6 Ways to Outsmart Apple’s iOS-ification

| Analysis

It’s very clear now that, on the Mac, Apple is departing from the traditional way of interacting with a UNIX OS with a beautiful, elegant but traditional GUI. The introduction of sandboxing, the blending of the UI experience with that of iOS, coined, “iOS-ification,” and the deletion of much of the UNIX related marketing material at apple.com means that aggressive, technical users will have to search for smart ways to use OS X that meets their needs. Here are six suggestions.

1. Stay with Snow Leopard. Snow Leopard was the apogee of the UNIX (BSD) OS for the technical user with the world’s best UI and modern supporting technologies under the hood. At the launch of Lion, Apple began to depart from the personal, technical OS and began to cast its lot with touchscreen, multi-touch, iOS and a more general consumerization of OS X.

The path here is to identify what apps and OS resources are critical, then “rev-lock” yourself into Snow Leopard, OS X 10.6.8. In time, that strategy will start to fail. Apple will stop issuing security updates, but this decision will buy you time until the community figures out better solutions.

Display WallImage Credit: Apple

2. Use Virtualization. Once you identify critical apps and work flows, you may well be ale to accomplish critical UNIX related, scientific, technical, research related work by letting Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) be your very secure host on a very elegant Mac, but run your preferred distribution of Linux in virtualization in, say, Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion.

There are ways to share files across the two OSes. It’s a bit of a pain, but what happens is that once you start exploring that avenue, practice makes perfect, and operational details that start off as a nuisance get ironed out or automated.

The blending and exploitation of two powerful OSes, side-by-side, is a long-standing tool used by scientists, researchers and even developers. That solution will remain so long as Apple continues to use CPUs in the Mac that support virtualization.

3. Become a UNIX Power User. Apple giveth and Apple taketh away. If we expect Apple to always give individual users with special tastes what they need, they’ll be perpetually whining. Apple is all about making money nowadays, and the money isn’t in supporting off the beaten path endeavors. The Big Money is in the consumer world.

By becoming a UNIX power user, it’s more likely that one can dig in under the hood, use existing but hidden technologies, and have one’s way with the OS. It requires some study, but it’s the most fun you can have without marital aids.

For example, yesterday we learned that Mountain Lion will (re)introduce “Save As,” but as an expert-level, secret incantation of keystrokes for the legacy user. In any sufficiently complex OS, there are always gimmicks one can invoke to bypass limitations that are the default for the masses. And Apple may give us more hidden crumbs along the way.

Mac & UNIX & ScienceImage Credit: Apple

4. Support Your Local Sheriff (and Developer). There is a strong community of developers for OS X. Most of them know their customers very well. While some developers, for financial reasons, will jump into the Mac Apple Store with gusto, others will elect to also (or as an alternative) cater to their customer base. That means they’ll preserve certain ways of doing things so long as the necessary APIs remain available.

One example is BBEdit by Bare Bones Software. There is a Save As… function in BBEdit version 10, and there may always be (we hope) so long as the OS supports the functionality. Bare Bones knows what its customers want, and very often special apps are used by a community of users whose interests are orthogonal to those of Apple. It has always been so and will remain so.

5. Create a Community. When problems like this arise, customers rally with and around each other. Websites, mailing lists and perhaps a few sympathetic developers develop a community, much like the Open Source community, and help each other with solutions.

I suspect that as time goes on, this community will become stronger and more cohesive just as Apple, in parallel, travels along its own path with iOS-ification. Again, so long as the APIs we need don’t disappear, customization and special needs facilities will always be there for the technically creative.

6. Create Your Own Apps. This is an offshoot of #3 above. One doesn’t need to necessarily become a full-blown OS X developer and write Cocoa apps with Xcode. There are facilities within the OS X framework to, for example, convert scripts to double-clickable apps that may have the facility that one needs. There is a wealth of resources in this arena, too abundant to go into here. But it’s a subject to explore in the future.

Recognition is Half the Solution

We can recognize, technically, where Apple is going with OS X and iOS-ification. It’s in the company’s interest to make OS X more fun, more touchable, more secure and less geeky.

For those who grow up with Mountain Lion and its successors, they may never need anything different. However, in the meantime, there are still many Macintosh customers who need and want to do things in ways that are convenient and productive. These six ideas are a start at developing a way out. There may well be more I haven’t thought of. As an added bonus, they all keep us from whining too much and let us get back to work.

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There are ways to share files across the two OSes. It?s a bit of a pain, but ...

OK, please direct me to info on doing this. “Pain” is the price for “gain”, no?

Where do I start the google search for digging into this?


Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I read the title as “Lose-ification”. No made-up word could better describe how they are bastardizing Mac OS X. It seems mostly driven by Apple getting 30% for apps purchased. It is hard to imagine how decreasing utility can make anything more useful.

And I’d a 7th Way to your list. Work competing products into your mix. Where they work better for your workflow, use them. Thoughtful people will neither dispute nor revoke your status as a “Mac fan” if you don’t always choose Apple.


