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

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.

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