Running Mac OS X Panther: Inside Mac OS X

Running Mac OS X Panther: Inside Mac OS X’s Core
James Duncan Davidson
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
ISBN: 0-596-00500-8
328 pages
Price: $39.95 US $57.95 CA

I’ll come right to the point: Davidson’s Running Mac OS X Panther is an excellent book.

We get so many books here at the Weeks extension of the MyMac Library that I’m thinking of getting a degree in Library Science, just so I can keep all the review copies properly organized. Many of the books we get to review are user manual rehashes, or 500 screenshots that have been printed and bound. Some books are so basic that you wonder who’d need to know how to plug in a USB cable. Some of the expert-level books pretend to be targeted at a general audience, but are really 1000 page college textbooks that happen to be for sale at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

James Davidson has targeted the advanced user who wants to learn useful advanced Macintosh techniques, but does not want swim through a 1000 page technical reference. It’s a pleasure to find a book that covers complex material in a readable way, without losing focus amidst a flood of geeky detail.

Davidson starts out with a short, interesting history of the Mac OS, and how it morphed from the Classic Mac OS, through NextStep, to become Mac OS X. If this short setup section is not why you’re here, just skip to Chapter 2 Lay of the Land, to get a short and pithy overview of the OS X file system. The survey of what files each directory holds, both visible and hidden, was very informative.

One reason that I enjoyed Running Mac OS X Panther was the fact that it doesn’t have hundreds of pages of Terminal-related information. But, you can’t get past intermediate-level study without a good grasp of Terminal and Shell. I found Chapter 3’s survey of Terminal and Shell to be just right; good coverage of “what and why” and plenty of useful references for further reading.

Part II “Essentials” is wonderful reading. I was even able to read it at bed-time without falling asleep. Any author who can discuss Users and Groups, and Files and Permissions without drawing the reader into a coma is doing something right. Again, there was a “just-right” mixture of relevant technical detail presented in a brisk readable style.

I found Part III “Advanced Topics” to be the best part. At the time I was reading Running Mac OS X Panther, I was struggling with a recalcitrant HP PSC 750 multi-function printer. The presentation of CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) helped me resolve many of the print driver problems I had been having with the HP box.

Running Mac OS X Panther is a fine little book that you can read, re-read, and enjoy yourself while doing so. It’s full of useful advanced level information, but it doesn’t read like a textbook.

Highly recommended

MyMac rating: 5 out of 5

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