Despite having bought Lion the morning it was released, I’m still running Snow Leopard. I keep thinking I’ll bite the bullet and “upgrade” soon, but I keep putting it off. It isn’t even so much that I have a list of things I hate about Lion, it’s that I don’t see any features in it that I really want badly enough to make the jump. I guess I’ll upgrade when I get new hardware that comes with Lion (or Mountain Lion).

P.S. A “6 Things?” article that isn’t a slideshow‽ Someone get this technology over to MacLife.com stat!

John Martellaro

Brad: your 2nd paragraph is good advice.


Macintosh forever!


2. Use Virtualization... letting Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) be your very secure host on a very elegant Mac, but run your preferred distribution of Linux in virtualization in, say, Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion.”

My plan has been to install SL & ML on separate boot volumes on my MBP’s hard drive, and use SL as my default. 

I’m not expecting Parallels or Fusion will be be capable of using those volumes, as they can do with a BootCamp Windows volume, for virtualized “Coherence” mode operation of the other volume’s software, but I am hoping that they’ll be able access (for opening and saving to) a single document database folder for their respective apps on one of those volumes,.


Oh, paaleeze, Mary!
This is the same Neanderthalic panicking from old school geeks that was heard when computers were moving from DOS to GUI.

?The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse’. There is no evidence that people want to use these things.? ~ San Francisco Examiner, John C. Dvorak, 19 Feb. 1984 ~

?Why the iPad will fail to win significant market share.? ~ By Donovan Colbert, February 23, 2010 www.techrepublic.com/blog/tr-out-loud/why-the-ipad-will-fail-to-win-significant-market-share/1666 ~

?Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.?
from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
(quote based on ?The Microbe? by Hilaire Belloc)

John Martellaro

aryugaetu:  ?Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.?
—Woody Allen


aryugaetu:? ?Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.?

Brilliant, John!  (And domu arigato for encapsulating my response to his/her comments so perfectly.)


The only thing that bugs me about Lion is hiding the ~/Library folder. 

Having “Duplicate” instead of “Save As” is different, but serves the same purpose.  Besides, I haven’t like the Open/Save dialog in Mac OS (or any OS) for ... well, always. So I tend to copy-paste (or duplicate) files in Finder from a template or previous version and move it to where I want it in my already open Finder window. (Or if I’m in Terminal, “touch my file.rtf && open -a TextEdit myfile.rtf”.)  The point is, Lion’s different but not worse in this respect.

Virtualization? What does that give you that Snow Leopard had and Lion doesn’t?  You need virtualization if you want to run Windows apps or if you need to have Linux with you on your laptop for some scientific or open source purposes, but that’s no different from Snow Leopard.

There are ways to share files across the two OSes. It?s a bit of a pain, but ...?

OK, please direct me to info on doing this. ?Pain? is the price for ?gain?, no?

Where do I start the google search for digging into this?


VMware has settings for the virtual machine to set up a shared folder on your Mac that appears as a network shared mount in the virtualized OS.  I assume the same is true for Parallels.  It was true for Soft Windows 98 too.  If you’re using something like Sheepshaver to emulate Mac OS 9, then you create a dmg in Disk Utility which you can mount in Finder, copy stuff in/out, unmount, and then set Sheepshaver to mount it when Mac OS 9 runs.  Perhaps something like that works for VirtualBox, VMware, etc.  I don’t find any of this a pain, especially not the shared folder which works well using Windows inside of VMware Fusion.

Out of curiosity, does anyone use Lion’s “All Files” view?  I find it pretty useless and long ago changed the default location for new Finder windows to my home directory.


” Apple is all about making money nowadays”
Yeah, remember when Apple gave their stuff away for free? Good times.

other side

1. Stay with Snow Leopard. (...) Apple will stop issuing security updates, but this decision will buy you time until the community figures out better solutions.

Apple will also stop making hardware that supports Snow Leopard (if they haven’t already).


VMware has settings for the virtual machine to set up a shared folder on your Mac that appears as a network shared mount in the virtualized OS.  I assume the same is true for Parallels.  It was true for Soft Windows 98 too.

Sorry, but this confuses me. I’d like to have a separate installation of Lion (partition or SSD) and use the existing SL installation (on another partition or HDD) as the source of the files/applications from the Lion OS.

Does this make any sense, or am I dreaming? I am not following the “shared folder ...” unless ... you mean to share the complete SL drive/partition and then access that from Lion.  Huh, maybe… .

I suppose I’d have to load all the applications into Lion ... (thinking, thinking, thinking ... ???)

Sorry, I’m confused… .

Dean Lewis

Ok, I’m going to put my neck on the chopping block here and support aryugaetu—in spirit if not in tone. Not accusing this article of Chicken Little Syndrome, but there are several similar articles and podcasts which are sounding alarms before we even get to see the changes fully tried. The infamous Dvorak quote does apply, along with many other naysayers throughout history in all sorts of tech.

