By now the Mac fanbois have devoured the various gushings of the technorati on the internet and have seen all of the glowing reviews of Mountain Lion, the new OS for Apple’s computer line. I’m a relatively new user of Macs, having switched over when the wife bought me an Air back in late 2010. It’s a superb little machine, I like the interface, but I thought Lion was a disaster. Why? Because prior to that Snow Leopard ran quickly and quietly. Lion, not so much; I saw the beachball much more often, especially when external drives (a must for the small SSDs of the Air), hear the fan crank up to Boeing 787 levels of noise when doing things as simple as watching a short clip on the net or as data intensive as cutting a DVD so I could watch it on my iPad (the gateway drug of the Apple world.)

I was never happy with Lion, but was willing to ignore it. Then comes along Mountain Lion. Notification Center, just like iOS! Reminders, just like iOS! Airplay, just like iOS…unless you have anything older than a Mac produced last week. Hey, wait…I was able to Airplay on my “old” machine with Lion; what the hell? Admittedly, Airplay made my machine labor hard and ran the fans loud enough I had to crank the TV to hear dialogue (seriously, Hollywood, balance the damned sound in movies better!), but it worked. With Mountain Lion? It just locks up iTunes good and dead until you force quit.

No Airplay: Bad. the skeumorphic contact book and calendar interfaces: Bad. Dictation (voice to text) for most programs: Good, but not great — it’s got a very limited cache because it sends what you say to Apple for translation to text. I have a few security qualms about that, on top of it being slow and buggy.

I haven’t bothered with Safari’s new features, since I use Chrome. The share feature being all over the place (but not in Chrome): ambivalent. I use it a lot on my iPad, but perhaps it’s because the laptop is my “work” machine I don’t find it that useful. I’m not surfing the net looking for intriguing things to send my friends when I’m on the Air, unlike the iPad (the first bit of technology, other than vehicles, that I’ve named.) So I’m also not very impressed with the Twitter integration, either, although I use it heavily on the iPad.

iTunes, the bane of pretty much anyone’s existence, seems to run a bit smoother and it’s talking to my network drive without any lag that I can see. Mail having VIP slots for your important contacts? Good. Having reminders and notes separated from mail: Even better. Notification center: Fantastic. More so than I would have thought. Having all of my programs run on ML: Brilliant.

The best part: I haven’t had the fan come on more than once since loading Mountain Lion…and that was pushing a full backup of 52Gb to a network drive. Even then, it only came on for a short time. The beachball has only put in an appearance when iTunes locked up on Airplay, and as I type, I have a movie playing in the background, Mail open, Acrobat open, Word open, and Chrome with 5 tabs. No fan (temps did jump from about 100F or so to 160F.) No lag. Just like when I was running Snow Leopard.

Is it worth it? I blew some of my royalty money from my book sales on the $20 for Mountain Lion and unlike Lion, I think I got my money’s worth. It’s a definite buy — there’s not enough bad changes to not do it, and the bits and bobs (there’s no major changes anywhere) that improve the user experience are definitely worth it.

I just fired up iSkysoft’s iMedia Converter to rip a DVD to see how the machine would handle it. The processors hit a peak of 189F and 180F respectively, with stable temps about 5 degrees cooler. This is on par with the performance on Lion. Fans a-blazin’.

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