Apple Mt. Lion – Most Annoying OS Release Since Win98? Part II

Malcolm is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.


Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL)  recently released a new version of its OS X, named Mountain Lion (ML for short). I have been a fan of Apple for many years, used Macs since the very first 128K model, bought many of my own, and upgraded my OS many, many times. Mostly my upgrades have gone with few significant hitches, even to the original OS X on my Mac G3.

But this time it has been terrible. I have never experienced anything like this on a Mac upgrade. As far as I am concerned, this has been the most painful OS experience since I last worked on Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 98!

That said, in the previous article, I discussed what I did like about ML. That was the good, now here is the UGLY!


What I do not like about ML OSX.

<img src="/media/images/user_13421/mtlion_large.png" />

Some of my problems stem from the fact that I am a power user. That is, most people do not have the number of email accounts that I have – which is the source of one problem, nor do they need to create pub files from word processing documents. If you use fewer programs, then perhaps the memory issues are not relevant. To me, however, they added up to several days of battling with the computer.

As someone who works on his computer, I do not at all appreciate loosing time fixing or maintaining it. That is why I have always had Macs at home. They are not perfect, but over the years I have spent very little time in problem solving. Mostly they just work.

Mail – the big one

Mail drove me nuts. OK I do stress the system. I have a lot of roles that I play, writer, blogger, photographer, database programmer, and more. I have a lot of email addresses but most are aliases for a single address on my domain. But I need to be able to write an email with each of those address so I have to create accounts that are offline. They are there just so I can select them as a sender. I also have aliases to my Mobile Me account.

Moving to the new Mail was hell, mostly due to the transferred MobileMe accounts because of a simple bug in the program. All your aliases are supposed to show up in accounts setup page. But they do not. Therefore I most reasonably assumed that they were not connected. I spent days trying to set them up but the system went crazy.

Additionally, the Mail program apparently has a different back end (database) set up than before and it needs to convert all your old emails and folders AND this takes time. So for three days the Mail program was constantly using enormous amounts of CPU time and the computer slowed to a crawl for hours. All this while I am trying to get the setup fixed.

The best thing about trading up to ML is that you get 90 days free help. I called. They finally convinced me (after 1.5 hour consult) that my main iCloud account was indeed seeing all my aliases, it just was not displaying them as it should - AND as it used to do – in the preferences account setup pane. Yes, the aliases did show up on the selection menu even though they were not were they should have been listed in preferences. THAT – to my mind – is a bug.

In the end, I spent the better part of three days trying to get Mail issues resolved.  Not how I like to spend my time.


Funny, but iPhoto does a similar thing. If it cannot find a photo on disk it pops up a dialog box to tell you so. What if a whole hard disk is missing? It asks for each and every one! What if you used to have 2000 pics on your iDisk, but this iDisk no longer exists because Apple trashed iDisk in moving to iCloud? Then you get 2000 d-boxes telling you that photo X cannot be found. AND it does this every time that you open iPhoto! AND you cannot just find a new folder and tell iPhoto that is where all the photos will be found. No, that easy solution does not work. You need to find each and every single photo that no longer is where it was before. Basically, iPhoto is now unusable. I did get around this by starting a whole new iPhoto library. Of course this means that all my old library content is gone - I mean the photos are still there, but I will have to import them and all the editing is gone. It’s a good thing that I did not use this for most of my work. This is bad. Very bad! In programming there is the concept of creating a “robust” program. This most definitely is not robust.


The new Open File dialog box is the dumbest move I have ever seen. It is nice to have a drop down menu item for how to sort the files displayed (filename, date modified, etc.), but to change it so that you can no longer click the column headings to do so more easily is just crazy! It is so much easier and more intuitive to click the headers, not to mention that this is how it has been done for years. (In my image the display is from Mail > Attach File.) Furthermore, you do not seem to be able to change the sort order, i.e. ascending/descending.

<img src="/media/images/user_13421/screen-shot-2012-09-08-at-83557-pm_large.png" />

 - System Open File Dialog box (here to select attachment of a Mail message)

The Display menu icon no longer gives a list of Recent Resolutions. This is a pain for those of us who change resolution of the monitor frequently. This is particularly important on the laptop when used without the external monitor. I need to decrease the res. for most work so I can read easily, but increase when editing photos or else the tools take up too much real estate.


I think the OS memory management system has really fallen down as the system way to often goes for a smoke break – a minute or two when it virtually stops to do some background task or reload program elements.

