Mountain Lion: First Impressions

August 9th, 2012

I’ve been a Mac user for well over a half-decade and, in that time, I’ve experienced quite a few “big cats.” My first operating system was the impressive Mac OS X v10.3 “Panther;” since then, I’ve upgraded to Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, and now Mountain Lion. Each release has been refreshingly better, though the real changes and upgrades have gotten more evolutionary than revolutionary since the release of Mac OS X 10.5, or Leopard.

I recently upgraded to the newest release of the operating system, now known as OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (no more “Mac,” aah!). I thought I’d turn my impressions into a blog entry for the enjoyment of my four readers. Here goes.

Social Media Integration is a Big YAY!

Let’s face it: Social media is basically the major reason that most people log onto the internet via their MacBook Pros, iPads, and iPhones these days. Having it integrated into OS X is a major plus, especially because it allows the submission of tweets or Facebook status updates, as well as notifications from each of those social networks. Its integration into the new Notification Center feature is easy and wonderful, and I am totally sold. Combined with “Share Sheets” in major Mac applications, this is a big “yay!” from me.

Notification Center is a Moderate YAY!

Notification Center was long overdue, and I think it’ll be a great supplement / replacement for Ye Olde Growl. Its implications in terms of the Mac App Store and sandboxing are a little worrying, but I’m willing to overlook that in favor of a slick, minimalist, and convenient implementation.

More iOS Apps is a Small YAY!

I don’t really use the iOS Notes and Reminders applications frequently, but it’s nice to have them in OS X for easier accessibility. In fact, it might even prompt me to use them more often as I’m considering moving away from my Evernote tendencies. The renaming of iCal to “Calendar” is long overdue, and changing the Address Book app to “Contacts” makes sense, too. The iOS operating system may be our master soon, so these baby steps are a great way to ease it in. Hah.

Performance is a Big YAY!

My 2012 MacBook Pro had no problem running Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion.” In fact, my 2008 MacBook Pro ran it with ease, as well. That said, Mountain Lion flies through the day on my new laptop even more than its predecessor did. Things just feel smoother, nicer, and more responsive, and that’s a net positive for stress levels and productivity.

Overall, a YAY!

I have really nothing negative to say about the wonder that is Mountain Lion. Then again, that might be saying something: I was rather vocal in my disapproval of Snow Leopard, and even several features in the last version of the operating system. With a slew of great, new applications, and new features like Notification Center and social media integration, this OS looks primed to ease the convergence of mobile and desktop lives, as well as their respective operating systems. I like that.

AT&T Mobility: First Impressions

July 9th, 2012

It has been a week since I switched from Verizon Wireless to AT&T Mobility to power my iPhone, and I thought I’d follow up my initial “screw you, Verizon!” blog post with one that fairly evaluates my service with the new provider. It has been good, it has been bad, and it has largely been everything that I’ve expected. Best of all, it has been far more data for far less money, and less of a feeling of being under the thumb of Big Red at every turn.

The Bad

Let’s start with the bad, that way we can end with the good and feel great about ourselves when the post is finished. Here are some of my least-favorite things about AT&T, right up front.

  1. I attempted to add my group discount off-contract (or, as AT&T calls it, my FAN), and it put me into a two-year contract right away, without telling me. I had to call 611 and have them reverse this process so that I will be able to upgrade to the iPhone “5” when it comes out in a few months. It took them three days to do this — why?
  2. More to the point, I apparently cannot add my group discount to my rate plan unless I am in a contract, or start a new one. The fuck?
  3. Special K and I went to Philadelphia for Independence Day with our good friend, Katie. Philadelphia is known for having the “Party on the Parkway” where a half-million people gather to watch major music acts and tons of fireworks over the art museum. My phone was completely useless during this celebration. No calls, texts, or bytes of data were able to get through the crowd. Special K and Katie are also AT&T customers, and we had to resort to sending smoke signals to communicate with our friends. That’s a downer.
  4. This isn’t necessarily an AT&T problem, but it has happened since I switched: The iPhone 4S has major battery life issues and that really kills my buzz. Good thing I have a charger everywhere.

The Good!

Let’s finish with good news, because everyone likes a happy ending. There are plenty of things to love about AT&T’s wireless service that are quite different from Verizon’s offering.

