Mac Hacks – More than 50 ways to unlock the power of OS X – #apple #mac #bookreview

Mac Hacks
Tips & Tools for Unlocking the Power of OS X
Chris Seibold
(O’Reilly - paperback, Kindle)

Many people buy Apple’s Macintosh computers precisely because they do not want to have to mess with their machines. They just want to open a specific app, use it, close it and move on to the other things in their lives.

But many other users want to dive inside their Macs. They want to tinker with how it works, change settings for greater efficiency or utility, and know all that they can know about taking control and making their machine do new tricks and handle new tasks.

Mac Hacks is a fine and useful guidebook for anyone who isn’t afraid to change default settings or bring up a cursor at a command-line interface. It is also an excellent how-to guide if you want to learn how to make OS X on your Mac work better for your needs.

Author Chris Seibold wisely launches his book with a caution: “Hacking is fun and productive, but it can also introduce an element of danger….” And he starts at the very basics of hacking: carefully backing up your files before you start driving your Mac off its familiar, well-beaten paths. “With a good backup,” he writes, “you don’t start over, you simply restore. Without a good backup, well, good luck….” Indeed, his first “quick hack” shows how to change the default one-hour time-interval setting for the Mac’s Time Machine backup utility, so you can back up sooner (or later).

Seibold’s 11-chapter book contains 51 hacks that range from creating a bootable flash drive to learning how to use “the Unix side of your Mac” and putting your iTunes library on a separate disk. He also offers several more “quick hacks,” including how to copy the Mac’s Recovery partition to a Flash drive, so it can be available if your Mac’s hard drive fails.

Some of the book’s hacks have been provided by respected “guest hackers.”  But Seibold himself is no slouch at Mac hacking. He has written two other books for O’Reilly: the Big Book of Apple Hacks and the Mac OS X Lion Pocket Guide.

Si Dunn

Programming iOS 6, 3rd Edition – In with the New, Out with the Old (iOS 5 & Earlier) – #bookreview

Programming iOS 6, 3rd Edition
Matt Neuburg
(O’Reilly - paperback, Kindle)

“My book is way bigger than your book.”

Matt Neuburg, author of Programming iOS 6, could make that claim and win almost any book-size contest. The recently published 3rd Edition of his well-respected how-to guide focuses on the “Fundamentals of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch Development” and now spans 1,154 pages in its paperback edition. It’s definitely much thicker and heavier than any of the devices it covers.

This new edition is centered on iOS 6.1 and xCode 4.6. The author notes that he has “eliminated most references to previous iOS versions.” And he explains: “Many iOS 6 features, of course, do not exist in iOS 5 or before; I usually mention that a new feature is new, but I have not generally addressed the problem of writing backwards-compatible code. The text would become confused and bloated if everything had to be qualified with advice for different versions (‘but if you’re targeting iOS 5.1, do this; if you’re targeting iOS 5.0, do that; if you’re targeting iOS 4.3, do the other’). I believe that I can justify such omissions on the grounds that previous editions of this book exist!”

Indeed they do. Programming iOS 5, which was published in two editions, also covers iOS 4.3 and is available on Amazon.com and through other sources..

“New iOS 6 features are, of course, both explained and adopted” in the new 3rd edition, Neuburg says. “For example, having described NSArray subscripting (in Chapter 10), I then use it consistently, in place of objectAtIndex:, throughout the rest of the book. Aside from this, the book’s structure remains the same as in previous editions, growing where necessary to accommodate explanations of new features, such as autolayout (in Chapter 14), state restoration (in Chapter 19), and collection views (in Chapter 21). Also, in response to reader requests, I have inserted a short example of Core Data programming into Chapter 36.”

Absolute beginners should not start with this book. Get some basic programming experience in C and Objective-C first.

And don’t be surprised that not everything about iOS is covered in a book 1,154 pages long. “It’s far too big to be encompassed in a book even of this size,” Neuburg emphasizes. “There are areas of Cocoa Touch that I have ruthlessly avoided discussing. Some of them would require an entire book of their own. Others you can pick up well enough, when the time comes, from the documentation. This book is only a beginning — the fundamentals.”

