Apple has released the ninth iteration of OS X, 10.8 Mountain Lion, to the masses. Alongside OS X 10.8 Client, Apple has also released OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. As expected OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has integrated even more features from Apple’s mobile operating system iOS. These features are in addition to those that were previously added in OS X 10.7 Lion. Just like with OS X 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion is designed for ALL of your Macs, with some caveats.

There are some minimum requirements for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. You must be running one of the following models: iMac 2007 or newer, Aluminum MacBook late 2008 or newer, MacBook Pro Late 2007 or newer. MacBook Air Late 2008 or newer, Mac Mini, Early 2009 or newer, or a Mac Pro Early 2008 or newer. All of these have a common feature, they support 4GB of RAM or more, meaning that they are 64-bit motherboards and processors. If your Mac can only have a maximum of 3GB or less, your Mac is not compatible for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

If you have an existing Mac you will need to have OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard or OS X 10.7 Lion installed in order to upgrade to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. You will also need at least 2GB of RAM in order to run OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Pricing

With recent versions of OS X, Apple has been very aggressive with its pricing strategy. OS X 10.5 Leopard was $129 for the Client, and $499 for the 10-client Server version and $999 for the unlimited-client Version. This had been standard pricing from the release of OS X 10.1 through OS X 10.5 Leopard. Beginning with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Apple tried a radical approach, $29 for a copy of Snow Leopard and $49 for the Family pack. Apple did not leave out the server crowd. While not exactly a price-reduction, Apple did sell the Unlimited-client of OS X 10.6 Server for $499. Why would Apple go with this price model? Simple, Apple’s business strategy is to make money on the hardware not the software.

Apple maintained the pricing at $29 for OS X 10.7 Lion. Despite maintaining the client price, this was not the case with OS X 10.7 Lion Server. With OS X 10.7 Lion Server Apple dropped the price down to $49.99 for the Server.app. Server.app enables the server features of OS X 10.7 Lion. This price drop was a 90% reduction. There was a slight change however with OS X 10.7 Lion. Since it was download only, you were able to install it on all of your Macs.

Apple has become even more aggressive with the pricing of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The cost of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has been reduced to $19.99 for the client. This is down from $29.99 for OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.6 Snow Leopard. This is a 33% price cut. One can assume the hope is that more users will decide that paying $19.99 for a copy of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will entice more users to upgrade, even if they skipped 10.7 Lion.

Apple did not forget the Server crowd when it came to price reductions. Apple has become even MORE aggressive with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. Apple has decided to drop the price from $49.99 to $19.99 for a copy of Server.app. This price is on top of the client cost of 10.8 Mountain Lion. This means that you can have a server for approximately $40 in software costs.

This pricing model is using the idea of volume to generate sales. It is part of an overall strategy to reduce prices and generate more sales, which should off-set the cost of the price reduction. This price will make it easy for every user to update to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and take advantage of the new features that have been unleashed.

Refinement

Lion.to.Mountain.Lion.Logos

Apple has made the upgrade from OS X 10.7 Lion to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion have much of the same feel as the upgrade from OS X 10.5 Leopard to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Unlike the 10.5 Leopard to 10.6 Snow Leopard upgrade being almost an entirely an internal refinement, the upgrade from OS X 10.7 Lion to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion does include a significant number of new features. These improvements bring even more features from iOS into OS X.

Under the Hood Changes

System

As one might predict Apple has made several under the hood changes to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Some of these will be noticed by the end-user, while other features will be more widely noticed by the developer and server segments of the market.

Full Screen

Full.Screen.Logo

OS X 10.7 Lion introduced the ability to have applications take up the entire screen, similar to how all iOS applications function. The beauty part of a full screen application is that it can create a distraction free environment. This method allows a user to focus on just one task at a time. Given the rather frequent inability for many to concentrate with the significant number of interruptions, the usage of a distraction-free environment could be a boon to productivity for some users.

One of the issues with full screen applications under OS X 10.7 Lion was that you could only have full screen applications on the primary display. For many users this was not an issue because they only had their MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. However, there are a number of users who have multi-monitor setups and would prefer to have an application full screen on their secondary display.

Some users who may have a second display hooked up to their 13” display because of the limited amount of screen real estate, may wish to be able to have their tool palette on their MacBook Pro screen while their actual working envionment is on a larger screen. This just was not possible under OS X 10.7 Lion. Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion this is now possible. It may only be a small change, but it will be a significantly useful one for many users.

64-bit

Apple has included 64-bit support for OS X since OS X 10.4 Tiger. While in Tiger it was not widely utilized by applications, it was present. OS X 10.5 Leopard brought 64-bit more to the mainstream by allowing application developers to write 64-bit applications. Steadily since OS X 10.4 Tiger, 64-bit support has become increasingly difficult to avoid. If you were sticking to 32-bit applications that require 32-bit kernel extensions, you have two options; Either stick with 10.7 Lion or force yourself to upgrade to 64-bit version of the application that include 64-bit Kernel extensions. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is 64-bit only with kernel extensions.

What does this mean, this means that any applications that require 32-bit kernel extensions (kexts) will no longer work. 32-Bit kexts are no longer supported at all within OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. For many users this may not be a big problem since they have already upgraded their applications or are sticking with an older version of OS X. However, for some it will feel a lot like the OS X 10.4 Tiger to OS X 10.5 Leopard transition where you are forced to wait to upgrade to the latest version of OS X until all of your required applications decide to upgrade.

The removal of 32-bit support for Kernel extensions does not mean that your 32-bit applications will not run. 32-bit applications will run without any issues. You can still force applications to run in 32-bit mode if you choose to do so. None the less, 64-bit mode is the default for launching applications.

This transition only makes sense from Apple’s perspective. Similar to the OS X 10.5 Leopard to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard transition where support for the Power-PC platform was dropped, as it was no longer a viable item to main, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is dropping 32-bit kernel extension support. This transition will allow for a more stable operation of the OS. This in turn allows for a reduction in support calls on current 3rd-party hardware and software.

Given that all Intel processors are, and have been for some time, 64-bit it makes no sense for Apple to continue to provide 32-bit kernel level support.

iCloud

iCloud

iCloud was introduced to the public with the release of iOS 5 in October of 2011. iCloud is Apple’s cloud-based service that allows users to backup their iOS Devices directly to the cloud without the need to use a computer. iCloud was also added to OS X 10.7.2 Lion which was released simultaneously with iOS 5.0. iCloud was unveiled at the Apple’s 2011 World Wide Developer Conference as the natural successor to their Mobile Me product, which was launched in July of 2008.

Each Apple ID receives 5 GB of free storage space on iCloud. This storage is for all of your iOS backups, application data, and iClout-enabled services. 5GB may seem like a lot, however when a single iOS device can take up 1 or 2GBs of storage, it really is not a lot. Apple does offer additional storage space for an annual fee.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion you are provided the opportunity to connect OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion to iCloud during initial setup. iCloud has become a de facto standard for Apple. It is a core piece of their overall strategy. While you can use OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion without iCloud, there are many features that are not available and it is very strongly encouraged that you do sign into iCloud.

iCloud has gone beyond Photo syncing, and a nebulous storage mechanism for your iOS applications. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion provides the framework to allow application developers the ability to integrate iCloud directly into the save dialog of their applications. The use of iCloud allows users to store a copy of their data in the Cloud so it can be accessed from either their Mac or iOS device.

Developers must enable iCloud support within their application, it is not an automatic option that is enabled by default. iCloud is not available for applications that are distributed outside of the Mac App Store. Therefore, developers must publish their apps through the Mac App Store in order for users to be able to get their files across all of their devices.

The requirement to use the Mac App Store will bifurcate the Mac application community more so than what has already occurred with the limitations of applications distributed through the Mac App store applications. While Apple has not entirely blocked applications not purchased through the Mac App Store, Apple has released a new feature in Mountain Lion called ‘GateKeeper’. We will dive into this a bit later.

Managing iCloud information

One of the features of iOS is iCloud, and now that iCloud is more heavily integrated with OS X Mountain Lion, iCloud will become more and more ubiquitous among applications. One of the downsides of remote storage is the management of your iCloud storage, much like one must do on their iPods, iOS devices, and Macs.

Apple has provided a way to handle storage management under OS X Mountain Lion. You can manage iCloud documents by opening System Preferences -> Mail, Contacts & Calendars and clicking on your iCloud Account -> Manage.

iCloud.Manage.Information

Under this view you will see what information is stored in your iCloud account. You can click on any of the items on the left hand side to see the actual information. Once you have done this, you can optionally delete individual files or data for entire applications.

While this feature is not new, it is something to be cognizant of because more and more the applications that you use will be utilizing iCloud as their primary storage mechanism and managing your storage may become imperative.

New Functionality

With the release of any new operating system users would expect things to change and new features be added and possibly others to be streamlined and integrated. With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion this is no exception. Apple has taken every opportunity to reduce complexity and streamline the operating system along with adding new features.

Mountain.Lion.New.Features

Software Updates

OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.6 introduced a new feature called the Mac App Store. The Mac App Store has become a way for OS X Developers to distribute their software without the need to create a website, shopping cart/e-commerce site, update mechanism, and anti-piracy measures. Not to mention a merchandising account or integrating with a site like Paypal. As with iOS on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, the Mac App Store is the mechanism to update applications downloaded from the Mac App Store.

App.Store.icon

Apple has taken the functionality of the Mac App Store one step further. Software updates are now integrated in the Mac App Store. All applications purchased through the Mac App Store, as well as any OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion updates, are now managed through the Mac App Store application. There are still two menu options under the Apple menu, App Store and Software Update. Both of these options will open up the Mac App Store and it will then perform a check to see if there are any OS X updates or Application updates available for you to download.

Updates.Available.Notification

The centralization of application and OS X updates will make the task of keeping your software up to date a much simpler task for the less tech savvy bunch that administrators and geeks are required to assist. As one may guess, it would not be a big leap for Apple to remove the ‘Software Update’ link from the Apple Menu with OS X 10.9.

App.Store.Software.Updates.Available

Ported iOS Features

With the initial introduction of OS X 10.7 Lion back in October 2010 at the ‘Back to the Mac’ event, Apple made it clear that they were taking the lessons that were learned from iOS and bringing those features to OS X. Apple made the initial foray into this with Launchpad, Multi-touch gestures, AirDrop, and Auto Saving being some of the biggest iOS features that were brought to the OS X platform. Apple has decided to bring even more iOS features over to the Mac with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Airplay Mirroring

AirPlay.Mirroring

One of the coolest features of iOS, particularly of iOS 5, is the ability to mirror your iPad to an Apple TV over Wifi. While there have been ways to hook up a Mac to a TV it has never been that easy. Apple has changed this with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

If you have an Apple TV and a Mac running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion you can use Airplay Mirroring to show what’s currently on your Mac on your TV without the need to have additional wires or even an unknown number of cables and adapters hooked up to your TV.

There are some caveats with using Airplay Mirroring. First, you must have a second-generation Apple TV as well as running a compatible Mac. You must be running an iMac that is Mid-2011 or later, an Mac Mini that is Mid 2011 or newer, a MacBook Air that is Mid 2011 or later or a MacBook Pro that is Early 2011 or newer. If you are running anything older you will not be able to utilize AirPlay mirroring. You will still have the option of using HDMI or another cable to connect your Mac to your TV, if you so choose.

AirPlay Mirroring encrypts all traffic from your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion device to the Apple TV. This means that you do not need to worry about somebody else also viewing your Mac unbeknownst to you.

AirPlay Mirroring will also match the screen resolution of your TV so you do not have to worry about manually setting the screen resolution to match your TV.

This type of setup would work quite well with a Mac Mini in a media center particularly if you did not want to run any additional cables. The biggest use case, that I see, is going to be with conferences. Instead of needing to make sure you have all of the cables and connectors in order to hook up a laptop to a projector, you can just use Airplay mirroring to mirror it to an Apple TV and not have to worry about screen resolutions, cables, and whether or not the conference center has any technology staff at your disposal.

Notification Center

Notifications.icon

It seems like each subsequent version of iOS keeps adding more and more new features. With the release of iOS 2.0 Apple introduced the App Store. With iOS 3.0 came copy and paste and MMS. iOS 4 introduced multi-tasking, while iOS 5 introduced a slew of features, including iCloud, Twitter Integration, Reminders, and Siri. One of the biggest changes in iOS 5 was the revamp of the Notifications.

Apple has added iOS 5 style notifications to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. In a similar fashion to iOS, you can receive notifications right on your desktop. Notifications could include Mail arriving, new Instant Messages, and even when your Xcode builds are complete. Notification center can be accessed by clicking on the bar icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Notification.Center.Icon

There are two different types of notifications in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, local notifications and push notifications. Local notifications are from applications locally installed on your Mac, like Xcode, where they alert you to some that is happening on your machine. 

Push notifications originate from a remote server and are pushed to your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion device to alert you to a change that has occurred and could potentially need your attention or giving you updates on a game.

