Mac OS X Power Hound
by Rob Griffiths
I have read a ton of Mac books since starting MyMac.com back in 1995. A LOT of them. And while most actually do convey the information you were hoping to glean from buying the book in the first place, many do so in such a dry and boring manner that I found myself simply trying to stay awake while reading. That was my worry here as well, as I have never read any of Rob Griffiths writing before. He’s the creator of MacOSXhints.com, a site I have visited often. But that site is more a collaborative effort with a ton of other people, all pooling their knowledge together. So how would Rob do all by his lonesome?
Hey, guess what? Rob can WRITE! Yes sir, the man has talent! Mac OS X Power Hound is a book full of useful things that any Mac OS X user will find helpful and worth knowing. As an expert Mac user and ex-IT manager, even I learned some nifty tricks I hadn’t known about before after reading a few pages of this book.
Does using the Terminal give you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? I understand, it’s even a little frightening for longtime Mac users to use a command line, something that was unheard and unneeded in the past with Mac OS 9 and earlier. Even Hex-Edit or Res-Edit, the stalwarts of the Mac Hackers of the world, use a graphical user interface. But the terminal is just that, a window of nothing but text, prompting you to type in commands that Mac users would otherwise most likely avoid.
Mac OS X Power Hound will help the average Terminal-fearing Mac user become a Power Terminal User in no time, or at least make one somewhat more comfortable working in the innards of Mac OS X. While not a step-by-step guide, Power Hound is written in such a way that most Mac users will feel comfortable following along with all the tips in the book.
I usually don’t get too deep into critiquing another writer’s writing style, as I have a fear of people looking too closely at my own writing and realize “This guy really can’t write, either!” That being said, I do want to compliment Rob Griffiths on a superb job here. He takes very complicated subject matter and writes in a style and enthusiasm I haven’t seen in quite a long time. Mac OS X is a fun system to use and tinker with, and Rob brings that fun to his writing. It’s obvious that he not only knows the subject matter at hand, but also enjoys writing about it. His writing style is infectious, engaging, and fun to read. I think any writer who wants to write a book on complex subject matter should be forced to read this book, and understand that it’s the human voice of the book, in this case Rob’s, that make the subject matter more easily understood and a pleasure to read.
The book is 536 pages with a well laid-out potpourri feel. As Rob says in the beginning of the book, there is no need to read this book from start to finish. The reader is invited to open the book to any page to get the information they’re looking for.
Some of the covered topics in the book range from the simple to the complex, and include (flipping randomly through the book here):
Finder and Desktop tricks and hacks
Screen Saver Animations as the Finder Backgrounds
Make things happen at login
Connecting to the iDisk from Windows
How to Rip Multiple CDs.
iTunes and iPhoto tricks
Check the Weather in a Contact’s Town (in Address Book)
Use Safari with Address Bar Hidden
Get quick access to Bookmarks via the Dock
Make Mac OS X feel like Mac OS 9
Inserting Boilerplate Text with bash
Instant Double-Clickable Terminal Commands
Checking for Resource Forks
The Built-in Unix Manual
Setting Permissions on Multiple Files
A Command-Line Directory Using curl
And a ton more.
This is a fantastic book. Most books I read end up gathering dust on one of my bookshelves, in the basement, or up for bid on eBay. I usually don’t request books for review, as I don’t have a lot of time to read through a book and write a review. There are quite a few book publishers who send me every other new book they publish in the hopes I will review it. Most I ignore after a cursory look. Most I don’t review, unless I specifically requested the book. Mac OS X Power Hound was one of those books I had not heard about, and was sent to me unsolicited. I took a cursory glace through it, however, and I was impressed. There are no color photos here, there is a lot of text, and a subject matter that I’m usually not interested in as it presents no new or compelling information that I am particularly interested in reading about for the tenth time. But the broad subject matter combined with Ron’s infectious writing style had me hooked. I haven’t enjoyed a Mac book this much since Mac & PowerMac Secrets 2nd. Edition way back in 1996, and THAT is saying something.