Mac OS X in a Nutshell, Jaguar Edition
Posted: 13-Jan-2004

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Mike Lloyd $34.95

Mac OS X in a Nutshell:
A Desktop Quick Reference

By Jason McIntosh, Chuck Toporek & Chris Stone

ISBN: 0-596-00370-6
801 pages, $34.95

What the Book is About
Mac OS X in a Nutshell: A Quick Desktop Reference provides a reference guide to Mac OS 10.2. It is to be used as a compliment to the Mac OS Missing manual series. Mac OS X in a Nutshell covers many of the features of this complex operating system concisely and completely.

Target Audience
The authors of the book have targeted the book to the "Poweruser." This is the type of user who is going beyond simply using a set of applications, but wants to obtain a deeper understanding of Mac OS X. They also state that it can be used as a quick reference guide as well. It uses a terse format to cover an extended amount of material.

What to Expect
The book is divided into five major parts. The first, "Lay of the Land", provides a quick overview of Mac OS X. The first chapter of this section discusses the major components of the operating system in some detail. The next chapter provides an overview of Finder; the differences among OS X, OS 9 and Classic are discussed. The final chapter of this section, "Task and Setting Index", provides a detailed review of the basic activities of a user. This first section also establishes an editorial structure that is used throughout the rest of the book. The major actions are identified and described in detail. If multiple mechanisms are available to accomplish the same action, such as a keyboard shortcut or a terminal command, all actions are described in detail. This proved useful to me during my transition to Panther. I could not change the settings on my firewall through the GUI, because all of the buttons were grayed out. I discovered a terminal command that would allow me to flush the firewall settings. This command was able to restore the basic settings for the firewall and allow me to configure it using the GUI. The authors also provide special treatment for items that may be a particular problem, such as "Force Quitting TruBlueEnvironment", which may be required if Classic dies.

The next part, "System Configuration" provides chapters on "System Preferences", "Applications and Utilities", "Networking", "Printer Configuration and Printing", "Filesystem Overview", and "Running Java Applications."

The following section deals with "System and Network Administration." This section discusses many of the system admin tools used in Unix, such as "sudo" and "cron." It also covers the options for managing authentication, such as flat files versus Netinfo directory service.

The next section discusses in detail, "Scripting and Development."

The final section, "Under Mac OS X's Hood", get down and dirty with respect to its Unix underpinnings by covering topics such as using the terminal, shell programming, running X Windows, and installing Unix software. This section culminates with a chapter that provides a Unix command reference.

This book will not replace Mac OS X Hints as a source of detailed procedures to accomplish a specific configuration or change. I was not able to find a mechanism to configure printer sharing that worked in the book. The book helps the reader understand some of the hints provided in the hints database, and to assess the risk of implementing them.

The book provides a great deal of information concerning the sophisticated use of OS X. Its organization is quite good and makes specific actions easy to identify. By starting off with the graphical interface, the authors are able to simplify the transition to the more arcane elements of the OS. The presentation of the multiple mechanisms helps the reader lay the groundwork for the use of the command line interface. The command reference is extremely useful.

Mac Guild Grade
A (Outstanding)

Final Words
If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of Mac OS X, I would recommend buying this book. If you are a new user of Mac OS X, I would recommend waiting until you have some experience with this environment. The Missing Manual series is better for the new user. The book is well organized and will take the intermediate user to the next level in their understanding of Mac OS X. The authors definitely met their objectives with this book. I am looking forward to the Panther version.