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

The beginner's guide to Warbits
Warbits is a turn-based strategy that's clearly inspired by Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Since turn-based strategy games can be kind of tricky to dive into, see below for a few tips to help you in the beginning. Positioning is crucial [Read... | Read more »
How to upgrade your character in Spellsp...
So you’ve mastered the basics of Spellspire. By which I mean you’ve realised it’s all about spelling things in a spire. What next? Well you’re going to need to figure out how to toughen up your character. It’s all well and good being able to spell... | Read more »
5 slither.io mash-ups we'd love to...
If there's one thing that slither.io has proved, it's that the addictive gameplay of Agar.io can be transplanted onto basically anything and it will still be good fun. It wouldn't be surprising if we saw other developers jumping on the bandwagon,... | Read more »
How to navigate the terrain in Sky Charm...
Sky Charms is a whimsical match-'em up adventure that uses creative level design to really ramp up the difficulty. [Read more] | Read more »
Victorious Knight (Games)
Victorious Knight 1.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.3 (iTunes) Description: New challenges awaits you! Experience fresh RPG experience with a unique combat mechanic, packed with high quality 3D... | Read more »
Agent Gumball - Roguelike Spy Game (Gam...
Agent Gumball - Roguelike Spy Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Someone’s been spying on Gumball. What the what?! Two can play at that game! GO UNDERCOVERSneak past enemy... | Read more »
Runaway Toad (Games)
Runaway Toad 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It ain’t easy bein’ green! Tap, hold, and swipe to help Toad hop to safety in this gorgeous new action game from the creators of... | Read more »
PsyCard (Games)
PsyCard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: From the makers och Card City Nights, Progress To 100 and Ittle Dew PSYCARD is a minesweeper-like game set in a cozy cyberpunk... | Read more »
Sago Mini Robot Party (Education)
Sago Mini Robot Party 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: -- Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice -- | Read more »
Egz – The Origin of the Universe (Games...
Egz – The Origin of the Universe 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ►►► Special offer until 2nd may : get the game at 2.99€ instead of 3.99€ ! ◄◄◄ Egz is a mesmerizing mix... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple restocks Certified Refurbished Mac mini...
Apple has restocked 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 Mac mini: $419 $... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
Amazon.com has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1699.99 including free shipping. Their price is $300 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller (and... Read more
Apple Beats Microsoft at Own Game; Amazon Pri...
First quarter seasonality combined with an overall disinterested customer base led to an annual decline of 14.7% in worldwide tablet shipments during the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16). Worldwide... Read more
Tablets Had Worst Quarter Since 2012, says St...
The global tablet market began 2016 just as 2015 left off, down. Tablet shipments fell 10% to 46.5 million units during the Q1 2016, according to the new “Preliminary Global Tablet Shipments and... Read more
Clearance 13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple refurbi...
Apple recently dropped prices on certified refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Airs with 4GB of RAM with models now available starting at $759. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and... Read more
Clearance 12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refu...
Apple has dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks with models now available starting at $929. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping... Read more
Aleratec Releases Mac Software Upgrade for 1...
California based Aleratec Inc., designer, developer and manufacturer of Portable Device Management (PDM) charge/sync products for mobile devices and professional-grade duplicators for hard disk... Read more
Sale! Amazon offers 27-inch iMac, 13-inch 2.9...
Amazon has the 27″ 3.2GHz 5K iMac and the 13″ 3.9GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $300 off MSRP, each including free shipping, for a limited time: - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB HD 5K iMac (model MK462LL/A): $... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro on sa...
Take $200 off MSRP on the price of a new 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (model MF839LL/A) at Amazon. Shipping is free: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1099.99 $200 off MSRP Act now if... Read more

Jobs Board

Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 48260200 Phoenix, Arizona, United States Posted: Apr. 22, 2016 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.