Apple drops another cat at your door

By Grant Jacobs 17/02/2012

It’s Mountain Lion.

If you’re not an Apple computer user and are perplexed, Apple has announced an update to their operating system.

Looking down through the highlighted features you’d be forgiven for a first thinking few of the additions would be considered operating system features but are instead a list of bundled applications. (Gatekeeper excepted, perhaps.) ArsTechnica has a run-down on what’s on offer.


There’s is a marketing presentation element going on here to my mind. There will be services (and APIs) behind the scenes supporting these applications. The update is presented purely in terms of a consumers use of the OS. Also it‘s a preview; no doubt more details will be forthcoming.

That they’ve presented it this way is not very surprising, really, but what is there for those who want to interact more closely with the operating system?

What, if any, improvements have been made to the core OS. They don’t mention any. (Certainly there is no mention of ZFS, a modern file system many would like to see on Mac OS.)

In the comments Wired it’s noticeable that many are saying they’re sticking with Snow Leopard, the version of the operating system before Lion that is more Mac OS X oriented and less iPad or consumer device oriented.

Remember the Wired crowd will be dominated by more serious computer geeks, not your typical home user or consumer.

I’d have to confess I’m still using Snow Leopard myself – thus far.

Don’t get me wrong.

The consumer features look excellent and I have little doubt I’d enjoy using them. (Even if I have to admit all that connecting social media to the daily flow might be horribly distracting. Personally while I’m working I’d want an interface without all that.)

For me a main feature of Mac OS is access to both Unix and desktop computing in the one box. (Also, I really do want to have at least one machine running Rosetta, which allows much older software to run.)

I’d like to think that the Unix computing aspect of Mac OS X hasn’t actually gone away,* as such, but certainly their marketing isn’t reassuring older hands this. No ’Still with all that Unix goodness under the hood’ line somewhere near the very end of the blurb showing that they are (or might be) still committed to supporting these people. Some of those boring old ‘list’ and ‘plain text’ approaches to things are actually useful to some of us.

I’m also bothered by the truly terrible performance of the system when it’s short on free RAM (as judged by Activity Monitor). Apart from the obvious reason–no-one likes a system that periodically decides to tie itself into knots–a little paranoid corner of my mind worries that this performance hit is the upshot of designing for the consumer and ‘just not worrying’ as much about the core OS or heavier users.**

Some are concerned that the Mac OS has evolved into a ‘light’ interface, dropping ‘advanced’ features. It’s why Finder replacements like Path Finder have a place in the market. In the case of similar tools, that may be fine in some ways. Apple does the core consumer stuff and third-parties pick up the slack for the more advanced interface issues.

By not offering interface-level support to interact with these, aside from the command line and other programmer’s approaches, is Apple is increasingly opening a gulf between the OS and more ‘advanced’ or traditional users?

Obviously I’m intending to provoke 😉 Share your thoughts in the comments.****


* Obviously I haven’t used Lion, but with the lack of information forthcoming, there isn’t much incentive to either.

** If I had a guess part of the issue is an over-reliance on SQLite coupled with poor VM performance under stress.

*** And customising; Apple seems opposed to this – you can argue both ways about customising systems.

**** My views tend to be fairly relaxed about these things in practice and I’m fairly sure most of it’s all still there 😉 Just not mentioned in the marketing spiels. But it still gets you to thinking and makes for conversation.

Other articles on Code for life:

Sinclair ZX envy

Mac OS X dreams

Mac OS X Time Machine backups — a need for versions

Free vector graphics for Mac (and Linux/Windows)

Safari v Opera

WWW database servers on Mac OS X 10.6.x, part I: Installing MySQL

0 Responses to “Apple drops another cat at your door”

  • My household contains many PCs, running windows (xp, 7 and WHS), Mac (currnetly running snow) and linux (Ubunutu 11.1), never mind the multiple iphones (x2), ipads (x2) and ipod touchs (x3).
    I browse a lot on a netbook (atom 450, 1gb ram) that I brought for scatchings in hte USA, but also use the macbook (2.4ghz, 2gb ram). I am constantly amazed at the number of times i spend being frustrrated by OSX bogging down while I am trying to do standard stuff on the macbook. I really need to stick upgrade the netbook to 2gb, but even as it is, it will open word, excell, chrome or whatever faster than the macbook. The macbook reminds me of my work dell, that runs stupidly high levels of spyware/malware protection, that slows the entire system down to a crawl.

    For a computer that cost 6.4x what the netbook cost, its frustrating.

  • What are you seeing in Activity Monitor when OS X bogs down? (under Applications > Utilities if you’re not familiar with it)

  • Lion certainly benefits from more RAM. Upping my old MBP (2007) to 4Mb helped a lot. Safari tends to eat up memory, but occasional lack of responsiveness seems to coincide with Time Machine running an incremental back up (rsync, in other words).

    I moved to Lion a month or two after it was released, and will do same with the Mountain version. I use next to no legacy software, so the loss of Rosetta was not an issue. iCloud is incredibly useful to me, syncing across the phone and iPad is great, and I’m looking forward to the file sync promised for 10.8

  • Gareth,

    Time Machine will dominate the system when it runs, as you say, and buying more RAM is often recommended as the best upgrade to Mac OS X systems.

    Safari can be a ridiculous memory hog (in my experience). Unfortunately it’s also the browser that ties in best with the operating system; for some things like writing the blog posts the tie-ins can save a fair bit of time. I try use different browsers for purposes matching their strengths (as I’ve written about before). Of course having too many browsers open at once can be a problem itself! (Unless you only have a tiny number of pages open, anyway.)

  • Dear Apple,

    Please resolve conflict in your branding because Mac operating systems names are being based on wild cats (Jaguar, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and now Mountain Lion), where as main desktop picture, packaging design and other campaigns are geared towards depicting outer Space / Universes. I love Mac and Apple products but I don’t get this discrepancy?

    Please, just stick to one idea.


  • Hi Mihir,

    Personally I’d worry more about the products, myself, but I see where you’re coming from.

    Maybe they’re planning on developing a ‘cats in space’ theme? 😉

  • Mihir,
    Maybe someone at Apple is a huge ‘Thundercats’ fan? It was a big deal when I was a kid.