Familiarity with Macs and iPods: Book reviews (The Cult of iPod; Switching to the Mac)

By Graham K. Rogers

With perfect timing, O'Reilly dropped a copy of "Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual", in my mailbox. I reviewed an earlier issue in May 2003 when Jaguar (10.2) was current. We have had two upgrades since then and are now working in 10.4, Tiger. With significant changes to OS X, Pogue and co-author Adam Goldstein have written this book to make a transition from Windows less painful. The book is in four main parts, with an appendix to explain some Mac equivalents of Windows technologies.

switching to the Mac Part 1, "Welcome to Macintosh", introduces the strategic differences between the systems and computers. It does discuss the single button mouse, but not the Mighty Mouse now with new Macs (laptops still have one button). An odd caption on a power button image, tells us that they "all look like this" which is partly true but for the icon only, then continues oddly, ". . . Once you find it, it'll pretty much stay in the same place." One is happy to read that.

Inexplicably, Part 2 is also called "Welcome to Macintosh", both in the index and the section preface. In the Introduction it is referred to as "Moving In." It covers transfering files and settings (like contact data), then takes a look at familiar software and how we do it over here. It ends with an examination of hardware.

Part 3 is a detailed view of getting connected: the Internet and the technologies used. Part 4 deals with accounts, security, system preferences and Apple's bundled software. Setting up an account is important in OS X and the authors cover this is some detail although omit the sometimes-confusing point that the dots appearing when we create a password do not match the number of characters.

At just over 500 pages, including the useful index, this Missing Manual is a wonderful overview of the differences a switcher might find. Although it misses a couple of details, the look at what is (and is not) there, is invaluable. Anyone thinking of switching to OS X from Windows would do themselves a big favour by buying this.

When Leander Kahney released his Cult of Mac early last year, I must admit to being somewhat sceptical. I was wrong. It was, in the United States anyway, something of a runaway hit. He is hoping to repeat that with his new release of The Cult of iPod.

Cult of iPod With the original book, he took the idea that Apple has a brand following that borders on the fanatic, with stickers on the fridge at the lower end of the eccentricity spectrum, with tattoos, housepainting, car colour schemes and apple haircuts at the other end. He had clearly done much research to gather the information and the range of images included.

He repeats this with "The Cult of iPod", but takes the conceit a small step further by designing the book in the shape of an iPod with a cover picture of a shaved head like an iPod click-wheel. Inside chapter headings are similarly like the iPod and its interface, while the contents list is in the form of an iTunes menu.

Almost every page has images of iPods, iPod people, cartoons, and anything remotely connected to the phenomenon that has been partly responsible for rejuvenating Apple.

This slightly whacky look at the iPod is connected by a series of essays examining the parts. One interesting section deals with the genesis of the iPod: the concept, the machinery and the software, which puts the current Creative tub-thumping in context. Almost all of the iPod's separate ideas (and components) were developed outside Infinity Loop, but it was the magic wand of Apple that ran with the project and made it fly.

Leander Kahney seems to specialise in trivia collecting and then turning those factoids into an interesting read. Of course, Karl Lagerfeld figures with his 70 or more iPods (he even has a $1500 Fendi carrying case). David Beckham, Madonna, Shaquille O'Neal, and Beck are mentioned.

But why include Lagerfeld (and these others), and not the Queen of England whose iPod mini caused a stir in the press when it was revealed in June; or the judge who in February 2004 was presiding over the Apple v Apple case in the UK and wondered if he should recuse himself as an iPod owner?

Some interesting items are included, like the Redmond reaction, where the word "iPod" is apparently politically incorrect, as is using one: this item also carries a Photoshop collage of Bill Gates with iPod in hand. Also featured are some iPod silhouettte advertisements; and the Iraq silhouettes, including at least one Abu Ghraib based image: effective because the originals are so indentifiable.

Above all, this book is not so much about the iPod but about the people who buy, use and abuse these devices. Leander Kahney may well be on track to repeat that first success.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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