A quick guide to Apple’s latest
On July 25th, Apple released the latest version of their Macintosh operating system. Dubbed Mountain Lion, version 10.8 of OS X stayed true to the last few updates by adding some features to the previous major release, 10.7, which was called Lion. Mountain Lion is for the Mac desktop and laptops, rather than the iOS which runs the iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple TV. Below are a few of the key things to know if you’re a Mac user and are ready to upgrade.
The biggest news for the new OS pertains to Apple iCloud online service. iCloud released with Lion on the Mac, and iOS 5 for the mobile devices. Previously, iCloud was a retooling of the .mac and Mobile Me email and contacts management platform. Mobile Me was Apple’s answer to Microsoft Exchange for businesses, and Google’s Gmail and calendaring services, enabling email, contacts and calendars to sync across multiple devices such as desktop and laptop computers, as well as mobile devices like phones and more recently, tablets. iCloud updated the service to include online streaming music of your iTunes purchases, as well as wireless syncing of photos – take a picture on your iPhone and in seconds it is synced to “the cloud” where it can then sync back down to iPhoto on your computer or any other iCloud enabled device, including your TV with Apple TV.
However, iCloud for business, in a word – sucked. First the iWork.com website allowed online access to Apple’s office suite software iWork, for Pages, Numbers and Keynote. And while it worked, it was a cludgy workaround to allow users to create and edit documents on one device and access them again from elsewhere. Mountain Lion corrects that mess by incorporating cloud file storage in the operating system. Create a Pages doc and save it straight to your iCloud storage space (yes, like iDisk for those of you who used it), with the iCloud space accessible from iPhone and iPad for further editing or viewing. It works.
Many of the other relevant features are desktop versions of the things iPhone and iPad users have been utilitzing for months, if not years – Reminders, Notes, Messaging (text messages and chats) and Notifications, as well as built in FaceBook and Twitter updates. However, my two favorite new features are voice dictation on the Mac, and AirPlay. Dictation works extremely well, in fact I’m using it right now to write this article. You simply have to press the command key twice and the Mac writes down what you have said. AirPlay allows the Mac to use a TV as an extra display wirelessly, using a connected Apple TV. It’s new, and a little buggy, but it’s a very promising new feature.
The catch with getting up and running on the new operating system is the installation process and the requirements. If you have a Mac from 2009 or newer it should run Mountain Lion just fine. However, if you have a system any older than that you will need to check the Apple website to confirm compatibility. Also, you need to be running Snow Leopard or Lion in order to do the upgrade process. If you are running Leopard, then you will have to upgrade to Snow Leopard first, and that is usually best done with a clean installation. If your system meets the requirements then use the app store to purchase the $20 upgrade and you should be in good shape. Remember to back up with Time Machine first!
I hope your Mountain Lion hunt goes well. See you online!
Scott Bly is the President of IT Freeway, a Santa Monica-based, small business computer consultancy. He teaches seminars at MacMall in Santa Monica and is a member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Technology Committee. His debut young adult techno-thriller novel, SMASHER, is being published by Scholastic/Blue Sky Press in Spring 2013. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org