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Mac OS X Hacks Rael Dornfest and Kevin Hemenway
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
430 pages
£ 17.50
Published: 1st April 2003
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the December 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

OK, you forced me, but I'll admit it: I don't like the ``Hacks'' series (at least, what I have seen of it). And in fact I'll go so far as to say that it is a complete waste of time, paper and money. Yes, the books have all the usual O'Reilly production values, dot, dot, dot, and the content is well written by people in the know just as (nearly) always. But there is something lacking and I suspect that it is a point. In reality, who is interested in Google hacks, or Amazon hacks or Ebay hacks? I use the systems all the time but I have never felt the slightest urge to make them do slightly odd and useless things so why would I want a book on how to do these things? It's a bit like a book of unfunny cartoons (good grief, O'Reilly has that too - User Friendly). And what exactly is a ``hack''? I suspect that the authors are using the word in some vague American English sense that means something like ``really cool stunt'', but what they describe are usually well engineered, if point-free, programs or programming tricks that bear no resemblance to anything I would call a hack.

The book under review here stretches this even further. This is not a book of ``hacks''. There are descriptions of how to set obscure options for programs and a load of stuff about the UNIX command line and what you can do with it. Lots of useful and good stuff in fact, assuming you want to know about enabling webDAV and such like. (There is weird stuff though like how to get a screenshot of the login screen). But not hacks. Describing them as such is just stupid and possibly insulting. The book's subtitle is ``100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools'' which is a slightly better description of the content, though I would argue with industrial-strength. Yes, it's just another book on Mac OS X but probably because the Hacks series is selling and people want a nice line of matching purple spines, they've done some BoTeX injections and some line-oplasty to reshape it to the desired image. I'd give it a miss.

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