Notification.Center.Example

If an application has notifications enabled, it will automatically add itself to the list of Notification-enabled applications. There is no alert, nor request, when an application wants to use Notification Center.

Notifications.System.Preferences

Notifications are managed by going to System Preferences -> Notifications. Alternatively, you can also open Notification Center and click the ‘Gears’ icon in the lower right corner. There are several options that you can customize to have notifications work as you desire. Notifications are setup on a per-application basis
The first option is the alert style of the notification. You can show a banner, which will automatically go away after a few seconds.

The second option is an ‘Alert’, which will remain on the screen until the user takes some action. The last option is to not display any type of alert. This is done by selecting ‘None’. If a user selects ‘None’, the notification will still appear in Notification center even though no alert has been shown.

The second customization is whether or not to show an item in Notification center. If you de-select ‘Show in Notification Center’, the notification will still appear, provided that the alert style is not set to ‘None’. This option may be best for mail or Messages notifications where they only need to be temporary.

Along with whether or not an application is shown in Notification center, you can also select the number of notifications you wish to see for that application. The options are 1, 5, 10 and 20 recent options.

The third set of customizations is whether or not to display the Badge app icon. The Badge app icon is used to give a quick glance look at the number of actions, or just generally indicate that you have actions, that need to be addressed within an application. You can turn these off if you so desire.

The fourth customization is with sound. Some applications will play a sound to let you know that you have a new notification. You can turn these off if they start to annoy you.
The last customization option is the order of Notification Center. You can either select ‘Manually’ or ‘By Time’. If a user selects ‘By Time’, the newest application to have a notification will appear on the top. The notification will bring all other notifications for that application to the top as well.

If the user chooses to manually sort Notification Center, the order is managed within the Notification Center System Preferences. You can click and drag the application in the left side in any order that you wish.

There is one last option with Notification Center. As a user, you have the option to temporarily mute notifications. This is done from within Notification Center. Simply bring up Notification Center, scroll up to the top and you will see a toggle switch that looks like this:

Notification.Center.Alerts.On

You can easily turn notifications off by hitting the ‘On’ switch. If notification are off the icon will look like this:

Notification.Center.Alerts.On

Alerts will resume the following day, unless you turn them back on before then. When notifications are muted the Notification Center menu bar icon will look like the one below:

Notification.Center.Alerts.Silenced

I can definitely see many applications, including Handbrake, Final Cut Pro X, and maybe (if it ever gets updated) Twitter’s OS X application being able to support notifications through Notification Center. Notification Center is a great addition to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Notification Center will allow users to keep up to date on what is going on.

New Applications

With almost any new operating system comes new features. In order to show off those new features companies need to release new applications.

Apple’s began bringing features from iOS to OS X in OS X 10.7 Lion. The trend has continued with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Apple has decided that there were some application available to iOS devices that needed to be ported over to OS X. These applications include: Game Center, Notes, Reminders, and Messages.

GameCenter.logoNotes.Logo Reminders.LogoMessages.Logo

Application Naming

Back.The.The.Mac.Logo

During the ‘Back to the Mac’ Special event in October of 2010, available at Apple.com, Steve Jobs explained Apple’s philosophy on bringing things back from iOS to the Mac. The process went from Mac to iPhone to iPad and now back to the Mac. One of the main discrepancies between iOS and OS X is the naming of applications. The naming method has changed.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion some key applications have been renamed. iCal is now known as Calendar and iChat has been renamed to Messages. While this may not seem like a huge deal, the consistent naming could mean one of two things.

The first is that it could help ease the transition of iOS users to the Mac, or vice versa. When trying to go from a PC to Mac (honestly, who would really go back unless you’re a Windows developer), it can take some time to adjust to the naming convention that Apple has in place for its application can be a bit daunting. While there are icons that could more easily assist in determining what the application actually does, but it is not always clear.

This may be a similar case for those coming from an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. However, given that the names are now the same, it will be much easier for a new OS X user to identify the applications that they are already familiar with and not be so apprehensive towards a new experience.

The second possibility, which is more long term, is that Apple may eventually be able to have a single build of an application, like Notes, that runs on both iOS and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The most likely way that this could be accomplished by using some sort of virtualization technology to emulate the iOS environment, yet remain completely seamless to the end user.

I’ll admit that the second possibility is a bit far-fetched, but given the overall direction of OS X and iOS, this possibility could be here in the not too distant future.

Game Center

GameCenter.Login.GameCenter.App

Game Center, a staple for many iOS games, has been ported over to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Game Center, just like on iOS, allows developers to integrate achievements and game matches directly within their OS X games.

Game Center on the Mac also allows developers to share achievements between iOS games and OS X games. This will allow users to not have to restart a game on the Mac if they have already started the game on their iOS device, just to get achievements. With the integration of iCloud, it is possible that a user could start a game on their iOS device while on the train home and then continue playing their game once they do arrive home since the save game information could be stored in iCloud.
GameCenter.Login.Inside.App

Along with Game Center comes the ability to auto-match users, provide voice chat capability, authenticate users, provide leaderboards for games, and also provide a mechanism for users to befriend other users.

If you are currently developing games on iOS that utilize Game Center, none of these features are new, but they do allow developers to port their games to OS X. Apple does include one game with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion to allow you to test out Game Center. Apple’s Chess does let you see how an application could integrate with Game Center.

Notes

Many users have been using various applications like Evernote, Simplenote, TextEdit or even by using the Stickies widget to maintain a list of to-dos, or just ideas that come to mind.. If you do not wish to, you no longer need to use these applications because Apple has ported the Notes application over to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Notes has been available on iOS since the initial release in June of 2007. With the progression of iOS, new features have been added but the application has remained largely unchanged. While the Notes app on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion remains largely unaltered from its iOS version, there are some new features that might make life a bit easier for heavy Notes users.

Notes does integrate with iCloud to allow all of your notes to sync across all of your devices so no matter where you are located. This is so you can always have the latest version of your notes available.

Notes.Folders

There is a little bit of setup to enable syncing of Notes across iOS and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. You must go to System Preferences -> Mail, Contacts and Calendars. Once you have done this, you can click on the account on left and then you will have to check on ‘Notes’ to enable notes syncing.

If you already have notes in the cloud, you will be asked if you want to merge your current notes with the ones on your Mac. If you decide to no longer sync notes with your Mac for a certain account, they will be removed from your Mac.

The only notable new feature, is that with the Notes app on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion you can create folders for better organization of Notes. This will make a bit easier for heavy users to manage all of their notes across all of their OS X and iOS devices.

Reminders

Reminders.Window

There are many applications available for OS X and iOS that allow you to keep track of your tasks and reminders. Many of these applications offer synching across your devices, which is great for making sure you don’t forget anything. However, there are none that work with Siri on the iPhone 4S except for Apple’s Reminders.

Much like Reminders under iOS 5, you can have location-based reminders that work with your Mac. You can leave reminders for yourself at work to remember to get that important TPS Report to your boss. I could easily see computer techs using this to remind them to take care of a problem at a particular building.

Reminders.Open.New.Window

Reminders, like many other applications, has been ported over to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. There is one unique feature with Reminders on OS X. The feature is that you can actually pop-out a list of tasks or reminders that you could keep on a separate screen all the time. In order to do this, you simply right-mouse click on the list and then click “Open List in New Window”. This is not something that you can do with Reminders on iOS. This technique would be best for those who are very task-oriented when it comes to getting things done.

Messages

Apple has included a client to be able to chat with users on AIM, and Jabber/XMPP since the release of OS X 10.2 Jaguar. iChat has slowly seen upgrades as each subsequent version of OS X was released. With OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple released iChat version 6.0. In 6.0, Apple added support for connecting to Yahoo Chat. Apple has continued the upgrade with iChat, except it is no longer iChat. It is now simple Messages. This keeps with the consistent naming convention between iOS and OS X.

Messages does not leave the old iChat functionality behind. All of the previous functionality found in iChat 6.0 on OS X 10.7 Lion is still present on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The added feature of Messages is that you are now able to chat with other users over iMessage. iMessage is Apple’s own chat and SMS replacement service that allows iOS, and now OS X, users to send messages, pictures, and even video to other iMessage users.

Messages.Account.Listing

All of the features that iOS users have become accustom to have been ported over to Messages. This includes read receipts, message notifications and even the ability to search messages. All of these options are available in the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion version of Messages.

Messages also includes the ability to send images as well as video to other iMessage, AIM, Google Chat or Yahoo users. This will make it easier to share important photos and videos with your friends and family.

The ability to send messages from any of your iCloud connected devices will make it much easier for OS X and iOS users to stay in touch without having to pay for the expensive SMS packages that cellular providers tend to charge. A beta of Messages was released in February in order to allow users to test out the new functionality. Messages comes pre-installed with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Social Integration

Apple has attempted to create its own social network with “Ping”. Unfortunately, it did not pan out as well as Apple would have hoped. Instead of trying to force their own social network Apple has chosen to integrate with existing social networks, like Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter.Logo

One of the biggest changes in iOS 5 was the system level integration with Twitter. With the Twitter integration an iOS user could be on a webpage, see something they like and almost instantaneously send out a Twitter post without having to open up Twitter and do a copy and paste of the webpage.

This would work by bringing up a ‘Tweet Sheet’ which is just a twitter post dialog. You fill in what you want to say and the link to the item that you are sharing will automatically be added.

This same functionality has come to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. With the same speed, and sometimes quicker, a user can send out a Twitter posting to a webpage that they find interesting.

Social.Services.Preferences

As of right now Safari is the most prominent application that integrates Twitter into it’s sharing menu. I fully expect this to change in the coming weeks as more applications add Twitter integration into their applications.

You can also quickly send out a Twitter message by going to the Notification Center and clicking on ‘Tweet To Post’. There is some setup for being able to do this. You start by opening ‘System Preferences’ -> Notifications -> Sharing Widget and then enable ‘Show Sharing Widget in Notification Center’. Using Notification center is the fastest way to post a message to Twitter.

Facebook Integration

Almost exactly like the Twitter integration, Apple has integrated Facebook. Unlike Twitter, system level integration of Facebook was not included in iOS 5.

Just like with Twitter, you will be able to share items directly to Facebook via sharing sheets or right from within Notification Center.
Unfortunately, Facebook integration with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will not be available until the Fall, but users will enjoy the functionality once it does arrive.

Facebook.From.Notification.Center

Tweet.From.Notification.Center

Security

Security

Whether it’s from the security features inherent in OS X’s core components, which is inherited from Unix, or from new features, like Sandboxing, Apple has always strived to provide a secure operating environment for its users. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is no different in this regard. In fact, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion takes the already in-place security model and extends it with new features like GateKeeper, enhanced Permissions, and Sandboxing. Let’s look at each of these new security features.

GateKeeper

GateKeeper.logo

Gatekeeper is a new feature of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion that allows the user control over applications that can run on a system. Gatekeeper’s setting can be found under ‘System Preferences’, then ‘Security & Privacy’. Under the heading ‘Allow applications downloaded from:’ you will see three options. ‘Mac App Store’, ‘Mac App Store and identified developers’, and ‘Anywhere’. Let’s look at each of these individually.

As one would expect the ‘Mac App Store’ option is the option that Apple would prefer users choose. If you opt for this setting you will only allow applications that have been submitted to, and downloaded from, the Mac App Store to run on your system. If you choose this option this means that should you attempt to download and run an application you will be presented with a dialog box similar to this one:

Gatekeeper.Not.identified

This is the most secure option for application. This option may be ideal for users who do not wish to trust any 3rd party application beyond Apple’s screening process. This will also work for new OS X users who may not always be able to identify software that could be potentially hazardous or for users who do not wish to mess around with potential viruses in their applications.

Using the ‘Mac App Store and identified developers’ option allows the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion user to expand their software options by not only allowing applications purchased through the Mac App Store but also allowing 3rd Party applications from developers that have also included a ‘Developer Identity’ signature.

GateKeeper.Allow.Apps

Developer Identity is discussed later in the Developer section of this review. As an overview it allows applications that do not meet the Mac App Store requirements to be signed by developers that will then allow a modicum of security for end users.

The final option is ‘Anywhere’. This will allow any application to be run on your system. You can download any application from the Internet and allow it to run without any issues.

Unfortunately, for many users, this is going to be the required choice for quite a while. There are still a significant number of applications that do not have have developer identities attached to them. I’m not referencing small developers either. If you enable either ‘Mac App Store’ or ‘Mac App store and identified developers’, you will not be able to use Amazon’s MP3 Downloader application. This is required if you purchase media from Amazon’s MP3 store.

It will take some time, but eventually almost every application that is distributed with either be from the Mac App Store or will be signed by a developer so they will be compliant with GateKeeper.