Si Dunn

Core Data, 2nd Edition – Updated for OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6 – #programming #bookreview

Core Data, 2nd Edition
Data Storage and Management for iOS, OS X, and iCloud
Marcus S. Zarra
(Pragmatic Bookshelf – paperback)

“If you plan on writing an application that saves data to disk, then you should take a very long look at Core Data,” urges Marcus S. Zarra, in the new second edition of his Core Data how-to book.

“Core Data,” according to the Mac Developer Library, “provides an infrastructure for change management and for saving objects to and retrieving them from storage.”  It is Apple’s recommended way to persist data. And it is “used daily by millions of customers in a wide variety of applications.”

The new edition of Zarra’s book updates its Core Data development example to an iPhone recipe application (from a desktop recipe application in the first edition). The second edition includes coverage of OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6 and examines changes to multithreading. The author also has added chapters to explore NSFetchedResultsController and iCloud.

If the structure of some of the book’s code examples appear puzzling, pay special attention to Appendix 2. There, Zarra discusses some of the typographical choices necessary to keep lines of code set to fewer than 80 characters wide. And he shows some macros that he uses in his code to speed up development work.

Whether you are just starting out with Core Data or now an old hand at working with it, you likely can learn new things from this well-written how-to guide. Its author is widely regarded as one of the world’s most experienced Core Data application developers.

Si Dunn

iPod: The Missing Manual, 11th Edition – A clear, concise keeper for your reference needs – #bookreview

iPod: The Missing Manual, 11th Edition
J.D. Biersdorfer, with David Pogue
(O’Reilly - paperback, Kindle)

I own and use a small collection of old iPods, including a Shuffle and a Classic. I play them when I exercise and when I work at my computer in a coffee shop and don’t want to listen to the piped-in music or the surgical nurse at the next table talking too loudly into her smartphone. When she starts started telling someone the gory details of a rare procedure recently performed inside a patient’s skull, I just crank up Adele and drown it all out.

The new 11th edition of iPod: The Missing Manual is a perfect reference book for me. It reminds me how to do certain tasks on my older devices. It shows me how to use features I still haven’t tried but might after the next song ends. The book also has information I could use to help a granddaughter with her brand-new iPod Touch — but somehow I doubt she’ll ever let me touch it.

Anyway, J.D. Biersdorfer has been writing a technology column for the New York Times since 1998, and this is her 11th iPod book. So she knows her stuff. And, of course, fellow New York Times writer and co-author David Pogue invented the Missing Manual series and has authored or co-written some 55 books, including 28 Missing Manuals.

Together, in this new edition, they have prepared an excellent, 331-page guide for how to get the most out of your iPod, whether it is really old, slightly old, or fresh out of the box.

For example, you may want to know how to play slideshows on your TV using your Touch or your Classic. The steps are in there. Want to know how to hook up a Touch or Nano to your car’s stereo? It’s in there. Have you ever tried using the iTunes graphic equalizer (EQ) “to improve the way your songs sound…”? Just follow five well-described steps.

Forgotten how to autofill or manually fill your Shuffle with new songs? When’s the last time you added or deleted a playlist on your Classic or Nano? Ready to edit some photos on your Touch or set it up with an iCloud account ? Don’t remember how to get to iTunesU? Just follow the book’s clear steps and color screenshots.

With several different iPods to care for and optimize, iPod: The Missing Manual, 11th Edition quickly has proven its worth for me. It definitely will be a keeper on my reference shelf.

Si Dunn

Mac Kung Fu – Kick productivity into higher gear with 400+ tips, tricks – #bookreview

Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition
Kier Thomas
(Pragmatic Bookshelf – Paperback, Kindle)

More than a hundred new tips and tricks have been packed into the new edition of Kier Thomas’s popular how-to guide for OS X Mountain Lion.

