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Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther 284

Posted by timothy
from the twisty-little-passages dept.
Spencerian writes "Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther is a good tool for those who are experienced with the original Mac OS or Mac OS X, but not the Unix command line. Most of the content would not interest the traditional programmer, Linux, BSD, or other UNIX jockey, however." For Spencerian's take on why, read on for the rest of his review.
Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther
author Dave Taylor and Brian Jepson
pages 168
publisher O'Reilly Publishing
rating 8
reviewer Kevin Spencer
ISBN 0596006179
summary Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther is a good tool for those who are generally comfortable with the original Mac OS or Mac OS X, but not the Unix command line. Most of the content would not interest the traditional programmer, Linux, BSD, or other UNIX jockey, however. The Finder can't do it all, and it's a good idea to realize that today's Mac OS has more ways to force it to work than its original version. This 3rd edition of the book has a better audience focus than previous editions.

This book focuses on those of us in the Mac OS professional world who have become Unix system admins by default with the introduction of OS X, and could stand to have a handy UNIX reference nearby, particularly if the Finder freezes in Apple's latest version of their BSD/OpenStep blend of a UNIX operating system.

As the authors explain in the book, the best justification for understanding and using the UNIX components present is Mac OS X is the same as in any other UNIX-family operating system: power and control. The Finder (Mac OS X's graphical desktop manager) can't do everything, so this book provides information to help power users and technicians resolve issues, install software, or create an optimized experience, all through the Terminal.

Chapters 1 and 2 provide a very helpful tutorial on the Mac OS X Terminal application, from showing the benefits of customizing the Terminal, the concept of shells, UNIX command syntax, and other obscure but useful settings that strengthen the power of the application when accessing the BSD innards of Mac OS X. Arguably, these two chapters are the strongest guide on Mac OS X's Terminal application (as it relates to its UNIX roots) that I have seen in any Mac OS X book to date.

Chapters 3 and 4 handle understanding of the UNIX filesystem, administration and superuser access, privileges, handling external volumes, file and directory names and the like. Mac OS X, while a BSD at heart, doesn't map out everything in a traditional UNIX-style directory format--at least, not from the Finder's view. Through the Terminal, a user can see the underlying, otherwise-hidden UNIX directories. The authors go through some basic but very helpful situations such as changing file and owner permissions, which can be changed from the Finder with greater ease in Panther, but not with the same finesse as done from a command line.

The file management chapter moves readers through the classic commands for moving, editing, and copying files from the command line, which can be very helpful for administrators of Mac OS X systems who must attempt repairs by SSH, for instance, and don't have access to the usual graphical elements that generally make Mac OS usage so easy. The authors don't pick sides in the vi vs. pico debate, and just offer the basic instructions on how to use either for your editing.

The book continues with the same level of complexity that local system admins or power users require in issues such as printing via CUPS, handling processes that the Finder doesn't show, using the X11 application, using Fink (a Debian-style installation application) installing OpenOffice and GIMP, using FTP and secure shell, using Pine and Lynx, and more.

For a book of just 168 pages, the authors pack quite a bit on making a Mac OS X system work from its Terminal roots. New Mac OS X system administrators will find this book most useful, particularly if their UNIX experience is lacking or radically different from what Mac OS X presents. Experienced *NIX users who bought a new Mac may find the book a good intermediary to demonstrate how Mac OS X Panther differs from the *NIX boxen they've used in the past.



You can purchase Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther

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  • The Finder (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:19PM (#8365609)
    The Finder (Mac OS X's graphical desktop manager) can't do everything...

    "Yes it can."
    -Steve Jobs
    • Re:The Finder (Score:5, Informative)

      by Frymaster (171343) on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:08PM (#8366135) Homepage Journal
      The Finder (Mac OS X's graphical desktop manager) can't do everything...

      and neither can terminal.app! lord, it's the worst terminal program i've ever used. there are, however, some good replacements.

      • iterm [sourceforge.net] - fast and light with tabs and other neat things. my current favourite.
      • glterm [pollet.net] - it uses opengl to render fonts. no, really. results in way better performance (although at some window sizes the text is fuzzy)

      • Re:The Finder (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sigh Phi (324315) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:40PM (#8367204)
        lord, it's the worst terminal program i've ever used.

        This is unnecissarily hyperbolic. Apple's Terminal.app is fairly no-frills, but it still has some nice features, such as transforming a folder or file dropped from the Finder (or any title bar avatar) into a pathname. You can drag and copy and paste just like any other app. You can change fonts (even to non-monospace fonts). It'll emulate a number of terminals (e.g. VT-100, xterm-color, etc.) You can customize the title bar display. Set the transparency of the window itself (eye-candy). It has an unlimited scrollback buffer. It'll handle multibyte scripts (e.g. Kanji or Chinese), as well as handle a number of character encodings. It has customizable command keys.

