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Apple Books Media Businesses Book Reviews

Learning UNIX for Mac OS X 163

Spencerian writes "I've become quite accustomed the depth of co-author Dave Taylor's writing on UNIX in previous books such as Teach Yourself UNIX in 24 Hours . As you can note from Dave's recent writing credits, his experience and knowledge of UNIX is vast and varied. That said, I was mildly disappointed with this latest offering that discusses the UNIX underpinnings of Mac OS X." Spencerian explains the logic underlying that conclusion in his complete review, below.
Learning UNIX for Mac OS X
author Dave Taylor & Jerry Peek
pages 139
publisher O'Reilly and Associates, Inc.
rating 7.5
reviewer Spencerian
ISBN 0596003420
summary A good first-reference for new UNIX users, but steer clear if you're a UNIX vet.

For starters, I was annoyed to find that the book's title implied a larger format than the 139 pages it comprises. The book has an audience problem because of its size. UNIX guys like thick books. Is this book mostly for newbies to OS X, to UNIX, or to Mac OS X's implementation of UNIX? Despite this targeting problem, the book's contents are still useful, but I think its audience is more geared to new UNIX users. The book just doesn't have much depth for even a reference title, especially for a topic such as UNIX, and particularly for a new, little-documented UNIX family operating system such as OS X.

While Mac OS X is a BSD variant, it has a few idiosyncrasies that may throw off a veteran UNIX user, and this book manages to address most, if not all of these notable problems. For instance, Dave notes problems in sendmail that prevent it from working from the command line in Mac OS X's Terminal application, and presents a fix for the problem. If you use command lines in UNIX all the time, the book does present good instructions on getting Lynx, IRC, newsgroups, pine, and the like up and running in Terminal. The book shies away (quite appropriately) from any graphic interface items unless required, such as when changing Terminal's preferences.

This book was very recently published (May 2002) but already has fallen behind with the release of Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar). Some components of Jaguar, such as CUPS support for stronger printing options, are completely missing from this book. If you have Jaguar installed on your computer, don't dive headlong into the NetInfo Manager steps for LPR printer configuration. Books typically don't age this fast, but in the case of this book, small changes seem to mean a lot to this title's usefulness -- the introduction of CUPS may have made Chapter 5's contents almost irrelevant.

Another small nag involves the lack of information on useful commands for Mac OS X users that weren't available (or were difficult to find) with the old Mac OS 9. One such command, cron, makes my life easier for handling some tasks on my home computer. It's not even mentioned in this book, nor will you find much information on shell scripting or compiling UNIX code you might happen to find. I guess I'm most annoyed at the lack of compile information since the Apple Developer Connection marked this book as a Recommended Title.

Despite our fondness for (and tolerance of the slightly-higher prices of) Macintosh computers, Mac users aren't made of money and don't like to buy a bookstore's worth of tomes for basic information. It would have made a lot of sense to talk more about compiling software since Apple's software or other GUI products don't meet or can configure all UNIX needs. And I won't even talk about the lack of coverage about XDarwin, an application that starts XFree86 within a Mac OS X installation, allowing X Window applications to run atop or in tandem with the OS X interface. XDarwin has become popular enough for it to become part of the stable XFree86 distribution. Given that not every UNIX user is a command-line freak, this is a pretty critical omission in my mind.

So, who should buy this book?

If you are completely new to UNIX and have been a gooey-kiddie who's used almost nothing except Mac OS 9, this is a very good reference to get your toes moist with UNIX. However, as drug dealers say, "the first taste is free." This book will leave you wanting more detailed information. More experienced UNIX users can probably find out what they need about Mac OS X's command line from a few free locations such as Mac OS X Hints.

One last thing: A pox upon Tim O'Reilly for not using the platypus for the animal on the book's cover. Given that the open-source core operating system of Mac OS X is named Darwin and has a nicely-modified take-off on the BSD mascot that depicts both the name of the OS and its BSD origins, I would think that O'Reilly would have jumped on this obvious cover.

