TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Book Review: Mac OS X Hacks

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 8
Column Tag: Reviews

Book Review: Mac OS X Hacks

by Scott Knaster

When Apple decided to fuse the Mac OS with Unix and NeXT software, it created a unique stack of code that shows its varied parentage: Mac OS when you're in Aqua, Unix when you're typing at the command line in Terminal, and NeXT when you use Cocoa. But it's not just software that Apple has gathered together. Mac OS X has also brought new communities of developers and users into the Mac universe. Unix aficionados and open source advocates who never gave Apple a second thought have been drawn into the new world of OS X.

Mac OS X Hacks is one result of this new community. It's part of a series from O'Reilly, a company long known for books about cutting edge and non-proprietary (and non-Apple) technologies, and now very active in publishing Mac books since the advent of OS X. Mac OS X Hacks feels like a book that's truly native to its subject: not a Unix book, nor a NeXT book, and clearly not a book from OS 9 days, but made for the new Mac universe.

Arrangement

Mac OS X Hacks, subtitled 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, is organized into nine chapters, using groupings that probably work just as well as any other: chapter titles include Files, Startup, Multimedia and the iApps, and Networking. Another useful organization might have been according to type of user: regular folks, programmers, network administrators, and so on. For example, the Networking chapter includes tips on how to share files between Macs and Windows computers, interesting to many users, and how to set up your own domain name service, which is interesting but much more specialized.

In addition to the chapter organization, the hacks are numbered consecutively from 1 to 100, and every page includes the current hack's number in a nice purple inset in the corner.

Tips for the Rest of Us (and Our Moms)

One of the best features of Mac OS X Hacks is that many of the tips are potentially useful for just about anybody running OS X. There's a tip on backing up, another on getting rid of files in the trash that don't want to leave or CDs that won't eject, and one on how to share your Internet connection. Although it's likely that most people buying a book with "Hacks" in the title are ready for advanced topics, these everyday tips are generally useful and can be passed on to the less technically savvy folks who depend on you for support.

Some chapters, in particular the one entitled The User Interface, describe how you can gain greater control of your Mac using shareware and commercial utilities. For example, you'll find descriptions of a couple of alternatives to the Dock, and various tips on how to restore lost features from OS 9.

Developers Only (Unix flavored)

Mac OS X Hacks has a fine collection of tips that are practical, but primarily useful to developers or other advanced geeks. A useful section sheds light on what's in an application package and how you can mess around with it. There are also sections on secure tunneling, remote login with SSH, and messing around with WebDAV and FTP servers.

The book does a good job of avoiding becoming a complete Unix-fest, but there are a lot of useful Unix-based hacks, including an entire chapter called Unix and the Terminal. The tip called Top 10 Mac OS X Tips for Unix Geeks is self-explanatory and useful for the incoming Unix crowd. Other sections in the Unix chapter provide information on how to get the most out of Terminal, how to use sudo, and how to open files and applications using the command line. This chapter is particularly useful to old Mac folks just getting a handle on Unix.

It's Educational

Some of the hacks presented in Mac OS X Hacks are not practical tips per se, but instead provide overview information on how particular features work. Although these tips might not be immediately useful, they're quite handy for increasing your general OS X knowledge. The very first hack, Understanding and Hacking Your User Account, gives a good overview of this useful topic which is rather alien to OS 9 folks. Another section updates file type and creator codes with OS X information. A couple of sections provide nifty insight into what goes on when OS X starts up.

Is This Tip Really Necessary?

With 100 hacks, not every one will be useful, educational, or fun. It's a safe bet that not a lot of readers will really be interested in installing the PostgreSQL database or Setting a Password in Open Firmware. Still, even these topics can satisfy your intellectual curiousity.

Conclusion

The test of most "tips & tricks" books is in their practicality. The contents should be fun and interesting, but if they're useful too, the book is a success. Mac OS X Hacks does an excellent job of delivering a solid package of topics that are interesting and useful.


Scott Knaster

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Apple iTunes 12.1 - Manage your music, m...
Apple iTunes lets you organize and play digital music and video on your computer. It can automatically download new music, app, and book purchases across all your devices and computers. And it's a... Read more
LibreOffice 4.4.3 - Free, open-source of...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
FoldersSynchronizer 4.2.1 - Synchronize...
FoldersSynchronizer is a popular and useful utility that synchronizes and backs-up files, folders, disks and boot disks. On each session you can apply special options like Timers, Multiple Folders,... Read more
Simon 4.0.2 - Monitor changes and crashe...
Simon monitors websites and alerts you of crashes and changes. Select pages to monitor, choose your alert options, and customize your settings. Simon does the rest. Keep a watchful eye on your... Read more
Cocktail 8.1.2 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Cyberduck 4.6.4 - FTP and SFTP browser....
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
Herald 5.0.2 - Notification plugin for M...
Note: Versions 2.1.3 (for OS X 10.7), 3.0.6 (for OS X 10.8), and 4.0.8 (for OS X 10.9) are no longer supported by the developer. Herald is a notification plugin for Mail.app, Apple's Mac OS X email... Read more
DEVONthink Pro 2.8.3 - Knowledge base, i...
Save 10% with our exclusive coupon code: MACUPDATE10 DEVONthink Pro is your essential assistant for today's world, where almost everything is digital. From shopping receipts to important research... Read more
Boom 2 1.0.1 - System-wide pro audio app...
Boom 2 is a system-wide volume booster and equalizer app that is designed especially for OS X 10.10 Yosemite. It comes with a smart interface, self-calibrates itself according to your Mac, offers... Read more
Apple Security Update 2015-001 - For OS...
Apple Security Update 2015-001 is recommended for all users and improves the security of OS X. For detailed information about the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.... Read more