        It's leaps and bounds beyond cmd.exe. But perhaps you've had the good fortune never to have encountered that.

  • by toupsie (88295) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:20PM (#8365616) Homepage
    Apple provides an excellent tool for learning UNIX in Mac OS X, free of charge!!!

    If you don't know what a command does, type "man [command]" (without the quotes, of course).

  • very useful (Score:2, Informative)

    by millahtime (710421)
    I am a *nix admin and I have several friends that are OS X users that want to take advantage of the terminal/BSD side of the operating system. I am going to recommend this to all of them.
  • Here, for free (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    man man
    man cd
    man pwd
    man ls
    man cp
    man mv
    man rm
    man chmod
    man more
    man ps
    man rm
    man chmod
    man more
    man head
    man tail
    man grep
    man passwd

    Knock yourself out.
    • by kurosawdust (654754) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:58PM (#8366006)
      I personally like the ones with homoerotic overtones: man touch man perl man unzip man units man curl man flex man tcl man gawk man paste man mount Why do I have the sudden urge to write a program called "chowder"?
    • man woman
      got a light?
      how would you describe George W. Bush's idiocy?
      Make sure to type them verbatim, including all punctuation, hitting return after each one.
  • by Anonymovs Coward (724746) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:26PM (#8365689)
    That's a new one to me. I must find some pico users to have flamewars with over that one...
  • by Stanza (35421) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:29PM (#8365716) Homepage Journal

    I've gotten a shiny new iMac with OS X.3 on it, and I'm still learning the ropes. I'm slightly amazed at all the wierdnesses I can do with it, you can script almost anything with Applescript, and there's a million little details that do wierd shit, or behave as I'm not used to. So where is the Learning Mac OS X for the unix geek? The unix and mac world is so divided on the machine, yet works together seemlessly.

    I haven't had my coffee yet, I'll ramble on about my experiences with Mac OS X elsewhere. But my question remains: what are good books/resources for the person who is already a unix geek?
  • why buy (Score:5, Informative)

    by stonebeat.org (562495) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:31PM (#8365733) Homepage
  • by DrewBeavis (686624) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:34PM (#8365770)
    I've seen a few of these introductory unix books for Mac admins, but what if you need something more? If you have trouble configuring Apache, the Apache website doesn't help much because OS X has files in different locations. I know how to use ls... does this or any other book get into a deeper level?
    • Anyone who can't "locate httpd.conf" and find it in /private/etc/ probably shouldn't be mucking around in the file anyhow. Aside from the location of the config file, it's all the same. Of course most folks will be using the default binary, but rolling your own is pretty trivial using the included developer tools.
    • by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot3@nosPAm.phroggy.com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:57PM (#8366779) Homepage
      If you have trouble configuring Apache, the Apache website doesn't help much because OS X has files in different locations.

      Apache's files are in different places on different flavors of UNIX or Linux distributions - and they're different still if the administrator compiled from source.

      On Mac OS X 10.3, configuration files are in /etc/httpd, log files are in /var/log/httpd, DocumentRoot is /Library/WebServer/Documents, and ScriptAlias /cgi-bin is /Library/WebServer/CGI-Executables.

      On Slackware 8.1, configuration files are in /etc/apache, log files are in /var/log/apache, DocumentRoot is /var/www/htdocs, and ScriptAlias /cgi-bin is /var/www/cgi-bin.

      On RedHat 9, configuration files are in /etc/httpd/conf, log files are in /var/log/httpd (symlinked at /etc/httpd/logs), DocumentRoot is /var/www/htdocs, and ScriptAlias /cgi-bin is /var/www/cgi-bin.

      By default on most systems, if you've compiled from source and haven't changed any paths, configuration files are in /usr/local/apache/conf, log files are in /usr/local/apache/logs, DocumentRoot is /usr/local/apache/htdocs, and ScriptAlias /cgi-bin is /usr/local/apache/cgi-bin.
    • Try Running MacOSX [runningosx.com], which is like a younger brother to the venerable Running Linux [oreilly.com].

  • by 32bitwonder (684603) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:36PM (#8365786) Homepage
    I recall being at an Apple seminar once where they had demo of a then preproduction version of MacOS X. The audience consisted of local Mac support techies as well as casual users. There were many glitches throughout the demo, and many explanations from the presenter as to why MacOS loaded so slowly etc etc. He used this time to explain to the audience that the MacOS kernel is based on Unix. I wasn't sure at the time how many people in the audience would grasp that concept, but it became painfully clear near the end of the presentation when he finished things off by opening up a terminal window. I looked around and saw nothing but stunned, confused looks on people's faces. The presenter followed by explaining how you could now use familiar unix applications like telnet and vi all within MacOS X. After then explaining to someones question regarding just what telnet and vi were, someone else followed with the question, "So...if someone on the Internet wanted to hack my computer, could they open up one of these 'terminals' and use 'telnet' to hack into my Mac?". Needless to say the presentation ended late that day, and I got the impression most of the audience left feeling rather uncertain about what just happened.

    I think a Unix for MacOS publication would be useful for those migrating to Apple from some (any) other platform. For casual Mac users? No way is this going to be of any use to them. If they were so inclined, they'd already have some experience on another OS by now.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You have to remember that it used to be a standard part of Apple's advertising that "Windows Sucks. It has a command line. Ha Ha. Boy they really do suck."

      So it's shouldn't be a shock that longtime Mac users have a gross adversion to commandline features.

      That being said, OS X has some borderline suck, not because it has a commandline, but because there's there's a lot of tools that ship with the system (Apache, Samba, etc) that don't have a configuration GUI and must be configured "the Unix way" (which Ma
      • " You have to remember that it used to be a standard part of Apple's advertising that "Windows Sucks. It has a command line. Ha Ha. Boy they really do suck.""

        I think the taunt was moreso that win95 was just DOS with a GUI running on top of it. The fact that it had an *additional* feature in the form of a command-line wasn't the target there if I recall correctly.

      • Apache and Samba don't have GUI's on the Mac? Um, no?

        Sure the GUIs they have a extremely simple but this isn't Linux you're talking about, its Mac. Its suppose to be simple. If you want to go into the conf files and tweak it, and live in the terminal window why pay extra for a mac anyway? Why not run Linux?

        Mac simplifies things, but gives you the "option" to go into the terminal and screw things up.
    • by saha (615847) on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:22PM (#8366336)
      Interesting. Although, not all Mac users are what you describe above. There where a decent amount users who used Unix and classic Mac OS before OSX came out. For those users who where strictly from the OS9 and previous versions this book would be useful.

      In my experience I've seen two types of large Mac user communities
      (1) Mac users who want a simple OS, that is easy to use. They are not computer savvy and just want to use their machine to get the job done
      (2) Unix / Mac users who hated Microsoft Windows for being neither powerful/stable nor simple/elegant to use.

      Many of the people in the category (2) probably gravitated towards OSX quickly when it came out. People in category (1) waited for all their essential applications to be ported, before being forced to upgrade.
      -Diganta

    • Pre-release (up to and including the public beta, at least) did use telnet as the default (but not enabled by default if I recall correctly) 'standard' means of remote CLI login.

      since at least 10.1, however, it's been ssh. I suspect there's a binary for telnetd lurking somewhere in /bin or /sbin, but I've never needed to look. While ssh isn't a panacea, it's much prefered... especially as a defence against the casual packet sniffer.

    • by switcha (551514) on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:40PM (#8366547)
      As anecdotal as your refutal of this book is, I'll anecdotally tell you how this is exactly what I need.

      I've been using Mac OS since 7, and never really used anything else (natch...I've always been in design or print production). I had to plink around in some VERY basic UNIX commands for a general computer science class in college, so I know some basic navigation and a few commands.

      I have no interest in running anything but a Mac system, even just for fun, because I don't find the thought of not knowing how to do anything fun. But I'm not so stupid as to think that I can do everything I need to do in Mac OS. I've read enough tips and cool hacks and neat ways to make things work by using Terminal, that I know it would behoove me to know something beyond to basics.

      If they were so inclined, they'd already have some experience on another OS by now.

      So, I say BS to this. I'm inclined to learn some rudimentary stuff, but no way in hell do I care to, no imagine I could be productive in, anything else. This book sounds perfect.

    • I think a Unix for MacOS publication would be useful for those migrating to Apple from some (any) other platform.

      As someone else already pointed out, that's a different book [oreilly.com].

      For casual Mac users? No way is this going to be of any use to them. If they were so inclined, they'd already have some experience on another OS by now.

      If they are so inclined and want to get that experience, they can now do so without having to use another OS to get it, and this book will help them to do so.

      (posted with Safari o
    • I was a long time Mac user in the System 6-8 days, then switched away when cooperative multitasking etc. Just got old.

      I switched back specifically because of OSX - I had always wanted to learn about and tinker with Unix - run PostgreSQL, whatever - but I had never got around to it because I also needed to use Office etc, and didn't want to muck about with multiple machines, or dual-boot hilarity.. ... so its a book for me.
  • by bfg9000 (726447) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:41PM (#8365833) Homepage Journal
    ... Macolytes who have a use for the command-line can really use GeekTool [versiontracker.com] to improve their quality of life. See this picture [spymac.com] for an example of its GUI goodness.