We are already seeing Apple change things by reincorporating a save as command, so they do listen to people. Besides, until people really have or take a chance to build workflows, we can’t know how to modify the iOS features to best utilize them in a desktop environment. There are features from previous Mac OS X versions I thought I would never use (Expos?? why do I need that when I have Windowshades?!) and now they are indispensable to me. The abstraction of the file system under iTunes, iPhoto and others has been a godsend to the people I work with who routinely lose their files in their disorganized folders. The key will be leaving enough power for those who need it and making the rest easy for the rest of us. (Even I’m tired of micromanaging my hard drive. I like just opening iTunes and finding my music or seeing previous iterations of files in an opening dialog; TextWrangler already opens files I didn’t close and I’m not in Lion yet—works just fine for me, and my anecdote matters as much as others smile )

It’s shake-ups like these which have the potential to bring some pretty groundbreaking ideas to a boring, staid desktop experience.  (Microsofties are getting their chance to gnash and wail with tiling in Widnows 8/Metro.) I welcome them along with the responsible criticism. Those whining simply because they can’t envision the future or because they are stuck in the past, well, good luck and have fun with that. (Again, I don’t agree with aryugaetu that is happening in this article smile )


Well, if you really want to make an impact on Apple, stop buying their stuff and stop recommending that your friends buy their stuff.  Apple will only respond when wall street begins commenting on declining Mac sales and stalling iphone sales.


Glad you spoke up Dean.

I’m not against iOS-ification on a whole, or indeed any of the specific iOS-inspired features that have made it into Lion or Mountain Lion so far. The aspects of iOS that I don’t want in OS X are ones that aren’t there yet, namely the complete lock-out of apps that Apple doesn’t approve and sell, and the need to jailbreak to gain administrative or file system access.

As for sandboxing and the “blending of the UI experience”, these aren’t bad things so long as I can still use the more powerful interface and install unrestricted 3rd-party apps that give me the tools I want. In fact, I really like the middle-ground default setting in Mountain Lion’s Gatekeeper which restricts the machine to running either App Store apps or apps signed by registered developers; this is a terrific solution to fight malware without the non-stop grind of doing virus scans. The 3 Gatekeeper options are an encouraging sign that Apple wants to give OS X users a choice between “safe and simple” and “unprotected and powerful” computing.

As stated earlier, my reasons for not upgrading to Lion (so far) have more to do with lack of compelling features than the iOS-ification; I have also heard some anecdotes that lead me to be wary of the upgrade process itself or software incompatibilities. Some features strike me as potentially annoying (auto-quit, disappearing scroll bars), but many of these can be turned off or tweaked.

My hope is that OS X and iOS both take the best parts of the other; iOS will get more powerful, and OS X will get simpler, but neither will abandon its core strengths.

Rafael Verduzco

I have been using a package manager to install Unix/Linux programs in OS X, called Homebrew for OS X. It is similar to MacPorts or Fink, but it’s written in Ruby with a more modern approach than the latter ones.

I do scientific software development, use Lion, upgraded from day one, and have by no means felt limited or “dumbed down” by the OS. Sure, some things changed, but if you google a bit, there is almost always a solution.

As always, your mileage may vary. =)


@aryugaetu makes a good point. Apple is a forward thinking company that is not about keeping the status quo. Like Facebook they like to “Break things”. Sure, you *could* continue support for x (or even X) in OS X but you only move forward by leaving things behind.

In my scientific world, Matlab rules the roost and Mathworks does a decent job of keeping up.

In my production world, where time is money, Windows 98, 2000 and XP are still in heavy rotation. The software works and they get the job done.

In my product world, Linux is the choice because it doesn’t add a line item to the cost of goods. And since I’m rambling here let me also state that VirtualBox is a great virtualization technology where sharing drives and files is very easy. (And it’s open source!)

What I’m saying is, you don’t need to Outsmart anything. Find the tools that get your job done and use them. Keep your mind open to new ideas and technologies and incorporate them when they make sense but if your tried and true system is getting the job done, keep it.


Buy a Win 7, dual 3 GHz PC and 24” display for less than half the price of the cheapest iMac.  Works for me!


I’ve been in the computer industry since the early 1990s, and after owning a long string of Macs, I just bought my first PC. It’s a cheap used Thinkpad, and I’m going to set it up to boot into either XP or Ubuntu. That’s what I think of “iOS-ification.”


I just don’t get all the complaints about lion and mountain lion. I loved Snow Leopard but all the new operating systems have done is add some ios apps such as reminders, notes, etc. that are part of the package now and some other ios type features that you don’t need to use. Otherwise it’s all pretty much the same-just some additional features.

John Martellaro

Parallels explained how to share a folder from OS X host to Linux guest OS:

“Please refer to this link from our User Guide to learn more about how it works:

http://download.parallels.com/desktop/v7/update3/docs/en/Parallels Desktop User’s Guide/32922.htm

(Access a Mac OS X Folder or File from a Windows Program section). This part of the guide works both for Linux and Windows. Please be attentive to Linux specific note there:

If you’re running Linux, shared folders are mounted to the /media/psf or /mnt/psf directory.

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