OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is a Go! (and Encounter with Gatekeeper)

I installed “OS X” 10.8 Mountain Lion this morning after it appeared in the Mac App Store. However, I did create a bootable USB installer for future use when I want to perform a nuke-and-pave installation of Apple’s latest operating system.

So far, OS X Mountain Lion is running lean and fast. As with most updates from Apple, things appear snappier and smoother. Is this a trick of the brain reinforced by hyped expectations and new visual cues built into the operating system’s user interface? I’m not altogether sure, but I am sure that it feels right on the Intel 120GB 330 series SSD that I found at MicroCenter for $89.99 this past weekend.

I am specifically thinking about the new unified search and address bar in Safari 6.0, which shipped with OS X Mountain Lion. This is a feature previously made popular by Google Chrome. In Safari, the functionality seems to be the same as in Chrome, but the visual impact of the new progress bar–the way in which is snaps a little and then a lot–zippity zap–warp speed engaged–hyperdrive go–makes me feel that web pages load faster. While I will leave it to others to time page loads in the new Safari, I will say that the visual cues Apple built into their new version of Safari are quite effective at conveying an idea about Safari’s speed on my late-2008 Aluminum MacBook.

I have yet to play with the dictation features built into the new OS, but I do like the notifications center added to the menu bar, just to the right of the Spotlight icon. I am using iCal more to keep track of upcoming deadlines and events, so I am very happy about this seemingly simple new feature.

So far, I have only hit one snag with OS X Mountain Lion: Gatekeeper. In the latest iteration of OS X, Apple introduced a new security feature to authenticate certain applications as being made and distributed by who they claim to be made and distributed by. This is easy for Mac App Store programs, and I suppose Apple has released a method for non-App Store program developers to sign their software, too. Over the weekend, I had installed my new SSD and reinstalled OS X Lion in preparation for Mountain Lion’s release today. I had not gotten around to reinstalling all my software, so after installing Mountain Lion today, I downloaded and ran the DropBox application. Unfortunately, I was hit with a message that OS X could not verify the DropBox application. I then had to go into System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General > Allow applications downloaded from: change radio button from “Mac App Store and identified developers” to “Anywhere.” Now, DropBox runs. I am glad that Apple is taking security more seriously and implementing new barriers to malware on OS X, but I believe that their lack of explaining how to allow non-signed software to run might be a high barrier to novice Mac users. Perhaps this is the point, but I believe that they should work harder at educating those novice users so that they can become savvy users.

I will report on my OS X Mountain Lion experiences in the future. For now, I can recommend it for supported systems. I believe its $19.99 price to be very fair.

What are your Mountain Lion experiences? Please share them in the comments below.

Stochastic Update, Reinstall Complete, Workshops

My Late-2008, Aluminum MacBook is back up and running with Lion, Aperture, and Office. After installation, everything is updated and running nicely. It’s too bad that Apple dropped support for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. I had considered getting back to basics for this particular Mac model, but had I done so, I would not be able to receive any security update or run the most up-to-date Safari web browser.

While restoring files, I have taken some time to trim the fat so that I have a leaner, meaner installation.

Not much else to report besides dissertation writing.

Oh, I do have some new workshops designed for the spring semester digital composition workshops. I will post those soon here so that you can have a sneak peak.

That is all . . .

Cleaning out the cobwebs

Thanks to my home built Lion install flash drive (I purchased Mac OS X through the App Store and created a bootable install drive), I am performing a nuke-and-pave on my late-2008 MacBook. As you might have read before here, I haven’t qualms about performing a reinstall. While the install is progressing, I am reading David Levy’s Love+Sex with Robots. I believe that this is the missing component to my Asimov chapter. Ah, a reboot . . .

Facetime, Apple’s Slick Teleconferencing Software, is for Cats, Too

In the image to the left, Miao and I are talking with Y with Apple’s Facetime technology. Y is visiting her family in Taiwan, so we are relying on Apple’s Facetime on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and iOS 5 to talk face-to-face.

Facetime is integrated into the new device and computer operating systems so that you can “call” someone with Facetime and your iPad 2 or iPhone 4S will “ring” automagically with an incoming connection request. We have also used our MacBooks to handle Facetime conversations.

