Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed
Posted: 7-Oct-2005

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: Sams

A

Reviewer: Mike Lloyd $49.99


Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed
By John Ray and William C. Ray
ISBN: 0-672-32746-5
1534 pages, $49.99

What the Book is About
Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed provides a comprehensive overview of Mac OS X 10.4. It is the next step beyond Mac OS X in a Nutshell. Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed concisely covers many of the advanced features of this complex operating system. It focuses on Tiger's UNIX underpinnings and how to apply them in the configuration of this sophisticated environment.

Target Audience
The authors of the book have targeted the book to the intermediate and advanced user. This user is one who wants to move beyond the basic usage of the Mac and move into a much broader use of its capabilities, specifically development and system administration.

What to Expect
In general, the book can be divided into two parts, one which emphasizes the graphical user interface (GUI) of Mac OS X and the other which has more of a command line interface (CLI) emphasis. The GUI portion drills down through the various features of the software provided with the Mac. (Note: In the Tiger version, the authors have removed their discussion of the iLife tools that was present in earlier versions of Mac OS X Unleashed.) The authors follow the menu structure of each application and provide quite a bit of detail on the use of the software by describing how each menu can be used. One of the more interesting parts was their configuration of the printer system to print to an Imagewriter. In this section, they provide instructions on installing the full CUPS system into Tiger and then configuring it to print to an Imagewriter using Ghostscript drivers. The author make it clear that this is not a practical use of the power of CUPS (4 pages per hour), but it does demonstrate how Tiger's printer system can be extended to support older printers.

The remaining two thirds of the book have more of a CLI emphasis. In this part, the book provides an extensive overview of the BSD Unix environment's applications, including file system navigation, file permissions, and process management. The book also provides discussions on inter-process communications via pipes and redirection. This section provides an excellent introduction on file system navigation and the architectural philosophy of UNIX based systems. The authors also discuss the access control mechanisms included in Tiger, including access control list (ACL), which have just been added to Tiger and are only available through the use of the CLI. The authors do provide a warning that the Mac OS X ACL feature does not function correctly as of April, 2005.

Once the foundation is set, the authors provide information on higher-level tools such as file editors, mail clients, and printing tools. This includes a discussion of how the authors solved a print buffer overrun in their Imagewriter CUPS configuration. Hybrid software, which bridge the GUI-CLI gap, are discussed next. These tools include TurboTool, which aids the user in the development of scripts, and ScriptGUI, which lets the user run scripts from Finder. This is followed by instructions on installing and troubleshooting software from the command line. The discussion lays out how to work through problems that may occur when the user is building software that has not ported to Mac OS X by using the standard Unix build tools. The software installation section then proceeds to cover the use of package installation tools, such as Fink and DarwinPorts. The discussion shifts to the shell environment and task automation using shell scripts followed by configuring Tiger through the system configuration files. This section continues to build on the basic information provided in the previous section by showing how the user can manage changes to Tiger within the command line environment.

The previous sections provide a foundation for the next set of topics in the book. This set of topics discusses using X Windows applications, scripting languages such as Perl, Python and Applescript, the MySQL database, and file and resource sharing using NFS. These sections are followed by sections that describe setting up and configuring various flavors of servers, such as FTP, Web, Mail and Windows. This information provides sufficient detail to put together a functioning server and make it usable. A set of references and web links are used to provide additional material where needed.

The final section discusses server security and system maintenance. In this section, the authors discuss how to setup and use Snort, a network intrusion detection system, and how to use Brickhouse as an aid to configuring your network firewall settings. This information would be useful to administrators, who are placing their servers into a hostile environment (or are serious about their network security). They also discuss system maintenance and performing diagnostics for your Tiger system within the CLI environment.

Highlights
The highlight of the book is its overall organization and presentation of the material. It takes a set of topics that are mysterious and difficult to understand and makes them straightforward. The book starts with basic information on the Command Line Interface and incrementally builds your knowledge to the point where you are able to construct your own server using open source software. The book is also organized such that it can also be used as a reference. For me, the sections on networking and system security were particularly useful, because of my current interest in those areas. Others may find the discussion on the printing subsystem more useful, so they can connect an older printer to their new system. Despite your interest area in the Unix part of Tiger, you will find that this book is an excellent starter kit before you jump into the confusing world of Unix HOW-TOs and news groups.

Mac Guild Grade
A (Outstanding)

Final Words
If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of the UNIX underpinnings of Mac OS X, I highly recommend Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed. If you are a new user of Mac OS X, I would recommend waiting until you have some experience with OS X before jumping into this book. The Missing Manual series is better suited for the new user. Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed is well organized and will take the intermediate user to the next level in their understanding of Mac OS X. This book is particularly useful for the user who wants a stronger understanding of the capabilities of Tiger in order to take the next step in network and server administration. The authors definitely met their objectives with this book and have maintained the high standards set by the book's earlier versions. This book is well worth the purchase price.