An Apple event has come and gone. In the aftermath, we have a free OS X upgrade. Guess what my main machine is running… OS X Lion. 😀
Why did I not upgrade to Mountain Lion? Well, first and foremost, I was lazy. I mean I upgraded my laptop to Mountain Lion, but my iMac is my main machine, and I don’t really want to mess with it unless I have to. Besides, Lion was fine. From using my laptop with Mountain Lion, I don’t see much difference when going back to Lion on my iMac.
Mavericks gives me several incentive to upgrade. First, is tabs in Finders. OS X has this spring-loaded folders that makes it pretty easy to copy files form a drive/folder to a different one. However, if you have a pretty deep folder structure that you want to go to, it’s pretty tedious. Windows 7 has Aero snap, where you can quickly snap two Windows side by side just by dragging each window to the opposite side of the desktop. It makes copying files easy as I can easily set a source folder in one Explorer window, set the destination on another Explorer window, and just use Aero snap to put them side by side.
In OS X, there’s no Aero snap. Unless you opted for 3rd party apps, there’s no way to quickly re-arrange windows. In the olden days, I used the expose feature a lot, which is useful in this scenario. I usually open two Finder windows, one showing the source and one showing the destination, and use expose to copy files between them easily. Well, things have changed. Apple made Expose to cluster windows from the same app together. This actually makes things more difficult in my usage scenario as I cannot pick the destination window quickly from the pile of windows. Mission Control doesn’t improve this, and makes the experience more jarring as now everything moves back, including the different desktops. Copying files becomes a chore (yeah, first world problem). Oh, another annoying thing is that if you have a Finder window open, clicking the Finder icon on the dock only put that window in focus. To open a new window, you have to go to the menu bar and select New Finder Window. In contrast on Windows 7, I can put a shortcut of Explorer on the task bar and clicking that will automatically open up a new window. Yeah yeah, I’m sure there’s a better way, like memorizing keyboard shortcuts, but I just find things more tedious on OS X.
Enter Mavericks with Finders tab. Instead of opening a new window, now I can simply open one tab for the source, open a new tab for the destination, and I can copy files between those tabs by drag-n-dropping the files to the tabs. It makes things more convenient. Plus with Finder being able to go full screen in Mavericks, I no longer have to wrestle with OS X’s windows resizing, especially in columns view. One tiny thing like this can make using an OS a night and day difference, at least for me.
Mavericks have a bunch of other goodies, mainly power efficiency, which is useful if you have Mac laptops. Another point of interest is its better RAM management and memory compression, which should be helpful when I run Lightroom or Final Cut Pro X.
So, I decided to jump on the Mavericks bandwagon, setting loose my old cat to brave the new wave.
Installing Mavericks is just like Lion or Mountain Lion, a simple download from the Mac App Store (MAS). There is a big catch though. In the past, after downloading the OS upgrade, you can drill down into the application package to extract the dmg file of the actual OS installation, and make a USB disk/DVD out of it easily to get a full OS X installation disk. It is very useful for doing clean installs. Not the case anymore with Mavericks. You can still see the installESD.dmg file inside the Mavericks installation package, but inside it is just a bunch of .pkg files. Luckily, there are utilities showing up almost right away to help you create a Mavericks installation disk. Ars Technica has a great tidbit about this and a how to, even a manual way to do it.
In the past, whenever I upgraded OS X (from Tiger to Leopard to Snow Leopard), I always do a clean install and do a restore from Time Machine afterwards (which is another reason I have been delaying upgrading my iMac from Lion). This time, I’m going to put the faith on Apple’s programmers for a smooth upgrade from the App store.
The overall process is very easy. Once you download Mavericks from the App store, it shows an installation screen, asks you to accept the license agreement and select your main drive, and then it will reboot your Mac and does it thing. Probably after about half an hour to 45 minutes, it should be done. A plain non-linen log-in screen greeted me, and voila. Mavericks is installed. Upon logging in, I noticed the new 2D dock, where it is in lighter gray. I don’t actually like this as it makes certain icons harder to see. I prefer the old darker dock that provided more contrast.
Well, things didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted it to be. First thing I noticed, my external Firewire drobo is no longer listed in Finder. I panicked, as this is not only my Time Machine drive, it also contains many of my media files. I ran Disk Utility, and it still listed the drobo in there. It’s just that for some reason, Finder is not showing them. Apps that access it directly could still see it too, as Drobo dashboard could see it. Just not me via Finder. So all hope was not lost. Going to drobo support proved unhelpful as they just started their knowledge base page for Mavericks without any info in it other than links to the latest firmwares (which I already had).
I tried a simple reboot, no go. Worse, even Drobo dashboard started acting up, saying something is not loaded properly. Uh oh. Also, Disk Utility now said something is wrong with the Time Machine partition. Double uh oh. It seems like when booting Mavericks, it does not load everything right away, so when you log in to the desktop right away after a reboot, things can get weird. I rebooted my iMac, let it sit on the log-in screen for a moment (just like Windows), logged in, and everything seemed fine. The drobo was still invincible in Finder, but at least there were no weird errors.
So, what’s the solution? I turned off my iMac, turned off my drobo, turned it back on, turned my iMac on, still no go. *sigh. I turned off everything again, unplugged the drobo, booted my iMac without the drobo, and then hot-plugged the Firewire cable. Voila, Finder was showing my drobo. Huge relief! Right now, apparently this is the only solution as this issue popped back up again, and I had to unplug and replug the drobo back to bring it back from invincibility. Hopefully a more permanent solution would be provided by drobo.
Okay, problem one solved. Oh wait, there’s more! Take a look at this.
Yes, Time Machine had reset itself back to zero. All those hundreds of gigabytes of backups I have accumulated over the previous years are just sitting there ignored. This creates another problem, as now I have to make sure my Time Machine partition has enough space for the new backup from Mavericks (with the way drobo works, the OS can show that it has more free space that what is actually available on the drobo itself). Boo! 😦 So I have been busy cleaning up things. Oh and of course, this initial backup will be huge and take a looooong time.
Well, at least there’s an upside. Apple announced that iWork will be free, but with a new purchase of a new Mac. Well, I didn’t really care as I don’t use iWork, and I’m sure I’m not qualified anyway. Checking the MAS showed that iWork would still cost me $20 each.
However, when I logged in to the MAS from my Macbook Air, I was treated with a confirmation to get all the iWork apps for free. Sweet! Funny thing was, my Macbook Air was not even running Mavericks, it was still on Mountain Lion. I don’t know how, but my Macbook Air was the Haswell one, refurbished. Apple posted an information on their site that those that purchased Macs from October 1st can get iWork for free. I purchased my Macbook Air I think in September. Maybe Apple had some leeway in giving these apps for free. Or maybe all 2013 models are eligible. Nonetheless, it’s icing on the cake. 🙂
Using Mavericks on a desktop is, well, not much different than previous versions of OS X. Sure, skeumorphism is gone, but base functionalities of things are still practically the same, which is great. Oh, the new Maps app? It requires wifi (obviously, for triangulation) to find my location. But I don’t want to use wifi on my iMac. I have gigabit ethernet for a reason. I guess I have to enter my location manually. First world problem, again. 😀
Activity Monitor has new more detailed graphs, more likely to show off Mavericks memory management and power saving features. Game Center is still covered with skeumorphism, unlike the iOS7 version. Notifications are now displayed automatically on your Mac’s lock screen. This is no good. You have to go into Settings and disable this on per app basis. Annoying. Keychain syncing is back as iCloud keychain. You have to set up a couple verification steps to use it. A phone number is optional, but can be a good 2-step verification via SMS. Note that I tried my Google Voice number, it did not work. It failed to receive any SMS from iCloud.
On the desktop, I think that’s about it. I have not noticed major application issues so far. Lightroom still runs fine, so I’m good. 🙂
On my Macbook Air, there are other things I noticed. The power button behavior has changed in Mavericks. Previously, pressing the power button will trigger a prompt asking what you want to do, ie. shut down, restart, etc. Now, it just makes the laptop sleeps. To trigger the same dialog, you have to press and hold the power button a little bit. I don’t see any way to change this behavior. In Windows, you can customize what Windows should do when you press the power button or close the lid of the laptop. The new iTunes seems unstable. Crashing quite a bit, requiring a force quit.
Well, that’s about it for now. Overall, Mavericks is a welcomed update. One, it’s free. Second, even the new iLife updates require it. Third, the power savings and memory management will be appreciated, especially if you have a Mac laptop. If you have a Firewire drobo, take note of the issues. iCloud integration will be useful to those that rely on it. I am quite pleased that Apple can still squeeze things out of OS X, considering how mature it is at this point. There are annoying things here and there, but it’s Apple, so the glossy rainbow usually makes up for them. 😀