The quality of the video feed is largely dependent on Internet transfer conditions between Ohio and Taiwan. The video is sometimes fluid and sometimes strobe-effect like with lots of funny faces captured by our devices’ cameras. When it works well, Facetime is very slick, but it even holds up well for visual communication over long distance even when conditions create video freezes. The audio generally comes through clear and without stutter–I suppose it is prioritized over video.

Since audio seems prioritized, I would think that they are separate streams that have to be synced at the receiver’s end. Perhaps this is why Facetime spikes CPU usage–muxing the separate streams while simultaneously transmitting demuxed streams. Have you found an explanation Apple’s implementation of the technologies that make Facetime work? Let me know in the comments.

What Magic Does Apple Hold for Next Week?

The new iPhone announcements expected next week are exciting, but I am mostly interested in updates for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. I have read many posts online from folks about their Lion experience, specifically about speed and multitasking, and it seems like certain hardware configurations fare better than others. My MacBook 5,1 seems to get the short end of the stick despite having 8GB of RAM. If the RAM gets about 3/4 used and even though there is still physical RAM left for apps to use, my MacBook becomes sluggish, sometimes to the point of needing a reboot to return to normal responsiveness. The issue has become such a pain that I am considering reinstalling Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Before I do that, I am going to wait and see if the next update for Lion, v 10.7.2, is also released to coincide with the iTunes update for iCloud.

Thoughts on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion After One Week of Regular Use

I installed Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on my MacBook 5,1 just over a week ago, so I have had plenty of time to get to know the latest cat in the Apple OS family. Overall, I like the new features of Lion, but I have hit a few snags along the way to adopting the newest Macintosh operating system.

After some trouble learning the natural gestures for trackpad and Magic Mouse, I like these features a lot. I like flicking my way between full screen apps, the Finder, and the Dashboard. It did take me awhile to retrain my brain to use natural finger movements to scroll in documents, and I cannot say that I am completely out of the woods on unlearning the mechanical scroll wheel paradigm of document navigation. This is particularly interesting, because I have owned an iPhone since their introduction and I also own the first iPad. Both of these feature a natural way of navigating document windows by placing your finger down and moving it as if you were sliding a paper around beneath a framed window. However, my brain would shift modes when I used my trackpad or mouse, and I would fall back into the scroll wheel paradigm. Now, I have nearly integrated the natural paradigm with my MacBook.

As much as I love the new gestures, I have had difficulty getting them all to work properly on my MacBook’s trackpad. Occasionally, the four finger flick between apps movement doesn’t work and I end up inputting an unexpected gesture. This might result in my Safari window zooming in or out, or it might navigate to an earlier web page. Another gesture that I have only had work once after much practice is the thumb and three finger pinch out to the Desktop. I think this is a good gesture, but I can’t get my trackpad to pick this up correctly. Usually it interprets my gesture as the four finger upward swipe to Mission Control.

I have noticed Safari hogging a lot of RAM, which may explain some of the sluggish behavior that my Mac exhibits as compared to Leopard and Snow Leopard.

I like the look of the new full screen Mail.app. However, I find that it, like the iPad version, occasionally has trouble finding emails that I can easily locate when I login to Gmail.

I turned off the typing autocorrection feature that is built into Lion. This became a problem when it was autocorrecting real words that it apparently doesn’t have in its dictionary with alternatives.

I would recommend users visit the Security Preference Pane and activate the firewall, which is deactivated by default.

I haven’t noticed this with my trackpad, but I have noticed this with the Magic Mouse: the mouse jumps to the corners. I have tried turning down the tracking speed, but it still does this occasionally. This is new behavior that I had not observed before with this mouse and Leopard or Snow Leopard.

I helped a friend do a clean install of Lion on his MacBook Pro, which went off without a hitch. After performing the installation, we restored his documents and applications from his Time Machine backup. For him, he still has all of the older, Apple desktop pictures. My fresh Lion install only has the few desktop pictures that came with Lion, because I did not backup my entire system with Time Machine (I perform manual backups of my files).