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Learning UNIX for Mac OS X

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  • I for one usually read O'Reilly books on any given subject because they are smaller, more to the point and less filled with useless graphics (usually screen shots), than most publishers. Granted O'Reilly isn't always that way (how many shots of -borderwidth did "Learning Perl/Tk" need?), but as a rule they are better than most publishers (cough*Oracle Press*cough).
    • I only buy the OReilly 'Pocket Reference' guides these days!
      Minute Rice? Who has the time?
    • One of the thickest books I own is the O'Reilly Unix Power Tools book.
    • It sounds to me like the review was a result of misunderstanding. He was hoping for a "OS X UNIX for UNIX geeks" book, when it sounds to me like it's actually meant to be a "the basics of UNIX for OS X n00bs" book, which certainly has its place. A lot of MacOS 7-9 users are totally new to sed, awk, grep, cron, and the common UNIX directory layout. A simple UNIX primer from a good publisher like O'Reilly Press could be very handy for some of them.
      • Conveintly enough, Oreilly is publishing abook called "Mac OS X for Unix Geeks." Should be out sometime this month.
      • You're right. Golias - the point of this book wasn't to have an exhaustive document about Unix or Darwin (there are man pages and some great Web sites with that information) but to address the market of people who migrated to Mac OS X (perhaps from OS9, perhaps from Windows) and suddenly had this nifty new capability of the and the shell. If the reader wants a more comprehensive book for learning Unix, well, of course, there are a variety of O'Reilly titles, and there's always my Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours [], which, contrary to some mindless slams earlier in this discussion, is actually a very pleasant way to go from embarassed newbie to Smart Person Who Gets This Stuff. If I say so myself. :-)
      • Actually, it sounds more like the reveiwer is aware that it was for newbies, but disappointed that certain valuable things were not covered. Things that would be of value to anyone using the system, newbie or guru.

        One of the things you mentioned (cron) is one of the things he said wasn't covered: "One such command, cron, makes my life easier for handling some tasks on my home computer. It's not even mentioned in this book, nor will you find much information on shell scripting or compiling UNIX code you might happen to find."---it sounds like some of the basic time-saving wonderful command-line tools that we all use are missing from the book.

        I hope that they at least included a warning to NEVER type "rm -rf /" =]

  • Hexley does seem the obvious choice, but all the Apple-themed O'Reilly books have a dog motif. I guess they thought consistency was better.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, you must be a real hardcore techie.

    Read dummies books too?
    • Hey, I love those dummies books. They have funny cartoons and helped me find the "Any" key.
    • Pardon my vent, but give me a break, anon. Even the best techies, hackers, what-have-you started out somewhere, and that somewhere was probably with zero knowledge. I can remember the first time I saw a Unix command line (late 1980, at UCSD) and thought "WTF?" Then the first time I used a Mac (1985, while doing some contract programming for The Well) when I scoffed and said "right, can I have a real computer to work with, please?"

      I am baffled by this sort of mindless macho agressive attitude. Hey, it's totally okay not to know something. Look at it this way: at least the people reading the Teach Yourself and Dummies books are learning, and isn't that better than either thrashing (typical hacker way to learn things!) or bailing and saying it's stupid?

      On the other hand, it must be very cool to be omniscient, so you know what you want to know, and have no reason to learn anything new. Hmmm... :-)

    • I've found their the best way to get a quick overview of a subject so that I can understand what experts are saying about it or take my knowledge further by going and reading more advanced books on the topics. For instance, learn unix in 24 hours is a good place to go before UNIX in a nutshell for someone who's never been at a UNIX terminal other than to type pine. also, they cover a lot of non-tech subjects. If you wanted to learn about real estate investing, they have books on that to get you started, or incorporating, or fly fishing or whatever. It's a great way to get a baseline understanding of a topic.
  • by Hunts ( 116340 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:01AM (#4380530) Homepage
    I've been having major problems with OS X Server 10.2 thats driving me insane.

