Newsletter Issue #656: Does Mountain Lion Fulfill the Promise of Lion?

June 25th, 2012

Although over 40% of Mac users have already migrated to Lion, that OS hasn’t exactly gotten the love. A fair number of people won’t upgrade simply because they need to run PowerPC software, and Apple removed the Rosetta translation capability from 10.7. This makes Lion a non-starter to them, and it’s clear Apple has no intention of restoring Rosetta in 10.8 Mountain Lion.

I also get the impression that some of you are put off by the iOS-inspired elements of Lion, particularly Launchpad, the app launch system that, of course, you never have to launch. A couple of interface elements, such as scrollbars that require a mouseover to appear, and reversing the direction of scrolling, are readily disabled in System Preferences.

From our Comments section, it’s also clear some of you are a mite confused by Apple’s decision to hide the User > Library folder by default. Yes, it’s visible if you Option click the Finder’s Go menu, but I suppose there’s reason to be concerned that such places will ultimately become impossible to access. At the same time, the main Library and System folders, where anyone who knows an admin password can do all sorts of dire mischief, remain unchanged.

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10 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #656: Does Mountain Lion Fulfill the Promise of Lion?”

  1. dfs says:

    The essential question is, once you’ve turned off those iOS-like features, what do you have left? Notifications? That would be useful if Growl didn’t already exist. But it does, it’s free, and there’s a relatively large number of Growl-friendly apps out there. Third-party developers haven’t exactly fallen over each other implementing Lion’s autosave/versioning feature, and it’s likely they won’t be any receptive to Notifications, particularly if they’ve already gone to the trouble of implementing Growl. So many Mountain Lion users will still want to run Growl alongside Notifications. Dictation? I’ve played with it a little, and haven’t yet made up my mind whether it’s a toy or a tool. Certainly the inability of the user to spell out words not included in its dictionary, such as proper nouns, on a letter-by-letter basis limits its usefulness. What else is there? On the other hand, let’s see what Lion has taken away. Not just Rosetta, but (far, far more seriously) the ability to run 32-bit-only apps. Apple hasn’t given Snow Leopard users an upgrade path to iCloud, so users who can’t or won’t upgrade to Lion are screwed out of the ability to use an Apple-sponsored cloud to synch their portable devices (they can of course go elsewhere, such as to Google’s clouid, but only at the cost of changing their e-mail addresses, which is at least as great a hassle as changing a street address). And bye-bye Front Row, for anybody who cares. Not a very impressive scorecard. Especially when you list the things an OS upgrade should have such as better multiprocessor implementation (where exactly has Grand Central gotten us?), a significantly better Finder, and the better and more efficient file system John Siracusa has written about in Ars Technica. Mountain Lion definitely looks to be more of the same. Apple is giving us new gimmicks but no new substance. If they had continued developing Snow Leopard so that it could handle iCloud and Retina displays but left everything else untouched, we’d be in a better position than we are today.

  2. dfs says:

    B. t. w., anybody seriously interested in the future of notifications ought to read this blog entry by the Growl developer. When I said that Mountain Lion users will want to continue to use Growl, this is what I had in mind, this is going to be the future of notifications on the Apple platform.

  3. Fledermaus says:

    Apple has arbitrarily decided my Mac Pro 2,1’s Xeons won’t ever boot a 64-bit kernel; they’re fully capable of it, but Apple would rather I buy a new machine than keep using my old one. And since the “new” Mac Pro is essentially the same as the 2010 Mac Pro that never impressed me enough to buy it, the likelihood of my buying a new Mac Pro is non-existent. If I haven’t switched to a high-end Windows box by the time Apple deigns to release a Mac Pro that exhibits substantive upgrades – if it ever does – then I’ll look at it. But Apple is blowing it big-time by protracting pro-users’ uncertainty about what it’s going to do. I need more RAM than an iMac can offer, multiple monitors, and as much processing juice as possible. The Mac Pro is the only suitable design in Apple’s stable. Yet Apple’s intransigence has permitted Windows machines to eclipse the best Mac Pros’ performance by a very serious margin, and that performance gulf is going to get bigger before Apple releases competitive machines – again, if it ever does. An Apple exec’s passing assurance that a new Mac Pro is under development for release sometime next year is not much on which to rely; that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee in some places.

    I became an Apple acolyte in 1985, stayed with it through the bad times, and converted a lot of folks to it along the way. Then came FCPX, and I began to wonder if there were any adults in Apple’s management. Lion followed, which stupidly imposed iOS constraints on a desktop environment, without offering any performance improvements, and altered long-established system operations in the process. I’m not concerned about user-configurable trivia like scroll-bar direction. But stuff like “.DocumentRevisions-V100” and unconfigurable changes that require me to change my workflow, those bother me in a very big way. Now I have a bad taste in my mouth whenever I have to consider what Apple has done and is likely to do. That’s not right, nor is it smart, and it was completely unavoidable. I have no desire to return to Windows, but Apple continues to make it harder and harder to avoid doing it.

  4. Fledermaus says:

    If you don’t “feel” constrained by Lion, then good for you. Compared to Snow Leopard Lion “feels” sluggish and temperamental to me. Regardless of what I ask Lion to do, Snow Leopard does it faster. Of course, since Snow Leopard won’t boot on post-Lion Macs, those machines’ owners need not concern themselves about it. Lion is their environment, period.

