OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual – Another how-to classic from David Pogue – #bookreview

OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual
David Pogue
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

 David Pogue knows how to produce excellent user manuals. He invented the popular “Missing Manual” series. And he continues to set high standards for other writers who also produce “Missing Manuals” and other tech books.  

Pogue’s newest, OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual, is 864 pages of useful information, well presented, with clear writing and frequent sparks of humor.

It covers OS X 10.8 (which is pronounced “Oh-ess-ten, ten-dot-eight” [or “ten-point-eight”] by the way) and also covers iCloud.  Pogue cautions: “Don’t say ‘oh-ess-ex.’ You’ll get funny looks in public.”

Apple says OS X Mountain Lion has added 200 new features. But some users of previous Mac OS versions may be startled at a few capabilities that have been cut or reduced. (With this release, the term “Mac OS X” also has been reduced to “OS X” to better mesh with “iOS,” Apple contends.) Meanwhile, Pogue continues his well-known penchant for exposing and illustrating undocumented capabilities, irritants, and gotchas in software.

Still, he declares, “OS X is an impressive technical achievement; many experts call it the best personal-computer operating system on earth.”

Best OS or not, if you use OS X 10.8 and iCloud, you likely will want to have this how-to guide close at hand.

“If you could choose only one word to describe Apple’s overarching design goal in Lion and Mountain Lion, there’s no doubt about what it would be: iPad,” Pogue states.  “In this software, Apple has gone about as far as it could go in trying to turn the Mac into an iPad.”

OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual is split into six parts, with 22 chapters and four appendices.

Part One: The OS X Desktop

  • Chapter 0: The Mountain Lion Landscape
  • Chapter 1: Folders & Windows
  • Chapter 2: Organizing Your Stuff
  • Chapter 3: Spotlight
  • Chapter 4: Dock, Desktop & Toolbars

Part Two: Programs in OS X

  • Chapter 5: Documents, Programs & Spaces
  • Chapter 6: Data: Typing, Dictating, Sharing & Backing Up
  • Chapter 7: Automator, AppleScript & Services
  • Chapter 8: Windows on Macintosh

Part Three: The Components of OS X

  • Chapter 9: System Preferences
  • Chapter 10: Reminders, Notes & Notification Center
  • Chapter 11: The Other Free Programs
  • Chapter 12: CDs, DVDs, iTunes & AirPlay

Part Four: The Technologies of OS X

  • Chapter 13: Accounts, Security & Gatekeeper
  • Chapter 14: Networking, File Sharing & AirDrop
  • Chapter 15: Graphics, Fonts & Printing
  • Chapter 16: Sound, Movies & Speech

Part Five: OS X Online

  • Chapter 17: Internet Setup & iCoud
  • Chapter 18: Mail & Contacts
  • Chapter 19: Safari
  • Chapter 20: Messages
  • Chapter 21: SSH, FTP, VPN & Web Sharing

Part Six: Appendixes

  • Appendix A: Installing OS X Mountain Lion
  • Appendix B: Troubleshooting
  • Appendix C: The Windows-to-Mac Dictionary
  • Appendix D: The Master OS X Secret Keystroke List

The focus stays firmly on “What’s this new feature for?” in OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual. And David Pogue’s latest how-to classic makes it fun to test out a new feature with a good sense of what is supposed to happen and which choices are available or problematic .

Beats the heck out of opening up the software, randomly tinkering with selections, options and default settings, and then trying to figure out what you just did wrong.

Si Dunn

Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide and OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide – #bookreview

O’Reilly recently has released two compact and handy guides for Macintosh users: the Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide and the OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide.

Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide
Daniel J. Barrett
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Macintosh Terminal is termed “the Macintosh’s best-kept secret” in this conveniently organized , well-illustrated guidebook.  Terminal also is described as “one of the most powerful programs for controlling your Mac.”

The author notes: “The Terminal is an application that runs commands.  If you’re familiar with DOS command lines on Windows, the Terminal is somewhat similar (but much more powerful).”

The book begins with a short, basic tutorial for those who need to know what a “command” is and how to enter commands. It also describes how the Mac’s file system is organized, and it delves into other beginner’s aspects of working at the command line.

More experienced users, meanwhile, can go right to the 223-page book’s table of contents and index to quickly find discussions of commands and their available options.

The Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide bills itself as “a short guide to the Terminal, not a comprehensive reference.”  But it contains explanations and how-to instructions for many OS X commands.