Address Space Layout Randomization

Certain aspects regarding security on OS X have been neglected by Apple. Take for instance the Flashback malware that infected OS X 10.7 Lion, 10.6 Snow Leopard and 10.5 Leopard machines through Java that crept up in February of 2012. Oracle patched the bug back in February, but it took until April for Apple to release a fix for Java on OS X. Initially, they were not going to fix Macs running OS X 10.5 Leopard, but they changed their mind on that as well. Security issues like this are ones that Apple has needed to pay more attention to more closely than prevoiulsy thought. There are many methods and options for securing OS X. Apple has enhanced one with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR).

ASLR is a feature that has been present in Microsoft Windows since the release of Vista in January 2007. Address Space Layout Randomization is a technique that loads modules and applications into different memory locations at each boot. Apple has included ASLR since OS X 10.5 Leopard’s launch in October of 2007, but it has only been for Applications.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion this changes. ASLR is now implemented for the kernel as well as kernel extensions. Traditionally, without ASLR, many kernel-level elements and libraries were loaded into the same sections of memory. This is mostly due to the order in which extensions, libraries and applications are launched.

The issue with this approach is that if a piece of malware knows the memory location, they can more easily target that section of memory and potentially cause corruption or find a bug that could cause the application to crash.

With ASLR, kernel-level elements are now loaded randomly into memory. Thus, making it a bit harder for malware to make targeted attacks towards kernel-level elements. Employing ASLR for the kernel will provide even more protection for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion users and make the platform safer for all users.

Sandboxing

One of the many new security features in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is the requirement to “Sandbox” your application. Sandboxing is the practice of not allowing your application to save or access the data of any other application or system resource, except through the allowed APIs or without explicit permission. With Sandboxing on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, applications must now request access to other resources like Calendar and Contacts, much like the case has been for accessing KeyChain data.

Sandboxing is used heavily on the iOS Platform to protect you, your data and the operating system, from nefarious applications by not allowing applications to access data from each other, or by saving information into the operating system’s reserved space. This has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. Sandboxing is a great security concept, since it does limit what applications are allowed to do. Despite this, it does limit the usefulness, in some cases, of the platform. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is also going this route.

Sandboxing along with Gatekeeper is a great idea for the client version of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. However, I’m not entirely sure how well this will work on Mountain Lion Server. It is an easy thing to see most OS X users wanting to stay within the Mac App store ecosystem, but this does not make much sense for the server crowd.

Many OS X customers use their servers in a very customized manner. Whether its packages downloaded through MacPorts or even compiled from terminal, the requirement of needing the Mac App Store does not make sense. Since so many applications require root permissions to run, you can just bypass the Mac App Store and set the Gate Keeper setting to ‘Anywhere’.

Apple has implemented sandboxing in its own applications. FaceTime, Mail, Reminders, Notes, Game Center and even Safari are all now Sandboxed applications. This means that they must request permission to be able to access certain other features, like Contacts, calendars and Location services.. This option will provide users some control over their personal information, however it will make sharing data between applications a bit more cumbersome and certain aspects of applications will not be available.

Let us look at BareBones’ BBEdit 10. I purchased BBEdit 9 from the Mac App Store. One aspect of BBEdit, and Text Wrangler, that is very helpful is the ability to save files anywhere in the operating system. Many developers who like to use BBEdit may need to save to a folder that they do not ‘own’. In order to accomplish this task you must authenticate as a root user. Under the Mac App Store version of the application BareBones was not allowed to include ‘Authenticated Saves’ in its Sandboxed Mac App Store version of BBEdit. In order to provide this functionality, they had to provide an Apple Script that would allow authenticated saves.

Not having this functionality directly within the application is not necessarily the problem. The biggest problem is that Sandboxed applications are not allowed to download additional code to provide more functionality. This means that the end-user must explicitly go to Barebones’ site and follow the steps to put this Apple Script into place, just to enable Authenticated saves.

The best way to think of Sandboxing is that each Application is the root of a file system. In other words, if you might expect an item downloaded from the Mac App store to contain another application, you are most likely to find it under /Applications/Name Of App.app/Contents/Applications. It is a different way of thinking about an application.

Sandboxed applications will allow for greater security for the end user, but this will also limit what functionality that developers can natively include with their applications that are distributed in the Mac App Store.

Permissions

One of the major iOS kerfuffles over the past six months has been the revelation that applications like Path were taking your address book contents and sending the entire contents to its servers without the user’s permission. This was done in order to match the contents of your address book against other Path users to let you see who else is using Path.

It is not only the fact that they were sending your information up to their servers that was bad, it was the fact that they were doing so without ANY notification to the end user. This made Apple jump and add a new feature not only to iOS 5.1, but also OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, permissions.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion you are now presented with a dialog box that will explicitly ask for your permission to access things like Contacts. There are a couple of other feature that requires your explicit permissions. They are Location Services, Twitter, and Facebook.

Gatekeeper.Get.Permissions.Contacts

If any application requires either of these services, you will be presented with a dialog box. You must either click “Allow” or “Don’t Allow”. If you select “Don’t Allow” the application will not be able to access this information. Should you wish to change your mind about an application in the future it’s easy enough to change. You simply go to System Preferences -> Security & Privacy -> Privacy. You then select the service on the left hand side, and uncheck the application and it will no longer have permissions.

Permissions.Location

This feature is a great step forward that allows users a bit more insight into their privacy. It also makes the user aware of what applications are requesting what permissions. The only downside could be that an application may not be able to fully work if it is not allowed to have access and a user may not fully understand why the application will not work or is buggy. I do see this only being the start of a much larger permissions change down the road.

Sharing Service

One of the new features within OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is the “Sharing Service”. The sharing service is a way to quickly send items to other services. Most notably, either via AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook or Email. These are not going to be the only applications to share to.

Developers can participate in sharing by setting some entitlements in their Info.plist file to take advantage of this feature. Sharing is a context-based item. For instance, if you’re uploading a video, you will probably see YouTube and Vimeo. If you’re looking to upload a photo, you will probably see Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and Messages.

The elegant part of Sharing Service is once you enter in your credentials the first time, you do not need to re-enter them each time you wish to access the service.

I could easily see many applications like Evernote, iMessages, or Screen sharing having this feature enabled. I’d love to see Marco Arment of Instapaper create a small Menu app that allows sharing directly to Instapaper. I would also love to see Chrome implement this on OS X so we can use Chrome to send things directly to Instapaper instead of needing to use a bookmarklet.

It’s an interesting idea. I am definitely excited to see what uses developers will conjure up to utilize the sharing service.

Applications that integrate Sharing Service

As one might expect, Apple would not introduce a feature and not integrate it into its own Applications. Apple has integrated Sharing Service into some of its existing applications.

iPhoto

Sharing.iPhoto

Apple’s own iPhoto integrates options for Sharing into the application. If you choose an individual photo you will then have the option to send it to any of the following: Order Prints, Mobile Me Gallery (Really?), Flickr, Facebook, Email, or Photo Stream.

If you have a photo, you will get all of the above, except for Photo Stream. This is because Photo Stream only supports photos and not videos.

Notes

Sharing.Notes

With notes, you only have two options for sharing, Email or Messages. It is text afterall, so you cannot expect to be able to send it to Flickr. However, it would make sense to be able to send it to both Facebook and Twitter, but this is not supported.

PhotoBooth

Sharing.Photobooth

With PhotoBooth, after you have taken that fantastic picture of you and your friends, you can share it to an Email, on Messages, via Airdrop, on Twitter, post to Flickr, and send to Facebook.

You also have the option to do the following with your PhotoBooth photos: Add to iPhoto, Set as your account picture, set as one of your contact’s photos, or Change your Twitter profile picture.

Preview

Preview.Sharing.Options

Preview, Apple’s built-in PDF and image viewer and manipulator also integrates sharing. If you have an image open with Preview, you have the option Email the item, send it to somebody on Messages, AirDrop the item, Share it on Twitter, post to Facebook, Add it to Flickr, and Add it to iPhoto.

If you open a PDF, you can either Email the PDF, send it to somebody via Messages, or use AirDrop to share the item.

QuickTime

Sharing.QuickTime

QuickTime is Apple’s audio and video player and manipulator. QuickTime X on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion allows you to share your media.

If you’re sharing a Video you are able to send an Email, a message using Messages, via Airdrop, to Facebook, upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, or Flickr.

If you’re sharing a piece of audio you only have three options; sending an Email, sending it via Messages, or using Aidrop to share it to another Mac.

These are by no means the only applications that utilize the sharing feature. I fully expect that Apple’s iLife Suite and iWork applications will support sharing in the not too distant future.

Time Machine

Time.Machine.Logo

Time Machine is a concept that was introduced in OS X 10.5 Leopard. Time Machine, in case you are not familiar, is a mechanism that allows users to plug in an external hard drive, or use a Time Capsule, and automatically back up the contents of your hard drive. After the initial backup of your system, Time Machine will make hourly backups of any changes made to your system. Apple has added one significant feature to Time Machine.

With OS X 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, and 10.7 Lion users were limited to one drive for backup. Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion this is no longer the case. A User may backup their data to more than one time machine device. For instance, you can now switch between a backup hard drive that you have at work and a time capsule that you have at home. This works seamlessly.

This is a vast improvement given the issues that having just one local backup of your data can cause. It is best to have more than one backup and one of those backups should be at an off-site location.

Launchpad

Launchpad.icon

One of the most iconic features of iOS is the home screen. When Apple announced that they were going to be bringing more iOS features to the Mac, it was no surprise to see the grid layout of applications on the Mac through the Launchpad application. Launchpad under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion remains largely unchanged. However, there is one new feature that is a benefit to any user with a significant number of applications; search.

Launchpad under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion now includes a search option. As you search your results will automatically be shown, much like on iOS. It may be a small addition but it will be a useful one for those users who use Launchpad and have a significant number of applications.

Launchpad.Search

Screen Savers

Many OS X users may not utilize screen savers, but they have been a part of OS X since its introduction and even well before then on other operating systems. Screen Savers are not as widely used as they once were. This is for many reasons. It’s anything from the decrease in the usage of desktop computers and the overall rise of Mac laptops, to the fact that Screen Savers are no longer needed since burn-in on a monitor is no longer an issue. Whatever the reasoning, the usage of Screen Savers is on the decline. Additionally, with the rise in portable Macs, most users either shut down their machines or put them to sleep before actually stowing away their Macs.

Despite this, it did not stop Apple from enhancing Screen Savers just a bit. Apple has introduced a new feature, Slideshows. Slideshows are a way to use a folder of photos, or a photo event that you have in Aperture or iPhoto, and use that as your Screen Saver. You may be asking, hasn’t this always been in there? Yes, except there is one additional item that Slideshows provide, and that’s a theme and consistent transition method, much like you might find within Keynote.

The list of slideshow options are Flip-up, Floating, Holiday Mobile, Origami, Photo Mobile, Photo Wall, Reflections, Scrapbook, Shifting Tiles, Sliding Panels, Snapshots, Vintage Prints, Ken Burns and Classic. All of these are fantastic transitions. My personal favorite is sliding Panels.

Screen.Saver.Shifting.Tiles

If you choose a folder or event there is an advanced option to ‘Shuffle the slide order’. Enabling this feature will allow you to have a random order for your pictures, which will then provide a unique Slideshow each time your Screen Saver turns on.

Screen Saver and Photo Stream

There is one more screensaver option available in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. You can now set your photo stream as your screensaver. This allows users to display their Photo streams on their Macs, just like they are able to do with their Apple TV 2nd and 3rd generations.

It may not be a big new feature like Notification center, but it is a nice touch and shows that Apple is still paying attention to the little details and enhancing features that have been around for a while. It is also utilizing Apple’s iCloud infrastructure which, as pointed out previously, is quickly becoming the basis of all of Apple’s software and becoming the platform for the future.

Dashboard

Dashboard.icon

Unlike many other aspects of OS X, Dashboard within OS X has only been available since OS X 10.4 Tiger’s release in April of 2005. Dashboard is Apple’s widget center. Widgets are micro-programs that allow instant access to specific information. Widgets are built using HTML, CSS and Javascript, so almost any web developer should be able to write a Widget, if they choose to do so.

Dashboard.Lion.Widgets

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Dashboard.layout

There are some widgets that come pre-installed with OS X. The number of widgets that have been pre-installed has changed over the years. OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard shipped with 21 widgets, OS X 10.7 Lion removed the Google search widget as well as the iTunes Widget. Widgets under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion have remained the same as OS X 10.7 Lion.

However, there has been a change to the way that Widgets are managed under OS X 10.7 Mountain Lion. Instead of being a bar of possible options, as was the case with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard as well as OS X 10.7 Lion, Widgets now take on the same look as Launchpad. Removing widgets works the exact same as Launchpad, as well as iOS, where you hold down for a few seconds and the icons will begin to jiggle. You will then have the option to remove any widgets that you have installed. You cannot remove the system widgets.

If you would like to add more widgets to Dashboard, you can do so by downloading additional widgets from Apple’s Dashboard Download site.