More importantly is that memory usage keeps creeping up until the Free Memory utility has to run and clean things up, and this takes several minutes when the computer is so nonresponsive that you really cannot use it for more than reading something that is right in front of you.

I have 8 GB of memory. I quit programs I am not using. Why is it that I need to run Free Memory 2 – 8 times per day? Really interrupts one’s work flow. At 3+ minutes a piece, this can add up to half an hour out of your workday. This is simply appalling!

Finally - Safari

Safari is my favorite browser. It’s fast and I like a lot of the features. One feature I hate though, is its proclivity for eating up memory.

I shut down Safari, freed up memory, then started Safari and noted the amount of memory in the Activity Monitor utility that comes as part of OS X. The two major components Safari itself and Safari Web Content totaled about 240 MB of Real Memory usage. So I played with it for a while, loading a bunch of standard sites such as my own 50 Cent Flash Fiction page, and my cousin’s wonderful Raintree Nursery, and a youtube video of the incredible Rodrigo y Gariella playing Diablo Rojo, and a bunch of other links.

I opened and closed perhaps 20 tabs and window, ending with the same four that I opened originally. Theoretically, with the same four windows open, I should not need any more memory than before. But now the total used is 1400 MB, almost 6 times the previous amount. If I continue to use it, then Safari will continue to eat up more and more memory, until I need to either quit Safari Web content, or run free memory. This makes it more trouble than it’s worth. Neither Chrome, Firefox nor Camino exhibit this behavior. Chrome is also very good. So now I use it for most of my work. I can run it for days without running into memory issues in spite of having gobs and gobs of both windows and tabs open all at once.

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Big Picture

The big thing for both users and investors is this:

  • Mac OSX and iOS are now one

The thing that Apple has done with the two OSs is to create an overall system where the user has a single virtual desktop across all of his or her devices. Other systems such as Dropbox, and  Microsoft’s Sky Drive have attempted to do this. Here, you share files consciously by saving them onto a particular virtual hard disk. Google’s Android (NASDAQ: GOOG) also has some attempts at this. In some cases, the Documents in the Cloud paradigm also lets you work on shared documents with web based editors. But no one but Apple has done this so incredibly seamlessly. With the iCloud system you just put down one device, go to your other device and pick up exactly where you left off. It all happens effortlessly. Additionally, to initiate this sharing or to access it, all you do is sign in on your device to your iCloud account (just as you would to get your email), and VOILA! All is accessible.

This is a big plus for investors for a couple of very important reasons.

  1. The ease of use makes it very attractive to customers, and
  2. Once a user has bought into the system, it becomes very difficult to leave it.

Apple is known for having the highest customer satisfaction ratings. (“For the eighth consecutive study, Apple ranks highest among manufacturers of smartphones in customer satisfaction.” JD Powers 9/6/2012) This cementing of the customer attachment to the “Ecosystem” is a strong driver of forward sales as it tends to lock the customer into Apple products. To the investor, this means that Apple can look forward with great confidence to repeat business – repeat sales.

My Complaints

As time has passed, the effort to get Mail configured properly has faded into a distant, if unpleasant, memory. Of course I do deal daily with the inconvenience of having to free memory all the time, and a number of other annoying little issues. But overall, Mountain Lion does run smoothly and many new features are real assets. (Did I mention that I frequently use dictation writing my articles? It works pretty well.)

Again, one of the best features of Mountain Lion is the 90 days tech support you get.


Perhaps my title is a little strong. You must understand that I was fresh from the excruciating experience of upgrading Mail, and this, admittedly is not going to be typical for other users due to my unusual needs.

Apple claims to have over 200 new features in Mountain Lion. It has been reported that 20% of Mac users have moved to the new OS in just the first month or so after release. The major problems that I ran into are likely to affect very, very few people. Even the memory issue may not affect many people. As for the rest of the problems that I have with the new OS, but when all is said and done, these are minor, nit-picky items. They may be annoying, but they are not major.

My one piece of advice is to download the free app Free Memory (or better the 99¢ pro version – they deserve your dollar). This allows you to constantly view where you are at, and can be set to automatically run if memory gets too low. Also, learn how to use Activity Monitor, another way to keep track of system usage if things slow down. To me, as a long time Mac user, having to rely on such tools is antithetical to the whole Mac paradigm, but here we are in a new age.

In the end, in spite of all the annoyances I ran into, Mountain Lion is a solid useful upgrade. (And only $20!) The real contribution that the new OS gives to the world is the total integration with iOS – integration of one’s work and play into a single, seamless, virtual environment.


<<<Mt Lion – Part 1: The Good>         


JaanS owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.

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