    Thinking in a more unix way, I starting trying to hunt down the proccess involved..but all to no avail. I couldnt find any proccesses that seemed to be having problems..and was told by a friend in the know that my issue was more of a mac gui thing...something I know nothing about :/

    A good decent book on OS X Server 10.2 would be really nice at the moment
    • All the "mac gui things" are also processes. You may want to subscribe to a mailing list (such as macosx-admin []) and actually mention what the problem is that you are having, it might help.
    • Let me start by saying that I think MacOS X Server is totally awesome. The GUI tools to administrate the server both locally and remotely are very well done and you have a lot of power.

      That being said, the documentation is slim. I managed to totally bork my authentication services on my MacOS X Server box because I didn't totally understand LDAP and Netinfo. That was fun, couldn't login to the GUI or use the admin tools at all - it's a good thing I wasn't working on the main server and that I had lots of stuff backed up.

      Right now I have everything working nicely, with the exception of not being able to serve out IMAP mail services. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, the documentation just doesn't explain enough for me to understand it fully.

      I wanted to take one of the courses on MacOS X Server that Apple offers, but the course is $2,500. That might be par for the course, but I work for a non-profit and we can't afford to spend that much money on one training course. What we could do is to spend a few hundred on proper documentation and then teach ourselves.
      • I agree--having to shuck a few thousand down for a class is a pain in the patootie.

        I've already written one book. [] I'm hoping to take these classes and write study guides for the various Mac OS tests so we can all save a few bucks but get the training we need.

        I've recently played with an Xserve and 10.2 Server for a few weeks. It does rock, but Apple really needs stronger and enterprise-based documentation. They write too often with consumers in mind, not IT people.
      • RTFM? 622 page maual (Score:2, Informative)

        by goombah99 ( 560566 )
        I've been reading the 622 page admin guide. My first impression was "622 pages!!!! that is not why I bought an apple." After reading it two things are clear. First they are very gentle so even a unix weaking can understand both the big picture and the little picture. Second, it is not a unix manual,instead it focuses on using gui tools and a fixed, thought rather broad, set of tasks (e.g.setting up LDAP, mounting a disk). It still does not teach unix. A book teaching command line unix that specialized in mac's has stillnot been written (Yes I am aware of the various attempts). My third impression is that it needs a second edition. There are a lot of incompletely explained concepts that only an experienced NeXSTstep user would understand or descriptions that dont quite match the actual gui-tools. But it's wonderful to have a reference now.
        • by Graff ( 532189 )
          I have been looking through the admin guide and I realized one big thing: dead tree docs are so much better than electronic docs! I am seriously thinking about printing the whole damn guide and binding it. The only thing holding me back is just what you said, the guide is way too general.

          I want a very in-depth guide, or set of guides, similar to the old Inside Macintosh series, but for MacOS X Server admin. So what if it covers Unix topics, or GUI topics? Cover it all and break it down into modules that you can buy and read as you want. Have an intro book for general topics, have a book on mail, a book on web serving, a book on firewalls and NAT, etc. I'm sure Netinfo and LDAP will take a book just by themselves.

          The point is that these introductory Mac books just don't cut it any more. They are all pretty much clones of each other and they tell you simple stuff like how to set up your web browser. That's great for the home user, but it does nothing for the professional system administrator looking to use Macs.
        • Hello! His problem was "told by a friend in the know that my issue was more of a mac gui thing." How does that deal with Unix? That's why the admin guide was suggested.

          There's "Unix for Dummies" if he needs Unix help.

      • umm the log in problem is actually one of the problems I'm facing.

        The admin tools work for a while and then bam...cant log in any more, cant use the admin tools, cant connect to file shares..nothing. I can still connect, ping and even use web pages..but I just cant login. :/

        I'd love to know how you solved this.
        • Heh, well it's quite easy really. I backed up the user accounts I had using the ditto command :

          sudo ditto -rsrcFork /Users/ /Volumes/VOLUME_NAME

          I then did a complete reinstall of the server. Yeah it was a bit of overkill but it totally cleared up all of my troubles. (I had a few other odd problems that were plaguing me.)

