After much consideration, I’ve taken two of three of my personal Macs back to Snow Leopard from Mountain Lion.  I moved the machines originally to Lion and then Mountain Lion to take advantage of iCloud integration between them and my IOS devices (i.e., an iPhone 4 and iPad2).  Over time, though, I have decided that the small gain in iCloud services was not worth what I was giving up.

My three Macs consist of a 2008 Mac Pro running 2.8Ghz processors, a 2010 MacBook Air running a 2.13Ghz Core 2 Duo, and an early 2011 MacBook Pro running a Core i7 2.2 Ghz CPU.  Only the MacBook Pro is now on Mountain Lion; both the Mac Pro and the MacBook Air are now running Mac OS 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard).  Only the MacBook Air is a candidate to go back to Mountain Lion; the Mac Pro may never leave SL as its primary operating system.  Here’s why:

(1) Loss of Rosetta – I see a lot of apologists defending Apple’s decision to drop Rosetta support, and I do understand that Rosetta was always intended to be a stopgap solution for those transitioning to Intel from Power PC CPU’s.  Regardless, I had quite a few applications I still occasionally use that were not updated to allow them to run in Rosetta-less operating systems. They are often like having a special tool for that odd job that nothing else will satisfy; on my Mac Pro, I had initially approached this problem by keeping my user data and those applications on a Snow Leopard loaded hard disk and my primary operating system (newer) on a SSD.  This allowed me to boot into Snow Leopard when needed but otherwise run a newer OS.  However, as time went on, other changes Apple made forced me to reconsider, driving me me to eventually drop the newer operating system from my Mac Pro.

(2) The Dulling Down of OS X- There has been a drive since Lion to “grey up’ many of the operating system and application interfaces we’ve all come to know and love.  Apple has given various reasons for this, i.e., “a dated look”, “more emphasis on the data and less on the application”, etc.  I have hated almost every one of the changes.  I have read that it was to make OS X look more like iOS.  Whatever.  Some of Tim Cooks’ statements concerning the convergence of tablet and desktop operating systems made me think Apple understood that better than Microsoft (I hate the Metro interface for desktop use), but the changes to the basic user interfaces Apple has recently made to OS X to make it more like iOS would say otherwise.  There is a lot of discussion online about how many of these changes violate Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines.  All of this points to inexperienced designers who have been given too free a hand.  (And may be the kind of thing that Jobs would have prevented.)  I certainly do not like the lack of color and “flatness” introduced by Lion and now Mountain Lion and I have told Apple so.  (In fact, I suggested that instead of shoving such changes down a user’s throat, they consider making them optional.)  Additionally, someone removed the little visual indicators from Mail that tell you the application is out checking a mailbox when you command it to do so; now you can only tell when it HAS fetched mail and not whether it’s actually doing what you asked it to or is having trouble doing so.  All these things still existed in Snow Leopard.  I was tired of doing without them.

(3) Silent Upgrades and Incompatible Formats – I was able to use the “dual OS” operating philosophy on my Mac Pro as long as application data formats for the new OS and Snow Leopard remained the same.  When Apple updated Aperture from version 3.2.4 to 3.3, it not only failed to tell users that 3.3 required Lion (3.2.4 could be run on Snow Leopard) but it changed the data format so that 3.3 and 3.2.4 could not run the same Libraries. (Additionally, the designers removed the colored icons from Aperture with 3.3, giving me another reason to drop back.  Apple also did the same with iPhoto.)  This made me load SL versions of those applications on my SL partition and recover earlier copies of the libraries, which took a lot of additional hard disk space.  While the later versions of both Aperture and iPhoto do allow use of a single photo library for both applications, it also meant that corruption of a single library would put you out of business.  I have backups to protect for both file corruption and hardware failure, but that removed one more safeguard I had in place.  It also greatly complicated library maintenance, as I would have to add photos to both a Mountain Lion library and Snow Leopard libraries to keep them in synch. In the long run, things were just getting too complicated…

(4)   Loss of Battery Life – When using my MacBook Air just on battery power, I noticed I could watch the battery percentage almost click down.  This was after updating to OS 10.8.1 that supposedly had battery life fixes in it.  I didn’t see the point in running an OS that drained my battery prematurely on a MacBook Air, so I decided to take the time to drop the system back to Snow Leopard and do a comparison.  Sure enough, once back on Snow Leopard, I picked up 30 minutes to 1 hour of extra time, depending on what I was doing.

(5) Small iCloud Losses –  Since my iCloud account was set up and I have one system on Mountain Lion, my losses from ditching Mountain Lion on two machines have been small.  I already had paid for Facetime back when I was on Snow Leopard exclusively, so I simply re-downloaded Facetime from the App Store and loaded it on the SL machines.  I used my Mountain Lion machine to give me the iCloud server settings for iCal and programmed the SL machines with them, so I have iCal iCloud integration enabled on all my machines.  Information I put in Reminders is showing up in Mail 4.5’s Notes.  I have lost iMessage on the SL machines but I still have iChat and Facetime and I always keep my iPhone near or on me anyway.  As for losing iCloud integration with my iWork applications, I can still access iCloud using Safari and manually upload or download documents.  That’s no big deal.

I’m much happier now.   I suspect the Mac Pro will never come off Snow Leopard or, at best, the next great Apple OS (and that’s not Lion or Mountain Lion right now) will be loaded up on the machine’s SSD, assuming I decide I like it more than Snow Leopard.  (That’s not likely.) I may take the MacBook Air up back to Mountain Lion once I see reports that the current battery life expenditure problems have been fixed. But, to be honest, Apple’s current course makes me wonder whether I’ll be staying with the company for my desktop computing or whether there might be some other OS in my future.  It all depends on what Apple does from here on out; ignoring its heritage might not be wise.