Feiler, Jesse.; OS X: The Complete Reference;
Pogue, David OS X: The Missing Manual. Pogue
Mac OS X.
When you start up Apple's OS X (Ten not x), you may be forgiven for thinking you are on familiar territory. Do not be fooled.
The first time I went past the startup screens, I stopped and switched back to OS 9 a.s.a.p.. I had been using varieties of System 8 for a couple of years and there was nothing alien about 9, especially once I had installed my favourite software. OS X is not simply a new flavour, it is a new species. It is a hybrid: a graphic interface, on top of the UNIX operating system developed for NeXT.
Users new and old, we all need some help.
The three books under review are all useful in different ways.
Feiler's, The Complete Reference is just that. It is not a joyous read. For the purposes of getting to grips with OS X, I did read right through it. It is adequate. It has the bare facts (a little too bare in some sections): some items were listed with bare explanations of what they are. A novice would need much more.
It belongs on the bookshelves of academic departments along with all those other computer reference books.
To be fair to Feiler and his team, the book was published in 2001 while the OS was either being developed or was just finished. There have since been updates to OS X, although some local dealers seem unaware of this. It is one of the works advertised on Apple's own excellent website.
Of particular value are sections in Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 which explain system architectures. This is probably the first time that this has made sense in my non-technical mind.
I found somewhat cloying the continued references to how wonderful or innovative OS X is. Having used it for a month or so, OS X is proof enough and I do not envisage switching back to earlier systems. The book feels very "party-line" Apple.
I was surprised in such a high quality publication to see the error of "weather" instead of "whether" and wonder how many pairs of eyes missed that.
It is generous with illustrations, and Feiler uses these well to complement the text. By reading a section and then working on the computer, it was all (in the main) clear. There were no surprises. The Complete Reference showed me exactly what I could expect to see.
Other useful sections were those on Networking and on using Applescript -- the Macintosh macro; and on using the command line. This may seem somewhat odd from the company that pioneered computers with no command line, but Apple giveth while Microsoft taketh away. It is intended to give the OS maximum tunability. I must admit that it was handy last week when I had a network problem and was able to telnet to another system to track down a solution -- real UNIX. I haven't done that in a while.
If The Complete Reference belongs in a system administrator's bookcase, David Pogue's friendly book belongs on every Mac owner's desk, or table, or floor -- depending on where you use your computer. I had seen sections of this work reproduced in Macworld, but their website was orgranised in such a way that I could not find how to order it; and the publisher's website showed "out of stock." I left my details. A few days later I found it in the smart (but small) Apple shop in the Siam Discovery Center. When I got into work the following Monday, however, there was another copy of Pogue's book, so now I have one for the office and one for home.
I had bought a similar book, What Microsoft Left out of Windows 3.1
(yes, that long ago), mainly because of the floppy disk that was inserted
into the back cover. Pogue's book has no floppy disk, of course -- Macs
do not use these nowadays -- but nor does it have a CDROM. Instead all of
the software mentioned in the pages is available for download from
Within minutes of opening the book, I found I had fingers inserted in three separate chapters. The book is not badly orgranised, it just had so much in it I wanted to find out. While checking one item, I would find a parenthetic reference to another.
Pogue is a clear writer. He is a little impish at times. There is none of the reverence found in The Complete Reference : if the latter is "party-line" then Pogue's work is anarchy. But then neither book is intended to do the same task. Feiler informs and instructs, while Pogue educates and entertains.
I wish I had read this before starting OS X. I soon realised what I should have done, and why; and I discovered some really unusual things. You should see what you can now do with the simple "Stickies" utility, for example.
Many text panels in the book are inserted into the text and are black with white text. Each contains a tip or a text explanation that is allied to the main theme of that particular chapter. These are littered throughout the book.
Some of the most significant software is also highlighted, particularly i-Tunes and i-Movies. i-Photo has only just been released and is also included.
I had picked up the 3rd printing (there were 4 in February alone) and the website indicates there have been 7 (the copy that came in the mail). The Feiler work was up to its 4th printing when I checked.
Also on the shelves of the Apple Store were a couple of books on OS X written in Thai, at very reasonable prices. I picked up the cheapest; not because it was cheap but because of its size: it would make a useful pocket reference for someone fresh to OS X.
IEQ have put together a nice little starter. It is obvious from the ilustrations that this is an original work although there is perhaps a little too much information for IEQ's good: they include account names and login details (but not a password -- it does have 8 characters though). The book refers to version 10.0 and 9.1 Pogue manages to get up to 10.1. The current versions are 9.2.2 and 10.1.3.
As is to be expected in a book about computing, English must be included, even when the explanations are in another language (in this case Thai). Writers who include English should get someone to proof read. The few examples I found should not detract from the understanding of a Thai reader.
These three quite different books are all available in Bangok now (or via the Internet of course). Each is useful in its own way: as a reference, for the power user, and for an introduction in Thai. If I were to be restricted to one, I would take The Missing Manual, not least for its entertainment value. When did you last read a computer book that made you smile?
For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.
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