Learning Unix for Mac OS X
Posted: 14-Dec-2002

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Judd Spitzer $19.95

Learning Unix for Mac OS X

By Dave TaylorJerry Peek
May 2002 
0-596-00342-0, Order Number: 3420
156 pages, $19.95 US

When a Mac user hears the term command line, I think that it is almost natural to give out the old LOL (laugh out loud) to the perspective PC user. Except today, Mac users are now given an advantage that puts the Windows user right in the dust, and ironically, it is the new Mac OS X environment. For a vast majority of users of Mac OS X, they will never need to go beyond using the Aqua GUI (Graphical User Interface) of Mac OS X to use their Mac. For Power Users, ignoring the Unix aspect of the Mac OS would be a big mistake.

What the Book is About
I decided to take the plunge and read a book that was designed specifically with the Mac User in mind: Learning Unix for Mac OS X, by Taylor and Peek. The book is only 139 pages. As a quick reference book, this has a lot of advantages, including a pullout guide. I quickly began to browse the book, looking through table of contents to get a feel of the book.

The book gives a person who has no prior knowledge of Unix a good overview of the platform as it applies to Mac OS X. It delves into file structures and directories, editing files, Unix Shell (specifically the TCSH Shell), the Terminal application, printing, remote logins, mail, chat, text based browsing, and managing processes.
Level of Reading
The book is great as an introduction to Unix for a novice audience that has never seen the material before. For that purpose alone, the brevity of the book makes it a good starting point for someone to determine if they would like to delve into the Unix environment.
What to Expect from the Book
The primary focus of the book is using the Terminal Program (found in the utilities folder), to interact with the computer. If you have experiencing with DOS, you will find that many of the operations are available within the Shell, but implemented more elegantly. The book walks you through a few of the options available, but by no means covers them all.

The downsides to this book: First off, Apple has created many applications within the Utility Folder that assist a user in managing many Unix type functions, specifically programs like NetInfo Manager. This program is barely touched upon even though it has an important role in the Unix structure (it works in the GUI mode). Additionally, the book references numerous different applications such as PINE, LYNX and some Usenet News readers that aren't loaded applications for the standard Mac OS X, so users can't try out the suggestions/tutorial items in the book.

Another area that seems to be an issue is installing software from the net. The book does not explain how packages are loaded and ran via the Unix Shell environment. This would make an excellent chapter, explaining how to install and compile new programs.
Highlights of the Book
I did enjoy the book. I felt that it gave a good start into Unix, albeit not really from a Mac-Only perspective. As an intro into the world of Unix, this book will leave you salavating for much more! New users could benefit significantly by understanding the additional power that their Mac has under the hood.
Mac Guild Grade
Brand new to Unix: B Really Good
Seasoned Unix people: C Decent
Final Words
This book is not for those who seriously want to learn about Unix. This is not a "Unix for Dummies" either. This is more like an Intro to Unix course that explains functionality and features to new users. If you are serious about learning Unix or Mac OS X, then I would suggest something that was written to teach Unix.

If you just want to understand some basic functionality with the Unix system to help you navigate through the shell environment on Mac OS X, this book provides excellent insight.