It should be no surprise that Apple would refine Dashboard to give users a consistent experience between Launchpad and Widgets given that they perform similar, yet different, functions. Consistency within the User Interface is less likely to cause problems for novice users.

As has become custom, Apple has updated the ‘Tile Game’ widget in order to be the same cat as the Operating system, a Mountain Lion.
Dashboard.Tile.Game.Mountain.Lion

TextEdit

TextEdit.icon

One of the included applications with every version of OS X is Apple’s text editor, TextEdit. TextEdit has seen small changes over the years. Given that it is a text editor, there are not that many features that are needed. One of new features in TextEdit is the ability to save documents into the cloud with iCloud.

The iCloud integration allows you to remotely store your files offsite. However, with TextEdit there is no way to access your TextEdit documents on your iOS devices. Regardless, it is still a nice feature.

TextEdit.iCloud

The only downside, as maybe it only irks me, is that when you save an item from iCloud, you do not have an option to view the entire save dialog box. You only see iCloud’ as the save location and you are not able to see the other files that are already within iCloud. The biggest part of this is that since iCloud is the default save location if you choose another location the save dialog box does not automatically expand. This seems to be an oversight on Apple’s part and does not appear to be Apple’s standard operating procedure.

Let’s say that you already have a text file saved locally on your Mac, but you want to be able to move it to iCloud, you can do this quite easily. The first step is to open the file you want to move. Second, you click the name of the file, a drop-down arrow will appear. Third, click the ‘Move to iCloud’ option. You will receive a dialog box confirming that you really do want to move the file to iCloud.

TextEdit.Move

Along with the ‘Move to iCloud’ option, you are also able to just move the files anywhere on your local system. This means that you can move documents from iCloud back to your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion system. The weird thing is that you do not receive a confirmation when you move an item from iCloud to your local Mac, as you do when you save from your local Mac to iCloud.

One thing not included in TextEdit though, is full screen mode. It would seem like a natural, and very simple, item to add. The only reason, I can think of, as to why Apple may not do this, is to allow third parties to implement this functionality. However, Apple does not seem to care if the primary features of 3rd party applications are no longer exclusive, because Apple implements it themselves.

Automator/AppleScript

Apple.Script.Logo

Apple has made some slight changes to AppleScript and Automator. These changes revolve around the way that security is handled with Automator Apps and AppleScripts. If you enable GateKeeper any script that you download or receive via email will be regulated by GateKeeper. However, if you create the Automator action or AppleScript on your computer, it will be able to run unrestricted.

If an Apple script is run from the Services Menu, or run within the Apple Script editor it will run without restrictions.

Automator and Applescripts that are within a Sandboxed application are able to run unrestricted within that application’s sandbox. If an application requires additional access, it must be specified within its Entitlements. Entitlements are a way for developers to request access to additional resources. If an application attempts to access something that it is not entitled to, it will fail and even possibly cause the application to crash, unless the author has taken necessary precautions.

Automator.Logo

Developer Notes

Xcode.Workspace.icon

As with any major OS X release, developers have a bunch of new APIs to potentially utilize to enhance their applications or just to take advantage of new features added to OS X. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is no different, there are a ton of new features ready to build into existing applications that developers could take incorporate within their applications.

Single Sign-on

One of the greatest things about iOS, and particularly about Twitter on iOS, is the ability to enter in your Twitter credentials once and have multiple applications be able to use the credentials. This has been the case with many corporate applications on the Mac and definitely on the PC side of the aisle.

While is has always been possible, developers have needed to create their own framework in order to accomplish the task of Single Sign-on across multiple applications.

With the accounts Framework developers are able to create and store credentials. Other applications then have the ability to use those credentials to log into an application.

If developers begin to use this feature in the applications, it could reduce the number of usernames and passwords that users are required to remember. This framework functions a lot like Twitter’s OAuth or the Facebook Connect service, which allows users to use their credentials from already established services to authenticate against another service.

There is one thing to note, as a developer you are not able to see their current credentials, only authenticate against them.

This feature will take some time to gain traction with developers. Once it does, it will create a fantastic end-user experience.

Auto-saving

Regardless of experience with computers, a problem that many users face is the fact that we forget to save documents sometimes. When this occurs, it can be devastating given the amount of time spent typing up the document that was not saved. It could be anything from a term paper, blog post, video or audio edit, or even a piece of code. It’s never a good feeling when all of that work is lost.

Apple’s answer to this dilemma is Auto-saving. Auto-saving was introduced in OS X 10.7 Lion and continues in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. There is a slight change to Auto-saving in Mountain Lion though. The change relates to whether the application support iCloud saving or not.

If an application supports iCloud, like TextEdit, when a document is first created, it is automatically saved within iCloud. This is a change from OS X 10.7 Lion and previous versions of OS X where the document would not have anything done with it until it was saved.

If the application does not support iCloud, documents are automatically saved in the ‘Documents’ folder. These changes only apply to document-based applications and may not apply to other applications like photo-editors or audio-editing software.

Along with the save location, There is a new option to rename a file, by simply clicking on the file’s name and a drop-down menu will appear giving you the option to rename the file. The file will be named whether it is stored locally or whether it is stored in iCloud.

This is admittedly a minor change and many end-uses will not notice. But the time when their butt is saved because their document was auto-saved, they will be glad this OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion included this feature.

Carbon Frameworks

With the introduction of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple made it clear that Power-PC was no longer going to be supported. With OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple dropped Rosetta, the software that allowed Power-PC applications to run. This time around, Apple is not dropping support for any architecture, but they are putting developers on notice, by deprecating Carbon.

Carbon was originally developed for use in Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9. Due to significant usage, and backward compatibility, Apple continued to include access to Carbon APIs in versions of OS X. In OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Carbon is officially deprecated. What does this mean for developers?

Deprecation means that Apple is going to remove the Carbon APIs in a future version of OS X. Most likely OS X 10.9. Many applications will continue to run under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, but developers should be re-writing their applications that utilize the Carbon APIs to be using the Cocoa APIs instead.

QuickTime

Quicktime.icon

Apple is not a company that likes to rely on 3rd party companies to provide functionality for their products. Apple has been developing and maintaining QuickTime since its launch in December of 1991. QuickTime is Apple’s own video and audio playback software. QuickTime is the basis for Apple’s iTunes software.

Developers have been able to utilize QuickTime’s SDK. The only limitation with the SDK is that it was strictly 32-bit. With OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple advised developers to start transitioning from QTKit, The QuickTime framework, to use the AV Foundation framework for any time-based applications. Time-based applications may include video editors or even audio-editors. Apple has made even more changes with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Apple has introduced the Video Toolbox framework. Video Toolbox is the 64-bit replacement of QuickTime’s Image compression manager. Video Toolbox is recommended for all applications within OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion that require image compression or image manipulation.

The replacement of the 32-bit QuickTime framework and transition to 64-bit means that applications can now utilize more memory and potentially manipulate larger files. With the eventual transition to 4K video, larger video files are just around the corner.

Gestures

Scrolling with a mouse has always been available within OS X. The ability to use your finger to scroll and move objects around has been in iOS since the original release in June of 2007. Many users were wondering when the functionality would arrive on OS X. Users did have to wait a little while until OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard was released. With OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard came the introduction Apple’s Magic Trackpad. Many users were somewhat questionable on the usability of Apple’s Magic Trackpad under 10.6 Snow Leopard. While it would function as a replacement for a mouse, it was of limited use to most users. The questions as to why a multi-touch TrackPad was released were answered with the release of OS X 10.7 Lion.

Gestures.With.Trackpad

Within OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard there were only six different multi-touch gesture options available. Multi-touch gestures were introduced to OS X with the release of OS X 10.7 Lion. In total there were fourteen different options with Trackpads. Apple has added one additional gesture under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. If you swipe from the right edge to the left you will bring up Notification center.

While many users frown upon the usage of the Trackpad because it is not the device that they are accustom to using in order to manipulate OS X. Apple is attempting to make it a bit more lucrative to users to at least give the Magic Trackpad a try and see if the use of the product could become a required part of their routine.

Automatic Reference Count (ARC)

iOS 5 introduced the idea of Automatic Reference Counting (ARC). I could try and explain ARC, however I recommend going to John Siracusa’s OS X 10.7 Lion review and read about ARC.

To give a quick summary, ARC is a method in programming that allows the system to manage memory automatically versus having the programmer to manage memory manually. ARC is a more efficient method since it is less likely to mishandle memory over a programmer. Do not get me wrong, computers are not perfect and I am not bashing developers. Memory management is a hard task to master.

There are two main types of memory manager for use with Objective-C, garbage collection and Automatic Reference Counting. Many developers prefer managing memory themselves. Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, garbage collection has officially been deprecated and ARC is now the preferred method of memory management within applications.

Deprecation is the process of still supporting an application but warning developers that the deprecated methods will no longer work in a future version of OS X. Failure to change the deprecated methods may result in crashing applications, which is a bad user experience.

Developer ID

Developer.ID

To coincide with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion’s new Gatekeeper security feature, Apple has released a new security measure, Developer IDs.

Developer IDs are a way for developers to sign not only their applications, but also their application installers. This method is specifically for those developers who choose not to distribute applications through the Mac App Store. It may be due to philosophical differences over the Mac App Store, or it may be due to the limitations with Mac App Store.

For instance, applications that require root permissions, like Carbon Copy Cloner, cannot be distributed in the Mac App Store, because applications are not allowed to request root permissions.

Developer ID allows a developer to sign their code so that it will function with Gatekeeper’s ‘Mac App Store and identified developers’ option.

This method does not apply to Mac App Store applications because those must be signed by a registered Apple Mac developer and cannot be sold through the store without a valid certificate.

It is recommended that any developer who wish to distribute software outside of Apple’s Mac App store sign their applications. There may be any number of users who do not wish to run software that is not signed.

Retina

At Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 2012 a new form-factor of the MacBook Pro line was introduced, the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The most interesting features with this new MacBook Pro is the display. The 15.4″ screen has a resolution of 2880 x 1800. This is double the current 1440 x 900 displays that the non-retina 15-inch MacBook Pro displays.

The addition of Retina graphics means that developers will need to update their graphical assets and icons in order to properly display on Retina displays. It is only a matter of time before the entire Mac line joins the new 15” MacBook Pro and includes Retina displays. Developers should be looking to include Retina-level graphics in all of their applications.

Apple has some documentation available for developers to give them hints and techniques for optimizing graphics, as well as testing their application. The testing can be done despite not owning a Retina display. This is done using Quartz Debug.

You may be wondering what the possible fallout from not optimizing your application could cause. The potential fallout is that your application does not display as nicely as a user would expect. It could just be your logo, or your graphics, but it does detract from the overall experience of the end-user.

All of this information is available in the Mac Developer portal page discussion High Resolution displays. Nobody can assume that Apple will move away from High Resolution displays and this is going to become the standard.

Voice Dictation

Voice.Dictation.icon

Apple has always been a company who looks at different ways to assist users in inputting data into their OS X devices.

There is the traditional keyboard and mouse, as these will always been available as the primary way to input information into an OS X machine, however voice is also another option.

iOS 5.1, released in October of 2011, introduced a new feature for the iPad, Voice dictation. Voice dictation is a feature that would allow transcribing of your voice into text. This was a system-wide feature that works in any place that you want to type. The iPhone 4S also includes Voice Dictation, along with Siri.

Just like with the introduction of the MacBook Pro with Retina, Apple announced that Voice Dictation would be coming to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Voice dictation within OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is an interesting feature. It does require explicit permission to allow your input to be sent to Apple in order to be transcribed. While it is no where near perfect, Voice Dictation does manage to do a pretty good job. Apple’s voice dictation, across both iOS and now OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, is a licensed product from Nuance. Nuance makes the ‘Dragon Dictate’ applications, which are the most recognized dictation software available.

In order to enable voice dictation you must go to System Preferences -> Dictation & Speech -> and select ‘On’. At this point a popup will appear informing you that your information will be sent to Apple. Along with your voice data, items like contacts will also be sent so that Apple may insert names properly into your results.

Voice.Dictation.Send.To.Apple

There is some customization that you can do with Voice Dictation. You can select which language, as well as which shortcut to be used to bring up dictation. You do have the option of not enabling a shortcut, if you so desire. Alternatively, you can bring up dictation by going to the Edit Menu and choosing ‘Start Dictation’. This will work in just about every application that would require a keyboard input.

Voice.Dictation.System.Preferences

I did a couple of tests, one with the built-in Microphone on my iMac and the second with a USB headset that had a microphone built right in. As expected, the USB headset did work significantly better than the built-in Microphone. The built-in Microphone test did not reliably hear everything that I was saying.

There is one thing to note, this is not Siri. This is strictly voice dictation. This is just as it is under iOS 5 on the iPad. I am positive that it is using the same engine as Siri is using for its translation, but it is quite limited in what functions it can perform. However, what it does do, it does well.

