First Encounter with Mountain Lion

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion just became available mid-week, on 25th July 2012. It appeared on the Mac App Store at about 8pm Singapore time. I had expected to plunge into the upgrade immediately. Unfortunately, initial hiccups with the Up-To-Date program led to delays in receiving the redemption code. I finally only got to receive my free redemption code only on Friday morning.

The first order of business was to locate the InstallESD.dmg file from the “Install OS X Mountain Lion” app and copy it into my image archive, then create a bootable Mountain Lion USB Installer. Then, of course, just to be save, Time Machine backup my Mac again, just to be absolute certain I have a complete good copy of my Mac tucked away into an external disk in the very unlikely case that anything should muck up.

Once all pre-upgrade preparation was done, it was time to launch the Mountain Lion installer. From start to the point my Mac was rebooting into the newly upgraded Mountain Lion, it took just 19 minutes. Really nice.

I’m sure you must have already read many other reviews of Mountain Lion. I don’t think I can give yet another review that’s substantially different. But just let me share some initial thoughts and discoveries. Yup, I know also that some of these things have been well known before, but I haven’t really been following closely all the details shared by beta testers and other pre-release reviews.

Mountain Lion boots as fast as ever. After logging in, the first thing I noticed was the new galaxy wallpaper. Yup, it looks like the old one, but it’s slightly different. I was hoping for something more spectacular, but I suppose Apple decided to go for a subtle change.

The next thing that came up was an error from Micorsoft SkyDrive. It could not access its credentials in the KeyChain. There’s a workaround. Microsoft is said to be working on a fix.

I launched Mail, which as usual had to “upgrade” the message store. It was done pretty quick though. Maybe the new SSD on the MacBook Air made things faster too. Mail has also undergone some subtle user interface enhancements. For example, when multiple messages are selected, the message contents are overlaid on top of each other in iOS style.

Interestingly, I noticed I had more free space. I’m not sure why. I had 59 GB free before upgrading, and then now I have 71 GB free.

An entirely new feature is Notification Center. You can click its icon in the menubar. Or, if you want to use trackpad gestures, it’s basically a two-finger swipe from right to left. Now, here’s where it gets interesting: You should begin your two-finger swipe from outside the trackpad. Technically, it’s the edge, where one of the two fingers should be on the trackpad while the other finger is outside the trackpad. If this sounds too difficult to aim, then just begin swiping from outside the trackpad.

The new gesture is interesting. It’s not the same as the regular two-finger left or right swipe, which scrolls a page horizontally, or moves forward or backward a webpage if the movements are large enough. This start-from-the-edge swiping could open up many more gesture possibilities.

Power Nap, you might have heard already, allows the Mac to continue downloading email, check for calendar updates and various other iCloud content, as well as perform Time Machine backups and software updates. I was initially not terribly excited about this feature. I thought this would just drain my battery if I’m not connected to mains power. Fortunately, the Power Nap can be enabled or disabled depending on the power source. The default configuration enables Power Nap only when connected to mains power. You can still turn on Power Nap when running off battery, but while running off battery, Power Nap will not perform Time Machine backups or install software updates.

That’s it for my Mountain Lion first encounter update!

Should you buy the upgrade? You know it costs just S$25.98? The Lion update was cheap, Mountain Lion has gotten even cheaper. At such a reasonable price, which you can also install on other Macs if you happen to own more than one, I think this is a no-brainer.