Friday, July 27, 2012

OSX Mountain Lion Upgrade Adventure

If you are closely following Apple, you've certainly heard about the latest OS update released this past week on July 25th - Mountain Lion.  The upgrade was only $20 and there are a lot of new features. I upgraded last evening and wanted to talk a little bit about my experience...

First, I'll give my perspective on the new stuff and reasoning for the upgrade. One of my favorite features is the ability to mirror your Mac to an Apple TV device.  The apple TV's are around $100 or so at most stores. The idea behind Apple TV is that you can easily share videos and multi-media, rent videos from the Apple Store (for a pretty reasonable price), stream Netflix, etc. 

I've been using an Xbox 360 to do this currently and it has done a great job.  However, every time I turn on my Xbox 360 I fear the "red lights of death". I've already had that happen to me with 2 other Xbox consoles (one of which was still under warranty).  Another issue with the Xbox is that you have to pay for your membership just to get on line and use apps like Netflix, which also have an additional cost.  The benefit is that I can use my Zune Pass service for all the music, which gives me basically any song I care to listen to for $15 / month (as well as 10 to keep "permanently").

Now, one of the cool features about Mountain Lion is that with an Apple TV (and a Mac 2011 or newer) you can mirror anything on your screen to your Laptop. This eliminates a lot of the fus with trying to locate media content on a separate device as in the case of the Xbox (it's a real annoyance to try and find what I'm looking for, especially with the amount of content I have).  On the Mac, I can use the familiar navigation of the file system and easily get to the content I want.  I know of other people that put a Windows Media PC in their living room to do something similar on the Microsoft platform, so this isn't necessarily ground breaking... But the nice thing with the Mac is that you can do it without all the clutter and wires that the PC would require.  Nay sayers might argue that you could have a similar experience on Windows using the Media Center, but I find that interface a little clunky / irritating (see point above about file system navigation).

Another great point is that you could use subscription services like Hulu for free, and play that content on your TV.  In the case of Xbox, iPad, or other devices, Hulu charges a monthly fee to use them.  This makes it even more tempting to "unplug" from traditional cable TV and get only the content you want. I'm not quite there yet, but I can see that happening in the next 3-5 years based on all the new content services out there.

There are many other mountain lion features that I think are beneficial, especially since I have an iPad and iPhone.  There is tighter integration and Apple touts "you can go from one device to the other".  For example, if you are browsing on your iPhone, the "Cloud" will allow you to resume on your Mac.  It also claims to make sharing content/links/etc a bit easier with social media sites.  These features are nice but I don't see much value personally.

In the end, I decided to upgrade because I want to be up to date on the latest version.  It was only $20 and that is a one time charge. I can also put it on my wife's Mac for no additional cost.  Given the "200"+ features (many of which I probably won't use), being current, Air Play, and the low cost... it was an easy decision.  Especially when you compare to Microsoft, who charges an arm and a leg for an upgrade (and per PC at that), this was a no brainer. Hopefully Microsoft will take a page out of Apple's book and maybe even turn themselves back to profitability in the near future.  But I am guessing Windows 8 will go for a pretty penny by comparison (which I will probably also do on my PC).

Now for the adventure...  I was harkened back to my PC days a little bit on this particular upgrade.  First I purchased and downloaded it through the App Store.  That was no problem.  Once it downloaded, it asked me which drive to install it on. I was a little puzzled because the last time I did an upgrade, it just went on my main drive.  I mistakingly picked the wrong hard drive because I couldn't remember what the name of my boot drive was.  After the upgrad started processing I realized "woops, that's my video drive, I don't want to install it there" and turned off the Mac to my better judgement. It rebooted and said it could recover the install... but I didn't want to do that. I did have a moment of panic but was ability to use disk utility to set my original main drive as the active boot. I breathed a sigh of relief and cleaned off the install files from my video drive, and then tried again. (Had to re-download, which is slightly over 4gb for the install).

This time I paid closer attention and tried to tell the installer to upgrade the main drive that had Lion installed on it. I got an error something along the lines of "This is a Time Machine Backup drive".  I was a little confused... After about 20 minutes of googling the error, I came across an article that indicated that the installer will not let you upgrade the drive if there is an active time machine backup going on.  I then explored the backup folder and did indeed find that there was a time machine backup that I had started back in September of last year (not long after I got my Mac). I had actually aborted that back up but the files were still hanging around.  The "fix" was to delete the backup.backups folder where the in-process backup was.  I shelled out to terminal and tried doing an rm -rf (a unix command to delete the files) but it told me the files were locked by the system and I couldn't delete them.  I did some more googling and found that I needed to use the tmutil to delete them.  Success!  This was not a very pleasant experience, and it hearkened me back to the PC days. However, in the grand scheme of things it was pretty easy to clean up.  I really don't know why Apple would prevent you from installing if a time machine backup was still in process. I guess they figure better safe than sorry.

After that, things were quite simple. The installer defaulted to my boot drive and I was able to finish up.  It took roughly 30 minutes.  The "last minute" was the longest, taking probably at least 5. After that it rebooted and my wall paper changed to the new and updated Milky Way galaxy image. Had it not been for that, I wouldn't have even noticed that I upgraded.  I later found the notification icon up in the top menu.  Everything else seems to be about the same, so far.

So I'm pretty excited about OSX Mountain Lion, but it doesn't seem to be a major change so far. I would encourage anyone wanting to upgrade to do it just so you are up to date, and especially if you are considering an Apple TV.  I haven't yet purchased the Apple TV but I plan on doing so once my budget recoups from another recent project which I plan on blogging about next.

As always, thanks for reading!