Safari

Safari.icon

Through its initial beta release, and debut, in January 2003, Safari has slowly added additional features that have enhanced the experience of browsing the web on OS X. Safari 1.0 was released in June 2003 using the KHTML fork, Webkit. Webkit has been the heart and soul of both the Desktop version of Safari as well as the Mobile version that is available on iOS.

Apple has continued this with the release of Safari 6 in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, which is also available for OS X 10.7 Lion.

Searching

Safari.URL.and.Search

One of the features of many modern browsers is the ability to search right from within the URL bar. This has been enabled on Firefox since version 3.5, which was released in June of 2009. Chrome has had this feature since its initial launch in September of 2008. Safari 6.0 now has this feature as well.

The unified search within Safari mimics both Firefox and Chrome’s URL bars by allowing users to search using their preferred default search engine. This is a much needed and missed feature of Safari.

The only missing feature of the unified search is the ability to change the default search engine. There has never been an Apple sanctioned method for changing the search engine. Personally, I do not care to change it, I prefer Google. Despite this, there are users who do wish to select which search engine they search by default.

Safari.Unified.Search

Web Notifications

There is an OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion only feature built into Safari 6, Web Notifications. Web notifications integrate directly with Notification Center. Much like Notification Center notifications, you can receive specific notifications from webpages. Developers can use the web notifications API in order to send messages to users. They will receive these notifications within Notification center.

The biggest usage case, as I see, could be a support chat session. Imagine being on a support chat for an application and the support representative is taking an inordinate amount of time to reply to your messages. You could easily go off and surf the web elsewhere, or use another application and then be notified when the support rep does respond. Another option could be YouTube notifying you when your video has been uploaded and notifying you again when it ready to go live.

Like with many other features of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, it will be interesting to see how developers manage to use the new Web Notifications API. I could see Twitter implementing this, along with Facebook to notify users of @mentions in the case of Twitter or new messages in the case of Facebook.

iCloud Tabs

Under OS X 10.7 Lion users were able to sync their bookmarks across multiple devices. by using iCloud. These devices could be an OS X machine as well as any number of iOS devices. This is very useful to be able to access all of your favorites across all of your devices.

iCloud.Tab.Cloud

Apple has enhanced the syncing functionality to include more than just bookmarks. You are now able to synchronize your open tabs across your devices with iCloud Tabs. iCloud Tabs will allow you to display any tabs that you have managed to leave open. This can be useful if you managed to find something at home and want to read it while at work or vice versa.

This could also work quite well when just sitting at home. You can be browsing the web on your iPad while watching TV and you come across something you want to check out later, you just leave the tab open, and you can then pull it up on your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion machine and peruse the site at your leisure. iCloud Tabs works in both directions as well. You can leave something open on Safari on your computer at work and continue to browse it on your way home using your iPhone.

It is another item that enhances Safari and utilizes the iCloud platform to get your information, where you want it, when you want it.

Reading List

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There are many times when users find a long and interesting article that they would like to read at a later time, but do not want to keep the tab open. There are a few services that offer this type of functionality. Some of these include Instapaper, Readability and even Pocket.

Apple has added this functionality to Safari. Now you can easily find a webpage and go to the sharing button and click ‘Add to Reading List’. You will then be able to access your Reading List by clicking on the pair of glasses in the Bookmarks Bar. Alternatively, you can also go to View -> Reading List.

When you bring up your Reading List you will have four buttons available to you. Clear All, All, Unread and ‘Add Page’. Clear all will erase all of your Reading List. ‘All’ will show you a list of all of your Reading List items. While ‘Unread’ will display just the items in your Reading List that you have not yet gotten back to reading. ‘Add Page’ will allow you to add a page to your reading list, provided it is not already in your Reading List.

Reading List is a good bookmarking technology that should really be used as a temporary list of items and not for a permanent solution. It is a bit too easy to accidentally clear out all of your Reading List items with the ‘Clear All’ option. Reading List is a very basic service and does not offer many of the features

Reading list was added in OS X 10.7 Lion. Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion a new feature has been added, ‘Offline Reading List’. Safari will not save all of the items in your Reading List. If an article has multiple pages, Safari is smart enough to save all of the pages so you can read the entire article offline.

This will work well for those who want to save a number of items to be able to read on the plane, or while taking the train and not have to worry about losing a connection to the Internet.

Share Button

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One of the new features of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is the Sharing Service. Apple has created a method to more easily share information between services. For instance, specifically within Safari you can add a page to your Reading List, email the page, send the page to Twitter or Facebook. These options will allow you to quickly accomplish many of the tasks that you could do if you were to copy and paste the URL of the page that you’re looking at into each service. This way, you can easily accomplish the task without having to open a bunch of applications.

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Do-Not-Track

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One of the many potentially bifurcating issues is privacy. Some users wish to have targeted advertisements, while others do not wish to have any information passed at all while they are on the internet.

In order to create a single standard amongst the browser creators the ‘Do-Not-Track’ standard was created. The standard has been submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for standardization. Firefox has supported the Do-Not-Track header since March 22nd, 2011 with the release of Firefox 4. Microsoft added the Do-Not-Track header in Internet Explorer 9. IE9 was released on March 14th, 2011. Safari 6.0 for OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion now supports Do-Not-Track as well.

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The Do-Not-Track standard is a big way to go for allowing users to determine their own privacy settings. There is one company that is absent from supporting the Do-Not-Track header and that is Google. Google’s Chrome does not support the Do-Not-Track as of this writing. Google has stated that they will support Do-Not-Track by the end of 2012, but it has yet to be seen.

Web Inspector

One of the biggest things that web developers need to do is verify that the code that they are producing, or tweaking, will display properly. One of the ways that this is accomplished is by using the Web Inspector to look at specific HTML or CSS elements and make modifications that will be displayed within your browser, but not be reflected directly on the site.

Other times, a developer is trying to recreate the same technique that another site is using. While it may be possible to create the technique from scratch, it is easier to see how someone else is accomplishing the same thing and then just copy and paste the same code.

With Safari 6, Apple has re-configured the Web Inspector so it is a bit cleaner and easier to locate items. All of the same functionality exists, but it is nice to see a refresh to make things easier on developers.

Power Nap

Sometimes Apple adds a new feature to its operating systems at the last minute. Power Nap is no exception to this. Power Nap was introduced at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference 2012.

Power Nap is a feature that will allow your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion device to continue to receive notifications, email, reminders and notes, even while your Mac is sleeping. Receiving updates is not the only function that Power Nap performs, it also keeps your Time Machine backups up to date, as well as downloading software updates in the background.

The best part of Power Nap is that it will not turn on any of the fans nor will any lights come on. You will not even know whether the device is actually receiving updates or not. There is one limiting factor to Power Nap. The limiting factor is that only certain devices are compatible with Power Nap. The compatible devices are MacBook Airs that are from Late 2010 or newer and MacBook Pro with Retina display. These are the only compatible devices.

Despite this limitation, once newer devices are released to support this, it will be a big help to keep you up to date even while your device is sleeping. With Power Nap once you return to your Mac, all of your notifications and messages will be there waiting for you to handle.

Mail Changes

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Mail is one of those applications that many users cannot live without. Over the years Apple has improved Mail by adding new and much requested features. These features may be anything from quicker searching by indexing mail, built-in RSS reader, and even Microsoft Exchange Server integration for the corporate crowd. Apple has added a couple more new features in Mail 6.0.

Very Important People (VIPs)

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One of the new features in Mail 6.0 is a new folder called Very Important People or ‘VIP’ for short. VIP allows any Mail user to identify important senders. In order to utilize the VIP features, you must add a user as a VIP.

There are two ways to accomplish this. In either the Message Pane, or in an open email message, the first is to highlight over the email address. Next, you can either click on the Star that appears, or you can click on the down arrow and go to ‘Add to VIPs’.

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If you receive an email from an important sender it will appear both in the original mailbox as well as the special VIPs mailbox. In addition to being included in the mailbox, it is also provides a star to let you easily distinguish the senders. If the message is unread, it will be a filled in star and if it is read it will be an empty star.

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Preferences on iCloud

With such tight integration of iCloud within OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion one might expect Apple to include some integration with Mail. Apple has not disappointed with this expectation. Apple has added Mail preference syncing between devices. The types of information that is synchronized is Rules, Smart Mailboxes and even signatures.

It is a good added feature for those users who may have multiple OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion computers and want to have all of their preferences within Mail available on all of their devices.

Sharing Options

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Apple has included sharing within its own applications. Mail is not excluded from this group. Sharing from Safari to an email message allows you to send the page in four different ways. These are: Reader format, as a webpage, as a PDF, or as a link only. The unique thing with sharing from Safari to email is these options are set in Mail, not in Safari.

The Reader option, is the most interesting. This is because the Reader option in Safari removes all of the advertisements, and just gives you the content. Sometimes you want to send specific articles to users without requiring them to see all of the ads and other extraneous information. In order to use this, the page must be able to be formatted by Reader, and you must open the Reader view before sending it to an email message.

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Other times, you want to send an entire webpage to somebody, this is definitely an option and is much easier than attempting to copy and paste the webpage into an email message.

The PDF option is the best if you want to send somebody else an attachment so they can see an entire page. This would also work if you want to send a webpage to another user so they can open it directly in iBooks or Preview.

As a last option, sending the link only is always a way to just send another user some information.

The best part of Sharing to email via Safari is that you can get it done easily. The second best part, is that you can switch between any of these four options at will. If you decide that you want to see how a Reader version will look, you can look at that. If you decide you want to send the PDF, you can do that. It is entirely up to you.

Server Specifics

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Apple’s primary market is with consumers. Steve Jobs, and other Apple executives, have stated that Apple is a consumer electronics company. This is borne out with the transition from products like the Apple II, to the iMac, to the iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007, and iPad in 2010. A vast majority of Apple’s revenue is with these new consumer electronics.

Consumers are not Apple’s only market, just their primary focus. Educational institutions for the longest time used Apple products, almost exclusively. This trend dipped a bit, but now with the iPad Education is starting to look back at Apple to augment its curriculum and to use iPads as potential laptop replacements.

The crowd that tends to not be big on Apple’s radar is the enterprise market. Enterprises have traditionally, and largely remain, a PC-dominated segment of the market. This is for many reasons, anything that ranges from better Enterprise-level support from Microsoft, to better competition regarding pricing, to just overall focus to assist the enterprise.

There is one somewhat recent example of Apple’s not focusing on enterprises is the removal of the XServe from its product line. Apple killed its enterprise-grade server product, the Xserve, as of January 31st, 2011. The reason was due to low sales, only 50,000 units per year. 50,000 units may seem high to many users, but in Apple’s world of selling millions of iPads during a launch weekend, 50,000 is a small number. Apple did release the Mac Mini Server and Mac Pro Server, both which are the same form factor as their non-server versions.

From Apple’s point of view, changing the server line to be in the same form factor as its other products, the Mac Mini and Mac Pro makes complete sense. Instead of having to have a dedicated line to produce the Xserve, Apple can just use the current lines and swap in parts. Plus, Apple could then take the Xserve production line and use it for iPads or iPhones to keep up with demand.

While Apple may not focus on enterprises, it has not forgotten them entirely even after killing off the Xserve.

Pricing

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Since the introduction of OS X Server Apple has been steadily improving not only the look, but also the functionality within OS X Server. As new versions of OS X were released Apple made improvements over prior versions, not just in the built-in software but also in the pricing.

Mac OS X Server 1.0 was priced at $499, 10.1 through 10.5 were $999 for the server and $499 for the upgrade version. Along the way there were different versions, one that had a 10-client limit and another that allowed unlimited clients. With OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Apple dropped the price to $499 for Unlimited clients. This price drop brought big cheers from the Enterprise and business groups. Apple took a significantly different tactic with OS X 10.7 Server, it is only a $49.99 additional cost, on top of the OS X 10.7 Lion client, for unlimited clients for server. This was a 90% price reduction over OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, who can argue with savings like that.

Apple hasn’t stopped the pricing changes for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion either. The pricing structure for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion has changed. Instead of being $29.99 for the client version of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple has reduced this to $19.99 for the upgrade. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server also received a price drop for $49.99 for Server.app, to $19.99 for Server.app. This brings the cost of an OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server down to $39.98, if you already have a Mac running OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard, or OS X 10.7 Lion. Nobody can argue with an overall price drop of 50%. This means that compared to OS X 10.5 Leopard’s Unlimited Client version, you are now paying 96% less for the newest version of OS X Server. You can’t beat that.

As with the $79.98 total cost for OS X 10.7 Lion Server, the allure of paying $39.98 for a server OS means that anybody, even those who only want to dabble in the land of OS X Server will be able to do so at minimal cost. In all reality, the cost of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion server is less than a dinner out for two people.

Future Pricing

It’s hard to see Apple reducing the OS X 10.9 Server’s price much further than what it is already. Apple has a few option for OS X 10.9 Server. They could maintain the pricing as it stands today. This is the most likely route that Apple will take. It is already at such a low price, it may not make much sense to reduce it further.

