday, and suddenly iCloud was letting me know that all of my Pages documents could be synced to iCloud for access on my other devices. Even Safari has a dedicated Cloud button now that will go as far as to show you open tabs on your other devices that you’ve been browsing. That could be awkward, I suppose, depending on what you like to look at … yeah … Anyways, as I was saying, iCloud is being shoved down your throat in this release, and if the free 5GB is good enough for you, and if you are using more than one Apple device, I guess that isn’t a bad thing at all. Having access to certain files no matter where you are or what you are on is a handy feature. Personally, I sync bookmarks, some photos, notes, address contacts and whatnot. Nothing fancy. I don’t even think I use a total of 1GB of my 5.

Also on the iCloud subject, it has a nice web-interface. Either I was just never aware of this, or it is something new that came along with Mountain Lion, but it is pretty cool. If you sign in to iCloud online, you have a nice graphical desktop-like setting with a few options. Mail, Calendar, Find My Device, Contacts, Work, etc. I’ve never used the Find My Device feature before, but trying it out was pretty nifty. The ability to send a signal to lock and/or erase important data from your iPad, iPhone or even MacBook is an awesome feature to have at hand. And the fact that it can locate the device on a nice detailed map? SWEET!

Notes has been added to this release. I use Notes all the time on my iPhone, so to have them synced and accessible from the Dock on my laptop is extremely handy. I have, at times, had the computer open in front of me and my iPhone in hand trying to copy information. Nice addition. Reminders are here, too. Type it in one place and have access while out and about. This just seems like such a handy, unified release of software to make things flow so much easier whether you are a business person or just a regular Joe.

For the gaming community, Game Center has a presence on the Mac. While there doesn’t seem to be a lot of games that take advantage of the program on the Mac right now (there are some, though) you still have access to your Game Center friends list, game achievements and scores, game suggestions, etc. I’m looking forward to more integration with Mac games, including some – hopefully – bigger name releases.

Safari is also much faster, has the iCloud integration button for picking up browsing tabs from other devices and now features a prominent button for sharing addresses and sites with friends via Facebook, Twitter or email with a couple of clicks.

So, there you go. While not a professional and in-depth review of the operating system, I figured I’d share a regular guy’s opinions on a few of the more stand out features. Overall, OSX Mountain Lion’s release is a welcome one and has somehow tweaked my (still fairly) new Macbook with a breath of fresh air. Faster, cleaner, sleeker and ready to kick a little butt. And at a very reasonable $20, heck, you can’t shake a stick at that – well, you could, but what would be the point? For a more rich exploration of features and improvements, I’ll leave you with some links at the end of this post.

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I Knew the “Gaming” Card Would Eventually Be Played

I think we all knew it was just a matter of time before some media outlet brought the subject up. And, sure enough, it was a UK media outlet, of all places. It seems James Holmes, the gentleman that snapped and shot up a movie theater full of folks, was … wait for it … a GAMER. The article mentions it two or three times, really stretching to point out the fact, I believe. They even go as far as to mention one, World of Warcraft, “where you compete against people on the internet.” “…James seemed like he wanted to be in the game and be one of the characters …”

Holy crap … It’s the “video games are a gateway to violence” claim. Usually this comes out the first day of an incident like this and will be used heavily in any court proceedings. Nevermind the guy was having relationship issues, was getting kicked out of his apartment, was having school troubles, etc, etc … it’s the damn video games, it has to be …

Anyways, go read the long article if you want. Link incoming:

James Holmes ‘broke up with girlfriend just before killing spree’ via MailOnline

I Don’t Go There For The Politics

Recently, Chick-fil-a President, Dan Cathy, said in an interview that he was “guilty as charged.” The comment came at the questioning of Chick-fil-a’s support of anti-gay and family rights groups. The gentleman continued on stating that Chick-fil-a has always presented a Christian-based environment, even going as far as to close all their restaurants on Sundays, a day of rest. He makes no apologies, stands by his statement and doesn’t waiver under criticism.

Today on various news sites, it was reported that the Jim Henson Company, better known for The Muppets, has pulled out of a deal with Chick-fil-a. I was never aware that they were in any kind of a deal, but apparently they offered toys in children’s meals. Henson’s CEO, Lisa Henson, said that they are a company that believes in support and equality for all individuals (except for Mr. Cathy and the folks at Chick-fil-a, evidently)

My take on the issue is this: I go to Chick-fil-a for the delicious chicken sandwiches. The spicy chicken sandwiches are really good, much better than those offered by Zaxby’s, another chicken chain in our area. After all this news, I will still continue to go to and support Chick-fil-a. Not because of their politics or view points, but because of their food. Good food. Good prices. Good people.

Same goes for The Muppets. I will continue to watch and enjoy The Muppets. Not because they support any particular group, but because they are entertaining. Now, where I draw the line is when politics and business cross over and begin to mix. If Chick-fil-a were handing out pamphlets on why I should like or dislike a certain group, then I’d probably feel differently. If The Muppets started trying to pull a stunt that gave more attention to the fact that a particular Muppet was gay – kinda like DC Comics did with Earth 2 Green Lantern – then I’d be offended because I think they were trying to pander to a certain audience and force that upon me.