You may find yourself suddenly needing to know how to kill a program that won’t quit, or log in to your Mac from a remote location, or compress and uncompress files in several different formats. The paperback version of the Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide really does fit into a pants pocket or coat pocket, and it won’t take up much room in a computer bag or purse, either. 

OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide
Chris Seibold
(O’Reilly, paperback – Kindle)

For new and experienced users of the OS X Mountain Lion operating system, this 252-page “quick” reference guide delivers solid how-to information that focuses on major features, system preferences, built-in applications, and utilities. It also provides common keyboard shortcuts, and troubleshooting tips.

Like the Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide, the paperback version of this guidebook is conveniently sized to slip into a pocket, computer bag or purse without adding much bulk or weight, and it has a good index and table of contents for quick reference.

The OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide is divided into eight chapters:

  • Chapter 1: What’s New in Mountain Lion?
  • Chapter 2: Installing Mountain Lion and Migrating Data
  • Chapter 3: A Quick Guide to Mountain Lion
  • Chapter 4: Troubleshooting OS X
  • Chapter 5: System Preferences
  • Chapter 6: Built-in Applications and Utilities
  • Chapter 7: Managing Passwords in Mountain Lion
  • Chapter 8: Keyboard Commands and Special Characters

“With every revision of OS X, Apple leaves some Macs behind, and Mountain Lion is no exception,” the author cautions.  His book describes the Macs that can run it and gives some information about the ones that can’t. Certain upgrades may make it possible to install the software.

He adds: “So how do you find out whether your Mac is compatible with Mountain Lion? The simplest way is to try to buy the software from the App Store.  If your Mac isn’t compatible, the App Store will tell you that the software won’t run on that machine.”

The even easier way to run OS X Mountain Lion, of course, is to just buy a new Mac that already has it installed.

No matter which option you choose, however, you may need to keep this book close at hand.

Si Dunn

Learning iOS Programming, 2nd Ed. – Updated to cover iOS 5, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch – #programming #bookreview

Learning iOS Programming, 2nd Edition
By Alasdair Allan
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $27.99)

Alasdair Allan’s popular iOS programming book recently has been updated to cover iOS 5. And it has a new name. (The first edition was titled Learning iPhone Programming.)

“The changes made in this second edition reflect the fact that a lot has happened since the first edition was published: the release of the iPad, a major release of Xcode, two revisions of the operating system itself, and the arrival of Apple’s iCloud,” the author notes. “This book has therefore been refreshed, renewed, and updated to reflect these fairly fundamental changes to the platform, and all of the example code was rewritten from the ground up for Xcode 4 and iOS 5 using ARC.”

Allan’s book – well-written and appropriately illustrated – is structured to provide “a rapid introduction to programming for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad,” and it assumes that you have some familiarity with C or a C-derived language, as well as a basic understanding of object-oriented programming.

And the pace is fast. By chapter 3, you are building the requisite “Hello, World” application and running it in iPhone Simulator.

In that same chapter, Allan also introduces the basic syntax of Objective-C and highlights some of the “rather strange” ways that it deals with method calls. He discusses how the Cocoa Touch framework underlying iOS applications “is based on one of the oldest design patterns, the Model-View-Controller pattern, which dates from the 1970s.” And he warns that “[a]ttempting to write iOS applications while ignoring the underlying MVC patterns is a pointless exercise in make-work.”

Learning iOS Programming, 2nd Edition does not emphasize web-based applications. It centers, instead, on creating native applications using Apple’s SDK. “The obvious reason to use the native SDK,” Allan states, “is to do things that you can’t do using web technologies. The first generation of augmented reality applications is a case in point; these needed close integration with the iPhone’s onboard sensors (e.g., GPS, accelerometer, digital compass, and camera) and wouldn’t have been possible without that access.”

He emphasizes a financial reason, as well. “Consumers won’t buy your application on their platform just because you support other platforms; instead they want an application that looks like the rest of the applications on their platform, that follows the same interface paradigms as the rest of the applications they’re used to, and is integrated into their platform.”

He adds: “If you integrate your application into the iOS ecosphere, make use of the possibilities that the hardware offers, and make sure your user interface is optimized for the device, the user experience is going to be much improved.”

Hard to argue with that.

Learning iOS Programming, 2nd Edition provides the steps necessary to develop and market your first iOS application. Allan notes: “Until recently, the only way to obtain the iOS SDK was to become a registered iOS developer. However, you can now download the current release of Xcode and the iOS SDK directly from the Mac App Store.”

Of course, if you intend to distribute your applications “or even just deploy them onto your own device, you will also need to register with Apple as a developer and then enroll in one of the developer programs.”

