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Sunday, July 29, 2012

We've Always Had Cloud Computing; How OS X 10.8 points toward more shared & ad hoc computing

Cloud computing, in the sense of important parts of the computer existing far, far away from us; has always existed. When I started my current job in 1993, I worked at a dumb terminal connected by RS-232 cables to the central computer in the basement. My whole computing experience depended on that computer not failing, It often did, which meant I had to come up with some workarounds.

Later, my employer moved to the current model of personal computers running some version of Windows. They connect to a series of servers providing central e-mail, printing, backup and access to legacy programs running on the server in the basement. I now sit in front of a terminal emulator to do the tasks I used to do at the dumb terminal.

The system has always provided some portability. On every other Friday, I start out at one location at 6:00 AM, log in to the central computer, then log out at 7:00 AM to continue my work back at my home computer. I just have to log in and log out. Essentially, it’s the same desktop wherever I am. That’s the idea of Cloud computing now and then. Same desktop, wherever you work or play.

Mind you, I’m working with Windows XP Professional on Dell desktops. That’s 10 years old! So what does OS X 10.8 and iOS point toward? Truly Portable computing. People meeting over a beverage and sharing their ideas on their tablets. People using their tablets and laptops as shared media. We’ll have tablets serving the purpose of whiteboards and dry-erase markers.

Which brings me to OS X 10.8. When it’s installed, it prominently asks you for the iCloud ID, which is usually your Apple ID you used for iTunes purchases. Unless you opt out, you’ve become part of iCloud for 5Gb’s worth.

How does the Cloud affect you immediately? Look at the new apps bundled with 10.8, such as TextEdit and Preview. They can save files to iCloud. So can the newly updated iWork for Mac apps.

Jason Snell of Macworld rightly feels that many new users will love not having to fiddle with the Finder. They can use the files stored in the cloud. For program launching, they can use Launchpad. For those of us who cut our teeth on the Mac Finder, the Windows Explorer, and even Norton Commander 3.0 back in the day; we can still use file managers to store files and launch programs.

But even as we cling to our archaic file management tools; the cloud offers us the chance to carry our workspace from device to device. Start on an iPhone in a taxi and continue your work on your Mac at your office. Finish up on your iPad in bed.

The luxury of moving about with our computing devices has evolved from the corporate environment of terminals and networked PCs chained (literally!) to the desk to the truly personal and portable devices we carry with us.



Making an Installer and installing Lion

I have installed Mountain Lion 3 times. The first time, I made an installer from the downloaded Install Mountain Lion app onto an 8GB USB flash drive. I then did a clean installation on a spare external hard drive. No problems. Lion worked great.

Having tested Mountain Lion and found it wonderful, I backed up overnight. The next morning, I took the plunge and updated my existing Lion system with the Install Mountain Lion app itself. I did make several backups of this app beforehand.

The installation went smoothly. The app told me it would take 40 minutes, but it took longer. No problems arose during installation. No sudden freezes, blue screens of death, or other signs of impending doom.

The installation caused no new problems, but didn’t resolve several outstanding problems from the Lion installation that came with the computer. My clean installation had resolved those problems.

So installation #3. I made sure I backed up all the files, then wiped the Mac Mini’s internal disk. I then installed Mountain Lion from the installer, again with no problems. I spent the rest of the day reinstalling old programs and finding where I put old files.

To summarize, Lion installs from its own application and from an installer with no problems.

To make the installer, I used Lion DiskMaker It’s written in Applescript and it’s worth the $5 I sent to the author via PayPal. It has my endorsement. The author is French. Think of this as another good thing to come from there, like Catherine Deneuve.

The program works best with an 8GB or larger USB flash drive. Trying to burn a double-layer DVD did not work out. So go to Fry’s or BestBuy or the Apple Store to buy an 8GB flash drive. It’s $6.00 at Frys for one.

AirPlay on Mountain Lion

I do not have an Apple TV and a big-screen HDTV here at MacValley Labs. When I tried to test AirPlay from the Mac Mini to either the Reflections or AirServer AirPlay client apps on a MacBook and a PC, I got the following message.


If you have an Apple TV and successfully mirrored your Mac running Lion to it, let us know in the comments. Every review I read stated the reviewer used an Apple TV to receive the AirPlay signal from the Mac.

Now using Squirrels LLC’s AirParrot app, which brings AirPlay to Macs running 10.6.8 and up; I did mirror my Mac Mini running Lion to my Windows 7 PC running Squirrels’ Reflection app. It didn’t look very good, but it was proof of concept.

The upshot is that if you need reliable high-quality AirPlay mirroring from your Mac running Lion right now, invest in the current generation of Apple TV for $100. The same applies to the AirParrot app. Get that Apple TV for best results.

In Summary

I’m not attempting to duplicate the reviews. Go here for them. I’ve given you my experiences with some aspects of Lion.

I’ve had a positive experience with Lion. I got my $20 worth.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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