Sunday, October 15, 2006

Leo Laporte's Guide to Mac OS X Tiger

Leo Laporte's Guide to Mac OS X Tiger

by by Leo Laporte, Todd Stauffer

Celebrity endorsements can be both good and bad. When it’s a grill, an endorsement by George Foreman tends to work out. When OJ Simpson endorses you’re car rental service it’s bad. Given the general high quality of Leo Laporte’s podcast and TV shows, I had high hopes for this book. I was woefully disappointed. Same thing happened when I bought sneakers endorsed by a basketball star and my game didn’t improve at all. The book was really writeen by Todd Stauffer based on the screen shots of his Mac. Apparently Leo didn’t have too much involvement, just like that famous basketball player probably had little to say about the shoes with his name on it.

First, the book was very difficult to read from a design perspective. Looking at a page it was nearly impossible to find what you want. Anyone ever heard of the tab function or indentation. These tips are from Design 101..use your margins and indentations to emphasise certain points and organize them on the page. In addition, the table of contents and flow of the book was very confusing. A good intro book takes it for the User’s Experience perspective: start with the beginning when you turn on the mac and setup up a user account, and then setup email, and so on. Leo’s book starts with the essoteric aspects of the Finder. If you are a new user, that’s not very helpful until you understand more about your Mac and if you are an intermediate user, you already know this stuff. Finally, the book didn’t include enough screen pictures, and the screen pictures that were included were not very helpful. I wish I could tell you what pattern was used to determine what was pictures worthy and what wasn’t. Including pictures in a book help break up long text areas and the pictures get associated somehow with the topic being discussed. In this book, the pictures were not used to help balance the text nor did the layout effective use the pictures to illustrate the text being dicussed.

From a technical perspective, the book did a mediocare job of explaining Mac topics. Typical of many technical books, the book explained topics in a way that novice users wouldn’t understand and intermediate users would be insulted by. Granted, it’s a thin line to walk: explain it straightforward enough that a novice will understand it but insightful enough that an intermediate user would appreciate and learn from it. At least Todd and Leo aren’t alone in their failures. A great example is multihoming. Multihoming is an advanced way of using mutliple network connections. A novice would unlikely care about it and a intermediate user wasn’t given an explanation of how to set up multihoming--only that it exists.

Worst of all, this book is just plain wrong in some area. In the troubleshooting chapter, Todd recommends running Norton Utilities when you have problems. What? Norton Utilities is not compatible with Tiger. That’s been known since Tiger came out. He also indicates that hardware problems with kernel panics are usually related to drivers and never considers that hardware may be bad or incompatible. Those are some serious errors. Granted it’s only a few errors, but errors bad enough that a computer could be rendered unusable after taking some of his advise.

Generally, this is a below average introduction to Mac OS X Tiger.

Pros: Not terribly expensive, a quick read
Cons: Hard to read and understand. Technical errors and inconsistent topic depth