  1. Unlike when I had an iPhone with Verizon, I can actually talk on the phone and use mobile data at the same time. This is so grrrrrreat that even Tony the Tiger would celebrate it.
  2. Speaking of mobile data, the speeds I’ve been getting with my AT&T iPhone 4S are literally between eight and nine times faster than the service I received from Verizon Wireless during my time as a smartphone customer there. It makes on-the-go browsing and app usage way more enjoyable.
  3. AT&T’s “myAT&T” application for the iPhone is way, way, way better than “My Verizon.” It’s insanely more intuitive, it isn’t slow or laggy, and it offers far more account management capabilities. Verizon’s mobile account application is an embarrassment, and it always has been.
  4. Similarly, the AT&T online account management portal using the full version of the company’s website is way prettier and more intuitive. I’ve long believed that “AT&T just doesn’t get it” about mobile service, but I’m being proven wrong a lot.
  5. Verizon Wireless service at the beach is really, really bad. At least here in Delaware. My phone regularly slipped down to the lowercase “o” that indicated 2G service. This killed my battery at the beach, and rendered any mobile browsing pursuits useless and infuriatingly unavailable. It’s a whole new world now.
  6. The freedom of having a SIM card — well, a micro-SIM card — cannot be understated. No more draconian Verizon policies that permit me only to use their “approved” phones. It’s really, really great.

So, AT&T isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are some rainy days with this wireless provider, as there are with any service provider. The good news is that I get charged less with AT&T while getting more services — an extra gigabyte of data and free calling to any mobile device — while also getting faster data and better coverage here on the Delmarva Peninsula. So far, I don’t regret my decision to make the big switch. If that changes, count on me to bitch about it right here.

On Bidding Adieu to Verizon

July 2nd, 2012

When I got my first mobile phone, a black-and-white Nokia that dripped teenager-targeted sexiness, I got that phone with AT&T Wireless. Over the next seven years, I maintained an account with the company as I moved through Nokia and Motorola devices, sticking by as AT&T Wireless became Cingular. I enjoyed how they “raised the bar” and everything, but I ultimately opted to become part of a family plan on Verizon in late 2006 due to issues of affordability. I’ve stayed with Verizon from my first 2006 contract through today. This afternoon, I went to the AT&T store and begged them to take me back, love me again, and let me show some sweet love to their 4G LTE network.

A Souring Relationship: Why Verizon Fell Out of Favor

I joined Verizon in 2006 as a “dumbphone” customer, snagging a Motorola Rizr to replace the flip-phone Razr that I had so enjoyed during my time at AT&T. The phone came with a microSD card slot, 3G capabilities, and most of the other standard features of the day. I was satisfied.

When AT&T got exclusive American rights to the iPhone a year later, I stuck by Verizon because their network was fabulous and their prices were virtually the same as those offered at AT&T. Also, I was on a family plan where I paid a discounted rate, and I was a student. Students like low-cost things. I eventually migrated to a Droid phone because I needed smartphone capabilities, and I was treated to the unlimited data plan the company offered at the time.

When I transitioned to an iPhone in 2011 after the company began selling the iPhone 4, my unlimited data plan came along for the ride. When Verizon changed their data pricing to a tiered model, my unlimited plan was grandfathered in. Then they announced the “Share Everything” plans; data plan migration was dead and, if customers wanted to keep their unlimited plans, they would need to forego subsidized pricing and fork out $900 for a new iPhone.

While my unlimited data plan comes in at $30, the company’s new plans start at just a single gigabyte for $50 per month. If that doesn’t make your eyes bug out like Animaniacs, certainly nothing will. The company has become unbelievably costly and customer-unfriendly. Combined with their proffering of last-century CDMA technology, I decided I simply could not deal with their customer-screwing any longer. I began looking into alternatives.

Narrowing Down the Choices for Coverage

There are four major, national carriers in the United States: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, listed in order of their size. The first three offer the iPhone, while T-Mobile does not offer the iPhone at all. Furthermore, the iPhone is not compatible with T-Mobile’s 3G or 4G implementations. That left AT&T and Sprint as viable choices for my business.

Sprint offers unlimited data, unlimited texting, and unlimited minutes for just $99 per month. It would be a great deal if Sprint’s network was worth a damn, but that actually isn’t the case. The company is stuck in 3G Land and struggles to offer more than a single megabit of download speed. Are you kidding me? Time to move on.