His book now offers “Over 400 Tips, Tricks, Hints, and Hacks for Apple OS X.” And it includes tips for some of Mountain Lion’s newest tools, including iCloud, Notifications, Reminders, and Calendar.

Kier Thomas has earned his good reputation the hard way, by writing nearly a dozen computer books, as well as blogging professionally for sites such as Macworld and PC World.

Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition, is structured so you can simply open it, scan the long list of tips, and pick the ones you want to learn and use next. You can use the book in any order you desire.

For example, maybe you’ve grown tired of the “yellow legal paper” color of the Notes app. There’s no way to change the hue in the Preferences dialog box. But if you follow Thomas’s steps in Tip 132, you can change it to white. And Thomas shows you how to change it back to its default color – just in case you decide to sell your Mac to a lawyer.

Tip 82, “Preview Widgets,” deals with a way around another “feature” that can be irritating. “If you download new Dashboard widgets, you have to install them to your Dashboard before you can run them. This is counterintuitive,” Thomas notes, “because it might transpire that the widget isn’t much use, in which case you have to go through the work of installing it.” With the tips he provides, you can test a widget and simply drag it to Trash if you don’t want to keep it.

OS X does not include a download manager, “a program whose job it is to take care of downloads, including resuming those that stall or fail,” Thomas says. But Tip 173 shows how to use the Terminal window and curl command to efficiently monitor and manage file downloads.

OS X Mountain Lion users likely will find many useful tips and tricks in Kier Thomas’s well-written new book. Just flip it open to the table of contents and start working your way down the long list of new things to try. Or randomly open the book to any page. Either way, you’ll find many new ways to boost your productivity and enhance the pleasures of using OS X Mountain Lion.

Si Dunn

Learning Cocoa with Objective-C – An excellent how-to guide from two experts – #programming #bookreview

Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, 3rd Edition
Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

 In some surveys, Objective-C is now the third most popular programming language, up from fifth place in 2011.

O’Reilly recently has published the awaited third edition of Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, with coverage of Xcode 4.2 and iOS 6.

The book’s two authors definitely know the Cocoa framework. They have been developing for it since the Mac first supported it. And their experience and expertise shine forth in this well-written, smoothly organized how-to guide.

They have, they note, “seen the ecosystem of Cocoa and Objective-C development evolve from a small programmer’s niche to one of the most important an d influential development environments in the world.”

Their 339-page, 20-chapter book assumes that you have some programming experience and at least know how to use an OS X and iOS device. Otherwise, it is a solid choice for learning Cocoa with Objective-C from the ground up. It offers clear descriptions and practical exercises, plus numerous code samples, screenshots and other illustrations.

Paris Buttfield-Addison’s and Jon Manning’s bottom-line goal, successfully met here, is to “give you the knowledge, confidence, and appreciation for iOS and OS X development with Cocoa, Cocoa Touch, and Objective-C.”

Si Dunn

iOS 6 Programming Cookbook – Updated for the new SDK – #iOS #programming #bookreview

iOS 6 Programming Cookbook
Vandad Nahavandipoor
(O’Reilly –
paperback, Kindle)

If you are a new iOS developer, you can learn many things quickly from this hefty book. And even if you are an iOS veteran, you can gain some important new insights.

The iOS 6 cookbook has been completely updated to cover the recently released iOS 6 SDK. And the author is a well-known and well-experienced developer of iOS apps.

The 20-chapter book begins with the basics of programming for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, using Objective-C. But it is not intended for beginners who are just learning to program.

In some forums, debates continue to rage over whether new programmers who want to create iOS apps should dive straight into learning Objective-C or study traditional C first and perhaps other programming languages before tackling Objective-C.

No opinion is offered in this well-written, well-organized book. It is just assumed that “you are comfortable with the iOS development environment and know how to create an app for the iPhone or iPad.”

The book’s  focus, the author says, is on explaining “frameworks and classes that are available in iOS 6 SDK” and teaching the reader “the latest and greatest APIs. As you know, some users of your apps may still be on older versions of iOS, so please consider those users and choose your APIs wisely, depending on the minimum iOS version that you want to target with your apps.”