    Perhaps we differ in the nature of the demands we place on our respective machines. Just as Auto Save and Version only function on apps that support it, the performance of premium multiprocessor machines is only realized by using apps that support multiprocessing. And the performance difference between an iMac and an eight- or twelve-core machine is stark when an app takes advantage of those processors. Use multiprocessor-aware software to convert a video’s format, or render an animation or multimedia project, and the superior capabilities of a high-end machine will become obvious. If you never undertake such tasks, you might wind up believing that a modern iMac is pretty much the same as a Mac Pro. That wouldn’t make it true, though.

    A similar performance difference exists between a high-end Windows workstation and the the best multiprocessor Mac Pro Apple currently offers. That’s simply the truth. The best Mac Pro has two-to-three year old processing and memory technology; new Windows workstations use the latest available. Until Apple gets off the dime and releases a competitive machine, it doesn’t matter how many syllables you, me, or Apple generates about it – that’ll still be the truth.

    Regardless of how Lion “feels” to you.

    • @Fledermaus, Feels sluggish is subjective. The tests I’ve seen show that Lion is generally very much the same in terms of performance as Snow Leopard. Mountain Lion may actually be a tad snappier, but wait for the release.

      As to Mac Pro performance versus Windows workstations, you do, I presume, have the benchmarks to offer, right?


  5. Fledermaus says:

    Yes, feelings are subjective. That’s why I put quotes around the word in my prior posts. I was noting the subjectivity of your not “feeling” constrained by Lion.

    Not having access to unlimited funding or discretionary time, I am unable to supply you with benchmarks. Perhaps you could supply me some?

    Peruse the following machines at your convenience:

    I view benchmarks much as I view EPA mileage estimates. They may give you an elementary basis of comparison among vehicles, but you really need to get behind the wheel and see what the thing does on the road before you plunk down your money. There are a few arms-length friends in my field who’ve used Mac Pros exclusively up until last year, and in the wake of Apple’s mind-boggling FCPX screw-up acquired a couple of Windows boxes to see what would be the reality of switching from OS X to Windows. We have occasionally collaborated on suitable projects, so I was able to wheedle some time to sit in front of one of their new setups. The HD video file that took my Mac Pro octo 104 minutes to convert to Apple Pro Res 422 took 63 minutes to convert on a Mac Pro 12-core. That same file, however, took 34 minutes to convert on their Genesis Pro X2 octo. A little of that might have been due to its RAID being twice the size of mine, but most of it was unquestionably due to its faster E5 Xeons, greater RAM bus speed, and greater RAM. Of course, I couldn’t run Compressor on the Genesis, so a head-to-head comparison was impossible. The results, however, were equally impossible to overlook. It slam-dunked my 2007 Mac Pro 2,1, as expected, and easily outclassed the newer 12-core, also as expected.

    The next Mac Pros – if they ever come to be – are going to use the same hardware and technologies that are available to Windows workstation vendors at the time they’re released. It is reasonable to infer that those Mac Pros will exhibit similar performance to machines employing the same technology under a different OS. The salient distinction is that such Windows machines can be purchased today, and the performance advantages of current technology can be realized here-and-now, whereas the top of the line Mac Pro uses 2-3 year old technology that’s not even available anymore among high-end workstation fabricators.

    If you “feel” that OS X will somehow confer superior performance to machines employing the same hardware, that’s your prerogative. And as long as a 2-3 year lag in technology availability doesn’t matter to you, knock yourself out with a top-of-the-line iMac. What that says to people who need data-crunching, however, is that Apple either isn’t up to the task or doesn’t care enough about the pro market to allocate sufficient resources to stay competitive in it.

    And if anyone had told me a few years ago that the company with the dominant non-linear editor in the pro video market would cough up inexcusable crap like FCPX and Lion, I’d have told them they were crazy. So I have been wrong in the past…

    • @Fledermaus, It’s really hard to do a set of benchmarks when factors other than processor capability may be responsible for at least some of the differences. I would also expect that there will be a 2013 upgrade of significant proportions to the Mac Pro. Tim Cook wouldn’t signal out that for a promise if it wasn’t so. In the meantime, the 2012 update is minor in the scheme of things, but definitely measurable according to Macworld.

      And please quote me accurately: I didn’t say OS X confers “superior performance to machines employing the same hardware,” or anything close to that. This sort of discussion can proceed better if you stop making up your own supposed facts.

      Lion, by itself, doesn’t make pro video editing less efficient. Nobody forces anyone to buy FCP X if they don’t like it. They can continue to use FCP 7 if they like and the workflow would continue virtually unchanged.


  6. Fledermaus says:

    I didn’t quote you at all. Therefore, I could not have quoted you inaccurately. I made an inference that seemed and still seems entirely justified on the basis of your remarks.

    Tim Cook’s assurances regarding a Mac Pro refresh are not worth the digital real estate they occupy. You are entitled, however, to your faith in him and Apple. The Mac Pro’s latest update may be measurable. The performance difference, however, is probably not worth the trouble of measuring. Even Apple removed the “New” label from it on its web site. The machine is simply too old to compete against post-2010 technological changes.

    You have failed to respond substantively to the majority of my assertions, while attributing to me actions I haven’t taken and motives I do not possess. In my opinion this discussion hasn’t proceeded much, at all.

    Your “don’t buy it if you don’t like it” sentiment – not, I hasten to clarify, a quote – appears to me an appropriate coda to it. Therefore, feel free to have the last word. As for me, I’m done.

    • @Fledermaus, Understand this about Apple: When they promise to deliver a product, they do deliver that product. Apple is not Microsoft.

      If you wish to misrepresent what I say, that’s your privilege. But as someone once said, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

      Have a nice day.


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