Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed
Book Review

Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed
by John Ray and William Ray

Sams Publishing
1560 pages
$49.95 US $69.9 CAN
ISBN: 0672327465

Pogue Schmogue! Levitus Schmitus.

Sure, David Pogue and Bob Levitus are popular, but for hard-core OS X writing, they ain’t got nothin’ on the Ray Brothers.

John and William Ray have unleashed the newest edition of Mac OS X Unleashed. With a massive page count of 1560 pages, and weighing in just a few ounces shy of 5 lbs, this beast is currently my favorite advanced-level OS X book. Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed (MOSXTU for short) has replaced “Unix for Lovers” as my favorite bedtime read. If you want to find out something, no matter how obscure, odds are that MOSXTU will have it.

I wrote very favorably about the first edition of Mac OS X Unleashed back in 2002. The Tiger edition brings this fine work up to date, and adds a significant amount of new information not present in earlier editions. The only important loss is the coverage of the iLife suite; it’s no longer covered as iLife is now sold separately from OS X.

Ray and Ray spend little time on the basics, and you’ll soon find yourself deep in the soft underbelly of OS X. Need to learn how to install and use Fink, and Fink Commander to run Unix applications? Pages 941 and on will set you right up. Need all the details on the Keychain application? Pages 115-130 have the information.

Not many books cover Ink, Apple’s latest gestural/handwriting recognition system. MOSXTU has more coverage of Ink that any other Tiger book I’ve read.

The Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) is the foundation of OS X’s printing system. Ray and Ray describe CUPS in enough depth to allow a sharp user to install and configure their own PPD’s (PostScript Printer Description). You’ll learn the subtleties of printing via networked printers, including TCP/IP, Samba, Bonjour, and AppleTalk printers. I especially liked the author’s demonstration of how to install and configure an ancient Apple ImageWriter I serial printer for use with OS X.

If you still hanker for more OS X geekiness, read the section on running X11. X11 is Apple’s implementation of the Unix X Windows system. X11/X Windows is a way of running applications on a remote computer, but displaying the screen output on your local computer. I’ve been lacking a certain amount of frustration in my life recently, so I plan to set up X11. After reading MOSXTU’s clear examples, I expect that I’ll have some hair left when I have the X11 installation and configuration complete.

As you’d expect, there’s plenty of material on SSH, Apache, Postfix, and the IPFW firewall. But Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed is not just about running Unix on OS X. I enjoyed the coverage of QuickTime Broadcaster, font management, and the hints on how to best to use Disk Images.

Any book of this size runs the risk of crushing the user under its own weight. Fortunately, Ray and Ray (which one actually wrote the book?) have a dry wit that pops up frequently, and this makes actually reading MOSXTU a pleasurable experience. You won’t see it on Amazon’s top 10 list, but for a computer textbook, it’s better than many.

MOSXTU does have a weak point or two. At times, you’ll have to wade through (or skip over) multi-page listings of preference files, program commands, shell scripts, or source code. I never quite got the point the author’s inclusion of a 5+ page listing of Graphic Converter’s .plist file.

The book is well served with its own Web site. Readers can download Unix applications and example source code, as well as errata lists. There are also discussion forums covering numerous topics.

Quibbles aside, for coverage of advanced-level OS X information, I strongly recommend Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed.

MyMac rating 5 out of 5

Leave a Reply