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

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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

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

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

Switching to the Mac, Mountain Lion Edition – David Pogue scores again – #bookreview

Switching to the Mac: Mountain Lion Edition
David Pogue
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

David Pogue will have to pry Windows PCs out of my cold, dead fingers.

That being said, his new book makes a very compelling case for why you other Windows users should switch from PCs to Macs right away.

As I’ve previously noted, I use three battle-scarred Windows PCs during a typical work day. Yet sometimes (don’t ask why), I am forced – forced, I tell you – to use my wife’s Macintosh, too.

Frankly, I have hated Macs for a long, long time. No, actually, I have hated the smug, “Everything’s milk and honey on a Mac!” attitude that peppy-preppy Mac users (my wife excluded) seem to radiate each time they get around us gray-haired Windows types.

I happen to think the Blue Screen of Death is a lovely work of art, easily on par with Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy and Edvard Munch’s The Scream, thank you very much. And what is life without the daily excitement of battling evil spyware and sinister viruses from Eastern Europe?

Seriously, I continue to be a huge 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 regular basis.

His new book has convinced me that, okay, maybe it finally might be time to replace one of my combat-scarred PCs with a shiny new Mac. Then I, too, can radiate some of that lustrous “Everything’s sunshine and bunnies!” glow instead of merely gnashing my teeth at the need to download a new patch or service pack.

“OS X has a spectacular reputation for stability and security,” Pogue assures readers. “At this writing, there hasn’t been a single widespread OS X virus—a spectacular feature that makes Windows look like a waste of time.” (David, David, David. “Waste of time”? Tsk, tsk.)

If you are contemplating making the switch or have already switched from Windows to Mac – one that’s running OS X (Mountain Lion) – you need this book. It is well written and nicely illustrated, and it has a strong focus on helping Windows users feel comfortably at home on a new Mac.

“Be glad you waited so long to get a Mac,” Pogue writes in a chapter titled “Special Software, Special Problems.”

“By now, all the big-name programs look and work almost exactly the same on the Mac as they do on the PC.”

You will encounter situations where a favorite Windows program is not available in a Mac equivalent. But there usually are Mac equivalents that offer similar functions. Or, you often can run Windows programs on an OS X Mac in Windows format, Pogue points out.

He also shows how to transfer documents and other files from Windows machines to Macs. Usually, 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, there are problems, of course, even in “infallible” Mac Land. But Pogue’s huge book (743 pages) gives clear procedures or suggestions for dealing with most of them. And: “Most big-name programs are sold in both Mac and Windows flavors, and the documents they create are freely interchangeable.”

Switching to the Mac: Mountain Lion Edition is organized into five parts:

  • Part 1, Welcome to the Macintosh – Covers the differences between what you see on a Macintosh screen and a Windows screen. Pogue notes that “OS X offers roughly the same features as Windows. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these features are called different things and parked in different spots.”
  • Part 2, Making the Move – Covers how to move software, data and peripherals such as printers and scanners from a Windows PC to a Mac. Includes steps for running Windows on Macs, using Apple Boot Camp. “The only downsides: Your laptop battery life isn’t as good, and you have to restart the Mac again to return to the familiar world of OS X.”
  • Part 3, Making Connections – Shows how to set up web, iCloud, and email connections on a Mac and use Apple’s Internet software suite.
  • Part 4, Putting Down Roots – Covers user accounts, parental controls, security, networking, file sharing, screen sharing, system preferences, and OS X’s “freebie” programs, such as Calendar, Photo Booth, and QuickTime Player.
  • Part 5…(Hello? Why is Part 5 missing from the table of contents and the pages of the printed version?)
  • Part 6, Appendixes – Two of the four appendixes cover installing OS X Mountain Lion and troubleshooting. The third appendix is “The Windows-to-Mac Dictionary,” especially useful for Windows people who have to use a Macintosh once in a while. “It’s an alphabetical listing of every common Windows function and where to find it in OS X,” Pogue says. And the fourth appendix offers a “master keyboard-shortcut list for the entire Mac OS X universe.”

Switching to the Mac, Mountain Lion Edition 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, in Pogue’s estimation, “better.”

You won’t be alone if you become (as I likely will) a user who moves back and forth between Mac world and Windows world, for a long time if not “forever.” In that case, you’ll definitely want Switching to the Mac: Mountain Lion Edition on your reference shelf.

Build Awesome Command-Line Applications in Ruby – #programming #bookreview

Build Awesome Command-Line Applications in Ruby
David Bryant Copeland
(Pragmatic Bookshelf,
paperback)

The word “awesome” now is grossly overused in contemporary culture. And I hate it in book titles.

That being said, Build Awesome Command-Line Applications in Ruby is an excellent how-to guide, particularly if you have a little bit of UNIX and some basic Ruby programming in your background.

The book is “aimed at both developers and system administrators who have some familiarity with Ruby and who find themselves automating things on the command line (or wish they could),” David Bryant Copeland writes. And he adds: “Writing command-line apps in Ruby is also a great way to really learn Ruby and become a better programmer, since you can apply it directly to your day-to-day tasks.”

Mac and Linux users will have the easiest time with this book’s code examples. Things get a little bit more complicated for Windows users, especially those with no UNIX experience and not much programming background, either. The author, fortunately, lays out some workarounds.

For example, on UNIX systems, the first line of code commonly is called the shebang. In a piece of Ruby code, the shebang might look something like this: #!/usr/bin/ruby. (That example tells where the Ruby interpreter is installed.) But, at a Windows command prompt, if Ruby has been installed correctly and is in the path, the # character simply will be interpreted as the start of a comment line, and the rest of the shebang will be ignored when code is run directly, such as: ruby hello_world.rb.

In this book, David Bryant Copeland’s focus definitely is code. “There is a lot of code,” he says, “and we’ll do our best to take each new bit of it step by step.” As the book progresses, two command-line applications are developed, enhanced, and improved. One is a database-backup app, and the other is a command suite, “an app that provides a set of commands, each representing a different function of a related concept.”

This is not a Ruby primer, so get some experience in that language first before tackling this book. But if you are now reasonably comfortable with Ruby coding on a graphical user interface (GUI) and want some new challenges, consider moving to the command line and use this excellent book as your guide.

The requirements are minimal: a free Ruby download and a text editor or a UNIX-like shell. But the payoff is very good.

In his 10 chapters, the author discusses and illustrates “every detail of command-line application development, from user input, program output, and code organization to code handling, testing, and distribution” while the two example applications are created, tested, and enhanced.

There is plenty to learn, and Build Awesome Command-Line Applications in Ruby does a fine job of  leading you through the process in short-chapter steps.

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