MacOS 10.9: Mavericks!

I finally took the time and upgraded my MacBook Pro to the latest and greatest MacOS; Mavericks (10.9.2).  I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, the decision to upgrade to a major new version of an OS for a desktop or laptop computer shouldn’t be made lightly (minor or service packs should be applied as soon as available, since they typically have security fixes).  It’s a traditional balance of features vs. cost (and risk) to upgrade.

Though Mavericks was released on October 22, 2013, I waited for roughly 6 months to allow some of the 3rd party applications and devices to catch up.  In fact, though I was running Lion (10.7.x) on my laptop previously, I hadn’t updated to Mountain Lion (10.8.x)   because the new features were not worth the potential issues with doing the upgrade (see my post on Mountain Lion).  I have one device in particular that has been troublesome with MacOS upgrades, and that has largely inhibited me from upgrading.  That device is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device by LenovoEMC (formerly Iomega) and since EMC sold it to Lenovo, its clear that MacOS priority has dropped into a black hole, so I decided to work around this device.

So, on to the upgrade.  First, some information about the upgrade itself, then I’ll have some initial impressions.

Upgrade

First, you’ll need to be able to access the Mac App Store to perform the free upgrade.  Note: This is a major new version of MacOS, not a minor upgrade.  However, at first blush, the functionality seems to be worth it.

Steps to follow

  • Be sure that the important apps that you run will work.  I started with RoaringApps.com.  This site will allow you to enter an application name and if it has an entry for it, it will return what MacOS versions are supported.  If that didn’t work, then I went to the application vendor’s website and poked around in their support section for the OS requirements.  Here are a few that work with Mavericks:
    • MS Office for Mac 2011 — This seems to be working well for me.  In poking around Microsoft support, I saw some issues with fonts and product keys needing to be reentered.  I’ve not encountered either set of problems.
    • Evernote — Works fine
    • Dropbox — Works fine
    • Google Drive — Works fine
    • VMware Fusion — I upgraded to version 6 prior to upgrading the OS.  Version 6 works (and the host OSes run marginally faster regardless of version of MacOS)
    • Skype — Works fine
    • Bento 4 — this database program works fine
    • OfficeJet Pro 8500 — This all-in-one printer is working fine.
  • Check your computer and OS.  Be sure your computer will run Mavericks.  Go to here to check compatibility.  If you’re running version of MacOS older than Snow Leopard, you’ll need to upgrade to Snow Leopard first (which is a new purchase at $20).  Check here for more information.
  • Backup your computer.  I run Time Machine, so I insured one last backup was done prior to starting the process. Note: After you are done backing up, disable Time Machine else it will attempt to backup the installation file, which is 5 GB in size.  The backup isn’t needed and it will slow down your installation.
  • Start the process of upgrade — Assuming all is good, open the Mac App Store.  Find the Mavericks “app”, then click “Install”. You’ll need to be patient.  Many of the steps will be slow.
    • It will download the installation kit, which is several GB in size.  It will take a while.  It took me about an hour.
    • Install the software … again it will be take a while for it to install.  It took me a little over an hour and one or two reboots.
    • The first question once it comes back up is whether to enable iCloud.  I did, though you can enable or not at this point.  It’s reconfigurable later.  More below on iCloud.
    • You will need your iTunes name and password.  Like iOS, MacOS now requires you to be logged into iTunes.  This is largely a security issue, though it will also enable a fair amount functionality through iCloud.
    • Update the OS, yet again.  When I upgraded, 10.9.1 was installed.  I needed to update to 10.9.2.  Do this before upgrading any other Apple apps. It’s easy and a lot faster to apply (though it will require a reboot).
    • Upgrade the apps you have installed via the Mac App Store.  I needed to upgrade iPhoto and iMovie.
  • Once the computer is up-and-running and you have it configured the way you want, you might want to let it sit and run for a couple hours.  I found my MacBook was very sluggish for a quite a while.  I suspect there is a mess of housekeeping going on in the background.  I went and played golf.  When I returned, it was better than it had been on Lion.

Initial Impressions

My very first impression was that it didn’t seem any different from Lion and I was initially disappointed.  Actually, that’s a very good thing from a usability perspective.  The mistake that Microsoft made moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8 was to make a very jarring change in the user experience.  The tiled interface was difficult for many folks to use after using the desktop paradigm since 1995.  It didn’t help that there were few apps using the new interface.  If you’ve been using Lion or above, Mavericks will look and feel exactly the same as what you are accustomed to.

So, my next stop (after insuring that my crucial apps really did work properly), was to the Apple Mavericks Webpage for more information.  I found my way to the descriptions of the new functionality, then started playing with the new functionality.

What follows are my initial impressions.

  • Performance has definitely improved — Apple engineers have made several performance improvements and I can really see the difference.
    • Memory improvements — My MacBook Pro runs with 8 GB of physical memory and under Lion, I was right at the edge since I also run Windows 8 under VMware. I typically run with 9-10 GB of virtual memory (memory that might or might not have physical memory associated with it).  When a computer runs with more virtual memory (VM) than physical memory (PM), it means that some of that physical memory needs to be swapped out to disk.  This process is very slow.  The way this would manifest itself is to have applications that have been sleeping for a while, take a very long time to come back into memory.  If there were several attempting to wakeup at the same time, the system would become very sluggish.  With Mavericks, memory that hasn’t been used in a while is compressed in place, then uncompressed when needed.  This is a much faster process than swapping, as it doesn’t require disk I/O.  This means when I’m running at the edge, I don’t see any slow down even when I start up processes that have been sleeping for a while.
    • Overall, the performance is very snappy.  There have been a number of other rather esoteric performances improvements.  The next result is that apps start up much faster and my system seems to be much less sluggish.
  • Tabs in Finder — This is a feature that should have been in Finder forever.  Just like with Safari (or any modern browser), you can have tabs for various views into the file system.   To open a tab, open finder, then right click on another directory and click “open in new tab”.  You can drag-in-drop between tabs.  You can merge Finder windows into one window with multiple tabs and split one window with multiple tabs into multiple windows.
  • iCloud — It appears that iCloud has finally grown up.  If you’re running Mavericks and the latest version of iOS, then iCloud will allow coordination of your data between your Macs and iOS devices.  Apple is providing more transparency on their security model for data in transit as well as on their servers.   I’m less concerned than I was previously when there was little visibility into this.  I plan to followup with another  post on both iCloud and how Apple is securing your data.  I want to use it for a while before getting into more depth.
  • Tags — They’ve added a feature that has been a staple for years in email clients.  The ability to mark an object (file, directory) with a specific tag.  These tags can transcend where they are in the filesystem, so that you can find and sort objects that  are related, but spread through the filesystem.  I’ve not done much with these yet but I can already see their value, much like I’ve used tags with email for years.
  • Safari has a number of improvements, including integration with your devices (via iCloud).  For example, you can call up the tabs on your iPad to visit those pages.   There is now a sidebar with your favorites, along with shared links from your friends.
  • Integration with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other services.  If you login to these social media sites, there is some significant integration.  One nice feature is that it pulls in contact information from the service into your contact book, which of course gets propagated to all your devices via iCloud.
  • Maps — Yes, the Apple maps app has come to the Mac.  Fortunately, it appears to be more capable than the original that showed up on iOS.  The real benefit of the Maps app is the ability to integrate with the other apps.  For example, pull up a contact and see a map of the address.  Same with a message with an address.
  • There are several apps from iOS included in the offering, including iBooks and iMessage.  Also, several apps have had facelifts, including Calendar and Contacts.
  • Overall, the level of integration is impressive.  Again, I suspect I’ll have more on this when I get some time to play.

As I finish this note, I’ve completed exactly 24 since I started this process.  So, far I’m very impressed with Mavericks and the direction that Apple has taken both with MacOS and iOS.  I’ll post a follow up after the bloom has gone off the rose. 🙂

Let me know what your experiences are with Mavericks.

 

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