Unlock Sunshine Girl in Ironkill with th...
Unlock Sunshine Girl in Ironkill with this special 148Apps code Posted by Rob Rich on January 29th, 2015 [ permalink ] Robo-fighter Ironkill has been out on iOS a | Read more »
Crossroad Zombies Review
Crossroad Zombies Review By Jordan Minor on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: :: CROSSWALKING DEADiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Crossroad Zombies is a rough draft of a cool genre mash-up.   | Read more »
Blood Brothers 2 – Tips, Cheats, and Str...
War is hell: Is it the kind of hell you want to check out? Read our Blood Brothers 2 review to find out! Blood Brothers 2, DeNA’s follow-up to the original Blood Brothers, is an intriguing card collecting / role-playing / strategy hybrid. There’s... | Read more »
Blood Brothers 2 Review
Blood Brothers 2 Review By Nadia Oxford on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: :: AN AGGRAVATING RELATIVEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Blood Brothers 2 is built on a simple, solid foundation, but its free-to-play system... | Read more »
I AM BREAD, the Toast of the Town, is Ro...
Have you ever dreamt of being deliciously gluten-y? Do you feel passionate about Rye and Wheat? The guys at Bossa Studios do and that is why they are bringing I AM BREAD to iOS soon. The loafy app will feature all the new content that is being... | Read more »
Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered R...
Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered Review By Jennifer Allen on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad 10 years after its initial release and Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy still feels like a... | Read more »
Evolve: Hunters Quest is a Match-3 That...
Evolve: Hunters Quest is a Match-3 That Has You Hunting Up Some Big Game. Posted by Jessica Fisher on January 29th, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Destructamundo Review
Destructamundo Review By Jordan Minor on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: :: WRECKING CREWUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Destructamundo blows up real good.   | Read more »
The Sandbox Gets Exclusive Update, Adds...
The Sandbox Gets Exclusive Update, Adds Invincible Characters Campagin Posted by Tre Lawrence on January 29th, 2015 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Mean Girls: The Game Review
Mean Girls: The Game Review By Jordan Minor on January 29th, 2015 Our Rating: :: FETCHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A Mean Girls tower defense game makes way more sense than you’d think.   | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Back in stock: Refurbished iPod nanos for $99...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 16GB iPod nanos available for $99 including free shipping and Apple’s standard one-year warranty. That’s $50 off the cost of new nanos. Most colors are... Read more
New Good Management Suite Simplifies Enterpri...
Good Technology has announced the availability of the Good Management Suite, a comprehensive cross-platform solution for organizations getting started with mobile business initiatives. Built on the... Read more
15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro (refurbishe...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1489 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is... Read more
15-inch 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon has the 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $2319.99 including free shipping. Their price is $180 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller. Read more
iPad Turns Five – The ”Book Mystique
Five years ago this week, the late Steve Jobs took the stage at an Apple special press event to unveil the first Apple iPad — a slab-shaped, hand-holdable device that was to shake the personal... Read more
Sale! 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros for up to $...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1889.99... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis for up to $150 of...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 Mac minis, with models available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz... Read more
Apple Releases New Tranche Of OS Updates For...
Apple has released incremental bugfix and security updates for its most recent Mac and iOS versions. OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 Update Apple says this update includes the following improvements: Resolves... Read more
Samsung To Be Main Supplier Of A9 Chips For i...
Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper reports that Samsung has beat out its chipmaking rivals, Taiwan’s Qualcomm and TSMC, as supplier of chipsets for the next generations of both its own Galaxy S6 and... Read more
Save up to $340 on iMacs with Apple Certified...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $340 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more

Jobs Board

At-Home Chat Specialist- *Apple* Online Stor...
**Job Summary** At Apple , we believe in hard work, a fun environment, and the kind of creativity and innovation that only comes about when talented people from diverse Read more
SW QA Engineer - *Apple* TV - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for experienced Quality Assurance Engineers with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. **Key Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions(US) - Ap...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you re also the Read more
*Apple* Systems Engineer - Pre Sales, Educat...
…is responsible for proactively providing technical expertise to drive sales of Apple solutions into assigned accounts. The SE architects, validates, and assists in Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
As an ambassador of the Apple brand, the ASC is accountable for driving sales performance by: Connecting with customers. Discovering customers' needs and values. Showing Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.