Mac Attack! Three new books for Macintosh users – #bookreview

No Starch Press and O’Reilly Media recently have released three new books aimed at Macintosh users.

One is for Mac newcomers. Another is for those who want to learn a lot more about the Mac OS X Lion operating system without having to read “tersely written” Apple help screens. And the third is for programmers who want “to build native Mac OS X applications with a sleek, developer-friendly  alternative to Objective-C….”

Taking it easy first…

Doing ‘Simple Projects’ with a Mac

My New Mac Lion Edition: Simple Projects to Get You Started
By Wallace Wang
(No Starch Press, paperback, list price $29.95 ; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

If you are computer newbie or switching over from Windows or other operating systems, here is a good book to help you put your new Mac to work in a hurry.

My New Mac Lion Edition shows how to do practical stuff such as connecting to the Web, playing and burning CDs and DVDs, pulling digital photos off your camera so you can edit and share them, and working with the Mac’s security features.

Given today’s risky Internet and office computing environment, it might have been better to describe the security features much earlier in the book, well before the working-online chapters. But as a practical guide to learning and using the Mac’s key features, this 472-page how-to guide is written well and has plenty of illustrations and clear lists of steps. It even describes several ways to eject a stuck CD or DVD.

The 56 chapters are grouped into seven parts:

  • Part 1: Basic Training – Everything from using the mouse to opening apps.
  • Part 2: Wrangling Files and Folders – Finding files, storing files, sharing files.
  • Part 3: Making Life Easier – Shortcut commands, controls, updating software, saving and retrieving contact information, using appointment calendar, and typing in foreign languages.
  • Part 4: Playing Music and Movies – Playing audio CDs, ripping and burning audio CDs, playing a DVD, listening to online programs and free college lectures, and editing videos with iMovie.
  • Part 5: The Digital Shutterbug – Transferring, editing and displaying digital photographs.
  • Part 6: Surfing and Sharing on the Internet – Numerous things web and email, plus instant messaging with iChat.
  • Part 7: Maintaining Your Mac – Energy conservation, ejecting stuck CDs/DVDs, password protecting  your Mac, encrypting your data, and configuring your firewall.

The author, Wallace Wang, has written several best-selling computer books. He’s also an ongoing career as a standup comic.

More IS Better: What to Do with 50+ Programs and 250 New Features

Mac OS X Lion: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99)

David Pogue created the popular Missing Manual series, and the New York Times technology columnist definitely knows how to put together a good how-to book.

His 909-page Mac OS X Lion: The Missing Manual is exactly what you need to become (over time and with diligent effort, of course) a Mac power user. It’s also what you need if you’d rather settle for being a well-informed user who likes having a handy source  for looking up information about a Mac feature or program.

In this book, you begin well beneath the “Hello, World!” level by learning to say “oh-ess-ten,” not “oh-ess-ex.” Once you master that, you get to move into “The New Lion Landscape,” where you are informed that “Apple’s overarching design philosophy in creating Mac OS X was: ‘Make it more like an iPad.'”

Then, you quickly learn how to use “Full Screen Mode, Safari” and “Full Screen Apps, Mission Control.” And, by the way, you are still officially in Chapter 0 at this point (that’s “zero,” not “oh”).

Pogue’s book is smoothly written. (You don’t, after all, just luck into writing for the Times.) It has a good array of screenshots and other illustrations. And it offers plenty of tips and notes amid the instructional paragraphs.

The book’s six parts (with seven chapters each) are focused as follows:

  • Part 1: The Mac OS X Desktop – “[C]overs everything you see on the screen when you turn on a Mac OS X computer….”
  • Part 2: Programs in Mac OS X – Describes “how to launch them, switch among them, swap data between them, use them to create and open files, and control them using the AppleScript and Automator automation tools.”
  • Part 3: The Components of Mac OS X – “[A]n item-by-item discussion of the individual software nuggets that make up this operating system–the 29 panels of System Preferences and the 50-some programs in your Applications and Utilities folders.”
  • Part 4: The Technologies of Mac OS X – “Networking, file sharing, and screen sharing…” plus “fonts, printing, graphics, handwriting recognition…sound, speech, movies…” and even some looks at how to use “Mac OS X’s Unix underpinnings.”
  • Part 5: Mac OS X Online – “[C]overs all of the Internet features of Mac OS X.” Everything from email to chatting to working in the cloud, and even “connecting to, and controlling, your Mac from across the wires — FTP, SSH, VPN, and so on.”
  • Part 6: Appendixes – These include a Windows-to-Mac dictionary (for Windows refugees), information on installing Mac OS X, troubleshooting information, and “a thorough master list of all the keyboard shortcuts and trackpad/mouse gestures in Lion.”

If you’re serious about using your Mac and weary of opening endless not-so-helpful help screens, you should seriously consider owning this book.

A Programmer’s Guide to MacRuby

MacRuby: The Definitive Guide
By Matt Aimonetti
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

“MacRuby,” the author says, “is Apple’s implementation of the Ruby programming language on top of the Objective-C technology stack.”

His book is a straightforward, no-nonsense guide intended to show developers how “to write native applications for the Cocoa environment using the popular Ruby syntax as well as the well-known and robust Objective-C and C libraries.”

He declares his work “neither a Ruby book nor a Cocoa book,” but states that “it should provide you with enough information to understand the MacRuby environment and create rich applications for the OS X platform.”

MacRuby: The Definitive Guide is segmented into two major parts. Part 1 (“MacRuby Overview”) introduces MacRuby, including what it is, how it’s installed, how it works, what you can do with it, and how it relates to what you already probably know. Part 2 (titled “MacRuby in Practice”)  “covers concrete examples of applications you might want to develop in MacRuby.”

Using short, concise code examples, Matt Aimonetti helps the reader dive straight into MacRuby, beginning at the classic “Hello, World!” entry point, with a little twist.

In just 35 lines of code, you learn how to build a graphical user interface (GUI) application that displays the words “MacRuby: The Definitive Guide” in a window with a button. The window shows “Hello World!” within a box, and your computer speaks “Hello, world!” when you click on the button.

The first eight chapters focus on topics such as: introduction, fundamentals, foundation, application kit, Xcode, core data, and getting deeper into the process of “developing complex apps.”

The topics of the final five chapters are: (1) creating an Address Book example; (2) creating an application that “uses the user’s geographical location and a location web service”; (3) using MacRuby in Objective-C projects; (4) using Objective-C code in MacRuby apps; and (5) using Ruby third-party libraries. 

Before reading this book and tackling the code, the author recommends having some programming experience and basic familiarity with object-oriented programming. You also should get a basic overview of the Ruby language by visiting its main website.

Si Dunn 

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