You may need some system upgrades, as well. To develop apps for the iOS, you’ll need an Intel Mac running OS X 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”) or later. If you plan to create apps that use Apple’s iCloud, you’ll need OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) or later.

One other recommendation from Allan: If you’re truly serious about being an iOS developer, consider also registering with the Mac Developer Program.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir. He is the author of an e-book detective novel, Erwin’s Law, now also available in paperback, plus a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

Three new specialized how-to books for SharePoint, JQuery & Mac OS X Lion Server – #bookreview #in #programming

Here are three new books for those with at least some basic to intermediate experience with Microsoft SharePoint, or web development, or Mac OS X Lion.

Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects
By Jennifer Mason, Christian Buckley, Brian T. Jackett, and Wes Preston
(Microsoft Press,
paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $27.99)

If you have some background in Microsoft SharePoint and want to dig deeper, this book can help you learn how to use SharePoint to create real-world solutions to ten common business problems.

Each chapter is devoted to a single project, such as creating a FAQ system to help users quickly find answers to their questions, setting up a help desk solution to track service requests, or building a simple project management system.

The projects are based on “various scenarios encountered by the authors as we have used SharePoint as a tool to build solutions that address business needs….Each of the solutions has been implemented in one or more organization,” they state.

Do not jump into Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects until you have gained “a general understanding of the basics of SharePoint,” the authors caution. And note that SharePoint is not easily defined as one “type” of product.

If you keep in mind the process of building a house, they write, “SharePoint is like the various tools and materials, and the final business solutions you build are like the house. There are many features and tools in SharePoint, and within this book, you will see different ways to combine and structure them into business solutions.”

Their 403-page book is well written and cleanly organized with short paragraphs and many headings, step lists and illustrations. It also has an extensive index.

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JQuery: Novice to Ninja, 2nd Edition
By Earle Castledine and Craig Sharkie
(SitePoint,
paperback, list price $39.95; Kindle edition, list price $29.95)

Technology changes fast, and web developers curious about JQuery will welcome this updated edition of Earle Castledine’s and Craig Sharkie’s book that first appeared in 2010.

This also is not a book for beginners. “You should,” the authors note, “already have intermediate to advanced HTML and CSS skills, as JQuery uses CSS-style selectors to zero in on page elements. Some rudimentary programming knowledge will be helpful to have,” they add, “as JQuery—despite its clever abstractions—is still based on JavaScript.” 

The authors offer high praise for the power of JQuery: “Aside from being a joy to use, one of the biggest benefits of JQuery is that it handles a lot of infuriating cross-browser issues for you. Anyone who has written serious JavaScript in the past can attest that cross-browser inconsistencies will drive you mad.”

They describe how to download and include the latest version of JQuery in web pages. And their book is organized to introduce JQuery features and code examples while also showing you, step by step, how to build a complete working application.

JQuery: Novice to Ninja, 2nd Edition has plenty of illustrations and is well indexed and written in a friendly, approachable style. 

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Using Mac OS X Lion Server
By Charles Edge
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $29.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

Yes, intermediate and advanced system administrators will find some useful information in this well-written and nicely illustrated guide.

“But the book,” says author Charles Edge, “is really meant for new system administrators: the owner of the small business, the busy parent trying to manage all of those iPhone and iPads the kids are running around with, the teacher with a classroom full of iMacs or iPads, and of course, the new podcaster, just looking for a place to host countless hours of talking about the topic of her choice.”

What Using Mac OS X Lion Server  does not cover is “managing a Lion Server from the command line, scripting client management, or other advanced topics.”

The topics it does cover include: Planning for and installing a server; sharing and backing up files; sharing address books, calendars, and iChat; Wikis, webs and blogs; building a mail server; building a podcasting server; managing Apple computers and iOS devices; network services; and deploying Mac OS X computers.

The author cautions: “In many ways, the traditional system administrator will find Lion challenging in its consumeristic approach. There is a lot of power under the hood, but the tools used to manage the server have been simplified so that anyone can manage it, not just veteran Unix gods.”

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir. He is the author of an e-book detective novel, Erwin’s Law, now also available in paperback, plus a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

Oh, say can you C? Learning to program with Head First C – #bookreview #in #programming

Head First C
By David Griffiths and Dawn Griffiths
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $49.99)

 Long ago, in a universe now very far away, I was an ABC programmer: assembler, BASIC, and C. I learned C from a book popularly known as “K&R,” after its authors, Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. (Their classic work is now available in an updated second edition.)

But I had no mentors, so I struggled to figure out and apply many of the basic concepts that were not quite spelled out clearly enough or illustrated well enough for me in K&R.

