The new OS X, same as the old OS X

This past Monday morning, Apple reported that their latest version (10.8) of OS X, called Mountain Lion for those still running System 7, had been downloaded over three million times in its first four days of release. As the owner, builder, and curser of a Hackintosh, I'm happy to say that I was one of those three million. Of course, you don't have to install 10.8 just because you downloaded it (you're actually downloading the installer app), but that'd be an odd use of $19.99.

I only waited two days past the OS's release to take a stab at forcing it onto my Core i7 Sandy Bridge-based Hackintosh. The boards over at the (newly redesigned) were awash with success stories—and more than a few issues with systems that were, luckily, fairly dissimilar to my own—and new versions of install utilities UniBeast and MultiBeast, so I dove in. For you people. After cloning my system drive, I first tried installing Mountain Lion on the clone. Upon rebooting, everything seemed fine until I checked the "About This Mac" tool, which informed me that my system had somehow been downgraded from 10.4 to 10.2. No joke. As best as I can figure, UniBeast used an older, zipped Lion file that was still in my Applications folder from which to build its installer. After I moved that file, everything worked according to plan, including installing Mountain Lion on my main system drive.

Two odd side effects: First, the eject key no longer opens the door on my optical drive. This development would be more disheartening if it were 2007, but I'll survive using the physical open/close button on the drive itself every six weeks or so. Second, Apple changed how the Finder shows the file structure on a camera's SD card. So if you like poking around for you movie files, you have to click on what was once a folder—but is now a giant package file—and Show Package Contents. Some people have surmised that it has something to do with iCloud and photo synching or some such. Some people have too much time on their hands.

And so, Friday afternoon, I was chugging away on Mountain Lion, back writing words for money instead of attempting to crash the computer I use to write said words to make said money. And now, after a week of using Mountain Lion, I can give this update a very enthusiastic "whatever, dude." (As always, this is an opinion and not a full review. There are 66,400,000 hits on Google for such reviews. You come here for the words you love to hate, if past commenters are any indication.)

It's not that Mountain Lion is a bad update. It didn't break (completely) anything of import, from what I can tell. And a few of the new bits are quite useful in everyday use. Among them:

Notifications. I already use Notifications in a way I never did with Growl. (I know some people swear by Growl, and I appreciated what it does, but I just never could embrace it. Not unlike water polo. But wholly unlike synchronized trampolining.)

Dashboard improvements. Widget management has finally moved into the modern era with folders and Springboard/Launchpad-type icon arrangement. Mainly, this highlighted the number of unused widgets I had from Puma, but it's still nicer than the old way.

Mail improvements.
Setting VIPs in Mail is nice, especially when combined with Notifications. Setting your first VIP automatically creates a VIP smart mailbox and emails a virus-laden chain email to people who use the term "automagically." Sweet.

Minor niftiness. Preview finally lets folks fill out PDF forms. Time Machine lets you encrypt backups and have more than one destination drive. And after finally getting Messages Beta to sync conversations will all my devices just two days before Mountain Lion was released (timing!), the official Messages release has worked right out of the box. If it had come in a box instead of part of a four-gigabyte download. Thank God for my HST.

Otherwise, I haven't encountered a lot of bits that matter to me. Reminders might come in handy once I upgrade to the iPhone 5 and start having Siri remind me to love my children on a fortnightly basis. AirPlay Mirroring would be nice in certain circumstances, but doesn't work on my particular flavor of Hackintosh. Dictation doesn't work very well if you can tell from the sun. (Yes, I dictated that. Well, not that. You get the idea.) The new Share button is nice, but would be nicer if it bullied its way into non-Apple programs. I'm not going to switch back to Safari just for that. Or for its iCloud tab syncing (which I already enjoy with Chrome). Or its Offline Reading List, since I didn't pay to not use Instapaper for nothing, folks.

Honestly, though, the best of the 200 dubiously counted features of Mountain Lion goes to Fuzzy Pinyin input. Not only is it a great band name, but it'll also help my kids practice communicating with their eventual employers/robot overlords.

And if that isn't worth sixteen quid*, I don't know what is.



*Unpredictable balm failed to cure my Olympic fever. Sorry.

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