2012.08 History: August Feature: Mountain Lion

presented by Dave Weston

The Macintosh operating system (just plain OS X, no longer Mac OS) has been updated as of late July, to Version 10.8, code-named Mountain Lion. The main motivation for the transition was to converge the user experiences between OS X (used on desktop and laptop computers) and Apple's iOS (used on hand-held wi-fi devices like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch). The only way to get Mountain Lion is to buy it ($20) from Apple's App Store and have it downloaded via the internet. You cannot get it via CD-ROM or DVD.

Dave got Mountain Lion on Day 1 because of one feature he was really, really interested in: voice recognition. It hears him speak and types what he says. That is, it takes dictation. As an OS resource, it's available any place you can type. You do have to have a net connection. It's not Siri (the iPhone intelligent assistant), but it does send your voice signal to Apple's servers, and they interpret it and send it back as text. Bear in mind that you can kiss off security as a result of transmitting in the clear like this.

It has other drawbacks as well. You need to speak very distinctly, you have to tell it to insert punctuation, and it won't do more than 30 seconds worth of speech at a time. Still, it's faster than typing.

Dave had started his example with the word "now", which was misinterpreted as "wow". He double-clicked on it, re-spoke the correct word, and the computer made the correction.

Start recording by pressing the "fn" (function) key twice; turn it off by pressing "fn" once (or wait for 30 seconds, and it'll turn itself off). You can set that for other keys, if you wish, via System Preferences > Dictation & Speech.

This is the reverse of computerized speech, available under the Accessibility (formerly Universal Access) system preference.

Software Update is no longer a separate OS item; it's now been subsumed into the App Store.

The web browser that comes with Safari 6 (which also works under Lion and was provided as part of a recent automatic Software Update) has only a single address box, not separate ones for URLs and Google searches. It's smart enuf to know which of the 2 you're looking for and even offers suggestions as you type it in. Searches still use Google, tho there are rumors that in the future you'll be able to specify other search engines if you wish.

The Notification feature can be set to pop up certain e-mails, text messages, reminders, iCal appointments, FaceTime calls, and so on. These show up in the upper-right corner of your screen, and the ones you designate as of lower importance automatically vanish if you don't acknowledge them after awhile.

One nice thing about Mountain Lion is that the zoom feature now follows you around the launchpad, whereas Lion only stayed fixed on whatever spot you'd zoomed in on.

Default destination for the Save command is iCloud, which means that you can be working on your MacBook, quit, go home and open your iMac, and there's the document already waiting for you. You make a few more changes, then you can walk into the living room, fire up your iPad, and find the latest revision there. And so on.

It isn't at all clear which of these versions, if any, would be backed up to Time Machine.

These are just the highlights of the presentation; the live version dealt with many minor features and, of course, featured on-screen demos of them. Check out the Macworld website for independent info on new features. It has a search feature that will let you look up things like, for example, RSS (whose functionality has been replaced by something with a different name).

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