So, AT&T. The company was the first to swap their unlimited data plans for a tiered option. This would be a deal-breaker for me if my unlimited Verizon plan was grandfathered, but it no longer is. While Verizon charges $50 for 1GB, AT&T charges $30 for 3GB or $50 for 5GB. Woohoo, we have a (relative, very relative) bargain! My voice and texting plan with the company gives me unlimited calling to any mobile device or any AT&T customer, unlimited nights and weekends, and 450 minutes for use during the daytime when calling landlines. And unused minutes “roll over” to the next month so I don’t lose them. A price tag of $89 seems perfect to me.

On top of it all, AT&T has world-standard GSM and HSPA+ implementations, and is rolling out its LTE service nationwide. Here in scenic Delaware, their 4G is consistently faster than Verizon’s. They also get better coverage immediately on the beach, while Verizon drops down to 2G service. Sold!

Someone Needs an Attitude Adjustment

Verizon, in my mind, has seriously overstepped its bounds with the latest round of major price hikes. The company definitely has a larger LTE network than AT&T does currently, and their network is notoriously reliable. However, charging $50 for a single gigabyte of data is, like, asinine. I actually chuckled when I read the news article announcing the switch. They must be high. The entire executive team must be on crack. This is the closest thing I could find to a logical explanation.

So, I am now back with AT&T, which changed its name back from Cingular shortly after I left six years ago. It seems like a natural fit for me, and I’m looking forward to a healthy and rewarding relationship with the company that introduced me to my very first Nokia device when I was barely a teenager. I’m also looking forward to better prices, a more global network technology, and massively faster data speeds. Here we go.

Ladies and Gentlemen: iDennis III

June 18th, 2012

It was a chilly February day in 2008 when I purchased my last MacBook Pro. I logged onto the online Apple Store, loaded up the customization screen for the model I wanted, and made sure that it was as loaded as my budget would allow. It arrived with the following “amazing” specs, as the late Steve Jobs would’ve said (and did say, when he announced this model):

  • 2.4GHz Core2Duo processor (two cores)
  • 2GB 667MHz DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB hard disk drive (5400 RPM)
  • nVidia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of VRAM
  • Battery life of 4 hours
  • Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”

And The Years, They Wore On…

I assure you, when I first got this thing, all of my friends thought that it was the most beautiful and speedy laptop they’d ever feasted their eyes on. It was a conversation piece. A coffee table ornament. A source of breezes when I loaded applications with barely even TWO dock bounces! It was, quite simply, wonderfulmazingtastic. Then, of course, it got old. Old, old, old.

I tried to stave off the entry of my MacBook Pro into the realm of disregarded Macs (which also contains my white 14″ iBook from pre-historic times) with a 6GB RAM upgrade and a new 750GB hard disk drive running at 7200 RPM. I was successful for a while, but then the video card started to melt. This is a well-known defect for my model, and I am outside the free replacement / repair window. The time, sadly enough, had come. It was time to send iDennis Jr. into that good night on my Closet Shelf of Dust-Collecting Doom.

Introducing iDennis III, the 2012 MacBook Pro

As my Mac slowed down and struggled to run Adobe Photoshop CS6, and as the video card began to get super-hot and make my fan go crazy, I began stockpiling my cash as a replacement seemed inevitable. With great fanfare (I danced with the cats), my bank account today got the final direct deposit enabling an all-cash purchase of this beauty. No credit required! Because I’m rich. And now I’m not only filthy rich, but I have (another) fantastically amazing MacBook Pro. Let’s look at how this puppy stacks up against its predecessor.

  • 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 processor (four cores)
  • TurboBoost to 3.6GHz
  • 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 512GB olid state drive
  • Intel Graphics HD 4000
  • nVidia GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
  • Battery life of 7.5 hours
  • Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” (free upgrade to OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion” next month)

While my previous (and first) MacBook Pro was the traditional “PowerBook” design carried over from an earlier era in Apple history, my new model is the excellent “unibody” design with the stunning black keys, glossy high-resolution display, and battery indicator LED lights. It is SO beautiful. If I weren’t dating Special K, I’d seriously consider taking this thing fine dining.

At the very least, I’m going to buy it a case. So, welcome to the family, iDennis III. You have big shoes to fill, having replaced my first MacBook Pro ever, which in turn replaced my first Mac ever (the iBook). They grow up so fast!