          Since then I have been a bit smarter about how to run the server. I have been keeping the user accounts on a separate drive. That way I can mess with the server drive without having to worry about messing up the data. I was circumventing Apple's tools for the firewall because I had a much more involved rule set that I wanted. Now what I am doing is using Apple's GUI to start the firewall and then adding in ipfw rules around the ones the server software creates.

          If you are having problems with logging in it may be one of several problems. First of all, you may have messed around with Netinfo's domains. If you bork Netinfo then you lose many of the authentication services. You may also have created firewall rules which mess around with your loopback. If your server can't use its loopback properly, then it may not be able to do authentication lookups. Lastly, you may have accidently messed up one of the configuration files that controls your authentication services.

          I'm not that well-versed in running a MacOS X Server machine, but these seem like the main issues. Since I did a re-install of the server and I was a bit more careful about messing around with things, I have had very few problems. My main one now is the fact that I am having trouble setting up IMAP accounts. It may be due to the fact that I'm running NAT, but I'm not sure yet.

          Good luck with it!
    • taming unix (Score:2, Insightful)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 )
      It's like the chinese curse "my you live in interesting times". Mac OsX has given us a wonderful set of opportunities and pitfalls. Books are sorely needed, and needed quickly. Most of all are books that point out the pit falls of assuming linux and macOSX work the same way.

      Apple gave us a lot of power but has not told us how to use it. In the mean time We are encouraged not to use them until they are documented, but being geeks we cant resist poking and prodding. And assuming that because we know linux or BSD that we know Mac OSX. Then we get MAD when we get into trouble from our uniformed meddling or we discover some bit of uglyness behind the veil that we dont like exactly how apple has implemented it. Whereas before we were bilssfully unaware and untempted. It seems like all the anti-apple slashdot critiques that are at leaset slightly based on experience are along the lines of "well linux doesn't do it that way, so apple is wrong."

      When I first got OS X beta, I nievely tried to set /etc/fstab and /etc/exports. Got steamin mad. Then discovered netInfo. (I vaguely knew where to look from NeXTstep) Thought that was truly wonderful and sorely needed unification of unix configuration. Blessed apple. But apple had not issued the manual. No matter, I waded in, did some cool things, and by the end of the day my computer was unbootable from one leeetle mistake. (had to re-install). Cursed Apple for not documenting this. (I had called them on the phone and they warned me not to meddle with it!) But within 6 months the NetInfo manual was indeed out along with some idiot proof gui "training wheel" tools for making changes to certain records.

      My experience with OSX has been extremely positive. I make some whopper mistakes, but that was really y fault. mac unix is unix but its not LINUX and HFS+ is NOT UFS. But that does not make it worse. In fact on the whole I think its much better. But if you assume that cp and mv do the same thing they do in linux, well you will eventually get a surprise.

    • Speaking of 10.2 (Score:2, Informative)

      by d1taylor ( 613599 )
      It wouldn't be a bad idea if those people who've read the book and have ideas about what should be added to the next edition (focused on 10.2 and, um, perhaps beyond) sent me a note about it!: taylor at intuitive dot com
    • I've found that most stuff I've wanted to do under the command line os GUI under OS X, from getting sendmail working properly on developer betas on to other, more specialized stuff can be found at one of the two following sites.

      MacOSXHints []

      Piles of customization and installation information for all versions of X client/server. Almost always the hint I'm looking for is here, with /.-style user follow-up responses and clarifications.

      Marc Liyanage []

      Has custom-compiled packages of the biggies: PHP, Apache, mySQL, Postgres, ImageMagick and several others. Also has build instructions for the more difficult ones (ImageMagick comes to mind... I tried manually compiling it with different options for days and it would never link the correct libraries). He also has a hints section on his site.

      Between these two sites and Google, I've been able to find answers to just about every problem/issue that I've come across in the 2+ years of using OS X.

      That said, the OS X for Unix Geeks is a solid book, although so much changes between point releases of OS X (one of my major grievances... why must Apple always replace my custom PHP and Apache, or do weird, undocumented stuff to the default umask for the ftpd?) that you really need up-to-date info that just doesn't come in dead-tree form.

