Monday, September 18, 2006

Learning Unix for Mac OS X Tiger

by Dave Taylor

I had really high hopes for this book. I consider myself a pretty smart Mac tech, but Unix was the one thing that really scared me about OS X. To fix some esoteric problem, I’d have to follow some Unix recipe and it always annoyed me I didn’t understand what I was typing. O’Relly books are well known not just for the animals on the cover, but excellent explanations of very technical concepts.

After reading Taylor’s book, I felt better, but not by much. Most readers can easily understand the basic unix file structure commands, but towards the middle of the book he inaccurately assumed that his readers could also quickly understand some of the advanced concepts. Towards the end of the book I was left scratching my head. We went from move a file here and there to commands that were taking up multiple lines. Arrrgh!

The critical flaw in the book was a lack of exercises and real world examples. When I want to learn something, I don’t just want to be told. Involve me and test my knowledge. Some of the more difficult concepts covered in the book would have been enhanced with numerous real world examples, each building on the other. Things moved way too fast and made it easy to get lost.

The book was an excellent overview of Unix for the Macintosh and perfect for someone to decide whether to pursue further learning. “Introduction to Unix” instead of “Learning Unix” would have been a better title. After reading the book, I was reminded of speed dating where you meet 20 people for five minutes each and decide whether you want to go out with them or not. After reading the book I have enough familiarity with Unix that I can understand basic commands and how they relate to each other. I clearly want to go out on another date but any type of wedding bells are way in the distance.

PROS: Excellent overview of Unix for the Macintosh
CONS: Doesn’t leave you with enough practical understanding