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Mac OSX Mountain Lion Technical Tips and Upgrade Considerations

Bill Malchisky  August 2 2012 05:00:00 AM
OS X Mountain Lion

As I did a year ago with OS X Lion, I had some fun learning with friends again the past week and decided to provide some relevant insight into new changes that were observed, technical insights, and other upgrade considerations for the new Apple OS X release, named Mountain Lion.

Here are the Mountain Lion (ML) upgrade hardware specs, provided by Apple. The rest of the document is collated to save you time when perusing. I hope you enjoy the post and find the information useful.

Free upgrade offer

  • They send you a code to enter in the App Store, which arrives via a password protected PDF; the password is mailed separately
  • You'll still need to purchase the ML software for your other Mac systems
  • "The OS X Mountain Lion software content code must be used solely with the products that qualify for this offer."
  • The offer is for only qualifying systems
  • There appears to be a right to copy if you have more than 20 qualifying systems
  • Sounds like you can send email to support to ask for a refund if you bought a copy of ML when you were eligible for getting a free copy
  • If you utilize the code sans purchasing ML, you will not have the option to purchase ML in the App Store anymore; this may or may not be an issue depending upon how many machines and licenses are tied to your account; you may be able to download the software with a valid App Store account on the other machines, but will not be able to provide them the $19.99 if you would like

Software Update Process Changes and Upgrade Considerations
  • Apple gives you a list of incompatible ML software after you install the upgrade
  • The firmware update for powernap on the Macbook Air is now on the App Store updates tab
  • All OS updates will now be coming through the store, once you upgrade to ML
  • With the new Software Update workflow, the default is to install security updates automatically
  • Checking for new updates in Software Updates now opens the App Store
  • You are unable to download Lion anymore, so it is best to ensure you have a backup copy, just in-case
  • But like most things in life, there is always a work-around, but only if you pre-purchased OS X Lion before ML's release
  • Carbon Copy Cloner is now a commercial product, so upgrade their software or find another way to backup your Mac before upgrading to ML -- as a fail-safe; heard of few ML upgrade issues personally, but with all we do on our machines, best to play it safe
  • Suggestion: make a USB-key version of ML, so you can upgrade or install in the future
  • At the very least, copy the ML installer before upgrading, as it will get purged when you install the OS; if you need help, here's a good piece on it
  • Here's how: right-click on the Install Mountain Lion icon located in the Dock -> and choose Options -> Show in Finder -> select installer in the Finder -> choose File -> Duplicate

Usage Changes
  • Not a fan of the immovable Message Center now appearing where Spotlight was -- furthest away, though if you use the keyboard shortcut of Spotlight and finger swipe from the right edge for the notification center, you might not be aware of the changes
  • It seems that  iPulse somehow lost all its preferences information in the upgrade to ML
  • Terminal's "Clear Scrollback" has moved from "View" to "Edit".  I supposed that makes more sense, but if you've been using the app for years, this will be quite irksome; but command-k works as a shortcut
  • Opinion: "Scroll direction: natural" appears to be not really natural at all
  • Address field and search field are now combined
  • The irksome auto-save auto-locking feature is now disabled by default in ML, for all documents; you can enable on at the document level basis

  • Setup as peer-to-peer
  • If an iOS device (iPhone/iPad) requests a document from iCloud when the document is located on your local network and you have a Macintosh computer on the same network and signed into the same iCloud account, the iOS device will get the document from the Mac rather than the cloud
  • Appears to be tied into the Rendezvous software
  • Really annoying -- if you sign out of iCloud, it removes your me.com account from Mail app, until you sign back in, at which times it enables ALL the services by default, and restores the Mail account calling it simply "iCloud"
  • All your mail remains in ~/Library
  • Developers cite iCloud coding challenges when writing software to work with iCloud
  • When making folders on your iPhone Home screen, you can make folders in iCloud the same way
  • Although conjecture, it can be inferred that the design issues and development challenges exists as MobileMe performed quite differently and it was full of problems; so Apple is attempting to fix the MobileMe issues in a big way


Time Machine
  • Using Drobo? You may want to hold off for now. "After upgrading to OS X Mountain Lion, Time Machine backups to Drobo FS/B800fs may encounter an error. We are investigating this issue"
  • Here's the entire support page with ML upgrade information, by model
  • If you want to share a time machine drive in ML, locate the small "share folder" box on the folder Get Info page

Mac Mail Changes
  • Apple is making several cosmetic changes for the sake of change -- which add little value, but show that they did "something"
  • Example: the new mail header removes immaterial detail, so that instead of seeing the pre-ML "From: @.com" you now just see "@.com"
  • Though if there is a separate To and Reply To, you will still see those labels
  • If the space was lacking, fine, but that is not the issue, so the changes make no sense, particularly as they expanded the tabs to take advantage of the space, but truncate information within that region
  • Mail messages open very near and just below the menu bar, even when moving them up, close, and reopen
  • Though it appears to be a bug, if you move a window up, then stretch the bottom to the top of the dock bar, it behaves as one would expect
  • Flagged smart mailbox sees messages in folders that are not visible in the mail client; tried this with Google Mail account; not seeing how to exclude this
  • Improvement: when dragging and dropping an image from Mail to a Finder window, if there's a duplicate image file, the warning dialog box now appears on top of the mail message, rather than behind it
  • Huge praise for new mail notifications via notification center on a MBP, when focused on my laptop, As the mail window is in its own workspace, one could go hours without checking email, sometimes getting IM's from coworkers asking why one was ignoring their emails, and now that we get notifications for them. So even though one may receive significant amounts of email, it is nice to know when I need to check my mail workspace
  • No fix yet -- post Lion and pre-ML a bug appeared with Mail such that when you highlight text, it sometimes does not delete when you type and other characters are highlighted and deleted when unintended; here is a description of the problem