I really wish I had had a book like Head First C, instead. My geeky logical side often is ruled and frequently overruled by my unstructured, illogical artistic side.

For learners like me, O’Reilly’s “Head First” series makes effective and entertaining use of graphics. It also addresses readers with a conversational style that avoids lecturing. And it focuses on trying to make sure you understand and can apply each new element.

Thus, Head First C does not try to be a complete C language reference guide. It shows you how to work with C’s major concepts, and you begin using them right away, so you can start understanding the process of becoming an effective C programmer. After that, if you are motivated to continue, you can push on into other books that do attempt to be complete C reference texts.

This “brain friendly guide” shows how to download free C compilers for Linux, Macintosh, and Windows machines. And, the authors assure: “All the code in this book is intended to run across all these operating systems, and we’ve tried hard not to write anything that will only work on one type of computer.”

Another positive for this book: You don’t have to key in or wade through dozens of lines of code to get to the few lines you are really supposed to be studying. “Most examples in this book are shown within the smallest possible context, so that the part you’re trying to learn is clear and simple.”

And, the book has been given a thorough technical review. So the code examples that are intended to work generally will work.

The book’s 12 chapters focus on the following topics:

  1. Getting Started with C
  2. Memory and Pointers
  3. Strings
  4. Creating Small Tools
  5. Using Multiple Source Files
  6. Structs, Unions, and Bitfields
  7. Data Structures and Dynamic Memory
  8. Advanced Functions
  9. Static and Dynamic Libraries
  10. Processes and System Calls
  11. Interprocess Communication
  12. Sockets and Networking
  13. Threads

About midway through the book, you are presented with your first lab exercise. You write some C code and hook up a few hardware components to create an Arduino-powered plant monitor that lights up an LED and repeatedly sends the string “Feed me!” to your screen if a plant needs to be watered.

In the book’s second lab exercise, you write C code that lets your computer and its web cam act as an intruder detector. You do this with help from OpenCV, “an open source computer vision library. It allows you to take input from your computer camera, process it, and analyze real-time image data and make decisions based on what your computer sees.”

In the third and final lab exercise, you use your new C skills to write a video game called “Blasteroids,” with help from the Allegro open source game development library.

Head First C is a first and foremost a very good book for beginners, especially those who have at least a little bit of programming experience. But it delves into some advanced-level topics, too, such as multithreading and network programming.

If learning C is your goal, Head First C can help you stay focused, stay entertained and happily soak up the things you need to know.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir. He is the author of an e-book detective novel, Erwin’s Law, now also available in paperback, plus a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

Machine Learning for Hackers – Analyzing & displaying data using R – #bookreview #in #programming

Machine Learning for Hackers
By Drew Conway and John Myles White
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

The word “hacker has a very bad reputation in many parts of the computer world.

This book’s two authors, however, offer a different and much more positive view. “Far from the stylized depictions of nefarious teenagers or Gibsonian cyber-punks portrayed in pop culture, “they write, “we believe a hacker is someone who likes to solve problems and experiment with new technologies.”

In their view: “If you’ve ever sat down with the latest O’Reilly book on a new computer language and knuckled out coded until you were well past ‘Hello, World,’ then you’re a hacker. “ You’re also a hacker, in their view, “if you’ve dismantled a new gadget until you understood the entire machinery’s architecture….”

As for machine learning, they define it “[a]t the highest level of abstraction…as a set of tools and methods that attempt to infer patterns and extract insight from a record of the observable world.” In more concrete terms, machine learning “blends concepts and techniques from many different traditional fields, such as mathematics, statistics, and computer science.” At the computer programming level, machine learning is defined as “a toolkit of algorithms that enables computers to train themselves to automate useful tasks.”

Conway’s and White’s new book, Machine Learning for Hackers, is rich with challenges for experienced programmers who love to crunch data. Its code examples use the R programming language, a “software environment for statistical computing and graphics.” It can be downloaded free for Windows, MacOS, or a variety of UNIX platforms from The R Project for Statistical Computing.

What you don’t get in this book is an R language tutorial. Instead of “Hello, World!” in the introductory chapter, you jump straight into working with a very interesting data set and generating histograms dealing with distributions of UFO sightings.

It is assumed that you have done some programming, and the authors note that you can find basic R tutorials online or in other books.

With a case-studies approach, each chapter of the 303-page book focuses on a particular problem in machine learning, and the authors show how to analyze sample databases and create simple machine learning algorithms.

