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Still Thinking About It: Can You Mount A Lion Virtually?

Published September 4th, 2012

Now that I've effectively passed Lion by, I'm thinking again about whether or not to upgrade from Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6). As noted in an earlier article explaining why I've avoided Lion, this is the first time since Mac OS X debuted in 2001 that I've hesitated to upgrade. So here it is again: Should I? Why not?

Apple did improve Lion during the course of its life, and Mountain Lion seems like a logical and relatively smooth update. Most of the reasons I had for not liking Lion still stand, but a couple have been remedied. In addition, I've found more things to like. For example:

  • Windows resizable from all sides.
  • Quick Look feature in Spotlight: You can preview docs right from the Spotlight results list.
  • Improved Mail client: Many improvements, including finally providing the option to show previews on the right-hand side.
  • Change in default setting for opening new windows on login. Now the default is off, and Apple has provided a system preference option to help control this behavior as well.
  • Improved search/replace in TextEdit.
  • Improved CharacterPalette app.
  • Nicer full screen Quick Look mode.
  • Safari improvements: Tabs, downloads, among others.
  • Spotlight is searchable while it's building the index.
  • Improved Cocoa text tools.
  • Mountain Lion: Finder sidebar lets users decide how to organize the sections.

One of the main reasons to upgrade is to take advantage of iCloud, which has become a more serious need now that Apple took MobileMe away from us. I can no longer sync my Safari bookmarks automagically, for example. However, I'm still pissed that Apple hasn't made a version of iCloud available for the many folks still on Snow Leopard.

Speaking of which, what exactly is the breakdown of Mac users in August 2012? It's only been a month since Mountain Lion was released, but clearly upgrading is happening pretty quickly. According to the stats from, Lion users account for about 35% of the market, Snow Leopard users about 34%, and Mountain Lion users about 20%. There are still about 10% of users hanging on to Leopard. That Snow Leopard figure is pretty damn high considering how long Lion has been out, and is one that Apple should be paying more attention to.

For me, the most daunting task of upgrading to Mountain Lion will be migrating all of my apps, their settings, and their licenses. Because Lion doesn't support Rosetta, I have to abandon any old PowerPC apps hanging around. The most significant of these is Quicken 2007, but I also have to upgrade my license for MaxBulk Mailer and a couple of others. Finding a replacement for Quicken remains a challenge, though I finally did find one that seemed worth buying: iBank. I haven't actually moved from Quicken yet for monthly financial balancing, but I think iBank will do the trick once I do.

To give you (and me) an idea of the application burden I'm looking at, I've compiled the following list, organized by major categories and subcategories. The colored cells on the far right represent how often I use each app — from light green (daily) to orange (quarterly). Apps I don't touch more often than quarterly aren't represented in the table, nor are apps that are part of Mac OS X (including iLife).