Here is the chapter line-up for iOS 6 Programming Cookbook:

  1. The Basics
  2. Implementing Controllers and Views
  3. Auto Layout and the Visual Format Language
  4. Constructing and Using Table Views
  5. Storyboards
  6. Concurrency
  7. Core Location and Maps
  8. Implementing Gesture Recognizers
  9. Networking, JSON, XML, and Twitter
  10. Audio and Video
  11. Address Book
  12. Files and Folder Management
  13. Camera and the Photo Library
  14. Multitasking
  15. Core Data
  16. Dates, Calendars, and Events
  17. Graphics and Animations
  18. Core Motion
  19. iCloud
  20. Pass Kit

Vandad Nahavandipoor’s important new iOS 6 cookbook offers hundreds of how-to examples and code samples that can help solve problems and give well-defined starting points and frameworks for developers at all levels of experience.

The topics and code samples range from the basic, such as testing new iOS apps by running them on the iOS simulator, to the advanced, such as using Apple’s Pass Kit to create digitally signed coupons, tickets or passes that can be delivered to compatible iOS devices running iOS 6 or later.

Si Dunn

iOS SDK Development – A totally new and improved 2nd edition – #programming #bookreview

iOS SDK Development
Chris Adamson and Bill Dudney
(Pragmatic Bookshelf, paperback)

The previous, 2009 edition of this popular how-to book was titled iPhone SDK Development.  But this  new and re-titled second edition is much more than a copy-and-paste, just-make-some-tweaks update.

“[W]e have copied absolutely nothing from the old book,” the authors say. “As we looked at all the changes to the platform—between Xcode 4, iOS 6, and the iPad—we decided that so much had changed that we would be better off starting fresh.”

While they tried to cover virtually everything in their previous book, their new, 274-page edition is much more focused and, yes, it’s more pragmatic.

“This book,” they state, “is about setting you off on the right foot: understanding the fundamentals, getting comfortable with the tools and the concepts, and developing good habits. We’ve put a particular emphasis on the last of these, looking for the kinds of things that aren’t just handy classes or compiler tricks but instead are the values and routines that will help produce better apps. We’re also adopting modern iOS development practices, such as using Objective-C properties exclusively instead of using traditional instance variables and getting private methods out of public header files.”

Two other goals: They want iOS SDK Development “to serve as a prerequisite” for Pragmatic Bookshelf’s other iOS titles; and they hope you will “come away from this book with a firm grasp of the most essential iOS APIs—the UIKit GUI framework and the essential utilities of the Foundation framework—and enough of a sense of where things are and how things work to be able to grab the documentation for interesting looking features and be able to figure it out.”

The book has 10 chapters, with illustrations and short code examples. The chapters are:

  1. Tweetings and Welcome to iOS 6 – Shows how to download and install the SDK and begin working on a first app.
  2. Programming for iOS –Introduces Objective-C and “the two frameworks we use most often in iOS apps: Foundation and UIKit.”
  3. Asynchronicity and Concurrency – Shows “how many of the iOS APIs use asynchronous callbacks and [employ] the Grand Central Dispatch system to handle concurrent execution….”
  4. View Controllers – “…looks at how iOS apps are built on a strong Model-View-Controller (MVC) foundation.”
  5. Table Views – Deals with “the flexible and widely used table view, the linchpin of most iPhone apps that need to present lists of data.
  6. Storyboards and Container Controllers – Covers “how to build a visual road map of the many screens of an app and how to build much of the logic of that navigation and presentation automatically.”
  7. Documents and iCloud – Shows the tools needed “to save our user’s work to the filesystem as well as to Apple’s new iCloud service.”
  8. Drawing and Animating – Explains how to use the Core Graphics framework and Core Animation.
  9. Testing and Fixing Apps – Looks at what can go wrong and how to use the SDK’s tools to fix things.
  10. The App Store and Beyond – Focuses on moving from learning to doing, by maintaining code, running it on devices, submitting it on the App Store, and “managing it after it’s in users’ hands.”

