It is December and, just as last year, it is the time for an upgrade of OS X. Last year it was Lion (and I did write down my experiences back then); this time it is Mountain Lion. I decided to make a short note of my experiences because, maybe, by sharing those I will save some time and energy to somebody else. In general, I have not hit any major issues, I must say, just nuisances, but it did take me some time to get around those…
1. The installation process itself was fairly straightforward except that… it was nerve wrecking some times. While installing, the screen duly had a progress bar with a text underneath, saying something like “the remaining time is 25 minutes”, “the remaining time is 5 minutes”, “the remaining time is less than a minute”, then… it stuck. Stuck for a long time. Nothing moved, the progress bar was full. And then an even stranger thing happened: it said something like “the remaining time is -20 minutes”. WTF? Because I have experienced quite some crashes in the 30 years that I am in this business, of course I got nervous. Should I reboot? What will happen then? Is my disk fully destroyed now?
Luckily, I had the instinct not to do anything but take my iPad and look up the Web. And sure thing: there are reports elsewhere saying that the progress bar implementation of the installer, including the time estimate, is buggy, and that I should just wait and things would turn out to be all right. And they did indeed, after around 30 extra minutes. Phew!
2. Everything installed, get to login… and it seems that there is still some installation and/or file adaptation to do at that time, because it took about 4-5 minutes after having typed in my password before any of my windows showed up. Again, WTF? I became wiser, and just waited, and things got back to normal. Note that, since then, everything is fine when I wake up the machine, although I have not rebooted it yet to see if a login would again lead to such a delay.
3. I knew that, in Mountain Lion, Apple decided to remove the simple system preference flag to start up a local apache automatically (having the local apache running is essential for me: I have a partial copy of a Web site on my machine to test pages before they go public). Although I never understood why this decision had been taken, I was prepared; there are a number of sites giving advice on what to do (e.g., the one I looked at), as well as an extra small preference that one can install.
What I did not count on is that that the installation would wipe out the old apache configuration file (i.e.
/etc/apache2/httpd.conf). (I do not think the Lion installation did that, at least I do not remember.) To make things even more difficult, that director is not accessible through the time machine (why?) so I had to reproduce my changes. It took me a certain time because I adapted that file for my needs three years ago and I forgot all about it, of course. Advise: make a copy of that file before upgrading!
4. I need some command line tools like
cvs. That means I had to install a new version of Xcode; I counted on that. However…
cvs was still not there after installation. Sigh… did they remove
cvs as an obsolete tool? But no,
gcc was not available either.
As usual, the Web and Google are your friends; I found a note with an explanation. It turns out that Apple no longer installs the “developer” command line tools by default. That includes compilers,
cvs, and the like. You have to install them explicitly: start up Xcode, and then look for Xcode→Preferences→Downloads→Components and click on the install button next to the command line tools. (Again the same question: why this arbitrary decision?)
5. I was pleased to see that the Note application is now available, and is supposed to synchronise with the note application on my iPhone and iPad. I knew that, and I was looking forward to that. On Lion, the notes were bound to the email accounts and appeared in the Mail application; I always found that setup odd.
But… things are not that simple because Apple again made some unexplainable decision. On Lion, I could assign notes to the various email accounts I had, I could do the same on, say, my iPhone, and things worked properly. Not so in Mountain Lion; indeed (as I understood after some google-ing…) Apple has discontinued this synchronisation except for iCloud. Ie, you have to regroup all your notes under the iCloud account (if you have one, that is) to achieve a smooth synchronisation with your mobile devices. It is not that bad at the end, because you can define folders for notes that you can use those for your own categorisation; but, until I realised all that and got everything running, I again lost quite some time, had some dead ends, etc. Sigh…
6. I also had some small woes with the latest Safari. For reasons that again I do not understand, there is no more preference setup in Safari to set the right font size. The only way is to do that is through a CSS style sheet (see also a relevant note I found). Although my personal problem was that the default character size was way too big for my taste, as the author of the note rightfully said, not having the possibility to adapt the size easily can be a major accessibility issue for some.
Frankly… I love my Mac, and I still find it vastly superior in usability than other machines. It is, nevertheless, disappointing to see Apple making such arbitrary decisions and making the transition to a new system unnecessarily tedious. This should not happen.
(By the way, this just reinforced me in my selfish decision not to upgrade to a new system right away. Having waited half a year meant that all my issues were solved relatively easily by looking at notes published by others…)