Take Control of Users and Accounts in Panther (TCUAP for short) is the latest addition to the TidBITS publishing roster, and it’s as good as its predecessors. If you use Mac OS X 10.3, aka Panther, and have any questions about the subtleties of users and accounts, then you need this 64-page ebook. Much of the material is relevant to earlier versions of OS X, if you haven’t Pantherized your Mac.
The Unix foundation of OS X brings with it all the power and complexity of multiple users and account settings. Apple has done a great job of reducing that complexity to manageable level, but the OS X documentation fails to tell the average user how to best understand and configure Users and Accounts. I’m quite sure the run of the mill OS X’er has no idea why you may wish to have a test account, or how to set up a Mac for family use; Apple never tells you!
Kirk McElhearn is an accomplished writer, and he lays out the facts you need with just the right amount of detail. TCUAP’s 64 pages will not tell you all the down-and-dirty details about file permissions, but it tells you what you need to know to understand how best to set up your OS X powered Macintosh.
TCUAP plunges right into the various types of users (root, administrator, regular, managed, and simple) and the differences between each type. You get a pithy description of what actions each type of user may perform, so you’ll know who should get what level of access.
Fast user switching is a fine addition to Panther, but some gotcha’s do prowl the jungle. McElhearn covers the memory usage and preference problems that the uninitiated may encounter if Fast User Switching is enabled.
Do you wonder what the difference is between a Startup Item that runs at system startup, and one that runs at login? TCUAP will straighten you out. Also, you’ll learn when and how to disable them for troubleshooting purposes.
TCUAP closes with a splendid section on how to share files between different users. For me, this was one of the best parts of the ebook, particularly the tip about how to share iPhoto libraries.
Take Control of Users and Accounts in Panther won’t make you an expert on every detail of Users and Accounts. It WILL give you a solid foundation of understanding of a core OS X concept, and very useful real-world techniques to apply that knowledge.
A clear and concise writing style, coupled with clear graphics and notes, makes reading easy on the eyes and brain. TCUAP is no boat anchor; it weighs in at only 628 KB, so this download won’t strain your modem. Nor will the 5 spot it costs strain your wallet. Each member of the TidBITS Take Control series gives a huge information return on your investment.
MyMac rating: 5 out of 5