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Mountain Lion foot-dragger: “Vacation” in Snow Leopard provides perspective

Sections: Apple Software, Features, Mac OS X, Mac Software, Operating Systems, Opinions and Editorials, Snow Leopard

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I had to boot back into Snow Leopard this week for the first time since upgrading to Mountain Lion about three weeks ago. Indeed, it was the first time I’d rebooted at all in the interval since the initial v10.8 install, which speaks well for Mountain Lion’s stability.

However, I ran into a graphics task that none of the several OS X native graphics applications I have could handle nearly as gracefully as good old Color It! 4.5, a Carbon app dating back to Mac OS Classic 68k days in the early ’90s, and that still does some things better than any other graphics program.

Booting into OS X v10.6.8 also provided some fresh perspective on the older system after three weeks on Mountain Lion, confirming, among other things, that v10.8 is definitely livelier and cooler-running on my late 2008 Core 2 Duo MacBook than the older system. On the other hand, in addition to Color It!, it was nice to be back with Spaces and Expose (as opposed to the unfortunate Mission Control hybrid of the two in Mountain Lion), and to have bigger scroll bars with scroll arrows back in Finder windows. I don’t like “Natural” scrolling any better than I did at the outset.

But do you know what? Notwithstanding those and a few other advantages Snow Leopard enjoys, I soon found myself missing Mountain Lion, and I was happy to boot back into it after a couple of days back in v10.6.

Mountain Lion impresses me as one of those particularly solid and well-sorted OS versions that just have a comfortable and reassuring feel about them. It’s usually no one thing or even short list of attributes in particular that one can put their finger on as key, but rather a sort of elegant synergy of function that defies technical analysis.

A good analogy would be how OS X v10.3 Panther compared with OS X 10.4 Tiger. I really liked Panther. It was a quantum improvement over the buggy and more-than-a-little clunky OS X 10.2 Jaguar, and it proved the tipping-point that finally weaned me off residual dependence on Mac OS Classic for good. However, OS X 10.4 Tiger was (and is; I still spend several hours in it daily on my old Pismo PowerBook utility machines) even better, and is in my estimation still the best and most refined OS X version in the context of its time.

Oddly, perhaps, Mountain Lion reminds me of Tiger in terms of general feel and just an ineffable vibe I get from it. My analogy with OS X 10.3/10.4 doesn’t precisely correspond to a OS X 10.6/10.8 comparison, since in the latter instance we have OS X 10.7 Lion in between. Lion puts me in mind more of Jaguar as one of the less-successful OS X builds, now rendered somewhat irrelevant by the availability of Mountain Lion for just 20 bucks. If you haven’t upgraded from Lion to Mountain Lion yet, what’s holding you up?

Not everyone agrees, and indeed there are good reasons why OS X traditionalists, productivity-oriented and power user foot-draggers shunned Lion and stuck with Snow Leopard, a reality Apple has tacitly acknowledged by making it possible to upgrade directly from OS X 10.6.8 to version 10.8 without the intermediary step of installing 10.7 Lion.

Getting back to my own setup, during my short vacation back in Snow Leopard this week, I was able to clear out some more free space on my secondary hard drive partition on which Mountain Lion is installed, finally giving it a bit of breathing room. It seems slicker, quicker, and more comfortable than ever.

Read more of Charles Moore’s Mountain Lion Foot-Dragger journey.

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  • sfmitch

    I am running 10.8.x on a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo w/ 4GB RAM iMac and I miss Snow Leopard.

    The only reason I upgraded was to get iCloud syncing of my contacts and calendars. If Apple didn’t require Lion or above, I never would have upgraded.

    I find Mountain Lion to be slow(er) and it broke a few things (connecting to my NAS, sharing my files to my blue-ray player). Safari is much less stable than it was before upgrading. None of the new things get me excited with the exception of Messages app getting my text messages.

    I’d imagine that a new, faster Mac would make Mountain Lion work better, though.