  • Why should MacOSX Users learn UNIX? The other review of this book I read said that that point wasn't covered.
    • Why should MacOSX Users learn UNIX? The other review of this book I read said that that point wasn't covered.

      Do you mean the "explaining why you might want to learn about Unix" part, or do you mean that the book doesn't do a good job of teaching parts of Unix that are of interest to most users of OS X? If it's the latter, I would agree that most Mac OS X users probably don't care; they're going to buy the "Missing Manual" series or something. If it's the former, that might be more of a problem.

      My guess is that the average reader of this book is somebody who was really into Mac OS X, and then saw somebody perform a Unix command line magic trick that saved tham a whole day's work. This does happen, and it does have an effect on the witnesses, who then go forth, intrigued, to the bookstore. But, lo: the Unix books are written for the high priests! Ah, here's a book for an acolyte like even says "Mac OS X" in the title. :-)

      Time will tell if there really is an audience for this or not.

    • Why learn Unix if you're a Mac OS X user?

      You definitely do not have to do any such thing; you can work happily in Aqua and never even know about the Unix "lurking" underneath. However, when you start having to download freeware apps to do things like a simple file renaming that can be accomplished in a three-line shell script, you might just wonder about what kind of capabilities there are "under the hood" in this new operating system world.

      And then there are the Unix people who never got into kernel hacking or the GNU-patch-of-the-day club, but are still excited about having a beautiful GUI and all those greate Mac applications and a powerful Unix underneath....

      For me, OSX is terrific because I can work for days without using the command line, and when I feel the urge, I can launch and program, write shell scripts, ftp/curl new apps, fly through editing tasks with vi, and generally cause mayhem to my heart's content. I think Mac OS X is a phenomenally cool melding of my two favorite computing environments!

      Just as an example, I find sftp the fastest way for me to interact with my secure server, even more so than RBrowser (etc). Sure beats the pants off Netzilla and my weekly puzzling over why it (Windows XP) can't seem to handle a simple ssh connection. But that's another story!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    IT seems that this book is of the 'Gotta get something published on this topic NOW'. Hey, see if JimBob can write a 100 pages on topic X!

    I'm seen this example with this book and with things like Rob Flickenger's 'community wireless networks'.

    It's not at all that they AREN'T good books, or not informative, but they are, indeed, lean and seem to be something just to get published.

    After all, we now have OSX: the missing manual (second edition coming soon) and other OSX manuals (which I can't name cause it aint out yet) that are more of the OReilly 'tome' size (400 + pages)

    I am not a publisher and I really dont know how the publishing business really works, but as an end user and a buyer of dozens of Oreilly books, this 100 page short book thing seems to be a way to get a book, ANY book, to the market ASAFP while larger tomes are worked on.

  • by CMU_Nort ( 73700 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:06AM (#4380564) Homepage
    It sounds like the book he really wanted to get was O'Reilly's Mac OS X for Unix Geeks []. It includes a lot of his gripe topics like:

    * A quick overview of the Terminal application

    * Understanding Open Directory (LDAP) and NetInfo

    * Issues related to using the GNU C Compiler 9GCC

    * Library linking and porting Unix software

    * An overview of Mac OS X?s filesystem and startup processes

    * Creating and installing packages using Fink

    * Building the Darwin kernel

    * Running X Windows on top of Mac OS X

    • That's exactly the content I was expecting to find in this first OS X/UNIX book that O'Reilly offered. I did scan the book before I bought it and knew it didn't have what I was really looking for. It never hurts to have Yet Another Useful Reference Book, however.

      Don't get me wrong--it's an excellent book. But in the past year or so, I've already outgrown it's content. I've dived into the UNIX innards of OS X quite often, and you can't help but learn the basics that way. This book was really for someone who has never used UNIX before but knows a bit about Mac OS.

      The "UNIX Geeks" book definitely requires a read for me.
      • Don't get me wrong--it's an excellent book. But in the past year or so, I've already outgrown it's content. I've dived into the UNIX innards of OS X quite often, and you can't help but learn the basics that way. This book was really for someone who has never used UNIX before but knows a bit about Mac OS.

