Apple OS X Mountain Lion review: iOS-like features help unify your digital world

The new desktop OS benefits from new features adopted from iOS

By Michael deAgonia, Computerworld |  Software, Apple, OS X Mountain Lion

Safari's Preferences now has a Passwords panel, so if you ever forget your password for a website, you can find out what it was by entering your Mac account's password. Privacy settings allow you to ask websites not to track you and you can stop search engines from providing suggestions.

Finally, Safari features a nifty "pinch" gesture in Mountain Lion. If you use the pinch-to-close gesture with multiple tabs open, the gesture will shrink the current Web page to a Cover Flow-type image, and you can swipe left and right between your tabs using two fingers. It's a more graphical way of moving between tabs.

It's not all good news for Safari fans, though. This version of the browser no longer has a built-in RSS reader. If you try to connect to an RSS feed, you get a prompt to search the Mac App Store for alternative readers. I've been an avid RSS user in Safari and was initially disappointed with the change. I ended up buying the RSS reader called Reeder, and I recommend it for other RSS fans.

A more secure OS X

The trick to making a system secure is finding the right balance between limiting access to detrimental processes while maintaining as much freedom of choice as possible. In iOS, there's a reason Apple locks down what apps can be installed on an iPhone, iPad or iPod, but funneling all installations through an Apple-approved channel wouldn't work on the desktop. Or would it?

Currently, you can install and run programs on OS X from anywhere, and you'll receive just one warning that untrusted downloads can be harmful, and that warning will appear only during a program's first run. The Mac App Store alleviated most fears about potentially harmful software, since Apple has to approve any digital wares sold there. In Mountain Lion, Apple has come up with what seems like a fairly logical compromise between a Wild West download world and a total lockdown. That compromise is called Gatekeeper.

Apple's Gatekeeper feature allows a user to limit what apps can run in OS X.

Gatekeeper embodies a new security paradigm in which you pick one of three types of security modes for OS X. The first allows apps downloaded from anywhere to run -- it's an option literally called Anywhere, and it can be found in the "Allow applications downloaded from:" section of the Security preferences panel. This will let your Mac behave as it has in the past, with app installations from any source allowed with the proper permissions at a user's discretion.

The second option allows apps to be installed only if they come from the "Mac App Store and identified developers." This allows digitally-signed apps to run on your Mac. Because apps must be digitally signed, Apple can revoke privileges for troublesome apps and track down the responsible parties, since each signature is unique. Applications that aren't signed won't run in OS X when this mode is enabled.

The last option only allows apps downloaded from the Mac App Store to install or run. That's as self-explanatory -- and secure -- as you can get.

I ran into Gatekeeper when installing a new version of Parallels. Mountain Lion stopped the process, said I didn't have the security rights, and told me to go to the System Preferences and change the install options. To change security options requires an administrator username and password, and once I changed the setting to allow installs from anywhere, Parallels loaded up just fine.

As more apps become "Gatekeeper aware," concerns about malware or installing from untrusted sources may be something IT departments can stop worrying about regarding their Macs. But that will take time.

As another security measure, Mountain Lion disables Adobe Flash if it sees that it's not the latest version. Users can then download the update from Adobe's site. Java is a separate download as well. If any of your apps need it, you'll be prompted to download it; it's an easy install through Software Update.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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