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.