Mac OS X Disaster Relief
Posted: 25-Jul-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: PeachPit Press


Reviewer: Doug Parker $31.49

Mac OS X Disaster Relief:
Troubleshooting Techniques To Help Fix It Yourself

Ted Landau
ISBN: 032116847X
Published: DEC 24, 2002
712 pages, $31.49 US

What the Book is About
Mac techs who grew up honing their troubleshooting skills on OS 7, -8, and -9 can only apply some of those OS troubleshooting techniques to OS X. In order to develop troubleshooting tools and techniques to troubleshoot OS X problems, one has to start looking at new and different things in the OS compared to earlier versions of the Mac OS. In his book, Mac OS X Disaster Relief: Troubleshooting Techniques To Help Fix It Yourself, Ted Landau dives in to begin to explain what things to look for and how to troubleshoot OS X problems, pointing out many of those new things and new areas with which OS X Mac techs need to concern themselves.

Target Audience
The book is not for the novice. It's going to be challenging for an experienced user. Even if you're an expert Mac tech you're going to be doing some memorization and rote learning. If you've already had some experience poking around in OS X, especially using the console, you're going to be ahead of the pack. If you've had some exposure to any flavor of UNIX, you'll be happily prepared to delve into the details of the book.

What Don't I Know
Not knowing how OS X is built on BSD UNIX, this book really helps to reveal what details about OS X can be labeled as suspect when an application doesn't work properly, quits without notice, or doesn't display a font correctly. Font, troubleshooting has some interesting twists to consider. There are some basics that are presented to explain the software installation process and how the OS traces the installation of new software. Knowing about these receipts and knowing how to read them can be included as yet another support area to investigate when something goes wrong. Solving printing problems has few similarities to previous OS version printing problems. Firewire and USB devices and their cabling can cause problems.

The Importance of Permissions and Privileges
Built on UNIX, every file has permissions. There are separate permissions for a file's owner, for a group, or for everyone. One new plateau that you'll need to master is the concept of permissions and privileges. Many, many pages of the book go into detail on this topic.

If you're the kind of tech reader that skims the book from front to back, do your skimming with a pencil in hand. Any time a software title is listed, make note of it on a designated page. There are a lot of titles mentioned for different purposes, but there's no appendix that summarizes them all.

Try This
There are dozens of specific troubleshooting situations presented, each of which is tailed by any number of possible troubleshooting specifics to try.

There are plenty of "Technically Speaking" sidebars that go into detail on various topics. For my money, the sheer number of specific suggestions mentioned in the dozens of first hand troubleshooting accounts was the kind of information for which I'd been looking. Now that I've had the chance to read Ted's accounts and suggested resolutions, I have a better awareness of the types of things I can be trying to resolve my own OS X support issues.

It may be beneficial to read the chapter on, UNIX for Mac OS X Users, first before reading the remainder of the book. This will give the UNIX novice a head start on some of the UNIX specifics and jargon used throughout.

Mac Guild Grade
B (Really Good)

Final Words
Ted's writing is conversational, often sharing first hand accounts of troubleshooting puzzlers he's encountered. When needed, he gives plenty of references to other sections of the manual to which to turn for further details on a subject. You quickly know that he knows his OS X stuff.

His coverage includes an overview of OS X, plus troubleshooting the OS installation process, printing, networking, the classic environment, and

For any tech schooled in OS 9 or prior, the book is a good way to take some of the fear out of not knowing what to expect, where to look, or what to look for when tracking OS X problems. A pure UNIX user migrating to Mac OS X would have an easy time.

The text is thorough, covering the wide expanse of OS X features on both the front and back end.

However, there seemed to be a lot of repetition on permissions and privileges. If you're not familiar with the concept, it can take some time to internalize what's going on, and some repetition is indeed necessary. If you're learning permissions and privileges for the first time, you'll need some repetition to drive the main points home, but for my taste there's way too much time spent throughout the book on troubleshooting issues via investigation of privileges.

The index needs more work cross referencing topics, and there is a glaring need for some appendices, including keyboard shortcuts, startup sequences, shareware software titles, and a UNIX command summary.