        Well, I was baffled about why you didn't think the title made this very clear. O'Reilly "Learning" books are for beginners (in some sense), and the title of this one is "Learning Unix for Mac OS X". What is the intended audience? Beginners. What will they learn? Unix, in the context of Mac OS X. Believe me, there are thousands of those people around, including many who don't usually buy many computer books and therefore have not come to expect the "brick of verbosity" tomes that some people really seem to want.

        Having said that, I have to confess that I fell into a similar trap back in the day with "Learning Perl/Tk". Now there's an O'Reilly book that earned something approaching scorn in the geek community, and the reason why is because that one really didn't have much of the audience intended (beginners wanting to learn Perl/Tk), but instead was the only real book for *anybody* to buy that really talked about Perl/Tk...and most of the actual buyers were complete geeks in search of something that would augment the then sparse-ish documentation for the toolkit. But all's well that ends well; we now have "Mastering Perl/Tk", and I think we're all happy again. :-)

        The "UNIX Geeks" book definitely requires a read for me.

        Me too. I'm guessing that this book if it turns out to be as good as we'd hope will sell a *lot* more copies than you might expect given the rate of adoption by geeks of (T)iBooks. When I went to YAPC in St. Louis, i was floored by the number of those being used during talks...

        • I agree with your comments completely. I guess I'm falling into that UNIX trap of geekness. I expected this book to be deeper because UNIX is deep, period. I guess I felt as if I got a tutorial book on quantum physics and felt cheated because they left out a section on building your own toroid quantum particle accelerator.

          I wrote the review with /. folks in mind, of course. The book would have a glowing review otherwise--it's just not the book for most /.ers.
          • Just to let you know, I got a copy of the OS X for Unix Geeks book and it is great. IT even has man pages for some of the undocumented Apple CL tools! Definitely worth getting if you want details about OS X.

            (PS: I'm writing this while in the 'Mac Hacking' session of the O'Reilly OS X conference... This has been a really good conference and I'm quite glad I came to it ;-)
      • Don't get me wrong--it's an excellent book. But in the past year or so, I've already outgrown it's content.

        Right, but that surely is a mark of success with a Learning title? As the lead author, I look at it this way: I want to prepare the reader for their future journeys into Unix. Jerry and I did our best to ensure that we explain potentially foreign Unix concepts clearly, enlighten readers on the philosophy of command lines, flags, pipes, redirection, and other weird Unixisms that are a long way from Mac OS 9 / Windows interaction, and generally push everyone in the right direction so that they (you) can learn more and shed the book!

        I'm quite delighted to read your comment, Spencerian, actually. I wish that all my readers came back a year later and said "thanks for getting me started. I don't need your book any more!" :-)

  • 24 Hours? (Score:2, Funny)

    by skaffen42 ( 579313 )
    I didn't know Mac users had that kind of attention span!

  • Oh I don't know (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Drath ( 50447 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:09AM (#4380584)
    UNIX guys like thick books

    That's a misnomer, My Kernighan & Ritchie C book gets a lot of use and it's only ~280 pages. Large does not espessially mean better.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "Large does not espessially mean better."

      You go on and keep telling yourself that. Meanwhile, your girlfriend will be spending another night with me.

    • That's a misnomer

      Not really. It is a falacy, though...

      My Kernighan & Ritchie C book gets a lot of use and it's only ~280 pages. Large does not espessially mean better.

      Indeed. K&R is probably the best book in existence for learning C, precisely because of its lack of excessive and distracting crud...

    • I've reviewed a small amount (say, thirty) Linux / Unix / and (a couple of) Windows books for an Australian computer magazine (APC).

      As a rule, if a book has more than two authors and is more than four hundred pages long, its quality is generally poor. This is because such titles - eg, most of the Unleashed series - take content from several diffferent authors, but don't maintain consistent style of build a solid learning path. One fellow explains the /etc/passwd file, then another fellow explaining NIS does a longer version of the same explanantion using a different analogy, rather than building on what the audience already knew. The change is style and analogies is often confusing for those new to the platform.

