Book Review: Mac OS X Unleashed

There has been a number of MacOSX books released since the MacOSX public release by Apple a year ago. However, none is either as… thick or as rich in content as “Mac OS X Unleashed” by SAMS Publishing. It took me some time to go through its 1400+ pages, but the review is finally here. Update: Current readers can find the errata of the book over at the author’s web site.The book has been written by John Ray and William C. Ray, both with vast Unix and Mac experience. Their tone throughout the book is very friendly, and I must say, honest. One gets this impression from the introduction already, where the authors are describing Job’s keynote in May 1998, when Jobs revealed that he canned the Rhapsody OS (which leaked betas able to run on x86 are still to be found on the web) and pronounced a “new” OS, named MacOSX. The authors described the news they got back then as “I went back to my hotel room and became ill.” From that point on, I knew that the book would be as enjoyable and everything but boring.

The book continues by mentioning and quickly analyzing the parts from which MacOSX is built, from the ground up, including explainations about Aqua, Quartz, the Mach/BSD kernel and more. In the next chapters you will find information on how to go through the MacOSX installation step by step, how to use the OS and Finder, how to configure MacOS 9 to be in a peacefull co-existance with OSX, which are the new applications on OSX and how to use them, how to configure your internet connection etc. The book continues with coverage of more advanced topics, like adding users, configuration, system level component maintenance, etc.

At around page 470, the book ceases its similarity with the rest of the MasOSX books we have seen so far. For the next 950 pages the user is pretty much introduced to… UNIX.

Indeed, the authors seem to be BSD fans, and they introduce not just the BSD subsystem, but they even explain its philosophy and open source nature. From that point on, you will get a full overview of how to use the Shell under OSX, the main commands, how to understand the unix filesystem hieriarchy, and you will be introduced to a number of command line apps, like ssh etc.

There is even whole chapter about Shell, PHP and Perl programming, how to compile and even how to debug C/C++ applications, in conjuction with an AppleScript’s chapter.

About 2/3rds of the way through the book, you will find a whole chapter on how to use and install the X11 system under MacOSX. Following are chapters on how to install and configure Apache, FTP, mail, Samba servers and even how to do clustering with OSX. The last two chapters are dedicated to security and system health, followed by an command line reference (pretty much printed “man” pages).

On the downside, the only negative point I found in the book is that sometimes some articles do not truly belong in the chapters where they were placed. For example, in the MacOSX installation chapter, you get quite a number of pages explaining how to download some freeware hack applications from the web and make your MacOS9 look like OSX. The authors pretty much argue that if you haven’t made your OS9 look too much as the real thing, then go ahead and install OSX. I am not sure these pages belong in this book at all (why someone would buy 1400 page book written for power users if he/she was not sure if he wanted to install OSX at the first place?). There is a great deal of information in the book, so some misplacements here and there can be noted. The only other downside of the book is that it is… heavy. But that may be interpreted as a good thing by others, so I will leave that to your judgment.

This book is a treasure for MacOSX power users and administrators. It is a MacOSX book with UNIX in mind. It is clearly destined for people who want to put their Mac/Unix_Underneath system to do more than Photoshop. For users who just want to use the GUI system and hardly do more than web surfing, “MacOSX – The Missing Manual” is probably a better buy. However, for most OSNews readers — power users that is — “Mac OS X Unleashed” is what you would ever want or need if you have a Mac. This is the best book ever published for MacOSX so far in the power user/admin category.

Overall: 9.5 / 10

Buy “Mac OS X Unleashed
at for less


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