I attribute it to the Tom Cruise effect. I view Cruise as a bat-@#$% crazy member of Scientology. But I enjoy his movies because they are usually entertaining. When Cruise begins peppering more and more of the Scientology crap into his movies then I’ll stop paying to see them.

I guess what I’m saying is, I watch movies and eat at restaurants because I enjoy those places and/or actors. I go there for good food and entertainment, not for the politics. I don’t care that The Muppets support gay rights while Chick-fil-a condemns them. Quite frankly, I view myself as a Christian, but you don’t see me boycotting all the growing anti-Christian groups that want to preach tolerance while at the same time showing their own ugly heads as being intolerant. Kinda wishy-washy if you ask me. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. I think that may be called hypocrisy.

They Never Cease to Amaze Me

 

With Nintendo’s release of a new 3DS XL and the Wii U just months away, the wife, son and I have been discussing which we find more appealing as a gift for the holiday season. Yes, I know, already discussing Christmas gifts?!. Yes, yes we are. I like to be prepared for these things. Our son is a step ahead of us, though, and surprised us both by insisting he wanted to keep his current 3DS – the small screen. He is interested in the Wii U, though, mainly because of the Wii pad (or whatever it is being called at the moment.) The ability for him to play certain games free of the television is appealing – but, honestly, I see this as a possibility for the 3DS  XL. Why would it not be possible to use the new 3DS XL as a game pad? I think there may be something in the works Nintendo fans haven’t been told yet.

 

So we’re thinking about the Wii U and also discussing when would be the perfect time to trade in his Wii (of which we have 2 because the wife’s parents gave us theirs due to lack of play time) before the prices really start to drop. I know once new hardware is about to be released and especially when it first releases, trade-in prices fall because most people are wanting those shiny new consoles. We went in to Gamestop and asked what we were potentially looking at. It seems $25-30 is the trade value for a Wii at the moment (that’s the 1st generation white console). Yet, for a PS3 with a broken blu ray drive, you can get a good $80 for. Interesting! To make a long story short on the trade-in front, I’m considering taking the PS3 up there simply because I haven’t turned it on in about 3 months. As for the Wii, I sold it for $80 – take THAT, Gamestop. $25-30, indeed …

 

 

 

Now, where do we stand on that Wii U? Oh, yes. It seems the Wii U has been pushed to the back burner. My dear wife and son have, instead, decided they want an Xbox 360 and Kinect. I know, straight out of left field, right? All of this came out of a simple visit to Best Buy, shortly after the Gamestop trip. We were walking toward the checkout when they passed a display of a soccer game for the Kinect. They spent about 10-15 minutes playing the game, jumping around, etc, and when we left the Wii U was a faint memory. I tell ya, my wife and son? They never cease to amaze me. Now, I suppose this could all be attributed to the fact that the Wii U isn’t out and no one can touch it, try it out or see just how good the real games look. But at the same time you have to realize that the 360 is an established brand with a million games, online support and just an all around superior system to something like the Wii – or anything else Nintendo could push out right now. Poor Nintendo is always a day late and a dollar short to the party, and I have a feeling the Wii U is going to be no different.

 

But now I have the horror building in me of a possible Xbox 360 purchase. It’s been a good 2 or 3 years since we’ve had an Xbox in the house. And even then, we went through 2 consoles because of the infamous RRoD (Red Ring of Death). I know the new, sleek, black 360′s are suppose to be much more reliable, but seriously, I’be been burned. I hear the rumors of ads being constantly shoved down your throat at every turn on the Dashboard. But, the games, the established community, the cool features of the Kinect the wife and son love.

 

And between you and me, Dear Reader? I’ve been looking around. Did you know you can buy my favorite game, Fallout 3, with all available downloadable content for $19.99.  Or you can skip the DLC and buy the standard Fallout 3 AND Elderscrolls: Oblivion both for a single $19.99 price. These great games are priced to own and I found myself staring intently at the shelf of our local Wally World. I think you see where I’m going with this. Yes, we are probably going to end up buying a new Xbox 360. And I’m warning you, Microsoft, I’ll be watching closely …

 

** Note – To anyone that may be screaming at their monitor right now, warning me that it’s a mistake. Yes, I realize Microsoft is set to release (or at least announce) a new console next year, but it’s okay. Really. If there is one thing I’ve learned about gaming hardware after having owned 2 Xbox 360′s, is that early adopters usually end up screwed in the end. I base this on a couple of factors: 1) untested hardware out in the wild and not a controlled environment. 2) they’re going to release something better, different or just slightly enhanced a few months down the road. Therefore, I shall invest in this established gaming library, enjoy it for all it’s worth and worry about keeping up with the “new hotness” later when everyone else has broken in the next generation for me and worked all the bugs out.