      I'm not saying all huge books are like this, but because of their nature they're more than likely to need a good editor to make all the disparate content a little more seamless, and because most are churned out like nobodies' business they rarely get this attention.

      Other examples of why big books are often poorer includes the 1400 page Upgrading and Repairing PCs compared to the 700 page O'Reilly's PC Hardware in a Nutshell. Upgrading and Repairing loves including charts of the details about every PC product made by every manufacturer since the edition was published. This information is generally out of date, but th books publishers tell you you can fidn newer information onlien at the oublishers web site. Well, er, actually, I can find it at any web site. PC Hardware in a Nutshell is a lot mroe concise but contains most of the useful information. What it lacks in out-of-date charts it makes up in providing users with real-world experience and facts-supported opinion by the two authors - eg, they'll tell you that HP don't often release or support newer firmware for the CD drives they rebrand, so it might be best to avoid HP gear.

      Another famously bad exampel of a large book is John Chirillo's Hack Attacks Encylopaedia. Its ~1500 pages (IIRC) of mainly unedited text files from outdated h4x0r tools, with a chapter by John at the start. It disgusts me that a) he has the nerve to call himself the authro of the title when he's clearly the edit, and a lazy one at that b) that this is a so called premium security title and is charged accordingly.
    • My Kernighan & Ritchie C book gets a lot of use and it's only ~280 pages.
      280 pages? Mine's got only 230!!! I must have been ripped-off!!!!
  • by wunderhorn1 ( 114559 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:23AM (#4380673)
    Too me, "Learning UNIX for Mac OS X" implies a book for newbies to UNIX. Definitely not a reference volume, they would save that for an "... In a Nutshell" book. (For example, "Learning Perl : 300 pages. "Perl in a Nutshell": 800 pages.)

    Also, O'Reilly already used a platypus for "Web Database Applications with PHP and MySQL", so no dice there.
    However, I just got an idea to somehow play off of the BSD Daemon/Apple connection by using a picture of the story of the devil offering Eve fruit from the tree of knowledge. Also sort of a connection to Darwin via the evolution/creationism debate.

    OK, so it's a pretty big stretch ;-)

    • In addition to having already used the platypus for another title, O'Reilly is following a pattern of using various dogs for the MacOS X titles (Learning Cocoa, Learning Carbon, etc).

  • by vi-rocks ( 611108 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:26AM (#4380686) Homepage
    The review stated:

    The book has an audience problem because of its size. UNIX guys like thick books. Is this book mostly for newbies to OS X, to UNIX, or to Mac OS X's implementation of UNIX? Despite this targeting problem.....

    This is crazy!!! There is no "targeting problem" -- the book is written for people who are new to UNIX -- that is the target audience. The book is right on for this crowd. As mentioned by others, there are other books that the UNIX savvy will find useful. -- Why would someone who owns "Unix PowerTools" or "Essential System Administration" even consider bying a book with "Learning Unix" in the title???

  • by phatvibez ( 518108 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#4381030) Homepage
    Here is a MacOS X UNIX tutorial I just found yesterday. If you're an old time Mac user or just want to learn some UNIX commands then this is something you might want to check out... []

  • by Melantha_Bacchae ( 232402 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:33PM (#4381199)
    If you want a really, seriously, thick book on OS X (probably a bit dated post-Jaguar), try "OS X Unleashed". It covers both the Mac and Unix sides. The X Window System is covered, as is setting up a mail or ftp server, programming in Perl, using MySQL, even installing Lynx (if you want a text based browser).

    It makes a great reference book, and comes in real handy whenever you need a heavy, if slightly soft, weight around the house. ;)

    "Godzilla's coming"
    Io, "Godzilla 2000" (US version dialog)
    G Countdown: 26 days (
    • It's the book I currently recommend to people from a UNIX background who are interested in OS X. Yes, it's a bit dated right now as of the Jaguar release, but it's decent even now, and the highly-likely updated version for Jaguar should be out soon (in my opinion, I don't know any specifics or inside info on publlishing dates).
    • FYI... An updated Jaguar version of "Mac OS X Unleashed" should be on shelves by year end.

