Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion – Working with the Terminal and Shell – #bookreview

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

 When I showed this book–and its “Going Deep with the Terminal and Shell”–tagline to my Mac-centric wife, her first response was: “Why?”

Her Macintosh, she declared, already does everything she needs it to do, with no fuss. Why bother with terminals and shells–and Unix?

I, on the other hand, started working with computers back in the days when everything was done at the command line, programs and data were stored on recording tape, and 48K of RAM was stunning state of the art.

So I am happy with Dave Taylor’s observation in his new book that “there are over a thousand Unix commands included with OS X—and you can’t see most of them without accessing the command line. From sophisticated software development environments to web browsers, file transfer utilities to encryption and compression utilities, almost everything you can do in the Aqua interface—and more—can be done with a few carefully chosen Unix commands.”

Indeed, he notes, “…dipping into the primarily text-based Unix tools on your OS X system gives you more power and control over both your computer and your computing environment.”

He lists some other, enticing reasons to learn and use the Unix tools available in OS X. There are, for example, “thousands of open source and otherwise freely downloadable Unix applications,” including the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) that is a convenient and affordable alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

“Fundamentally,” he says, “Unix is all about power and control.”

My wife is still not convinced having this power and control is necessary or important to  how she uses her Mac. But I predict many others will want to get this book.

It is an excellent how-to guide, with 214 pages organized into 10 chapters:

  • 1. Why Use Unix?
  • 2. Using the Terminal’
  • 3. Exploring the File System
  • 4. File Management
  • 5. Finding Files and Information
  • 6. Redirecting I/O
  • 7. Multitasking
  • 8. Taking Unix Online
  • 9. Of Windows and X11
  • 10. Where to Go from Here

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion is well written and nicely illustrated with step-by-step Unix command examples, results displays, screen shots, and tips. It doesn’t try to cover everything, nor get too deep into detail.

Dave Taylor’s new book comfortably meets its goal of showing savvy OS X users how to use “all the basic commands you need to get started with Unix.”

There is, he points out, “a whole world of Unix inside your OS X system, and it’s time for you to jump in and learn how to be more productive and more efficient, and gain remarkable power as a Mac user.”

Si Dunn

Learning Unix for OS X Mountain Lion
For more information: paperbackKindle

PDF Explained – A lot more happens than meets the eye – #programming #bookreview

PDF Explained
By John Whitington
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $9.99)

For many of us, a PDF is a PDF. And a file is just a file. As data goes by.

We give little thought to what actually happens when we download and read — or use word processing software to produce — a document in Portable Document Format, PDF, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for document exchange.

Yet as John Whitington, author of this informative and important new book, notes: “A typical PDF file contains many thousands of objects, multiple compression mechanisms, different font formats, and a mixture of vector and raster graphics together with a wide variety of metadata and ancillary content.”

Whitington’s clearly written and appropriately illustrated work is aimed at four specific groups of readers:

  1. “Adobe Acrobat users who want to understand the reasons behind the facilities it provides, rather than just how to use them. For example: encryption options, trim and crop boxes, and page labels.”
  2. “Power users who want to use command-line software to process PDF documents in batches by merging, splitting, and optimizing them.”
  3. “Programmers writing code to read, edit, or create PDF files.”
  4. “Industry professionals in search, electronic publishing, and printing who want to understand how to use PDF’s metadata and workflow features to build coherent systems.”

One of the first hands-on things you do in this book is build a small document in PDF from scratch using a simple text editor and pdftk, a free, open-source command line tool for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Unix. (Spoiler alert: The document will display the traditional “Hello, World!”)

Following the introduction and the chapter on building a simple PDF from scratch, the remaining eight chapters explore: 

  • File structure
  • Document structure
  • Graphics
  • Text and fonts
  • Document metadata and navigation
  • Encrypted documents
  • Working with pdftk
  • PDF software and documentation

 Whitington has the right background and credentials for creating PDF Explained.

He is, according to the book’s biographical blurb, “the author of one of the few complete PDF implementations, CamlPDF, which implements the PDF file format from the bit level up. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, he founded Coherent Graphics Ltd, developers of command line PDF tools for Windows, Mac OS X, and Unix, and the Proview PDF Editor for Mac OS X.”

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a detective novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, including The 7th Mars Cavalry, all available on Kindle. He is a screenwriter, a freelance book reviewer and a former technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist.