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Mac OS X: The Missing Manual

Mac OS X 10.1:
The Real Mac OS X

by David Pogue

Editors' Note: We asked David Pogue, author of Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, to tell us a little bit about his latest book that's scheduled to hit the streets in mid-December 2001. David responded by describing the gap that the Missing Manual bridges, and he explains why Mac OS X is unlike anything Mac users have ever seen before.

If youíre one of the 25 million people whoíve used a Macintosh before, Mac OS X may come as a bit of a shock. Hundreds of features you thought you knew have been removed, replaced, or relocated. (One of my favorite parts of Mac OS X: The Missing Manual is Appendix A, which I call the "Whereíd-It-Go? Dictionary." Itís an alphabetical listing that shows you where every familiar old feature went.)

Thatís because Mac OS X is not, in fact, the Mac OS at all. Itís a completely new operating system, a hybrid of Unix and an attractive Apple-designed front end.

Starting from Scratch

Why did Apple throw out the operating system that put it on the map to begin with? Through the years, Apple kept piling new features onto a software foundation originally poured in 1984, doing its best to perform nips and tucks to the ancient software to make it resemble something modern. But underneath, the original foundation was beginning to creak, and programmers complained of the "spaghetti code" that the Mac OS had become.

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Mac OS X: The Missing ManualMac OS X: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue
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Apple felt that there wasnít much point in undertaking a dramatic system-software overhaul if it couldnít nail every key feature of modern computer technology in the process, especially crash-proofness. Starting from scratch--and jettisoning the system software weíd come to know over the years--was the only way to do it.

The most important thing you gain by moving to Mac OS X is stability. You and your Macintosh may go for months without ever witnessing a system crash. Oh, itís technically possible for Mac OS X to crash, but few have actually witnessed such an event. Rumors of such crashes circulate on the Internet like Bigfoot sightings.

In short, Mac OS X provides a liberating sense of freedom and stability--but for existing Macintosh fans, it requires a good deal of learning (and forgetting). Whereas the old Mac OS offered a steady learning curve, Mac OS X, because itís such a unique hybrid operating system, presents two different learning curves. The basics are very easy to learn, and the advanced topics are very technical:

Unfortunately, Mac OS X comes with little more than a leaflet in the way of printed instructions, and two of Appleís traditional online help mechanisms (Balloon Help and Apple Guide) are gone. And in the stripped-down help system that remains, thereís not a word about the powerful Unix underpinnings of Mac OS X, and many of the topics require you to go online to read the information.

Missing Manual Bridges the Gap

The purpose of Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, is to serve as the manual that should have been in the box. It contains step-by-step instructions for using every Mac OS X feature, including those you may not have even quite understood, let alone mastered: networking, CD burning, AppleScript, and so on. The book even includes two chapters of Unix "recipes" that show how to perform powerful tasks at the command line in Terminal, which is the doorway to the Unix operating system beating within the chest of Mac OS X.

For the latest on David Pogue's Missing Manual series, see The Missing Manual Web site.

Best of all, Mac OS X: The Missing Manual covers Mac OS X version 10.1. The earliest versions of Mac OS X--numbered 10.0 through 10.4--were very slow and relatively incomplete. A few thousand hardcore, red-blooded Macintosh fans tried out these versions, but relatively few actually used them for day-to-day work.

Mac OS X version 10.1, which Apple released in September 2001, is a different story. Itís dramatically faster, much more polished, and better organized. Itís also the first version that could burn CDs and play DVD movies. Even the design and arrangement of various system-software components were substantially shuffled around in version 10.1. In retrospect, versions before 10.1 look like dress rehearsal.

My book certainly isnít the first Mac OS X book on the market. But Iím hopeful that my having bided my time will pay off. Books about the original version of Mac OS X are now severely out of date and, in many cases, confusingly inaccurate. Iíve also had the chance to watch readersí reactions to the first wave of books, and I've capitalized on these readersí feedback, much of which ran along these lines: "The Dock is easy. Show us the harder stuff too!"

Done. Mac OS X: The Missing Manual covers not just the basics, but also the finer points of networking, dialing in from the road, setting up private user accounts, and, yes, the basics of Unix--and, of course, all the tips, tricks, and hidden features that distinguish all the Missing Manual titles we've published.

Now thereís nothing left but to sit back and watch what happens to Mac OS X. Will it become as popular as Windows--or even as popular as the traditional Mac OS? Either way or neither way, itís going to be an interesting show.

David Pogue , Yale '85, is the weekly personal-technology columnist for the New York Times and an Emmy award-winning tech correspondent for CBS News. His funny tech videos appear weekly on CNBC. And with 3 million books in print, he is also one of the world's bestselling how- to authors. In 1999, he launched his own series of amusing, practical, and user-friendly computer books called Missing Manuals, which now includes 100 titles.

O'Reilly & Associates will soon release (December 2001) Mac OS X: The Missing Manual.

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