Whether you want to learn how to develop iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch apps, or improve and update your knowledge of the necessary processes, you should read the new, improved iOS SDK Development and keep it within easy reach.

Si Dunn

Master Your Mac – Useful how-to projects for intermediate users – #bookreview

Master Your Mac
Matt Cone
(No Starch Press, paperbackKindle)

This well-written how-to book will please many new Mac users, as well as many who have been using Macs for years.

But, to fully benefit from this excellent new guide, you must be willing to go beneath the Mac’s easy-to-use OS X surface and work at the command line.

In other words, if you are happy sticking to a regular routine of basics, such as email, Facebook, Twitter , documents and iTunes,  you probably don’t need this book very much.

However, if you are curious about what lies beneath “the obvious applications and documented uses of OS X,” you will find plenty to like in the 400 pages.

The author is offering “a workbook full of advanced projects that push the limits of OS X. You’ll get started with scripting and automation, configure new shortcuts, secure your Mac against invisible threats, and learn how to repair your hard drive.”

 One of the key strengths of this book is its organization. First you are shown how to create “an immediate solution to a real problem.” Then you are given explanations and examples on how to go “above and beyond the project.” For example, “[w]hen you learn AppleScript in Chapter 12…you’ll create your very own script, but you’ll also learn how to incorporate other data structures and interface elements to build a much more advanced script.”

Also, you can tackle the book’s seven parts and 38 chapters in any order that fits your interests and needs. Curious about how to encrypt your hard disk and backups? See Chapter 32. Need to attach multiple monitors to your machine? See Chapter 9. Want to use your Mac as a web server or FTP server? See Chapter 24. Need to create a Bluetooth proximity monitor that automatically locks your screen when you step away from your keyboard? See Chapter 13.

Matt Cone is a well-known and experienced Apple specialist who has been using Macs for more than 20 years. He also is a very good technical writer. His new book is heavily illustrated with steps, screen shots, code samples, and other images. If you are a Macintosh user who wants to get more than just the usual basics from OS X ( including Mountain Lion), Master Your Mac can be your handy go-to guide.

Si Dunn

iPhone: The Missing Manual, 6th Edition – Covers all iPhone models with iOS 6 software – #bookreview

iPhone: The Missing Manual, 6th Edition
David Pogue
(O’Reilly, paperback, Kindle)

 

This latest “Missing Manual” from David Pogue covers all iPhone models that have iOS 6 software, including iPhone 5.

The 538-page book is well-written, well-organized, and heavily illustrated with color photographs, illustrations, and screen shots. It also has numerous tips set off in yellow boxes for extra emphasis.

The 6th Edition’s chapters are gathered into five parts:

  • The iPhone as Phone – Focuses on “everything related to phone calls” with the iPhone.
  • Pix, Flix & Apps – “[D]edicated to the iPhone’s built-in software programs, with a special emphasis on its multimedia abilities…also app management….”
  • The iPhone Online – Includes “email, Web browsing, and tethering (that is, letting your phone serve as a sort of Internet antenna for your laptop).”
  • Connections – “…the world beyond the iPhone itself—like the copy of iTunes on your Mac or PC that can fill up the iPhone with music, videos, and photos, and syncing the calendar, address book, and mail settings.” Also covers the iPhone’s control panel, the Settings Program, and other features.
  • Appendixes – Appendix A covers the iPhone setup process; Appendix B looks at accessories such as chargers, car adapters, and carrying cases; Appendix C is a “master compendium of troubleshooting, maintenance, and battery information.”

The new iOS 6 software is available free, Pogue says, and is “the same operating system that runs on the iPad and the iPod Touch.”

He adds: “Why is that important? Because you can run iOS 6 on older iPhone models (the 3GS, 4, and 4S) without having to buy a new phone.” His new book “covers all phones that can run the iOS 6 software: the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5.”

Si Dunn

For more information: paperback, Kindle