A small meow rather than a huge roar
Mac OS X 10.8, also known as Mountain Lion, is the latest version of Apple’s operating system for its range of Mac computers.
One feature that is easy to overlook is greater integration with Apple’s iCloud online storage service. Some programs, such as Apple’s iWork office suite, will now offer to save files to iCloud by default - 5GB of free storage is included. It is not quite as flexible as rival services such as Dropbox though. Files created by one iCloud-enabled program will not show up in another unless you manually drag and drop files between them. The iCloud website also currently only shows files uploaded by iWork.
Mountain Lion continues the trend in the previous version of Mac OS X, 10.7 Lion, of incorporating new features first seen in iOS.
Notification Center is a new system for alert messages, such as notices about new tweets or emails. Notifications can be customised so they are not too intrusive. The catch is that these notifications are only available in programs distributed through the Mac App Store and websites programmed to take advantage of them.
Twitter is now closely integrated. Share buttons in applications such as Safari let you tweet without having to use the Twitter website or app. There is even the option to write a new tweet from the Notifications drawer. If you would rather send a text, the revamped iChat program, now called Messages, can send free SMS messages to iPhones and iPads.
Previously an iTunes-exclusive feature, Airplay lets you stream video and audio from any application to your TV if it has an Apple TV set-top box attached. This is useful if you do not have a smart TV. Sadly, video streaming only works on newer Macs and even then we had to tweak the settings of our router by to get smooth video. Audio streaming should work with many older Macs though and it also works with Apple’s Airport Express router.
Mountain Lion has a new Dictation feature that listens to your voice and transcribes it into text. It is surprisingly accurate but correcting mistakes is a chore and it sends the text to Apple’s servers for transcription, so you will need a fast internet connection.
Unlike Microsoft and its Security Essentials program for Windows, Apple does not include a full antivirus program with Mac OS X.
There are several new security features though. The most notable is Gatekeeper. This can be set to allow only programs downloaded from the Mac App Store, as well as non-App Store programs from developers who have security certificates issued by Apple, to run. Many popular programs, such as those from Microsoft and Adobe, don’t fall into either category so you would have to ignore Gatekeeper anyway in order to install them.
A few flaws from Lion remain untouched. For those without broadband is that Mountain Lion is only available as a download from the Mac App Store. Lion was also available on a USB memory key, but this is not an option for Mountain Lion.
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Despite the relative lack of major new features, this new operating system is still a worthy upgrade from Lion – especially at its bargain price
Inexpensive; Better integration with other Apple products and services; Some features only work with newer Macs
Relatively few major new features; Niggling flaws remain; Download only
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