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Running Mac OS X Panther James Duncan Davidson
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
328 pages
£ 28.50
Published: December 2003
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the March 2004 issue (pdf), (html)

If you're not a Mac person then you probably don't read the Joy of Tech. You may not even have heard of the Joy of Tech -- after all there are so many cartoons and strips available on the good old Interweb that sometimes I wonder if I am the only person not actually drawing one. The JoT is a fairly regular series of cartoons and short strips usually with a Mac theme, though frequently they are Linuxy and sometimes other stuff entirely. Quite a lot of them rely on you knowing some of the latest Mac gossip, but there are also lots which just poke fun at Windows and Bill Gates, so there is something for everybody (apart from Windows afficionados of course). The really important thing about the cartoons is that they are well drawn (and rendered) and on many occasions are genuinely, laugh out loud funny (unlike, say, User Friendly which has been dreadfully dull for a long time now.)

The book is nicely produced in colour and a lot of my favourites are in there. I could have done without the the listings of the user poll results that went with each cartoon. - tedious filler. I'm not sure who's going to buy this though: perhaps the person who doesn't know what to get a geek. (A real geek will of course read it online as soon as it appears and download the image and save it) I suppose it might be a geek coffee table book, if geeks had coffee tables.

On the other hand, ``Mac OS X the Missing Manual (Panther Edition)'' certainly isn't a coffee table book. Unless your coffee table is reinforced to take the weight of the 761 pages. And another thing, it definitely isn't missing anymore. Every time I go in my office I fall over a pile of previous editions. What to say about this that I haven't said about previous editions? err, nothing - it's just the same as it always was but has some stuff about the new things that have been added in OS X 10.3. If you're new to OS X and want a comprehensive book on nearly everything you can possibly think of then this you might want to buy this. I can't see any point though, if you have an earlier versions -- you can find out about all the new features of Panther on the net!

Of course, once you have got used to OS X and have read through OSXTMM(PE) and are fairly on your way to being a guru (if you weren't already through your Unix knowledge), you'll find the stuff that isn't there. Then you'll need ``Running Mac OS X Panther'' (though there is overlap). However I would guess that the vast majority of Mac users will never need to know anything about some of the stuff in this book: turning on journaling, LDAP and such like. And a good thing too, there is dangerous stuff in here and there is a liberal sprinkling of mantrap icons highlighting those areas (usually root related) where things can get hairy.

As with all OS X books, if you know Unix (is that like knowing kung fu?) so much is familiar that much of the text seems redundant, and then there is a little special Mac wrinkle that catches you out. You have to be careful of things like the fact that OS X Applications are directories and the GUI hides this from the user, but not at the command line.

There is useful stuff in here if you have to do this kind of thing for a living. Panther introduces enough newness that you probably do need to keep up with the editions this time too.

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