I updated my desktop and Macbook to Mountain Lion. As documented on this blog, I had some niggles upgrading to Lion. My post about Fink and Lion is one of the all-time most viewed on this blog. It has taken this long for the upgrade-fatigue to die down. However, the iCal bug that essentially broke syncing with google calendar drove me to upgrade. I decided that I might need some more advanced calendar software, and began checking out Busycal2 – also recommended by John Gruber. But BusyCal2 only works with Mountain Lion. After some quick maths, thinking about how much time and work it would be to buy an AppStore voucher through work (about 5 days), how much frustration I would endure with the broken calendars, the appointments I would miss (already a couple!), I bought the upgrade (only 17.99 Eu) from my personal Apple ID , downloaded in a few minutes (!) and after about 30 mins to install, including a restart.
I have bought computers since last summer, and so I have seen and used Mountain Lion, but not on my personal machines. There are few obvious feature differences between Lion and Mountain Lion, which is reassuring, but the consensus is that Mountain Lion is much less buggy. These impressions were instantly confirmed when the Calendar app (iCal as was, and superficially identical) made a much better fist of syncing with Google Calendars. I got the same error but the pop-up gave the option to retry, and this time, the event that I tried to add to the Google Calendar took. This resolution indicates to me that there is a timeout and that old versions of iCal were not allowing enough retries or time before just junking the event. But it’s probably more complicated than that. For now, at least, my calendars are not broken and I don’t need BusyCal. But I think that I will give the 30-day trial a shot. Later.
I wonder how useful it will turn out to be, but Siri style dictation is now available in Mac OS X system-wide. I noticed it by exploring the printing app, the window for which has changed cosmetically. An option in the Edit menu, somewhat incongrously, is “Start Dictation…” I can’t find an application that doesn’t have this option. Performance is patchy as for Siri. Simple dictation goes fine, technical words (which I write a lot) are almost always misinterpreted, names that are in your contacts show variable recognition, and there is no sense of either learning, or feedback. I don’t know if Siri takes note that you just deleted 8 out of the 10 guessed words (and the words you replaced them with). Such feedback would be difficult to implement system-wide (would involve pinging back to the server) but it’s surely essential for improving performance.
Whether Mountain Lion should have been packaged as a new iteration of the OS (which you have to buy), and not just a bugfix to Lion (free), is a nuanced moral question for Apple. Gradual improvement is much easier to live with, and I think the price is right. Overall, the new features (such as the tidier Notifications centre) and the greater stability are probably worth the money – because these computers are such an essential part of my life. Thinking of the alternatives, we should consider ourselves lucky.