The second option is to just have one version all together. Bundle both OS X 10.9 Client and OS X 10.9 Server into the same package. You could do this by just including Server.app in with the client and putting it under the ‘Utilities’ folder in Applications. Alternatively, Apple could opt to just have a switch under ‘System Preferences’ to turn on Server functionality.

Regardless of which route Apple decides to take, it will be interesting to see how they price OS X 10.9 Client as well as OS X 10.9 Server.

Server Admin

Since the introduction of OS X Server, Apple has also released an application called “Server Admin”. Server Admin is an application that allows administrators to manage any OS X Server for which they have credentials. This has been the case until OS X 10.7 Lion where a new application, Server.app was introduced to replace most functionality, within 10.7 Lion, previously handled by Server Admin.

Server Admin in OS X Mountain Lion has been officially deprecated and you can no longer use Server Admin to manage any aspect of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion servers. It has been superseded by the Server.app application which made its debut in 10.7 Lion Server.

Installation

The installation of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server is much the same as OS X 10.7 Lion Server. In order to upgrade a server administrator must first install OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion by purchasing it from the Mac App Store. The server administrator should also purchase and download OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion’s Server.app at the same time. After it has been purchase, and downloaded, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion must be installed.

Following completion of the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion installation, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server must be purchased and downloaded, if it has not already been downloaded and purchased. Once it has been downloaded, Server.app needs to be run from the Applications folder. Server.app does take the server administrator through the installation and configuration of the services for Server.app.

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Upon first launch of Server.app for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, the server administrator is presented with a dialog asking whether this Mac, or another Mac, is the target device to be configured. Once they have authenticated to allow Server.app to make the necessary changes, the server administrator is greeted with a Welcome Screen.

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Server.app then asks the server administrator to enable push notifications. This is one of the places where an Apple ID is needed, because Push notifications utilizes Apple’s servers to deliver notifications.

After clicking on ‘continue’ on the Welcome Screen the server administrator must agree to the Terms and Conditions of using Server.app. If a server administrator decides to not comply, the will not be able to use Server.app.

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Following push notification setup, comes network setup. If multiple network connections are detected, Server.app will request which network should be configured with the necessary services.

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Part of the configuration entails choosing the type of Network that this OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server will be part of. If it’s just for testing, ‘Local Network’ is your best option. If this server is intended to be used for a VPN endpoint or just locally without needing direct access from the Internet, ‘Private Network’ is the choice. If this Mac is going to be used to host websites that the general public sees, then ‘Entire Internet’ is the proper choice.

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Once the server administrator have determined the Network type, it is time to choose the server’s name. Naming conventions differ between companies, so it is best to follow the company’s naming guidelines. As a note, if you decide to change which network this server is available on, you can either click on ‘Go Back’ until the network detection screen occurs or you can click on ‘Edit’ to change the network.

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One of the many good aspects of OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is the ability for Server.app to automatically configure Apple Airport devices. If you are using an Apple Airport you can choose to have Server.app manage the device automatically. If this option is chosen, the server administrator will need to enter in the Router’s password on the next screen.

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After the configuration of the Apple Airport device, Server.app will configure all of the services that are required. This step will take some time to complete, so it is best to be patient.

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Upon completion of the configuration, the server administrator will see a ‘Congratulations’ screen. To complete setup, simply click on ‘Finish’. This completes all of the configuration of the Mac to run OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. Now, it is simply time to actually enable services and make the necessary changes.

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Server.app

Under OS X 10.7 Lion server admins were forced to separate their attention between the two administration applications, Server Admin and Server.app. Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server a majority of the configuration options were done through Server.app, while a small subset were still managed under Server Admin or another application. The items managed under Server Admin were DHCP, DNS, Firewall, Mail, NAT, Netboot, Open Directory, Podcast Producer, RADIUS, Software Update, and Xsan.

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With the transition away from Server Admin for managing your server Apple has brought a significant portion of the functionality into Server.app. Most of the aforementioned services are now managed under Server.app. There are still some separate applications for certain tasks, like connecting to an LDAP or Active Directory Server, Xgrid Administration, System Image Utility, and Screen sharing.

Server.app and Sandboxing

Given that Apple has made Sandboxing is now a requirement under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple is not about to violate their own rules whenever possible.
Under version of OS X Server prior to OS X 10.7 Lion Server , many files, for settings for daemons, and websites were located in various places within the file system.
This has changed under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. In order to comply with the Sandbox rules, Apple has moved all configuration, as well as launch daemons for services control by Server.app to be bundled in Server.app.

This means that the default web server is now located under /Applications/Server.app/Contents/ServerRoot/etc/apache2, where under OS X 10.7 Lion it was under /Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default. This also means that Xsan Administrator, instead of being in /Applications/Utilities/Xsan Admin.app, it is now located under /Applications/Server.app/Contents/Applications/Xsan Admin.app. While for many this may not mean a whole lot, it will be a bit troublesome if you have hard coded items in your applications or web applications. This can definitely be expected by any application that is purchased from the Mac App store, including server utilities. However, this will not apply to any applications purchased outside of the Mac App Store.

Server.app has had some major enhancement over OS X 10.7 Lion Server’s version of Server.app. The changes brings many features from Snow Leopard’s Server Admin back into Server.app.

Server Notifications

Server administrators love staying up to date on how their server is fairing. Under versions of OS X Server, prior to Mountain Lion Server, this was strictly via information on the local console as well as via e-mail. Mountain Lion Server adds yet another option, push notifications.

Push notifications were available under OS X 10.7 Lion Server, but only for iCal, Mail services and AddressBook server. Push notifications utilizes Apple’s Push Notification Service. This setup has not changed under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server.

Alerts

There are three methods of notification within OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server’s Server.app. Local notifications that show a badge number, email alerts which will send you an email when something changes, and push notifications.

Under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, an administrator would only receive three different types of alerts: Software Updates being available, SSL Certificate expirations, and when disk space was low. For low disk space notifications, you could choose at what percentage the notification would be sent. The only delivery option was email.

Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server, Apple added a couple of additional items for when you would receive a notification. You would receive a notification for the following: low disk space, software updates, expiring SSL certificates, potential emails with viruses, and network configuration changes. As with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard server, the only notification method was via email.

Both of these have changed under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. Apple has continued to enhance both the notifications as well as the method for notifications. The notification options available to Server administrators are SSL certificate expiration, low disk space, software updates being available, emails with potential viruses, and network configuration changes.

Apple has added two additional alerts, Disk S.M.A.R.T. status and disk unreachable. These two are definitely necessary to make sure that the server continues running as smoothly as possible without interruptions in the operation of the server. Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server there is also an additional notifications option, Push notifications.

With push notifications you can receive alerts right on your iPhone, iPad or Mac in order to be able to take care of the problem quickly to minimize downtime. Also under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, you can now select which notifications you would like to receive and where to send them.

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For instance, you can have software update notifications just go to your email, because while they may be important, they are not mission critical. Conversely, you can have disk unreachable and S.M.A.R.T status messages sent both via email and via push notifications.

The upgrade in Alerts to system administrators will make administering an OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion server much easier and will allow administrators to handle problems much quicker than under previous version of OS X Server.

VPN

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As with everything under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, there has been some subtle improvements. VPN Services is no exception. Under 10.7 Lion Server, VPN options had been reduced from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard by only allowing an administrator to choose whether or not to turn on VPN services, choosing a shared secret, and choosing which IP Address range they wished to give VPN clients.

Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server you did not have an option for which VPN protocol you could choose. You were forced to have both Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) running simultaneously. Additionally, under OS X 10.7 Lion Server PPTP seemed to stop working for several system administrators and I could never get PPTP working myself. With Mountain Lion you are able to choose either L2TP and PPTP, just as with OS X 10.8 Lion Server but you are also given the option to just go with L2TP for VPN connectivity and not utilize PPTP at all.

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The option for which VPN type to use is not the only change, instead of having to determine how many IP addresses you want to use by entering in the VPN Address range, you can now choose the number of addresses and then independently determine how many address for each type of VPN. You can choose any number between 4 and the maximum number of addresses from the starting address to the end of the subnet. Depending on your networking scheme this could be several thousand IP Addresses for VPN. If you opt to go for L2TP and PPTP VPNs you will then have to choose how many are for each, which is done with a slider mechanism. The slider is a good option for those system administrators who not be able to determine how big of a subnet to use, right off the top of their head.

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The ability to save the configuration profile to deploy to devices remains unchanged. The configuration profile allows a Server Administrator to easily deploy VPN configurations to devices and users without having to walk them through setting it up, nor giving away shared secret, which could lead to a potential security whole. Which is why corporations use VPN in the first place, to provide secure communications to their users.

The added options for the VPN server do allow a bit more customization and flexibility if you do use your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server as a VPN endpoint. Using a VPN Server is also a good option for individuals who want to make sure that their communications are always secure while they are on the road or using their iOS or Mac remotely, particularly at an open wifi hotspot.

Mail Server

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Mail servers on OS X Server have always been an interesting service to attempt to tackle. Since OS X 10.3, Apple’s mail server preference was postfix; that was until 10.6 Snow Leopard Server. With Snow Leopard Server Apple moved away from postfix to Dovecot as its choice for mail services. Dovecot has survived through OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server.

As time has progressed, the difficulty of setting up mail services on an OS X server has become increasingly simplified. The options with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server were vast and could be quite confusing for novice server administrators.

OS X 10.7 Lion Server changed this by simplifying the options available and using the Server.app for management. The options available with OS X 10.7 Lion server were vastly reduced to a total of five settings, Receiving mail server address, Relay through ISP, mailbox size limiting, enable webmail, and mail filtering settings. This made the administration of OS X 10.7 Lion server a breeze.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is not a whole lot different from OS X 10.7 Lion Server. There are still the same options excluding the option for webmail. This has been removed. One can speculate the reasons for removing the webmail option.

With the increase in usage of iOS based devices, like the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad and having the built-in Mail.app client, one could reckon that the usage of web-based mail clients is rapidly decreasing. I know, for me at least, the usage of the web interfaces for my myriad of mail accounts is almost entirely non-existent. I cannot remember the last time that I logged into a web-based mail client to check email. It only seems like a natural progression of the OS to remove a little-used feature.

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Apple has removed any web-based mail client in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. It should not be too surprising as Apple would much prefer that users access mail services either via Mail.app on their iOS device or via Mail.app on their Mac.

Apple has added one additional option to the Mail service. Server administrators now have the option to customize Authentication, if they need to do so. Apple has provided some presets, Automatic, Open Directory, Active Directory, Local Users, and Custom. The only option that provides any true customization is ‘Custom’. All other options will pass authentication to the mechanism specified. For Open Directory, it will be an Open Directory server, Active Directory would be a Microsoft Domain Controller, Local users will just authenticate against the local mail server.

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Given that mail services are basically generic these days, it should be no surprise that Apple has simplified the mail service. While there are a few new options, it does remain mostly unchanged from it’s previous iteration under OS X 10.7 Lion Server.

File Sharing

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File sharing, much like Mail services, has not changed a significant amount. The changes in file sharing from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server to OS X 10.7 Lion Server resulted in a major simplification of the service. Despite this simplification, OS X 10.7 Lion Server did manage to add some much needed features, like file sharing with iOS devices.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server does not improve a significant amount compared to OS X 10.7 Lion Server. There are only two major visual changes. The first change relates to the Home directories SharePoint. When you setup, or configure, a Home directories Sharepoint, you can now specify which file sharing protocol you wish to use. Server administrators have two choices, either Apple File Protocol (AFP), Apple’s preferred protocol, or Small Message Blocks (SMB). SMB is typically used by Windows and Linux. The ability to choose will allow administrators to possibly host the actual home directories on a non-OS X server. While the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server will provide the path to the other server, it will not be hosting the information locally.

The second change is an item that was actually present in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server but was removed from OS X 10.7 Lion Server. You now have the ability to see how many connections, and of what type, are connected to the SharePoints that you have defined. This can be useful to determine just how much of a load is being put onto a certain SharePoint. This option will also allow for a bit easier troubleshooting should an issue arise.

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It seems like Apple may have done a rush job on certain OS X 10.7 Lion Server aspects in order to be able to get an operating system out the door without thoroughly thinking through what features administrators may want, or need, in order to do their job. It could have also been the fact that things were in a transitionary state going from Server Admin to Server.app, and the option was just missed entirely. Either way, it is nice to have the feature back.

Overall, there are not that many changes that can be made to the File Sharing service without doing a major re-write of the underpinnings of OS X. Rewriting the File System could potentially cause conflicts with older versions of OS X, and could just lead to problems overall. It would definitely be a support nightmare.