Other applications that I use regularly seem to work fine: VLC, Jview, Microsoft Office 2011, and iPhoto 09.

Have you installed Lion on your Mac? What have your experiences been like? Leave a comment below.

Safari Web Content Hogging RAM and CPU Time, Thread on Apple Support Communities

I have noticed on my MacBook 5,1 with 4 GB of RAM that Safari gets sluggish in full screen mode with twelve tabs open. I also noticed that Safari 5.1, which ships with Mac OS X Lion, spins two processes: Safari (currently using 294 MB RAM and 6.2% of CPU utilization) and Safari Web Content (currently using 1.33 GB RAM and 41% of CPU utilization). If I drop out of full screen mode, the RAM allocation remains the same, but the CPU utilization drops to about 1.4% and 8% respectively. Now, I am back into full screen mode, but I have not yet seen the spike in CPU utilization. I currently have three Safari Extensions installed: AdBlock, Awesome Screenshot, and Click to Flash. I also have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed, but I do not have any active Flash content loaded.

I searched online to see if anyone else is having similar issues. I found a thread started by scryedz on the Apple Support Communities, who began the discussion by writing:

Hi everyone! Safari become very lag when I open a new tab or pages, and when I checked Activity Monitor, the one that made my mac lag is Safari Web Content, it can eats 80-90% of CPU.However, it only happened if I open new tab/pages. I never experienced lag with other browser such as Firefox before. Anyone ever experienced this? Any suggestion or solution will be appreciated. Thanks.

via Safari Web Content high CPU usage: Apple Support Communities.

Following the thread, it sounds like others are experiencing Safari’s resource hogging and system sluggishness. Some suggestions to fix the problem include deleting Safari’s cache files manually (~User/Library/Cache/com.Apple.Safari) and uninstalling all Safari Extensions.

Hopefully, Apple will address this problem more assertively with a software update to Safari.

Mega Apple Linkage on Ars Technica for Lion and Other New Products

Go here for Ars Technica’s “Week in Apple: It’s a Lion-pocalypse” link party. In that post, Jacqui Cheng links to their coverage of Apple’s new software and hardware releases from this past week, including: Mac mini, MacBook Air, Cinema Display, and Mac OS X Lion. As usual, Ars Technica provides insightful coverage of computer technology related things, and their coverage of Apple’s latest offerings is no different. In particular, you should check out their review of Mac OS X Lion here. I am still learning and observing the changes in Lion, and I hope to post my own thoughts on the new OS soon.

Back from Europe, Clean Lion Install Completed

Y and I got back from our trip to Europe earlier this week. We traveled to Poland for the annual Science Fiction Research Association conference, which was held in Lublin this year. We also traveled to Switzerland and France to visit friends and to vacation. We had a very good time abroad, and I will write about our experiences, soon.

Since we returned to Kent, we have been trying to get caught up on many things. Cleaning house. Applying for travel grants. Playing with Miao.

Another thing that I was looking forward to was powering up my MacBook for the first time in three weeks. We brought our iPhones and iPads to Europe, but we left our proper computers at home. Additionally, I knew that Apple was about to release Mac OS X 10.7 Lion this week. Unfortunately, I had a terrific migraine on Wednesday, the release day, so I had to wait until the evening to download my copy of Lion. After I did, I followed these instructions and I copied Lion to a flash drive so that I could perform a clean install on my MacBook instead of merely upgrading my existing Snow Leopard installation.

The reason that I chose to do this is that I wanted to experience Lion “out of the box” even though no box was involved. I wanted to see what Lion was and how it worked without any of my preset preferences or file structures. I haven’t had much time to fully explore Lion, but I can say that the scrolling behavior is the hardest thing for me to master despite my regular use of an iPad. Lion rolls much of iOS’s touch behavior into the user interface, which I believe is a good thing. However, the touch behavior on computer mice have replicated mechanical processes of rolling rather than touch movement as we have in Apple’s iOS-based products. It is interesting that I keep getting caught by this behavior, but I am sure that eventually my brain will rewire itself to accommodate this new across-the-board behavior in Apple’s UI.