My upgrade to Mavericks was statistically uneventful, especially if you factor in the amount of time it took.

After all, upgrading the OS, Xcode, iWork and iLife (plus assorted miscellany) entailed downloading around 10GB of stuff altogether per machine, and there’s really no way anything can be eventful when it takes that long.

Toss in the usual mailbox rebuild (which has been a mainstay of OS X upgrades), and you’re set at least a couple of hours on older machines (even if you’re lucky enough to have an SSD).

Stuff that worked out of the box, much to my amazement:

  • iCloud Keychain also synced my work IM account to other Macs, and my Twitter account to one I hadn’t bothered with yet – finally, internet accounts only have to be set up once.
  • Homebrew wasn’t wiped out by the upgrade, and so far, it seems /usr/local generally escaped unscathed.
  • Java was also still around (yeah, yeah, I have to use the Oracle JDK to run Clojure)
  • All my installed Python modules (including IPython, pandas, scipy, matplotlib and other hairy yaks) worked fine, because I’ve taken to using a .pydistutils.cfg that installs them in my personal ~/Library rather than in the global site-packages folder1.

That last bit is worth repeating: The standard system Python (now 2.7.5) works fine for “scientific” computing, and I’ve yet to come across any issues — and bear in mind that I use IPython notebooks daily to talk to our data stores. Unless you need Python 3.x or PyPy, don’t bother installing another interpreter.

What didn’t (rather predictably) work was my plugin (I had to add code signing), Mail Act-On (there’s a prerelease available, and a paid upgrade is due) and my DisplayLink adapter, which now mostly works after a driver update — that’s the only bit I’m actually concerned about, really.

Incidentally, and despite all the brouhaha regarding and Gmail, I’ve had no noticeable issues with either across four machines (which access the same set of Gmail accounts). Neither did I have any trouble with smart mailboxes, even though I rely on nested sets of them to get things done.

I think most people experiencing trouble simply aren’t aware that Mail needs a fair amount of time to re-index everything even after it’s apparently done, and that a lot of operations are (for some obscure reason) queued in a rather silly way. It is not unusual for something I’ve apparently moved to another folder to temporarily reappear until the back-end finishes doing some lengthy re-indexing and the real move operation actually takes place.

And it isn’t as if I don’t get enough mail — my “small” mailing-lists clock in at 20K messages/year, I kept 700MB of work e-mail from last quarter alone (including Summer, which is a “quiet” time) and I have quarterly archive folders since 1998, so there’s plenty for to keep track of. Yeah, it does get bogged down, but eventually things settle2.

The new Safari is (as expected) quite snappy, and I love the way it disables troublesome energy-sucking plugins, even though I’ve long removed Flash from all but one machine and use Chrome whenever I really need that kind of thing.

As to the iWork and iLife upgrades, the jury’s still out, largely due to my lack of time in exploring them fully.

However, my short foray into Keynote was remarkably depressing, since even if you discount that the UI changes are likely to feel unfamiliar regardless, it is far too dumbed down — it looks, feels and acts like a toy, and the new inspectors are much, much harder to use, requiring much toing and froing for even basic things like reformatting text or changing element styles.

It’s bad enough that I’ll be using PowerPoint (and exporting the results to PDF) for any really complex stuff until Apple fixes it.

Which may take quite some time — I remember the iMovie brouhaha, and I also remember that there weren’t that many fixes for a good while.

Make of that what you will, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

  1. If you’re interested, I have a sample at the bottom of my Python page↩︎

  2. Of course, one can always wish they’d settle sooner, and I’m the first to say in Mavericks is underwhelming and still needs a lot of love under the hood even if you’re accessing a truly-standard IMAP server instead of Google’s depiction of IETF standards by way of interpretive dance. ↩︎