Profile Manager

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Many companies provide laptops, phones and other tablet devices to their employees to use for work purposes. There are many ways to manage of all of these items in the Windows world, however there are only a few ways to handle this on the Apple side. One of these methods is Profile Manager 2 which is included with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server.
Profile Manager is a web-based application that administrators can setup to manage and control the devices that they had to employees. These devices can be iOS devices or OS X devices. Both can be managed with Profile Manager.

Profile Manager requires that the OS X Server hosting profile manager be connected an Open Directory (OD) in order to manage profiles.
Profile Manager allows an administrator to determine what functions can be performed on a system. Along with restricting what actions can be performed by users, Administrators can also use Profile Manager to populate settings, such as DNS, VPN, Calendar, and Contacts.

There are two methods of installing profiles onto devices, Push and Download. The pushing of profiles will only occur if the device is connected to Wi-fi or 3G.

With Profile Manager an administrator can assign a device to an individual person, or just manage the device on its own.

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Some additional actions that administrators can perform is the remotely locking the device and remotely wiping the device. Both of these can be great if a device manages to get lost.

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There are some settings, such as Passcode, Network, and VPN that apply to both iOS and OS X devices. There are other settings, such as restricting Game Center, disallowing YouTube, and even adding applications to their iOS or OS X devices.

Administrators can keep tabs on any activity that has occurred with a particular device, by clicking on the Device and going the ‘Activity’ tab.

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Profile Manager is a great way for businesses, schools, and any other entity with a significant number of iOS and OS X devices to keep tabs on what is going on with the devices.

Software Update Service (SUS)

One of the best features of any OS X Server is the ability to host an internal Software Update Server (SUS). SUS is a service that allows a company to regulate the release of OS X updates by providing the system administrators the ability to test and verify that the updates do not interfere with already installed software, and more specifically, custom applications.

Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server and prior versions there could be a situation where the settings you chose, would not be honored. For instance, an administrator has the option of whether or not to automatically copy “all” updates or “all new” updates from Apple. If you tried to uncheck this option it may not have been honored, it was simply ignored.

Server.Admin.SUS.options

Software Update Server running on OS X 10.7 Lion Server and previous versions is some what kludgey. You had to Select the update, copy it from Apple’s Software Download servers to your local server, and then enable it. Apple provided only limited options for accomplishing this task. All of these options were global and could not be changed to affect individual updates. This behavior has not changed in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, in fact it has become even more simplistic.

Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server and earlier versions the Software Update Server you were required to use Server Admin to administer any aspect of the SUS service. As with many other services, this functionality has been moved to Server.app. With the move to Server.app comes an entirely new look and feel to the SUS service.

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Software.Updates.Settings

The settings have been reduced from six down to two options. You can either have Automatic downloading and enabling of SUS updates along with automatic removal of updates that are no longer supported by Apple. Alternatively, you can have Manual downloading enabled. Manual downloading requires server administrators to manage every aspect of the Software Update Server service.

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server you are shown a much more concise list of available updates. The software update list is comprised of five columns, The Update Name, Version Number, Date the update was released, the size of the update and the current status. This is a much easier way to view the list,

Under Status there is a drop down, that allows you to either “Download” the update or “Download and Enable”. As one might infer, the “Download” option will only download the update but not enable it for all OS X machines that are configured to connect to that server. “Download and Enable” will both download and enable the update for machines. The ‘Download and Enable’ option could be very handy for applications like iTunes, where you know they need to get updated but may not necessarily need testing against internal applications first.

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Software.Updates.Screen

I realize that Apple is attempting to simplify many aspects of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server but there should be an option to assign SUS machines to a group of machines and then assign certain updates to a group. I do not foresee Apple implementing this, so I guess that’s why there is Reposado for those who need more flexibility.

Another option that is not available is the creation of a pool of OS X Servers that could handle the distribution of software updates. It may not be needed by many companies, but it would definitely be a nice feature to have added into Software Update Server.

Web server

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Websites.Logo.On

Many OS X Server administrators use as their machines as a web server. Apple uses the Apache web server as its base for serving webpages on OS X servers. This has been the case since the initial release of OS X 10.0 Cheetah Server. With each subsequent update to OS X Server, Apple has also upgraded the included components, including Apache server.

Apache

Apache.Logo

A fully patched version OS X 10.6.8 OS X Snow Leopard Server runs Apache version 2.2.21. Like OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard Server, a fully patched copy of OS X 10.7 Lion Server is also running Apache 2.2.21. Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, Apache is at version 2.2.22.

The aspect of Apple’s approach to Apache that I do not understand is why are they not running the latest version. Yes, 2.2.22 is the latest for the 2.2 series of Apache, but there is the 2.4 branch, which is also available. Yes, the 2.4 branch does make some changes, but I always thought Apple was about providing the best experience, and while 2.2 may suffice for many OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion servers, it will not be be adequate for all.

There only two plausible reason that I can determine for why Apple would stick with Apache 2.2 over Apache 2.4. The first reason is that Apple’s own services, Wiki and Calendar rely upon certain features available in Apache 2.2 that were removed in Apache 2.4. This seem plausible, however, it seems somewhat unlikely.

The second option is that Apple has not fully vetted Apache 2.4 to be able to reliably say that it will work without any issues. Apple does offer paid support options for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Part of this support includes Websites, and it could be that Apple’s tech support personnel are not up to date on the changes contained within Apache 2.4 and they need to time to get the tech support up to date.

Lastly, it’s always good to not adopt the latest greatest software technology right away, because you never know how much of a problem or how buggy the software will be. Maybe Apple will have Apache 2.4 support with OS X 10.9.

Databases

MySQL.LogoPostgreSQL.Logo

With the transition from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server to OS X 10.7 Lion Server, Apple chose to drop native support for MySQL in order to favor PostgreSQL instead. There have been speculations regarding this move.

Some thought that the acquisition of MySQL by Oracle was the cause. While others speculated that it was the use of the BSD License in distributing PostgreSQL as the cause. Whatever the actual reasoning behind the change, it changed.

Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server PostgreSQL is at version 9.0.5, while under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, PostgreSQL is running at version 9.1.4.

Despite the change from PostgreSQL OS X 10.7 Lion Server and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server administrators can now choose which version of MySQL that they care to support. Additionally, they can keep their installations more up-to-date than Apple decided was necessary.

Websites

Along with almost every other aspect of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, there have been some enhancements to websites being hosted on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. You now have more options when configuring a website on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server.

OS X 10.7 Lion:
OS.X.Lion.Server.Website.Configuration.Options

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion:
OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Web.Hosting.Options

The naming of the service has been modified from “Web” to “Websites”. I’m not entirely sure on why the name has changed, but it does indicate that server administrators can host multiple websites on their OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server

PHP

PHP.Logo

Since the beginning of OS X Server, Apple has always included a version of PHP that would work with the web service. OS X Mountain Lion is no different. The version of PHP included with Mountain Lion is 5.3.13. This is somewhat bothersome given that the latest is 5.3.14, and 5.4.4 is also available, depending on which version of PHP is to be supported.

Python

Along with the ability to support PHP natively, which has been present for some time, Apple has also included the ability to support Python web applications on your OS X Mountain Lion server. Python web applications is another option that must be enabled globally, just like PHP.

The difference with Python web applications, versus PHP web applications, is that while you must enable PHP globally, you can specifically set certain Python web applications to run only on certain websites. You do have the option to globally enable Python web applications, but it is not necessary to do so in order to get a Python web application to work on a specific website.

To enable certain Python web applications, you must go into the Advanced section of the Site setup. You go to Websites -> Highlight the website you want to change -> Click the ‘Pencil’ icon to edit the website -> Click on ‘Edit Advanced Settings’. You will be presented with something similar to the screenshot below.

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Web.Python.Webapp

Python Webapps utilize plist files in order to be loaded. Plists, in case you are not aware, are just XML documents.

There is some documentation for creating custom web apps. You can access an example plist at “/Library/Server/Web/Config/apache2/webapps/com.example.webapp.plist”. You can go to terminal and type in “man webapp.plist” to view the manual pages for webapp.plist.

In Addition, a server administrator can manage webapps via the servermgr_web command. If you are going to use this, I would recommend looking at the manual page for this as well. This can be accessed via terminal by using the “man servermgr_web” command.

Python web applications are not the only changes that Apple has made to allow administrators to manage the websites that they host on an OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server.

Customizations

Under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server, Apple provided a slew of options to allow complete customization of anything from logging, individual website administrator email addresses, and even server aliases. As with many items under OS X 10.7 Lion Server, the options available for the customization of websites was severely reduced. Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server there were only four options available. Those options were IP Address, Port, Location of website files, and who is able to access the website. That was it.

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Websites.Advanced.Settings

Along with many other aspects of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple has also added options that were available under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server, removed from OS X 10.7 Lion Server, back to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. The re-instated options are: Additional Domains, Redirects, Aliases, and customization of default index files. In addition to these re-instated options, there are also more options that were put back under the ‘advanced’ settings button.

These customizations include: ‘Enabling Server-side includes’, ‘Overriding of htaccess files’, enabling folder-listing, Allowing CGI execution, and Custom Error pages. All of these customizations were available to server administrators under OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard server, but were removed from OS X 10.7 Lion Server. This will definitely make many server administrators happy to see these customizations available again.

Overall, Apple has added improvements for hosting websites under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The inclusion of Python web applications is a nice improvement and will be much appreciated by the Python programmers on the web. In addition to bringing new functionality, Apple has also re-instated many of the lost features and customizations that were available in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server and subsequently removed from OS X 10.7 Lion Server. This will go a long way to bringing server administrators up to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion server.

Wiki Service

Wiki.Server.LogoAlong with Web services, many companies encourage collaboration amongst their employees. One of the ways to facilitate collaboration is through the use of Wikis.

Apple has included Wiki Server with OS X Server since OS X 10.5 Leopard Server. With each subsequent version Apple tweaks, enhances and refines how the Wiki service runs. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server is not exempt from this trend.

Wiki server under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion allows iOS users to edit and post items to a Wiki using one of the iWork applications, Pages, Numbers, or Keynote. I was not able to get this to work in my testing, but it is available.

More significantly, Apple has changed up the look of Wiki. In addition to the changes in the navigation, Apple has included some slight customization options with color schemes. As a Wiki administrator, there are now eight color choices. The choices are Blue, Red, Orange, Green, Dark Blue, Purple, Grey, and Black.

Wiki.Server.Color.Scheme.Options

In addition to color preference, Wiki administrators can also choose to upload custom banners. Banners have a height of 62-pixels. Along with custom banners, Wiki administrators can also customize the background of the Wiki to give it a more personal touch.

How users navigate the Wiki server has slightly changed significantly. Under OS X 10.7 Lion Server and prior versions of Wiki Server when users wanted move around the Wiki they would click on the bar icon in the upper-left corner. OS.X.Lion.Wiki.Server.Navigation.Bar.Icon

This behavior hasn’t changed, However, the icon has changed. The icon is now a set of three list items. The biggest change in the navigation is that navigation is now done via a drop-down. OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Wiki.Server.Navigation.List.Icon

Users now have the option to view their activity, their documents, and their favorites. Users can also view all of the Wikis, all other users, and all of the activity that has occurred on the Wiki Server.

Wiki.Server.Drop.Down

OS.X.Lion.Wiki.Server.Navigation.Bar

As with many other aspects of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple has refined the way existing services operate. The minor changes to the Wiki Service will allow Wiki administrators the ability to customize the look and feel of their Wikis even more than previously allowed. It is just another example of how Apple is looking to enhance the experience for users.

Push Notification Server

Upon first glance of the Server.app, a server admin may wonder if the Push Notification server has disappeared. Fear not, Push Notification server has not really disappeared from OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, it is still present. However, there are no user accessible configuration options for push notifications as there was in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server.

There are two places to configure Push Notifications for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. The first is during the initial server configuration, or reconfiguration after upgrading to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server.

The second method to configure push notifications is through Server.app. Once you log into your server, under the Hardware section you click on your server. Click on the ‘Settings’ Tab, and then you select “Enable Push Notifications”. At this point you will be able to configure push notifications.

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Push.Notifications.dialog

All push notifications must go through Apple’s Push Notification service. In order to be able to use Apple’s Push notification service you must have an Apple ID. You can view and manage all of your push notification certificates by going to Apple’s Push Certificate Portal and entering in your Apple ID credentials.

OS.X.Mountain.Lion.Server.Push.Notifications.Portal

It remains to be seen how this will affect functionality of all devices. As mentioned earlier, Server Alerts requires a server administrator to configure Push notifications, if they wish to be able to receive Push notifications on their iOS devices.

NOTE: I am including this section, not because anything has really changed from OS X 10.7 Lion Server, but because it was completely missing from my OS X 10.7 Lion Server review last year.

Lost Functionality

It is sometimes a necessity for companies to stop supporting certain products. The reasons as to why they stop support can vary from lack of use, to being superseded by another more functional application, and even to focus of the company changing. Apple is no exception to these, some functionality that was previously present has been removed.