Mac Mail Server Points
  • Apple stripped out both Mailman (mailing lists) and webmail (Roundcube)
  • There's also no GUI was to configure the firewall
  • The old server admin applications are completely removed in favor of "Server.app" which lacks a significant quantity of past functioanlity from previous releases
  • Appears they started in a decent direction and harpooned the effort

Quick Development Enhancements
  • ObjC has collection literals included now, and object subscripting so you can now use the regular square-bracket syntax on NSArray and NSDictionary objects
  • It also has deprecated old manual reference counting in favor of proper garbage collection; so two nice changes in this upgrade
  • XCode 4.2 has an automated tool to take your Objective C project and automatically convert it to use the new Automatic Reference Counting; it effectively finds all the locations needing changes in your code, then provides a side-by-side differential, allowing you to accept the changes. Once complete, it then disables the feature
    • Test case 1: a friend tried it on a project he had and it appears to work quite nicely, removing all the release/retain/etc. calls
    • Test case 2: In another test, it left him with an empty block in an if/else, but was able to edit it right there in the differential tool, removing the change.
    • Enhancement possibility: it did not remove some instances of "assign" on an @property, which is not required
  • See iCloud heading for the MacWorld article on iCloud coding challenges
  • One large problem is with applications only being able to access their own data; so if you are coding a text editor or seek to integrate with a PDF viewer in this, you will experience challenges, within these parameters (on the posted date); DropBox has an advantage here
  • The version string changed in ML so it no longer includes "Mac"; can cause an issue for applications if their version verify logic is not expecting the change--FYI

  • Safari has two giant tabs; now you have to move the mouse halfway across the screen
  • To get smaller tabs back into Safari 6, follow this advice Summary: Install Glims, and check "Set minimum tab labels size to favicon size." Less than 100% certain on the meaning, but it worked!
  • The Activity window is now gone from Safari
  • RSS is removed; to get the RSS reader back into Safari 6, here is a workaround

  • Parallels has ads, fortunately infrequent; if you would like to disable them, go here
  • VMware 3.x is incompatible with ML and no update coming as per VMware
  • VMware does offer a free 30-day trial of VMware Fusion 4.0, which is their upgrade path
  • One friend tested Fusion version 2.7, which ran fine on OS 10.7 and sure, that makes perfect sense to not work with OS 10.8, but Fusion version 3.x does not run ML?
  • VMware Version 4.1.3 is working fine with ML
  • WMware Snapshots are (finally) compatible with Time Machine, so you can backup point in time image of your VMware images via Time Machine
  • If you want to switch from VMware to Parallels, the latter will import the former directly and with ease; just point at the VMware file and Parallels does the rest
  • Of course, VMware will import from Parallels now as well with version 4

Quick Technical Tips
  • If you are seeing super saturated colors, then here is a fix
  • You can control the number of log rotations (e.g. mailaccess.log) under /etc/newsyslog.d/
  • Here's an irksome feature change -- the "Automatically dim the display before screen sleep" is now gone from Energy Saver, but they enabled it and you can't change it from the GUI; here's the command line fix: sudo pmset halfdim 0
  • New command line tools in ML manage encryption, sleep, and sharing; Post 1 (detailed); Post 2 (additional tips); not really Unix tools as only a few are included in that OS, most are specific to OS X and are useful
  • If you are having issues with sleeping, it may be a bad printer driver(s), which can cause cups to keep the machine awake for days; you can investigate via this command: pmset -g and  pmset -g assertions
  • Need to disable the screen saver? Two options: Lighthead Software or use the Hotcorners option
  • Getting Old Expose back with ML is here
  • Nine tips to get the most out of Mission Control is here
  • Double click on a Note or Reminder List and it will stay on the desktop
  • Pin the System Monitor to the dock to display CPU usage

Links of Interest
  • Quick five minute video guide from Lifehacker on the new features in ML
  • And once again, Ars Technica put together a detailed review for OS X ML available here, by John Siracusa
  • For a review of John Siracusa's review of ML, try this. Short and informative
  • Good article on The Mac's App Store Future of Irrelevance, due to Sandboxing requirements is here. Tough piece to read for some.
    Apple is significantly reducing the number of apps that can be sold in the Store after people have already bought them."
  • A review of the Mac ML Server is here
  • If you are running Lotus Notes or related software, Ed Brill's blog post contains insightful information from Stuart McIntyre and Alan Hamilton
  • Two good links via Bruce Elgort's Twitter timeline
    1. "Get Save As back on Mountain Lion's File menu easily and without hacks http://aol.it/QqFJ4O  via @TUAW "
    2. "Top 10 Secret Features of OS X Mountain Lion http://zite.to/NaMDDr "


1Chris Whisonant  8/2/12 9:48:30 AM  Mac OSX Mountain Lion Technical Tips and Upgrade Considerations

Bill, thanks for the write-up. I'll review it more later. With my job change, the Air I received was purchased in the window for the free upgrade, so I've applied for that. Glad you mentioned the program! :) Hope all is well...

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