    Okay, okay, so it's sitting there just churning the CPU. But it looks cool enough to get me chicks, so I figured you guys could use it too.
  • I think it's important that MAC OS X users learn to use the UNIX command line. Even if they don't like it, they need to respect it. If it wasn't for OS X being powered by UNIX, it would not be anywhere near as stable as it is right now. I'm not "dissing" OS X, because I use it and love it, but any user shouldn't be without the knowledge required to run the UNIX command line.

    Essentially, anyone that uses MAC OS X (if they don't already) will see the power of BSD and UNIX and general.. and will maybe move
    • by Kupek (75469) on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:42PM (#8366566)
      I think it's important that MAC OS X users learn to use the UNIX command line. Even if they don't like it, they need to respect it. If it wasn't for OS X being powered by UNIX, it would not be anywhere near as stable as it is right now. I'm not "dissing" OS X, because I use it and love it, but any user shouldn't be without the knowledge required to run the UNIX command line.

      Why? Why would my parents, who only do application level stuff (web browsing, word processing, email, games), need to learn the "power of Unix"? They're non-technical end-users. They aren't concerned with harnessing the power of their machine, and nor should they have to be.
  • vice versa? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by akad0nric0 (398141) on Monday February 23, 2004 @04:58PM (#8366014)
    I'm an experienced *NIX admin who just got his first Mac (a Powerbook, and I'm hooked), and I'm struggling through what exactly *does* and *doesn't* translate from BSD to OS-X 10.3. I'd love to see a book that covers - to some degree - the differences. Anyone have a recommendation? Perhaps this book will be a close fit...
    • Re:vice versa? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The "Rosetta Stone for Unix" may help you.

      http://bhami.com/rosetta.html
    • Re:vice versa? (Score:3, Informative)

      by kalidasa (577403) *
      The O'Reilly OS X for Unix Geeks and Running Mac OS X books should help. The former is at Jaguar right now, the latter at Panther. There's also an OS X in a Nutshell.
  • by d1taylor (613599) on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:29PM (#8366426)
    Just a quick note to say "Thanks" Kevin for your fair and unbiased review, and for the rest of you slashdotters to check out the sample chapter [oreilly.com] from the book on the O'Reilly site before you conclude that the man pages (which are quite typically incomprehensible, as they've been for years and years) are sufficient for folks to get up to speed on the command line.

    Curious about other writing I've done? There's some useful free info online at 404 error page [404-error-page.com], particularly for Apache admins, and another book that slashdotters will appreciate is my Wicked Cool Shell Scripts [intuitive.com]. And, yes, Virginia, the latter includes specific scripts for Mac OS X too.

  • by meehawl (73285) <meehawl,spam&gmail,com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @05:53PM (#8366713) Homepage Journal
    Here's a question. My SO has been using an original vintage iMac with OS9 for many years. She's totally non-technical. She's heard bad things from her old Mac friends about OSX (complexity, unfamiliarity, and so on) and so now when she's thinking of getting a new machine she's inclining towards XP.

    My question is this, given that a non-technical person's experienced with both OS9 and XP, which is easier? To transition completely to XP, or to attempt to learn the new and different OSX? I don't think she's ever willingly opened a command prompt in her life.
    • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:07PM (#8366887) Journal
      Tell your SO that the command line in MacOS X is required only to perform tasks he/she wouldn't want to do anyway. It's for all those computer nerds who just enjoy doing these *things*. But whatever he/she does on OS 9, he/she can also do in OS X, without never ever clicking on the Terminal icon. Tell him/her, that in OS 9 there was also something that computer nerds needed to do *things*, it was called ResEdit. Did he/she ever had to use it? Is he/she even aware of its very existence? No? Good. The same will be with the Terminal in MacOS X.

      But just in case, buy him/her a book like this for next birthday or valentine. Maybe he/her will finally like it? Just imagine this kind of foreplay: you and your SO together in bed, doing *things* on two powerbooks connected via Airport...
    • I have got to tell you, no matter what most Mac people say, X is an awful lot like 9 if you are just a run-of-the-mill internet, email, word processor type. But then again, so is XP. I would reccomend buying a cheapo PC with XP pre-installed and maxing out the RAM in the iMac and installing Jaguar (OSX 10.2) on it. Then network the two.
    • In my experience, there's a set of longtime Mac users who have resisted and complained about Mac OS X mostly because it's different from OS 9 and below. They've gotten very set in their ways, and any change - for better or worse - is very upsetting to them. Some of their complaints have been legitimate, in cases where the classic OS did things more intuitively than OS X. Often for these cases, Apple has tried to make OS X more like classic Mac OS in successive releases. But I've always felt that a lot o
  • Maybe the reason the book didn't cover package management is that the world of Mac OS X software installation is in flux and it would outdate the book before it hit shelves. Fink has its advantages, so does Darwinports. An explanation of both in sufficient detail is a topic that really deserves its own book.

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