  • Why is it that we get ?'s on the main page, but when you read the article, stuff displays properly on that page? Please either reject people who insist on submitting with this crap, or fix it consistently throughout slashdot.
  • I'm just glad I got this for free -- somebody bought it for me off the wish list for [] (plug, plug).

    I, too, was amazed at how THIN it was. Aside from having a hard copy of the directions for tweaking Sendmail so it works locally, I don't expect to get much use out of this book.

    If you want to do some serious, under-the-GUI hacking, get "Mac OS X Unleashed." Seriously ass-kicking, as most of the Unleashed series tends to be. (Had to pay for that one . . . )
  • The FreeBSD handbook, available for free on the web, contains more useful Unix information pertaining to OS X than this book.
  • by CaptMondo ( 232861 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:50PM (#4382492) Homepage
    I remember being really interested in this title when I first heard of it -- most of the Mac OS X books I've looked at don't really take a good hard look at the BSD Unix heart of the OS.

    I ended up reviewing this book [] for The Computer Paper, and my editor summed it up with the title: "Unix book doesn't explain why Mac users should learn it".

    Okay, I know it is aimed at the beginner, but aside from teaching the basics, none of it really goes into learning any of this would be useful to the reader. Why teach someone about using the lynx browser for example, and not show them how to use grep for finding files, or the basics of shell programming to automate common tasks.

    Best book of its type that I've seen so far on this specific topic is Mac OS X Unleashed []. For the beginner, I'd recommend Mac OS X: The Missing Manual [] which probably has about as much info on the Unix end of things while having plenty of good general useful info on OS X.

  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @04:39PM (#4383342) Journal
    Is the audience.

    Mac users will require more initial hand-holding to become comfortable with the command line. And they'll need instant gratification to convince them that dealing with such an apparently-archaic interface is worth the effort.

    If you know someone who is in this situation, get them:

    1. The latest version of BBEdit.
    2. An easy-to-use shell scripting book as a reference. Reading a book like Teach Yourself Shell Programming from beginning to end is going to either bore them or scare them off. But as they are experimenting at their own pace and discovering just what they can do with shell scripting, they'll want a reference to thumb through for solutions to the problems they encounter.
    Start them out with something simple and relatively familiar, like df, and explain what information it provides.

    Then show them df | bbedit. They'll feel more comfortable seeing a connection between the GUI world they know.

    Then shown them df | grep disk0s9 | bbedit.

    And df | grep disk0s9 | awk '{print "Disk Size: " $2/2000 " MB"}'.

    Work on basic one-liners first, then show them sed, head, tail, wc, etc. And when you go to show them something new one day and you discover that they wrote something on their own purely because they were interested, you know the fire has been lit.

    And if they have any doubts about the value of shell scripting, show them the Linux version of my Buddy program [], which is really just a collection of over 70 shell scripts (most of which are reasonably-well commented) and explain that the Mac OS X version is just the Linux version with an AppleScript Studio GUI slapped on top.

    • "Mac users will require more initial hand-holding ..."

      Your blanket statement seems to assume that Mac users, in general, do not have Unix experience. I don't think that is true. I for one, use Unix all of the time at work. So it was a snap to start using Unix on my Mac at home.

      In addition, I would point out that Macs are very popular on college campuses where Unix is also prevalent.

      If you follow OS X discussion boards, you will certainly see a fair number of newbie questions about Unix. However, you will also see at least as much discussion about some fairly sophisticated technical issues related to BSD on OS X, indicating a fairly proficient user base.
      • The vast majority of Mac users do note have Unix experience. Most Windows users don't have Unix experience either. This is one of primary reasons for the relatively slow adpotion of Linux.

        There are many Mac and Windows users who do have Unix experience, but your comments suggest that your perspective is skewed because you work in a Unix environment. We're talking about people who are not using Unix (hence the title of this discussion, "Learning UNIX for Mac OS X) but could benefit from it.

Forty two.