Apple Training Series: Mac OS X Support Essentials, Second Edition
Book Review

Apple Training Series: Mac OS X Support Essentials, Second Edition
A Guide to Supporting and Troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.5
by Kevin M. White

Peachpit Press
January 2008, 592 pp.
ISBN-10: 0-321-48981-0
US $54.99

First off, a friendly warning: Should you pick up this book and simply start reading it from Chapter 1, expecting yet another friendly “how-to” guide to OS X Leopard (along the lines of the “Missing Manual” series) you will most likely be sorely disappointed. As the “official curriculum of Apple’s Mac OS X Support Essentials v10.5 training course,” this book is intended specifically to prepare the reader for the examination(s) he or she must pass in order to become an Apple Certified Support Professional.

So, if certification is your ultimate goal, I would give the book high marks overall. At nearly 600 pages in length, it’s painstakingly thorough in terms of the depth and breadth of coverage it gives to the OS X 10.5 operating system itself, as well as data management/backup, peripherals, system installation and more. The author, Kevin M. White, a former Apple Systems Engineer and a frequent MacWorld Expo presenter, demonstrates a knowledge of the subject matter that is clearly unimpeachable.

Ten chapters in all, each spanning some 50-60 pages, progress from installation and setup through a general troubleshooting section. Assuming the buyer of this book is interested in certification, the author also includes background information on the Apple certification process, describing the various levels of Apple support certification and what is involved in attaining each one. Each chapter finishes with a concise review of the subjects covered, followed by references to specific Apple technotes referenced by ID so they’re easy to look up on the Apple support site (a really helpful inclusion). A review quiz, in short-answer format, along with the quiz answers, is also part of every chapter.

Now what does all this mean for the average reader who just upgraded to Leopard, and simply wants to gain a better understanding of the new system? I’m afraid to say that I would have to recommend passing on this book and instead purchasing one of the many other “Bible” or “Missing Manual” books for OS X. Because this is essentially a textbook designed to prepare the reader for a certification exam, the writing is dry as unbuttered toast. If, like me, you’ve grown accustomed to the conversational tone and often snarky asides of authors like David Pogue, who can make the most mundane of subjects seem at least mildly entertaining, I can’t imagine that this book would meet your needs.

Yes, there are callouts with notes and tips scattered throughout, and there are plenty of screen captures in attendance to break up the monotony. However, unlike almost any other computer software-oriented book of this type, the screenshots are not captioned, nor are they referenced in the text as “see Figure 2.4” or the like. This left me scratching my head at times trying to determine which part of the text was being illustrated by a particular screen capture. In particular, when the image was separated by a page break, it was often difficult to discern if the screen capture was intended to be linked to the paragraph on the previous page, or to the one below it. Not only is this distracting and/or confusing, but perhaps the inclusion of captions could have been employed to add a dash of “user-friendliness” so as to encourage the reader to press on to the next chapter.

To give credit where credit’s due, as a Mac OS X troubleshooter and consultant, I did pick up lots of worthwhile info from the book—especially in terms of the more esoteric items that have changed between 10.4 and 10.5—even though I’m not presently prepping for any certification exams. Yet even I found it, for lack of a more elegant adjective, just plain dull. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by the likes of David Pogue, Jim Heid, Andy Ihnatko and the other, more colorful tech writers out there; I know I have. Then again, I really can’t recall any other textbooks that had me jumping out of my seat either.

So in the interest of fairness, I’m going to give this book a split rating, if the editor will indulge me. Then I’m going to run out and buy another David Pogue book before I start nodding off again. Rating: As prep for Apple certification: 4.5 out of 5; as a general purpose Mac OS X 10.5 introduction: 1 out of 5


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