The chapters are:

  1. Using R
  2. Data Exploration
  3. Classification: Spam Filtering
  4. Ranking: Priority Inbox
  5. Regression: Predicting Page Views
  6. Regularization: Text Regression
  7. Optimization: Breaking Codes
  8. PCA [principal components analysis]: Building a Market Index
  9. MDS [multidimensional scaling]: Visually Exploring US Senator Similarity
  10. kNN [The k-Nearest Neighbors algorithm]: Recommended Systems
  11. Analyzing Social Graphs
  12. Model Comparison

Some of the other projects the authors present include: using linear progression to predict the number of page views for 1,000 top websites; doing statistical comparisons and contrasts of U.S. Senators based on their voting records; and building “a ‘who to follow’ recommendation engine” for Twitter that doesn’t violate Twitter’s terms of service or its API’s “strict rate limit.”

Conway and White offer some fairly heady and challenging learning experiences for those who would like to work with pattern recognition algorithms and big piles of data.

“The notion of observing data, learning from it, and then automating some process of recognition is at the heart of machine learning,” the authors note, “forms the primary arc of this book.”

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir. He is the author of an e-book detective novel, Erwin’s Law, now also available in paperback, plus a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

 

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition – #bookreview #in #mac #windows

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition
By David Pogue
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $29.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

I own and use three Windows PCs during a typical day. But sometimes (don’t ask why), I find myself forced – forced – to use my wife’s Macintosh.

Grrrr. Where do I click? Where are the other mouse buttons? And what do these geeky, alien icons actually mean?

Frankly, I’ve hated Macs for a long, long time. And I’ve especially hated the smug, “Everything’s simpler on a Mac!” attitude that peppy Mac users seem to radiate whenever they are around us gray-haired Windows types who  have been messing with command prompts, anti-virus software, and the Blue Screen of Death since (seemingly) the War of 1812.

That being said, I am a big fan of New York Times tech columnist David Pogue and “The Missing Manual” book series he created.  I use several of O’Reilly’s “Missing” manuals on a frequent basis.

Pogue’s new book is now proving useful for me as a sort of Klingon-to-English translation guide when I am forced – forced –to use my beloved’s dearly beloved Mac.

But in all seriousness, if you are contemplating making the switch or have already switched from Windows to Mac (traitor!), you need this book. It is a well-written, nicely illustrated user’s guide with a strong focus on how to transfer documents and other files from Windows machines to Macs. Often, the transfers go smoothly. “It turns out that communicating with a Windows PC is one of the Mac’s most polished talents,” Pogue notes.

Sometimes, however, the transfers do not go well. Pogue’s huge book (691 pages) also points out some potential pitfalls and remedies, such as possibly losing “memorized transactions, customized report designs, and reconciliations” when transferring from QuickBooks for Windows to QuickBooks to Mac.

Switching to the Mac is organized into five parts:

  • Part 1, Welcome to the Macintosh – Covers the essentials of “everything you see onscreen when you turn on the machine.”
  • Part 2, Making the Move – Covers “the actual process of hauling your software, settings, and even peripherals (like printers and monitors) across the chasm from the PC to the Mac.” Includes steps for running Windows on Macs, “an extremely attractive option.”
  • Part 3, Making Connections – Shows how to set up an Internet connection on a Mac and use Apple’s Internet software suite.
  • Part 4, Putting Down Roots – Gets into more advanced topics “to turn you into a Macintosh power user.”
  • Part 5, Appendixes – Two of the four appendixes cover installation and troubleshooting. One is the “Where’d It Go?” Dictionary for those trying to find familiar Windows controls “in the new, alien Macintosh environment.” And the fourth appendix offers “a master keyboard-shortcut list for the entire Mac OS X universe.”  

Switching to the Mac offers sound reasons (1) why you may prefer to stick with certain Windows for Mac programs on your new Mac and (2) why you may want to abandon certain Windows programs written for Macs and learn to use the Mac programs that are better than, say, PowerPoint or Notepad, for example.

If you happen to be addicted to Microsoft Access and Microsoft Visio, you have a separate choice. You can either switch to FileMaker and OmniGraffle or keep a Windows machine sitting close to your new Mac.

You won’t be alone as a user caught between two different worlds. Writes Pogue: “A huge percentage of ‘switchers’ do not, in fact, switch.  Often, they just add.  They may get a Macintosh (and get into the Macintosh), but they keep the old Windows PC around, at least for a while.”

In my case, you’ll have to pry the Windows keyboard and mouse from my cold, dead fingers. But I’ll keep this hefty book with me, to use both as a how-to guide and as a bludgeon, each time I have to go into the Macintosh wilds and battle the Lion.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available now in paperback. He is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.