Category Subcategory App Name License Issues Use

Recording & Editing

Amadeus Pro C

ClickRepair C

DeNoise C

Logic Express C

iTunes Software Bowtie F

CoverSutra C

Animation & 3D

3D Tools Live Interior 3D C

Needs reinstall

Animation Morph Age C


Advertising GarageSale C

MaxBulk Mailer X C

Rosetta - Upgrade

Product Delivery Endicia S

Spreadsheets Numbers C

Presentation Keynote C

Office Suites iWork C


Desktop Wallsaver F

GeekTool F

Interface Enhancements

CandyBar C

ThemePark 3 F

ThemePark F

Visor F

Software Preferences

AppHack F

OpenPListCM F

PlistEdit Pro C

TinkerTool System C

System Extensions CrystalClear Interface C

DefaultFolder X C

LiteSwitch X C

TotalFinder C

XtraFinder F

Design & Graphics

Color Utilities iPalette F

paintersPicker C 32bit

Drawing & Painting

VectorDesigner C

Image Editors

Adobe Photoshop CS4


Back In Focus C

Image Management

Icon2Image C 32bit

Aperture C

Screen Capture LittleSnapper C

Web Design Flux C

Developer Tools

AppleScript Sdef Editor F

Cocoa Development

Platypus F

Packages F

Needed install

Code Editors



Code Management Code Collector Pro C

svnX F

Databases Querious C

Debugging & Testing

Xcode OS X

Hacking F-Script Anywhere F Interactivity

Pacifist C

AppHack F

SymbolExplorer F

Contrast problem

Web Development Espresso C

File & Disk Management

Disk Utilities Drive Genius C

File Browsers & Managers

Path Finder C

File Utilities Springy C

Disk Inventory X F

File Juicer C

Managing Digital Formats

Pavtube Blu-Ray Ripper


Software Management

RapidoSerial F

Home & Learning

Mail & Print Tools Endicia C

Dymo printer needed new driver

Personal Finance Quicken C

Rosetta - Need alt

iBank C

Powersnipe F

Photos & Slideshows

PhotoPresenter C 32bit

Reference MacTracker F

Google Earth F

Information Management

Bookmarking & Tagging

Leap C

Fresh C

Personal Information Mgmt

DEVONthink Pro C

Evernote F

Yep C

Securing Content 1Password C

Internet Tools

File Transfer Tools

MacTubes F

Xtorrent C

Note: Works with CB on Lion.

Yummy FTP C

News & Podcast Readers

Times C

Web Browsers

Camino O

Firefox O

Flock F

Chrome O

Opera F

Safari F

WebKit O

Browser Add-Ons

Flash Cache Server F

SafariStand F

Web Research

DevonAgent C

Voice & Chat

Adium O

Skype F


Application Services

KavaServices C

Clipboard Utilities

ClawMenu C


Quicksilver O

ClawMenu C

DragThing C

iKey C

Quick Access Tools

Fresh C

MenuPop C

FolderGlance C


Required upgrade to beta version

QuickAccessCM F

OpenMenu X C

Shortcuts & Automation

Autopilot C

Hazel C

Shortcuts F

Spark F

TextExpander C

OpenMenu X C

A Better Finder Rename C

System Administration

Backup & Synchronization

Carbon Copy Cloner F

Chronosync C


Lingon F

TinkerTool System C

Secrets F

System Maintenance

CleanApp C

Data Rescue C

iFreeMem C

VacuumMail F

What’s Keeping Me F

System Monitors

BackTrack C

Main App wouldn’t open from statusbar item

BwanaDik F

Growl F

CB Not Loading

MemoryStick F

Sloth F

Terminal & Unix Tools

ManOpen F

Task Management

Notes & Reminders

Edgies C

Sticky Notes C

Outlining & Mind Mapping

MindNode Pro C

MyMind F


Personal Organizers

MenuCalendarClock iCal C

Edgies C


Leap C

DEVONagent C

EasyFind F

Time & Schedules

QuartzClocks F

MenuCalendarClock iCal C


Screen Video

ScreenFlow C

Voila C

Video Players

MacTubes F


Writing & Publishing

Rich Text Editors

Bean F


ScreenFlow C

Text Utilities

TextSoap C

Other Web Sharing

Twitterrific C

Word Processors

Bean F

Pages C

The most compelling argument for upgrading, quite frankly, is my need to stay current with users of my software, CrystalClear Interface and Crystal Black primarily. Since I don't live in Lion or Mountain Lion, it's difficult to quickly test any bugs users report, and I'm not finding any on my own, as I typically do while using Snow Leopard. In addition, the burden of testing and quality assurance is much more difficult when I have to cover three operating systems, though that burden will remain so long as Snow Leopard has such a big market share.

Besides the issues I've already stated, the biggest argument against upgrading is that my software doesn't work as well on Lion or Mountain Lion as it does on Snow Leopard. For me, that's a big pain in the butt, and it doesn't let me enjoy the theming as fully. For reasons why this is an issue, see the recent brief article I wrote on the subject.

So, bottom line: I'm still on the fence. One possible compromise, if I can confirm it will work, is to run Mountain Lion as a virtual OS, as one can do with MIcrosoft Windows or Linux. If I can run Mountain Lion inside Parallels Desktop, for example, I could keep it handy for testing while running Snow Leopard as my primary OS.

Or, I could do the reverse: Upgrade to Mountain Lion and run Snow Leopard in virtual mode. I've read that these things are possible, but haven't gone down the path of actually trying them out yet.

If I can make the virtual OS route work, that's probably where I'm going to end up — at least until Apple releases its next big Feline.

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