Podcast Producer

Podcast.Producer.icon

It looks like Apple has stopped support for Podcast Producer. Podcast producer was a feature of OS X Server that allowed the automation of podcast production and publishing all within one application. Podcast producer allowed the automation of your work flow to reduce the number of steps within your workflow or the number of steps to distribute the production of a podcast. Many users opted to have their production and rendering completed over multiple machines using XGrid. Unfortunately, this product is no longer supported by Apple. If you wish to look at what Podcast publisher could do, check out Apple’s Podcast Producer manual.

Podcast Publisher

A new application that appeared in OS X 10.7 Lion was Podcast Publisher. Podcast Publisher was an updated version of the podcasting tool, Podcast capture. It does not appear to have survived into OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Management of Non OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers

One of the big abilities that made OS X 10.7 Lion Server somewhat of a success was the ability to manage existing OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard servers from your OS X 10.7 Lion Machine using the included Server Admin utility.

With the full transition to using Server.app, as well as the deprecation and removal of Server Admin from OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, there is now no way to manage OS X 10.7 Lion servers from OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. Someone could reasonably not expect to be able to manage OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard servers, as there will most likely not be any updates to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

However, it is entirely plausible to want, or need, to manage OS X 10.7 Lion servers from OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion machines. It seems like an oversight for Apple to not include this functionality.

If a server administrator attempts to connect to an OS X 10.7 Lion Server using Server.app, they will be presented with a dialog box that states that you cannot connect to this server because it is not running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. The server would have to install OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Serve. Alternatively, they can still manage OS X 10.7 Lion servers, but only via Screen Sharing. If a server administrator opts to use Screen Sharing they will, of course, be able to use the OS X 10.7 Lion Server.app to manage that server and other OS X 10.7 Lion Servers. If a server administrator attempts to run a copy of Server.app from an OS X 10.7 Lion Server or Server Admin from an OS X 10.7 Lion Server, they will be presented with the Crash reporter and neither applications will launch.

While it may seem possible that a company may upgrade all of their OS X 10.7 Lion Servers to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers, they may still have machines that are not capable to running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion but still wish to centrally manage all of the OS X Server machines.

Dashboard

Dashboard.icon

The usage of Dashboard within OS X Server could go one of two ways, it either could be a waste of time and resources, or it could be the best tool to see the overall health of your OS X servers.

Dashboard within OS X 10.8 has changed slightly due to other changes revolving around the removal of Server Admin and the requirement to use Server.app to manage OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers.

Under OS X 10.4 Tiger Server and later, up to OS X 10.7 Lion Server, a widget was installed that would allow server administrators to quickly see the status of any one of their servers through using the ‘Server Status’ widget.

The Server Status widget would report back on CPU Utilization, number of file sharing connections, Address Book server status, ICal server status, iChat server status, Mail server status, Wiki Server status and VPN Server status. Server Status allowed a server administrator to click on arrow at the right of the row for each service and go directly to the configuration for that service. For OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard it would open Server Admin, for OS X 10.7 Lion Server it would open Server.app.

Dashboard.Lion.Widgets

Under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, this functionality has been removed. There is no more Server Status widget. This is a loss, because a server administrator cannot quickly open up Dashboard and easily see the status of their fleet of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion servers.

Coincidentally, if a server admin configures Server Status on an OS X 10.7 Lion Server to monitor an OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server, it will work and report back the status of each service correctly. However, if the server administrator attempts to go to the service, Server.app will open and ask you to connect to the server. Upon attempting to connect you will be told that you cannot do so because Server.app only supports 10.7 Lion Server.

If a server administrator attempts to install the copy of the Server Status widget from OS X 10.7 Lion Server, it will install and it will appear. However, it will not be able to connect to any server because it will not ask for any server information nor any credentials. Additionally, Server Status will not display any of the needed icons within the Widget.

It is too bad that Apple has decided not to include an updated Server Status widget in order to monitor OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers. It would be a good thing to include in an update, or as a separate download. It would be fantastic if the Server Status could also monitor OS X 10.7 Lion Servers as well, even if Server.app cannot connect, just to report back the status would be beneficial for server administrators.

Notes and Server

Notes.Logo

Notes is an applications that has been in iOS since the version 1.0 release in June of 2007. With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server Apple includes the ability to use iCloud on all of your OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers to be able to keep information synchronized between your devices.

There is one particular area that could be beneficial for server administrators. Imagine if a server administrator utilized iCloud to synchronize all of their notes across OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers. Let’s say the administrator is responsible for 15 OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Servers, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the administrator could go to any of their OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server machines and be able to look at any note that they have.

It may be something as simple as a username and password or task list, to something a bit more detailed as to the upgrade procedure for an internal application. The possibilities are endless.

I’m not sure if many server administrators would think of this possibility nor am I sure of how many would actually use the Notes application in this manner. Regardless, it is an option that is available for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server administrators, if they want it.

Daemon and Built-in Library Changes

OS X Server comes with any number of built-in libraries. These libraries do get regularly updated in both Major OS upgrades, as well as point releases.

PHP

PHP.Logo

One of the main programming languages used within Web applications is PHP. PHP has been included with OS X Server since OS X 10.0 Cheetah Server. Throughout each iteration of OS X Server, Apple has included a new and updated version of PHP. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is no exception to this.

Under a fully patched version of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server, PHP is at version 5.3.8. A fully patched OS X 10.7 Lion Server runs PHP 5.3.10. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server runs version 5.3.13. Much like Apache, there is a newer version of PHP available, PHP 5.3.14, and PHP 5.4.4. Both of these are newer versions than what is currently installed.

There is one aspect to PHP on OS X 10.7 Lion Server and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server that was not included in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. PHP on OS X 10.7 Lion Server and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server both run a hardened version of PHP using the Suhosin-Patch.

The Suhosin-patch consists of two parts, a patch that will protect the PHP Core against buffer overflows and format string vulnerabilities. Both buffer overflows and format string are used as vulnerabilities by malicious software to try and gain access to your system.

The second item is a binary that will protect PHP web applications from attacks. The beauty part of the binary is that it is compatible with ZendOptimizer, which is a popular PHP optimization add-on.

Apple is running the latest version of the Suhosin Patch, as of this writing it is 0.9.10.

It is good to see Apple taking security within Websites and PHP on OS X seriously by including the Suhosin patch with PHP.

OpenSSL

OpenSSL.Logo

OpenSSL has been a standard library within both OS X and OS X server since the initial release of OS X 10.0 in March of 2001. Throughout each iteration of OS X, Apple has updated OpenSSL to keep pace with new features and security updates. OpenSSL on a fully patched OS X 10.5 Leopard is 0.9.7l, while on 10.6.8 Snow Leopard server is version 1.0.0a, built on June 1st, 2010. On a fully patched 10.7.4 machine, it is 0.9.8r built on February 8th, 2011. On OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, the version is the same as Lion, 0.9.8r.

I am not sure why Apple has not decided to use the latest version, 0.9.8x, or even switch to the 1.0 train of OpenSSL. The versions for that are 1.0.0j or 1.0.1c. Any of these three versions would provide some security updates, which would make OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion that much more secure.

SSH

Just like OpenSSL, SSH has been a standard feature of OS X for quite a while. Apple uses OpenSSH for its SSH daemon. OpenSSH, in case you are not aware, is the daemon used to allow users to remotely connect to your Mac, as well as remotely connect to other servers. This is one method of securely connecting back to your Mac. Also like OpenSSL and most of the other daemons and common libraries, OS X Mountain Lion is no different.

On a fully patched version of OS X 10.5 Leopard the version of OpenSSH is OpenSSH_5.2p1. On OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard, the version of SSHd is OpenSSH_5.2p1, on OS X 10.7 Lion it is OpenSSH_5.6p1, and on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, it is OpenSSH_5.9p1. OpenSSH version 6.0 was released on April 22nd, 2012. I do not think Apple will be using this version anytime soon, but there is an update available should they choose to upgrade. It is more likely that we will see OpenSSH 6.0 in OS X 10.9.

Ruby

Ruby.Logo

Ruby is a programming language that is used by many programmers to create websites that have a rich user experience. Apple also uses Ruby as the basis of its built-in applications like Wiki, Profile Manager, and Calendar. Ruby is like many of the other built-in libraries, it has been in OS X for quite a while now.

A fully patched version of OS X 10.5 Leopard runs version 1.8.6 patch level 369 of Ruby. Compare this to OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard where the version of Ruby installed is 1.8.7 patch level 249. OS X 10..7 Lion has version 1.8.7 patch level 357. OS X Mountain Lion runs Ruby 1.8.7 patch level 358. These are no where near the latest version of Ruby, which is 1.9.3 patch level 194.

As with the other built-in libraries, I am not sure why Apple has chosen not to update to the latest version.

Python

Python.logo

Python, as with the other libraries, has existed on OS X for quite a long time. Python is one of the core programming languages provided on OS X. A fully patched OS X 10.5 Leopard device runs Python version 2.5.1, where as OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard installation runs version 2.6.1 built on June 24th, 2010. 10.7 Lion runs versions 2.7.1 built on June 16th, 2011. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is running 2.7.2 built on June 15th, 2012.

There is not a significant difference between the OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion versions of Python. This is what might be expected. Outside of security updates, I am not sure if Apple will continue to update OS X 10.7 Lion after 10.8 Mountain Lion is released.

Transitionary States

The overall state of OS X is a transitionary one. OS X is at the point where it is a mature operating system and the addition of new features has to make sense in an overall strategy and cannot just be added just to warrant a new release.

If one were to predict the progression of OS X and iOS, they might say that there will be a convergence of iOS and OS X at some point. It may not be for quite a while. Yet, the integration of more iOS features into the Mac and having the two operating systems have feature parity makes it abundantly clear that Apple is looking to go this route at some point.

Operating systems are not the only transitionary piece with OS X and iOS. Apple is moving users more and more to using iCloud and cloud-based storage for all of their media. iCloud is a major feature of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The integration with iCloud means that more applications can utilize iCloud for storing their files so a user access their data across both iOS and OS X devices.

The third transitionary factor is local storage. Traditional spinning hard drives have provided significant amounts of storage. The largest single drives commercially available today are 3TB hard drives. Out of all of Apple’s products, from iPods to iPhones, to iPads, to MacBook Airs, to MacBook Pros, Mac Minis, and to Mac Pros, there are only five models of products that support traditional spinning hard drives. Those products are the iPod Classic, 13″ MacBook Pro and 15″ MacBook Pro, the Mac Minis, and Mac Pros. All of the rest of Apple’s products require solid-state hard drives for their storage mechanisms. It is clear to see that Apple is going to eventually go all SSD. This may be the case, except for in their server-class products where storage is a much needed item and enterprise-level customers need to get the most local storage possible.

If you take the iCloud strategy and intertwine the reduction in local storage options with the small number of products that do support traditional hard drives, it is quite clear that Apple is putting more emphasis on its iCloud for storage as well as reducing local storage amounts. It is true that at some point solid state storage will reach, and possibly, surpass the storage amounts for traditional hard drives, but the time is not now and it may not be for a few more years.

Regardless, this is a time of transition for Apple, its products, and the users of Apple’s products. In the end, the transition should make it a better experience for all of the parties involved.

Overall Thoughts

Apple has released another solid build of OS X. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion integrates some fantastic features from iOS, like Notification Center, Twitter and Facebook integration, and iCloud support throughout the system. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server also saw some vast improvements in Software Update Server, improvements with Website hosting, as well as moving from iChat to Messages server.

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is an integral part of Apple’s overall strategy to make your content and data available where ever you go and across all of your devices. If you do not have OS X 10.7 Lion, this is not a problem. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion can be installed from OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard. This means, that if you decided to skip OS X 10.7 Lion, you can still upgrade directly to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion without needing to pay for the upgrade to OS X 10.7 Lion.

The price reduction for both the Client and Server versions of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion definitely makes it an attractive buy for users and enterprises alike. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion makes improvements in all areas from OS X 10.7 Lion. The price reduction for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server will make it compelling for more small businesses as well as curious non-business owners who want to be able to test out server functionality without investing in dedicated hardware or software.

The refinements from OS X 10.7 Lion like Multiple Time machine backup locations, full screen on the second display and an additional gesture along with the new improvements like Notification Center, system-wide iCloud integration, Twitter and Facebook integration and voice dictation are all the areas that will most likely excite users.

Nobody can argue with a significant price drop of 33% for the client version of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and a 60% drop in the price of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. The price drop will make it hard for some other software companies to compete.

I hope that this review has been helpful in showing you some of the new features as well as the changes for both OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Client and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Server. Please provide any feedback to me via email or on Twitter.

About The Author

I'm into anything technology related. I do some HTML/CSS/PHP development. I like to follow things that most people would find annoying or not worthwhile. I follow Apple, Microsoft, Google, The Cloud, cell phones and even programming. By Day I'm a Systems Administrator for a Library, which has it's own set of issues. Follow me on Twitter.